Tourist tips for Israel

We traveled in Israel for approx 3 weeks and learnt alot before departure, as well as the on the ground experience. We have compiled a list of helpful points that we hope will be of use to you.

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Passport

Israel customs don’t stamp your passport, you are instead given a small blue card upon entry. Don’t lose this as you need it to leave.

VISA

You don’t need a VISA unless you’re studying. In order to get these, make sure you apply with the consulate early as they take weeks to process.

Phones

Nearly all hotels and restaurants have free wi-Fi but if you want your phone to contact people and avoid getting lost, we’d recommend buying a SIM card in Israel to avoid roaming costs.

Tipping

Not expected but a general 10% tip would be recommended in restaurants.

Tourist Tax Back / VAT refund (Value Added Tax)

Stores tax 17 % in Israel, but as a tourist, you can qualify for a VAT refund when departing the county. Make sure you have receipts, a special tax-refund invoice, your passport and the goods purchased. To qualify, the item must have cost you more than 400 shekels. You cannot claim this for alcohol, food or tobacco. You also have to be a tourist and not on a work or student VISA.

Insurance

Don’t forget to get insurance before leaving home. Check your credit card policy because some provide insurance if you pay the full fare on your card.

Etiquette

Avoid discussing politics, dress appropriately and modest, especially at religious sites.

Be stern in what you want and need and don’t want. The locals are.

Money

They use the ILS (Israeli Shekels). We found prices in country similar to that of Australia. Nearly everywhere accepts cards and ATMs are widely available.

Electricity

Don’t forget your adapter. They use Type C (dual round prong), as well as Type H (three flat prong). Type C is what you most commonly see.

Shabbat

For International travellers who are not accustomed to Jewish tradition, you may not be familiar with Shabbat. It is A Jewish holy day or a day of rest. From Sundown Friday (approx 3pm) til Saturday approx 5/6pm (sometimes later), places close operation. Many businesses, services, and restaurants are unavailable including transport. Plan ahead and find things to do and stock up on food if needed. The Old City (Christian, Armenian Quarters and Muslim quarters) are open so you can certainly visit there. You will just need to book a taxi as trains and buses do not operate.

Safety

Don’t be alarmed in seeing security everywhere. Young people all do compulsory military service so it’s common to see plenty of people with guns, especially at large tourist sites. At most sites and even at the University, you will have bags checked and go through security checkpoints. Tours often have guards too. This means you always feel protected.

Be aware of the safety precautions so you know how to behave and act. Also know where the rocket shelters are in case sirens go off. But this shouldn’t be to scare you, but just so you know. I always felt safe, I walked around alone, even at night.

Keep abreast with information happening in the area, don’t travel near Gaza. The West Bank is also in 3 designated areas (A,B,C) and your travel insurance will not cover you if you venture into area A (ie. Bethlehem and Jericho). I downloaded the app “The times of Israel” for updates about anything going on whether it be demonstrations, road closures etc.

Register for updates from Smart Traveller in Australia (or similar in other countries) to ensure you’re up to date with the safety information.

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