Planning a trip to Israel

I just got back from my first trip to Israel. It was also my first time at a TBEX conference and I ended up having a blast. Like I have already mentioned multiple times on my social media channels, Israel surprised me and I am really glad that I went. As a first-time visitor to Israel, I had lots of doubts when planning a trip to Israel. That is why I have decided to answer some of the questions that first timers will have while planning a trip to Israel.

I will try my best to assuage some of the fears that you have when planning a trip to Israel.

Planning A Trip To Israel

Jaffa Port, Tel Aviv

Is it safe to travel in Israel as a solo female traveler?

This is one of the questions that many people asked me when I told them that I was going to Israel. “Is it safe to go there?” Unfortunately, this trip was not exactly a solo trip. Since I had gone for TBEX, I spent most of my time with travel bloggers from around the world. But I did spend some time traveling solo in Tel Aviv and I really felt safe here too. I stick to my motto: “Don’t do stupid things you won’t do back at home and you will be fine”.

What about the conflict in the region?

I really didn’t get to go to places like Bethlehem and I would definitely be going back one day to visit them. But many of my friends managed to do day tours to places like Bethlehem and Nazareth and all of them loved it.

All I can say is that stop believing blindly what the media has been feeding you for the past so many years. Israel like many other countries has a turbulent past and they are doing everything slowly to change the opinion that people have of them.

We are talking of a place where people from 3 religions are trying to coexist. Hence there will definitely be some friction surrounding that. But as a traveler in Israel, you will definitely not face any problems because of this.

Since military service is mandatory for most young Israelis, you will find many of them around the cities carrying guns.

How much should I budget when traveling to Israel?

Israel is definitely not cheap. When it comes to budgeting, it is better to have a similar budget as when you are traveling to Europe.

The currency used here is the New Israeli Shakel (NIS). 1 NIS is equivalent to around 18 rupees or 0.28 $. I tried converting some USD to Shakels in India but I was not successful. I managed to change the currency (USD) at the airport and you can find money changing services all around Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. Additionally, I was able to withdraw Shakels using my Indian debit card as well. They also accept international credit cards all over Israel.

Using Public Transportation in Israel:

This was one of the best services I found in both Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. A bus ride costs around minimum 4.7 Shakels. Since we were guests of Jerusalem Development Authority, all of us were given free metro cards for a week that was valid for all tram, train and bus services. It was really helpful and the connectivity is really good in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. I even caught a bus post 12:30 AM one night. You can find more details about the prices here.

Using Cab Services in Israel:

I landed in Tel Aviv around 5 in the morning. I knew that cabs would be expensive and decided to catch a train to the city center. It cost me less than 15 Shakels and I was soon in the city center. Alternatively, you can catch a bus to the city center. From there, I decided to hail a cab to my hostel. It was showing a distance of around 2 kms and the guy charged me around 80 Shakels. I knew that it was too high but I was still too groggy eyed to argue with him. There is no meter system in most places and you have to be careful while hailing a cab in Israel.

We did do cab pooling when we were in Jerusalem. But they used to usually charge around 40-50 shakels per trip and we used to use cabs when it was too late in the night.

Using Sheruts in Israel:

Sheruts are shared cabs/ shuttles and they usually run once every hour, 24/7 from Tel Aviv airport to Jerusalem. Other routes are also available and you can pre-book your trip around 24 hours before you land in Israel. I booked a sherut from my hotel in Jerusalem to go to the airport in Tel Aviv. It takes around 45 minutes and they charge you around 75 shakels per person. A cab ride at the same time can cost you around 215- 250 shakels.

Where to stay in Israel:

I can only tell this from my experience but I was really pleased with both my choices. I stayed at Abraham hostel in Tel Aviv and at the Dan Boutique hotel in Jerusalem. Abraham hostel is a nice hostel and they were our hosts as well in Jerusalem. It is really a fun hostel and they have many activities scheduled every day. The pub crawl organized by them in Jerusalem was one of the highlights of my trip to Israel.

Dan Boutique is a good 3-star hotel. My only concern was that it was a little far from where the TBEX conference was being held. But the old city of Jerusalem is just 15 minutes by walk and I used to walk almost daily to explore that region. I also loved the massive breakfast spread they had at the hotel.

In addition, there are multiple other hotels and you can decide where you want to stay based on the ratings on Tripadvisor or Booking. Airbnb is also a good option in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.

Planning A Trip To Israel

Jerusalem, Israel

Vegetarian Food in Israel:

You have multiple choices and you will definitely not starve if you are a vegetarian in Israel. Tel Aviv is slowly coming to be known as the vegan capital of the world and I was glad that I found so many options. Israeli food is definitely delicious and I am glad that I could experience it in Israel.

Is getting in and out of Israel a difficult experience?

I wouldn’t say it is difficult but it can be a major inconvenience as well as a time-consuming activity. In my case, I had to pass through multiple security as well as multiple immigration points while leaving Mumbai as well as when I was leaving Tel Aviv. If you have a normal lock, they will not allow you to lock your luggage and that is why I decided to use a TSA approved lock on the way back. They do check your checked in luggage as well as your hand luggage. This is time-consuming and you need to keep this in mind while factoring for time.

My flight from Bangalore was delayed by over 2 hours and I just made it in the nick of time at the check-in counter at Mumbai. Even before you check in, you have an immigration booth. Please be prepared to answer all questions and sometimes they repeat questions to ensure that you give a consistent answer. In my case, they were very interested in knowing why I had so many UAE stamps. When I told them that my sister lives there, I was asked many follow-up questions about both my sister and my brother in law. At one point, they even asked me the names of both my grandmothers.

All I can say is that keep all your documents ready and answer all questions honestly. In the case of security, they unpacked my entire carry-on luggage and examined all items, including the many electronics items I was carrying with me. ‘Don’t get intimidated’ is my only advice. Some people in our group took more than 2 hours to clear security.

How to get an Israeli visa for Indians?

I have already detailed in an earlier post on how to get Israeli visa for Indians.

SIM card and Wifi in Israel:

We were given a loaded SIM card (SimToIsrael) by our hosts and I was really pleased with the connectivity. It was definitely fast and I managed to do a few live videos using the same. Unfortunately, I was not able to call any number outside Israel and nor was anyone able to reach me from outside Israel. I have Indian parents and I guess they did not know that I have to check in with my mother from time to time. :p But fret not, wifi is there and I managed to Skype once in 2 days(time was the issue). I also used public wifi in the Airport and some of the train stations.

Weather in Israel:

I went in March and it meant that it is still quite cold in some parts. Tel Aviv was quite pleasant and I managed with a light sweater when I was there. Jerusalem was around 8 degrees centigrade most days and I wish I had packed a scarf. Death sea and Masada, on the other hand were quite hot in comparison and I guess that is one of the reasons I fell sick.

What to pack for Israel:

It was really cold and I had to pack accordingly. I didn’t do layers but there were people who had to because of the temperature. Also, make sure that you pack some conservative clothing for some places since you are required to dress modestly in some areas.

Booking Day tours or Renting Cars in Israel:

It is easier to be based in places like Jerusalem or Tel Aviv or Haifa and then take day tours to other parts of the country. Abraham tours run multiple tours and you can check out their website to find out more.

Additionally, you can rent cars and from what I heard from others is that it was actually quite cheap to rent cars. Finding parking is a problem though and you can end up paying up to 50 shakels per day just for parking. You can drive with your Indian driving license in Israel. But they ride on the opposite side of the road as compared to India. I would have loved driving here but I had already booked day trips through Abraham tours.

I guess I have covered most of the points that first timers have when they are planning a trip to Israel. All I can tell you is that it is a gorgeous country and prepare to be surprised by what this small country has to offer.

P.S: Happy birthday to me and my sister. We turn a year older on March 31st.

Planning A Trip To Israel

 

 

 

  • Happy Birthday Nambiar sisters 🙂 Can’t wait to know more about your TBEX experience. Also the new blog design looks neat and clean.

    • Thank you Sandeepa/Chetan. I will definitely be writing about my TBEX experience soon. 🙂

  • A very happy birthday to both of you and Israel sure was an amazing gift to yourself. As I have said earlier….eNVY you !!!

    • Thank You Ami. It was definitely a nice birthday gift.

  • Hayden Albrey

    Nazareth and Bethlehem are definitely worth of a stop when you go next time. I really liked the food in Israel. You are right in that it is a vegetarians dream destination. But interestingly, it is rare to actually find a vegetarian. They eat a lot of hummus and falafel, but not because the are vegetarians, rather just because it’s delicious and a very traditional food for the region.

    When you do go, you can use my guide. Lots of hostel and food recommendations.

  • Sandy & Vyjay

    Happy Birthday, Israel was a lovely gift! Israel is a very enigmatic country and fires up my imagination. Would love to get there some day. Good to see that there are vegetarian food options, that way we can see Israel on a full stomach 🙂

  • pawan kumar jha

    Great post 🙂 keep up the good work.

  • Brianna

    I would love to visit Israel someday. Are you going to write about your experience with TBEX? I’ve never been to one, but I’d like to eventually. Also, I love your motto! Very relatable 😉

    • I am definitely planning to write about TBEX. I have been away from the blog for the past few weeks and I hope to get back on track soon.

  • Sherianne Higgins (SherianneKa

    So glad you had a good experience in Israel! It is special to visit a place you hear about so often in the news and have the chance to develop your own opinion about it

  • Belated Happy Birthday to both of you ! 🙂

    This is such an informative post that anybody can go there after reading.

    I found myself nodding in agreement with you on almost all the points. 🙂 Oh you have rekindled my love for Israel.
    The food, the people, the old towns… I love them all.
    Breakfast is always heavy as they don’t eat lunch. 🙂

    P.S.- We visited Bethlehem also. 🙂 Next time I would like to visit the southern part.

    • Thank you Nisha. Hopefully I will get to visit Israel soon.

  • meljc

    I’m so glad you had a great first trip to Israel! We’ve been many times always love to return. I was vegetarian for many years and still eat very little meat, and Israel is always a foodie heaven for me 😀 I hope you’ll visit again, as the first trip only scratches the surface and on subsequent trips you’ll be able to see some interesting and beautiful sites that aren’t on the typical tourist’s radar.

  • sophie

    though this place looked very scary to me everytime! but how you have shown the place in this post is amazing! would love to go there soon! Cheers

  • Awara Diaries

    This is such an insightful post. I am so glad people travel to such places and even write about them. Media has taken the habit of painting situations black or white! When you go to places, the locals are actually quite friendly and that is such a delight.

    Parampara-Parichay

    • Yes it was completely different than what I expected.

  • Neha Verma

    A very happy birthday to you 🙂 Your post helps a lot. We have also not thought to travel to Israel because of the media news that we hear about disturbances in the area. But I guess we can after all do a nice small trip in the region 🙂 And the place is beautiful. I hope it finds peace and flourishes in near future.

  • Partim Sangoi

    First of all I want to wish you both a belated happy birthday. Always stay blessed.
    It’s really nice to see that you have described here all the queries with a great description about the Israel tour. Your presenting idea is really superb. I have also booked Israel tour from Mantis Tours & Attraction but having same queries which you described here. They made me comfort but still had some confusion, Bur, after your post I am really so much excited to go there. Really your post is helpful for all who have a plan to go Israel.
    Thanks for sharing this.

    • Thank you Partim. Hope you have a nice time in Israel.

  • I can understand why a lot of people are hesitant to go to Israel on holiday. Our friend went to Tel Aviv and really enjoyed himself and recommended it. He said that there was tons of vegan food there like you mentioned as well.

  • Great to share bdays that too with your own sister. Hope you both had a great time.
    The TBEX tour sounds like a good one.I am keen to visit Bethlehem. Hopefully some day!

    • We are twins. You should have come as per your original plan.

  • It would actually be nice to visit Israel one day, but I guess that it will need some planning. I wouldn’t go there with a brand new passport, due to the issues an Israeli stamp in the passport can cause in other countries. We will see if that changes one day. 🙂

    • I did consider that but I will need a new passport soon because the pages on this one are getting over and my passport is expiring in another 1.5 years.

  • Happy birthday, I didn’t know you had a twin sister! 🙂 I can see that traveling to Israel was a really nice experience for you. I didn’t go in that part of the world but I would like to. I guess taxi’s are a hit and miss experience in most of the countries. I have a rule, if there’s no meter, I don’t get in.

    • Thank you Joanna. But they hardly ran meters anywhere in Israel. They tell you a price and you get in if it is reasonable.

  • Israel is a stunning country. Glad you made it to Israel. From the Golan heights to the Dead Sea, the entire country is beautiful. Belated happy birthday to you guys.

  • Suruchi Mittal

    Belated Happy Birthday to the sisters and Israel and TBEx are the best gifts for your birthday. Soumya, I really loved the way you describe the whole experience in your post answering everyone’s questions.. This is going to be super helpful to a the person planing to travel to Israel.

  • travellingslacker

    Good to see that the hosts gave you loaded SIM cards. Wish all hosts were this considerate. Another informative post on Israel. Keep this series going.

    • During all TBEX conferences, they provide people with a sim card is what I have heard.

  • Parnashree Devi

    I have been dying to go to Israel. Middle eastern countries simply fascinates me. From culture, lifestyle, food to their traditions, I am in love with everything. This is really a helpful post . I will keep a note of everything before I plan a trip.

  • Vicki Winters

    Great post!!!!

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  • Amy

    Wow, this is so informative and detailed! Thanks for sharing – I found this so interesting. Also, I love this: “Don’t do stupid things you won’t do back at home and you will be fine”. I have the same mantra!

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  • Marissa Abao

    I liked reading your post because I do not know much about Israel. It is really important not to judge a country. I know that Israel is a beautiful place but it gets bad reputation. I would more likely to visit Israel with friends rather than alone. I also like that you have mentioned that there are a lot of vegetarian options. I am eager to eat Israeli cuisine.

    Iza c/o Fill My Passport

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