TOP 10 ISRAEL TRAVEL TIPS
Enjoy a smooth and uninterrupted Israel experience
Ten Israel Travel Tips Worth Taking Onboard
First of all, let’s celebrate your upcoming trip to Israel. You’re going to have an AMAZING time! There are so many incredible and life-changing things to do and see here, and we couldn’t be more excited for you! Now, let’s make sure you get all your ducks in a row for a completely smooth and worry-free trip. Read on to learn our top ten Israel travel tips.
If you’re looking for a completely uncomplicated travel experience, talk to a tour specialist about creating a tour package that’s completely custom-built around your unique needs and preferences.
Tips 1-5: In the weeks and months prior to departure
1. Visas and Passports
All visitors to Israel require a passport that will be valid for at least six months after your scheduled departure date. Be sure to check your passports before finalizing your bookings so you have time to renew if necessary.
Visitors from the US, Canada, Europe, and select other nations require a simple visitor’s visa, which does not require advance approval. The visitor’s visa is free and will be printed out for you at the airport when you arrive in Israel.
You will need this blue visa slip to get through the airport, so keep it with your passport at all times. You’ll also be asked to present it during your stay (for example, when you check in to hotels). Everyone in your party will need their visa slips, so be careful not to misplace any of them. Read more about passports and visas.
2. 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. Travelers from the US and Canada can click here for a quote from a trusted company.
Travel insurance that includes coverage for COVID-19-related expenses may be required for entry to Israel. Please check with your Tour Specialist for up-to-date information about entry requirements.
3. Money stuff: currency, cash, credit cards, etc.
The local currency in Israel is the Israeli Shekel (ILS or NIS). Typically, $1.00 USD = 3.0 – 4.0 ILS (check today’s exchange rate). Most major credit cards can be used with a PIN to withdraw shekels from ATMs and are widely accepted at stores, restaurants, and other sites (debit cards are not widely accepted, even those with a Visa or MC symbol, so it’s best to plan to use your credit card). Please contact your bank and/or credit card company before you travel to alert them that you will be using your card overseas. You’ll need to have a PIN code for your credit card in order to withdraw cash; so please make sure you have that set up before you fly.
While you’ll be able to use your credit card for most purchases, you should also plan to have cash on hand for taxis, tips, and small purchases. When dining out, many restaurants are unable to add tips to a credit card charge, so we recommend having cash to tip servers (in shekels). Likewise, when you’re tipping your tour guide and/or driver at the end of your tour, you should plan to tip in cash (US Dollars or Israeli Shekels). See tipping suggestions below.
You will be able to exchange currency at the airport as well as at 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 on evenings, Sabbaths, or holidays, so withdrawing shekels from an ATM using your credit card is frequently the most convenient option. It’s not a bad idea to stop at the currency exchange counter at the airport so that you have cash in case you need it right away.
4. Cellular and Mobile Devices
Free WiFi is widely available throughout much of Israel. Additionally, if you’re traveling with us and your party includes 7 or more travelers, your minibus or coach will be equipped with WiFi for use during travel times (some smaller parties may also have WiFi in their touring vehicles). Except in more remote areas, WiFi is so widespread that 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 when you have access to a WiFi network, you can always reach your guide and Tour Specialist without having to make a phone call.)
However, for peace of mind and if you want to be assured of cellular service or a wireless connection at all times, you may wish to make arrangements to get a local SIM card or even a rental device. We recommend a local cellular provider such as TalkNSave, which has a number of different options available and plenty of experience providing services to tourists (as opposed to the many cellular shops and kiosks you’ll see when you’re in Israel). Alternatively, your cellular provider may offer a suitable international plan that will allow you to keep your current SIM card and maintain access to all of your contacts, etc. Regardless of which route you choose, 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 and you’ve given yourself enough time to make arrangements.
5. Climate and Weather
Summer (June – September):
Depending on where you are, summer temperatures in Israel 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.)
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 (Tiberias and parts of the Golan are VERY hot in summer); evening temps pleasant to cool
Tel Aviv – 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.
Winter (December – February):
The winter months in Israel are generally cool and damp, and rain is not uncommon (although it tends to be sporadic). Occasionally, nighttime temperatures can get close to freezing, primarily in Jerusalem and the north. On very rare occasions, it even snows a little (this causes a great deal of excitement for locals). 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, insulated raincoat and consider bringing along a warmer hat and gloves in case the temperatures run cold. Likewise, you may want to have a warmer coat and scarf/gloves for days when you’re going to be outdoors a lot.
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.
Tips 6-10: While you’re visiting Israel
5. Shabbat and Holidays
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 (1:00 or 2:00 pm) on Fridays (the Sabbath begins at sundown) 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, Haifa, and Tiberias) 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 do 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).
Holidays can be a very special time to visit Israel, but they can also add some complications, especially in cities like Jerusalem. It’s best to discuss your travel plans with a local expert, so you can be sure that your whole trip will go according to plans.
6. Tipping in Israel
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, private drivers, hotel staff, and restaurant servers. Please note: the suggestions listed below reflect local customs, not the opinions or positions of Dekel Tours.
Suggested tip amounts:
- Tour Guides – We suggest tipping your guide once, on your last tour day:
- For families/groups of up to 12 guests – $80-120 USD per day of touring.
- For 12 guests or more – $8-12 USD per guest, per day.
- Tour Drivers – We suggest tipping your driver 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.
- Restaurant Service (if not included in 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.
- Note: In order to add a tip to a credit card payment at a restaurant, you’ll have to ask the server to add in the amount BEFORE they ring you up. Some restaurants don’t offer this option, so plan to have cash on you, just in case.
- Private car service to/from the airport:
- $10-15 USD to/from Tel Aviv or Jerusalem.
- for other transfers, please ask your Tour Specialist for a recommendation.
- Hotel Staff:
- Bellhops – $1-2 USD per piece of luggage
- Room deliveries – $2-3 USD
- Taxis: it is not expected to tip taxi drivers in Israel. However, if they help you with luggage, it is customary to tip 5 shekels per piece of luggage.
- Activity guides (graffiti/market/museum tours, Jeep tours, boat tours, etc.) – $15-20 USD (or equivalent in Shekels) per activity.
7. Safety and Security in Israel
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, passport, and other valuables in a safe place out of the reach of pickpockets and avoid exchanging currency anywhere other than at an authorized establishment.
It is generally very safe to travel within Israel. That said, we understand where we live. When you’re traveling with Dekel Tours, you can travel with confidence. We take your security very seriously, 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.
8. Electrical Appliances 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 220-240 volt electrical input or an appliance that is compatible with multiple voltages, then only a plug adapter is required if the product’s plug shape doesn’t match the outlet. If you are plugging in an appliance from the US and it reads 110-120 volts only, then you will require a voltage converter/transformer. Most cell phones, laptops, and other mobile devices are compatible with multiple voltages, but the voltage specifications should be printed or embossed on the power cord for reference.
9. VAT (Value-Added Tax)
VAT of 17% is automatically charged on goods and services in Israel, but tourists are exempt from VAT in many (though not all) circumstances. 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 ILS. 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 and passport at the designated counter at the airport. Please note, you must arrive at the airport earlier than normal on your departure day, and you may be asked to present the purchased items themselves at the counter. If you plan to claim a VAT refund on your way home, please let your Tour Specialist know so they can arrange your transportation for earlier than usual.
Hotel accommodations are typically exempt from VAT, and if Dekel Tours has arranged your accommodations, your package price already reflects that exemption. You will be asked to present your passport and your blue entry visa slip when you check into your hotels. 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.
10. Taxis and Transportation
If you take a taxi to dinner or somewhere else around town, ask the driver to turn on the meter (and make sure it’s reset). 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. Your hotel concierge can tell you approximately how much is reasonable for a taxi ride to your destination.
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 good 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.
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).
Public transportation is plentiful in cities, though buses can be challenging for tourists as stops aren’t always announced (and they’re never announced in English). Bus drivers may also not have strong enough English to be very helpful, and they need to keep to a tight schedule so they may be curt when asked for assistance in English. The national railways are a bit easier for tourists to navigate, though train lines don’t cover the whole country, and service between cities is limited in the evenings (and unavailable on Shabbat and holidays).