Israel is often referred to as 'the land of milk and honey' which perfectly sums up this small yet abundant country. Located on the eastern side of the Mediterranean, it is where east meets west and traditional meets modern around every corner. Its unique location means that it is a melting pot of different cultures, tastes, flavours histories and landscapes. From its bustling cities, coastal resorts, deserts, olive groves, mountains to the Dead Sea and Sea of Galilee, it has a lot to offer.
Furthermore, Israel is of great importance for three of the world's major faiths - Christianity, Judaism and Islam. Names and locations from the holy stories abound across the country – Jerusalem, Bethlehem, Nazareth to name but a few. The ancient religious sites, dating back thousands of years, offer much for travellers. But there is also the country’s more recent past, shaped by the migration of thousands after WW2 to the Holy Land, and the ongoing religious struggles the area continues to experience. Israel is a fascinating country of contrasts to be explored.
Your passport should be valid for at least six months from date of entry. For travellers not requiring a visa, though not a necessity, it is still advised to have at least one blank page. Please be sure to fill out the "Emergency Next of Kin" section in your passport
U.S., Canadian, Australian, New Zealand and UK citizens may enter Israel for up to 90 days for tourist or business purposes without a visa. Entry is of course at the discretion of the Israeli immigration officials. All other nationalities must check the visa entry requirements before your departure. You need sufficient funds and a return airline ticket.
Please note, evidence of a previous visit to another country in the region, such as an entry/exit stamp in your passport does not normally prevent entry into Israel, but it may lead to additional questioning at the border. It is for the Israeli authorities to determine the right of entry into Israel. Authorities are permitted to deny entry to foreign nationals who have publicly called for a boycott of Israel and/or settlements, or who belong to an organisation which has called for a boycott. If you have any concerns about previous travel, please contact your relevant Israeli embassy. Furthermore, entry/exit stamps for Israel may lead to further questioning or non-admittance to other countries in the future.
Lengthy personal questioning and baggage searches are to be expected by security officials on arrival and departure from Israel and Israeli security officials have been known to request access to travellers’ personal e-mail and social media accounts as a condition of entry. Security officials may take electrical items, such as laptops from passengers for security inspection, to be stored in the aircraft baggage hold, or returned to you in your home country. Damage may occur. Valuable personal items (computers, camcorders etc.) may be taken from you on arrival, and you may be forced to pay a deposit, refundable on or after departure.
• Consular Information
There are a number of major international embassies located in Tel Aviv, including those for the UK, Canada and Australia. However, the US embassy is located in Jerusalem. The UK has a consulate in Jerusalem, the US one in Tel Aviv. Embassies for other countries, including New Zealand are located in other European or Middle Eastern cities, offering coverage to Israel. Please check with your relevant government for the relevant contact details.
N.B. Please note, visa and entry requirements, regulations and restrictions can vary on a regular basis. Please ensure you check in good time prior to travel the current requirements applicable to you.
HEALTH, INSURANCE AND SPECIAL REQUIREMENTS
• Travel Insurance
It is company policy that all passengers must have valid travel insurance prior to travelling, to include but not limited to health insurance and cancellation insurance. It is vital that ALL members of the travelling party are fully insured for the dates of travel. All pre-existing medical conditions must be declared to the insurer and the correct cover must be taken in regard to the specific type of holiday you are taking.
The details of your insurance must be advised to The Big Journey Company at least 6 weeks before your departure date. Please make sure to write down important information from your insurance policy, such as the company’s 24hr emergency telephone number (including dial code from abroad) and your policy number and take these with you on tour.
• General Health
Please talk to your doctor or travel health clinic in person at least eight weeks before you travel, where a health professional can provide you with the necessary health information for your personal needs.
Wearing sunscreen, drinking plenty of water, washing your hands properly before eating and avoiding insect bites should keep you healthy on tour.
We recommend you carry a simple travellers’ first-aid kit containing any basic items that you feel may be required, including remedies for minor stomach complaints.
If you do need to see a doctor during the tour, please speak to your Big Journey Company tour escort.
• Passengers with Disabilities or Reduced Mobility
The Israel Tour is an Activity Level 2 tour and will require moderate physical activity and include various forms of transport. Please check our Activity Levels description page to see if this level is suitable to you or contact us if you require further information on the activities involved in the tour.
If you or any member of your party has any medical problem or disability which may affect your holiday, please provide us with full details before we confirm your booking, or as soon as possible at the time they occur, so that we can try to advise on the suitability of your chosen arrangements. Please note, we may require you to produce a doctor’s certificate certifying that you are fit to participate in the tour.
• Medical Conditions and Personal Medication
Please advise us prior to travel if you have any medical conditions requiring special attention during your trip. If you have a specific medical condition, it is wise to carry the relevant doctor’s prescription with you.
- Pack a sufficient supply of any medications you are taking, copies of the prescriptions and the telephone/fax numbers of your doctor.
- Please note, some countries require that prescription drugs be carried in their original container, with the label clearly visible. In the event of you losing your medication, a qualified pharmacist should be able to source a replacement.
- Note: Israeli pharmacies can accept only prescriptions issued by Israeli doctors.
There are currently no vaccination requirements for international travellers, but please consult your doctor before travelling for the latest immunisation information as well as advice according to your unique medical needs.
• Travelling with CPAP or other Medical Machines
Please inform The Big Journey Company that you are travelling with such a device as early as possible, and well before you travel. This is especially important in places where there may be issues with power supply, such as on safari or smaller cruise ships. Also,
- Check that you have the correct electrical and voltage adapters for the country and accommodation you are visiting;
- Check with your airline that they allow your device to be carried as additional hand luggage and ensure that your device is easily accessible and properly labelled as medical machinery;
- Always carry a letter from your medical practitioner prescribing its use for you;
- Ensure you have details of your machine separately in case of the need to secure repairs/replacements whilst you are travelling;
- Check with your medical practitioner about the use of tap or bottled water in the event that distilled water cannot be sourced in the country you are travelling to.
Please note, if you require distilled or ionised water, you must inform The Big Journey Company of this at least two weeks ahead of travel, so we are able to make preparations with our ground agents. There will be an additional charge for this.
• Special Dietary Requirements
Please let us know in good time prior to travel if you have any special dietary requirements (e.g., vegetarian, vegan, diabetic, gluten-free, etc.). We will make every effort to accommodate your request with the resources available to us.
• What to Pack and Wear
We would recommend comfortable clothes and a good pair of walking shoes for this tour. Feel free to include a smart-casual outfit for dinner if you wish, however there is no pressure to follow a dress code.
The weather should largely be warm and sunny throughout the journey, however it is always good to be prepared for every eventuality, so make sure you pack a light jacket in case of rain and the fact that it may be cooler in the evening.
Insect repellent and sun cream are also essential items. Don't forget your camera, with charger/spare batteries and memory cards.
Although in most of the big cities and coastal resorts, attitudes to dress are more liberal, when in Orthodox Jewish or Arab neighbourhoods it is best to dress moderately. Upper arms and legs should be covered, and women may have to wear headscarves in some locations, especially if entering religious premises. If visiting Jewish religious sites, men should cover their heads with a kippah. Signs often indicate when men must cover their heads, notably at the Western Wall.
• Luggage Allowances
International airlines are often strict about the size and weight of checked in baggage and carry-on luggage. Prior to your departure, please contact your airline or visit their website for specific luggage requirements, as size and weight limitations may vary according to the airline and destination.
Luggage handling is included in our Israel tour, based on 1 bag per person. Additional luggage may carry a charge locally.
Laundry services may be available in some hotels on the tour.
The official language of Israel is Hebrew. Arabic has been an official language and still has ‘special status’ but is mainly spoken by the Muslim population. English was also an official language and spoken widely across the country. Due to large immigration after WW2, French, Russian and Aramaic are also commonly spoken.
The time zone in Israel is GMT+2, 2 hours ahead of London GMT.
With its position on the eastern side of the Mediterranean, the weather in Israel is generally warm throughout the year. The summer months of July-August are very hot, with temperatures soaring and in the open areas, little shade is to be found. The shoulder months of April-June and October-November provide a great mix of good weather without the higher temperatures. Although weather-wise September is good to visit, the numerous Jewish holidays that fall in the month means that many things are closed. Winter can bring some storms along coastal regions, and as you head to higher lands, the temperatures can drop. Nights can be cooler, especially in open areas where the heat of the day escapes.
In Israel, the standard voltage is 230V and the frequency is 50Hz. You will need a European plug adapter, and/or converter depending on which electrical appliances you bring with you.
MOBILES & INTERNET COMMUNICATION
Israel has a well-developed communications infrastructure. A number of cellphone/mobile phone providers offer national coverage and there are well-established landline phone networks. In populated urban areas, there should be good mobile signal but as we head into rural areas, signal may fluctuate. Internet and Wi-Fi are easily accessible in most urban areas and most hotels and restaurants provide free WIFI. Please check data roaming charges for Israel with your service provider before leaving home as these can quickly become very expensive.
The currency of Israel is the New Israeli Shekel (NIS). Credit cards are widely accepted, but it is advisable to carry money in cash with you as well. ATMs are widely available in cities, but fewer in smaller villages.
Visa and Mastercard are the most widely accepted credit cards and many, but not all, accept cards such as Diners Club or American Express. If you intend to use any of your debit or credit cards whilst away, please make sure that you contact your bank before you leave to inform them that you will be travelling in order not to cause any problems using your cards or whilst on the trip.
You will get a good chance to bargain at the souks but watch out for taxi drivers who are likely to overcharge.
Israel can be quite expensive, with prices for even day to day items comparably higher than other countries on the Mediterranean. For comparison, is a little more expensive than France, but not as much as Switzerland or Norway. However, please make sure you budget for high spending.
• Bank Opening
Bank opening hours in Israel are short. Banks are usually open 8.30am – noon Sunday to Friday, and some will be open for a few hours late in the afternoon on Sundays, Tuesdays and Thursdays.
After feedback from previous guests, we offer a group tipping package for this tour. Look out for more information in your pre-tour emails.
Israel’s location and history mean that its cuisine is a fusion of many tastes, flavours and styles. There are the traditional Middle Eastern dishes, with falafel and lots of sweet, honey filled desserts, mixed with a more Mediterranean diet of fish, fresh fruits and vegetables. Added to that are flavours from the many nations who moved there in the 1950s, taking Russian, French and central European flavours to the table. Traditional religious fare also features in the day to day foods on offer, especially the Jewish breads.
Some meals are included as part of your tour – please check your individual departure for the relevant meal inclusions.
The tap water in Israel is generally good and ok to drink but has often got an unpleasant taste and is quite saline. Therefore, many people drink bottled or filtered water instead. Bottled water can be bought at supermarkets, kiosks and many shops.
Israel offers lots for visitors to buy. Given the religious importance of the countries to numerous faiths, you will be able to find religious literatures, mementos, statues and keepsakes a plenty. Olive wood carvings and dates are also common products to return with.
• Opening Hours
In the cities and towns, most retail shops are open from 9am – 7pm Sunday–Thursday, though may vary locally. Most shops close at noon on Fridays, but all by sundown and those in orthodox areas are unlikely to open. Shops do not open on Saturday, the Sabbath.
• VAT/Tax Refund:
Numerous shops in Israel offer a VAT refund when leaving the country. Please ask the salesperson whether tax-free shopping applies to the shop in question.
SAFETY & SECURITY
Whilst most tourists’ visits to Israel are trouble-free, the security situation in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories can be fast moving, tense and unpredictable.
General crime levels involving tourists in Israel are low. However, as in most destinations, there’s a risk of petty theft, particularly in airports, in popular tourist attractions and on public transport. Please take sensible precautions to protect your belongings, particularly your passport, money and credit cards.
Terrorists are very likely to try to carry out attacks in Israel and attacks could be indiscriminate, including places frequented by foreigners, and on public transport. Tensions are raised during and around Jewish and Muslim holidays and feast days. You should be vigilant at all times, especially in large crowds or major tourist destinations, follow the advice of local authorities and keep up to date with local media and travel reports.
Please ensure you are aware of Israeli immigration policies before you travel to the country. Allowing additional time for increased security measures and checks at airports is advised, especially during Israeli holidays and the peak summer season.
Smoking is banned in most indoor public places, but there are usually designated outdoor areas where people can smoke. Smoking is prohibited on all means of public transport.
Israel has a unique location in the ‘Holy Land’ with significant importance to the world’s three main religions – Christianity, Judaism and Islam. The majority of the population is Jewish, with many people having gone there from all corners of the globe after World War 2. Muslims make up about 20% of the population and Christians about 9%. Jerusalem is home of religious sites at the heart of all three religions. However, the uneasy religious divide of those living in Israel continues to shape the country and its politics today.
Israel offers photo opportunities one after another. You will return with many photos that can never be repeated. Remember to pack your camera, along with the charger, spare batteries and a spare memory card! Photography may be prohibited in some high security areas, as well as in some locations on the Sabbath. Please check with your guide or follow the local instructions if you are unsure.
ARRIVAL IN ISRAEL
Please note, standard hotel check-in is around 3pm, so should you arrive earlier than this, your room may not be available upon arrival. For those arriving early morning, we will do everything we can to work with the hotel to get you an earlier check-in subject to availability.
TOUR HOTEL INFORMATION
Please check your tour paperwork for hotel information attaining to your tour departure.
OTHER COUNTRIES ON TOUR ITINERARY
For those continuing their stay in other European, African or Middle Eastern countries, please check the relevant Travel Tip pages for information on these countries.
FLYING & TRAVEL HINTS
• Photocopy the personal information pages of your passport; leave one copy at home with a friend or family member, and take a copy with you, but pack it separately from the passport itself.
• It is advisable to carry all your travel documentation as well as valuables and essential items in your hand luggage, such as camera, toiletries, reading material etc.
• Duty-Free shopping is always tempting, but please check the current Duty-Free limits applicable in the country of your destination.
• Longer flights can be made a little more enjoyable by wearing loose clothing and good, comfortable shoes. Walking in the aisles regularly, eating sensibly and drinking plenty of fluids (not alcohol) is also advised.
• Where possible, try to get some sleep during the flight and upon arrival at your destination, most people adjust better to the local time if they wait until the evening before sleeping – this should relieve some of the effects of jet lag.
If you have any other questions that we have not covered here; then please send us an e-mail to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Please note, the above information is provided as a guideline only. Although every effort has been made to provide complete and accurate information, The Big Journey Company makes no warranties, express or implied, or representations as to the accuracy of content on this website. The Big Journey Company assumes no liability or responsibility for any error or omissions in the information contained in the website.
Updated November 2019