Please find hereunder some useful information, to help you plan your visit to Israel:
Please note that accommodation at Israeli hotels includes full Israeli breakfast daily. Hotels reserved as HB (half Board) include an additional dinner. Also note that check – in at Israeli hotels is at 2:00 PM and check – out time is at 12:00 noon. If you arrive to the hotel before check-in time or have to leave after check-out time, you can usually ask the hotel to keep your luggage in their luggage room till you need it back.
Most hotels in Israel will ask you for your credit card upon check-in. They don’t charge anything at this point, they just keep a copy of your credit card, so you will be able to charge whatever you order to your room and pay it all at check-out time, instead of paying cash as you order. It is better to charge to your room, this way you will not have to pay the VAT when you check-out being a tourist who is exempt of paying VAT. If you pay cash for whatever you purchase at the hotel, you will be paying the VAT.
As Israeli hotel rooms tend to be smaller than rooms in the USA, most hotels will sleep one, two or three people to a room. Prices are generally based on double occupancy.
Except of the already included Israeli breakfast served daily and dinners at hotels reserved as HB, all other meals will have to be paid separately en route. Please figure on spending some $10.00 – $15.00 per person per day for light lunch and $30.00 – $40.00 per person per day for dinner.
Insurance for baggage, personal items, health coverage and trip cancellation and interruption is not included, but is highly recommended. I suggest obtaining coverage through your local provider. When you do, check to see exactly what your travel insurance covers. Does it include health and baggage? Does it include trip cancellation?
All passports need to be valid for at least six months from the date of your departure.. Make a photocopy of your passport and carry it separately from your originals.
ISRAELI VAT REGULATIONS REGARDING ISRAELI HOTEL GUESTS
Please note that, according to Israeli tax law, all hotel costs quoted for tourists are exempt of VAT. Israelis however, will be subject to 16% VAT, so 16% must be added to the hotel bill (rooms and meals) for all Israeli guests should you have some. The local VAT law has changed recently in the following manner:
Guests who enter Israel using their foreign passport, under Visa entry B2/B3 (Regular tourist visas) and their stay is less than 90 days, will not be charged VAT on their hotel bill.
All other guests, who hold dual nationalities – Israeli and another one – and who enter Israel using their Israeli passport or any guest who enters Israel with a foreign passport but under a different Visa entry – will be charged VAT.
Please be advised that this procedure has been instructed and enforced by the VAT authorities for all hotels in Israel with the exception of Eilat.
A tourist is defined as –
An individual who has entered Israel on a tourist visa valid for no more than five day, An individual who has entered Israel on a visitor’s visa – valid for no more than three months – except for one who has received a work permit. In accordance with the above, people holding Israeli passports cannot be considered to be tourists, even if they hold passports of a foreign country.
Please advise your credit card company prior to your departure that you are going to be in Israel and specify the dates so they will authorize your transactions here.
Here’s some additional information you will find useful when you plan your trip to Israel and while in Israel:
Most airlines flying to Israel do not require reconfirmation of your return flight. If you are traveling with children, check with your air agent to see if the airline has children’s meals available. Also, if you need Kosher or any other kind of special meals, make sure to order these in advance.
Credit cards are widely accepted at most stores, restaurants and at many tourist sites, parks and museums. In addition, we recommend, in any case, that you bring a few personal checks as well as US dollars/cash. US dollars may be changed into shekels at official moneychangers in the large cities. So too, shekels can be obtained from ATM machines in the major cities with your PIN number.
Leave a copy of your program along with hotel telephone and fax numbers with family members.
Check with your airline regarding luggage allowance. Make sure that all of your bags are properly tagged.
Bring a copy of your prescriptions along with you. It is also a good idea to bring an extra pair of prescription eyeglasses with you. Remember that in Israel some medications will need an Israeli Doctor’s prescription, so you might want to make sure you have enough of the medications you take regularly.
Pack lightly, especially in the summer time. There is a reasonably priced one-day laundry service near your Jerusalem hotels. Don’t forget to take out any liquids from your carry on bags.
Do not leave luggage unattended at airports and/or in public places.
WHILE IN ISRAEL:
GRATUITIES IN ISRAEL
It is customary to tip your Israeli guide and driver. It is customary also to tip your airport drivers, bellboys and hotel staff. This is of course left up to your discretion. IN restaurants, you are expected to tip between 10%-15%, preferably in cash and not on your credit card.
Each bank has different hours of operation. However, most banks are open Sunday–Thursday 8:30 AM-12:30 PM. Bring your passport and a book to read. Many banks have separate lines for foreign currency exchange. Don’t be shy to ask where to go. As the rate of exchange varies from day to day, stay abreast of the situation.
Lifeguards go on duty at the major beaches around the country on or about May 1st. Watch your belongings when you go into the water in public beaches. You have to pay for using the chairs on the beach.
There are ATM’s at Ben Gurion Airport and in the large cities, some of them will give you foreign currency and some only shekels. You must have your PIN number to use these.
Mobile phones are widely used throughout Israel. There are three providers of service. Coverage is generally good. Reasonable in price. You can rent one prior to departure in the USA, upon arrival at Ben Gurion Airport or via the concierge at major hotels in the large cities. It is illegal to drive while holding a cellular phone, you must use a hands – free set, so you must ask your agent for one. You may also rent one before your departure from the USA from American based companies.
While you may expect rain from November through early April, it is dry during the rest of the year. During the dry season expect high humidity in Tel Aviv and along the coast. In Jerusalem and the mountains expect low humidity and warm weather in the dry season. It is cool in evenings in the mountains.
You can visit the Israel Meteorological Services
Dress is informal. Leave your suit and tie at home. In the winter bring layers – that you can peel off, as you may be above the snow line and in the desert on the same day. For the summer time, bring light clothing. A light sweater is recommended for Jerusalem and high-elevation evenings, even in the springtime. Modest clothing is required for most holy sites. Cover your knees and shoulders.
All major credit cards are accepted, even at the local grocer.
It’s hot in Israel. Drink plenty of fluids so that you don’t dehydrate. Alcohol is not recommended in high temperature zones in mid-day. Minimum drinking age for alcohol is 18.
Israel operates on 220 volts, 50 cycles. Make sure that your shavers and hair dryers have 220-volt adapters. If not, then 220-volt adapters along with the proper plugs may be purchased in Israel. Luxury hotels have a 110-volt outlet for shavers, etc. in the bathroom. Plug adapters for your appliances should be purchased in the USA. Note that most electronic devices such as palms, laptops, etc automatically convert between 220/110, but check the specs.
FACTS AND FIGURES ABOUT ISRAEL
Visit the site of the Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Check with your tour guide or concierge for a list of good restaurants. Food is generally safe to eat. Should you want to feel “at home,” many American food franchises now operate in Israel: Burger King, Macdonald’s, Pizza Hut, and more. But don’t be afraid to try the local fare. Water is safe to drink in Israel.
A word to the wise – Look and price items. Make your purchases toward the end of the visit after you have compared prices. Do not forget to save the VAT form so that you can get your refund at the airport. For good bargains and different kinds of gift items, try off the beaten track workshops and outlets.
Make sure that you have health insurance. Your hotel concierge can connect you, should the need arise, with the house doctor. Or, private emergency rooms operate in major cities. If you have a claim fill out the appropriate forms and your American carrier will reimburse you. Contact your tour escort should you need to see a doctor.
While it was once common to hitchhike, it is not recommended any longer.
WiFi connection is easy to find in most hotels, cafes & restaurants, at the hotel there is usually a charge for the use and you can find also a computer to use.
Keep most of it at home. Why schlep it and risk losing it on a vacation to Israel?
If you observe the dietary laws of kashruth, always look for an up-to-date kashruth certificate in hotels and restaurants. If you have questions, contact the local rabbinate in your particular city.
If you plan on bringing your laptop or palmtop to Israel – fine. Make sure that your charger is good for use on a 220-volt system and bring a plug adapter that will allow you to plug your gadgets into a standard Israeli wall outlet. If you cannot find one in the USA, don’t worry. They can be purchased in Israel for pennies.
Maps are available in English and other languages at good bookstores (e.g., Steimatzky), at the local Society for Protection of Nature (SPNI) book stores in major cities and at the Government Department of Surveys. Scale 1:50,000 is recommended for hiking, 1:100,000 for country driving and 1:250,000 for highway driving.
Israeli hotel rates are based on the standard bed and breakfast plan. Half board indicates that the price includes one other meal daily. Full board means that your program includes breakfast, lunch and dinner.
The NIS – New Israeli Shekel (or simply shekel) operates on the decimal system. In 2010 the rate of exchange to the dollar is approximately 1 dollar = 3.80 shekels (about 25 USA cents to the shekel). Check newspapers for the average rate of exchange. American currency is accepted in most places, but confirm the exchange rate used. There are 100 agurot to the shekel.
Israel has an extensive system of Nature Reserves that have marked trails, most of which are free of charge. Those parks that provide services such as toilets and food take a modest fee. If you plan on hiking (not in the desert) please purchase a 1:50,000 topographic map that has the trails clearly marked. If you plan on hiking on your own consult the nearest Field School of the Society of Protection of Nature in Israel.
You can get your baseball scores and other news from the two English language dailies: The Jerusalem Post and HaAretz. The former has inserts from the NY Times and the latter has an insert of The International Herald Tribune. For news on-line click Jerusalem Post or HaAretz.
Passports are required for all foreign currency bank transactions.
Photography is not allowed in some museums and in some security-conscious facilities like the Knesset as well as in some “ultra-orthodox” neighborhoods. On the Sabbath, it is inconsiderate to photograph at the Western Wall and in “religious” areas.
If you feel unwell, please call the emergency travel number in your itinerary packet 24 hours a day or contact your tour escort or hotel staff for help.
Bellboy service is not available for individual travelers at the airports. The dollies, however, are still free of charge.
Stamps are available at post offices or at hotel newspaper stands. Additional postage must be placed on mail items above 20 grams. Allow at least seven days for delivery of a letter from Jerusalem to New York.
Public phones are plentiful and usually do work. Most of them operate today with a plastic credit card size phone card, available at post offices and your hotel newsstand. Cards of 20, 500 and 100 units are available (time per unit depends on distance of call and time of day). You may access AT&T, MCI and Sprint for overseas calls from pay phones by dialing a toll-free number. Check for your service’s number before you leave. Overseas operator and overseas directory information is available by dialing 188. Domestic directory information is available by dialing 144 (free from public phone). For collect calls within Israel, dial 142.
Israel (surprisingly) is one of the safest places in the world, Street crime is very low and you can walk the streets in most big cities at night with no problem.
You and your bags may often be checked by security guards at public buildings such as shopping malls. Be cooperative — it is for your safety too. Do not leave your bag unattended – anywhere.
A wonderful place to experience Shabbat in Israel is Jerusalem. In addition to the “traditional” methods of observing Shabbat, many of the museums in the city are open on the Sabbath. For a traditional Shabbat experience, hang out at the Western Wall after Friday evening services and you may be asked home to dinner by one of the locals. For candle lighting time in various Israeli cities you can click here
The Friday edition of the Jerusalem Post lists times of services in the major synagogues in the large cities. Weekday morning services are generally at 6:00 AM throughout the country. Friday evening services tend to be some 15 minutes after candle lighting time. Most Orthodox synagogues start the Saturday morning service at 8:00 AM. Conservative synagogues start the service at 8:30 – 9:00 AM and Reform synagogues generally at 9:30 – 10:00 AM.
There is 16% value added tax (VAT) on most goods and services in Israel. At retail stores, this tax is always included in the price. Upon making a purchase of $110.00 or more at a gift store that has an agreement with the VAT authorities, you should fill out a form at the store and have it stamped there. You will be eligible, upon presenting the form and the item, for a 16% refund at the airport prior to departure. Do not pack these gift items in your luggage. They should either be kept in your hand luggage along with the special VAT form that you receive from the merchant or you can show them before you enter security, get the papers signed and then you can go ahead and pack them. Tourist services, such as hotel rooms and meals, purchased as export goods with foreign currency and paid at check-out time are exempt from VAT.
For on-line telephone books of Israel (in Hebrew) you can click here
Direct dialing from your hotel room overseas is not cheap. Phone credit cards accepted. For calls within Israel, you’ll do better making calls with a TeleCard plastic card from a pay phone. You may access AT&T, MCI and Sprint for overseas calls from pay phones by dialing a 177 (toll-free) number — check for your service’s number before you leave. Overseas operator and overseas directory information is available by dialing 188. Domestic directory information is available by dialing 144. For collect calls within Israel, dial 142.
For the current time in Israel you can click here
Tipping is not necessary for cab drivers or barbers. As to restaurants, check the bill to see if “service included” (it often is not included). If not, 10 – 15% is a good bet. If you wish to add tip on your credit card, please ask it in advance. It is accepted practice to tip hotel staff, your tour guide and tour bus driver.
It is customary to tip if you had a good time with a private licensed tour guide.
Rush hour in and out of the major cities is from about 6:15 AM – 9:00 AM and from 4:15 PM – 7:30 PM. If you have a meeting to catch allow for plenty of time. Within the major cities themselves, traffic can be hectic throughout the day, especially if a visiting head of state is in town.
There is excellent train service along the coastal route between Nahariya – Acre – Haifa – Netanya – Tel Aviv – Beer Sheba. The rates are reasonable and the ride is comfortable, avoiding the traffic jams. On Sunday mornings expect standing room only. For up to date train schedules you can click here
TRAVEL TO ARAB COUNTRIES
Travel to Jordan and Egypt from Israel has become rather hassle-free. Visas can be obtained in Israel. Check with your travel agent or the Jordanian (phone 03-7517722) or Egyptian (phone 03-546-4151) Embassies for up to date information on changing rules and regulations.
There are numerous opportunities to give tzedakah in Israel. You may contribute directly to the charitable organization of your choice – yeshiva, school, hospital, etc. Or, you may participate in a hands-on tzedakah project while in Israel.
Yes, you can take advantage of a host of underwater sports in Israel mainly in Eilat.
Vaccinations are not required for tourists entering Israel from western countries.
There is no need to bring valuable jewelry on your Israel trip. Most hotels have safes in the rooms for valuables. Otherwise, they may be locked in the safe at the front desk.
Although water in Israel is of good quality and suitable for drinking, you may not be used to the high mineral content. Bottled natural spring water is available everywhere – expensive at your hotel, more reasonable at the supermarkets or directly purchased from your bus driver if you are in a tour with a big group.
ENJOY YOUR TRIP TO ISRAEL.
WE ARE SURE THAT YOU WILL HAVE A LIFETIME EXPERIENCE.