Travel Advice and Tips for Israel

1. Is it safe to travel to Israel?

Yes, it is generally safe to travel to Israel. However, like any destination, it is important to stay informed about the current situation in the region before traveling. Here are some specific tips to ensure a safe trip to Israel:

1. Stay updated on the political situation: Israel is known for its complex political landscape, so it’s important to stay informed about any potential conflicts or security risks in the region.

2. Follow local customs and laws: Respect the local culture and customs in Israel to avoid any misunderstandings or conflicts.

3. Be vigilant in crowded areas: Like any popular tourist destination, be aware of your surroundings and take necessary precautions in crowded places to avoid pickpocketing or other petty crimes.

4. Check travel advisories: Before your trip, check the latest travel advisories issued by your government to stay informed about any potential risks in specific areas of Israel.

Overall, by staying informed, respectful, and vigilant during your travels in Israel, you can have a safe and enjoyable experience in this culturally rich and historically significant destination.

2. What are the visa requirements for visiting Israel?

1. Citizens of many countries do not need a visa to visit Israel for short stays of up to 90 days. This includes citizens of the United States, Canada, the European Union, Australia, and many other countries. They are granted a tourist visa upon arrival at Ben Gurion Airport or any land border crossing. However, there are some exceptions and it is always advisable to check with the nearest Israeli embassy or consulate to confirm the most up-to-date visa requirements based on your nationality.

2. For travelers who do require a visa to enter Israel, they will need to apply for one in advance. This typically involves submitting an application, along with supporting documents such as a passport, passport-sized photos, travel itinerary, proof of sufficient funds, and a letter of invitation if needed. Processing times and requirements may vary depending on the country of application, so it is important to start the process well in advance of your planned visit.

Overall, it is essential to check the specific visa requirements for your nationality before traveling to Israel to ensure a smooth and hassle-free entry into the country.

3. What are some common customs and cultural etiquette in Israel?

1. Greetings: In Israel, it is customary to greet others with a firm handshake and maintain eye contact. Cheek-kissing is also common among friends and acquaintances, with three kisses being the norm. Men often shake hands with other men, while women may shake hands or exchange kisses with other women.

2. Dress code: Israelis tend to dress casually, especially during the warmer months. However, when visiting religious sites or more formal settings, it is important to dress modestly. Women should cover their shoulders and knees, and men should avoid wearing shorts.

3. Punctuality: Israelis value punctuality, so it is important to arrive on time for appointments and meetings. However, it is not uncommon for appointments to start a bit late, especially in more informal settings.

4. Religious sensitivity: Israel is a deeply religious country, so it is important to respect religious customs and practices. When visiting religious sites, both men and women should dress modestly and remove their shoes before entering.

5. Dining etiquette: When dining in Israel, it is important to keep in mind that many restaurants observe kosher dietary laws. It is customary to say a blessing before and after meals, and it is polite to wait for the host to begin eating before you start. If dining in a more formal setting, it is common to leave a tip of around 10-15% of the bill.

Overall, it is important to be respectful and open-minded when visiting Israel, as the country is rich in history and culture with many customs and traditions to be aware of.

4. What is the best time of year to visit Israel?

The best time of year to visit Israel largely depends on personal preferences and interests. However, here are some factors to consider when planning your trip:

1. Weather: The peak tourist season in Israel is during the spring (April-May) and fall (October-November) when the weather is mild and pleasant. These seasons offer comfortable temperatures for exploring the country’s diverse landscapes and historical sites.

2. Festivals and Events: If you are interested in experiencing cultural events and festivals, consider visiting during Jewish holidays such as Passover and Sukkot, or during events like the Jerusalem International Film Festival or Tel Aviv Pride.

3. Crowds and Prices: Traveling during the shoulder seasons (late spring or early fall) can help you avoid large crowds and high prices typically seen during peak tourist times.

4. Winter can be a good time to visit if you prefer cooler temperatures and want to experience unique activities like skiing on Mount Hermon in the Golan Heights or visiting the Negev Desert without the scorching heat of summer.

Ultimately, the best time to visit Israel depends on your interests, preferences, and tolerance for crowds and weather conditions. Consider these factors when planning your trip to ensure you have a memorable and enjoyable experience.

5. What are some must-see attractions in Israel?

There are numerous must-see attractions in Israel that provide visitors with an enriching and diverse travel experience. Here are five key attractions that you should not miss during your trip:

1. The Old City of Jerusalem: Explore the ancient walls and narrow streets of this historic city, which is sacred to three major religions – Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Visit iconic sites such as the Western Wall, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, and the Dome of the Rock.

2. Masada: Located near the Dead Sea, Masada is an ancient fortress perched atop a rugged plateau. Take a cable car or hike up the Snake Path to explore the well-preserved ruins and learn about the heroic stand of the Jewish rebels against the Roman Empire.

3. The Dead Sea: Float effortlessly in the hypersaline waters of the Dead Sea, the lowest point on Earth. The mineral-rich mud and therapeutic properties of the sea make it a popular destination for relaxation and wellness.

4. Tel Aviv: Experience the vibrant and modern city of Tel Aviv, known for its beautiful beaches, bustling markets, and vibrant nightlife. Explore the Bauhaus architecture of the White City, stroll along the beach promenade, and indulge in the city’s renowned culinary scene.

5. The Sea of Galilee: Visit the serene and picturesque Sea of Galilee, which holds great religious significance and offers scenic views and recreational activities. Explore historic sites such as Capernaum and Tabgha, and enjoy water sports or a boat ride on the tranquil waters.

These are just a few of the many captivating attractions that Israel has to offer, each reflecting the country’s rich history, diverse culture, and natural beauty.

6. What are the transportation options in Israel?

There are several transportation options available in Israel for getting around the country:

1. Public Transportation: Israel has an extensive public transportation network, including buses, trains, and a light rail system in some cities. Buses are the most common mode of public transport and connect major cities as well as more remote areas.

2. Trains: Israel Railways operates a network of trains connecting major cities such as Tel Aviv, Haifa, and Jerusalem. The trains are modern and comfortable, offering a convenient way to travel between cities.

3. Sherut Taxis: These are shared taxis that operate along set routes, offering a more flexible and faster option than buses in some cases. Sheruts can be a good option for traveling between cities or more remote areas.

4. Taxis: Taxi services are widely available in Israel, especially in cities and tourist areas. It is advisable to use licensed taxis to ensure safety and fair pricing.

5. Car Rental: Renting a car is a popular option for exploring Israel, especially if you want to visit more remote areas or have the flexibility to travel at your own pace. The road network in Israel is well-maintained, making driving a viable option.

6. Walking and Cycling: In cities like Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, walking or cycling can be a pleasant and convenient way to get around, especially for short distances. Many cities also have bike-sharing programs for visitors to use.

Overall, transportation options in Israel are diverse and cater to different preferences and needs, making it relatively easy to travel around the country.

7. Is it safe to travel alone in Israel?

Traveling alone in Israel can be safe as long as you take necessary precautions and stay informed about the current situation. Here are some tips to help ensure your safety:

1. Stay informed: Before your trip, monitor the news and check government travel advisories for any updates on the security situation in Israel.

2. Plan your itinerary: Research the areas you plan to visit and avoid any areas that are known to be unsafe or have a history of conflict.

3. Blend in: Try to dress modestly and respect local customs to avoid standing out as a tourist.

4. Stay connected: Make sure to keep your phone charged and have access to emergency contacts, including the local embassy or consulate.

5. Be cautious with transportation: Use licensed taxis or reputable transportation services, especially when traveling at night.

6. Avoid demonstrations: Steer clear of any political demonstrations or large gatherings to stay out of potentially dangerous situations.

7. Trust your instincts: If you feel uncomfortable or unsafe in any situation, trust your instincts and remove yourself from the situation.

Overall, while traveling alone in Israel can be safe with proper precautions, it’s crucial to stay vigilant and aware of your surroundings at all times.

8. What are the best ways to stay connected while traveling in Israel?

When traveling in Israel, it is important to stay connected for navigation, communication, and emergency purposes. Here are some of the best ways to stay connected:

1. Purchase a SIM card: One of the easiest ways to stay connected in Israel is to purchase a local SIM card for your phone. There are several providers such as Cellcom, Pelephone, and Partner, which offer prepaid SIM cards that include data, calls, and texts.

2. Pocket Wi-Fi: Another convenient option is to rent a pocket Wi-Fi device, also known as a portable hotspot, which allows you to connect multiple devices to the internet simultaneously. This can be a good option if you are traveling with a group or multiple devices.

3. International Roaming: Check with your home mobile provider to see if they offer international roaming services for Israel. While this option can be convenient, it can also be expensive, so be sure to check the rates before using this service.

4. Free Wi-Fi: Many hotels, cafes, restaurants, and tourist attractions in Israel offer free Wi-Fi, so be on the lookout for these hotspots to stay connected without incurring additional costs.

5. VPN: If you are concerned about internet security and privacy while traveling, consider using a virtual private network (VPN) to encrypt your internet connection and protect your data.

By utilizing these methods, you can ensure that you stay connected and informed during your travels in Israel.

9. What are some important safety tips for travelers in Israel?

1. Stay informed: Keep yourself updated on the current political situation and any potential security risks in the area you plan to visit in Israel. Follow local news and advice from your embassy or consulate.

2. Be vigilant in crowded places: As a popular tourist destination, crowded areas such as markets, public transportation, and tourist sites can be potential targets for attacks. Be extra cautious in these places and report any suspicious behavior to authorities.

3. Respect local customs and laws: Israel is a religiously and culturally diverse country, so it’s important to respect local customs and traditions. Dress modestly when visiting religious sites and be mindful of local laws and regulations.

4. Carry identification at all times: It’s a legal requirement in Israel to carry identification, so make sure to have your passport or a copy of it with you at all times.

5. Watch out for pickpockets: Like in any tourist destination, be aware of your surroundings and keep your belongings secure to avoid becoming a victim of pickpocketing.

6. Check travel insurance coverage: Before your trip, make sure your travel insurance covers any medical emergencies or evacuations while in Israel.

7. Avoid border areas: Stay away from the borders with neighboring countries, as these areas can be volatile and potentially dangerous.

8. Be cautious in the West Bank and Gaza: If you plan to visit the West Bank or Gaza, be aware of the political situation and follow any travel advisories issued by your government.

9. Stay connected: Keep your phone charged and have emergency contact numbers saved in case you need assistance while traveling in Israel. It’s also a good idea to share your itinerary with someone back home for added security.

10. Are there any specific health concerns for travelers in Israel?

Yes, there are some specific health concerns for travelers in Israel that should be taken into consideration. Here are some key points to keep in mind:

1. Vaccinations: Make sure you are up-to-date on routine vaccines before traveling to Israel. Additionally, depending on your itinerary and circumstances, it may be recommended to get vaccinations for diseases like Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B, and rabies.

2. Water and Food Safety: To avoid gastrointestinal illness, it is best to drink bottled water and eat food from reputable establishments. Raw fruits and vegetables should be washed thoroughly or peeled before consumption.

3. Sun Protection: The sun in Israel can be strong, especially during the summer months. Be sure to use sunscreen with a high SPF, wear a hat, sunglasses, and protective clothing to prevent sunburn and heat-related illnesses.

4. Mosquito-borne Diseases: In certain areas, particularly during the summer, there may be a risk of mosquito-borne diseases such as West Nile virus. Use mosquito repellent and consider wearing long sleeves and pants, especially during the evening and nighttime.

5. Medical Care: It is advisable to have travel insurance that covers medical emergencies while in Israel. Familiarize yourself with the locations of hospitals and clinics in the areas you will be visiting.

By being aware of these health concerns and taking necessary precautions, you can help ensure a safe and enjoyable travel experience in Israel.

11. How should I dress when visiting religious sites in Israel?

When visiting religious sites in Israel, it is important to dress modestly and respectfully to show consideration for the sacredness of the place and the beliefs of those worshipping there. Here are some tips on how to dress appropriately:

1. Men should wear long pants and avoid shorts.
2. Women should dress modestly, covering their shoulders and knees. Wearing skirts or dresses that go below the knee is recommended.
3. Both men and women should avoid wearing revealing or tight-fitting clothing.
4. It is a good idea to bring a shawl or scarf to cover your head when visiting certain religious sites like mosques or synagogues.
5. Comfortable and modest footwear is also advisable for walking around religious sites.
6. Avoid wearing clothing with offensive or controversial slogans or images.
7. Remember to remove hats and sunglasses when entering places of worship as a sign of respect.

By following these dress guidelines, you can ensure a respectful and culturally sensitive visit to religious sites in Israel.

12. Is it customary to tip in Israel?

Yes, it is customary to tip in Israel, as in many other countries. Tipping is generally expected in restaurants, cafes, hotels, and for services like guides, drivers, and other hospitality personnel. Here are some key points to keep in mind when it comes to tipping in Israel:

1. In restaurants, it is common to leave a tip of around 10%-15% of the total bill. Some restaurants may include a service charge, so it’s important to check the bill before leaving an additional tip.

2. For tour guides and drivers, a tip of around 10%-15% of the total cost of the tour or ride is appreciated.

3. In hotels, it is customary to leave a tip for housekeeping staff, usually around 10 shekels per day.

4. Tipping in Israel is usually done in cash, as credit card tips are less common.

5. It’s important to remember that tipping customs may vary slightly depending on the region or establishment, so it’s always a good idea to check beforehand or ask locals for guidance.

13. What are some common scams to watch out for in Israel?

1. One common scam to watch out for in Israel is the “friendly local” scam, where a stranger approaches you, strikes up a conversation, and then either invites you to a bar or restaurant where you end up with an exorbitant bill or asks for money for various reasons.

2. Another scam is the taxi overcharging scam, where taxi drivers may try to charge you an inflated price for a ride, especially if you are a tourist and unaware of the normal fare rates.

3. Be cautious of the “blessing scam” where individuals, often posing as religious figures, offer to bless you or read your fortune for a price, only to demand more money once the process has started.

4. Some street vendors may try to shortchange you or sell you counterfeit goods, so always be vigilant when making purchases from street vendors.

5. Fake police officers targeting tourists for supposed infractions and demanding on-the-spot fines are another scam to be wary of in Israel.

6. It is essential to be cautious of ATMs and credit card skimmers, especially in crowded tourist areas, to avoid falling victim to identity theft or financial fraud.

7. To protect yourself from these scams, it is advisable to research common scams in the area before your trip, be wary of unsolicited approaches from strangers, confirm prices before accepting services, and always be mindful of your personal belongings and financial transactions. Lastly, trust your instincts and if something feels off or too good to be true, it probably is.

14. Are there any travel restrictions or sensitive areas to avoid in Israel?

1. Israel is generally a safe place to visit, but there are some travel restrictions and sensitive areas that tourists should be aware of to ensure their safety. The Israeli government provides up-to-date travel advisories on their official website, and it is recommended to check these before your trip.

2. Some areas along the border with Gaza and Lebanon can be volatile due to ongoing conflicts, and it is advised to avoid these areas unless necessary. The West Bank and East Jerusalem are also considered sensitive areas, and travelers should exercise caution when visiting these regions. It is advisable to stay informed about the current political situation and follow any instructions from local authorities.

3. In Jerusalem, tensions can sometimes flare up around religious sites, so it is important to be respectful and mindful of local customs when visiting these areas. Additionally, during religious holidays or significant events, security measures may be heightened, so it is best to plan your trip accordingly.

4. Overall, practicing situational awareness, staying informed, and respecting local customs and regulations are key to having a safe and enjoyable trip to Israel. While there are some sensitive areas to avoid, with proper planning and precautions, visitors can experience the rich history, culture, and natural beauty that Israel has to offer.

15. What are some traditional Israeli dishes I should try?

When visiting Israel, be sure to try some of the delicious traditional dishes that showcase the diverse culinary influences of the region. Here are some must-try Israeli dishes:

1. Falafel: These deep-fried balls made from ground chickpeas or fava beans are a popular street food in Israel, often served in pita pockets with salad and tahini sauce.

2. Hummus: A creamy dip made from mashed chickpeas, tahini, lemon juice, and garlic, hummus is a staple in Israeli cuisine and is typically served with fresh pita bread.

3. Shakshuka: A hearty dish of poached eggs in a spicy tomato and pepper sauce, shakshuka is a popular breakfast option in Israel.

4. Shawarma: Thinly sliced meat (often lamb or chicken) roasted on a vertical spit and served in a pita with salad, hummus, and tahini.

5. Sabich: A popular Israeli sandwich filled with fried eggplant, hard-boiled eggs, hummus, tahini, and salad, all wrapped in pita bread.

6. Bourekas: These flaky pastries are typically filled with cheese, spinach, or mashed potatoes and make for a delicious snack or breakfast option.

7. Malawach: A flaky, buttery flatbread that is typically served with a variety of toppings such as tomato sauce, hard-boiled eggs, and pickles.

8. Jachnun: A Yemenite Jewish dish of rolled dough that is slow-cooked overnight and served with fresh grated tomato and a hard-boiled egg.

By trying these traditional Israeli dishes, you can truly experience the rich and diverse flavors of the region. Enjoy your culinary adventures in Israel!

16. What are the best souvenirs to buy in Israel?

When visiting Israel, there are several unique and authentic souvenirs that you can consider buying to bring back a piece of the rich culture and heritage of the country. Some of the best souvenirs to buy in Israel include:

1. Dead Sea beauty products: Israel is famous for its Dead Sea skincare products such as salt scrubs, mud masks, and lotions which are known for their healing and rejuvenating properties.

2. Judaica items: Items like menorahs, mezuzahs, and unique religious artifacts make for meaningful souvenirs from Israel.

3. Israeli wine: Israel has a growing wine industry, so purchasing a bottle or two of local wine can be a great souvenir to bring back home.

4. Handmade jewelry: Israel is known for its talented jewelry designers, so purchasing a piece of handmade jewelry can be a cherished souvenir.

5. Olive wood products: Olive trees are abundant in Israel, and products made from olive wood such as kitchenware, decorative items, and religious artifacts are popular souvenirs.

6. Armenian ceramics: Jerusalem’s Old City is filled with beautiful Armenian ceramic shops where you can find unique and colorful pottery pieces to take home.

7. Spices and herbs: The markets in Israel are filled with aromatic spices and herbs such as za’atar, sumac, and baharat which make for great culinary souvenirs.

These souvenirs not only serve as mementos of your trip to Israel but also support local artisans and businesses. Remember to always check import regulations and restrictions on certain items before purchasing them to avoid any issues when returning home.

17. Are there any specific cultural events or festivals to experience in Israel?

1. Israel is a vibrant and diverse country with a rich cultural tapestry, and there are numerous cultural events and festivals throughout the year that offer unique experiences for visitors. Some of the notable cultural events and festivals in Israel include:

2. The Jerusalem International Film Festival, held annually in July, showcases a range of local and international films, attracting film enthusiasts from around the world.

3. The Tel Aviv Pride Parade, one of the largest LGBTQ+ pride events in the Middle East, takes place in June and features colorful parades, parties, and events celebrating diversity and inclusion.

4. The Safed Klezmer Festival, held in the ancient city of Safed in August, celebrates Jewish music and culture with live performances, workshops, and events showcasing traditional Klezmer music.

5. The Tamar Festival in the Negev Desert is a unique cultural event that combines music, art, and desert experiences, offering visitors a chance to immerse themselves in the beauty and serenity of the desert landscape.

6. The Red Sea Jazz Festival in Eilat is a world-renowned event that brings together jazz musicians from Israel and around the globe for a weekend of concerts and performances against the backdrop of the stunning Red Sea.

7. These are just a few examples of the many cultural events and festivals that take place in Israel throughout the year, offering visitors a chance to experience the country’s diverse cultural heritage and vibrant arts scene.

18. What are the best ways to exchange currency in Israel?

When it comes to exchanging currency in Israel, there are several options available to ensure you get the best rates and convenience during your trip. Here are some of the best ways to exchange currency in Israel:

1. ATMs: One of the most convenient and cost-effective ways to exchange currency in Israel is by using ATMs. ATMs are widely available throughout the country, including at airports, major cities, and tourist areas. Most ATMs in Israel accept major international debit and credit cards, allowing you to withdraw cash in the local currency, Shekels (ILS). Just make sure to check with your bank about any foreign transaction fees or ATM withdrawal charges.

2. Currency Exchange Offices: Another option is to exchange currency at official currency exchange offices or banks in Israel. While these may not always offer the best rates compared to ATMs, they can be a good alternative if you prefer to exchange cash or have specific currency needs.

3. Hotels and Tourist Areas: Hotels and tourist areas in Israel may offer currency exchange services for the convenience of travelers. Keep in mind that these services may come with higher fees or less favorable exchange rates, so it’s advisable to compare rates before exchanging money.

4. Credit Cards: Using credit cards for transactions in Israel is widely accepted, especially in major cities and tourist destinations. However, it’s essential to inform your bank or credit card company about your travel plans to avoid any issues with international transactions. Additionally, be aware of foreign transaction fees that may apply when using credit cards abroad.

5. Traveler’s Checks: While traveler’s checks are becoming less common, they can still be used in Israel at some hotels and exchange offices. However, they may not offer the best exchange rates, and not all establishments accept them, so it’s recommended to have a mix of payment methods.

By considering these various options for exchanging currency in Israel, you can choose the method that works best for your travel needs in terms of convenience, cost-effectiveness, and accessibility.

19. Is it easy to find English-speaking locals in Israel?

Yes, it is generally easy to find English-speaking locals in Israel. English is commonly taught in schools and is widely spoken, especially in urban areas and tourist destinations. Many Israelis are fluent in English, particularly the younger generation. In tourist areas, hotels, restaurants, and shops often have staff who speak English. Additionally, most signs and directions are usually in both Hebrew and English, making it easier for English-speaking visitors to navigate the country. Overall, language barrier should not be a significant issue for travelers in Israel.

20. Are there any specific travel tips for LGBTQ+ travelers in Israel?

Yes, there are specific travel tips for LGBTQ+ travelers visiting Israel:

1. Supportive Environment: Israel is known for being relatively LGBTQ+-friendly compared to its neighboring countries. Tel Aviv, in particular, has a vibrant LGBTQ+ community with numerous bars, clubs, and events catering to the community. It is also home to one of the largest Pride parades in the Middle East.

2. Safety: LGBTQ+ travelers should feel safe in most parts of Israel, especially in urban areas like Tel Aviv and Haifa. However, it’s always recommended to exercise caution and avoid public displays of affection in more conservative areas.

3. Accommodations: Look for LGBTQ+ friendly accommodations, as some hotels and guesthouses in Israel cater specifically to LGBTQ+ travelers. These establishments can provide a safe and welcoming environment for LGBTQ+ guests.

4. Cultural Sensitivity: While attitudes towards LGBTQ+ individuals are generally positive in Israel, it’s essential to be respectful of local customs and sensitivities. Understand that not everyone may share Western views on LGBTQ+ issues, and it’s essential to be mindful of this diversity.

5. Legal Rights: Israel legalized same-sex marriage performed abroad in 2006, but does not currently allow for same-sex marriage to be performed within the country. LGBTQ+ travelers should be aware of their rights and the legal landscape surrounding LGBTQ+ issues in Israel.

By keeping these travel tips in mind, LGBTQ+ travelers can have a safe and enjoyable experience exploring the diverse and inclusive LGBTQ+ community in Israel.