I'm flying to Ben Gurion at about 3 pm on Thursday and continuing home from the same airport at 11 AM next morning. Now I wonder whether it'd be too much trouble / too time consuming to spend the night in Jerusalem instead of Tel Aviv. I'd love to stroll the old town a little. But is it easy to get a sherut to the airport in the morning? Does it take too long (as I hear that I should be at the airport three hours in forehand)?
About the three-hour rule: should I be as early at the airport for domestic flights also? What about in Eilat airport, do I need as much time there too?
It's definitely possible, but you'll miss out on all of the 'action' in the Old City. The sheruts/service taxis to and from the airport run 24/7 and are operated by Nesher to Jerusalem (or Haifa) only. Heading back to the airport from Jerusalem via Nesher, you'll need to leave 4-5 hours in advance of your flight (and yes, you should definitely be there 3 hours ahead of time to go through the multiple layers of security).
So, travel time considered, you'd have 12 hours during the evening/night in Jerusalem. The only thing you can really go see in the Old City is the Western Wall (open to visitors 24 hours a day) ... otherwise you'll just be strolling the relatively empty stone walkways with no shops and few eateries open.
Either try to get on a later flight out the following day or enjoy the abundant nightlife Tel Aviv has to offer this time and save Jerusalem for your next visit.
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It is very simple to go to Jerusalem.
There are plenty of Taxi's, Shared taxis (sherute)
and buses to take you for the 45 minute ride. Getting back is just as simple from the Central Bus station in Jerusalem with all three of the same options.
The domestic flight questions is the same, but you don't have time to take a domestic flight anywhere.
Good luck and have fun
To answer your questions, I'd get a bit technical, I don't have a straightforward answer for you, I'll try and be as detailed as possible to give you all the factors for your decision.
1. If you get at around 3pm you won't leave the airport until at 4:30-5:00 pm. This means rush hour AND Thursday (soldiers going home, lots of people leave the office early for the weekend). So my guess you'll make it to Jerusalem not before 8-9pm. This doesn't leave you much time to walk the streets.
2. You can get a Sherut to the airport in the morning, I don't think that's an issue.
3. Regarding arrival time to the airport, it all depends where you're flying to. If it's to Eilat you don't have to be 3 hours before, 1-1.5 hours is enough for domestic flights, and 2 hours is more than enough for international (again, depends how much time you want to shop at the duty free shops)
The question is WHAT you want to do in the few hours you have. You arrive quite late, so you won't get to Jerusalem before 17:00. The Old City's stores will start to shut down. I am not sure about the churches but you can still see the Western Wall.
However, if you're looking for hanging out, eating well and enjoying a drink - Tel Aviv is far better for this purpose.
Regrading arrival to the airport: DO get there 3 hours before for international flights, because of security procedure. If you're visiting someone in Israel I strongly advice he'll come with you. If you see a specific company - do take a reference letter from them. This will make the procedure easier and faster.
Flight to/from Eilat - no need to get there 3 hours before, but I'll advice 1.5-2 hours, especially if you're travelling alone.
Enjoy your visit!
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You need at least 3 hours at the airport and at least 1 hour drive . For domestic flights from Eilat you need 1 hour before
Adding up to the answers, give a call to Nesher taxies to ensure proper pickup from Jerusalem.
As for domestic flights, the check-in will only open 90 minutes prior to take off, so the 3 hours rule don't apply there.
Well, I live in Israel, and I must tell you that if you're depending on public transportation (and I guess you are), you should worry about timing. Public transportation in Israel isn't very accurate, and trains and busses can be delayed for half an hour and sometimes over a full hour.. I would recommend you to be very very quick in the morning, and wake up early, I would recommend you to be at the airport in about 9:00. I don't recommend you to travel to Eilat, Jerusalem is much more interesting, and about the Eilat airport, I don't have too much information about it.
Have a Good Time!