Travel Advice: Taking camera(s) through Israeli Customs - Red Channel or Green Channel?

Discussion in 'Open Discussion' started by everythingsablur, Jul 9, 2013.

  1. everythingsablur

    everythingsablur Mu-43 Veteran

    Aug 4, 2010
    Toronto, ON
    Hi all,

    My wife and I are coming up on our 5-year anniversary this year, and our tradition has always been to go away for a vacation on our anniversary (as best we can anyway). This year, she has settled on Israel and perhaps Jordan over my choice of a couple weeks in India and Nepal.

    In doing some preliminary research on the logistics of the trip, I'm somewhat confused by what I am and what I don't need to declare when entering Israel at Customs. We would be entering Israel as Non-EU visitors. Not sure yet if we would both enter and exit from Tel Aviv, or if we would only enter via TLV.

    Apart from the obvious things you don't need to declare (clothing up to a certain value, limits on alcohol and tobacco, etc.), here's where things start getting a little muddy. From the Ministry of Finance:

    Typewriter, Camera, Movie camera, Video camera, Personal computer, Laptop computer, Television receiver, Tape recorder, Radio, Binoculars, Jewelry for personal use, Musical instruments, Record player, Stroller/baby carriage, Tent (only one allowed), Camping equipment, Sporting. Equipment, Bicycle (only one allowed, and non-motorized) and Similar travelers' equipment.

    Further down the policy document, it states:
    The Israel Tax Authority assesses the value of imported items based on price lists that they have. These lists determine the value of the items. However, if you possess an invoice in which the value on an item is lower than the one on the price list by no more than 20%, the price on the invoice will be the one used for the purpose of tax calculation, and not the price list.
    If you have brought in items which are not exempted from taxes, you must pay the taxes due before they are released from Customs.
    If you bring in: a new personal computer, a new VCR, a new video camera, or other similar items, you must leave a guarantee equal to the taxes due on the item. The guarantee must be made in foreign currency, using cash or one of the following credit cards: Visa; EuroCard; American Express; and Diners'Club.


    The guarantee will be returned to you if you take out the items on time; otherwise the guarantee will be forfeited.
    It is recommended that you insure all of your belongings at their full value, including taxes. This will ensure that the taxes will be covered if you are unable to meet your obligation to take out these items.

    What I was thinking about taking:
    • E-P3
    • PL25
    • 14-140 (Wife's lens)
    • either O12 or P7-14
    • Maybe my GF1 and another lens (PL45?) so we each get a camera
    • Maybe my Chromebook (11.6", nearly identical size to an 11" MBA)for basic image backup and processing/posting

    None of the above is new except for the Chromebook, though I do keep everything in as good a condition as I can, so several things look new-ish. Basically, I don't want to get ripped off, and there are lots of horror stories about Israeli customs screwing people over confiscating things that are well within policy, charging you a holding fee per day until you pick them up when leaving the country, or paying taxes on things you already own and have no intention of selling within the country.

    So based on other forum members experiences (if you have any), what line should I take; Red channel and declare everything, or Green channel?

    Does it make a difference if I'm flying into Tel Aviv, exiting by land into Jordan, then flying out of Amman? Should I just go Green channel in this scenario, as there isn't a similar Red/Green Customs setup when land crossing out of the country?
  2. Dave Jenkins

    Dave Jenkins Mu-43 Veteran

    My wife and I went to Israel and Jordan with a tour group in 2010. I carried two Canon DSLRs, four lenses (what a load! Never again!), and a Toshiba laptop. The issues you ask about never arose at all. But ask a travel agent or someone knowledgeable, to be safe.
  3. jmoore5196

    jmoore5196 Mu-43 Regular

    Jun 4, 2013
    Tell your wife you're going to India and Nepal. Problem solved.
  4. Petrochemist

    Petrochemist Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Mar 21, 2013
    N Essex, UK
    If you unpack the laptop and use it before the flight out, then travel without the original box it would be unlikely they would feel it's classed as new.
    Apart from a short delay there should be no problem going through the red channel and letting the customs officials decide. In some cases this can even be quicker than going through the green chanel.
    It looks to me as if the system is set up to ensure that if you bring such goods in you don't sell them whilst in the country without paying the import duty.

    When travelling I recomend keeping a list of serial no.s of such high value items with you (but seperate from the items) another copy left at home might be wise as well.
  5. Dave Jenkins

    Dave Jenkins Mu-43 Veteran

    If Canada has something similar to U.S. Customs Form 4457 -- Registration of Equipment Taken Abroad -- be sure to fill out and get it stamped as you leave to ensure that you don't have to pay duty on your stuff when you bring it home. This may also help you in getting through Israeli customs.
  6. elavon

    elavon Mu-43 All-Pro

    Sep 1, 2012
    Tel Aviv Israel
    Welcome to Israel, do not worry regarding the custom. Personal belonging for personal use are exempt for taxes. I myself as an Israeli to not need to declare such things and pass through the green gate at the Israeli custom. The guarantee is only needed if the tax officer screens you and believe that you are going to sell the item in Israel. Therefor do not bring the item in it original packaging as mentioned above, any used item is automatically exempt. Do not go to the RED gate, it make the tax officers suspicious, and they will hand search your belongings.

    In the green gate there is a X-ray machine for random tests, you might be asked to put your luggage but as a tourist your chances are slim. In any case the custom is looking for commercial quantities personal use is O.K. If you intend to bring alcohol/cigarettes beverage do not bring a bottle more then 1 bottle and 1 pack cigarettes for each traveler, this is easy catch for the custom and enforced with ease.

    To sum it up no problem going through the green with personal belongings.

    If you need further advice or suggestions be free to ask me.

    And one last thing to not bring new VCR:smile:
  7. elavon

    elavon Mu-43 All-Pro

    Sep 1, 2012
    Tel Aviv Israel
    Another note computer and cameras are custom exempt and only need to pay 18% VAT. There is little incentive for the custom to mess with such items.
  8. elavon

    elavon Mu-43 All-Pro

    Sep 1, 2012
    Tel Aviv Israel
    All the border passes land/sea or air are the same regarding custom and immigration procedure, feel free to make your arrangement according to your comfort.
  9. everythingsablur

    everythingsablur Mu-43 Veteran

    Aug 4, 2010
    Toronto, ON
    Perfect! Thanks for your (and everyone else's) help!

    Any recommendations on must-see/must-do cities and sites? Haven't decided if we will do this trip on our own or with a tour group. Flexibility vs. convenience...
  10. elavon

    elavon Mu-43 All-Pro

    Sep 1, 2012
    Tel Aviv Israel
    Israel is a tiny country, size of New-Jersey (I know you are for Canada:redface:). most of the attraction are in one hour drive or a little more if you use public transportation. English is well spoken by most and all signs are with English translation. Credit cards are accepted everywhere and ATM machines in cities are on every corner. Regarding safety I am going to shock you, Israel is very safe, a woman can walk alone at night without fear, my daughters do. No muggers and crime hurt mostly people who neglect their belonging (Leave cash and camera alone on the beach...).

    Regarding itinerary, if you can specify your main interests I can help. For sure the following are must:
    Jerusalem, Dead Sea and Masada, Tel-Aviv for culture, beach and a good hub, Nazareth, Sea of Galily and Bethlehem for religious sites.
  11. meyerweb

    meyerweb Mu-43 Hall of Famer Subscribing Member

    Sep 5, 2011
    The key word in what you quote is, I think, "import." That implies your bringing something into the country permanently. I'm not aware of any country that charge duties on something brought in temporarily for individual use by a visitor.

    But rather than relying on a bunch of people who aren't experts and have only opinions, contact the Israeli embassy in the US. They can give you a definitive answer.
  12. everythingsablur

    everythingsablur Mu-43 Veteran

    Aug 4, 2010
    Toronto, ON
    Logical as that sounds, I've read countless stories of people who did just that only to have Customs confiscate the items anyway (for personal use, not for resale as well). The left hand does not always know what the right hand is doing...
  13. everythingsablur

    everythingsablur Mu-43 Veteran

    Aug 4, 2010
    Toronto, ON
    I actually grew up in New Jersey, so that does actually help for reference. :)  Hopefully you have better highways (curse you NJ Turnpike!!!)...

    At a high level I think your list covers the givens. Some things I know my wife has mentioned specifically are the Western Wall, Yad Vashem, and the Dome of the Rock. She's fascinated by how the three big monotheistic faiths all came from the same area (city even), so she's in it for old culture and the historical and religious significance of the region. I'm similar, but also love the new sides of places, looking at the juxtaposition of a country so rooted in history but also moving forward with a new identity. Some Italian cities have just felt like the whole city is a museum that doesn't serve a purpose any more besides showing "what was", which is actually kind of unfortunate in my eyes anyway. I thoroughly enjoy new buildings/architecture, the new (and old) art and culture of the people, the new city... Wide ranging. Sorry. :biggrin:
  14. BigTam

    BigTam Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Mar 19, 2012
    Dortmund, Germany
    That's because all three worship the same God - the god of Moses and Abraham. Though you wouldn't know it from their current positions , sadly ...
  15. elavon

    elavon Mu-43 All-Pro

    Sep 1, 2012
    Tel Aviv Israel
    Do not worry, i have worked in multinational companies and through the years I had hundreds of visitors. None of this visitors had to leave their computer or camera at the custom office.
    Knowing the Israeli authorities the answer from the embassy will be one of the following or both: 1. Point you to the custom site that have found.
    2. The responsibility on allowing goods, is by the custom officer.
    3. You can bring personal belonging.

    People who had their computer or camera confiscated had made the following mistake.
    Brought a few new items of the same product or/and had them in the original packaging or/and irritate the custom officer.
    "Normal" tourist will breeze through custom without even being checked.
    I myself fly a few times a year and was screened checked by custom only once out of more then 40-50 flights total.
    You better work on your travel plan there is plenty to see in Israel.
  16. elavon

    elavon Mu-43 All-Pro

    Sep 1, 2012
    Tel Aviv Israel
    The three places your wife mentioned are in Jerusalem, two of them in the old city and Yad Vasem can be reach by the metro train. You should be in Jerusalem at list 3 days. A day for the old city, a day for Yad Vasem and another for the Israeli museum and city center. Regarding architecture tel-Aviv white city might interest you (

    In Jerusalem and Tel-Aviv you better use public transport and taxi (meter only). To Masada, Dead Sea and dessert attractions, if you plan more then a day visit take a rental car for a single day I suggest book a tours from your hotel. Dead sea is about 40 minutes drive from Jerusalem and 1.5 hours from Tel-Aviv. Traffic out of the major cities is fine, inner city can be jammed. If you drove in Italy ,then you will be O.K and not shocked by the Israeli drivers.

    Before you arrive to Tel-Aviv please ping me, I will be happy to show you and your wife some "out of the beaten track" places.

    When do you plan to visit Israel and what length of time.
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