Planning a trip to Israel can be tricky. Since I just did it, I’m sharing the resources I found with you!
Most of us who live outside of Israel have to get on at least one plane to get there. The main airport is the Ben Gurion airport just outside of Tel Aviv, Israel, airport code TLV. If you have somewhat flexible travel dates, you can usually get a good deal on tickets, but from the US (and many other places!) it is definitely pricey.
Some general rules for getting cheaper flights:Be flexible! But fly midweek if you can, choose a non-peak time to fly, shop on Tuesdays for deals, etc. You can sign up with different sites and/or airlines to get their deals e-mail. (Which will work best for you depends on where you live and where you want to travel.)
On our recent trip, we flew El Al. It has direct flights and is kind of part of the Israel experience. 😉 It has kosher meals by default (although you have to request Badatz kosher meals separately – here’s the list of options for meals). We had meat only meals both ways (chicken sandwiches).
If you’re flying with kids, here is a post on flying with kids with lots of good ideas for you. Keep in mind that security flying into Israel is very tight, and you should probably plan extra time just in case.
Once you arrive at Ben Gurion, there are few kosher choices after you get through the customs and luggage area. There is a little convenience store in the arrivals hall, and some juice / coffee bars (I didn’t see a teuda, but I didn’t thoroughly check with hungry and needy kids). If you can plan food until you arrive, do! There are several choices for exchanging money or using the ATM here to get NIS (New Israeli Shekels) here, too.
After you’ve cleared the customs and gotten your bags (be sure to check the separate oversized area if you’re missing something – one of our carseats got sent there for no apparent reason!), it’s time to get where you’re going. You have a few options, all with pluses and minuses:
- Nesher: a sherut (shared taxi service, kind of like Super Shuttle). These are 10 passenger vans that go through Jerusalem for 62 NIS for each passenger seat – about $17. They aren’t new, and there may or not be working seat belts on board. We managed to find enough seat belts for everyone on each trip, but they weren’t together. And although they expect you to hold your babies and young kids, we paid their fare and installed car seats (bring a locking clip!) and boosters for the kids. Several people just held young babies. They had plenty of cargo room for suitcases and strollers!
- Israeli Railways Train: If you’re headed to Jerusalem, the train is a (very) slow and scenic way to get there – although probably not close to anywhere you want to go. But you can do it – click on the link for a trip planner for more on times and prices. There are other places you can get to as well, and it’s more convenient for some of those. The station is on the S level of the airport.
- Car Rental: If you’re planning to rent a car in Israel, there are several options at the airport. Avis, Budget, Eldan, Hertz, and Sixt are there. You can probably get good deals shopping around, too. Be sure you check if your credit card provides car rental insurance before you pay for it!
- Taxi: A taxi from Ben Gurion to Jerusalem will cost you about 350 NIS (close to $100), depending on where you want to go. Click on the link and you’ll see approximate rates to and from other areas. It’s recommended that you use a licensed taxi, which you can easily get from a taxi stand.
- Other special transportation: Limos, tour buses, private shuttles, and more are available. You can even find someone to help you get through customs!
The same options are available on the way back. You can call ahead and get a pick up time, which will help you plan.
The way El Al check in worked when we traveled at the end of May 2013, was a little disorganized. We came in and checked in on a computer and got our boarding cards, then took our checked bags through the x-ray machine line. After that, we carted them to the “express check-in,” where we gave the suitcases in to be checked. Then, we had to walk to a special elevator to send our car seats and stroller (we checked a single umbrella stroller). And then, we could finally head to security. Whew!
As you’re headed back through the airport, there are a few more kosher options, including a Pizza Hut before and after security and some coffee places. Depending on which gate you are at, there are options around, too.