Things to know before you go
Israel is a vibrant country with many similarities to the United States, so you’ll feel more at home than you might expect. With a little preparation, you can rest assured your experience will be unforgettable.
These tips and tricks will help to make your tour to Israel stress free and enjoyable from start to finish. If you have any questions or concerns not covered here just ask!
SHAPING UP FOR A WALKING TOUR
You can expect to do quite a bit of walking while touring Israel. If you are not used to physical activity and have concerns about keeping up with your guide, we recommend that you start preparing for you tour by walking 20 minutes a day. If you can handle that, you’ll be just fine for your tour.
The currency in Israel is the New Israeli Shekel (NIS). 1 shekel = 100 agorot (singular: agora) and banknotes are in denominations of NIS 200, 100, 50 and 20 shekels. Coins are in denominations of 10 shekels, 5 shekels, 2 shekels, 1 shekel, 50 agorot, and 10 agorot.
The most common ways of paying are by cash and credit card. There are ATMs all over in cities (Bank Leumi and Bank Hapoalim being the most prevalent)
Here is a link to an app that you can download to make conversion easy.
HOW To PAY AT LOCAL STORES? US DOLLARS?
The US dollar is accepted all over Israel (Jordan and Egypt too)! This means that if you want to convert currency, you certainly can but it is not necessary. Just be aware that whatever change you get will be in the New Israeli Shekel, or NIS, so try to pay as close to the amount due as possible. In other words, if you are purchasing something that is worth $3 US, avoid using a $20 bill. US credit and debit cards are also be accepted at most (if not all) stores that you will visit, so you may also choose to make purchases that way. Just don’t forget to alert your bank or credit card company to let them know the dates you will be traveling in Israel. Otherwise, once they see charges in another country they may freeze your card thinking it has been stolen.
tipping AT RESTAURANTS AND AT THE HOTEL?
We will be including tips in the trip cost for the guide, driver and any dinners included in the package. Of course, if you feel that the guide or driver deserve more than what is required you are welcome to tip extra.
TIPS ABOUT LUGGAGE, CARRY-ON ITEMS AND MORE…
Pack light! You will need comfortable casual clothing. There will not be any formal attire nights on the trip.
Bring comfortable walking shoes. This may be the most important thing to remember.
Use the onion method. Layers are a great way to stay at a comfortable temperature. Even if it is a warm day, air conditioning may keep the bus or certain buildings chilly. It is always a good idea to bring a sweater or light jacket with you.
Don’t forget your swim wear! You’ll have the opportunity to float in the Dead Sea and to be baptized in the Jordan River. If you plan on participating in either of these activities, you’ll want to come prepared.
Israelis dress very similarly to those of us in the US. Even shorts and tank tops will be perfectly acceptable most days. However, when visiting Holy sites shoulders and knees should be covered. We will let you know in advance so you can dress accordingly. (Shawls & Light Jackets work great)
Most airlines have different size requirements for luggage and limits on the number of carryon items. We will update the site once we have our final flight information. If you would like for your carryon to fit in the overhead compartment, luggage measuring approximately 22” x 9” x 14” is recommended.
Make a copy of your passport and any credit cards you will be taking. Leave a copy at home or with a family member. It makes it much easier to replace if your passport is lost.
STAYING CONNECTED WITH FAMILY AND FRIENDS AT HOME
Call your service provider and ask about using your phone overseas. Some carriers offer inexpensive temporary international plans for traveling. Most carriers will allow you to text the U.S. for free when you are connected to Wi-Fi and you will find our hotels offer this amenity. Wifi calling and texting is free with apps such as Facebook, or Whatsapp. Have your family or friends download the app so you can stay in touch for free.
HOW NOT TO FRY YOUR ELECTRONICS!
Figuring out what adaptors and converters could prevent our expensive electronics from frying has been made much simpler with universal kits. First, let’s explain the difference between the two. An adaptor allows the prongs from your appliance or gadget to fit into the wall outlets that you’ll see in Israel. A converter will change the voltage from your gadget to the voltage that is compatible with the local electrical system. There are universal kits available that include both adaptors and converters, so you don’t have to worry about missing anything you’ll need. Some reviews of adapters can be found here.
TIPS ABOUT LAUNDRY
The hotels have ‘overnight’ laundry services but it can be very pricey and will only be available while staying in the hotel for multiple nights. There are no self-laundry machines. A tip from one of our travel experts: “In the evening, I would ‘spot clean’ my clothes if I thought I might want to wear them again later. Or while showering – wash it out with shampoo & roll in a towel then put on a hanger to dry”.
THINGS TO CARRY WITH YOU
It is always a good idea to carry the following items just in case:
Tissues– in case a public restroom is out of toilet paper or you get the sniffles
Small bills (either USD or shekels)– you’ll see vendors selling souvenirs and they may not always have change or take cards.
Sunglasses, sunscreen, and a hat
Portable charger (great if you are using your phone for pictures)
A sweater or light jacket– to keep you comfortable on the air-conditioned bus
The Center for Disease Control does not recommend any additional immunizations beyond what it is already recommended for the United States, so you will not need to deal with any travel shots.
Do You Need a Visa for Israel?
The U.S. State Department does not indicate that U.S. citizens traveling to Israel for stays of up to 90 days from their date of arrival need a visa, but like all visitors, you must hold a passport that is valid for at least six months from the date you are departing the country. If you plan to visit Arab countries after visiting Israel, ask the customs official at the passport control window at the airport to not stamp your passport (they usually do not) as this could complicate your entry to those countries. If, however, the countries you are planning to visit after Israel are Egypt or Jordan, you need not be concerned about this.
Shabbat and Saturday Travel
In the Jewish religion Shabbat, or Saturday, is the holy day of the week and because Israel is the Jewish State, you can expect travel to be impacted by the country-wide observance of Shabbat. All public offices and most businesses are closed on Shabbat, which begins Friday afternoon and ends on Saturday evening.
Israel's location in the Middle East places it in a culturally fascinating part of the world. However, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict remains unresolved, meaning that regional instability is a fact of life. Travel to the Gaza Strip or West Bank requires prior clearance or required authorization; however, there is unrestricted access to the West Bank towns of Bethlehem and Jericho.
The risk of terrorism remains a threat both in America and abroad. However, because Israelis have had the misfortune of experiencing terrorism for a longer time than Americans, they have developed a culture of vigilance in security matters that is more entrenched than our own. You can expect to see full-time security guards stationed outside supermarkets, busy restaurants, banks, and shopping malls, and bag checks are the norm. It takes a few seconds away from the ordinary routine but is second-nature to Israelis.
A Travel Advisory warns citizens to not travel to Gaza due to terrorism, civil unrest, and armed conflict and to reconsider travel to the West Bank due to terrorism, potentially violent civil unrest, and the potential for conflict.
We will not be going to any areas during our tour that pose any increased risk of danger.
Most Israelis speak English, so you probably won't have any difficulties getting around. That said, knowing a little Hebrew can definitely be helpful.
Here are a few Hebrew phrases that can be helpful for any traveler. Apps are also available to help communicate in the local language.
Thank you: toda
Thank you very much: toda raba
Excuse me: slicha
What time is it?: ma hasha'ah?
I need help: ani tzarich ezra (m.)
I need help: ani tzricha ezra (f.)
Good morning: boker tov
Good night: layla tov
Good sabbath: shabat shalom
Good luck/congratulations: mazel tov
My name is: kor'im li
Bon appetit: betay'avon!