Due to the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict, travel advisories from countries such as the US, Canada, the UK and Australia recommend exercising a high degree of caution when travelling to Israel and the West Bank, and caution against all travel to the Gaza Strip.
That said, plenty of people travel safely around the region every year. It
just takes some planning and common sense.
The following guidelines should help you facilitate the logistics of
your trip, figure out which rules apply to you and avoid making mistakes that
could (in the worst of cases) get you into hot water with authorities
According to the US and British consulates, all travellers – including those
who have previously travelled to Arab or Muslim countries before -- may be
subject to lengthy questioning and thorough searches upon entering Israel. The
Israeli government may deny entry or exit to anyone without having to provide a
Upon arrival, be sure to declare valuable items such as laptops, for which
you may have to pay a refundable deposit, the British Consulate advises.
In addition, if you are not sure how long your stay will be, Lonely
Planet advises asking
for the maximum amount of time: three months.
Travellers of Palestinian descent, regardless of which country they hold
passports for, are not allowed to enter the region via the Ben Gurion
International Airport in Tel Aviv; instead, they must enter via the Allenby/King
Hussein Bridge border crossing, outside of Amman, Jordan. (Travellers often fly
into Jordan before crossing over). Conversely, travellers with Israeli
citizenship or dual citizenship between Israel and another country are not
allowed to enter via the Allenby Bridge crossing and must enter via the Ben
Gurion International Airport.
According to the US and British Consulates, some travellers who said at
the border that they were travelling to the West Bank have been given
“Palestinian Authority Only” stamps, which
prevent them from going to Israel. The British Consulate also says that Israeli
border officials can also ask some visitors to
sign forms saying they cannot enter Palestinian-controlled territories
unless they receive authorisation in advance.
While you cannot take a rental car in to or out of Israel, you can rent
a car in Israel and drive it to Israeli military-controlled
parts of the West Bank. Your rental car is not likely to
be insured for the West Bank or Gaza, however. Frommers offers several
helpful tips for driving in the region.
To get into the West Bank, you can take a bus (on an Arab-operated bus
line) from East Jerusalem. Lonely Planet provides details
on bus options. One way to understand the tumultuous situation in the West
Bank, Lonely Planet recommends, is by
going on an organized tour that includes visits both to a Palestinian refugee
camp and to a Jewish settlement.
Craig Bidois, co-author of the new book Travel Safety and a former UN security
trainer who runs the travel safety firm Fearfree,
explained that land borders are not as tightly controlled as airports. If
crossing a border by car, be ready to show your travel documents to authorities.
“Only open the window five centimetres: just enough to comfortably hand over
your documents,” he advised. “You don’t want anything thrown into your vehicle
or to give someone a chance to seize your keys or strike you.” He also warned
that proceedings at the border can take a long time.
Make sure you know key words and phrases in the local language -- enough
to understand written street signs alerting drivers to checkpoints. “We have
known of cars being fired at because they have not recognized signals to stop
at waypoints or borders,” Bidois said.
Travel insurance is frequently recommended by consulates for trips to
Israel and the Palestinian territories. You should also make sure you are up to
date on the necessary
Although consulates advise against all travel to Gaza, some travellers
still visit the area. If you go, be aware that your consulate most likely will
not be able to help if something goes wrong (for example, if you end up in jail
or in the hospital).
If you leave Israel by a land border, you will be subject to an exit
fee; check the website for the border crossing by which you plan to leave to
find out how much you will be charged. If you fly out of the country, you may
be subject to questioning and searches (as upon arrival). Another thing to keep
in mind before leaving is that electronics may be held for inspection and then
returned later; the British consulate warns that personal items have been known
to be damaged in this process.
Travelwise is a BBC
Travel column that goes behind the travel stories to answer common questions,
satisfy uncommon curiosities and uncover some of the mystery surrounding
travel. If you have a burning travel question, contact Travelwise.