Ben Gurion airport is Israel's main international airport.
It's a modern, comfortable and airy place.
Located 15 kilometers or 9 miles from Tel Aviv, the airport is medium-sized, so it doesn’t overwhelm you as do 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:
After landing, you are ushered right 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 please 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, do 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 in if your passport includes an Israeli visa or stamp.
You can ask the 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 rent a car, take public transportation, a taxi or a shared taxi service (Sherut) depending on your destination.
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.
Taking the train to Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, Haifa and Nahariya in the North or Beersheva in the South is extremely easy and cheap.
Note: that there is no public transportation in Israel, including trains, during the Sabbath which begins on Friday afternoon (from about 2:30 PM or 3 PM until Saturday night (about 7 PM) or during Jewish holidays. 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 2:30 PM until Saturday night from about 7 PM.
I confess I always take taxis to and from the airport for the ease, even if it costs slightly more than the alternatives.
For Taxis to Tel Aviv and all of Gush Dan (central Israel), make sure to take the middle, left exit that clearly says Taxis and you’ll see the Taxi line on your left.
My advice - use only the official airport taxi line because it’s supervised and you are guaranteed a fixed and reasonable rate to your destination. Normally within the city, I advice travelers to ask every taxi driver to user the meter, but the airport taxi fare is an exception.
But, 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 - 30 minutes, but the line keeps moving. Depending on the time of day and destination, the rates can range from 100 – 200 Shekel 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 Shekel.
When flying out of Ben Gurion airport, there are free luggage trolleys, free internet access and great duty-free shopping from anywhere in the airport.
Security lines can take some time during the summer and holiday seasons. Keep your sense of humor handy!
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.
Even as a bonafide Israeli, I've had my luggage opened a few times. Take it in stride...
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.
The good news is that Ben Gurion airport supports internet check-in. If your airline provides this service, you can arrive at least a half an hour later, an hour later if you aren't sending any luggage.
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.
I have my regular duty free shopping route that I follow. At James Richardson Duty Free, I start at the large selection of alcoholic beverages. At home, we drink mainly vodkas, Israeli wines and occassionally, some whiskey. My husband Yoram is a smoker so I always buy duty free cigarettes. I often buy perfumes, colognes or chocolate assortments as gifts.
The sports shop carries the latest trends in sneakers, sportswear and brand-name sunglasses.
There is always a good sale on something for my kids. There is also a nice store for kids toys which includes computer games, playstation, We, etc.
If I am flying with Yoram, we shop separately. I go for the fashion stores or books at Steimatsky’s. Yoram has an obsession for colorful watches, so he makes a beeline for the duty free watches at Sakal. Then, like many men I know, he spends his remaining time cruising at Bug, the electronics duty free store. . I usually end up dragging him out of there so we don't miss our flight!
There are lots of other shops depending on your tastes: H. Stern for classic jewelery, Michal Negrin for vintage style clothing and accessories, and shops for music and DVD, sweets, lingerie, last minute gifts from Israel and much more.
I hope you enjoy your browsing and shopping around Ben Gurion Airport. Have a safe flight!
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Ben Gurion Airport