Essential information every tourist needs. Click on a subject to read more.
Passports and Visa
British and US citizens do not need a visa requirement to enter Israel. Keep in mind that your passport must have a minimum of six months validity from your return date and have at least two blank pages.
Important: The little piece of blue & white paper they stick onto your passport at immigration at the airport in Israel is very important. THIS IS A VISA and is proof of entry for tourists and proof that you are not Israeli and therefore you are eligible for tax breaks on VAT (Value Added Tax) for some purchases. You will need to show it when checking into a rental apartment, as well as when renting a car. When buying souvenirs that cost over 400 shekels in one store, ask the salesperson about the procedure for getting the VAT back at the airport and help to fill out a special form - you must show the visa to do this.
Currency and money issues
The local currency is called shekels (written as NIS – New Israel Shekel). Israel’s paper currency is found in different colors and comes in the following denominations: NIS 20, NIS 50, NIS 100 and NIS 200. The NIS 50 and NIS 20 notes are a similar color green. It’s important to note that there exists two different colored NIS 200 notes that can cause some confusion.
Israeli coins come in denominations of 1, 2, 5, and 10 shekels, as well as 10 and 50 agorot (like cents or pence).
Before arriving, check the approximate rate to your currency, which may fluctuate slightly on a daily basis. Click here for Bank of Israel exchange rates.
Coinage in Israel
Take a good look at Israeli coins and you will see there are no depictions of presidents or Prime Ministers on them! Instead, you will find designs of authentic ancient coins used in Israel during different periods of its long history; such as the Hasmonian era, ‘rebel’ coins from the end of the second Temple period, as well as depictions of palm trees, lilies, harps, menorahs and the like, that were and continue to be symbols of Israel to this day.
ATMs can be found all over Israel, especially outside banks.
Make sure you know your credit card's pin number (or debit card) and don’t forget to ask your bank/credit card company if there is a surcharge for overseas withdrawals. While most ATMs in Israel will dispense NIS (New Israeli Shekel) currency only, ATMs in major cities may also dispense U.S. dollars and Euros. Some places do not honor American Express or Diner's cards, so bring more than one credit/debit card just in case. Make sure to notify your credit card provider that you will be traveling to Israel, otherwise charges may be blocked and your card suspended, due to what they may consider suspicious activity.
Most internationally-recognized credit cards are accepted in the majority of stores, restaurants and tourist sites, always keep some Israeli shekels on you for smaller retail stores, drinks, ice cream and souvenir shops, etc. Some restaurants may allow you to add the tip on to the credit card charge but many do not. Tipping in Israel is between 10-15%.
When taking a taxi, always ask the driver to turn on the meter to be assured your fair is charged correctly. You may tip the driver.
VAT – Value Added Tax
VAT or Value Added Tax is a 17% tax that is already included in the price for most of the goods you buy in Israel. To avoid paying the VAT charge at your hotel, show them your foreign passport and the visa document you received at the airport in Israel. This applies only to overnight hotel charges.
Some stores, such as souvenir, jewelry and gift stores, will provide you with a VAT refund invoice for purchases over NIS 125 including VAT (approximately $35). When shopping, ask in the store if they are approved by the Ministry of Tourism to provide a form for the VAT tax refund and a tax invoice. They may have a "tax refund for tourists” sticker on their door or window. The refund is for items you plan to take out of the country and for personal use only. Food, drink and the like are not eligible for VAT refunds. You need your passport and visa document you get at passport control when you make your purchases. Make sure to ask for the invoices from each store and then save these to get a VAT refund at the airport or border crossings.
At the airport:
The VAT refund counter in Terminal 3 is located in the Departure Hall opposite the information desk. In Terminal 1, it's opposite Gate 02 in the Eastern Hall. At the airport you may be asked to show the items you bought and want to get the VAT refund, so pack them at the top of your suitcase for easy access.
One final note: if you don't want to pay VAT at all - then Eilat, Israel's Free Trade Zone, is the place to go!
Click here for more information.
Airport transportation to and from Jerusalem!
Many people ask “what’s the best way to get from Ben-Gurion airport to my destination in or around Jerusalem?”. There are a number of options and I'll mention some of them. To travel to Jerusalem door-to-door Nesher taxi company is one way to go. At the cost of NIS 64 (~ $18) one way, you get to ride with nine other passengers. You may be the first or last to be dropped off, depending on the destination of the other passengers. Going to the airport you must reserve in advance either by phone or
website. From the airport, the van leaves as soon as it fills up with passengers.
Another option is the no. 485 white and green bus run by Afikim. The site
www.bus.co.il gives details of exact stops and timetables. The bus runs once an hour and you can reserve in advance to ensure you have a seat. At the cost of NIS 16 (under $5) this is a great deal. It is not door-to-door, but has a number of stops at the entrance to Jerusalem and other areas. There are connections to buses that run from the Jerusalem main bus station (tachana merkazit) and the light rail and are very convenient if you are not schlepping heavy luggage. There is free wifi and USB charger outlets on the bus. The 485 bus goes to and from Terminals 1 and 3.
Gett Taxi is another option if you want to have a private taxi. You can reserve in advance or once you land. Some regular taxis do not accept credit cards, while with Gett Taxi your credit card details are saved on the app so you can be charged in your currency. The price depends on your destination, and prices for taxis have recently dropped somewhat due to competition.
The option of a private taxi or van can be very helpful if you want VIP service or are traveling with a large party and want to travel together without the hassle of waiting for the van to fill up (Nesher).
And for a small fee you can take the new high speed train that goes directly to Jerusalem in 21 minutes! Access to the train station is right outside the arrival's terminal. The train runs every 1/2 hour until 7:00 pm. The Jerusalem Yitzchak Navon station is across the street from the main Egged bus station and steps away from the light rail. Keep in mind that this station is 80 meters below ground and so there are 5 very long escalators, or 2-3 elevators (you must switch between them). so give yourself time when planning to get to the station in Jerusalem, as it can take 10-25 minutes to get down to the train.
Make sure to purchase a Rav Kav card for each person in order ride all buses, Jerusalem light rail and trains (you can not pay cash on trains or Jerusalem light rail and most buses). You can buy Rav Kav cards at the airport in the arrival hall and use it for all public transportation. Make sure to top it up with some money before you leave the airport. There is a kiosk for purchasing rides right next to the counter where you buy the card. There are also places in all cities to purchase Rav Kav cards and upload money onto them. Click
here for more information and scroll down to Anonymous Rav-Kav.
here to read full information on the ISRAEL PASS - a great way for tourists to get around Israel and enjoy discounts
The Israeli power supply is single-phase 220 Volts at 50 Hertz. It’s important to note that electric outlets in Israel have three pinholes, but they will work with double-pin European plugs as well. You may need transformers and adapter plugs for any electronic items you bring. Always ask your hotel concierge or your tour guide before plugging in any electrical appliances. Many small appliances such as cell phones, hair dryers and shavers come in 110/220 volts.
Check your appliance before plugging it in the electrical socket to make sure, otherwise you may damage the appliance. Since hotels, airBNB's and other places that you may be staying at may have only one or 2 sockets for your use, bring along a multi socket adapter so you can plug in a few devices at time. Then use an adapter for your country's plug to adapt to Israel's plug.
Mobile telephones / Internet
Keeping in touch with your loved ones via mobile phone and internet has become essential when travelling. While in Israel, keep in mind that GSM mobile phones work throughout Israel. To keep your communication budget under control, check your phone provider’s roaming charges before leaving your country; in addition, Israeli hotels charge a heavy premium for overseas telephone calls from the hotel room phone. On the other hand, Internet access, either through wired or wireless connection, is widely available in nearly all hotels and restaurants and frequently available for free. Ask at reception if there is a code required to connect to their wifi.
Pit stops and Public restrooms
When touring, bathroom stops are of utmost importance. As a tour guide I know the importance of knowing where good bathrooms are located and do my best to find clean, well-maintained bathrooms.
Public restrooms in Israel have improved both in the number of available restrooms and in their cleanliness and maintenance. But like anything that is public, the traffic to these public conveniences is so heavy – especially during high tourist season - they are not always maintained at their best.
The lack of toilet paper is an especially vexing issue – so always, always, always take tissues and/or toilet paper rolls with you. If you use wet wipes, please throw them in the trash and NOT down the toilet as they wreak havoc with the sewer systems.
A great hint to remember wherever you are: To make room in your bag for the toilet paper roll – remove the inner cardboard ring and press flat; then place in a plastic bag to keep the roll clean. You don’t need to bring toilet paper from abroad – you can get it here.
My friend and neighbor, Abby Leichman, a writer for
Israel21c and the
Jerusalem Post, wrote these very helpful and important articles on the subject:
Getting around Israel
Israel has, over the past few years, developed a reasonably effective public transportation system of buses that crisscross the country, and trains that have lines throughout most of the country with new tracks always being added. In some cities there is a shared-minivan system called a Sherut. Taxis and rental car companies are available nearly everywhere in the country.
The Israeli app
Moovit is a wonderful cellphone application that is very useful for traveling on public transportation and walking from place to place.
Respect for religious sites
When visiting holy sites around Israel, consider the feelings of the people around you and dress modestly. Women and men should cover their arms, chest and legs. Many Jewish sites will provide kippot (skull caps) for men and scarves for women to cover their heads or legs.
The workweek and weekends
In Israel the workweek is Sunday through Friday, with many businesses working only half a day on Fridays. There is no “weekend” as there is in the U.S. or Britain. The day of rest is Shabbat, beginning before sunset on Friday and ending after sunset on Saturday when many businesses close and services stop. This means that in many cities there is no public bus service and fewer, more expensive taxis while many stores and restaurants close at around 1 p.m on Friday. The level of religious observance differs from city to city, with Jerusalem and Tzfat more observant than Tel Aviv and Herzliya.
Jewish Holidays in Israel
Like Shabbat, the Jewish Holidays begin before sunset the evening before and continue through the next day until after sunset (except the Jewish New Year which is two full days). And just like on Shabbat many stores and businesses are closed on the major Holidays. Since the Jewish holidays follow the Jewish lunar calendar they do not have a set Gregorian calendar date.
- New Years - Rosh Hashana (two days) occurs between September and October
- Yom Kippur - 10 days after the New Year
- Succot - starts 4 days after Yom Kippur. It is a 7 day holiday. The first and last day are celebrated like Shabbat, while the intermediate days are considered festivals but with stores and sites open and public transportation available.
- Hanukah - for 8 days in November-December
- Purim - falls out in March-April (Shushan Purim is celebrated in Jerusalem the day after Purim)
- Pessach (Passover) - is a 7 day holiday which falls out in April-May. The first and last day are celebrated like Shabbat, while the intermediate days are considered festivals but with stores and sites open and public transportation available.
- Shavuot - occurs in May-June
There are also six Jewish Fast days that occur throughout the year, the main ones are Yom Kippur (September-October) and Tisha B’Av (July-August).
Israeli secular holidays and commemorative days
Israeli secular holidays and commemorative days include:
Yom Ha’Shoah (Holocaust and Heroism Remembrance Day) comes out about a week after Pessach/Passover.
Yom Ha’Zicharon (Memorial Day for Fallen Soldiers) followed by Yom Ha’atzmaut (Independence Day) occur around April-May.
Yom Ye’rushalayim (Jerusalem Reunification Day) which occurs 3 weeks later around May-June.
Do your homework!
You’ll get so much more out of your visit to Israel and your tours if you read up about the different places you plan to visit. A tour guide is a great way to see and learn about so many of the wonderful sights Israel has in store for you. Even if you’ve visited Israel many times before there is always something new and exciting to see, feel and touch. I know I can help you better plan your tours by helping you understand the distances between sights as well as the optimal amount of time to spend at any one place. As a tour guide, I share the background and history of the sites, personal stories and answer your questions which can't compete with the internet.
There’s an old saying that the “best laid plans go awry” and that saying is doubly true on a tour. Always be flexible and open to new options. Parts of your tour may be interrupted or changed due to weather conditions (too cold in the winter or too hot in the summer), security conditions or any number of reasons beyond our control. As a tour guide I will work hard to both keep these changes to a minimum but also advise you as soon as I can, so that we can make alternate plans. I will do my best to make your trip as comfortable, as memorable and as fun as I can.
Talk to me and ask me any questions you may have about your upcoming trips, planning your trip, planning an itinerary and also ensuring that everyone in your touring party – young or old, fit or not – experience Israel the way it should be experienced: with a lot of love and fun!