Following are some tips that you might find helpful in preparing for your Israel trip.
- PASSPORTS: Now is a good time to double-check the expiration date of your passport which should be valid for at least 6 months past the departure date from the USA. We recommend that you make at least two photocopies of your passport. Leave one photocopy of the passport with someone at home; pack the other copy elsewhere than with the actual passport. BTW, when not locked up secure in your hotels, you should keep your passport, credit cards and money with you at all times. A bother, but it will avoid very uncomfortable situations.
- UPON ARRIVAL, at passport control you will be given a small piece of paper which is your Tourist Visa. You might want to put it in your wallet so it won’t get lost! You may need it to show at hotels, to get Value Added Tax back, etc.
- After going through passport control, we recommend that you change money in the baggage claim hall at Ben Gurion Airport while you are waiting for everyone’s bags to come out. (This is also a good time to use the restrooms.) It is a good idea to have some NIS (New Israeli Shekels or shekalim) in your pocket from the first day or so of your tirp. The recommended amount to get you started is about $100-200 per person. Click here to check the representative rate of Shekels per Dollar, but keep in mind that the exchange rate that you will receive at the changing station will be less than that. You can also exchange money at ATMs and/or official money changers in various locations (including once you pass Customs into the “greeters” area of the airport). Please note, that the exchange rates at hotels are usually less advantageous than at ATMs and money changers. You might want to check with your credit card carrier regarding service charges for foreign currency.
- CREDIT CARDS: You might want to check with your credit card carrier regarding service charges for foreign currency withdrawals or purchases. You should also advise your carrier that you will be making purchases in Israel so that they won’t suspect that the card is being used fraudulently. We have found that US DEBIT cards do not always work with ATMs in Israel. You should try to check this out in advance with your company. We suggest you make a list of all your credit cards and other valuable documents you’re traveling with and keep the list with someone at home or in an encrypted file on your cellphone. This will make replacement easier in the event of their being lost or stolen, God forbid! For further information, see Ways to Protect Your Money While Traveling
- PACKING: Following are some items to consider packing in addition to standard clothing appropriate for your season of travel:
- Be sure to bring a backpack/daypack with you on each day to hold a water bottle, hat, sun-block, sunglasses, camera, and other things you might need throughout the day.
- Comfortable walking (or hiking) shoes, All Israel trips assume that you will be doing a considerable amount of walking.
- Bathing suit and water shoes (NOT flipflops but something that will grab your heels), especially for the Dead Sea, rafting, water hikes, etc. Also pack a bath towel (in the event that you will be in the water between hotels when towels are not available)
- Prescription medicines (see details below) as well as over-the-counter meds, such as: Tylenol, ant-diarrhea, cold medicine, Band-aids, etc. Be sure to pack prescription medicines in your carry-on so that you will have them if your bags are detained.
- Modest clothes for Shabbat or visiting holy places (covering your shoulders and legs); Note that dress for holidays and Shabbat in Israel is very informal. No need for ties, suits or fancy dresses.
- Extra pair of glasses/contact lenses – or at least bring your prescription with you. Feel free to ask about other necessities or accessories. Pack what you need, but try to pack light!
Feel free to ask about other necessities or accessories. Pack what you need, but try to pack light!
5. INSURANCE: Neither the hotel/s nor your guide will take any responsibility for items that are lost, stolen or damaged in the course of the trip. This includes items that are kept in the van /bus when it is unattended. Don’t bring any personal item that you will feel bad if lost or stolen. You are highly encouraged to consider purchasing trip insurance. You can order on-line via one of many websites, such as InsureMyTrip. While we’re at it, you should bring proof of medical insurance, just in case.
6. TECH TIPS:
a. ELECTRICITY in Israel works on 220v/50Hz. American electronic appliances will require a converter for use in Israel. Many laptop computers and electronic device charges work on 220v (requiring only a plug adapter), but be sure to check and re-check the information on the item itself before you plug anything in. To see what kind of plug adapter you might need, click here.
b. CELLPHONES: We highly encourage you to have cellphone access in Israel without depending on WiFi (i.e., a phone with a plan and/or data usage). This will make communication with your guide and others in the group much easier. If you have your own cellphone with a SIM card, you can either arrange to get a SIM card in the US that will work in Israel or you can rent an Israeli cellphone. Make sure you check with your cellphone provider that your phone is UNLOCKED for use with a SIM card not associated with your provider. In North America, there are several companies that will let you know your cellphone number in Israel before your departure. One such company is IsraelPhones (also known as Global Cellular). Alternatively, you can rent at Ben Gurion airport at the “Mobile” booth; however, there could be a long line and this may not be the most economic option.
By the way, most Israeli hotels do not have clocks in the rooms. If you want to be able to see the time, without relying on your cellphone, bring along your own watch or alarm clock.
c. WiFi: The hotels have WiFi available sometimes for a fee. If you would like to have access wherever you are, you can check out the Global Cellular website for options. RECOMMENDATION: Please limit your use of communications equipment to unscheduled time (e.g., on long bus rides or between programmed activities). This will help you personally to get the most out of the experience as well as serve as a courtesy to the rest of your family or travel companions.
7. PRESCRIPTION DRUGS: be sure to bring along enough medicines to make it through the couple of weeks you are here. The medicines should be put in your hand luggage in order to avoid problems if your checked bags are detained. You should also bring written instructions regarding the medicine (or other medical treatment) in the event that you need medical care while in Israel. Prescriptions per se from the US will not be honored in Israel; however, if necessary, you could see an Israeli doctor who could write you a prescription
8. SPEAKING OF HEALTH… to stay healthy and alert while in Israel you need to worry primarily about hydration. Drink LOTS of water, all day and in all situations (even sitting in air conditioning). Many tourists do not understand that you have to drink more than your mouth tells you your thirsty. (That sentence is non-grammatical, but I hope you get its meaning!) If you find yourself feeling lethargic or headachy, chances are you’re not drinking enough. Sure, take a pain-reliever, if you so choose, but be sure to keep drinking – best are small sips at regular intervals. As one who has had to be hooked up to an I.V. for dehydration, I can tell you it’s no picnic! A rule of thumb is that you should have to urinate about every 3 hours. If this is not the case, or if your urine is more yellow than white, keep drinking! While together, we will make as many pit-stops along the way as necessary. Also remember to drink on your international flights.
9. YOU CAN PLAY YOUR PART in helping to make the trip successful by listening to instructions and being on time to scheduled events. Our time in Israel will fly by quickly; if everyone will cooperate in being punctual we will be able to use the time to the fullest.
10. ANTICIPATING YOUR ISRAEL TRIP: While taking care of the technical preparations, it is no less important for you to prepare yourself intellectually, emotionally, and spiritually for the trip. The best way to do this is by reading. Just about anything you would pick up about Israel (ancient or modern) would be helpful. Below is a short list of my favorite “classics”; you might want to bring one or more along with you to read on the plane and during the bits of time available during the journey:
- The Source, by James Michener (Follow thousands of years of Israel’s history through the use of an archaeological tel.)
- Exodus, by Leon Uris (The eternal novel of the struggle for the creation of the State of Israel; if you haven’t seen the movie it’s worth renting or downloading. Have plenty of food on hand, it’s long!)
- O, Jerusalem! By Larry Collins and Dominique Lapierre (A novel-like retelling of the history of the battles for Jerusalem in 1948. Allowing for some inaccuracies of two journalists it is an excellent overview and intriguing reading.)
- Start-Up Nation, by Dan Senor and Saul Singer. (An inspiring book which analyzes how it has happened that Israel has become a world leader in hi-tech and other fields).
- My Promised Land: The Triumph and Tragedy of Israel, by Ari Shavit. (A frank – and sometimes difficult – but loving look at the Israeli society).
- Like Dreamers: The Story of the Israeli Paratroopers who Reunited Jerusalem and Divided a Nation, by Yossi Klein Halevi (At once an uplifting and critical look at Israeli society through the eyes and actions of some modern day “heroes”.)
- Let There Be Water: Israel’s Solution for a Water-Starved World, by Seth M. Siegel (A terrific account of how Israel has solved its water problems for the foreseeable future. An easy and fascinating read.)
News and the Internet: The best way to find out what is going on in Israel right now is by following The Times of Israel. It’s an excellent website, updated frequently, edited by David Horovitz. The Jerusalem Report (bi-weekly) or the weekly international edition of The Jerusalem Post is another way of getting a window on what’s happening in Israel. Your local synagogue library or JCC may subscribe to these publications. The Jerusalem Report can be found on the Internet at jrep.com; The Post’s site is www.jpost.co.il. In addition, the English edition of Ha’Aretz can be found at: http://www.haaretzdaily.com/ .