Dekel Tours knows planning a trip to Israel can be complicated.
We’re here to answer your questions.
Working with Dekel Tours
What services does Dekel Tours provide?
Dekel Tours creates unforgettable, custom Israel experiences for private tours. Why private? Because we don’t believe in cookie-cutter tours. Because we believe that your Israel experience should be tailored to your unique tastes and preferences. Because we know that there’s far more to see and do in Israel than what you might get in a generic group tour that’s designed to create the minimum experience for the maximum number of participants.
Our trip planning and operations services include:
A free phone consultation during which one of our expert Tour Specialists will learn about you, the other travelers in your party, and your travel wishes and preferences.
A fully customized trip package built around your proposed travel dates, reason for visiting Israel (i.e., B’nai Mitzvah celebration, Holy Land experience, etc.), and special interests. Your package includes:
- Personalized touring itinerary that focuses on as much or as little of the country as you wish (including all the adjusting, tweaking, and fine-tuning you want until it’s absolutely perfect);
- Complete touring services, including your own private English-speaking tour guide, all your transportation needs, entrance fees at all sites and activities included in the itinerary, and much more;
- Expert guidance in choosing the best hotel accommodations for you and your party. Your Tour Specialist will learn about your party’s needs and preferences and narrow down the hotel options for you. You’ll make your choice (or request further options), and we’ll take care of all the arrangements (including a lavish breakfast at the hotel every morning).
- Comprehensive travel concierge services: VIP escort through the airport upon arrival, airport transfers on arrival and departure days, last-minute changes and special requests, problem solving, 24/7 support while we’re hosting you in Israel, and more;
- Full service special event coordination, if applicable;
- Available extras and add-ons: Eilat mini-vacations; all-inclusive trip extensions to Jordan and Egypt; mind-blowing premium activities (e.g. helicopter rides, flying ATVs, full-day and night Israeli warrior training adventures, and literally anything else on your bucket list).
The unlimited support of your Tour Specialist and full backing of Dekel Tours from the moment you start planning until you take off on your flight home.
The peace of mind that comes with knowing that we’ve taken care of everything so all you have to do is get on a plane and enjoy the trip of a lifetime.
Do you offer group tours?
We create custom tours for private groups of all sizes, but we do not offer pre-made, set-date group tours that travelers can join or sign up for. All of our tours are private.
What services DOESN’T Dekel Tours provide?
We will take care of everything you need and want while you’re in Israel. We don’t arrange your flights to and from Israel, however. This will allow you the freedom to set your own travel dates, choose the flight that’s the most comfortable for you, use your earned miles, earn rewards, etc.
How does booking with Dekel Tours work?
We’re here to make the whole process as easy and comfortable for you as possible. Here’s what you can expect from the moment you contact Dekel Tours with an inquiry:
- Contact us by phone, email, or through our website, and one of our friendly, English-speaking Tour Specialists will reach out to you ASAP to set up your free phone consultation.
- During the phone consultation, we’ll find out about you and the other travelers in your party, when you’re planning to come to Israel, and what kind of touring you’d like to do. We’ll also learn about your interests, tastes and preferences, and travel budget. Moving forward, most of the back and forth between you and your Tour Specialist will happen over email, at the pace that you find most comfortable. If you ever prefer to chat on the phone, your Tour Specialist is just a phone call away, and we’re always happy to set up a call (at our expense, of course!) at a time that’s convenient for everyone.
- Over the next few days, your Tour Specialist will put together a preliminary package proposal, which includes your custom touring itinerary and pricing options based on a few different hotel packages.
- If your itinerary looks perfect and you’re ready to choose your hotel package, all you have to do is confirm your choice with your Tour Specialist, and we’ll set the wheels in motion. If you want to make changes to your itinerary or you’d like to see an additional hotel package option (or a combination of two hotel packages), no problem. Your Tour Specialist will keep fine-tuning until everything looks perfect.
- After you’ve confirmed your package choice, you’ll put down a deposit to lock in your trip, and we’ll get to work putting it all together.
- Over the next few months, we’ll be in contact periodically to update you as things get finalized. And, of course, any time you have questions, you’re more than welcome to reach out.
- As your trip approaches, we’ll be in contact to make sure all the arrangements are exactly as you’d like them. When the big day finally comes, we’ll be as excited as you are!
What kinds of tours does Dekel Tours operate?
We create and operate private Israel tours for individuals, families, and groups. Every tour we create is custom built around the specific travelers in a particular party, whether they’re a couple celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary, a family of five on their first trip to Israel, a multi-generational family of 30 celebrating the joint b’nai mitzvah of three cousins, a church or synagogue group of 50 coming together to experience the richness of the Holy Land, or any other private party (schools, camps and community groups, political delegations, etc.).
We’d be happy to create a special interest tour that revolves around one or two of your passions: architecture, adventure sports, food and wine, yoga, military and political history, archaeology, nature and outdoor exploration, and more. And we’re equally happy to build you an “Israel highlights” tour that covers a broad spectrum of Israeli cultural, historical, religious, and contemporary attractions. And if you want it both ways, we can do that too and create the perfect blend of Israel’s “must-sees” with as many built-in specialty days as you’d like.
How far in advance should I start planning?
Most of our guests start planning their trips six months to a year prior to their arrival, though some start planning as little as one month or as much as two years in advance. While not impossible, last-minute trips are best during off-peak travel times, as hotels and other touring arrangements can get fully booked well in advance. If you’re planning a trip during peak travel times (second half of December, June-July, and around the Passover holiday), we recommend planning at least a few months in advance, and more if possible, as many hotels sell out during those times.
When is the best time to visit Israel?
Israel is a very tourism-friendly country, so there’s really no wrong time to visit. However, many tourist attractions may be closed on the Sabbath (sundown Friday through sundown Saturday) and major holidays and observances, so you should consider that when you’re planning the length of your trip. Your hand-crafted touring itinerary will account for the Sabbath and any holidays during your stay. Peak travel months are December (second half), June, and July; the Passover (spring) and Sukkot (fall) holidays are also quite busy. While travel during peak seasons isn’t usually difficult, it does tend to be more expensive, and it’s best to book well in advance. If you’re flexible with your travel dates, off-peak touring can be a great value.
Why do you recommend traveling with a professional tour guide?
Simply put, Israel is one of those places with so many fascinating and complicated stories to tell that it’s just not enough to show up and look at sites of interest. An expert tour guide can help you put the experience of visiting a site in context. She or he can weave together your entire Israel journey and help you truly understand where you are. Your private tour guide brings your touring itinerary to life with stories, humor, insight, and background that you can’t get from reading plaques and signs.
What about restricted sites?
Dekel Tours does not bring tourists anyplace where we cannot guarantee your safety and security, such as military zones or other restricted locations. As an Israel-based company, we work with the Israeli government to ensure that our guests are safe; for this reason, we do not bring tourists into territories beyond Israeli authority (for example, Gaza).
Some sites of interest that are open to and generally safe for tourists to visit are subject to unannounced closures if the security situation demands increased prudence. For this reason, we cannot guarantee that you will be able to visit certain contested religious sites (for example, the Temple Mount and the Cave of the Patriarchs), even if those sites have been included in your touring itinerary.
Are you able to accommodate our food and dietary restrictions?
Food allergies and sensitivities as well as special diets (vegetarian, vegan, etc.) are increasing in prevalence in Israel; the result is increased awareness and willingness to accommodate dietary restrictions. When dining at your hotel, there will always be a member of the kitchen staff who can walk you through the options that are safe for you. Restaurant staff are also generally helpful and forthcoming about what may not be safe on their menus. Your guide and driver will be made aware of dietary restrictions and take them into consideration when planning any meals en route. That said, we strongly encourage you to take the same precautions as you would at home: always be prepared for accidental exposure, avoid eating items with a large risk of cross-contamination, and carry safe snacks in the event that you find yourself off-the-beaten track with limited safe dining options.
What kinds of vehicles do you provide?
Each tour is equipped with a spacious, air-conditioned vehicle with enough interior and storage room to comfortably accommodate all passengers and their belongings, as well as your tour guide (who, in the case of smaller parties, may also serve as the driver). Vehicles range in size from 4-door sedans to full-sized coaches. Your Tour Specialist can further discuss your vehicle options with you, including letting you know what kinds of upgraded vehicles may be available.
Is it possible to travel with an elderly relative who might have physical limitations?
Dekel Tours welcomes all of our guests with open arms, and we’ll build your touring itinerary around you and your family’s needs. We’ll make sure to pack your itinerary with accessible sites, pace your days wisely so as to accommodate the extra time needed to get around, and ensure that your hotels are prepared to offer accessible rooms. If you need to rent or borrow special equipment for the duration of your stay, we will gladly help with that as well. Please let your Tour Specialist know about anyone in your party with special needs as early as possible during the trip planning process, so we can be sure to make all the necessary arrangements.
Traveling in Israel:
What can I expect at Israeli hotels?
On the whole, Israeli hotel rooms tend to run a bit smaller than typical American hotel rooms (they’re closer in size to European hotel rooms), but room sizes usually increase as you go up in property rating and room category. Additionally, only a select few Israeli hotels have American king-sized beds in their rooms; however, double beds here are typically closer in size to a king than to a queen.
When we’re choosing the hotels for a custom tour package, we take a number of factors into consideration. We’ll be sure to choose hotels that make geographic sense with your itinerary, offer all the amenities you’re looking for within your budget, and have room configurations that work for your party. We take all the guesswork out of the hotel search and narrow down the list to a few great options. That way you can be sure that any choice you make will be the right one for you. And because we’re not limited to a small number of hotel partners, we’re happy to work with any hotel in Israel so we can be sure that we’re truly offering you the best hotels for your needs. Let your Tour Specialist know about any special requests, including if you’d like to book hotels from a particular chain.
Hotel Rooms and Dining info:
- If you request separate beds, you can expect a room with two twin-sized beds, rather than two doubles.
- If you’re hoping for a triple occupancy room, please be aware that this typically involves a pull-out couch or a roll-in bed, so this option is best suited for children under the age of 12. Very few hotels offer a quadruple occupancy room, though some hotels do offer family-friendly options, including family suites, adjoining rooms, or connecting rooms.
- Hotels typically offer large, impressive breakfast buffets with Israeli-style breakfast options, including large arrays of interesting salads and cold dishes; nice selections of cheeses, breads and sweet-rolls, and smoked fish; cold cereals, yogurts, fresh and dried fruits; hot dishes such as shakshuka (a traditional Israeli dish of baked tomatoes and eggs) and roasted vegetables; and a full-service espresso/coffee bar. Many hotels also have egg/omelet stations and even pancakes and waffles.
- Some hotels offer dinner or have restaurants with dinner options. We usually recommend dining about town when you’re staying in a city with many options. If you’re staying in a more remote area, such as the north or the south, we’ll set you up with dinner at your hotel as there are fewer options for dining out in the vicinity of your hotel.
Is it safe to travel around Israel?
It is very safe to travel within Israel. That said, we take your security very seriously, and we understand where we live. Please be assured that we receive daily updates from the Israeli security establishment, as well as the Ministry of Tourism and the US State Department; in the event that developments in the security situation necessitate, we are prepared to make up-to-the minute changes to your itinerary in order to avoid bringing you someplace that might not be safe, for any reason.
Security measures in Israel are relatively tight and typically not related to any current threat. You may notice armed security guards and/or metal detectors at the entrances of large public establishments, and you and your bags may be checked on your way in. Unattended bags are quickly checked and/or confiscated by the authorities, so do not leave personal items unattended even for a short time. These measures have become part of daily life for Israelis, and they are not an indication of danger or risk.
In general, crime is relatively low in Israel, but you should still take certain precautions to avoid being victimized: keep your wallet in a safe place out of the reach of pick-pockets, leave your passports and other valuables in the safe in your hotel room as much as you can, and avoid exchanging currency anywhere other than at an authorized establishment.
Can I use taxis and public transportation during my leisure time?
All Israeli taxis are white vehicles with standard yellow taxi signs on the roof. If you wish to take a taxi to dinner or somewhere else around town, make sure you’re traveling in an official taxi and ask the driver to turn on the meter (make sure it’s reset before the trip). Surcharges of between 5 and 12 shekels are standard, and there may be additional surcharges (up to 25%) at night, on the Sabbath or a holiday, or if you’re traveling with luggage. Even with surcharges, however, taxis are relatively cheap in Israel. If you’re taking a taxi outside of the city, it’s best to agree on the fare before the trip begins. The hotel concierge can tell you approximately how much is reasonable for a taxi ride to your destination. It is not customary or expected to tip your taxi driver, except if he or she helps you with luggage (in that case, 5 shekels per piece of luggage is a reasonable tip).
Many taxis only accept cash (shekels), so if you want to pay with a credit card, make sure you ask the driver before getting into his cab. Gett Taxi is a great app for local taxi service, especially in major cities; it allows you to order cabs to your current location (or any other location) and automatically pay through your credit card.
Public transportation is safe and plentiful within major cities, except on holidays and the Sabbath (beginning the afternoon/evening before), though city buses can sometimes be difficult for tourists to navigate (drivers don’t always speak English and stops may not be announced). The inter-city railway is comfortable and more accessible to tourists, with signage, announcements, and information booths in English.
Is Israel a budget-friendly tourist destination?
In short, no. Many of the major elements of a trip to Israel (including accommodations, dining, and shopping) are generally more expensive than those of many other international tourist destinations. Prices tend to be comparable to those in New York and London. While it’s not possible to make Israel cheaper, your Tour Specialist will help you maximize your budget and make great choices for where and when to splurge.
Do I need travel insurance?
We strongly recommend that you purchase comprehensive travel insurance in the event that you need to cancel your trip for personal, medical, or other reasons. We suggest that all insurance be arranged through a travel agent in your home country. If claims have to be made, it is much easier to deal with a local insurance company upon your return than to collect reimbursements from an insurance company in Israel. For more information about US-based insurance policies, please feel free to contact Karen Berger at Preferred Naples Travel, located in Florida. Please be sure to let her know you are traveling with Dekel Tours.
What currency is accepted in Israel?
The local currency in Israel is the New Israeli Shekel (NIS). Typically, $1.00 USD = 3.3 – 4.0 NIS (check today’s exchange rate). Visa and MasterCard bank or credit cards can be used to withdraw shekels from most ATMs and are also widely accepted for payment in shops, hotels, and restaurants. American Express is increasingly accepted as well. It is strongly recommended to contact your bank and/or credit card company before you travel to alert them that you will be using your card overseas.
Almost all cash transactions must be made in NIS (though you can plan to tip your guide and driver in US dollars, if you prefer). You will be able to exchange currency at the airport as well as post office branches, banks, and licensed currency exchanges. You should bring your passport with you when you go to exchange currency. Please note, however, that many establishments are not open evenings, sabbaths, or holidays, so withdrawing shekels from an ATM using your credit or debit card is frequently the most convenient option.
Value-Added Tax (VAT)
VAT of 17% is automatically charged on goods and services in Israel, but tourists are exempt from VAT in many circumstances. Upon entering the country, you will receive a blue visa slip at passport control. You will be asked to present this visa slip along with your passport when you check in to your hotels in order to document that you are exempt from VAT at the hotel. If Dekel Tours has arranged your accommodations, your package price reflects the VAT exemption. Please note that tourists with Israeli citizenship, even those living permanently abroad, are not exempt from VAT. If you or anyone in your party is an Israeli citizen, please be sure to let us know.
Additionally, you may receive a refund for VAT paid on purchased goods that you will be bringing home with you, as long as the purchase price is at least 125 NIS. In order to claim this refund, you must complete a form (many shops can provide you with the form) and present it as well as your original receipt, passport, and blue visa slip at the designated counter at the airport. Please note, you must arrive to the airport earlier than normal on your departure day, and you may be asked to present the purchased items themselves at the counter, so it’s best to pack them in your carry-on luggage.
What is an appropriate amount to tip for services received?
As the recipient of services, it is always left to your discretion whether and how much to tip. However, as tipping standards vary from place to place, you may find the guidelines below helpful. It is accepted practice in Israel to tip tour guides, drivers (except taxis*), hotel staff, and restaurant servers. Please note: gratuities for your tour guide and/or driver are not included your package price. Suggested tip amounts:
Tour Guides – We suggest tipping your guide once, on your last tour day:
- For families/groups of up to 12 guests – $80-100 USD per day of touring.
- For 12 guests or more – $7-10 USD per guest, per day of touring.
Tour Drivers – We suggest tipping your driver once, on your last tour day:
- For families/groups of up to 12 guests – $70-90 USD per day of touring.
- For 12 guests or more – $6-8 USD per guest, per day of touring.
Restaurant Service (if not included your bill):
- For up to 8 in your party – 10-15% of the bill.
- For parties of 8 and more – 15-18% of the bill.
- $10-15 USD to/from Tel Aviv or Jerusalem.
- for other transfers, please ask your Tour Specialist for a recommendation.
- Bellhops – $1-2 USD per piece of luggage
- Room deliveries – $2-3 USD
- No tip is required or expected.
- However, if the driver helps you with luggage, it is customary to tip 5 shekels per piece of luggage.
Do I need a visa to enter Israel?
If you’re visiting with a North American or European passport, you do not need a visa to enter Israel. If you’re visiting from elsewhere, please check with your Tour Specialist regarding visa requirements.
Do I need vaccinations before traveling to Israel?
Vaccinations are not required for tourists entering Israel from Western countries.
Will the Sabbath and holidays affect my travel plans?
The Israeli work week is Sunday through Thursday, and most businesses, restaurants, and shops are open standard hours on weekdays. (Banks sometimes keep more unpredictable business hours, so if you need the services of a bank teller, you should check the operating hours before going.) Many businesses close early on Fridays (the Sabbath begins at sundown, but shops and restaurants frequently close earlier in the day) and stay closed through the end of the Sabbath (sundown on Saturday), including all kosher restaurants and dining establishments. In larger urban areas (e.g., Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, Eilat, and Haifa) non-kosher dining options are more plentiful, though many shops and businesses will be closed. In more remote areas, such as the Upper Galilee and Mitzpe Ramon regions, it can be near impossible to find restaurants that operate on the Sabbath.
National and religious holidays and observances in Israel begin the evening before, and businesses typically operate as they would on the Sabbath – if they are open on the Sabbath, they’re likely to be open on the holiday (note: this is NOT true for Yom Kippur, when even non-kosher establishments will be closed). If you are going to be in Israel on Yom Kippur, it’s best to plan for a day of quiet reflection, rest, and relaxation, since touring and traveling about won’t be possible.
Can I drink the tap water?
Israeli tap water is perfectly safe to drink, except at the Dead Sea. However, because you may not be used to the mineral make-up of the water here, there’s a chance you may feel slightly nauseated after drinking a large glass of tap water (you shouldn’t have an issue with the small quantities needed for brushing your teeth, taking pills, and the like). This reaction isn’t terribly common and is typically not a sign of illness, but it may be unpleasant, nonetheless. Bottled water is very readily accessible if you choose to avoid the tap water. Regardless of whether you’re drinking tap water or bottled water, please remember to drink plenty of fluids throughout the day and to avoid alcoholic beverages in the sun.
What kind of weather should I expect for my trip?
For such a small country, Israel has extremely varied weather. The weather during your trip will depend largely on when you’re planning to travel and where you are on a given day.
During the warmer months (June-September), temperatures can range from pleasant to extremely hot, with plenty of variability between day and night. The bottom line is that you should expect hot temperatures most of the time but be prepared for temperatures that might fall a bit in the evening. The sun is hotter and stronger than you may be used to, so please make sure you pack sun protection (hat, breathable long-sleeved shirts, sunblock, etc.). Because of how hot it gets outside, Israelis tend to run the air conditioning on full blast, so you might need to bring extra layers if you’re going to be indoors (museums, restaurants, etc.).
Typical summer weather by region:
- Jerusalem – very dry and hot during the day; evening temps comfortable to cool
- North – pleasant to hot during the day; evening temps pleasant to cool
- Tel Aviv – very hot and humid, but more comfortable at the beach; evening still humid and warm
- Eilat and Desert – VERY HOT and very dry; evenings stay hot and dry.
The colder months (December-February) are generally cooler and damp, and rain is common (although it tends to be sporadic). Occasionally, nighttime temperatures can get close to freezing, primarily in Jerusalem and the north. However, the days do warm up if the sun is shining, especially in the desert regions, so it’s best to dress in layers. Most touring will still go on as planned if it’s raining, so please pack waterproof walking shoes and a good raincoat and consider bringing along a warmer hat and gloves for days with a lot of outdoor touring.
Typical winter weather by region:
- Jerusalem – chilly and damp during the day; cold at night.
- North – chilly and damp during the day, but pleasant in the sun; cold at night.
- Tel Aviv – chilly and damp during the day, but pleasant in the sun; chilly at night.
- Eilat and Desert – dry and pleasant during the day; cooler-to-cold at night.
Weather during transitional months (November, March-April) can be very difficult to predict, and you should expect a bit of everything.
October and May tend to be mild and pleasant, with plenty of warm sunshine.
Will I be able to do laundry while I’m in Israel?
While laundry services may be available while you’re traveling in Israel, they may be expensive and/or inconvenient. We therefore recommend packing enough clothing to last through your trip, including some basic items that can easily be washed by hand in your hotel room if necessary.
At many larger hotels, laundry services are available for those items you may wish to have professionally cleaned, but keep in mind that this tends to be quite expensive. We don’t recommend using public laundry facilities while you’re traveling in Israel.
Can I use my electronic devices in Israel?
Electrical outlets in Israel supply electricity at between 220 and 240 volts (for reference, American and Canadian outlets supply electricity at 110 – 120 volts). If you’re plugging in an appliance that was built for 220- to 240-volt electrical input or an appliance that is compatible with multiple voltages, then only a plug adapter is required. If you are plugging in an appliance that accepts 110 – 120 volts only, then you will require a voltage converter/transformer. Most cellphones, laptops, and other mobile devices are compatible with multiple voltages.
Will I have Internet access?
WIFI is widely available throughout most of Israel and will be accessible almost everywhere at no charge. Additionally, if your party includes 7 or more travelers, your minibus or coach will be equipped with WIFI for use during travel times. Because WIFI is so widespread in Israel, many travelers can get by without purchasing local cellular service or getting an international plan from their home cellular providers. (You can use WhatsApp to message or call virtually anyone in Israel, so you can always reach your guide and Tour Specialist without having to make a phone call.)
However, if you need to be assured of cellular service or a wireless connection at all times, your local cellular provider may offer a suitable international plan. If you wish to look into the option of having an Israel-based cellular plan, your Tour Specialist can recommend a provider and help you arrange a device or SIM delivery to your hotel. We suggest you consider all your options a few weeks prior to your flight, so you know you’ve chosen the option that best meets your needs.