Israel Part One. Getting There and Getting Gone.
For any real traveler, Israel is a bucket list destination. A crossroads of history and religion, the area possesses countless opportunities for both tourism and exploration.
Granted, the country and surrounding area has a long been the home of political problems and violence. that situation has made many travelers reluctant to attempt the country. I confess, I put it off going for many years.
That being said, traveling to Israel is now one of the absolute highlights in my many years of traveling the globe. The land is inspiring, the beaches are fantastic, and the history is without equal. On top of that, the people are amazingly friendly and helpful. Your traveling experience will (or should) end up being exactly the opposite of what the international news would have you to believe.
(I have found that, almost without exception, the news media is only around to spread fear and distrust. All of the places I have traveled to have been much less problematic than I was led to believe.)
I had an excellent time in Israel, and found it adequately safe to travel in. That’s the upside. The downside: the country isn’t cheap and it isn’t necessarily easy. (I mentioned my banking dilemma in the last post.) I’m going to dedicate this quick post to the beginning and end exasperation; aka, getting in and out of the country!
Arriving in Tel Aviv.
I’m just gonna say it, straight up. Ben Gurion International Airport outside Tel Aviv is the main entry point for the country, and an absolute shit-show! The airport experience was awful!
The entry area is this big open area at the bottom of a long ramp. There were two customs people on duty when we arrived, one for nationals and one for everybody else. Multiple planes of people ended up filling the area in makeshift, self-forming lines that the the immigrations did nothing to control or direct. It was an absolute fiasco!
Finally realizing the situation was out of control, one more immigration person appeared. They made no attempt to better the situation at all. They simply opened a booth and started randomly picking people out of the crowd to check. It took the better part of two hours to get a stamp in my passport. When I actually got to the counter, I was asked like two or three questions. (One of them being; you’re american? Which should have been obvious from my passport.)
The airport was shockingly disorganized!
Leaving Tel Aviv.
I would desperately love to tell you that the above episode was a one-off, and my departure was smooth and easy. Sadly, that would be untrue.
The whole departure extravaganza was as big a fiasco as the arrival had been, just on a grander scale. There were numerous ticket agents, collecting people out of numerous interwoven lines of people.
All the time you stood in line, you were looked at by wandering customs agents that walked around randomly inspecting passports. (I’m going to forgo the obvious similarity to the KGB of 80s movies, but yes. It was exactly like that.)
The airport experience as a whole is extremely unwelcoming.
Yes, the above was pretty harsh. It was also factual. Numerous internet lists have Kuwait International as the worst airport on the planet. Having flown in/out of Kuwait several times, I really think that Ben Gurion International airport gives them a run for their money. It’s really not good.
The airport is however, a contrast to the rest of your experience. Israel as country is Fantastic! Tel Aviv is an amazing city with excellent beaches. Jerusalem is almost unexplainable. (though I will attempt it in an upcoming post) The place is definitely worth your time. The travel experience there is literally bucket list, one of a kind.
That being said, it all starts with getting there and gone. That experience hopefully won’t taint the remainder. I hope your entry and exit was better than mine.
Now, get out there! See the world!
(After the Corona, that is.)