I have to admit, the departure, arrival and quarantine restrictions are complex and confusing. Let me share my experience and process I followed to leave the United States to go to Israel and then return. Step, by step, I will try to tell the story and let you conclude on what to do and when.
Overall, if you are not a citizen, you need to have a PCR test before your flight to Israel that is conducted and tested negative 72 hours in advance. I shared my results in my previous posting, but to recap, I paid $200 to get tested with results as quickly as possible so I did not have to stress about whether I would get the results in time or test positive only a few minutes before I check into the airport. I used Discovery Health in my area and it was great. But it is pricey…
Israel requires this to performed before your flight, but the desk check-in agents do not check for it in detail when you check in for your boarding pass, and when you land in Israel, nobody checks for it…so, what is the purpose? I guess to keep the honest person honest.
If going to Israel, you also need to fill out the entry statement forms, upload your vaccine information and hopefully get a Green pass before you arrive.
Now, when you DO arrive, you go through immigration, get your bags, go to customs, etc. and then you go to the COVID testing hall. Everyone gets tested. I recommend paying in advance so you can avoid that line. And then it takes about 10 minutes to get tested and tie the results to your passport. They then give you a light blue wristband to show that you are waiting for results and you should isolate.
When you walk out of the airport, the taxi drivers will say “Shhhh…” and then rip off the arm band and throw it away. They say nobody will check, so do not worry about it.
OK – when you want to return to the United States, you also need to have a negative test result. When you are overseas who/where/how do you schedule these?
A friend recommended Azova where you can have proctored tests performed over a Zoom session, and then you can get virtual results in a PDF sent to you. Key points:
- You need to schedule the tests in advance at your overseas destination and time zone
- You need to purchase the test kits you will use in advance…and you need to get them before you leave the United States (so you can take them with you)
- I recommend possibly scheduling more than one…because what happens if something goes wrong? What if the test kit fails? What if you might get a false positive?
- Pack the kits in your carry on luggage so the liquid or anything in the kits does not get damaged in the freezing cold luggage space.
If successful, as indicated by the US State Department and CDC, you just need to provide the results to the airline when checking in within 24 hours of your first flight. Once they validate, you are good to go!
When I checked in to the KLM test, they double checked and made sure I had a valid negative test. Good to go there.
Unexpectedly when I tried to board the next flight in Amsterdam, the system automatically beeped red and would not let me through. I had to show them at the current gate desk my valid test within the past 24 hours to board. They were also very diligent here.
The biggest challenge in leaving Israel is not the paperwork for the COVID tests, it is the security lines! Zones A and B can take hours, yes hours to get through!
Zone C for the Delta /Air France / KLM was great. Through security in 20 minutes!
The airline desk check-in took about 30 minutes which was not too bad. It was amazing to see how many people tried to check in without their COVID test.
And then you have to go through secondary screening and baggage scan and that took another 30 minutes. No problem. Patience is a virtue.
Some people say you need at least 4 hours before flight to get through all the process. Since it was on weekend, on Shabbat, in business class, and at 4 AM in the morning, I got by with only 3 hours with time to spare in the lounge 😊.