Welcome to Israel! This small country in the Middle East may be tiny, but it’s packed with history, culture, and natural beauty. Let me take you on a journey through this incredible land.
Firstly, Israel is a land of contrasts. It’s a place where ancient and modern collide, where tradition and innovation coexist. You can visit ancient cities like Jerusalem, where you can walk in the footsteps of some of the world’s most revered religious figures, or you can explore Tel Aviv, a modern metropolis known for its vibrant nightlife and cutting-edge technology.
Israel is also a land of religious significance. It’s a place of pilgrimage for Jews, Christians, and Muslims alike. In Jerusalem, you can visit the Western Wall, the holiest site in Judaism, or walk along the Via Dolorosa, the path that Jesus is said to have taken on his way to his crucifixion. You can also visit the Dome of the Rock, one of the most important sites in Islam, located on the Temple Mount.
But Israel isn’t just about religion. It’s a country that boasts stunning natural beauty. From the beaches of the Mediterranean coast to the desert landscapes of the Negev, Israel has it all. You can hike through the Ein Gedi Nature Reserve, swim in the Dead Sea, or take a boat ride on the Sea of Galilee.
Finally, Israel is a country that prides itself on its food. Whether you’re a vegetarian, a meat lover, or a sweet tooth, Israeli cuisine has something for everyone. You can indulge in freshly baked bread, hummus, falafel, shakshuka, and much more.
In short, Israel is a country that is both ancient and modern, religiously significant and naturally beautiful, and deliciously diverse. So, come and explore this incredible land and see for yourself all that it has to offer!
LANGUAGE: Modern Israel is an immigration land, so you will hear dozens of languages spoken on the street. But there are a few languages that are spoken by the majority of citizens and they are: Hebrew, the national and official language called ‘Ivrit’, as of July 2018. Arabic (spoken by Arabs constituting at least 20% of the population). English, is taught as a mandatory language in school, and you can converse with most Israelis in English. Russian (more than 1 million immigrants came from the former Soviet countries late 1980’s). Amhari (spoken by the immigrants from Ethiopia who came in the early 1980’s).
VISA POLICY: Visitors to Israel must hold a passport that is valid for at least six months from the date they enter the country, this is applicable for 99 ‘Visa Exempt’ countries. Once there, you will be entitled to remain in Israel up to three months from the date of your arrival. Israeli immigration do not officially stamp your passport but may stamp a separate piece of paper (about the size of your passport) known as the Electronic Gate Pass. Please hold onto this slip of paper, it provides official proof of your visa status in Israel.
If you wish to extend your stay, you can contact Population Authority office while you are still in Israel.
CURRENCY: The Israeli New Shekel (ILS) is the currency of the State of Israel and is issued by the Bank of Israel. It’s currently sign is ₪. It’s denominations are: Coins – 10 agorot, ½, 1, 2, 5, 10 new sheqalim. Banknotes – 20, 50, 100, 200 new sheqalim.
Anywhere accepting dollars will do so at a terrible rate. Local merchants have no particular interest in dollars and they have to go to the trouble of exchanging them. So you definitely should have shekels on hand since that is the local currency. If you pay in dollars, you never know what rate of exchange you will get. Taking shekels out of a Bank ATM has an official ROE, so you know how much you are actually paying.
The only time US$ can conveniently be used is for car rental and hotels. Otherwise you risk paying more due to conversion rates taken by the vendor which are higher than official rates. Plus many places will only take shekels and public transportation for instance can only be paid in cash shekels.
BANKS AND ATMS: The are bank branches at the airport where you can also exchange funds, but the rate is typically less favorable than at an ATM. But, in my experience the best way to get cash is though ATM’s. Machines are available all over in Israeli cities, and all allow you to choose an English language interface. There are two main types of ATM machines in Israel: those associated with banks and ATM’s that are privately owned by shops. Both are trustworthy and legitimate, but the private ATM’s will charge a higher commission so banking ATM’s are better.
I’d suggest you take out cash as you need for this is safer than carrying large sums with you. I take some with me but I split where I keep it in several locations and have in my purse the amount I expect to spend each day. If someone pickpockets my purse they will only get a small amount of money.
You can use a credit card for car rental, hotels, restaurants, gift shops, museum and national park entrances and other sites. You need cash for street food, markets, taxis, smaller shops, tips and if you are paying a local guide. Most guides don’t take credit cards but tour companies usually will.
SOCKETS AND ADAPTERS: There are three associated plug types, C, H and M. Plug type C (also known as the standard “Euro” plug) is the plug which has two round pins, plug type H has three pins in a triangular shape and type M has three round pins. Israel operates on a 230V supply voltage and 50Hz.
CONNECTIVITY: There is free WIFI throughout the country at many tourist sites, cafes, hotel lobbies and touring buses as well as public transportation. My personal experience is that almost all 4-5 star hotels in Israel charge quite a bit for WiFi use, with the odd exception having free WiFi in the lobby.
You may be able to use your own phone in Israel. If your current cell phone is unlocked, you can put in a local Israel SIM card. The three most known networks are Cellcom, Orange and Pelephone. Cellcom is the market leader. You can buy a local SIM from one of the Israeli cellular operators with the prepaid option as default. Then, fill credit inside your account, and you can make international phone calls for very good rates. These can be purchased at the airport. If you are using an iPhone, you will need to cut the sim card which WILL cost you more than a regular sim card.
TRANSPORTATION: Getting around in Israel is easy whether you are using the public transportation or traveling on your own and renting a car. The latter is preferred by many as it helps avoid the hassles of traffic, parking and the high cost of fuel.
Buses are available throughout and they run over 1,000 routes across the country connecting not only cities but also rural settlements. In order to ride the bus, passengers must secure a RavKav, Israel removed cash as payment and use reloadable electronic tickets exclusively. This can be purchased in Tel Aviv train stations, the Central Bus Station and in the arrival section of Ben Gurion Airport. You can either choose a personalized (contain the holder’s name and other personal information) or an anonymous card. Anonymous cards are advisable for travelers.
Trains are very useful and reasonably priced service which is comfortable especially for connecting to the airport and other cities, they also use RavKav cards.
Sheruts are Israel’s shared taxis and operate across the country both on local and inter-city routes. Taxi is also an option, they’re widely available. You can also rent a car, especially if you are touring. You can go wherever you want, whenever you want for a fixed fee.
Reminder: Public transportation is very limited during Saturday, Shabbat or the Sabbath. The only options you have are taxis, sherut or a car rentals (which you have to collect by Friday and be returned on Sunday). Buses and trains do not operate from Friday afternoon to Saturday evening.
WEATHER: Summer in Israel is from early June to September. The temperatures reaches 27C to 32c. Some places can get extremely hot and reach 43C. Spring is from late March to May while Autumn is from late September to November. Winter is from December to early March.
– – Cana (Kafr Kanna)
– – Yardenit
– – Capernaum
– Jerusalem, Old City
– West Bank
- Israeli Salad
- Jachnun (on Sabbath day)
- Lunch or Dinner
- Baba Ganoush
- Pomegranate Juice
- Local Wine