This handy guide, which includes everything from transport and money to navigating a complex geopolitical environment, will help you prepare for your trip to Israel. If you’re planning to take in the stunning views from the Golan Heights or Negev Desert, visit religious landmarks and sacred sites, or simply relax on the Mediterranean coast, it’s important to research local laws and safety guidelines before your trip. Here are some crucial tips for first-time visitors to Israel.
Visa and passport requirements
Before you start your journey, ensure that your passport is legally compliant: it must be valid for a minimum period of six months from when you first enter Israel. When you arrive at the border, officials will no longer stamp your passport but instead provide an entry visa. This could come in handy if you’re planning to travel to any of the Arab countries that have no diplomatic relations with Israel.Although visitors from several nations (including the United States and the United Kingdom) are visa-exempt to Israel, passport holders from most Arab countries must obtain prior approval from the Israeli authorities before booking a flight, and numerous others must apply for a tourist visa, so it is critical to do so.
What is the currency in Israel?
While some businesses, particularly those that cater to tourists, may accept foreign currencies such as US dollars or Euros, it’s usually a good idea to bring shekels or a credit card. Ben Gurion Airport ATMs and money-changing services can be used to withdraw shekels after landing. While in the major cities, you will have no problem finding an ATM that accepts your foreign cards. Shekels are legal tender throughout Palestinian cities in the West Bank, but visitors can also use Jordanian dinars to make purchases If needed, Jordan dinars can be withdrawn from banks located in Ramallah, Hebron and Nablus.
The climate and when to visit
The best time to visit Israel depends on what sort of trip interests you the most. If you want to explore regions like Jerusalem and the desert, it’s better to go in the summer when it’s dryer. However, if you’re more interested in Tel Aviv or other coastal areas, winter (December-March) is typically warmer and more comfortable.
Getting around and business hours
If you want to visit Israel without having to create your own itinerary, Culture Trip’s specially curated seven-day Israel trip can save you a lot of time and effort. The country has a storied history and numerous landmarks, which may be daunting if you want to see it all on your own — but not with this trip!
Israel’s small size, on the other hand, allows it to be readily traversed. When planning any excursion, remember that Friday and Saturday are the weekend. Most restaurants, businesses, and places of interest close for the weekend on Fridays afternoons and reopen late on Saturdays in order to observe Shabbat (also known as Sabbath). Because of this, public transport doesn’t operate during this time. This may be an annoyance for travelers, but in many large Israeli cities, communal taxis (known as sheruts in Hebrew) are available 24/7 and provide a more feasible option.
Both Tel Aviv and Jerusalem are extremely walkable cities, but in case of an emergency, the mobile app Gett is always accessible and permits customers to order a taxi with the press of a button. For public transportation information, nothing beats the Moovit application, which offers accurate and up-to-date bus and train timetables.
Respecting the cultural diversity of Israel
The culture in Israel varies greatly depending on the city. For example, Jerusalem is much more conservative and religious while Tel Aviv is known to be more liberal and vivacious. That isn’t to say that visitors won’t feel welcome in both cities; rather, they provide unique experiences that contribute to a deeper knowledge of Israeli life. Tel Aviv’s beaches, clubs, and LGBTQ-friendly culture are worth seeing, while exploring Jerusalem may help you better understand Jewish, Christian, and Muslim history.
Take a look at cosmopolitan Ramallah’s vibrant young energy and bustling nightlife, or go to the ancient city of Hebron to learn more about how Islamic and Jewish holy sites there continue to play a significant role in Israeli-Palestinian interactions.
Visiting the West Bank
Many areas in the West Bank are safe for tourists, even though Israelis cannot enter. If you have a foreign passport, however, joining an organised tour or getting a licensed guide to show you around is no problem. This way, you can explore all of the interesting points of interest that this area has to offer! Bethlehem, known for its many important Christian sites; Jericho, formerly known as the world’s oldest city; Hebron and the Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron; and Ramallah, a modern Palestinian metropolis with lively nightlife are just a few examples. Israeli military checkpoints define Palestinian urban areas and towns, so keep in mind that border guards may ask you to produce identification cards.
General etiquette and conduct
It is critical to be sensitive to cultural norms and political divisions. While some people may discover that local folks are eager to talk politics, religion, and other issues, the best advice while traveling is to avoid making potentially uninformed remarks about divisive subjects.
Some places are more camera-friendly than others – be mindful and ask for permission before taking pictures. In ultra-Orthodox Jewish communities, it is considered disrespectful to take snapshots of the Western Wall (the holiest site in Judaism) on Shabbat. Additionally, military sites and border police at checkpoints are also off limits for photographers. If you’re unsure about something, always err on the side of caution and ask first. Restaurants are another aspect that will make your stay in Israel exciting. Tipping is common at restaurants throughout the country, although it varies based on the restaurant and customer service.
Israel is a mostly safe country for travelers, as it has minimal crime rates. However, caution should still be exercised in demonstrations and other public areas. All malls, train stations and other venues have security guards that will inspect your bags before entrance. Street crime is relatively low; however nighttime vigilance is advised, especially if you are travelling alone in the West Bank.
What to wear to sacred sites
Although Israel is home to numerous secular attractions, it is also a deeply religious country housing some of the world’s most important sites for Christianity, Islam, and Judaism. Travelers should be respectful when visiting places of worship by wearing clothing that covers their shoulders and knees.This is particularly true in Muslim-majority countries, where it is forbidden for women to reveal beyond a certain degree any skin that may possibly be exposed. This extends to fully covering the knees and shoulders. In these situations, a scarf or a cardigan can come in useful. Islamic holy sites may also call for women to cover their hair. No shorts above the knee or sleeveless shirts are permitted for men in these areas. Keep this form of modest dressing in mind when visiting extremely religious Jewish communities in Jerusalem or Muslim-majority regions throughout Israel and the Palestinian Territories.