Entering Israel By Air – All You Need to Know

There are three ways to get into Israel: by land, by sea, and by air. Most people enter by air, so I figured you might be one of those people. In this post, I’ve covered all you need to know about entering Israel through the airport. So, are you ready to take off?!

Post lasted updated: 2 September 2021.

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Table of contents:

Where should you land in Israel?

There are two international airports in Israel: Ben Gurion Airport (TLV) and Ramon Airport (ETM). So, where should you land? It depends what you want to see, how much time do you have, and what’s your budget.

Ben Gurion Airport is the biggest airport in Israel, situated about 25 km from Tel Aviv and about 53 km from Jerusalem. Ramon Airport, on the other hand, is in the south, about 20 km from Eilat. For comparison, it is about 295 km from Tel Aviv.

Landing at Ben Gurion Airport:

Here are some reasons why you should choose to land at Ben Gurion Airport:

  • It is the closest international airport to Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. If you want to visit them and don’t have much time, this is the airport for you! There is regular public transportation from Ben Gurion to Tel Aviv and Jerusalem (not including Shabbat). It will probably take you about 30-60 minutes to reach your destination. If you’ll land at Ramon Airport, there’s at least a 4-5 hours’ drive to Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.
  • It’s also much closer to the North. If you want to travel to the northern regions of Israel, it makes much more sense to land in Ben Gurion Airport. 
  • The transportation from the airport is great! You can easily get on a train, a bus, a taxi or a sherut and get to wherever you wish to go. Note – this changes a bit on Shabbat and holidays (for more details – read There’s No Public Transportation on Shabbat). In Ramon Airport, public transportation is much more limited. Though, there are regular buses to Eilat and taxis are waiting for passengers.

Landing at Ramon Airport:

Here are some reasons why you should choose to land at Ramon Airport:

  • It’s the closest airport to Eilat. If you want to enjoy a vacation in the sunny city of Eilat, this is the airport for you. From Ramon Airport, you can reach Eilat within 30-45 minutes. It’s much better than making the whole way down to Eilat from Ben Gurion Airport, a ride that takes about 6 hours by bus. 
  • It’s the closest to the desert. The Israeli desert is enchanting. Ramon Airport, which lies in the yellow strip of the Arava region, is surrounded by the desert. So, you can just get off the plane and start hiking in the area. 
  • It’s the closest to the land border crossings into Jordan and Egypt. If you want to visit Petra in Jordan, the border crossing is about an hour away from Ramon Airport. Take bus 30, get off at Rabin Border Crossing on road 90, and walk about 15 minutes to the border. You can also reach the Taba border crossing within an hour and enter Sinai (Egypt). Take bus 30 from the airport to the Taba border. 
  • It’s an airport for low-cost flights, which means it is the perfect airport for budget travelers!

Get ready for the Israeli airport security:

The security checks for those entering Israel are very tough, maybe the toughest in the world. Not all tourists are checked thoroughly when entering Israel, but if for some reason you’ll arouse suspicion, security might ask you lots of questions. Usually, those delayed in the airport are people who have publicly supported the Palestinian cause.

Anyway, get prepared for some questions that might seem a bit too personal. Don’t take it personally. The people asking you questions in Immigration and Security only want to make sure everyone is safe. So answer honestly and provide all the details they need, so you won’t have to get stuck in this process for too long.

Here are some questions you might be asked:

  • What is your name? It’s written on your passport, but they want to hear it from you. They might ask you more about your name if it’s an Arab name.
  • Why did you visit an Islamic country? If you have an Islamic country’s stamp on your passport, that might make them wonder what you’ve done there. Unlike Islamic countries, that deny entry for people with Israeli stamps, Israel will not deny entry for people who have stamps of Islamic countries. But, keep in mind that they might question you more because of this.
  • Where are you planning to stay? If you’re staying at a friend’s house, you’ll probably be asked about that friend.
  • Why are you traveling alone?

Important to note:

Several tourists told me that the security check was more thorough when they were leaving Israel. The security people asked them the same questions over and over again. “It felt like an investigation,” they said. The security people might also take your passport for inspection, so don’t get panicked. It happens to many people on their way out of Israel. Just answer the questions politely and consistently, and you’ll be fine. And if they ask to check your shoes, that’s also ok as long as you didn’t hide anything there.

Get out of the airport:

Getting from Ben Gurion Airport to…

Let’s say you decided to land in Ben Gurion Airport. How do you get out of the airport?

Of course, you can always take a taxi, but I want to give you more affordable ways. On Shabbat, a taxi might be your only option. The taxis are parked outside Terminal 3, on the ground floor, next to gate #3. To Tel Aviv, the ride should cost around 100-190 Shekels, depending on the day and time. To Jerusalem, it should cost around 170 to 350 Shekels. To Haifa, it should cost aorund 335 to 600 Sheksls. Try to find more companions for the ride to lower the cost.

Here are more affordable ways to get out of Ben Gurion Airport:

To Tel Aviv:

  • Take the train to one of the stations in Tel Aviv. It costs only 16 shekels.
  • Take Kavim bus number 445. The bus leaves from Terminal 3, G level, gate #1. It operates 24 hours a day from Sunday to Thursday, leaving the airport every hour on the hour. On Fridays, the service is from 4 AM to 4 PM, and on Saturdays, from 9 PM. There are several stops in Tel Aviv, near hotels and hostels. The ride costs around 9 shekels.
Kavim bus logo
The Kavim bus logo. Look for it!

To Jerusalem:

  • Take Afikim bus number 485. The bus leaves from Terminal 3, G level, gate #1. It drops you off near the central bus station in Jerusalem. The bus leaves every hour on the hour. The ride costs only 16 shekels and takes about one hour.
The Afikim bus logo
The Afikim bus logo. Look for it!
  • Use the Nesher shared shuttle. It leaves whenever it’s full. There are 10 seats in each shuttle. It should drop you at your stay option in Jerusalem, but it’s best to check with the driver. The ride costs 64 shekels per person. Keep in mind that it might take time until the shuttle will get to your destination, as it drops off everyone else at their destinations as well.
  • Take the train to Jerusalem. It will take you to Jerusalem Central Station (Yitzhak Navon) within about 30 minutes. It costs about 17 ILS one way.

To Haifa:

  • Take the train to one of the stations in Haifa. It costs about 35 shekels.
  • Use the Amal shared shuttle. It leaves whenever it’s full. The ride costs 115 shekels and takes about an hour and a quarter. It is possible to be dropped off at your accommodation.

Before you leave the airport:

Make sure to get the Rav Kav transportation card, which will enable you to use public transportation in Israel. There is a selling point in the Arrivals Hall. Read more about it in my post – Full Guide to Public Transportation in Israel.

Getting from Ramon Airport to…

Let’s say you decided to land in Ramon Airport. How do you get out of the airport?

To Eilat:

  • Take Egged bus number 30 or 50, which leaves the airport every 20-30 minutes to Eilat (also on Shabbat). Line 30 stops at the Central Bus Station, and line 50 goes through the hotel area and stops at the Taba border. The ride costs about 5 shekels and takes about 30 minutes. You can buy tickets on the bus.
  • Take a taxi. It should cost around 85 ILS during the day and more during the night or on Shabbat. Also, if you have luggage you might be charged a bit more.
  • Rent a car.  There are several car rental companies operating in the airport, including Shlomo Sixt, Budget, and Albar. Renting a car will cost at least 300 shekels a day.

Conclusion:

Israel is a small country, so don’t worry too much about the airport you pick. Though, if you’re short on time, try to pick the nearest airport to your destinations. The most important thing is to stay calm when entering Israel and passing through airport security. Enjoy your trip!

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Yours,

Lior

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