COVID-19 Travel Restrictions Update - October 2021

By Sarah Mann | Published on 10/27/2021
It’s official - Israel is opening up again!  And aren’t we all thrilled.  After over 18 months of the country being closed to tourists, everyone’s ready to fling open the doors of their hotels, restaurants, and bucket-list Israel attractions for you.

 Ultrastructural morphology exhibited by coronaviruses

 Ultrastructural morphology exhibited by coronaviruses. Photo by CDC on Unsplash

Latest UPD: Israel has closed its borders on 28, November 2021 for the next two weeks to all foreigners over Omicron. Christmas is normally the peak season for tourism in Israel. We are all hopeful that the government will find the solution to keep the borders open so as not to affect the travelers who intend to travel to Israel for Christmas.

Opening of borders from 1, November 2021

However, as we know (and we’re sure you do too) it’s not a question of going “back to normal” straightaway. There’s going to be a transition period for us all, as the COVID-19 travel restrictions are updated and - quite possibly - modified as the weeks go on. The rules have been changing endlessly in the last months and we know how frustrating that is and how confusing too.

That’s why we’ve decided to dedicate this article to giving you as much information as we can about the changing travel situation in Israel...and give you tips and pointers as to what to expect, once you book a trip. Whether you’re coming as an independent traveler or as part of an organized tour in Israel, it’s good to be able to stay up-to-date with rules and regulations, so you don’t waste time, energy, or money before you get here, and once you’ve arrived.

Here’s what we know to date:

On October 21st, the Israel Prime Minister stated (and this, of course, is still subject to government approval) that individual tourists will be able to travel to Israel from 1st November 2021 onwards. Here is a list of the health conditions that you will need to meet/prove, before flying:

Street sign Stay Safe

Street sign Stay Safe. Photo by Nick Fewings on Unsplash

If You Are Fully Vaccinated?

That means you must arrive in Israel either having had two or three vaccines (depending on when you were given them).

1. You must have had the third (booster) shot of the Pfizer vaccine (at least 7 days before you intend to fly) or have had two shots of Pfizer, the last one being no more than 6 months from the date of your flight.

2. You must have had two shots of the AstraZeneca, Moderna, Sinovac, Sinopharm, the Serum Institute of India (Covishield) vaccines (no less than 14 days before you arrive in Israel).

3. You must have had at least one shot of the Janssen (Johnson & Johnson) vaccine at least 14 days before the date of your arrival.

4. Effective 15.11.2021, you must have had two shots of the Sputnik V vaccine subject to the following restrictions: Those vaccinated with the Sputnik-V will have to stay in isolation until testing positive in the serological test and negative in the PCR test that they took after landing. If negative results to the PCR test have not been received within 24 hours from the time of arrival in Israel, their isolation shall continue until receiving positive test results in the serological test.

Please refer to the Israel Ministry of Health website for the most up-to-date information.

A laboratory worker takes a swab test

A laboratory worker takes a swab test. Photo by Mufid Majnun on Unsplash

If You Have Recovered From COVID-19?

If you have had the COVID-virus and are now recovered:

1. You should be able to present the results from a positive test in the form of a NAAT test (this is a molecular test e.g. a PCR test) which needs to be taken at least 11 days before you enter Israel.

2. If you are fully recovered from COVID-19, can show evidence of a positive PCR test result (taken at least 11 days before your date of arrival) and can show proof of at least one dose of a World Health Organisation (WHO) vaccine. This dose should have been administered at least 14 days before you arrive in Israel.

 Red Teddy bear in a protective medical mask

 Red Teddy Bear in a protective medical mask. Photo by Volodymyr Hryshchenko on Unsplash

From Which Countries Will Tourists Be Able to Enter?

You will be able to enter Israel, as a tourist, from EU countries or any other country with which Israel has a mutual vaccine certificate recognition agreement. These include Austria, Albania, Andorra, Belgium Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, the Faroe Islands, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Macedonia, Malta, Monaco, Morocco, the Netherlands, Norway, Panama, Poland, Romania, San Marino, Slovenia, Slovakia, Spain, Sweden, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, Ukraine, and Vatican City.

Once a similar agreement has been signed between Israel and the USA, tourists will also be allowed to enter from specific states (a complete list has yet to be agreed upon). Tourists who arrive in Israel after November 1st will be able to book Israeli package tours and day toursTourists from states which require a visa to enter Israel will, unfortunately, still be unable to travel to the country.

Coronavirus map

Coronavirus map. Photo by Martin Sanchez on Unsplash

After 21st November 2021

After November 21st, 2021, vaccinated tourists from across the world will be able to enter Israel, even when reciprocal agreements have not been signed. The most important of these are the USA, Canada, and the United Kingdom.

Tourists whose vaccination certificate is not valid (i.e. their last shot was administered more than 6 months previously or have not had a third - booster - shot) will be able to enter Israel but only in groups of five or more. This will be organized under the COVID Groups Programme (for family and friends).

As well as having to take PCR tests on landing at Ben Gurion Airport and 72 hours before leaving Israel, rapid antigen tests will be required for entrance to tourists sites (if no PCR test from the last 72 hours can be produced).

Taking a Covid 19 Test Before Visiting Israel and Once You Have Arrived

Whatever your status (i.,e. whether you have had two vaccines, three vaccines, or are arriving under the COVID-19 Group Programme) you will need to take a PCR test before departing for Israel when you arrive at Ben Gurion Airport and once more before you travel home.

The procedure of PCR

The procedure of PCR. Photo by Mufid Majnun on Unsplash

When do I need to take these PCR tests?

1. Your first test needs to be taken 72 hours or less before boarding your flight to Israel. You will not be able to fly without proof of this PCR test. You will also need to fill out an Entry Declaration Form up to 24 hours before flying, which can easily be completed online, via laptop, or mobile phone.

2. Once you land at Ben Gurion airport, you must take a COVID-19 test in the airport itself.  You will not be allowed to leave the airport until you have shown proof of having taken this test. Once you leave the airport, you must go straight to your hotel (or the place you are staying) and remain there until you receive a negative test result from the Ministry of Health. This can take up to 24 hours, although many test results are received 6-8 hours later.  You must remain in isolation until you have received a negative result.

3. No more than 3 days (72 hours) before you depart Israel. As well as taking a COVID-test, you must also complete an exit declaration (which you can do, as above, online) up to 24 hours before your flight departs.

A laboratory expert takes a COVID-19 swab test

A laboratory expert takes a COVID-19 swab test. Photo by Mufid Majnun on Unsplash

How Should I Travel From the Airport to My Accommodation?

Since you need to avoid contact with the general public between taking your COVID test on arrival at the airport in Israel and waiting for your negative test result, you need to keep your distance from others as much as possible. The best way, therefore, to travel from the airport to your destination is either by private taxi or private transfer. 

Registered and regulated taxis are available at Ben Gurion Airport Terminal 3 at the arrivals terminal, outside the main door, and prices are set in advance by the government - feel free to enquire at the airport information desk for more information.

Alternatively, you can consider booking a private airport transfer through a trustworthy tour operator in Israel such as ourselves.  Once you have agreed upon a price with the company, and paid by credit card, you’ll have nothing else to worry about and a driver will be waiting for you at the arrivals terminal.  For more information, feel free to contact us by mail or telephone.

At Ben Harim, we will be glad to advise you with all of your travel needs, including helping you book any of our regular day tours or private tours. Whether you’re spending time in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, or wanting to explore further afield, in the Galilee, the Negev desert, or Eilat, we’re happy to help in any way we can.

Obviously, because of the ongoing situation, we will be operating a more flexible cancellation policy in the event that you are unable to attend a day tour you have booked. Your health and wellbeing will always come first in our eyes, rest assured of this. We can’t wait to see you again and, in advance, welcome to Israel!

View of the Temple Mount, Israel

View of the Temple Mount, Israel. Photo credit: © Shutterstock