Specifically for Israel Trips:
Passport & Visa
A paper visa is issued at entry, which shows your stamp. Passports, themselves are no longer stamped upon arrival. All visitors must hold a passport that is valid for at least six months from the date they are departing the country.
Visas are issued upon arrival (free of charge) to USA, UK, Canadian, Australian, New Zealand and Irish passport holders.
Airport security getting to Israel is tight, no matter what airline you fly. The good news is that Israel is one of the safest places in the world to fly to, the bad is that the process can be a hassle. Leave three full hours to navigate security and expect lots of questions. Do not transport wrapped packages for friends or anything that may raise an eyebrow of an eager security official. Your suitcase may be searched before check-in, depending on which airline you fly.
Transportation from Ben Gurion Airport to Tel Aviv
There is a taxi stand outside of the arrival hall and the ride to Tel Aviv costs around 150 shekels. Most taxis in Israel do not accept credit cards, so best to use the ATM before exiting the airport. NOTE: like most airports, the exchange rate is awful at Ben Gurion thus it is better to withdraw cash from the ATM. Hailed taxis do not expect tips, however cars hired in advance do.
Haggling is expected in the Old City markets, and generally takes the form of a long conversation, sometimes with tea or coffee, going back and forth over the quality of the products and price offerings.
It is important to know that from sunset Friday through to sunset on Saturday is the Jewish Sabbath. Many businesses will be closed and public transportation does not run. In Tel Aviv, most restaurants and bars are still open.
Israel is a casual, yet fashionable country. It is uncommon to see anyone in formal wear like a necktie, even at a wedding. For touring days, Jewish, Christian, Islamic and Bahai religious sites require visitors to cover shoulders, chest, upper arms, and thighs to the knees.
There are two seasons: 1) a rainy season (October – April) with weather similar to California’s winter and 2) a dry season (May – September) that can be extremely hot with virtually no chance of precipitation.
Most signage has Hebrew, Arabic and English. Israelis tend to speak excellent English, as the population is not large enough to warrant dubbing television shows and movies into Hebrew. Here’s a brief dictionary of basic Hebrew that might help.
Hello – Shalom
Goodbye – Shalom
Please – Bevakashah
Thank you – Toda
English? – Anglit?
Yes – Ken
No – Lo
Bathroom - Sheiruteem
Identity and Political Correctness
Issues of identity in Israel-Palestine are incredibly complicated. In some aspects the country is very progressive, in others highly conservative. It is best to approach with an open mind to sift through the dynamics that make up society here. It can be easy to offend, or be offended, so best to err on the side of caution when discussing politics, religion, the modern Middle East, social issues, or your favorite hummus place.
Israel is a very safe country. Random crime, like pick-pocketing or being accosted by a stranger, is very seldom. Most violence is nationally motivated, so even though highly unlikely for a tourist to be the victim of such an attack, the sensational nature of the act makes international headlines. Thus, most tourists are pleasantly surprised how much safer Israeli is than what they expected prior to the trip.
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. Rule of thumb for coins, if there is silver in the coin it is shekel, if it is entirely bronze-colored it is Agorot (cents).
The most common ways of paying are by cash and credit card. Most taxis do not take credit cards, however both Uber and Gett apps operate in Israel. There are ATMs all over in cities (Bank Leumi and Bank Hapoalim being the most prevalent) and some even give the option of dispensing cash in dollars and euros.
Value Added Tax (VAT) is 17% and usually included in list prices. For souvenir shopping, any purchase over $100 is eligible for a tax refund at the airport upon departure. Ask at the store the purchase is made for details.
It’s a hot country with 330 days of sunshine a year. The body needs a tremendous amount of water to function properly here.
In restaurants, cafes and bars, the expected range for tips is around 12-15%. Tipping is expected for tour guides, privately hired drivers, and bellboys at hotels. No need to tip hailed cabs.