navigating TLV airport …
The following instructions will be divided into two sections. The first section will be applicable (with distinctions specifically noted) for both those arriving in Israel with a tour group and those arriving on their own. The second section will be applicable for those arriving on their own. Also, make note of the photos and their captions that are located along the right hand side of the page.
PART I: ARRIVAL
Due to security regulations, approximately 45 minutes prior to arrival in Tel Aviv you will be required to be seated and remain so until the plane has parked at the jetway. In the “old days” (i.e., prior to October 2004) the plane would park away from the building and passengers would be shuttled in on buses. Not so today; the plane will park at the building and you will exit through a jetway.
Make sure that you have all of your stuff before you leave your seating area. Be careful opening the overhead bin as items may have shifted during the flight. Check the seat back pocket! You don’t want to complicate your life by leaving your passport in the pocket. Once you have your things, you will exit the plane and go up the stairs or escalator [see photo]; it’s your choice. Wait for the group to gather at the top of the stairs, but please do so on the opposite side of the flow of traffic. If everyone is turning right, wait on the left side, for example. (Note: If you are traveling on your own, you don’t need to stop and wait.)
Once all members of the group have gathered at the top of the stairs, you can proceed to passport control. You will walk down a long corridor that will have moving sidewalks. Along the way, there will be restrooms on the left. Please take advantage of those because you do not know how long you will wait in line at passport control. Once everyone has returned from the restroom, the group may proceed. At the end of the corridor you will see a seating area on the lower section behind the glass. This is the departure lounge; you’ll be there prior to your return flight. Though most people seem to flow to the left, you may go either way around the center section, following the signs to passport control and baggage claim.
After getting around the center section, the signs will direct you down a long ramp (moving you from the second floor to the first floor). This ramp [see photo] will have a moving sidewalk on the right, and those that think they can move faster will hustle down the ramp. Be careful here because carts will zoom down this ramp faster than people walk. In front of you below the mosaics, is Passport Control.
Once you enter the PASSPORT CONTROL area, it is important to find a line that says “FOREIGN PASSPORTS” [see photo]. These are typically toward the right, while “ISRAELI PASSPORTS” lines are on the left. It is usually better to spread out in this area and use a few lines. You will proceed forward as the line moves forward, but you must wait at the line on the floor that says, “Wait here.” The clerk in the booth will call or motion you forward when it is your turn. Married couples and families with children may approach the booth together; others should approach the desk individually. You should have your passport ready to present to the agent. He/she may ask the purpose of your visit. Answer, “I’m on a tour.” He/she may ask how long you are staying. Answer, “About ten days” (or the number of days of your particular visit). If he/she asks where you are staying, answer, “Hotels in Tiberias and Jerusalem” (or the main cities you are visiting). Israel no longer stamps passports. If you want a stamp, please ask for one. (They may or may not do so.) In either case, you will receive a small ticket that has your personal details and is your tourist visa. Hold on to that ticket.
Immediately behind the booth where you presented your passport, is the entrance to the baggage claim area [see photo]. You will need to insert that blue ticket into the turnstile to gain access to the luggage claim area. Make sure to retrieve your ticket as you pass through the turnstile, then pack it inside your passport or wallet. Once you pass the turnstile it is a good idea to stop on the side and put your passport away. Also, on your right side are luggage carts; get one (at an extra charge) if you desire.
If you are with a group, an agent [see photo] should be holding a sign with your group leader’s name. However, the printers seem to do whatever they want, so don’t be surprised if it is the group name, your teacher’s name, or Discipleship Travel LLC or some combination of those. (Note: If you are on your own, look for the electronic sign in front of you [see photo] that indicates on which belt/carousel you will find your luggage. Look for your flight number and city from which your most recent flight departed. Be careful, sometimes the flights are code share and have a different flight number or airline listed, and sometimes more than one flight arrives from the same city at about the same time. Proceed to the indicated carousel and find your luggage. Once you get your luggage, back away from the belt so others can get their bags. Designate a spot to congregate away from the belt as the group waits for all members to retrieve their luggage.
In the event your luggage does not appear on the carousel. You will need to make a report at Lost and Found [see photo]. NOTE: You can not make a report until the last item has arrived on the belt, which is usually a sign that says, “Th-th-th-that’s all folks!” or something similar. Once you have determined that your bag did not arrive, make your way to the Lost and Found desk near carousel 3. You will need to give your flight details to the agent as well as a description of your bag. HINT: Take a picture of your bag with your phone, so you can simply show the agent a picture of your bag rather than try to explain, “It is about this big, or maybe bigger, and it’s red. Well kinda red, but not exactly red.” In most cases, misdirected or left behind luggage is delivered to you the next day. (This is why you need one change of clothes in your carry on.) Lost luggage can take days. In the case that your bag is damaged, you will also make a claim at Lost and Found.
After everyone has all of their luggage, the group will proceed through the Customs GREEN line. NOTE: Only go through the Customs Red line if you have something to declare, or the group is directed to do so by a customs agent attempting to manage the traffic. I have never seen a tour group get stopped for inspection, but it could happen. Those who are traveling separate from the group have a higher chance of being selected for inspection, which means simply placing your bag on the x-ray belt and receiving it on the other end. If the inspector sees something suspicious, you will be asked to bring your bag to an inspection area. Cooperate fully with the instructions of the agent.
Beyond Customs is the arrival hall. Exit through the sliding glass doors and your escort will take you to meet your guide. After a few words of orientation, you will be taken to your bus. At the bus, the big bags go underneath, backpacks and such go up top. There are restrooms near the exit to the bus parking. It’s not a bad idea to use them before getting on the bus. This is particularly true if you are moving up the coast to Netanya or Tiberias for your first night. NOTE: make sure that your group leader knows that you will be stopping at the restroom.
If you didn’t arrive on the same flight as the group, you may choose to meet the group upon their arrival at the airport. If so, a good place to arrange to meet is the open air coffee shop Cafe Aroma, which is located near the exit to the bus parking lot. It’s a good idea to have a phone so you can let the guide/group leader know you are at the airport and looking for them. Stay in the area of Cafe Aroma, the guide/group leader will get you on the way to the bus.
PART II: ARRIVING ON YOUR OWN
TAXI TO TEL AVIV
If you need to get to Tel Aviv, the cost is a bit more. You will need to find the taxi stand outside door 3 [see photo, do not cross the street] and ask for a taxi to Tel Aviv. There is a basic price to Tel Aviv, an airport service fee, a per bag fee, and additional rider fee. Currently, the combined price is about 150 shekels.
NOTE: In no case should you accept a ride from anyone who approaches you inside the airport asking if you need a taxi. Not only is this ILLEGAL, it is dangerous. Do not do it! You should only respond to an offer for taxi service if you are at the taxi stand.
SHUTTLE TO JERUSALEM
For those not arriving with the group, nor meeting the group at the airport, you will need to use Nesher Taxi service to get to Jerusalem. This is a door-to-door shuttle service that leaves the airport as soon as the van has 8-9 passengers. Currently, the price is 64 New Israeli Shekels. Likely you will not have shekels, so find the dollar/euro equivalent here and here, respectively. Note that you can not use US coins in Israel, so have enough paper money for this transaction. You can tip the driver a couple dollars, if you desire.
The following instructions begin after passing Customs (see PART I, above, to get to that point).
Follow the signs to the Shuttle Service (yellow circle with van) or Taxi (yellow circle with car). Once you exit the airport, the Shuttle Service is fairly obvious; you do not need to cross the street. Before crossing the street, look to your left or right and locate the yellow/white shuttle vans. Alternatively, locate the white taxi cars. A legitimate taxi will have a yellow sign on the roof.
At this point, the drivers may approach you asking, “Where do you need?” They may be gruff, but don’t worry about that; simply tell them Jerusalem or Tel Aviv. They will direct you to the correct shuttle van. In order to get you to the correct part of the city, they may ask you, “What’s the address?” or “Which hotel?” You should have the name, address, and phone number of your hotel written on a piece of paper that you can give them. Usually, they know all the streets and hotels, but occasionally, a street or hotel may not be known to the driver. Once the driver or dispatcher directs you to a van, the driver will help you load your luggage in the back. Get in the van and find a seat. I recommend a seat as close to the front as possible, especially if you get car sick. You might think your driver is trying out for the Daytona 500 because he repeatedly floors it, then hits the brakes. This can be quite worrisome and wearisome in Jerusalem, but you are almost at your destination. Although I’m sure it has happened, I’m unaware of one of these vans being in a wreck. So, try your best to relax for the ride to Jerusalem. The driver will let you know when you have arrived at your hotel. He will also help you get your luggage out of the back of the van. After you arrive, pay him. He will give you a receipt if you request one. Then, enjoy your visit to the Holy Land.