When I plan a trip to a foreign country I tend to only feel the excitement. I get giddy imagining all the new places I will see and explore. Others get nervous and some may feel nothing more than the mundane knowledge of a trip that has to be made (…a feeling I will never understand). But anywho, the point is it’s easy to jet off for new said foreign lands without thinking about the finer details of preparation – common phrases, customs and culture, remembering what this city is famous for…
Maggie and I had a lot of fun speaking little phrases in Hebrew (shes obviously better than I am.. I mean, wayyy better but whatever), probably because we are weird and also enjoyed speaking French to each other in passing when we roomed in New Orleans. When I wrote this guide I had her say a word, I wrote down my best phonetic spelling and then she told me how the word was really spelled. I am a nerd and thought this was the most fun game ever. Use one, two or a few.. maybe you’ll even find yourself inspired to learn Hebrew. Either way, these phrases are awesome and you’re welcome.
Shalom (sha-lome) – hello/goodbye.
Slicha (slee-hha) – excuse me.
Todah (toe-dah) – thank you.
Bevakasha (buh-va-ka-sha) – please/thank you.
Efo (ay-foe) – where is?
Hashbon (hash-bone) – the check/bill.
Manishma (Mah nish mah) – what’s up?
In Israel the official languages are Hebrew and Arabic. English may or may not also be an official language, but that’s just a technicality. Many people in Israeli speak English and it is used fairly frequently in signage and publications. Just don’t count on all the street signs being in English all the time.
Thirty three spoken languages have been reported in Isreal and the most widely spoken unofficial language is Russian.
Citizens of the U.S., Canada, Australia, Ireland, New Zealand and the U.K. are granted a visa on arrival at no charge when they arrive in Israel. A tourist visa is good for 3 months but beware that different borders apply varying exit fees when you depart.
Jerusalem has been conquered and reconquered many times. It houses some very holy places for Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Although majority of the population of Israel is Jewish, you will find people of many faiths, heritages and religions living in or visiting Israel, all providing the opportunities to worship with us. It was spectacular. Additionally, it was refreshing to see that people in Jerusalem are free to practice their religion and continue their religious studies (irrespective of which religion a person belongs to) For instance, if someone who follows Christianity wants to continue their bible study online, they can do so without any restrictions.
Only if this kind of religious harmony were allowed in most of the countries around the world, where people would be supportive of all religions, there would not have been any communal riots! Anyway, enough of day-dreaming, let us come back to the topic.
Shabbat, the day of rest taken from sundown Friday to sundown Saturday, means that many businesses will close. Try not to schedule travel on these days or you may have to pay for a more expensive private taxi or sherut.
Israel is very modern but in certain areas such as Orthodox Jewish neighborhoods, Arabic neighborhoods and religious sites you may need to dress more conservatively.
Israel is a small country but the climate and weather still varies throughout. In the northern regions, along the Mediterranean, you will experience hot and dry summers and cool, rainy winters. In the desert it gets very hot during the day but quite cold at night. In the summer, some cities like Tel Aviv get hot and humid. In the winter the climate is mild and sunny or cool and rainy.
It;s pretty easy to get around Israel whether you want to hop on a bus, experience a sherut or hire a taxi.
Americans will need an adapter to use their electronics in Israel.
Many hotels and hostels offer free wifi and Tel Aviv even has a fairly reliable free network that picks up throughout the city. The Egged buses even offer a decent signal. I struggled to get a connection in Nazareth. Coffee shops are usually the best bet for good wifi.
The official currency is the Israeli New Shekel (NIS or ILS) and one shekel is currently about 26 cents. To account for the exchange while I was traveling I would divide any price by 4 to approximate the cost in American dollars.
ATMs are readily available in the main destinations like Tel Aviv and Jerusalem and usually offer and English language option.
Tipping 10% at restaurants is generally the norm. You can always leave more if the service was exceptional or you like your server.
Many restaurants keep kosher meaning you won’t be able to order cheese on your hamburger (even at some McDonald’s locations).
Popular Stops + Why
MASADA – Due to proximity, if you make it to the Dead Sea you have to stop at Masada too. Better yet, beat the desert heat by hiking the snake path to the top before sunrise. You will get an epic view of the Dead Sea and Judean Desert before that float.
EILAT – Eilat is a popular beach town on the Red Sea at the very bottom tip of Israel. I visited in winter so I had to give this a miss but it’s popular for snorkeling and scuba diving among other typical beach vacation activities.
Hidden Gems + Why
What sorts of details would you like to know about a destination before you arrive?
Planning your own trip to Israel and looking for suggestions? Check out my itinerary for one week in Israel plus a second week to visit Jordan and Egypt.
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