Israel travel tips
Welcome to Israel. This fascinating country has a rich history and wonderful scenery for you to explore.
Visa and passport
Visas are usually issued for three months but vary according to nationality. Some nationalities do not require a visa or will be issued one upon arrival. Check with nearest Israel Embassy or Consulate for current visa requirements. Passports valid for six months beyond the duration of stay, an onward or return ticket, and proof of sufficient funds are required by all.
Ben Gurion Airport
Israel authorities have now developed the “Electronic Gate Pass” as a technological solution for those passengers wishing not to have their passports stamped with an Israel visa. The card is printed at the passport control and includes the principle details of the traveler. The tourist will be asked to keep the card at hand at all times.
An Israeli visa is issued upon arrival. f you wish not to have your passport stamped with an Israeli tourist visa – prior to Israeli passport control look for the 17L form. Fill this out and have it stamped (carry this around with you while in Israel as proof of tourist status). This loose leaf document is proof of tourist status and entitles you to hotel services and car rentals without VAT, as well as at specially registered duty free shops throughout the country.
Please be aware of any restrictions imposed by Israeli local authorities, and ensure that you do not enter any unauthorised areas. If unsure of the present situation, please seek advice from your tour guide or our local agent. Australians travelling to or resident in Israel should have comprehensive medical and travel insurance policies that include provision for medical evacuation by air.
No vaccines are required for entering Israel. Certain immunizations or boosters are sometimes recommended. Consult your local doctor if you have any concerns.
Israel has excellent medical facilities, and tourists may go to all emergency departments and first-aid centers. Health centers are marked by the red Star of David on a white background. However, any medical form of treatment can be expensive. Medical travel insurance is recommended.
Tap water is normally chlorinated, and whilst relatively safe, may cause mild abdominal upsets. Bottled water is available and is advised. Milk is normally pasteurized and dairy products are generally safe for consumption.
Even if your tour does not involve set walks or sporting activities, all sightseeing normally requires a moderate amount of walking around historical / cultural sites, so a good level of fitness will ensure you get maximum enjoyment from your visit.
Passport / Visa
Travellers are responsible for ensuring that their passport is valid for the entire duration of their stay abroad. In fact, in many countries, passports should be valid for at least 6 months after your planned travel period. Similarly, you are responsible for ensuring that you have all the correct visas for any countries that require them. Please check with your travel agent if unsure. Keep a photocopy of your passport, visa, air ticket and insurance policy (with emergency numbers) in a place separate from your actual documents.
Please ensure that you have comprehensive travel insurance to cover possible loss of possessions, illness and injury during your holiday. Many countries do not have national health systems and medical expenses can be astronomical. In particular, hospitalisation and air evacuation costs can be extremely high in many countries and the Australian government is not in a position to assist financially in these circumstances.
The local currency is the New Israeli Shekel (NIS) at approx. 4.0 shekels to $1USD exchange. ATM machines are widely available for withdrawing shekels. $US Dollars are accepted at all money changers. You will be given the opportunity to withdraw or change cash. $USD is accepted at many tourist shops. Have shekels handy for buying small items such as water and lunches.
Ensure your next of kin or friends have a copy of your travel itinerary in case they need to contact you urgently. Keep them informed regularly, especially if you change your travel plans.
ON YOUR HOLIDAY
Food & Drink
It is possible to drink the water in Israel, although bottled mineral water is also available. In all main cities you will find numerous side-walk cafes where most nationalities of food are represented. Specialities include: humus, shashlik and kebabs.
It is also advisable to carry a pack of wet wipes with you, as these are very useful when travelling. Some public toilets are very basic and we recommended you travel with tissues and wet wipes.
Clients with diabetes should ensure that they carry any necessary medicines or food with them.
Sun & heat
Pace yourself. Rest when possible & avoid the heat of mid-day in Summer. Wear a sun hat & sun cream.
New Israeli Shekel. This is divided into agorots. Denominations are 1, 5, 10 agorot coins and half shekels = 50 agorot. Tourists may bring an unlimited amount of foreign currency into the country. Currently this does not have to be declared. Some shops do not accept credit cards, therefore please take sufficient quantities of USD travellers cheques and USD cash. You may exchange shekels back to USD at any bank, however on departure a maximum of USD100.00 may be exchanged, after customs and passport control. (Please change all shekels prior to departing Israel). You should shop around if unsure of exchange rates & commission levels. Small denominations of USD are always useful, when seeking bargains or giving tips. On a day-to-day basis, try to avoid carrying more cash than you need for immediate purposes to reduce the potential loss from pick pocketing. If unsure, enquire at your hotel about safety deposit boxes.
Tipping is an important source of income for service providers in Israel. Please note the following recommendations:Private guide driving a minivan – $30-$60 per car per day
Transfers – $10-$20 per car per transfer
Porterage at hotels – $1 per bag in / $1 per bag out
Table service at restaurants – 10%-12% of the bill
The Sabbath begins at sunset on Friday around 5.00pm until sunset on Saturday – around 5.00 to 6.00pm. Many shops and restaurants are closed, as well as all banks. It may be difficult to exchange money on the Sabbath, but ATM’s are available everywhere for cash withdrawal. It is wise however to ensure that you have sufficient cash available.
Covered shoulders and knees are recommended when visiting holy sites (churches, synagogues and the Western Wall). Wear casual and comfortable clothing while touring and a good pair of shoes. Some sites such as Masada and Jerusalem Old City will require up to 2-3 hours walking on uneven ground.
For protection against the sun, a large sunhat, sunglasses and sun protection cream are advised. A large scarf can be useful. Comfortable flat walking shoes are essential. Avoid very brief clothing as the norm is semi-conservative attire particularly in Jerusalem, but in Tel Aviv, clothing is more relaxed particularly near the beach. (Long shorts are often worn to Masada, as it is often warmer there than in Jerusalem or Tel Aviv) A light jacket is recommended for evenings as most hotels and restaurants are air-conditioned.
Mediterranean, with a pleasant spring and autumn. Winters in the north can be cool. Rain in winter is widespread, particularly in Jerusalem. Snow is rare. Summers can be very hot, especially in the south. The Red Sea resort of Eilat has a good climate for beach holidays all the year round.
Video / Photography
At some sites you may be charged an additional amount if you wish to film with your video. Protect cameras from dust with lens caps & cases. Use high-speed film as flash photography is prohibited in many temples. Photography is completely forbidden in some areas. (Ask your guide for advice).
In the Old City of Jerusalem and other Arab market places, bargaining is a standard practice. However, in modern shops prices are fixed. Avoid bargaining for anything you have no intention of purchasing. Most stores in Israel are open daily from 9.00am-5.00pm. On Fridays and the eve of Jewish Holy days shops close around 2.00pm and Jewish shops are closed for the Sabbath. Muslim shops are closed on Fridays while Christian ones are closed on Sundays.
Hebrew is the most widely spoken language in the country, and Hebrew and Arabic are the official languages of Israel, although other languages, especially English are widely spoken.
Alcohol / Duty Free
The following goods may be imported into Israel without incurring customs duty (alcohol and tobacco can only be imported by persons aged 17 years and over):250 cigarettes or 250g of tobacco products; 1l of spirits and 2l of wine; 250ml of eau de cologne or perfume; gifts up to the value of US$150.
Stores are generally open from Sunday through Thursday 08:00-19:00 and Friday 08:00-14:00. Shops in hotels are often open until midnight. Due to the variety of religions in Israel, there are different shopping hours depending on the venue: Muslim shops close on Fridays, Jewish shops on Saturdays and Christian shops close on Sundays.
230 volts AC, 50Hz. Three-pin plugs are standard; if needed, adaptors can be purchased in Israel.
Naftali Tours is the Tour Company that is handling your arrangements in Israel. If you require any further assistance, please contact them at the following address:
30, Ha’arba Street | Tel Aviv | Israel
9am – 5pm Sunday to Thursday
TEL +972 3 522 4142
FAX +972 3 522 4143
Naftali Steg: (Mobile) +972 545 552 734
If you have a problem or complaint, it is easier if you can try and solve it on the spot. If not possible, please contact our LOCAL AGENT IMMEDIATELY, who are there to assist you, either at the office or on the after hours numbers. When given the opportunity to assist with a problem, our local agent will be pleased to assist you in any way possible. Please note it is not possible for us to remedy problems AFTER your tour has been completed.
All drivers and guides are on contract to our local agent. Therefore if you wish to arrange any additional arrangements please do so directly with our local agent.
No responsibility will be taken for any additional arrangements made directly with any guide or driver.
SOME INTERESTING FACTS ABOUT ISRAEL
Geography & Population
Israel is on the eastern Mediterranean, bordered by Lebanon and the Syrian Arab Republic to the north, Jordan to the east, and Egypt to the south. The autonomous Palestinian Authority Region lies mostly on the west bank of the River Jordan. The Gaza strip, in the south of the country, is also administered by the Palestinians. The country stretches southwards through the Negev Desert to Eilat, a resort town on the Red Sea. The fertile Plain of Sharon runs along the coast, while inland, parallel to the coast, is a range of hills and uplands with fertile valleys to the west and arid desert to the east. The Great Rift Valley begins beyond the sources of the River Jordan and extends south through the Dead Sea (the lowest point in the world), into the Red Sea, continuing on into Eastern Africa. Population: 6.7m (estimate 2005)
Population (Including East Jerusalem). 75m (2005)
Government: Republic. The state of Israel was founded in 1948.
Head of State: Shimon Peres since 2008.
Head of Government: Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu since 2009.
Religions: 77% Jewish, 15% Muslim, with Christian, Druze and other minorities.The Jewish religious day is Saturday – Shabbat – and begins at nightfall on Friday until nightfall on Saturday. Most public services and shops close early on Friday as a result. Muslim and Christian holidays are also observed by the respective populations. Thus, depending on the district, the day of rest falls on Friday, Saturday or Sunday.
Jerusalem – a brief history
King David made Jerusalem the capital of his kingdom in 1003 BC. In 586 BC Nebuchadnezzar the King of Babylon conquered Jerusalem putting it’s people into exile, and destroying it’s Religious Temple. Fifty years later when Babylon was conquered by the Persians, King Cyrus allowed the Jews to return to their homeland and granted them autonomy. A Second Temple was built on the site of the First. Alexander the Great conquered Jerusalem in 332 BC. Led by Judah Maccabee, the Jews defeated the Seleucids and rededicated the Temple (164 BC). Jewish independence was re-established under the Hasmonean dynasty, which lasted for more than a hundred years, until Pompey imposed Roman rule on Jerusalem. King Herod the Idumean was installed as ruler of Judah by the Romans and ruled (37-4 BCE). The Crusaders conquered Jerusalem in 1099, massacred it’s Jewish and Muslim inhabitants, and established the city as the capital of the Crusader Kingdom. Crusader rule over Jerusalem ended in 1187, when the city fell to Saladin the Kurd. The Ottoman Turks, whose rule lasted for four centuries, conquered Jerusalem in 1517. Suleiman the Magnificent, rebuilt the city walls (1537), constructed the Sultan’s Pool, and placed public fountains throughout the city. Jerusalem began to thrive once more in the latter half of the nineteenth century. In 1917 the British army led by General Allenby conquered Jerusalem. From 1922 to 1948 Jerusalem was ruled by British authorities. In 1948 British Mandate was terminated, and Israel proclaimed independence, with Jerusalem as it’s capital.