Even if you're on a tour of Israel, you may have some free days to sightsee and you'll need a place to stay. Israelis are wonderfully accommodating and if you have long-lost relatives, they'll more than likely be excited to meet you and offer you a bed.
If you don't have friends or family in Israel, it is usually possible to find people who will take you in, particularly for Shabbat. This is one of the best ways to really get to know Israelis.
Some yeshivas will also let people stay in their dorms. Keep in mind that you are allowed to visit in the hope you'll decide to spend a prolonged period studying there, but usually there's no requirement that you attend classes. Of course, you might find the opportunity to study with some of the world's leading scholars rewarding.
Israel has youth hostels that are inexpensive and part of the international hostel system.
Many kibbutzim also have guest houses. Though less luxurious than hotels, don't expect them to be cheap.
Israel has camp grounds in many of the beautiful parks around the country and in the desert.
Since most Israeli cities are small, you can walk most places you need to go. You'll see a lot and have more opportunities to interact with the people. If you're on your own, get a map from the hotel or tourist office.
You can rent a car, but driving in Israel is not for the faint of heart. The roads are probably the most dangerous places in Israel and the traffic, especially in and around Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, is terrible.
Taxis are a common mode of transportation, but, as in most places, drivers are not always honest. They will frequently try to take you for a ride without using their meter. NEVER let them do this. Always ask before you get in the cab how much the fare should be and insist they use a meter. The one exception is for long trips, such as between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem (and from the airport) where the fares are usually set before you leave. For those longer trips, it is usually cheaper, though less comfortable and convenient, to take a group taxi or sherut. You can also learn a lot about Israel by talking to cab drivers; they're usually not shy about offering their opinions. You do not have to tip cab drivers.Table of Local Distance in Kilometers
|Ben Gurion Airport||18||51||341||112|
The most popular mode of travel is the bus. Busses are inexpensive and the newer ones are very comfortable. Don't be afraid to ask the driver or other passengers for help in identifying your stop. Because of the long distance, some people choose to fly to Eilat (under $200) but traveling by bus is usually part of the itinerary on student trips.
You can make overland crossings into Egypt at Rafiah, about 30 miles southwest of Ashkelon, and Taba, the last town Israel returned to Egypt as part of the peace treaty, which is just south of Eilat. Buses run between Cairo and Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. It is also possible to take a series of taxis. The trip is a long one through the desert, broken up by a short boat ride across the Suez Canal, that you are unlikely to forget.
It is also possible to visit Jordan by crossing the Allenby Bridge near Jericho ( about 25 miles from Jerusalem ), going via the Arava Terminal in Aqaba near Eilat or taking the northern route through the Jordan River Terminal just north of Bet She'an.
Whenever you go to a foreign country, it is a good idea to familiarize yourself with the local language and customs. Most people in Israel speak English, but, with the influx of Jews from the former Soviet Union, you're almost as likely to run into someone who speaks just Russian as Hebrew. Even if you aren't fluent in the language, natives usually appreciate it when visitors make an effort to speak in their native tongue. Below are a few common Hebrew phrases that will help you get by in Israel. If you don't learn anything else, memorize "Please", "Thank you" and "You're welcome".
|good morning||BO-ker TOV|
|good evening||erev TOV|
|see you later||le-HIT-rah-OTT|
|you’re welcome||al low da-VAAR|
|I don’t speak Hebrew||AH-NEE lo m’dah-BEHR ee-VREET|
|Do you speak English?||at-TAH m’dah-BEHR ang-LEET?|
|How are you?||ma shlomcha? (masc.)
ma shlomech? (fem.)
|See you later||le-hit-ra-ot|
|to the right||ye-mi-na|
|to the left||smo-la|
|How much does it cost?||kama zeh o-leh?|
|Where’s the bathroom?||Ay-fo ha sher-u-teem?|
Arabic is also the official language of Israel, so consider picking up some Arabic phrases as well. Arab speakers will also appreciate hearing you say min fadlak ( please ), shokran ( thank you ) and ahfwan ( you're welcome ).
Israel enjoys long, warm, dry summers ( April-October ) and generally mild winters (November-March), with somewhat drier, cooler weather in hilly regions, such as Jerusalem and Safed. Rainfall is relatively heavy in the north and center of the country with much less in the northern Negev and almost negligible amounts in the southern areas. Regional conditions vary considerably, with humid summers and mild winters on the coast; dry summers and moderately cold winters in the hill regions; hot dry summers and pleasant winters in the Jordan Valley and year-round semi-desert conditions in the Negev.
Israel is a very safe place to visit. You are far more likely to run into trouble in any major U.S. city than anywhere in Israel. Behave in Israel the way you would in those cities. Be careful where you go at night and travel in groups when possible. Generally, it is safe in most places in Israel to walk alone at night. However, it is advisable only to go into Gaza or the West Bank in a group and with an Israeli guide.
One of the first things you'll notice when you arrive in Israel is the number of people carrying guns. For an American, it can be jarring but Israeli soldiers carry them on the streets, in cars and on buses, even into banks! Soldiers are required to keep their weapons with them, and since so many Israelis are on duty, it is common to stand next to someone on the bus with an Uzi hanging off their shoulder. You'll quickly get used to it and realize it's a fact of life in Israel and nothing to fear.
In an emergency, dial 101.
Prayer for Travelers
May it be Thy will, Lord our God, God of our fathers, to lead us on the way of peace and guide and direct, so that Thou wilt bring us happily to our destination, safe and sound. Save us from danger on the way. Give us good grace, kindness and favor in both Thine eyes and in the eyes of all whom we may meet. Hear this, our prayer, for Thou art a God who dost hearken to the heart's supplication and communion. Blessed art Thou, Lord, who hearkens to prayer.
As in other Middle Eastern countries, haggling in Israel is a tradition. Keep the following points in mind when you're shopping:
- It is rare that you should ever have to pay the full price listed on an item (note this applies mostly to souvenirs, not everything in the markets and is not true of ordinary retail shops like department stores).
- Always be ready to walk out of a shop and don't be surprised if the sales person follows you out.
- Don't think you'll get any better deal from Jews than Arabs. Sometimes the opposite is true.
- The merchants in the market in the Old City, in particular, can be very aggressive. Don't be intimidated. Remember, you're the customer and it is their job to satisfy you.
- Keep in mind what you can afford and don't let yourself be talked into paying more. You'll probably see the same items in more than one store, so shop around before you decide.
- Be clear on the exchange rate before you buy.
- Haggling is an art, and involves some gamesmanship, but it isn't polite to waste a merchant's time if you have no intention of buying something.
Items common in the U.S., such as film and books are likely to be more expensive in Israel than at home. By paying with a credit card, you can usually get a better exchange rate. Sometimes you can get a better price if you pay with U.S. dollars.
Also, Israel assesses a Value Added Tax ( VAT ) of 17% on goods and services. Prices should include this tax. For purchases over $50, you can get a refund of the tax at the airport before you leave. To do so you'll want to get to the airport early so you can go to the customs office. When you make your purchase, the merchant should put it in a clear plastic bag with a copy of the receipt inside. Keep the original. The bag must be sealed and remained unopened to get the refund.
1. Make sure you have a signed, valid passport ( and visas, if required ). Also, before you go, fill in the emergency information page of your passport!
2. Read the Consular Information Sheets ( and Public Announcements or Travel Warnings, if applicable ) for the countries you plan to visit. ( See "Consular Information Program" section for more details. )
3. Familiarize yourself with local laws and customs of the countries to which you are traveling. Remember, the U.S. Constitution does not follow you! While in a foreign country, you are subject to its laws.
4. Make 2 copies of your passport identification page. This will facilitate replacement if your passport is lost or stolen. Leave one copy at home with friends or relatives. Carry the other with you in a separate place from your passport.
5. Leave a copy of your itinerary with family or friends at home so that you can be contacted in case of an emergency.
6. Do not leave your luggage unattended in public areas. Do not accept packages from strangers.
7. If you plan to stay abroad for more than two weeks, upon arrival you should notify by phone or register in person with the U.S. embassy in the country you are visiting. This will facilitate communication in case someone contacts the embassy looking for you.
8. To avoid being a target of crime, try not to wear conspicuous clothing and expensive jewelry and do not carry excessive amounts of money or unnecessary credit cards.
9. In order to avoid violating local laws, deal only with authorized agents when you exchange money or purchase art or antiques.
10. If you get into trouble, contact the nearest U.S. embassy.
Tour directors take a dim view of misbehavior of any kind and the quickest way home from Israel is to be kicked off your trip � and it does happen.
Don't even think of using illegal drugs in Israel. If you do, don't expect your American citizenship to get you out of trouble if you're caught. Before going to Israel, rent the film Midnight Express. Israeli prisons aren't anything like the Turkish one in the film, but you'll get the point that getting high isn't worth the risk of getting caught.
Israel has great food. Most people are probably familiar with falafel � fried ground chick peas served with salad in pita. Meat eaters will love shwarma, lamb or turkey sliced off a spit and served in pita ( similar to gyros ). Both are cheap, filling meals. Lots of other Mediterranean specialties like shishlik (shish kebab), baklava ( pastry made of filo dough, honey, and nuts) and moussaka (baked eggplant, minced meat, onion and parsley) will stimulate your taste buds. The Americanization of Israel also means you'll find such familiar names as McDonald's, Burger King, Pizza Hut and Dunkin' Donuts.
The water in Israel is safe to drink; nevertheless, it is different from what you are used to and people with sensitive stomachs may want to stick to bottled water. Also, Israelis don't usually put ice in their drinks, so if you want some, ask for kerakh.
Keep in mind that not everything in Israel is kosher. Restaurants that are kosher serve either dairy or meat and close on Shabbat. The restaurant should have a Teudat certificate either in the window or available for inspection. Unless the menu or check says otherwise, tips are not included.
How much you pack depends partially on how long you stay. During your Israel tour, you'll probably be moving around a lot and you won't want to pack and unpack a lot of stuff. Generally, it's a good idea to travel light and expect that you will need more room in your bags when you go home than when you left to accommodate gifts, dirty clothes and the tendency for clothes to take up more space on the return flight. Also, remember that the power supply is 220 volt AC-50 cycles. Make sure your electrical items can operate or purchase an adaptor kit ( hotels sometimes can spare them ).
You don't need any shots to visit Israel, but it is good to have your records in case you come down with something or travel to another country.
Every visitor to Israel must have a valid passport to travel to Israel. Note that it usually takes several weeks to obtain a passport, so apply well ahead of time if you don't have one yet. It's a good idea to make two copies of the first two pages of your passport. Keep one at home and put the other separate from your passport. This will help speed the process of replacing your passport if it's lost or stolen. Citizens from many countries, including the U.S., are issued free visitors' visas when they enter the country.
Travelers have different opinions regarding carrying wallets and purses. Some people believe it's safer to put valuables in a pouch or conceal them. The kind of pouches and backpacks people wear outside their clothes make you stand out as a tourist and don't necessarily protect you from thieves. Valuable items are best left in a safe deposit box in a hotel.
As you've heard on the commercials, travelers checks are generally as good as cash and can be replaced if lost. It's best to keep most of your money in this form until you need it. The cost of the checks is usually low (often free) and will save you a lot of trouble and worry.
It is a good idea to have some cash with you for emergencies, transportation and small purchases. One hundred dollars should be plenty. Bring an ATM card and you can get more from local banks without having to worry about exchange rates and fees. If you go inside the bank, or to a post office, you'll have to pay a fee. Hotels and money exchangers usually have the worst rates and highest fees. Beware of money changers on the street.
Most businesses accept credit cards. It's always nice if you can put off paying for things until later and the credit card companies usually give you good exchange rates.
Bring important phone numbers with you for emergencies and to contact friends and family in Israel.
Even if you don't normally keep a journal, bring a note pad or diary to record your feelings and experiences. When you come home, and years later, you'll be glad you did. Bring a camera and/or video and try to take pictures of people rather than just buildings. The shots will be more memorable when attached to faces.
Getting sick away from home is always depressing. It is helpful to have basic remedies for common maladies; aspirin/Tylenol, Bandaids, etc. Health care in Israel is excellent, but you still want to be safe rather than sorry. The food and water in Israel should give you no trouble, but, just in case, bring medication to relieve the symptoms of stomach problems.
We recommend you bring proper attire for women (shoulders covered and head covering) when going to the holy sites.
Eight hours ahead of Central Time, nine hours ahead of Mountain Time and ten hours ahead of Pacific Time. It is two hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time.
Check more info about Israel Time here.