Planning a trip to the Holy Land is just the beginning of an unforgettable adventure. Israel is one of the most exciting and diverse countries in the world and has so much to offer to visitors and residents alike.
Before you even think about booking an Israel flight, you’ll want to go through some useful resources and reminders, especially if it’s your first time to travel to Israel. If you aren’t sure where to start, our guide on how to prepare for a trip to Israel will help point you in the right direction.
The US State Department doesn’t specify that American citizens traveling to Israel for up 90 days need a visa. However, like all visitors, you have to have a passport that’s valid for at least six months from your travel date. So, if you don’t have a passport already, obtain one, and if yours is due to expire within six months, you should renew it.
When to go
If you are visiting for religious reasons, then you can travel at any time of the year. But if you have weather preferences, you can travel from April to October for summers or November to March for winters. Note that Israel is a Jewish country, so it gets many visitors around significant Jewish occasions like Rosh Hashanah and Passover. August and October tend to be the busiest months, so if you are planning to visit around this time, ensure to reserve your hotel ahead of time.
Don’t forget the basics
Hopefully, you had this in mind, but just in case you didn’t, you should bring a hat and sunscreen since you will be out in the sun most of the time. Also, bring comfortable shoes for walking around, and be sure to break them before you start your exploration. Lastly, carry your camera charger, so you don’t miss a moment and some modest clothing – especially if you are visiting holy sites.
There are many things to do and see in Israel; you will need to be in good physical shape to get the most from your adventures. You don’t want to have a hard time walking, climbing stairs or navigating an uneven terrain, which is why you need to prepare yourself, both mentally and physically. You will have so much fun if you get used to walking a lot ahead of time.
You should also prepare for jet lag because your body will take a couple of days to adapt to the new time zone. Drinking plenty of water on the flight over can also help.
Israel is a beautiful country with friendly people, diverse culture, fantastic foods, and intriguing destination. It has safe streets, so you’ll have nothing to worry about when walking up and down. It also has a culture of vigilance around security matters. So, expect to see full-time security guards at all restaurants, supermarkets, shopping malls, and banks, and bag checks are commonplace.
Top attractions in Israel
With lots of places to visit and sites to see, it can be overwhelming to decide on a destination. Israel has plenty of secular attractions as well as sacred sites, so you’ll want to tune your focus based on the amount of time you have. Many visitors travel to see the holy places, but others only want to enjoy a beach vacation. Some top attractions include:
- Masada National Park
- Sea of Galilee
- Ein Gedi
- Mahne Yehuda
- The Israel Museum, Jerusalem
- Mount Zion
- Acre’s Old City
- Western Wall
- Tel Aviv’s Port
- Mount Tabor
- Yad Vashem
- Caesarea National Park
- The Church of the Holy Sepulchre and Via Dolorosa
- Dome of the Rock
Israel is more expensive than you probably thought. Don’t expect to survive with $10 a day or sleep in hostels for 10 shekels because it’s not going to happen. You can still travel on a budget – by doing things that natives do like eating cheap street food and fresh market produce and using public transport – but it’s the small things that are annoyingly expensive. Such as gas/petrol, deodorants, groceries from supermarkets and so on. The most common ways of paying are by credit card or cash (New Israeli Shekel). You’ll find ATMs all over town, and some even allow you to dispense cash in Euros and Dollars.
Language barrier is one of the issues that most tourists struggle with. However, this should be least of your worries when traveling to Israel, because most Israelis speak English. Even so, it won’t hurt to acquaint yourself with some of the commonly used Hebrew phrases:
Shalom: Hello, peace and goodbye
Lehit-raot: See you later
Slicha: Excuse me, sorry
Ma Nishma: What’s up?
Kama Ze Oleh?: How much does this cost?
Atah Medaber Angleet?: Do you speak English?
Ayfo Ha Shirootim?: Where is the bathroom?
What to pack
Packing for vacation can be stressful – it’s hard not to fill the suitcase with your entire wardrobe. However, since it’s just a trip, you’ll want to carry only the essentials. Israelis dress very casually, so you can pack casual clothes to fit in. If you are visiting religious sites like the Wailing Wall, a church, synagogue or mosque, pack a wrap or shawl (for women) to cover the arms and legs or wear long slacks and sleeved tops (for men). Don’t forget to pack a swimming costume as the weather is perfect for a swim.
Have you visited — or are you planning to visit — Israel?
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