Weather: Average (High/Low temperature in Fahrenheit)
Weather in Israel can vary greatly from region to region, as well as from day to day within the same region. Some parts of Israel are humid and hot; others are more dry and cool and only warm in the summer. The best way to be prepared is to look at the forecasts for different areas and pack accordingly. For the last several trips at this time of year the weather has been warm to the point of almost being hot while in the Galilee area and cool, border lining being slightly cold while in Jerusalem.
Sea of Galilee
As you are assembling the clothes you plan to take, it is a good idea to check Israeli weather on the web periodically to verify the forecast for the time you will be there. This will help you pack smarter and lighter. For the cooler locations, think layering rather than packing heavy, bulky items.
Money – The New Israeli Shekel (NIS)
Please be prepared to have reliable access to funds for your daily needs. It is best to carry cash on hand. There will be opportunities to stop at ATM’s to withdraw cash, but it is best to make sure that every day you have enough cash to get you through the day. We also recommend bringing more than one alternative cash source (i.e. ATM card, credit card, cash). You will need to call your credit card company and let them know that you will be traveling outside the US and that you intend to use your credit card while in Israel. If you do not, there is a very good likelihood that your company will question whether the charge is legitimate, and the transaction will be declined.
Currency Exchange: Israeli currency is known as the “shekel.” Each shekel consists of 100 “agorot.” The exchange rate between the dollar and shekel are constantly changing, but a quick rule-of-hand is to divide the price you see in shekels by 3.6, give or take a little, and that is approximately the dollar amount that you will be paying. To know the exact rate of exchange, you can find out at: http://www.xe.com. If you have a smart phone, there is an XE Currency app that you can sync daily using the hotel Wi-Fi and keep up to date on the exchange rates.
Credit Cards: Most places accept credit cards. Visa and MasterCard are the most common; American Express and Discover are less likely to be accepted. Please remember to contact your credit card company and inform them that you will be using your card out of the country. Also, you can find out from your credit card company whether they charge international transaction fees. Some credit card companies will not charge, but others will take a percentage for each purchase abroad. This information will be helpful for you when trying to build a budget for spending money during the trip.
ATM’s/Money Exchange: There are ATM’s available in almost every location that we will be visiting. You will be able to withdraw in the local Israeli currency. You can expect money exchange counters to have higher rates at the airport. It is advisable to only exchange a little, if any, at the airport (enough for a day or so) and to then exchange more once we’ve exited the airport. You can also exchange some money before you depart, at your local bank, or at your local American Express or Thomas Cooke offices. Once in Israel, there are money exchange counters with lower rates in most cities. VAT: Israel has a “Value Added Tax (VAT),” which is a 17% tax. The tax is included in the price of the purchased item. It is refundable to you at the airport as you leave the country if your purchase exceeded $100 only at authorized shops as long as you make sure to provide a special VAT invoice that you must request from the storeowner. For those in this situation, we will make sure that you are adequately informed as to where to receive your refund towards the end of the tour.
Bargaining: Bargaining in Israel is an acceptable and expected form of transaction in certain areas and shops, mainly in the Old City of Jerusalem. We will let you know when it is appropriate to negotiate on price and when it is not.
Tipping: Tips to your guide and driver are included in the price of your tour package.
It is customs to collect an additional love offering usually done by the tour leader.
Likewise, all hotel rooms and hotel and restaurant staff are fully paid for and tipped.
There is no need to add an additional tip, unless you are informed otherwise.
Staying in Touch
Cell Phones: Your cell phone may not work overseas, and if it does, it may be shockingly expensive to use. Verizon and other US carriers have international plans that vary in affordability. For example, Verizon’s plan is called TravelPass and is $10/ day only if you use the service once during each 24 hour period. For your $10 you get to use your phone as if you were in the US, meaning any talk, texts or data will come off your monthly plan allowance, but without the high international call rates. You would need to call Verizon and have TravelPass turned on if it is not already.
Without a plan from your US mobile provider, there are two other ways you will be able to use your phone: either it will roam internationally (this is the shockingly expensive option) or you can purchase a SIM card and temporarily subscribe to an Israeli telephone network. In order to do this your phone must be “unlocked” from your US carrier. This is something that would have to do through your carrier prior to your leaving the US. The second alternative to use your phone in Israel is through a mobile app that allows you to use our hotels’ wireless network to make/receive calls. You will have access to Wi-Fi at our hotels. Many restaurants, stores and buses also provide this service, but you may have to ask for passcodes in order to connect.
If you are bringing any electrical appliances, you should know that the Israeli electric system runs on 220 volts, single phase, 50 cycles. Electricity in the US runs on 110 volts and 60 cycles. If you have a relatively new appliance (from the past five years or newer), you may only need a two-pronged C-type plug adapter with round prongs (suitable for southern Europe or the Middle East). Most appliances will have a tag on them that will say what voltage can be used with (220v/110v or 110v only). If your appliance is only suitable for 110v, you will need a transformer/converter in addition to the C-type plug adapter. Please check your appliances before use and don’t assume they will work unless it is clearly indicated that they run on 220v. Converters and adapters can be found at stores such as Wal-Mart, Target and Amazon.
Hebrew . . . learn a few key Hebrew phrases
Thank you very much
Please, You’re welcome
Is it safe to travel to Israel?
This is one of the first questions that people ask when considering a trip to Israel. Despite the reports seen on television and newspapers, the vast majority of Israel is statistically safer than most urban cities in the United States. The safety of the group is of utmost priority to us and we will never put a group in harm’s way. We encourage you not to fear, but to be willing to stand for truth and in solidarity with the people of Israel, no matter the perceived danger.
Do I need to get shots or vaccinations before arriving in Israel?
You do not need shots or vaccinations to visit Israel. However, if you have any special dietary needs or allergies please make us aware of anything that could affect your travels.
What is food like in Israel? Is the water safe to drink?
Breakfast and dinner will be provided by your hotel in a buffet-style with many selections of meat, fish, vegetables, fruits and desserts. You will experience a wide variety of delicious Mediterranean food throughout your travels in Israel. The water in Israel is safe to drink, especially at the hotels. If you’re not sure, or want to play it safe, you can buy bottled water.
What can I expect from our hotel(s)?
Our hotel accommodations are clean and comfortable. They all have hairdryers available. They do not typically have irons in each room, but there are rooms that you can take your clothes to and iron them there. Outside the US, washcloths are not universally provided. It would not be a bad idea to pack a washcloth.
How much walking will we have to do?
Israel is a land of beautiful hills and valleys and we will be spending a lot of our time exploring the many terrains Israel has to offer. The walks are not extremely strenuous, but please be prepared to do significant walking. You can prepare ahead of time by beginning to take walks on a daily basis in the shoes you will be wearing while in Israel.