PREPARING YOUR TRIP
Most airlines flying to Israel do not require reconfirmation of your return flight.
Credit cards are widely accepted at most stores, restaurants and at many tourist sites, parks and museums. In addition, we recommend, in any case, that you bring a few personal checks as well as US dollars/cash. US dollars may be changed into shekels at official moneychangers in the large cities. So too, shekels can be obtained from ATM machines in the major cities with your PIN number. Advise your bank and credit card company of your trip abroad. Refrain from bringing Traveler's Checks.
Travel insurance is highly recommended make sure is also covers health and baggage.
Be sure to pack your medications in your hand luggage
Bring a copy of your prescriptions along with you. It is also a good idea to bring an extra pair of prescription eyeglasses with you.
Pack lightly, especially in the summer- time. There is a one-day laundry service available.
Double check that your passport is valid for at least six months beyond the scheduled return date of your trip. Make a photocopy of your passport and carry it separately from your originals.
WHILE IN ISRAEL:
Each bank has different hours of operation. However, most banks are open Sunday – Thursday 8:30 AM – 12:30 PM. Bring your passport and a book to read. Many banks have separate lines for foreign currency exchange. Don’t be shy to ask where to go. As the rate of exchange varies from day to day, stay abreast of the situation.
Please swim only where a lifeguard is present
ATM's are readily available
Mobile phones are widely used throughout Israel. Coverage is good.
You can use my phone to call the U.S., free of charge. Free Wi-Fi available in the van.
You may expect rain from November through early April. It is dry during the rest of the year. During the dry season expect high humidity in Tel Aviv and along the coast. In Jerusalem and the mountains expect low humidity and warm weather in the dry season. It is cool in evenings in the mountains.
Dress is informal. Leave your suit and tie at home. In the winter bring layers.
In summer, bring light clothing. A light sweater is recommended for Jerusalem . Modest clothing is required for most holy sites. Cover your knees and shoulders. Hats are advised.
All major credit cards are accepted, even at the local grocer.
It’s hot in Israel. Drink plenty of fluids so that you don’t dehydrate. Alcohol is not recommended in high temperature zones in mid-day. Minimum drinking age for alcohol is 18.
Israel operates on 220 volts, 50 cycles.. Note that most electronic devices such as palms, laptops, etc automatically convert between 220/110, but check the specs.
Facts and figures about Israel
Visit the site of the Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs: http://mfa.gov.il
Check with your tour guide or concierge for a list of good restaurants. Food is generally safe to eat. Should you want to feel “at home,” many American food franchises now operate in Israel:, Mac Donald’s, Pizza Hut, and more. But don’t be afraid to try the local fare.
A word to the wise – Look and price items. Make your purchases toward the end of the visit after you have compared prices. Do not forget to save the VAT form so that you can get your refund at the airport. For good bargains and different kinds of gift items, try off the beaten track workshops and outlets.
Look for cosmetics from the Dead Sea, jewelry, olive wood products, Judaica items.
Make sure that you have health insurance.
As Israeli hotel rooms tend to be smaller than rooms in the USA.
Wi-Fi connection is easy to find in most hotels, cafes & restaurants. Some hotels charge for the use of Wi-Fi. Free Wi-FI is available in the van!
Keep most of it at home.
Maps are available in English and other languages at good bookstores (e.g., Steimatzky: Tel Aviv 03-522-1513, Jerusalem 02-6253487), at the local Society for Protection of Nature (SPNI) book stores in major cities and at the Government Department of Surveys. Scale 1:50,000 is recommended for hiking, 1:100,000 for country driving and 1:250,000 for highway driving.
The NIS – New Israeli Shekel (or simply shekel) operates on the decimal system. The rate fluctuates daily. Check for the latest rate. American currency is accepted in most places, but confirm the exchange rate used. There are 100 agurot to the shekel. The following coins are in circulation: 10 Agorot, 1/2 a shekel, 1 shekel, 2 shekels, 5 shekels and 10 shekels. For more info: http://www.bankisrael.gov.il/en/Pages/Default.aspx
You can get your baseball scores and other news from the two English language dailies: The Jerusalem Post and HaAretz. The former has inserts from the NY Times and the latter has an insert of The International Herald Tribune. For news on-line click http://www.jpost.com/ or http://www.haaretzdaily.com/.
Passports are required for all foreign currency bank transactions.
Photography is not allowed in some museums and in some security-conscious facilities like the Knesset as well as in some “ultra-orthodox” neighborhoods. On the Sabbath, please no photography at Jewish holy sites like the Western Wall.
Bellboy service is not available for individual travelers at the airports. The dollies, however, are free of charge.
Israel is one of the safest places in the world, Street crime is very low and you can walk the streets in most big cities at night with no problem.
You and your bags may often be checked by security guards at public buildings such as shopping malls. Be cooperative — it is for your safety too. Do not leave your bag unattended – anywhere.
Tipping is not necessary for cab drivers or barbers. As to restaurants, check the bill to see if “service is not included” (some time it does). If not, 10 – 15% is a good bet. Tipping is usually done using cash, not credit cards.
Vaccinations are not required for tourists entering Israel from western countries.
There is an 18% VAT (Value Added Tax) imposed on purchases made in Israel. As a tourist, you can sometimes claim the money back. To qualify, the purchase has to be more than 400 shekels in value, at a participating shop. Special form has to be filled out by the shop keeper. Money can be claimed upon departure either by land, sea or air.
Although water in Israel is of good quality and suitable for drinking, you may not be used to the high mineral content. Bottled natural spring water is available everywhere – expensive at your hotel, more reasonable at the supermarkets.