You arrive at Ben-Gurion International Airport stiff and bleary-eyed after many hours in the air, and you need to get to Jerusalem. The easiest way to do this is to use Nesher’s shared taxi service, or “sherut.” As you exit the shiny new arrivals hall, parked on the curb right outside the building are bright yellow and white 8-passenger vans. These vans will drop you off at whatever address you request in Jerusalem for a flat rate of NIS 64 (around $16). Tipping is not necessary.
The catch is that you may have to wait for the van to fill up. Usually, the driver will not leave until the taxi is full, or nearly so. During peak seasons, this is not a problem. But if you are arriving at some ungodly hour, it could take time. If you are in a hurry, it might make sense to consider other options, like the bus or a private taxi (which will cost quite a bit more).
The other catch is that you could find yourself being driven to every neighborhood and back alley in Jerusalem as your fellow passengers are dropped off, one by one. Whether this is a bummer or not depends on your attitude. If it’s a beautiful day, you might like this free “tour” of Jerusalem. If it’s late at night and you just want to crawl into bed, you might not appreciate this.
Hint: Don’t be shy. Strike up a conversation with people you’re sharing the ride with. Many of the people who live and/or visit Jerusalem have the most fascinating stories to tell.
When you shop in Israel, don't forget to save receipts for purchases over $50 and get a tax rebate at the airport. VAT (Value Added Tax) on goods and services is now 15.5%. Better that it be in your pocket than someone else's.
When you buy in stores with a Ministry of Tourism logo in the window, ask the salesman to fill out a tax refund form for you. Only non-residents of Israel are eligible for this. After checking your baggage and going through security, go to the Changeplace desk in the big circular duty-free hall. Unlike some other airports I've been to, you can't miss it. It is marked with red neon signs. The clerk will ask to see your passport and if you've filled out the forms as required, the money will be promptly handed over to you - no waiting for checks in the mail!
The length of time you will need to get through security at Ben-Gurion airport depends who you are, where you are coming from and where you are heading for. If you have spent any time in the Palestinian territories, prepare for a longer questioning. Ditto, if you try to skirt their questions or hide information.
I usually arrive at the airport 2.5 hours before the flight because I personally can't stand hanging around in airports. If you do come 3 hours beforehand, as you are technically supposed to, you will have time for shopping. The duty free shopping outlet at Ben-Gurion airport is huge and there are actual bargains to be had (1+1 sales, etc.). It is, hands-down, the best duty free of all the airports I have been to.