TIPS FOR TRAVELING IN ISRAEL
- Your passport should be valid for at least six months past your scheduled return date. Photocopy your passport’s identification page and keep it separate from the original.
- Airline tickets and photo identification.
- Travel and health insurance papers.
- Over-the-counter and prescription medications in their original containers. Please make a note of the generic names of your medications.
- Sunglasses, sun block and a hat.
- Camera, extra batteries, battery charger.
- Comfortable walking shoes.
- Water shoes (rafting sandals, thongs or Crocs).
- Bathing suit for the River Jordan and Dead Sea float.
- Raingear: Poncho and umbrella (from November through April).
- Sweater or light jacket (heavier windbreaker in winter months).
- Modest dress, covering the legs to below the knee, as well as the shoulders, for both sexes.
- Shampoo, personal first aid kit (they are usually not provided in Israeli hotels).
- Liquid or powdered soap for hand laundry.
- Cell phone, battery charger.
- Credit card and cash. (It’s recommended to bring a bunch of $1 bills).
- An empty duffle bag to pack your souvenirs and gifts to bring home.
- Notebook or journal and pens.
- Your most important guidebook: the Bible.
The currency of Israel is the Israeli New Shekel. Check for the latest exchange rates.
Pound Sterling, US Dollars, Euro and other major currencies can be exchanged in Israel. ATMs and exchange facilities are available everywhere. It’s advisable to request bank notes in smaller denominations, as it can sometimes be hard to get change from large notes and smaller notes are handy for smaller purchases and gratuities.
Traveller’s Cheques are not recommended as they’re often difficult to exchange and incur high fees. A passport is required when exchanging travellers’ cheques.
During the summer, especially, it is important to drink lots of water. Although tap water in Israel is of good quality and safe to drink, you may not be used to the high mineral content. Bottled natural spring water is available everywhere and the main point is to drink!
Local and intercity taxi service is available to and from any point in the country. Fares within the cities are charged according to the meter. The fares for intercity taxi service are standard fares that are set by the Ministry of Transportation. It is recommended to verify what the fare will be before boarding the taxi. Taxis can be ordered by telephone from a local taxi station, or by application or stopped by waving your hand at one on the street. Night rates are 25% more than the normal fare, and begin at 9:01 pm and end at 5:29 am. These rates also apply for Shabbath and holidays. There is an additional charge for telephone orders and an additional charge for each suitcase that is not hand luggage. Drivers must operate the meter for trips within the city. Please try to avoid agreeing on a price ahead of time if you are not familiar with the rates.
Major credit cards – American Express, Diners, Visa, Mastercard/Access/Eurocard are widely accepted in Israeli restaurants, stores, hotels, museums, etc. Some purchases can be made in Israeli Shekels, U.S. dollars or Euros. Nevertheless, store owners and service providers are not required to accept foreign currency and are permitted to give change in shekels even if payment was made in foreign currency.
Tourists who have purchased items with a value exceeding $100 (including VAT) in stores that are registered with the Ministry of Tourism or in stores participating in the VAT-refund plan are entitled to a refund of VAT when they leave the country. Stores that offer VAT refund service have a special sign. To receive VAT refund, ensure that you get a receipt. The receipt and purchases must be put into a sealed bag. If the amount to be reimbursed exceeds $1,000, it will be sent after the invoice is verified with the tax authorities. Tourists must then go to the “Change Place” at Ben Gurion airport or other exit port. If you wish to send the items that you purchased with your luggage, you must declare the purchase at the security check, and present your passport, flight ticket, purchases and receipts at the counter. The attendant will open the bag, examine the contents, sign the receipt, and refund the VAT in any currency minus a commission. The VAT refund can also be sent to your address abroad for an additional charge. There is no VAT refund for the following items: food, drinks, tobacco products, electrical appliances, cameras, film or other photography equipment.
Direct dialing from your hotel room overseas is not cheap. Phone credit cards are cheaper. You may access AT&T, MCI and Sprint for overseas calls from pay phones by dialing a 177 (toll-free) number. It’s best to check for your service’s number before you leave home. Cell phones are ubiquitous. You can rent a cell phone before your departure from the U.S., upon arrival at Ben Gurion Airport, or via the concierge at major hotels in the large cities.
A passport valid for at least six months past your scheduled return date is required for travel to Israel. If your passport will expire within this period, you should apply for a new passport a couple of months prior to your pilgrimage. Make a photocopy of your passport’s identification page and keep it separate from the original when you travel. For added security, leave a photocopy with a friend or relative at home. This will expedite matters if you do lose your passport.
Israel boasts two daily English newspapers, The Jerusalem Post and HaAretz, available every day except Saturday. They can be purchased at the hotel shop or at a local newsstand
Medical care in Israel is modern and as advanced as it is in North America. If you need emergency medical service, Magen David Adom (the Israeli equivalent of the Red Cross) provides 24-hour service in most of the urban centers. Magen David Adom (dial 101) also provides ambulance service to the nearest emergency room. If you take prescription medication, it is recommended to bring enough to last the duration of your trip.
Hebrew and Arabic are Israel’s official languages. However, English is also widely spoken and you will see most highway, street and storefront signs in English as well as Hebrew and Arabic (and sometimes even in Russian!).
Most of the hotels you will be staying in will be observing the Jewish laws of Kashrut – which means they do not serve meat when they are serving dairy products. For example, they will not be serving butter or cheese when they are serving you beef. Your guide will be happy to explain the custom of “keeping kosher” which derives from Exodus 34.
In restaurants, it is standard practice to tip between 10-15% with 12% the normal amount. Tips are usually left in cash rather than on card, so it is useful to carry some small change with you. Other people in the service industry, like taxi drivers, will not expect to be tipped but certainly will not turn away a few spare coins.
The Israeli power supply is single phase 220 volts at 50 Hertz. Most power sockets in Israel have three pin holes, but many of them will work with double-pin European plugs. Many 4-star (and all 5-star) hotels provide hairdryers and most rooms have 110/220 shaver sockets (to be used for shavers only). Visitors who want to use traveling irons and other small appliances may need both transformers and adaptor plugs. If you need a transformer or adaptor, ask the hotel desk whether they have them on hand.
Appropriate Dress in Israel is casual and comfortable. For the holy places, even in the summer, one must cover his or her knees (i.e. no shorts) and upper arms (i.e. no sleeveless, particularly for women). If you want to dress in shorts and/or sleeveless, always have a “modest” alternative to cover yourself when necessary. Hats are essential from April through September. Don’t forget sunglasses!