Traveling with El Al

“It’s not an airline. It’s Israel.” That’s El Al’s slogan. Well…

I thought it might be a good idea to talk a little bit about how to get to Israel before getting into all my travel experiences. When I booked the flight, I was looking for a cheap one directly from Vienna with nice flying times. So I chose the one with El Al. Which brought me to one of those travel experiences you even tell your grandkids….

Israel is a country that is absolutely strict about people getting in and out. They want to make sure that they tried everything to keep those outside, that bring the problems inside. If you know what I mean. As usual I checked all the visa requirements (as EU citizen you don’t need one), I called the foreign ministry and informed myself if the stamp I have from Dubai could lead to problems, I made the traveler’s registration so that Austria knew that I was there and so on and so on. I felt super organised and prepared.

When I came to the airport and wanted to give up my big backpack, I immediately was taken aside by a nice lady from El Al. She was friendly, but strict and definitely trained to ask questions. As all other customers, I went through an interrogation, but since I was alone, it was a major one. What I want to do in Israel. How long I would stay. Where I would go. If I had a return ticket. If I had a hotel reservation. If I knew someone there. What company I work for. And so on and so on. In total, she asked me questions like this for about 20 mins before she let me hand in my backpack. She advised me to be early for the security check because as a solo traveler, especially as a female one, they will double check you. It’s a matter of fact that solo travelers often get used to smuggle drugs or other things into or out of the country.

As advised, I showed up early and was put aside into a small room. What made me a little nervous was the fact that the guy took away my hand luggage and my passport. But I trusted them and sat in that room with two others and drank coffee sponsored by El Al ;) They used these little stripes to check if we had drugs or explosives with us. I was then given back the passport and the backpack and finally ready to fly. The other two guys were checked more closely, because they told them that they will visit friends I guess. And then I was really ready to fly! Be aware that during peak times like August, there are also many families on board. If you don’t like this you maybe should choose another flight company or time to fly.

By the way, getting into the country in Tel Aviv on the airport was way faster and getting home too. ;-) And no, El Al is not Israel, in terms of interviews, interrogations and double checks. Traveling in Israel is actually really easy :-) Israreli people are mostly super friendly and helpful and enjoy the visit of travelers.

So what should you know when you travel to Israel with El Al?
– In general, always be early when you travel to or from Israel, no matter which airline. Be prepared for some longer interviews, they might be annoying, but as long as you stay calm and have nothing to hide, there is absolutely no problem.
– Don’t be irritated if the staff takes pictures of your belongings, google your workplace and perform other investigative actions.
– Don’t lie. They will find out, believe me.
– Don’t even think of taking drugs or having it in the hand luggage.
– Have your tickets and hotel reservations ready. It might happen that they want to see it. If you have business cards from work, take a few with you.
– If you have any stamps from countries like Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, Syria… it might be a good idea to get a new passport before traveling to Israel. Dubai was not a problem.
– Don’t get crazy about certain actions you don’t understand. Even the Israeli guys I met said that they sometimes don’t understand, what El Al is doing.
– Don’t be surprised when they open your luggage and check it. When I got my backpack back, everything smelled like pink grapefruit, because they didn’t close the shower gel tube properly.
– Inform yourself well about the country and it’s habits. For your’s and the sake of all others waiting to get to the interview. Because they will ask something like that, for sure.
– Enjoy the meal. I was twice very lucky and had really tasty plane meals (which is rare). :-)

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