You can’t get to the West Bank without going through Israeli border control, whether you enter via Jordan, Egypt or flying direct. You don’t need to apply for a visa in advance if you’re a UK citizen, but when you present your passport at the border, you are actually applying for a visa. This means the border controls are entitled to ask you questions. It’s normal. So be relaxed and positive. But also – be prepared.
Please note, that travellers from some countries DO need to apply for a tourist visa in advance. You should check if you aren’t sure. UK and other European citizens don’t need to.
What will they ask me?
In most cases they won’t ask you any questions at all. Or you may just get the standard “what is the purpose of your visit?” But about one person in 10 will get more questions. That’s more likely if you’re young, BAME or travelling alone, but there’s a random element too. Anyone can get a grilling.
The young men and women asking the questions see thousands of people a day. Often they are bored teenagers on national service who have been seconded to the Border Police. They have been given a list of questions and told to ask them at random. They know nothing about you.
What are the most frequent questions?
The most frequently asked questions are: “Where are you going? Whom do you know here? Why have you come here? Will you be visiting anyone? Where will you be staying? Will you be going to the West Bank? Have you been here before.”
If you’re a Muslim you are more likely to be asked: “What is your father’s name? What is your grandfather’s name? Where was your grandfather born? Have you done hajj? Are you Sunni or Shia?”
If they think you look like an activist, they may ask: “Have you been to any pro-Palestinian protests? Have you done any BDS stuff?”
Here are a few tips.
Say “shalom” and “toda” (hello and thank you in Hebrew).
Don’t express any opinions.
If they ask you what you’re doing, sound enthusiastic about your holiday in Jerusalem or Tel Aviv.
Don’t volunteer any information they haven’t asked for.
If they take you to an office to ask you more questions, don’t worry. This is standard practice. They will just ask you the same questions to see if you give the same answers.
If they ask you to wait in a waiting room, don’t fret. It’s normal. And if you’ve read our advice on what to pack for Palestine, you may well have some water and snacks to keep you going. This is a good idea. One of the main complaints we’ve heard is that sometimes people get hungry and thirsty, which makes the experience more stressful.
In our experience the Border Police almost never have any advance information about you (even if they hint that they have). They just want to see if you change your story.
It’s only on rare occasions that the Border Police will bring in someone from Shin Bet (the security service) and they may look you up on Google or Facebook.
Good luck! Don’t worry about being stopped – it is rare. If you are you will almost conclude it was well worth the stress and delay when you experience all that Palestine and Israel have to offer!
For more information on British nationals visiting the occupied Palestinian territory or Israel visit the UK government page about this.