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Tips for Traveling to Israel

Many have asked us,

What do I need to know before I travel to Israel? What should I bring?

Packing

Passport

All travelers to Israel must have a valid passport with an expiration date no less than 6 months from entry into Israel. All travelers from the USA, Western Europe, Canada, Australia and South Africa will receive a visa immediately upon entry without charge and without any prior application. A tourist visa in Israel lasts for 3 months.

As many Arab countries could give you a hard time with an Israeli stamp in your passport, if you plan to visit an Arab country in the near future, you can request that the Israeli passport control place the visa on a piece of paper attached to your passport.

Customs

You can bring up to $200 (100 Euros) worth of tax-free gifts into Israel without penalties.

You are technically not allowed to take archaeological artifacts or antiques out of Israel without a special certificate. However, most trinkets sold to tourists would not fall into this category.

What Do I Need?

Bring

Before departing, it is advisable to check with the airline regarding their specific baggage allowances. Many airlines have recently changed their policy from allowing two checked bags of 50 lbs. (23 kilos) each to only allowing one checked bag of 50 lbs (23 kilos). On the other hand, you are not likely to want to transport more than one bag from place to place. Most airlines also allow you one smaller personal item/carry on bag (small roller bag, backpack) and a purse or briefcase.

When packing, be sure to put anything of great value in your carry on, as long as it is not on the list of prohibited items which will be listed below. Also, remember to put any prescription medicines in your carry on, in their original containers with a prescription label. In addition to this, it is advisable that all keys, camera, computer and all electronics and chargers be put in your carry on.

Other Tips:
Check the weather in various cities in Israel and pack accordingly. Israel’s weather can vary dramatically, even in the same season. Also, remember to pack a few pain relievers or anti-inflammatory medicines in case of headache or sore muscles. Sunscreen is another important item to pack, as the sun in Israel can be strong and you do not want to be suffering from a painful sunburn while trying to enjoy your trip.

Don't Bring

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Box Cutters
Any kind of knife**
Meat Cleavers
Razor blade (disposable razors for shaving are ok)
Scissors with blades longer than 4 inches
Liquid Bleach
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Hammers
Drills
Tools Larger than 7"
Any explosive material (flares, fireworks)
Strike-anywhere matches
Aerosols greater than 3.4 oz.
All liquids or aerosols must be in containers marked less than 3.4 oz and placed together in 1 quart-sized clear plastic bag. Prescription medications and formula or breast milk for an infant are exempt from this restriction.

****Do not pack any form of knife, including pocket knives, as it is illegal to walk around with knives in Israel. This is seen as an unauthorized carrying of weapons and is taken very seriously. We have had past incidents with group members nearly being arrested for carrying pocket knives so please do not bring these items on your trip.

Travel Finances

All About Israeli Money

Israel uses the New Israeli Shekel (NIS) as its currency. The exchange rate between the Israeli shekel and the dollar changes day to day so it is best to check the exact exchange rate upon departure to Israel.

The shekel is comprised of coins called agorot. There are both small 10-agorot coins and larger 50-agorot coins. 1 shekel=100 agorot. Shekels are also in coins with values of 1, 2, 5, and 10 shekels and then bills of 20, 50, 100 and 200 shekels.

Exchanging Money

You can expect money exchange counters to have higher rates at the airport. It is advisable to only exchange a little at the airport (enough for a day or so) and to then exchange more once out of the airport. You can also exchange some money before you depart, at your local bank, or at your local American Express or Thomas Cooke offices. Once in Israel, there are money exchange counters with lower rates in most cities.

Using Automated Teller Machines (ATMs)

You can expect money exchange counters to have higher rates at the airport. It is advisable to only exchange a little at the airport (enough for a day or so) and to then exchange more once out of the airport. You can also exchange some money before you depart, at your local bank, or at your local American Express or Thomas Cooke offices. Once in Israel, there are money exchange counters with lower rates in most cities.

Traveler's Check

If you arrive with traveler’s checks, be aware that these are mostly useful for cashing at banks and money exchangers and are not accepted in many stores in Israel.

Health & Safety

Health

Generally, vaccinations are not needed to visit Israel, though it is always wise to have your regular vaccinations up to date. Furthermore, Israel has a modern and abundantly available network of medical care in case of contracting the flu or other emergencies. Be sure to pack any prescription medications needed for chronic conditions in your carry on luggage in their original pharmacy containers.

Water

Tap water is safe and drinkable in Israel, though the water by the Dead Sea is not pleasant to drink due to the salt content. Bottled water is also available for those who prefer.

Food

Food is also generally safe, even when buying shwarma or felafel off the street. Many restaurants in Israel are kosher, so you may not find meals made with milk in the same restaurants as meat. However, there are many options in both categories and also for vegetarians.

Safety

Israel is mostly safe, with a fairly low crime rate. For this reason, you will see children walking in the streets even at night or taking buses alone. Tourists are sometimes targeted for theft, though, and it is best to keep track of your belongings.

Most physical danger to tourists comes from automobile accidents as Israelis drive aggressively. It is always good to be aware of other cars, whether you are just a pedestrian or another driver.

Despite Israel being on the news frequently, the chance that you would be involved in a terror incident is very low, especially as part of a group of tourists. Israel has become expert at taking precautions to prevent terror attacks, as well. Most shopping areas are manned by security guards who check everyone as they enter.

Also for your safety, as well as to be culturally appropriate, it is advisable that you dress very modestly when in either an ultra-orthodox or an Arab neighborhood or town. This means to wear clothes that at least cover the shoulders and knees. Sometimes, tourists who walk unbeknownst into these neighborhoods are hassled, even if they think they are wearing “normal” clothes.

Communications

Phone

Staying connected to the United States is not very hard, as Israel is a very technologically advanced country. If you already have a phone that uses a SIM card, you should be able to bring it to Israel and buy a pay as you go SIM card from one of the cell phone distributors in Israel. You will need to let your US distributor know that you will be traveling so that they can “unlock” your phone for international use. Israeli phone distributors also have pay as you go phones for those who do not have SIM card technology. This will enable you to make phone calls within Israel
Options:
TalkNSave: www.talknsave.net

Amigo: www.amigo-us.com
Amigo can set you up with a phone for use in Israel, which will cost you about $1 a day and then 12 cents a minute to make calls from Israel to the United States. They will ship the phone to your US address before you depart and you must then ship it back to them when you return.
If you need to stay connected to family or colleagues overseas, there are a few options. You can used Voice Over Internet Protocol (VOIP), such as Skype, by connecting to any local Wi-Fi hotspot (some locations may charge for internet but there are many free spots too).

You can also check out a few resources that sign you up for a phone with a US number, even though you are overseas, so that calls to your home region will count as local.

Internet

As mentioned before, internet is widely available in Israel, though some places may require a code or even pre-payment.

There are many cybercafés in the larger cities, as well, if you do not have your personal computer.

Weather

Weather Across Israel

Weather in Israel can vary greatly from region to region, as well as from day to day within the same region. Some parts of Israel are humid and hot, others are more dry and cool and only warm in the summer. The best way to be prepared is to look at the forecasts for different areas and pack accordingly. It is probably best to pack layers so that you can always add a layer and remove it. The below cities represent different areas in Israel that you are likely to visit on your trip. If you click on the city, you will be redirected to a forecast for each.
Come Visit Israel!
Come Visit Israel!
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