Israel’s main airport, Ben Gurion Airport is known locally as Natbag. The airport was named after Israel’s first Prime Minister, David Ben Gurion, in 1973. The international airport is located about 20 km to the southeast of Tel Aviv near the city of Lod, which is about a half hour drive to Tel Aviv (not accounting for heavy traffic times).
Natbag is medium in size and only has two operating terminals, Terminal 3 is the main terminal from where most flights depart and arrive and the smaller Terminal 1 caters to domestic, charter and low-cost flights. In 2018, Ben Gurion handled 23 million passengers. Ben Gurion has been awarded an Airport Service Quality Award for best airport in the Middle East several times by the Airports Council International.
If you’re wondering – most international airlines fly to Ben Gurion Airport from almost every country. We’ve made a list of flight distances from major cities to Ben Gurion here.
If this is your first visit to Israel you might be surprised at how modern and advanced Ben Gurion Airport is.
You’ll be able to enjoy the free Wi-Fi from the moment you step into Terminal 3. Once you land you have to go through security and passport control. This may take a while, depending on what time you land and whether it’s top season. Also, Ben Gurion is known as the most secure airport in the world, so security might also cause a bit of a delay, although coming into the country is usually quicker than when leaving. So, take out your mobile device and enjoy the Wi-Fi while you wait.
You’ll be asked a couple of questions and the immigration officer won’t stamp your passport, they will give you a piece of paper with the stamp on it, which you need to keep until you leave the country. This is because there are a number of countries that won’t allow you in if they see an Israeli stamp in your passport.
Once you’re done with immigration your next stop in the airport is baggage pickup at the baggage carousel. You will find free trolleys in the hall.
Foreign Currency Exchange
There are bank counters and ATMs in the Arrivals area where you can exchange your currency to Israeli Shekels.
The Ministry of Tourism has a desk at the Arrival Hall where you can ask all your tourism related questions and receive maps and pamphlets.
If you prefer a smoother and easier arrival you can arrange VIP services at the airport. The VIP Club staff will greet you at the meeting point, take care of collecting your baggage, take you through an expeditious security screening and passport control process and they can even arrange your transportation for you.
Transportation from Ben Gurion Airport to Tel Aviv
Ben Gurion is situated in the center of the country, about 20 km southeast of Tel Aviv. It usually takes about half an hour to get from the airport to Tel Aviv by car, but sometimes the traffic is heavy and it can take longer.
It is easy enough to get from the airport to Tel Aviv and there are several ways to get there.
Car Rental – Israel’s leading car rental agencies have branches in the airport.
Avi, Budget, Hertz, Sixt, Eldan
Rail – the least expensive and quickest way to get to Tel Aviv during high traffic times is by train. But once you get to Tel Aviv you will have to take a bus, a taxi or walk to your final destination.
It is about a 15 minute train ride to Tel Aviv and there are four stations in the city, so it’s best to ask your hotel which one to get off at.
Trains run between 5:30 am and midnight every hour from Sunday to Thursday. Note that trains don’t run during Shabbat (Friday evening – Saturday evening) – on Friday trains run from 06:00- 16:30 and Saturday they start running at 21:00.
There may be changes to train times due to holidays, so it is best to check if your vacation falls on a holiday in Israel before leaving.
The train ride from Ben Gurion Airport to Tel Aviv costs ILS 13.50.
Bus – buses run between the airport and Tel Aviv, but if you are taking public transportation it is much easier to take the train.
Flo Shuttle – a new shuttle service that offers door to door service between Ben Gurion Airport and Tel Aviv. Pricing varies depending on vehicle size and exact destination, but you can find your price and book online via their site!
Taxi – if you aren’t being picked up or renting a car this is the most convenient way to reach your accommodation. Getting back to the airport you can use any taxi service you like but leaving the airport to Tel Aviv you should use the official taxi dispatch outside the Arrivals Hall. Prices are fixed and determined by time of day and some drivers also charge for luggage. The cost is usually between ILS 130 – 160.
There is no Uber in Israel, but there is a popular taxi booking app that you can download – GETT TAXI APP. Download and pre-order a taxi via the app. Don’t forget to leave an Israeli number so the driver can reach you and leave your flight number so the driver can check your final landing time. And, ask your driver when the GETT TAXI pick up area is.
As with most airports, you are requested to arrive at least two and a half hours prior to your flight to get checked in (you can check in online, saving you time) and go through security.
Take a trolley and stand in line – you will pay a 10 shekel deposit for the trolley, via credit card, which you’ll be reimbursed once you return the trolley.
Israeli security is pretty tight, but for the most part you will just be asked a bunch of questions. Keep calm, answer honestly and you’ll be finished with it in no time. If things are moving slowly while you’re in line, don’t forget you can always enjoy the free Wi-Fi in the airport
If things are running smoothly you may have plenty of time to kill before your flight and that means you can enjoy some extra shopping time. You can spend the time at one of the cafés or restaurants, or shopping at the duty free shops, which are open 24 hours a day. If you have some shekels left over or forgot to buy souvenirs for your friends, you’ll find a great selection in the duty free shops, which include a classic duty free shop (that sells cosmetics, alcohol, etc.), book shops, electronics, jewelry, sports equipment, fashion and even a Michal Negrin shop.
There are VAT refund counters for passengers who are departing Israel, as well as a mother and child room, a play area and two synagogues. There are also lots of outlets for charging mobile devices.
Passengers who are flying business or first class can spend time in one of the airport’s business lounges. There are three VIP lounges, the El Al King David Lounge and two Dan Lounges. You will find them easily.
Accessibility at Ben Gurion Airport
The Israel Airports Authority is committed to provide physical infrastructure and equal service to passengers with special needs. According to the Equal Rights for Persons with Disabilities Law in Israel, the Authority is responsible for caring for a passenger from the time he enters the terminal building or from the moment of his departure from the plane. The service includes accompanying and assisting passengers. Passengers in need of special assistance will be met at the boarding gate and be taken care of. Many counters in the Terminal have systems for passengers with hearing disabilities.
Security at Ben Gurion Airport
You hear a lot of talk about how the security at Ben Gurion is so strict but once you get there you’ll see that if you have nothing to hide, it is not at all bad. Security in Israel might take a little longer than at other airports but just knowing that this is to keep you safe is certainly worth the time.
Be patient, you will be asked a few questions, some you might even be asked more than once, but it really isn’t too bad. Passengers who have recently visited “unfriendly” countries might be subject to further questioning, but for the most part it is not a long process. Occasionally passengers are asked to open their luggage for an inspection, don’t take it personally if it happens to you, as an Israeli I’ve had my luggage inspected more than once. After check-in, all checked baggage is screened using sophisticated X-ray and CT scanners and put in a pressure chamber to trigger any possible explosive devices. Don’t forget to be polite, answer truthfully and you’ll get through security in time to hit the Duty Free shops.
We hope you enjoyed your visit to Israel and that you’ll be back again soon.