The least expensive airfares to Israel are often priced for round-trip travel and must be purchased well in advance. Airlines generally allow you to change your return date for a fee; most low-fare tickets, however, are nonrefundable.
Flights to Israel tend to be least expensive from November through March, except for the holiday season at the end of December. Prices are higher during the Jewish High Holiday period (usually in September or October) and Passover (usually in April).
Flying time from New York to Israel is approximately 11 hours; from Los Angeles or San Francisco, it's about 14 hours nonstop, or 18 to 19 hours with the usual stopover in Europe or New York. International passengers are asked to arrive at the airport three hours prior to their flight time in order to allow for security checks.
From North America, the New York City area international airports have the highest number of nonstop flights, with El Al Airlines, United, and Delta providing nonstop service. Direct flights are also available on El Al from Los Angeles, Boston, and Toronto, and on United from San Francisco. Major European carriers—including Aeroflot, Air France, Alitalia, Austrian Airways, British Airways, Brussels Airlines, Czech Airlines, Iberia, KLM, Lot, Lufthansa, Swissair, Turkish Airways, and Virgin Atlantic—have daily flights from the United States and on to Israel with stopovers in their domestic hub airports.
Because Israel is only slightly larger than New Jersey, it's more efficient to drive within the country than fly. The exception is the resort city of Eilat, which is about 360 km (224 miles) south of Tel Aviv on the Gulf of Aqaba. There are flights several times a day from Tel Aviv and Haifa.
Reconfirmation obligations differ from airline to airline (and change from time to time); be certain to check with your carrier for all legs of your journey.
Airline Security Issues
Transportation Security Administration. www.tsa.gov.
Israel's main airport, Ben Gurion International Airport (TLV), is a few miles southeast of Tel Aviv. The airport has towering interior walls of Jerusalem stone adorned with 5th- and 6th-century Byzantine mosaics discovered throughout Israel. A soothing fountain is in the center of the departure hall, which has plenty of comfortable seating and cafés. Free Wi-Fi means you can stay connected while waiting for your flight. The spacious food court serves Middle Eastern cuisine and fast-food favorites. From Sde Dov Airport (SDV), about 4 km (2½ miles) north of Tel Aviv's center, domestic airlines fly to Eilat in the south and Haifa or Rosh Pina in the north.
From October to April, there are charter flights to the Red Sea resort town of Eilat from Moscow, St. Petersburg, Amsterdam, Copenhagen, Helsinki, and Tallinn. There are also charter flights to Eilat from Paris and London during the Jewish holiday months of September and October. Eilat will close its current airport and open a new international airport in 2017; Ramon Airport (www.iaa.gov.il) will be 19 km (12 miles) north of the current one in the city center. All international charters to Eilat land at Ovda Airport (VDA), about 60 km (37 miles) north of Eilat; Ovda may close for civilian flights when the new Ramon Airport opens.
Ben Gurion International Airport. Tel Aviv, Tel Aviv, 7015001. 03/975–5555; www.iaa.gov.il/rashat/en-US/airports/bengurion.
Eilat Airport. 42 Eilat St., Eilat, Southern District. 700/705–022; www.iaa.gov.il.
Ovda Airport. Eilat, Southern District. 700/705–022; www.iaa.gov.il.
Sde Dov Airport. Tel Aviv, Tel Aviv. 03/698–4500; www.iaa.gov.il/rashat/en-US/airports/sdedov.
The quickest and most convenient way to get to and from Ben Gurion International Airport is by taxi. Taxis are always available outside the arrivals hall and charge fixed prices. Fares are NIS 155 to Tel Aviv and NIS 288 to Jerusalem, plus NIS 4.50 per piece of luggage. Between 9 pm and 5:30 am, prices are NIS 175 to Tel Aviv and NIS 345 to Jerusalem.
From the airport, trains depart for Tel Aviv every half hour. They take you to the city in 15 minutes for NIS 13.50. Trains continue on to Herzliya, Netanya, Haifa, Akko, and Nahariya. For Jerusalem, change at Haganah Station in Tel Aviv, and expect a two-hour commute.
The Nesher shuttle service takes you to Jerusalem for NIS 64. The 10-passenger sherut taxis (minibuses) depart whenever they fill up. The main disadvantage is that there’s no telling if you'll be the last passenger to be dropped off, so it can take an hour while the driver lets off the other passengers. To get to Ben Gurion International Airport from Jerusalem the same way, call Nesher a day in advance. Otherwise order a private cab from any taxi company, called a "special" taxi, for the fixed price of NIS 290, or NIS 340 after 9 pm nightly and on Saturday and holidays.
If you depart for the airport from central Tel Aviv by car or taxi at rush hour (7 to 9 am, 5 to 7 pm), note that the roads can get clogged. Allow 45 minutes for a trip that would otherwise take only about 20 minutes.
Taking the bus from Ben Gurion International Airport to Jerusalem is tedious. Board the Egged local shuttle (line 5, NIS 5.80) for the 10-minute ride to the El Al Junction, and wait there for a Jerusalem-bound bus (line 425 or 947, NIS 25). It runs to Jerusalem's Central Bus Station about every 30 minutes during the day, less frequently in the evening.
Egged. 03/694–8888; www.egged.co.il.
Nesher. 02/625–7227; www.neshertours.co.il.
The national carrier, El Al Israel Airlines, is known for maintaining some of the world's strictest security standards. It’s not necessarily the cheapest carrier, especially from the United States. United, Delta, and US Airways often have cheaper nonstop fares, and some European airlines have better prices if you don't mind a stopover in their hub cities. Within Israel, Arkia Israeli Airlines and Israir Airlines have flights from Tel Aviv to Eilat and Haifa. If you plan to travel in Jordan, Royal Jordanian is an option; it has flights from Ben Gurion International Airport.
Delta Airlines. 800/221–1212; 800/241–4141; www.delta.com.
El Al Israel Airlines. 800/223–6700; 03/977–1111; www.elal.co.il.
Royal Jordanian Airlines. 212/949–0050; www.rj.com.
United Airlines. 800/241–6522; www.united.com.
Arkia Israeli Airlines. 03/690–2210; www.arkia.com.
Israir Airlines. 03/510–9589; www.israirairlines.com.