First trip to Israel!
Replies: 72 - Last Post: Apr 19, 2013 5:36 AM Last Post By: mark07
Sep 16, 2012 11:54 AM
First trip to Israel!Hi!
I am interested in traveling to Israel in the very near future. I am wanting to get some basic information and travel trips from those who have been there before or who live there so I can know what to expect.
A few questions I have are:
Is it safe for a woman to make the trip to Israel alone?
Will I be able to use American money to pay for expenses and etc.?
What is a fair estimate of how much money someone should bring for expenses and extras?
Are there sight-seeing tours that take groups of people around to see points of interest or are people left on their own to sight-see?
What are some of the places that people coming to Israel should definitely not miss seeing when they visit?
Is there a limit on the amount of time that you can spend in Israel? What is the average length of time that someone should expect to spend in Israel if he or she expects to see all the highlights?
Any other information/tips would be greatly appreciated! I am especially concerned about travel safety so if you have any advice specifically for traveling to Israel; I would greatly appreciate it.
Thank you! :)
Sep 16, 2012 12:08 PM
- Yes it is safe. Normal common sense precautions apply.
- Why would you? Have you ever traveled to a foreign country before? The national currency in Israel is the NIS. Use them.
- Israel is not a budget destination. Plan on the same amount you'd need in LA, NYC, London or any other major western city.
- Yes there are all kinds of tour options. A little research on your part will produce lots of options.
- What are your interests? Your sight seeing should parallel your interests.
- We can't answer how much time you should spend. What passport do you hold, how much time do you have?
Safety can be the least of your worries.
Sep 16, 2012 12:43 PM
Thank you for all of your input. This would be my first trip to a foreign country so I am a little apprehensive wanting to ensure that I consider everything to make it a pleasant experience. It is very helpful to know that Israel isn't a budget destination. I was just wanting to get an idea of the cost of things in relation to expenses in the U.S. so that I have an idea. The comparisons to LA, NYC, and etc. are very helpful to me.!
I am wanting to travel to Israel for basic sight-seeing of religiously relevant places. I will make a list of all of the places important to me and weave them into my travel plans. I have heard that it is best to have a schedule when traveling so that you don't stand out as a tourist with negative consequences. However; I would also like to be able to do things that look interesting once I arrive so I don't want to overplan.
I have an American passport and will have approximately 2 weeks to spend. Is there a certain time of year that is best to visit Israel?
Sep 16, 2012 1:12 PM
3OK that's helpful.
The generally accepted best way to handle finances is to use a credit card to limit the amount of cash you'll need and to access cash using an ATM. Cash transactions should be handled with NIS the currency of Israel.
There are no "negative consequences" associated with being a tourist in Israel. Israel has a very healthy tourist industry and the US and Israel have a pretty good relationship. Despite the hugely biased liberal media in the US, US citizens have nothing to apologize for and are treated pretty darn well throughout most of the world. Don't let the apologists negatively influence your perception of traveling the world.
Jerusalem should be the epi-center of your trip. There's a weeks worth of things to see and do there. You can then do day trips to places like Bethlehem.
Sep 16, 2012 1:44 PM
4I have to agree with what laketraveller says. I know many single women who visit here all the time. They do fine. I also don't understand your fear of being spotted as a tourist. It is easy to spot tourists--there are thousands and thousands of them wandering around at any given time. No one cares and there is no danger in being a tourist.
You indicated you want to visit religious sites and Bethlehem was mentioned. I guess the first question however would be --what religion are you. If you are not Christian, then Bethlehem is not a big deal!
You can spend months and months and months in Israel and not see everything. Two weeks is a good first trip. The best season is Oct-( making sure you do NOT come on Jewish holidays) and April-May--again watching out for holidays. The least expensive months are probably January and February.
Sep 16, 2012 1:48 PM
5The first order of business if you don't have one is to get a guidebook. There is a brand new LP out. I prefer Frommers but its a few years old. Start reading all the posts on here. There is a wealth of info. Then come back with specific questions.
I would come in early Oct. The feast is over and the weather is still good.
Spend a week in Jerusalem. Preferably staying in the old city. Then a couple of days in Haifia/Akko and a few days in Tiberias.
There will be lots of info wherever you stay on day trips
Sep 16, 2012 1:55 PM
Sep 16, 2012 3:51 PM
Thank you very much for your tips regarding travel to Israel. My concern regarding appearing as a tourist was the risk of being a target for robbery, kidnapping, rape, or pickpockets. Thank you also for your consideration with regards to travel sights. I am Catholic, but considering conversion to Judaism. I am looking for the all-around religious experience during my trip! :) Thanks again for your insight and tips!
Thank you for your input as well. I will locate a guidebook as soon as I can and use it to plan my trip. One concern I do have is making sure it is up to date so that it contains information that will be applicable to my trip. Your advice re: when to visit and temperatures was very helpful! Thanks for all of your insight! :)
Thank you for all of your advice. I found it very helpful and relevant since I was looking for all the information I could get. :)
Sep 17, 2012 12:59 AM
8A two week trip is good for first timers.
If you're planning on coming in the near future you're in good shape, as after the Jewish Holidays there is a lull in tourism and prices are less expensive.
For accommodations, consider anywhere from $10-$15 a night for a dorm room, $50-$80 for a hostel room, and $150 and up for a hotel.
For food, consider about $5-$15 for street food and a drink, or $10-$20 for a very basic restaurant, and $20 and up for fancier stuff.
A bottle of mineral water will cost about $1-1.50 in a supermarket, and $2-$3 in a kiosk.
Public transport is relatively inexpensive, and it will cost you about 4$ to take a bus from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem (~50 minutes) and about 8$ to take the train from Tel Aviv to Haifa (1 hours)
As for tours, I assume any place you stay will have a connection to day tour operators, in case you don't want to do it solo.
As said, you can use your credit card nearly everywhere, and certainly to withdraw cash as there are ATM machines almost everywhere. You can also change US dollars in all the major cities with relative ease. Change shops are better than banks, and the post office is also a good place to change money.
Sep 17, 2012 3:43 AM
9Worth noting that Bethleem is not in Israel but in the Palestinian territory. You can go there by bus or taxi from East Jerusalem, the Palestinian side of the city.
Everyone will have a different opinion. On my side I'd say the highlights of Israel are Jerusalem and the Old City (both of which are half Israeli, half Palestinian), Tel Aviv and Jaffa, Akko / Saint Jean d'Acre, Safed, the Dead Sea and Masada. You can also go and visit the magnificent natural parks in the Golan, which is part of Syria but has been under Israeli control for many years.
For the time being Israel is as safe as it goes.
Sep 17, 2012 10:38 AM
Thank you for your specific information related to cost of items and lodging. It will be very useful in budgeting and deciding how much money to bring on my trip. I like the idea of being able to use a credit card and access to change shops as needed. Thank you for the information about public transportation as well. Do you have any advice for someone who has never rode on public transportation before? :)
I appreciate your input regarding highlights and places I should definitely see while on my trip. The natural parks sound interesting so I will be sure to check those out. Thanks for the tip; very helpful! :)
Sep 17, 2012 11:50 PM
11Never rode public transport? Then I assume you are American, and not from New York......
It's fairly straight forward - if you need to get from point A to point B you can either use the net to find the relevant train http://www.rail.co.il/EN/Pages/Homepage.aspx or bus http://egged.co.il/Eng/
There are also service taxis (sheruts) that are minivans, and their advantage is that they run on Saturdays and Holidays, pretty much 24/7 for some destinations.
Just ask at your hotel where the station is and how to get there, pay in advance for train, or as you get on for the bus, and enjoy the view..
Sep 18, 2012 12:42 PM
Sep 18, 2012 2:42 PM
13In addition to everything else that has been written:
I'm a single female, originally from England and have been living in Israel for decades. I feel perfectly safe going everywhere alone, even late at night (obviously one uses common sense and doesn't go alone down unlit deserted alleways, but that isn't specific to Israel).
Most shops take credit cards, but some small establishments aren't set up for it so you do need some cash. There are ATMs everywhere. Just make sure you have a 4-digit PIN, and tell your bank you are going to Israel so your card isn't stopped for security reasons (because the bank thinks it might have been stolen).
Public transport - buses mostly, but trains as well) - runs between all the cities. There are several companies operating the buses in different parts of the country (Egged is the biggest, but it doesn't cover the entire country), and you can get an idea here:
(Note that next Wednesday is Yom Kippur, on which public transport doesn't run at all, and it stops running early on the day before. This of course doesn't mean that on a normal Wednesday there are no buses ;-)!!)
Using public transport, in general you buy a ticket on the bus, from the driver (cash - shekels - only). The only tickets that need to be booked in advance are those to and from Eilat. And for a first-time visitor with only two weeks, I wouldn't recommend going to Eilat, which is really not much more than an overdeveloped beach resort. If you're going by train, you buy a ticket at the ticket window in the station, a few minutes before you travel.
Jerusalem now has a light rail (tram, streetcar) running through the city centre. Tickets for this are bought in a machine on each station, and need to be validated on the train as soon as you board. And public transport tickets within Jerusalem are valid for 90 minutes on any combination of city buses and light rail.
Any further questions, just ask!
Sep 18, 2012 7:59 PM
Thank you so much for all of your great advice. I especially appreciate the tip regarding atm/debit card usage and letting my bank know before my trip so that no hiccups arise. Your additional insight about transportation is also very helpful!
I do have a question about Palestinian transport to Bethlehem. What does it mean that the transport to Bethlehem is a Palestinian one? I will plan my Bethlehem trip for a Saturday since it will best tuck right in that way. Is a handbag or a backpack ideal for day trips?
Thank you for your insight on crime in Israel. It sounds very safe and that makes me feel very secure. I will be sure to use common sense!
Thanks again! :)
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