LET'S GO TO ISRAEL!
EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW BEFORE YOU GO
We get it, you're traveling to Israel, and you probably have questions (we did too). To help answer these, we have gathered a list of the questions we get asked the most so that you can get ready for one of the most amazing trips you will ever take!
PREPARING FOR TRAVEL
So how much stuff is too much stuff? (Hint: if you're asking, it's probably too much.) In all reality, you should be able to bring everything you need for this trip in one checked bag and one carry-on bag.
In your carry-on bag people often bring things such as a Bible, headphones, a change of clothes, and snacks for the flight. Your carry-on bag should be something you can carry with ease for long periods of time (such as a backpack), and will be great to use during the tour to carry water bottles, things you pick up from stores, etc.
Your checked bag will need to fit the dimensions for your airline, and yes, your first checked bag should be free. But we recommend that you plan to pack no more than 40 lbs in your checked bag, to leave room to bring things back home. Due to limited space on the bus, please do not bring more than one checked bag per person.
WHAT TO BRING
There are a few things you will want to make sure to bring:
Passport and travel documents
Bible and something to write with
Camera or phone
A few travel snacks for in between sites (they come in handy)
Appropriate clothing (see next section)
Lunch money ($15/day)
Personal spending money (bring some cash, we recommend nothing larger than a $20 bill)
Travel tip: Except for your passport and some small amounts of cash, valuables such as expensive jewelry, nice handbags, etc. should be left at home.
Plan for weather that ranges from 45° to 80°, with a chance for some rain. Best advice: dress in layers so that you can make adjustments as needed. There are a few things you will want for sure:
Good walking shoes – We'll be walking a lot, and often on uneven terrain, trust us, good shoes matter! Tip: Walking a mile a day will help your body be ready for this tour, as some days have a moderate amount of walking.
Modest Attire – Sites we visit range from the very liberal city of Tel Aviv, to the ultra-modest holy sites of Jerusalem. In the more modest locations everyone will need to have knees and shoulders covered, and there's a chance that ladies may need to cover their hair. Your tour guide will let you know the day before this attire is required, but it is a good idea to plan for long pants and shirts with sleeves on most days. Ladies, one of the best things you can bring is a large scarf that can be used to cover shoulders or head as needed, just in case.
Swimsuit + Towel – We will be visiting the Dead Sea, and yes, you really do float!
PHONES, CHARGERS + ELECTRONICS
Phones – You will want to check with your provider regarding phone use in Israel. Every carrier has different plans available, but these features should be unlocked before you travel. You will also have a lot of access to Wi-Fi, so using apps such as WhatsApp is a great way to communicate while abroad. Tip: because of roaming charges, make sure you know how your phone works for things such as airplane mode, no roaming, etc.
Chargers – Whether it's your phone, camera, or hair dryer, you need to think about how you will charge your devices. While some places like airplanes or buses often come with USB outlets, the voltage in Israel differs from many countries. In Israel you will need a type-C or a type-H plug to convert outlets for your devices. Amazon has these in abundance, we recommend one like this which lets you charge multiple things at once: Amazon Link. We also recommend that you get one per person.
Electronics – If you're wondering what to bring, consider your camera, headphones, smartphone with charger, hair dryer (some hotels may not have these available), backup SD cards, etc. Please note that Israel has strict policies about drones, we advise you to not bring one on this tour.
TRAVELING TO ISRAEL
CHECK-IN ISRAEL STYLE
There are a few things that you will find different about traveling to and from Israel. First, plan for security and check-in to take a little longer than usual (arrive earlier than usual—we recommend at least 3 hours before your flight).
Second, Israel takes their security seriously. So you may find armed Israeli soldiers near your check-in. This doesn't mean anything is wrong—it means something is right! Israel is just as concerned about your safety and your flight as you are.
Lastly, when you check-in, be prepared to answer some questions. Sometimes, a lot of questions. This interview process is a part of check-in when you fly to Israel, and could occur at check-in for your first flight, or at the gate for your second flight. This is nothing to be alarmed about, and is honestly one of the longer parts of the travel process.
Just stay cool, honest, and answer their questions. They may ask you about your family, your personal line of work, your hobbies (yes, for real!), your travel plans, your group, etc. It is just part of them getting to know you, and to trust you are who you say you are, all in a matter of minutes. You may also want a copy of your itinerary (printed) just in case.
MEET @ THE GATE
Everyone is welcome to get to the airport when they would like, but we do recommend at least 3 hours prior to your flight (see next section). Once you get through airport security, head to your gate and meet your team there. We know, you were looking forward to the stores in the airport, but we'd love to know you made it, and this is a great time to meet some new friends you're about to travel the world with! We will let you know closer to the trip who you can plan to meet at the airport.
Whether you are flying direct, or non-stop to Israel, be prepared for a long flight. Comfortable clothes, a neck pillow, and other creature comforts are considered by many to be a must! If you're new to long flights and have a question, let us know. But a quick Google search for what to bring on a long flight will yield a ton of results.
It's also important to know—for those of you who love airplane restrooms (come on, we know you do)—that for the last 1 hour of your flight that lands in Israel, you will not be allowed to get up. So when they give a "last call" for the restrooms, take advantage of it (we'll also do a group restroom when we deplane and before customs).
WAIT ... NO STAMP?
Something else that's different about traveling to Israel is that you will not get your passport stamped (a bummer, I know). There are reasons for this, but what's important to know is that instead of a stamp, you will be given a small piece of paper. This is your visa—make sure to keep this! You can use them when you enter the country, and when you exit.
WELCOME TO ISRAEL!
Now that you're here, you are going to see what a rich and diverse place Israel is. From the many cultures and religions, to the languages you will hear, the foods you will eat, and the amazing history that you will discover. This small nation, home to more than 9 million people, is about the size of New Jersey, and is the backdrop for the Biblical stories and prophecies from Genesis to Revelation. There is absolutely no other place like this in the whole world, and we are so excited to explore it with you!
KOSHER FOOD + TIPPING
Oh man ... you are in for a TREAT! The food in Israel is wonderful, and very healthy. Get your taste-buds ready for hummus (chickpeas), tahini, pita, fresh fruits and vegetables, fish, and more.
Kosher – One thing you will likely notice is that food in most places, including your hotels, is prepared and served Kosher. This means—among other things—that meat and dairy are kept separate. So you will likely notice things like dairy and breads being served in the morning, and in the evenings, meat with veggies, among other things.
Water – Yes, the water in Israel is safe to drink. However, because the mineral composition will likely be different than what you are used to, it is recommended to drink bottled water. And since we will be walking a lot, drink lots and lots of water!
Tipping – If you find yourself eating at a restaurant, know that like many western nations, tipping is discretionary, but expected. The going rate is between 10-15%, and waiters and bartenders generally get paid a lower salary with the majority of their earnings coming from tips. (Taxi drivers, on the other hand, do not expect tips.)
MEDICINE, ALLERGIES + HEALTH
Medicine – If you regularly take medicine, make sure to bring extra with you (as in two weeks extra). Sometimes things can be damaged during travel, and it would be unfortunate to have insulin or prescription meds damaged en route and to not have a backup. Please also keep medicine in its original container with your name on it, or it could be confiscated. It's also advised to carry your medicine in your carry-on bag for additional safety.
Allergies – If you have food allergies, make sure you're clear with people when ordering food. Sometimes in an interest to be polite, a street vendor may nod and smile, but not understand exactly what you are saying. If you have a severe allergy, you may even want to carry a picture of what you are allergic to so you can show them.
Health – If you have any health concerns that your tour leaders should be aware of, please let them know.
SOLDIERS + SAFETY
Every Israeli citizen is required to serve in the military. So one thing that you will see a lot of in Israel is soldiers. Whether they are stationed on a border, serving at a local tourist destination, or even if they're out for a day at the beach, or buying groceries with their family, you will see the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) soldiers out everywhere.
Despite this being surprising to many, you will find that Israel is a very safe country. In fact, in 2019 there were 4.55 million visitors to Israel, and not one single incident. Israel is much safer, statistically, than many large cities in America. Whether by day or night, on public transportation, in a restaurant, or on an evening stroll, you will find that the places we visit in Israel are safe, and there is no cause for alarm.
Of course, as with any major tourist destination, you will want to be aware of your surroundings, and watching out for things like pickpockets (in certain high-tourist areas). A good rule while traveling is to avoid carrying unnecessary valuables, such as expensive bags, expensive jewelry, lot's of cash, etc.
You might wonder if you need to learn another language to visit Israel. And while the national language is Hebrew, you will find everything written in three languages: Hebrew, Arabic and English. You may even hear other languages such as Russian while you are there from the locals, and there is no lack of languages to be heard from tourists from around the world!
English is widely spoken in Israel, and with it you can get around just fine, from dining, to public transportation. However, if you're ready to make a good impression on the locals, and to communicate even better, here are a few basic Hebrew phrases you can use.
Shalom (shah-lōm) = hello/goodbye (this is used as a general greeting, but it's literal meaning is "peace")
Boker tov (bō-ker tōv) = good morning
Erev tov (eh-rehv tōv) = good evening
Lehitra’ot (lay-heat-ra-oat) = good bye/see you later
Bevakasha (beh-vah-kah-shah) = please
Ken = yes
Lo (lō) = no
Toda (tō-dah) = thank you
Toda raba (tō-dah rah-bah) = thank you very much
Slicha (slē-chah) = sorry/excuse me/pardon me *note: the "ch" sound is more of a scratchy throat sound, you'll get the hang of it!
L’chaim = cheers (literally means "to life")
In many places you will have the opportunity to shop. So there's a couple of things you should know:
Prices are negotiable. Bargaining is one of the best tips we can give you. It will save you money, but it can also be a lot of fun. Don't expect that the first price you are asked to pay is the final price. Israeli people expect to get a discount on almost all major purchases, so the "list price" is calculated accordingly.
You will get yelled at. Well, not really, but it may feel like that. Israelis speak loudly and quickly, and may give you the impression they are being rude or are frustrated. However, they are friendly, and enjoy interacting with tourists. If you're not sure if that person is yelling or not, they may simply be telling their child how much they love them and asking what they learned at school.
Currency – Israel uses the New Israeli Shekel which is denoted as NIS. So if you see something with a price tag that says NIS 5 then you know it's 5 shekels. While the exchange rate will vary at the time of your travel—roughly 314 shekels to $100 USD—you can rest assured that there are plenty of places to exchange your currency. From banks to post offices, hotels, and licensed exchange places. Your guide may even let you know about exchange places in the market that may have a good rate (though they usually take a little percentage for their business).
US Dollars – Most shops and vendors will also accept US dollars, however, this may cost you in the exchange rate. It's also important to note that shekels are best used for negotiating.
Cards – Credit cards are also accepted in many locations, though American Express cards are not very popular, maybe keep that one at home. Tip: if using your cards, make sure to call your credit card company in advance to let them know about your travel plans. ATMs are available around various cities at times, and credit cards can also be used in many places such as restaurants and gift shops—but be mindful of fees that your bank and credit card carrier may charge you for these uses.
Cash – Lastly, and this is important, we do not suggest that you bring large sums of cash during your tour, but you will likely want some cash for your days in the Old City (Jerusalem)—exchange this for shekels if possible. There are also ATMs available in some locations. You may also want small bills to purchase water bottles from the bus from time to time, or to leave a tip for someone.
The hotels in Israel not only provide a great place to rest after a long day of travel, but we will eat breakfast and dinner there on most days. Hotels are usually able to help with luggage when people arrive and leave the hotel, and also have the option to store some of your personal valuables in their safe should you need to do so. If you have requested us to assign you a roommate, those final assignments will be given out at your first hotel.
Our buses are a great mode of transportation and not only provide a comfortable ride, they often have USB charge ports for your electronic devices (bring your own cable), water bottles available for purchase, and provide a safe place to store your belongings while we visit various sites.