Crossing the border to Israel is another one of the infamous border crossings in Africa. Many travelers have told us about hours and hours of questioning and waiting. Some even say that they don’t even want to try as chances for getting a visa is slim. Some overlanders we knew well drove through Israel a few months before us, and they reported back that the crossing is slow and tedious, but that it’s not really a problem. As you know from previous blogs, our first plan was to cross from Egypt to Jordan, and then from Jordan to Israel. As we were delayed first into Egypt, and then stopped by the demonstration and unrest, we decided to try to ship out from Egypt to Turkey. This didn’t work out as planned, and the only option left to us was to drive across the Sinai, and ship out from Israel. Now we were even more delayed as we’d been waiting in Port Said to arrange the shipping out of Egypt, so we saw Jordan being postponed to a later trip. We drove to Taba and started the process of leaving Egypt. T&he main road ends in the border station..
Compared to the customs in Aswan, the Taba customs came close to be referred to as efficient. Everything is relative in this world. We were three cars driving together, and this slows down the process considerably as the officials for some reason like to get all three of us through a certain step in the process before moving on to the next one.
After driving into the customs zone, and pay 2 EL each (about 35 cents), you take a left a few meters after the gate (and just in from of the Immigration Office) and park on a big parking lot to the left of the Immigration building. Proceed to the building on the other side of the parking lot.
Walk in through the door in the center of the building, and turn right to find the customs office. And the very first step was for the guys at the customs to call and get the guy with the stamps to come to the office. This never stops to amaze me… Anyway. There is a form to fill in, and to process the Carnet you have to pay 21 EL.
Next step is to go across the hall to the police office (in through the main door and to the left). While we were in the customs office, and engineer was outside to get the vin number from the Patrol. Also here he needed to “rub” off a print on the vin number stamped into the frame of the car. In the police office another form has to be filled in, and then you can hand in the Egyptian transit license plates. The fee is 10 LE. We got receipts for the costs.
From here proceed to the Immigration office. Note that this is the only border where we’ve processed the vehicle before our passports. We walked back to the Immigration building and got the exit stamp in our passports. You leave on the other side of the immigration building, but it is okay to walk around back to the parking lot. Paperwork finished!
But the most meaningless and annoying part is still to come. Before they let you drive over to the Israeli side, they need to inspect the vehicles. Every overlander we’ve talked to say the same. In our case there were two officers going through the whole car. There was a third one coming over and asked Malin to open the backdoors, but she said no, as we like to see what is going on. Each of us watched one customs officer. We’re not sure why it is important for them to do this on exit and not on entry, as there was no inspection in Aswan upon entry. We suspect it is because it would be embarrassing for the Egyptians if the Israelis find things they don’t, but who knows. And because they wanted to inspect all three cars before letting any of us through, we spent about two and a half hours on the Egyptian side. Much of it waiting for the inspection of the two other vehicles.
Finally we could drive across to the Israeli side. Here they have a system where only one car can drive in at the time. Before they let us in they collected our passports and vehicle papers, and looked under the car with a mirror. And as overland vehicles generally are so full of stuff there was only enough space on the parking outside the customs building for two cars. The British guy was “stuck” at the gate while we and a German couple emptied our cars into plastic boxes and “shopping carts”. Fortunately we were mentally prepared for this, and we knew beforehand that EVERYTHING has to come out of the car. I’ll say it again: absolutely everything that is not permanently bolted in place goes out! Knifes and dangerous looking tools, like an axe, is collected, and we were told we would get these back at the exit gate. When everything is out, all this goes through a luggage scanner. It really is incredible how much crap is collected over three years of overlanding… The car also goes through a vehicle scanner, and a customs officer makes a manual/visual check in a closed garage. You are not allowed to drive the car in, and you are not allowed to be there to monitor the inspection. This is slow and time consuming, but everybody involved are very professional and polite. Everything is thoroughly explained, and you’re even offered soft drinks from the custom officers. At no time were we worried about our stuff or things “disappearing ”. When everything has gone through the scanner, we proceed to the Immigration in the same building.
Malin and the retired German couple got their three months tourist visas right away. It took about two minutes. They do not stamp your passport, but give you a small printed piece of paper with the visa. British guy and I were told we had to talk to another officer before we would get our visas. I was called into another office and a nice lady asked me a couple of questions about our trip. The Sudanese stamp in my passport was mentioned, but when I explained that this is the only way to drive through Africa (eastern route) it was not an issue. They wanted my father and my grandfather’s name so they could run a security check on me, and I believe it was the same for the British guy. We waited about 15 minutes for the security check to go through, and she came out with our visas.
When the visas were ready we went back outside and started loading everything back into the car. 30 minutes later we drove towards the exit gate, and parked there. In a building just to the right of the gate, is the desk that issues the temporary vehicle permit and where pick up your vehicle papers. They do not process the Carnet. European insurance companies can issue a so called Green Card, and we had picked up ours when we were home. If you don’t have this you need to buy an Israeli insurance here at the border. There is another building on the left just before the exit gate where you can buy this. In the same building it is also possible to exchange money. We got our temporary vehicle permit and were ready to go. There are no costs at the Israeli side of the border, unless you need to pick up local insurance. I don’t have the prices for the Israeli insurance, but it is quite expensive. I think one of the other guys said he paid over 100 USD for three weeks.
When we drove up to the gate, a guy handed back our kitchen knifes and the axe. The whole process on the Israeli side took us at least four hours, so in total for crossing this border it was nearly seven hours for the three cars. If we’d been alone it would be less, but you should count on five – six hours and make sure to have some snacks or food available. Anyway, we were in Israel!