Shalom my fellow Wanderlusters!
Israel is a diverse country in every single aspect. I got the chance to visit this beautiful and historically important country on the Asian continent.
Israel Travel Tips // Israel 101 // Israel for Beginners
- The official languages are Hebrew and Arabic
- Remember Shalom and Toda Raba which mean Hello and Thank you in Hebrew
- As-salam alaykom and šukran in Arabic
- Jerusalem is the capital, Tel Aviv their second biggest city
- It is surrounded by the Mediterranean Sea, the Dead Sea and Red Sea as well as Lebanon, Syria, Egypt, Jordan and Gaza, West bank.
- Dress respectfully when visiting holy sites. Wear long trousers and shirts that cover the shoulders. Tip: Use a scarf as a skirt or put it on your shoulders to cover up.
- try to avoid travelling there during summer as it is hot. Really hot. Let's just say: unbearably hot! I visited in November and the weather was still warm and perfect for explorations.
- Haggling on bazaars and markets is common – read my tips here.
- Israel is not a cheap country – I had a beer and it was about 6€
- Check the local temperature by searching “weather + city” on google.
Entry, Exit, Visa Procedures
- Most international flights will take you to BenGurion Airport in Tel Aviv
- there are busses, trains, taxi and rental cars taking you to and from the airport.
- Currently they are not stamping your passport – you'll receive a “paper” visa that you need to keep during your visit. When you leave Israel you'll get an “Exit Permit”.
- Prepare yourself for some heavy interrogation and safety controls especially before you check in your luggage when flying with El Al.
Think about the following questions as they are asked often:
- What is the purpose of your trip?
- How long are you going to stay?
- When did you pack your luggage?
- Where was your luggage since then?
- Did you receive presents as they may be bombs or other dangerous components?
- Have you travelled to Africa in the last year? They will check your passport and look at the stamps.
- If you have been to Africa, prepare for more questions about the purpose of that trip, who you went with, where you went exactly, how long you stayed, …
- Do you know anybody from Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, …?
- more about the pre-check-in safety procedure here.
- At the airport in Vienna security staff and police guard the check in area and the gate. When I checked in my backpack I asked the nice staff why and since when they do this advanced security check. He told me since 1985. I had no idea what had happened, but then I found out that there was an assault taking place at the check in area of the airline El Al in Vienna.
- In Zurich and Munich the police was equipped with machineguns and an armoured vehicle on the airfield.
- Don't get panicked, but think about the good of it. The better the security the harder it is for others to get anything on board and into Israel (or out of the country).
Check safety warnings and follow the news. I visited Israel in November 2014, the media showed incidents happening, but the Austrian Ministry of Foreign Affairs (only in German) didn't tighten the safety status so I wasn't worried. Check also the Canadian and UK sites for updates.
Even though you might not want to believe what I'm writing here, but Israel is currently safe for tourists. This is my personal and my travel companion's opinion. We spend a wonderful week there together and we never felt unsafe for a single moment.
Do check with your hostel or hotel about the current situation and check the media – but don't believe everything they say. Media tends to exaggerate.
I'll just give you two basic tips, not because there isn't much more, but because I promise you'll love those:
This food is found all across the Middle East and is really delicious! Made from grounded chickpeas, fava beans, or a mixture of both, then fried and put in a pita bread. You can add salad, cheese, tomatoes, humus and other yummy things.
Fresh Pomegranate Juice
I didn't know this before, but Ellen from Patotra told us we had – no, we must try some fresh pomegranate juice. Guess what we first did on our first day! Yes correct – we got pomegranate juice. Fresh from a street shop. And it was delicious! I miss it so much plus it is super healthy!
I have tried many, many guide books and I love the guides from Lonely Planet! So on this trip to Israel I used the one from Dumont and Lonely Planet.
Israel will give you the feeling that you need to come back! So don't rush through the country and rather enjoy the every single moment. You'll come back. You will understand me once you arrive.
Dead Sea – Special Tips
- The lowest place on earth
- 428 meters below sea level
One of the saltiest places on earth – the salt concentration is up to 33%. [Whereas the Mediterranean Sea has 3,8%]
- The bottom of the Dead Sea is pure salt crystals
- No harmful sun burn thanks to the thick atmosphere, evaporation and desert dust.
- Technically you cannot drown. The high level of salt establishes positive buoyancy and you can easily enjoy drifting away
Here are some common rules:
- Don't drink any water from the Dead Sea – it is too salty and you can dehydrate quickly
- Don't splash and play around too much as tiny drops can get into your eyes and you will be in pain
I recently discovered the great travel website From Rome 2 Rio. It's basically a search engine for transportation that includes train, bus, plane and car.
Have you been to Israel? What did you think of it? Share your stories in the comments!
Keep on travelling,
ps. Have you read the article 5 Spots that will make you love Tel Aviv?