I recently returned to Israel after a three week trip to New York City. This note is meant to assist you in making the return process as smooth as possible. If you are going to be traveling to Israel during COVID-19, here are some things to keep in mind.
Before I get into the blog, please be mindful that this blog is written in September 2021. Although the information is current for today, it may change at any moment.
#1 Covid testing
The first order of business is to get a COVID test within 72 hours of travel. The timing of this is a little tricky as you also want the results in time before you leave for your return trip to Israel, and that can take 24-48 hours.
While most COVID testing is free, there is a charge for travel-related tests, and in NYC it is particularly expensive. The cheapest place I found is ProHealth Pharmacy, located at 385 Second Avenue, which charged me $100. The service was quick and pleasant, and you can set up a time and payment online. The lab picks up the tests once a day at 7 pm. And I got my result in the early hours of the following morning. Only PCR tests are accepted and they must include your name and passport number. Rapid tests are not accepted.
#2 Declaration form
After you get your COVID testing done, you must then fill in a declaration form within 24 hours of departure. This is available on the Ministry of Health website. You will then receive a clearance form by email which you must present when you check in. Please note that you must print this – it can’t be digital.
#3 Flying to Israel during COVID-19
The next order of business is the flight. If you are traveling alone or with one other person, and you can afford it, I suggest to travel economy plus. It’s worth the extra $100-$150.
When you pick your seat, select a center aisle where one aisle seat is taken and three are empty. Chances are that the center seats will not fill up, which gives you some “social distancing space.”
On arrival at Ben Gurion Airport, you will need to do an additional COVID test. We recommend you pay for this ahead of time. It cost me 80 shekels (approximately $25) but it saved me time. Also, consider that the on-site payment is 100 shekels, and also adds more time to the arrivals process. Details can be found on the Ministry of Health website.
#4 Be ready to quickly exit Ben Gurion Airport
Finally, and this is the tricky part – the airport is set up in a way to ensure that arrivers get their test immediately and then leave the building. Some areas are blocked off and once out you cannot return. You can no longer be received (with or without balloons) in the arrivals area. Only ticketed travelers can access the airport terminal (with some exception for caregivers, etc.).
I was prepared and organized as much as possible ahead of time and was out of the airport within 35 minutes of landing. Usually it would have taken much longer.
The directives are to leave by taxi (not by public transport) and then self-isolate at home for 7-14 days. Once you have been COVID-tested and given an armband attesting to this, you should take the elevator to level 2, exit 23, where your taxi will pick you up. It is no longer possible to access the ground floor arrivals area by elevator – so you want to leave the building as per above.
#5 Self-isolation is required after traveling to Israel during COVID-19
As of September 3rd, 2021, Israeli citizens who have received their third COVID vaccine shot will not need to self-isolate upon return to Israel. If you are not an Israeli citizen then you will need to have an entry permit issued by the Population and Immigration Authority. It’s a little harder to get entry visas these days, and the isolation rules apply.
If you do need to self-isolate, then on the seventh day of isolation, you get another COVID test (free of charge if through your Kupat Holim – HMO) and upon receipt of the results can exit isolation independently.
Summary points on traveling to Israel during COVID-19
In summary, the process of traveling to Israel during COVID-19 can be smooth if you are prepared ahead of time. You can present documents digitally, but it’s easier if you can print them out rather than present your phone (and I don’t like people I don’t know touching my phone, especially now).
We will write periodically about this topic according to changes in the situation. Happy traveling!
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Norman H. Chait, CFA, Managing Principal, Nardis Advisors LLC,
September 1st, 2021
Disclaimer: Nardis Advisors LLC (“Nardis”) is a Registered Investment Advisory Firm regulated by the U.S Securities and Exchange Commission in accordance and compliance with applicable securities laws and regulations. Nardis does not render or offer to render personalized investment advice through this medium. The information provided herein is for informational purposes only and does not constitute financial, investment or legal advice. Investment advice can only be rendered after delivery of the Firm’s disclosure statement (Form ADV Part 2) and execution of an investment advisory agreement between the client and Nardis.