Touring Israel: What You Need to Know

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Walk this Way: Jerusalem's Temple Mount, Dome of the Rock. . . a thing of beauty whatever the name (courtesy, Israel Ministry of Tourism)

Good to Know:
Security is tight in Israel. Expect to go through metal detectors frequently and answer many questions about what you're doing there, whether you're at the airport or cruising the shopping mall. Though Hebrew is the main language, English is widely spoken. Often, travelers can spend time in Israel without needing to understand a word of Hebrew, but it's still wise to pick up a few common phrases. Remember that many attractions are closed Friday after sunset until Saturday after sunset in accordance with the Jewish Sabbath, and there is no bus service in most places during those times.

Getting There:
El Al Israel Airlines, Delta, Tower, World Airways, CSA/Czech Airlines, Air Canada, and British Airways, among others, all serve Israel from a variety of international hubs. About 90 percent of visitors arrive at Tel Aviv's Ben Gurion International Airport. Check the airport website for a complete listing of airlines and contact details. Travelers from the U.S., Canada, and most European countries don't need a visa to visit Israel, just a valid passport (visit the Israeli consular website for full details).

Getting Around:
The most practical way to get from place to place is on the bus. All cities have extensive bus service, but most do not operate between Friday night and Saturday night. However, buses do operate in Haifa and in eastern Jerusalem on the Jewish Sabbath. Taxis are available in every city, but don't be fooled by drivers who offer you a special price, which is often higher than the meter. Car-renters need only a passport, credit card, and U.S. or Canadian driver's license. Most traffic signs are in English, Hebrew, and Arabic. And don't worry—they drive on the right-hand side of the street.

Communication:
To call Israel from North America, dial 011-972, then the number (omitting the initial zero). To call home, AT&T, MCI, and Sprint all have toll-free access numbers in Israel. Ask your hotel operator how to dial from your room. You can also rent a cell phone at the airport. As for the Internet, there are cafes and public Internet outlets all over the place.

Electricity:
Israel's voltage is 220 volts, like Europe, so break out the converters if you're coming from North America.

Vaccinations:
No vaccinations or shots are required for U.S. or Canadian visitors to Israel, but if you've visited a country prior to coming to Israel where cholera, typhoid, or yellow fever is endemic, you will need a vaccination certificate.

Young travelers:
For college-aged travelers looking for adventure, there are volunteer programs that will offer memorable experiences. If you find the right Kibbutz (a communal farm), you can work for your room and board and meet people from all over the world. Whether you're gardening, washing dishes, or working the fields, the Kibbutz experience is a way of life you won't soon forget.


Jewish adults aged 18 to 26 who have never been to Israel before can take advantage of the Birthright Israel program, which is a ten-day expenses-paid educational trip.


Published: 22 Feb 2006 | Last Updated: 19 Sep 2012
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication

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