Ben Gurion airport is Israel's main international airport, located 15 kilometers or 9 miles from Tel Aviv.
It's a modern, comfortable and airly place. The airport is medium-sized, so it does not overwhelm you like many other modern mega airports.
I love the convenient perks that Ben Gurion airport offers. I've traveled a lot - so I know that these perks are definitely not common in other airports:
If you would like to stay at a hotel or guesthouse near the airport on your first or last night in Israel, read more about the pros, cons and lodging options here.
After landing, you are ushered straight into the terminal without having to take any shuttles or buses.
Ben Gurion airport has only one main Terminal 3 from which all flights depart and arrive, except for a few charter or budget flights that fly from Terminal 1. On these flights only, you may need to take a bus from the airplane to the terminal because those airlines save on the expense of the jet-bridges.
Your first stop after landing at Ben Gurion airport is immigration and passport control.
Expect to wait on line during the summer and holiday seasons. As in most countries, there are separate lines for Israeli citizens and foreigners, so pay attention to the signs.
If you are not sure if you need a visa to travel to Israel, visit our Visa Israel page.
Ben Gurion airport is probably the world’s most secure airport, but this can sometimes cause delays. Depending on your security profile or where you’re coming from, you may face some polite, if repetitive questioning by immigration officers. If you have nothing to hide, there is nothing to worry about.
Just answer all the questions calmly. Be patient and take it in stride.
When I host business guests from overseas, I always send my guests before their arrival a letter addressed to Israeli immigration with my company logo, my name and local phone numbers. I was called a few times by immigration officers at the airport and my ability to vouch for my guests sped them through security.
So if you’re a business traveler,ask your host for such a letter in advance. It can make a huge difference.
Traveling to Arab or Islamic Countries - If you plan on traveling to Arab or Islamic countries, some will not allow you to enter their country if your passport includes an Israeli visa or stamp.
You can ask the Israeli immigration officer not to stamp your passport with an Israeli immigration stamp. Instead, they will stamp a separate sheet of paper. Keep this sheet of paper with you together with your passport until you leave the country.
If you are on an organized tour, your local tour operator will probably be waiting for you with signs after you leave the immigration section. Be on the lookout for your tour name.
After passport control, you may take a free luggage trolley and pick up your suitcases at the baggage carousel for your flight.
Right after baggage pickup, there are conveniently located 24-hour banks and multi-lingual ATMs at the arrival lounge for you to exchange or withdraw money.
When you depart from Israel, there are automatic ATM's where you can withdraw foreign currency (US Dollars, Euro and British Pounds), as well as 24-hour money exchange services for most major currencies.
Transportation to and from the airport is convenient. You can:
Car Rentals - If you plan on renting a car, take the escalators up where you can choose from Israel’s five leading car rental companies: Avis, Budget, Eldan, Hertz and Sixt. They’re also open 24 hours a day.
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For public transportation from the airport, you can buy a Rav-Kav card in the Arrivals Hall. The Rav-Kav magnetic card is the most convenient way of paying for train, bus and Jerusalem light rail rides all over Israel, and in Tel Aviv you must have this card to take the busses.
Read more about it here.
Taking the train from the airport is easy and inexpensive.
There are direct trains to Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, Modi'in, Binyamina and Atlit and to the north - Haifa and the Krayot, Akko and Nahariya in the North or Beersheva in the South. You can change to other stations using this online Israel Rail Map.
Note: There is no public transportation in Israel during the Sabbath which begins on Friday afternoon (from about 3 PM) until Saturday night (from about 8 PM), or during Jewish holidays and holiday Eves. If you’re not sure when are the holidays, visit our Israel Holidays page.
If you do not read or speak Hebrew, taking a bus from the airport might be difficult and I don't recommend it. Trains from the airport are much more convenient, especially for non-Hebrew speakers.
But if you wish to do so, you need to take (at least 2) different buses to reach your final destination.
You must first take the Egged bus line from the airport to either the El Al Junction or to Airport city. Both destinations are a 10-15 minute bus ride. From either stop, you need to transfer to a different bus or buses in order to get to any one of the major cities in Israel.
There is no bus service in Israel from Friday afternoon from about 3:30 PM until Saturday night from about 7 PM.
I confess I always take taxis to and from Ben Gurion Airport for the ease, even if it costs slightly more than the alternatives. It is just so convenient..
For taxis to Tel Aviv and all of Gush Dan (greater Tel Aviv areae), make sure to take the middle, left exit that clearly displays 'Taxis' and you’ll see the Taxi line on your left.
Only use the official airport taxi line, rather than opportunistic rides with any taxi driver. The official taxi line is supervised and you are guaranteed a fixed and reasonable rate to your destination. Normally within cities, I advise travelers to ask your taxi driver to use the meter for the fare, but the airport taxi fare is an exception. You can use the fixed rate or the meter.
If you use the fixed rate, just make sure to get your price quoted from the taxi dispatcher before you begin the taxi ride!
During peak tourist season, the taxi wait can take anywhere from 10 to 30 minutes, but don't despair, the line keeps moving. Depending on the time of day and destination, the rates can range from 100 to 200 shekels or so to Tel Aviv.
For Jerusalem and Haifa, you can catch a 24-hour Sherut Taxi, which is a shared taxi service that typically holds about 10 people. The fare per person runs about 50-100 shekels.
GETT Taxi APP - You can pre-order a taxi via the GETT taxi application on your smartphone. It's very convenient.
When flying out of Ben Gurion airport, you need to pay a 10 Shekel or so deposit on the trolley (via credit card only), but you get it back when you return the trolley.
Security Again - Security lines can take some time during the summer and holiday seasons.
Even as a bonafide Israeli, I've had my luggage opened a few times. Take it in stride...
The process may be lengthy, but the security staff is polite and friendly. As is customary at every Israel airport, profiling is used to decide on the length and depth of the questioning. There is no point to take it personally. Keep your sense of humor handy!
I recommend you arrive at Ben Gurion airport early enough - about 3 hours before the flight for economy class and, 2 and a half hours for business class. Better to be relaxed and not pressured time-wise in anyway.
Internet Checkin - The good news is that Ben Gurion airport supports internet check-in. If your airline provides this service, you can arrive about two hours before the flight, and if you only have carry-on luggage, even an hour and a half will do.
There are two VIP Lounges for passengers with business or first class tickets.
The first is the King David Lounge for those flying Business or First Class with El Al and several other airlines. The other VIP lounge is called Dan. They are both easy to find.
Even if your flight leaves in the middle of the night, most of the shops are open 24 hours a day - unlike many other airports.
Duty free shopping at Ben Gurion airport is competitively priced with a good selection. And if you happen to fly back to Israel, you can leave what you purchased at the airport and pick the goods up on the day you arrive. So it’s easy to buy a lot if you wish to.
For a complete list of stores at the airport, visit Duty Free Shopping at Ben Gurion Airport.
If you are hungry or need a beverage, there are coffee shops, fast food joints, sushi and even a Tapas bar.
I hope you enjoy your browsing and shopping around Ben Gurion Airport. Have a safe flight!
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