Everything you need to know about traveling to Israel as a vaccinated tourist
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Update (11/29/2021): Israel has closed its borders to all tourists for at least two weeks due to the Omicron variant. As we learn more information about the variant and Israel’s reopening plans, we’ll update the story below.
Around the world, we’ve seen countries adopt different strategies and timelines for reopening their borders. Some welcomed back tourists just months after the virus came stateside, and others took much longer.
Despite one of the world’s most aggressive vaccine rollouts, Israel has been one of the slowest to reopen. Throughout much of the pandemic, the country was closed to tourists, only allowing certain foreigners to enter through an in-depth application process that could take weeks — only to require those with approval to undergo a two-week quarantine upon arrival.
Israel finally reopened its borders to foreigners on Nov. 1 after inoculating much of its population with a booster dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.
While the country is officially open for business once again, there are still plenty of hoops to jump through if you’re planning to visit. Here’s a step-by-step breakdown of everything you need to know about visiting Israel as a tourist.
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Vaccination requirements to enter Israel
To enter Israel as a tourist, each traveler must meet one of the following criteria:
- Been fully vaccinated with a vaccine approved by the World Health Organization (WHO)
- Have recovered from a positive COVID-19 infection
Though these are the general conditions for entry, Israel has some additional regulations for each criterion.
Vaccines recognized by Israel
Israel recognizes vaccines approved by the WHO, including:
- Johnson and Johnson
- The Serum Institute of India
As of Dec. 1, 2021, those vaccinated with the Sputnik-V vaccine may enter Israel, though you’ll also need to receive a positive result on a serologic (antibody) test once you land, in addition to all of the other requirements below.
Fully vaccinated under Israeli law
Israel has a very strict definition of “fully vaccinated.”
To be eligible for entry as a fully vaccinated tourist, you’ll need to have received at least two doses of the vaccine (or one dose of the Johnson and Johnson vaccine). Additionally, at least 14 days must have elapsed from your most recent dose on the day of arrival in Israel. Finally — and this one is perhaps the most onerous — your most recent dose of the vaccine must have been given no more than 180 days before your day of departure from Israel.
For example, if you received your second shot on March 1, 2021, you are not eligible for entry to Israel (until you receive a booster dose). Similarly, if your second dose was on May 30, 2021, you’re only eligible to visit Israel until Nov. 26, 2021, before needing a booster dose.
Those who’ve received a booster dose must wait at least 14 days from the date of the booster to land in Israel.
Recovered from COVID-19 under Israeli law
To be considered recovered under Israeli law, you must present a certificate of recovery that’s digitally verifiable by the Israel Ministry of Health, on the basis of a positive result on a NAAT test.
This applies to those who visit Israel anytime after 11 days have elapsed since their positive result, but no more than 190 days after the positive test, measured from the date of departure from Israel.
In addition to the recovery certificate, you’ll also need to show proof of at least one dose of a WHO-approved vaccine, either before or after recovery.
Israel publishes a list of countries from which it accepts a digital certificate of recovery, and while much of the Europe is included on the list, the United Status is not. You can find the full list here.
Unless Israel changes its regulation, those who received a positive test in the U.S. will need to be fully vaccinated according to the conditions above in order to enter Israel.
A word of caution
Note that entry regulations can change at any time, so TPG recommends that you consult with the Israeli guidance for the most up-to-date information. The regulations above are accurate as of the date of publication and apply to individual tourists, not to group tours or those who’ve received special exemptions.
Finally, if you don’t meet the above criteria, you can submit a petition to the Exceptions Committee with the details of your reason for travel.
Step 1. Pre-departure PCR test
In addition to being either fully vaccinated or recovered from COVID-19, there are some additional requirements before entering Israel.
The first is a PCR test taken within 72 hours of your scheduled departure for Israel. Only those who’ve received a negative result can board their flight. Note that if you’re traveling on a connecting flight, the 72-hour timer applies from the departure time of the final leg of your journey.
Each traveler must present a negative test result (in English) that also specifies the traveler’s passport number. Rapid tests and other at-home tests are not accepted.
The only published exceptions to the 72-hour rule are for those who’ve stayed outside of Israel for less than 72 hours, as well as those who have recovered from COVID-19.
For recovered travelers, you can instead present a positive PCR test result taken no more than three months before the day of departure and no less than 11 days after testing day. (Note that everyone, including recovered travelers, needs to take a mandatory PCR test on arrival in Israel, which you’ll see below.)
Step 2. Entry declaration form
Within 48 hours before departure for Israel (based on the last connecting flight to the country, if applicable), you’ll need to complete an online entry declaration form.
The form asks for your personal information, travel itinerary, health declaration, vaccination/recovery information and isolation information. Filling out the form should be self-explanatory, and I’ve included screenshots of the entire process below.
You can add your travel companions to your form, but you’ll need to input their personal and health information, too.
Note that when you check “Vaccinated/Recovered outside Israel” on the form, you’ll be asked to input your vaccine information (or a recovery letter), and then upload a digitally verifiable document.
If you were vaccinated in the U.S. with a certificate issued by the CDC, you should not upload a picture of your card. You should instead manually input your vaccination details, as I did below.
After completing the online form, you’ll receive a confirmation email from email@example.com, which will include a PDF version of the processed entry declaration form. You’ll need to present this form (digital or hard copy) during check-in, and possibly again on arrival.
Assuming that you filled all the details correctly, your confirmation will have a green highlight stating that “you may board, you must complete reduced isolation.”
In addition to the confirmation PDF, you should also receive a second PDF with a large QR code, titled tav yarok in Hebrew, which translates to “green pass.” More on this below.
Step 3. On-arrival PCR test
The final requirement to enter Israel is a mandatory PCR test on arrival. This is a requirement for everyone of all ages, regardless of vaccination or recovery status. This test is in addition to the one you took in your country of origin before departure.
This test is conducted in Ben Gurion International Airport after clearing customs. You cannot physically leave the airport without completing this test.
After filling out the online entry declaration form, you’ll be able to pre-pay for your on-arrival PCR test.
Prepaying costs 80 ILS ($26). Those who pay on arrival are charged 115 ILS ($37). I prepaid for my on-arrival PCR test and received an emailed payment confirmation code and barcode, which I presented upon arrival at the testing counter.
The test itself took less than three minutes, and you can read more about my entry experience in a follow-up story.
Those who’ve been vaccinated with the Sputnik-V vaccine must also take a serologic (antibody) test on arrival at Ben Gurion International Airport. This costs 126 ILS ($41) for those prepaying.
After completing the PCR test, you can then leave the airport and head to your final destination for a shortened isolation period. (Any method of transportation is acceptable, including public transportation.)
Step 4. 24-hour quarantine
All travelers arriving in Israel must go into isolation, but for those who’ve been vaccinated or recovered, the quarantine period is significantly reduced to (at most) 24 hours.
Once you arrive at your final destination in Israel, you’ll need to immediately enter isolation until you receive a negative result from the PCR test taken on arrival in Israel, or up to 24 hours, whichever is earlier.
Additionally, those vaccinated with the Sputnik-V vaccine must also receive a positive result from the serologic test taken on arrival in order to exit isolation.
My test was conducted at 6:39 p.m. local time, and I received the (negative) result in my email the next morning at 6:18 a.m.
Step 5. Green Pass (Tav Yarok)
Israel limits all indoor activities to those who’ve been vaccinated, recovered or recently tested negative through the country’s green pass tav yarok system.
To access the indoor space at restaurants, museums, gyms and any other cultural institutions or attractions, you’ll need to present a valid green pass, along with a form of photo identification (a foreign passport will suffice).
Tourists should receive a temporary green pass after filling out the online entry declaration form. The pass includes a large QR code, along with your passport number and validity period.
The green pass I received was valid for one month from one day after my flight arrival (due to the 24-hour isolation requirement).
It was checked at the entrance to my hotel in Tel Aviv and throughout my stay in Israel at most restaurants and museums.
Though Israel is officially open, it still has one of the strictest COVID-19 entry policies of the countries I’ve visited during the pandemic. Taking two tests, along with a one-day quarantine, isn’t seamless.
But, like me, if you’ve been waiting for almost two years to visit the country, Israel is once again ready to welcome you — though you’ll have to jump through a few added hoops to get in.
Featured photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy
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