What to know before traveling to Israel
An inspiring land in the Middle East, rich in culture, breathtaking in its beauty, and holy in its heritage and sites, no other place stirs up passion quite like Israel. Whether you’ve got your bags packed and ready to embark on your journey of a lifetime through Israel, or you’re toying with the idea of exploring this remarkable country, Israel Seminar’s team of tastemakers are on hand to share our extensive knowledge and help you unlock a world of in-the-know expertise.
After tailoring countless journeys and encountering all the trials and tribulations Israel has to offer, we’re giving you the essential guide to know what to expect and how to prepare for exploring this unique land.
A friendly nation:
A melting pot of people from all walks of life and cultures, locals are friendly and warm. The nation is inherently family-orientated so expect to be invited to Shabbat dinners, weddings, and parties by someone you met 5 minutes prior. Israelis are passionate and proud of their traditions and thrive off teaching foreigners about their heritage and tasting the rich flavors of unique family recipes passed down through generations. Joining any of these events will give you a genuine, authentic insight into Israeli life.
Slowing down on Shabbat:
The day of rest in Israel is observed quite differently around the country. In Jerusalem and religious areas, Friday nights and Saturdays are a time for quiet, to switch off from everything, join Shabbat prayers, and spend time with family and friends without the distractions of the week. In quite the juxtaposition, Shabbat in hedonistic Tel Aviv is when the city comes alive. While people do not work on Shabbat, this is the time locals let loose, soak up the sun’s rays on Tel Aviv’s iconic beaches, and following the brilliantly orange sunset, hang out at bars and clubs as the music pumps long into the early hours. There’s truly something for everyone.
The Israeli ‘Chutzpah’:
You’ve probably heard about it or experienced it for yourself; Israelis are no holds barred when it comes to their tenacity. It can be good or bad depending on the situation but rest assured they will speak their mind to anyone, anywhere. This attitude is not intended to be insulting; their direct nature is felt throughout the country and is part of the Israeli culture; it’s how they get things done. What many conceive as impossible, Israeli’s consider doable, just look at start-up nation. It’s a dreamer mindset that is handed down from generation to generation, and while some find it discourteous, it’s not personal. Take it with a pinch of salt, give back the ‘chutzpah’ they gave you, and see how far you’ll go.
Learning the lingo:
While Hebrew is the lingo of the land, around 85% of Israelis speak English, so there’s never a problem for tourists to get around. Locals are always willing to help tourists; it gives them a chance to practice their English which is most likely spoken frequently in their workplaces. When it comes to market vendors, use some of that ‘chutzpah’ and don’t let your accent get you the “special price for my American friend”. Remember, the first price is never the last.
Getting from A to B:
There are many forms of public and private transportation to get you around Israel efficiently. The railway system is your most budget-friendly, fast, and reliable option between cities, while the bus network and monit sheruts (shared taxis) work well in cities. For a private service, Gett Taxi app is the Israeli version of Uber and is highly recommended to hail a cab in minutes. Renting a car is also an option here, but be prepared to sit in plenty of traffic and deal with the feisty Israeli drivers who can be a little too horn happy.
Guide to gratuity:
It is always useful to have some cash on hand when visiting Israel. While most places accept credit, tipping is primarily done with cash. It is customary to give around 12 to 15 percent in tips, but slightly more if you feel the service has been exceptional. Whatever you give, your generosity will always be appreciated.
When it comes to fashion in Israel, anything goes. In the urban oasis of Tel Aviv, locals love to express themselves through quirky and unique style choices, but more than anything, comfort is king. In the summer months, temperatures can soar into the 100’s, making light clothing your best choice. Winter can be quite chilly; layers and a warm, water-resistant jacket are necessary because when it rains – it pours. Comfortable shoes are a must when traveling the country, and in Jerusalem and religious sites, modesty is appropriate.
Protecting the people:
Safety and security in Israel are often portrayed negatively in the media, but the vast majority of these claims are untrue. For tourists and citizens, Israel is one of the safest countries, and people can walk around unattended without encountering issues. You may see Israel Defense Force soldiers roaming the streets with weapons, but they are there to protect and serve. Israel has some complex challenges with its neighboring countries, but our itineraries are curated with the utmost care and concern for our client’s safety, and you would never be put at risk. In the event of any unrest, Israel Seminar won’t hesitate in making you aware of necessary changes to travel plans. Our team is always here for you regarding any questions you may have.