BELLIN TRAVEL TIPS ||PRINT|
PREPARING YOUR TRIP
Reconfirm your flights at least 72 hours
prior to departure. Make sure that your special meals are, as well, confirmed.
If you are travelling with children, check with your air agent to see if
the airline has children's meals available.
Please be warned that not all scanning machines at airports are film safe.
While you may use travelers' checks in
Israel, the rates offered are less than generous. 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. The exchange rate has been
fluctuating. In 2004. $1.00 USD = approximately 4.5 NIS. For today's rate of exchange
Check to see exactly what your travel
insurance covers. Does it include health and baggage?
Leave a copy of your program along with hotel telephone and fax numbers with family
You are allowed two suitcases
per person, each weighing up to 70 lbs. If you plan on stopping over in Europe
you are limited to 44 lbs. per person. You may carry one carry on piece of luggage.
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.
Pack lightly, especially in the summer time. There is a reasonably priced one-day
laundry service near your Jerusalem hotel. If you are travelling in the winter,
do bring a winter jacket, rain gear and sweater. An umbrella is also recommended.
Double check that your passport is valid
for at least six months beyond the scheduled return date of your trip. Make a
photocopy of your passport and carry it separately from your originals.
Do not leave luggage unattended at airports.
WHILE IN ISRAEL
Should you be interested,
you might participate in an archaeological dig in Israel. Visit www.bib-arch.org/bswbDigBAR.html
for details and a list of all current digs.
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.
Bar and Bat Mitzvahs
For great ideas regarding
the family Bar and Bat Mitzvah service, meal and tour visit The Unique Celebration
site at www.dbellin.com/unique.htm.
Lifeguards go on duty at the major beaches around the country on or about June
Renting a car is more expensive
than in North America. You'll get the best deal if you rent for a week. There
are numerous companies today. Compare prices. Most companies have affiliates in
the States. There is a drop-off charge at the International Airport. Cars tend
to be small. If you are more than four people you will probably need a van.
Mobile telephones 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. Ask your rental
agent for a hands - free set.
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. For daily weather
updates click www.weather.yahoo.com/regional/ISXX.html.
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. For men - long pants and casual shirts. Women
- skirts and blouses (with sleeves). Hats are a good idea year round.
All major credit cards are accepted, even
at the local grocer.
Israel is home to two deserts
the Judean Desert and the Negev. While these are two fascinating regions, we
do not recommend that you hike there on your own. Contact us at
firstname.lastname@example.org for a professional desert tour guide.
Yes, you can see dinosaur tracks in Israel! Turn off Rt. 1 as you approach Jerusalem
from the west and get off at the Beit Zayit exit. The tracks are in the center
of the village.
Driving in Israel
can be a challenge. Speed limits are in kilometers: 50 kph in the city, 80 on
inter-city roads and 90 on super highways, unless otherwise indicated. Seat belts
must be worn in front and in back at all times. Children under the age of 12 are
not allowed in the front seat unless they are infants in a safety seat. Driving
is on the right; passing is on the left.
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.
Al Airlines as well as most other carriers have early check-in service in Tel
Aviv in the afternoons prior to departure of late night and early morning flights.
This allows you to arrive at the airport one-hour before departure, rather than
the usual three hours.
For a fun filled family or group tour full of lots of Jewish issues, questions
and some answers visit the Custom Tours site at www.dbellin.com/custom.htm.
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 can often be borrowed from the concierge at 5 star hotels.
You'll receive an AL-17 form
upon entry. Save it until departure.
All of the National Parks and Nature Reserves accept major credit cards. Smaller
museums and sites as well as privately managed sites very often do not accept
credit cards. Allow for some $12.00 $15.00 per person per day, on the average,
for entrance fees. Adventure activities often cost $20.00 $25.00 per person
Facts and Figures about Israel
Visit the site of the Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs at www.israel.org/facts/index.html.
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, Subway, Pizza Hut, Domino's Pizza, Kentucky Fried Chicken,
and more. But don't be afraid to try the local fare.
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
coverage. Your hotel concierge can connect you, should the need arise, with the
house doctor. Or, private emergency rooms now operate in the major cities. Fill
out the appropriate forms and your American carrier will reimburse you. Please
contact your tour escort 24 hours a day should you need to see a doctor.
While it was once common to hitchhike,
we do not now recommend it.
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.
If you are considering moving to
Israel consult with your local Israeli Consulate or a representative of the Jewish
Agency at the Israel Aliya Desk in the USA. You can also call the Israel Aliya
Center in NYC at 212-339-6000. Visit the site of the Jewish Agency for Israel
Internet access is available in the
Business Center of most major 5 star hotels as well as at Internet Cafes in the
large cities. Newer 5 star hotels have hook-ups in all hotel rooms for your laptop.
Do not try to cash them at small
branches, as they often do not have the appropriate forms. Try the larger Tourism
Branches in the major cities. Bring your passport with you.
Keep most of it at home. Why schlep it and risk losing it on a vacation to Israel?
If you are interested in touring
Jordan be it a day tour to Petra or a 2 4 day tour, contact us. Visas can
be obtained on the spot at the border crossing near Eilat (Arava Crossing) and
at the crossing in the Galilee near Beit Shean (Sheikh Hussein). Contact us at
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 the particular city you are located or consult your tour escort at
David Bellin Travel Systems.
plan on bringing your laptop or palmtop to Israel fine. Most of the larger five
star hotels have modular phone hook ups in the rooms. As for the smaller and out
of the way hotels use the hotel's fax machine. Bring a long phone cord, as the
phone jack may not always be conveniently located. 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: Tel Aviv 03-522-1513, Jerusalem
02-6253487), 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
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 mid 2004 the rate of exchange to the
dollar is approximately 1 dollar = 4.5 shekels. Check local newspapers for the
average rate of exchange. American currency happily 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 www.jpost.com or www.haaretzdaily.com.
Passports are required for
all foreign currency bank transactions.
As film is rather
expensive, bring plenty of it. 100 or 200 speed is recommended for outdoor and
indoor-flash photography. 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.
service is not available for individual travelers at the airports. The dollies,
however, are still free of charge. Porterage is available at most hotels. It is
customary to tip bellboy $1.00 per suitcase.
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.
Unless you are coming on a pre-arranged guided tour, one of the
best ways to see all that you want to see of Israel is to have a professional
tour guide put together a custom touring package just for you -- it is cheaper
than you might think and a wonderful experience is guaranteed. Interested? Click
There is comprehensive bus service in the large cities. While drivers
do give change, it is always best to buy tickets at the counter when leaving from
bus stations. Save your receipt until the end of the ride. Multi-ride cards are
available at a discount from the driver. There is also a comprehensive bus system
between large and medium sized cities. In the periphery of the country -- northern
Galilee, Golan, Negev Highlands, and out-of-the-way areas -- bus service can be
sparse. The phone number for inter city information for the Egged Bus Company
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 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 (free
from public phone). For collect calls within Israel, dial 142.
Known as WC, and available in most tourist locations. Be prepared
with tissues in your pocket at all times. Also, be aware that some public toilets
are staffed by attendants who ask for a "user's fee".
While walking about the large cities, keep your wallet in your front pocket and
your purse close by.
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
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 click www.ou.org/zmanim/candlelighting/default.htm.
Interurban jitneys (group taxis).
As soon as all seats are filled the driver leaves. There is a set fee per passenger.
They operate between major cities as well as between the airport and major cities.
Worthwhile to check the prices since they are sometimes cheaper (or about the
same) as the bus, and are faster.
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 17% value added tax (VAT) on most goods and services in Israel. At retail
stores, this tax is always already included in the price. Upon making a purchase
of $100.00 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 17% refund at the airport
prior to departure. Do not pack these gift items in your luggage. They should
be kept in your hand luggage along with the special VAT formed that you receive
from the merchant. Tourist services, such as hotel rooms and meals, purchased
as export goods with foreign currency are exempt from VAT. Taxis While traveling
in the city, insist that the meter be turned on. The driver may want to close
a "deal" with you -- insist on the meter and make sure it is reset at the start
of the trip. Between cities, you can close a deal with the driver, as you will
be using the services of a "special".
For on-line telephone books of Israel (in Hebrew) click http://www.144.bezek.com/.
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.
current time in Israel click www.timeanddate.com/worldclock/custom.html?cities=110.
Tipping is not necessary for cab
drivers or barbers. As to restaurants, check the bill to see if "service included"
(it often is). If not, 10 - 15% is a good bet. It is accepted practice to tip
hotel staff, your tour guide and tour bus driver.
Make sure that your guide and his/her vehicle are licensed for tourism.
It is customary to tip if you had a good time with a private licensed tour guide.
For more details on tour guides contact email@example.com.
The Ministry of Tourism has
closed most of their "manned" information centers and has placed computer information
terminals in their stead. Good luck!
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. There is no longer train service to Jerusalem. For up to date train
schedules visit www.israrail.org.il (in
Travel to Arab Countries
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 Eilat. Our representative in Eilat will advise
you and will help you book your water activities in this southern location.
Vaccinations are not required for
tourists entering Israel from western countries. Valuables There is no need to
bring valuable jewelry on your Israel trip. Most 5 star hotels have safes in the
rooms for valuables. Otherwise, they may be locked in the safe at the 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.
Weights and Measures
Metric system used exclusively. A kilometer is a bit over a 1/2 mile - (0.62 miles).
A kilogram is equivalent to 2.2 pounds. For a conversion table - www.sciencemadesimple.com/conversions.html.