Traveling to Israel can be a unique and enriching experience, but it can also be intimidating if you are unfamiliar with the country and its culture. This blog will give you some tips to help make your trip to Israel smooth and enjoyable.
The Practical Tips for Visiting Israel
Start with the practical things you should consider when traveling to Israel, like the best time to travel to Israel (climate and Jewish Holidays) and what to pack.
First and foremost, it’s important to be aware of the weather in Israel. The country experiences hot and dry summers, with temperatures often reaching over 100 degrees Fahrenheit, and cool and rainy winters. Bring plenty of sunscreens and stay hydrated if you plan to visit during the summer months. In the winter, it’s a good idea to pack a jacket and umbrella.
The Jewish holidays are essential to consider when planning your trip to Israel. In Israel, there are two calendars in use: the Gregorian calendar, which is the standard international calendar, and the Jewish calendar, which is based on the lunar cycle.
Many of the country’s religious holidays are based on the Jewish calendar, so it’s important to be aware of these dates when planning your trip. During Jewish holidays, it’s common for public transportation, banks, and stores to be closed. This can impact your travel plans and make it challenging to complete your usual activities.
In addition, hotel prices are often higher during Jewish holidays, so it’s a good idea to book your accommodations in advance if you plan to visit during these times.
Another critical thing to consider when traveling to Israel is being mindful of your clothing choices.
While some cities, such as Tel Aviv, Jaffa, and Haifa, tend to be more open-minded and fashion-forward, other cities, such as Jerusalem, have a more conservative culture, and it is recommended to dress modestly.
It’s a good idea to avoid wearing tank tops, shorts, or anything that is above the knees, especially when visiting more religious or conservative areas. When packing for a trip to Israel, it’s a good idea to focus on convenience rather than fashion. While you can pack many of the same items you would take to Europe, there are a few specific things to consider when traveling to Israel.
It’s also a good idea to cover your shoulders and upper arms, especially when visiting holy sites or places of worship.
Tips on what to pack:
- A scarf and a long-sleeve top, especially for women visiting religious sites. Some sites may provide cover-ups, but it’s always better to have your own.
- Light-weight clothing is essential for summer when temperatures reach over 100 degrees Fahrenheit and high humidity.
- A light jacket and some sweaters are necessary during the winter months.
- In Israel, comfortable shoes are essential, especially if you plan to walk around the city.
- A hat, sunglasses, and sunscreen lotion are essential for protecting yourself from the intense sun.
- Wet wipes, a small roll of toilet paper, and hand sanitizer are helpful to have on hand, as public restrooms may only sometimes have these amenities.
- A small umbrella can be helpful in unexpected rain showers, which are common in Israel.
Remember, dressing modestly is a sign of respect for the local culture and customs, and it will help you blend in and feel more comfortable during your trip.
Knowing the History
One of the most important things you can do before traveling to Israel is to learn about the country’s history. Israel’s archaeological sites and landmarks are filled with rich cultural and religious significance, and understanding their history will enhance your appreciation of these places.
The history of Israel is long and complex, with roots dating back to ancient times. According to the Hebrew Bible, the origin of Israel is connected to Abraham, who is said to have been the father of both Judaism (through his son Isaac) and Islam (through his son Ishmael).
Over the centuries, many different nations have occupied the Land of Israel, but the Jewish people have always maintained a physical, cultural, and religious presence in the region.
Learning about Israel’s history will help you better understand its culture and many religious and historical sites. Whether you are interested in ancient ruins, sacred places of worship or modern cities, a more profound knowledge of Israel’s past will enrich your travels.
Prices, expenses and tipping
It’s important to note that Israel can be expensive to visit. Prices for hotels, food, entrance fees, and other goods and services are generally higher than in other parts of the world. Additionally, a value-added tax (VAT) of 17% is applied to most goods and services in Israel.
One thing to be aware of is that speaking English may sometimes result in higher prices, as some merchants may assume that tourists are willing to pay more.
It’s a good idea to exchange money before your trip or to use ATMs once you arrive, as you can find money exchange offices and ATMs throughout the country. Bartering is a common practice in Israel and can be a helpful way to save money and avoid frustration.
While car prices are generally non-negotiable, haggling for other goods and services is expected. Israeli people are used to bargaining for discounts on major purchases, and the listed price is often calculated with this in mind.
If you are uncomfortable with bartering, you can ask your tour guide or a local friend to assist you.
Tipping in Israel is a common practice, similar to most Western countries. It is not mandatory, but it is expected and appreciated, especially for services such as dining in restaurants and bars.
The customary tip in Israel is between 10% and 15% of the total bill, with a minimum of 10% and an average of 12%. For exceptional service, it is acceptable to tip up to 15%. It is important to note that servers and bartenders in Israel receive a relatively low salary, so tipping is an integral part of their income.
Tips are generally left in cash rather than on a credit card, so it’s a good idea to carry some small change with you. Tipping is only sometimes expected from other service providers, such as taxi drivers and hotel staff, but it is always appreciated if you decide to be generous.
If you have questions about tipping in Israel, your tour guide or local friends can guide you.
Sabbath, or Shabbat, is an important religious holiday observed by Jews worldwide, including in Israel.
It is a 25-hour celebration that begins at sundown on Friday and ends after sunset on Saturday. During this time, many people take a break from their daily activities to spend time with family and loved ones or to participate in religious worship.
It’s important to be aware of the observance of Shabbat in Israel, as many public services, including transportation and businesses, are closed during this time.
If you plan to travel within the country on a Friday, arrive at your destination before 4:00 PM, as many services will close in preparation for Shabbat.
Israel also observes other religious holidays, and during these times, it is common for businesses, restaurants, and cafes to close.
On Yom Kippur, the Hebrew Day of Atonement, almost all services in the country are closed, and it is even common for the airport to shut down.
If you visit Israel during a religious holiday, be prepared for disruptions to your travel plans and be respectful of the local customs and traditions.
If you want to make the most of your trip to Israel, avoid staying in Jerusalem on the weekends, as many businesses and services are closed on Friday nights and Saturdays.
Instead, consider visiting more secular cities like Tel Aviv or Haifa, where services remain open on weekends.
Last but not least
We hope these tips have helped prepare you for your trip to this fascinating and richly historic country.
Israel has something to offer everyone, whether you are interested in exploring the ancient ruins of Jerusalem, soaking up the sun on the beaches of Tel Aviv, or joining a guided tour to learn more about the country’s cultural and religious history.
At Israel Travel Advisory Service, we are dedicated to helping you make the most of your trip to Israel. From custom Israel tours, including Jewish tours and Christian tours, to our travel advisory services, we are here to assist you every step of the way.
We hope you have a wonderful and memorable trip to Israel!