If you have a layover in Ben Gurion Airport and your connecting flight leaves in less than 4 hours then it is probably best to stay in the airport and make the most of the facilities that Ben Gurion offers. If you have more than 4 hours then you could possibly venture out of the airport and visit Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and even the Dead Sea.
Ben Gurion has two terminals – Terminal 3 for international flights and Terminal 1 for domestic and low-cost international flights. When calculating how much time you have remembered that Israel has stricter security than other countries and you may need to get to the airport 2-3 hours before your connecting flight takes off.
Staying in the Airport during your Layover
If you have no choice but to stay in the airport between flights then you will find that Ben Gurion has all the expected airport facilities like a first aid station, ATMs, a police service, synagogue, pharmacy, baby changing facilities, smoking areas and currency exchange. You will also find shops and restaurants.
There is free WiFi in all of Ben Gurion’s passenger halls so it shouldn’t be a problem for you to connect up and spend your waiting time online. If you have any problems connecting try calling Netvision, the service provider at Ben Gurion on 1-800-013-013. There are free recharging stations throughout the airport including domestic and international departure halls.
Unfortunately, there is no sleeping area or hotel within the terminals; it is also a busy airport so you may have trouble finding a quiet place to have a nap. Try going to the departure hall near the food court where there are benches and you may be able to get some shut eye. If you don’t mind the noise the food court is also a good place to sleep.
If traveling with kids you’ll find play areas in each of the long passages leading off from the Departure Hall.
The Dan Hotel chain operates the Arbel (T3) and Masada (T1) VIP Lounges in the airport. Use of their services must be pre-arranged and requires a fee. The lounges are used by both arriving and departing passengers. As part of their service, you would be picked up on arrival at Ben Gurion and taken in a special VIP shuttle to the lounge.
At this luxurious lounge, travelers can get VIP treatment including all their passport, customs, security and VAT refund services. In addition, you can go here on a layover and simply relax. Available (and included in the fee) are light meals beverages and resting areas. You will even get special transportation to your connecting flight when it is time to leave. This service needs to be pre-booked and requires a fee. For more information contact your airline or ground handling company or the Dan Lounges at Ben Gurion. You can call the lounge at 03-9712266. Note that even economy class passengers can buy a special pass to use the Dan VIP lounges; just go to one of the lounges and ask or book 24 hours ahead online for about 150ILS.
Passengers traveling in business or first class on El Al can make use of the EL AL passenger lounge in the departure hall duty-free area. For more information call 03-977111.
If you have had a particularly bad (or good) experience at Ben Gurion then you might want to leave some feedback at one of the computerized feedback stations which are in all the terminal halls.
Leaving Ben Gurion during your Layover
If you are from a country like America, Canada or the UK where you don’t need a visa to visit Israel then you will have no problem leaving the airport for a short layover tour. Check with your embassy whether you would need to make any special visa arrangements in order to leave Ben Gurion airport during your layover. And don’t worry about having an Israeli stamp in your passport as records are now kept electronically and you will instead get a piece of paper with the entrance stamp. Keep the piece of paper in your passport until you leave, after which you can throw it away.
In the Greeters Hall on Level G next to the employee passage you will find a desk responsible for issuance of special entry permits. They are open Sunday to Thursday 8:30am-1:30pm and Friday and holiday eves 9am-1pm. To contact them by phone you can call 03-9752265.
If you have questions about how to spend your time in Israel you could go to the Ministry of Tourism Information Desk in the Arrival Hall. The staff here will provide you with maps and information. You can also contact them on 03-9754260.
If you have luggage which is not checked-in to go directly to your final destination then you can leave it at the Baggage Storage Facility which is open Sunday to Thursday 8am-7:45pm; Friday 8am-2:45pm and Saturday from 8pm until midnight. The Storage Room is located in the west (kerem) short-term car park called “Orchard Parking” on the ground floor (Level G). The storage facilities may change so call for more information to 03-9754436. The service is free of charge.
Getting Out of Ben Gurion
Ben Gurion is located in the middle of the country about 40km (35-50min) from Jerusalem and 15km (20-40min) from Tel Aviv. If arriving on Friday evening or Saturday your transport options will be limited as public buses and trains have limited or no service on Sabbath. However, you still have rental cars and taxis.
Taking a Taxi from Ben Gurion
The official taxi dispatcher post is located in front of Terminal 3 on Level G near the Gate 1 exit. There is also a desk in the Meeters and Greeters Hall near Gate 3 next to the Information Desk where you can verify the correct taxi fare to a particular location. At the desk staff will write down for you the correct fare and with this, you can approach the taxi dispatcher post. However generally you have nothing to worry about when taking a taxi from the official taxi dispatcher post as all the taxis and taxi drivers are authorized.
Buses from Ben Gurion Airport
Take Egged line 5 or Veolia line 239 from Level 2 of Terminal 3 and from Terminal 1 to the El Al Junction where you can catch a bus to many cities in the country including Jerusalem. Unless you have a long layover it is not recommended to try seeing the country by public bus with limited time. Rather take a train, taxi or organized tour.
Trains from Ben Gurion
The airport train station is on the lower level of Terminal 3 but there is a free airport shuttle connecting Terminal 1 and 3. Trains operate to Tel Aviv throughout the day and night but with more regular departures during peak travel hours (there are trains every 30 -60 minutes depending on the time of day) and reduced service on Shabbat and Jewish holidays. Trains to Jerusalem take about 2 hours and operate between about 6am and 7pm. This is not recommended if you have limited time.
Organized Private Layover Tours
Perhaps the most convenient and time efficient use of your layover in Ben Gurion is to take an organized daily tours. Tours can be arranged which pick you up at the airport; take you to the landmarks which most interest you and then return you in time to check-in to your connecting flight. There are private one day tours to Jerusalem; Bethlehem; Dead Sea; Masada; Nazareth; Haifa; Acre; Sea of Galilee and Caesarea as well as more off-the-beaten-path destinations like the caves of Beit Gurvrin and dessert safaris. As it is a private tour you can tailor make the tour to suit how much time you have on your layover, your personal interests and the people traveling with you.
Cover photo by Deror Avi.