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Our Getaway to Tel Aviv and Jerusalem
We had a holiday in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem in May 2019. While the main purpose of the trip was to attend Eurovision Song Contest, we had also allocated a few days to do sightseeing in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. The weather in Israel was already warm in May so we were able to enjoy Tel Aviv's great beaches.
During our vacation, not all things happened smoothly and we faced some unclear things. In order to help our readers and future Israel travellers, we collected the most important practical tips for a smoother journey in Israel.
Before the Journey to Israel
As always before your journey, prepare carefully. The most important thing is to purchase a travel insurance. In a case of illness or accident, the healthcare in Israel may become expensive without a valid insurance and it is necessary to have a wide-covering travel insurance. You may get an instant and inexpensive quote from World Nomads.
Contact your own physician to confirm that you have all needed vaccines. It is also important to confirm that your passport and visa requirements are met. The best source of the immigration information is Embassy of Israel.
Select a Hotel Carefully
We were kind of surprised that hotels in Israel are pricey. To save some budget, we booked 3-star hotels in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem but they were still expensive compared to their quality. Especially in Tel Aviv, the quality was low despite of the high price tag. In Jerusalem, our hotel had better amenities.
If you prefer to stay in a good quality hotel, prepare to pay a little more. Book at least a 4-star hotel which has many good reviews. One of the best sites to compare hotels price is HotelsCombined.
We do not want to mention our Tel Aviv's hotel's name because it was just bad. In Jerusalem, we stayed in Hashimi Hotel that was really worth the money. It was located inside Old Jerusalem, but it was still quiet and very clean. Be aware that Hashimi Hotel follows family values and an unmarried woman a and man can't stay in the same room.
Get a Mobile Roaming Solution
Mobile roaming in Israel is super expensive. There are many public WiFis available but in order to be able to use Google Maps and taxi applications everywhere, you need to be connected all the time. The best solution is to have a local SIM Card.
We used SIM to Israel procuct. It can be ordered online before the journey and you have three delivery options for the card. You may choose that the SIM card will be delivered to your home (international delivery accepted), to be picked-up at the Ben Gurion Airport or it will be delivered to your hotel in Israel. The best part is that, this SIM card's plan is really affordable and it has 30 GB data included. We were happy with this solution.
Exchanging Israel Currency
Israel has its own currency, Shekel. You may take dollars, euros or your own money with and change it in money exchange offices. However, we recommend you to use Curve card like we did. Curve offers free currency conversion and you can easily save 20-50 dollars during the journey while saving some of your time too.
Arriving to Israel
Most likely you are landing to Ben Gurion Airport near Tel Aviv if you intend to visit Jerusalem or Tel Aviv. There are many direct flights from all over the World to Tel Aviv and with one hop, you can reach Tel Aviv basically from anywhere.
Immigration in Israel
You may have heard that security measures in Israel are strict to protect the country against terrorism. It is wise to arrive to your departure airport early enough because passengers travelling to Israel may be inspected or even interviewed meticulously. Double check that you have your travel documents. Be ready for a few questions by the interviewer in Israel immigration and be prepared to prove your claims, for example, the purpose of your travel.
Airports in Israel have public transport options. During Sabbath, they may not operate. For example, it is impossible to reach Tel Aviv from Ben Gurion Airport by a train or by a bus during Sabbath. Reaching Jerusalem by a shared taxi, Sherut may still be possible.
If you are heading to Tel Aviv on Sabbath, a taxi is the best option. Uber is not popular in Israel but you may use their local similar system, Gett. It is also possible to take a taxi from the airport's taxi queue.
The most convenient solution is to order a taxi beforehand from a reliable Taxi2Airport service. The transfer will be waiting for you right after your arrival.
Moving around Israel
There is a well-working public transport system in Israel but buying a ticket may be a tough task. For example, not all buses accept cash payments.
You need to buy a public transportation card called Rav Kav. To move smoothly, this card is vital. Rav Kav cards can be bought from bus and train stations. You can top up money or daily passes to the card.
It is also possible to buy Rav Kav in Ben Gurion Airport from the Public Transport Information Office located in the Terminal 3. Topping up the card is simple with the Rav Kav app but you need to be connected to the internet.
Uber is not widely available in Israel. Install a local taxi app, Gett to your phone. The rides will be metered, so you do not know the exact price before the journey but the app can calculate the fare correctly. The payment will be charged from your credit card so no need to hassle with money inside the car.
You may also hail a regular taxi and pay by cash. Be sure that the meter is on or agree the price beforehand.
To board a bus, you need the Rav Kav to pay a journey. Rav Kav can also be used in long distance buses. Many buses do not accept cash payments at all. However, if you do not have a ticket and no suitable payment methods, drivers may let you in without any ticket. That happened to us many times.
Public transport do no operate on Sabbath which actually begins on Friday evening and continues until Saturday evening. Prepare to move by walking or by a taxi these times. Shabbath really has a big effect in Israel.
Our Picks for a Stay in Israel
Tel Aviv Beaches
Tel Aviv has many nice beaches and warm water during the summer. While visiting Tel Aviv, don't forget to enjoy the sun and the sea at least a few times.
Old Jaffa in a historical area inside Tel Aviv. It is really different from Tel Aviv but it is still easily reachable by a local bus. We recommend you to spend one full day in Old Jaffa. There are many cosy restaurants with good food and many beautiful things to see.
Jerusalem is just 1 hour ride away from Tel Aviv . You can take a public bus from Tel Aviv's bus station to Jerusalem's bus station. In Jerusalem, there is a lot to see especially in the old town. Jews, Muslims and Christians live together and you will find many famous holy spots.
Dead Sea can be reached easily from Jerusalem. Because Dead Sea is wide, we recommend you to head to the nearest beach from Jerusalem to save time. There is a beach called Kalia which is only a 60 minutes bus ride from Jerusalem. The beach is more than 400 meters below the sea level and it gets really hot during the summer!
You can reach Kalia Beach with the bus number 486 from Jerusalem. Exit at Waterpark stop. Be sure that your Rav Kav has enough value to complete the return trip. The entrance fee to the beach area is 59 shekels for adults while 48 shekels for children and students and senior citizens, discounts to be availed only with a valid ID. In addition to the beach, you will find restaurants, a bar and a souvenir shop. You may want to pay the package upon admission that includes a lunch or massage.
Arrive the airport at least 3 hours before the departure. There will be a mandatory interview and you may be asked many questions. Our tip is just to answer honestly. The interviewer may be provocative but just remain calm and provide consistent replies. Most likely, the interview may last only a few minutes.
Finally, when we arrived at the airport early enough, we recommend to choose to have relaxing time at the airport lounge before our flights. We visited Dan Lounge.
Having a holiday in Israel won't be cheap. With the right choices, you are able to keep the costs within your budget limits. Israel is not a cheap destination.
With smart preparations, you'll have smoother journeys.
Do you have more Israel travel tips? Comment below about your experiences in Israel.