Practical tips for preparing for your trip to Israel!
Temperature has a massive impact on what to pack in terms of clothing. From Nov - April you can expect rain and cooler weather (as in 10 - 25 c). So if you come during the rainy season, make sure you bring some warmer clothes like a warm jacket and a umbrella. Also a water proof jacket would be really good to have on hand. If you come between May and Oct you can expect the temperatures to be higher (from 25 - 40 c). In this case make sure you bring lots of sun screen!
Casual clothing is appropriate. There are some places that require modest clothing - knees and shoulders covered. These places include the Western Wall and some of Christian sites such as Capernaum and Garden of Gethsemane. It's always good to carry around a shawl with you in case of emergencies. Some of these places will not allow entry if one is wearing shorts or a tank top.
For women, a mixture of slacks and casual skirts will do very well. For travelling and sightseeing, jeans or other very casual outfits are great. However bring a nice out fit for shabbat dinner.
For men, a mixture of casual pants and shirts is great. Jeans are fine as well. Bring a nice shirt and pants for the shabbat dinner.
Don't forget your bathing suit for a float in the Dead Sea, but not your favorite, because the salt tends to eat the elasticity. As well bring a hat, sunglasses and sunscreen.
A must for everybody is a pair of good, comfortable walking shoes or sandals.
As an option, bring a money belt to wear under your clothing, always out of sight. In some areas where the crowds are dense, pick pocketing sometimes occurs i.e. Mount of Olives, Old City markets.
Security at the Airport:
Please note that security is very high at airports. Forbidden items in carry-on luggage or purses include: all liquids (except, you are allowed containers of liquid that are 100 ml (3floz) max.), beverages, gels, creams, lotions, hand sanitizers, etc. in large amounts. All sharp items are forbidden as
well: nail clippers, pocket knives, scissors, etc.
Bank, Currency and Credit Cards:
Israel has a sophisticated banking system. The currency is the SHEKEL. The U.S. dollar and major credit cards (American Express, Diners Club, Visa and MasterCard/Access/Eurocard) are widely accepted throughout Israel. You will have opportunity to change dollars into shekels at the airport upon arrival. ATM Machines are available as in Canada. Check http://www.xe.com for up to date currency exchange rates.
Israel operates on 220 volts, 50 cycles. Make sure that your electric shavers and hair dryers have 220-volt adapters. Luxury hotels have a 110-volt outlet for shavers, etc. in the bathroom. Most hotels have hair dryers.
Bus driver and the tour guides will be carrying a cell phone. You can rent a cell phone when you arrive at Ben Gurion International Airport and return it upon departure (advance reservations aren't necessary). Also a sim card is about 100 shekels. Wifi is usually pretty accessible.
Most pay phones operate with a plastic credit card sized phone card, available in most hotels and news stands. Cards of 20, 50 and 100 units are often available.
How to call Israel:
To place a call to Israel from North America, dial 011-972 and then the number in Israel. You can purchase an international calling card in Israel, as it is very expensive to call home from the hotels in Israel. To call out of Israel you will need to dial 014 or 016.
You can access the Internet from most hotel Business Centres, or with your own laptop from the comfort of your hotel room. Wireless access is available in Israel. And you'll find Internet Cafes and public Internet outlets all over Israel. Also a lot of the hotels offer free wi-fi.
Hebrew and Arabic are the official languages. English is the most common second language and appears on road signs.
There is a seven hours time difference between Israel and EST. (6:00 am Jerusalem minus 7 hours is Midnight EST. Ten hour time difference between Jerusalem and Vancouver.)
There will be plenty of opportunities throughout the tour to shop.
Value Added Tax (VAT):
There is 17% value added tax on most goods and services in Israel. At retail stores, this tax is already included in the price. Upon making a purchase of $ 50.00 or more at a gift store that has an agreement with the VAT authorities, you should fill out a form at the store and have it stamped there. Upon your departure at the airport, you will be eligible, upon presenting the form, for a 17% refund prior to leaving the country. Tourist services, such as hotel accommodations and meals taken in hotels and paid
with foreign currency are exempt from VAT tax.
Not required for tourists entering the country.
You don't need to worry about water and fresh produce. The water is safe to drink throughout Israel. However, some of the minerals in the water are different and have caused some people to feel queasy at first. If you prefer, bottled water is available everywhere.
Israel has amazing food! Lots of fresh fruits and vegetables. Kosher means that food conforms to Jewish dietary laws, so meat and dairy products are not served during the same meal. All meals in hotels will be kosher.
It is customary to tip tour services. Typical rates:
Bell boys: $1 per person for handling luggage
Dining halls in hotels: $2 per person
Tour guide: $7 per person per day
Bus driver: $5 per person per day
At restaurants: 10 - 15%
Passports and Visas:
BRING YOUR PASSPORT! THE PASSPORT MUST BE VALID FOR AT LEAST 6 MONTHS FOLLOWING THE DATE OF ENTRY INTO ISRAEL. You will receive an AL-17 form upon entry into Israel. Don't throw it away. Keep it with your passport and airline ticket and bring it with you for departure.
Remember to bring your Bible