Frequently asked questions
What Do I Take to Israel? [Compiled with Immanuel Tours, Tel Aviv]
Clothing is generally very casual, and formal dress or coat and tie are not needed. The average temperatures in Israel for Spring and Autumn are between 16 – 27C. It can get cool during the evenings in Jerusalem; otherwise the days are still quite hot. So the best clothes are comfortable, casual, and easy to “mix-and-match”. We recommend bringing a sweater with you for the evenings in Jerusalem. For “religious” sites the clothing should be modest (no shorts, with shoulders covered), but since the weather will be mild, this should not be an issue. Since you will have an itinerary, you can somewhat plan on how to dress for the next day. Other personal items recommended include comfortable walking shoes, a sun hat, and sunglasses for outdoor sites. A swimming suit is recommended for the Dead Sea, and possibly the Sea of Galilee. A small back-pack with a bottle of water will be provided by Immanuel Tours upon arrival at the airport, but you may also want to bring a tote bag for miscellaneous items. Apart from personal items that you would bring on any trip, be sure to bring any medication or prescription drugs that are needed. These should be kept in the original bottle, or labeled plainly. It is important to bring prescription drugs in your carry-on luggage, unless they involve large amounts of liquids. Ear plugs and sleeping masks are helpful for sleeping on the plane and for those who are sensitive to noise or light in the hotel room. Hotels will provide the same type of items that you would expect in quality hotels, such as sheets, towels, etc., although you might want to bring your favorite soap or shampoo. See below for bringing more specialised items such as camera, appliances, Bible, etc.
What do I need to know about electricity?
Israel uses similar standards to Europe. The voltage is 220 volts, 50 Hertz. Therefore some older portable electrical items may not work in Israel. It is recommended that you check all electrical items to be sure that they work with 220 volts.Most smaller items are now “universal”, but it is good to check. If the electrical items do not work with 220 volts, then there are two options:
1.If the item is small and draws up to 50 watts, a transformer can be purchased to convert the electricity from 220 to 120 volts. Normally this should not be needed, since most small items now work for either voltage.
2.If the item draws much more current, such as a hair dryer, then a special light weight voltage adapter can be purchased to convert from 220 to 120 volts, but this adapter cannot be used for all appliances.
Israel uses the same pin plugs as used in Europe. Any plugs from the US generally cannot be used without an adapter. Most luggage stores have adapter kits for the Middle East and Europe.
It is recommended that you get these before arrival.
What about photography?
Any camera can be brought, and it is assumed that digital rather than film cameras are now entirely used. Therefore bringing or purchasing film should not be necessary. Video cameras can be brought, but the length of the trip will generally discourage extensive video recording. Both audio and video recording can be done, but if this is done too much, it could distract you from the trip.
Be sure to bring all camera battery charging equipment and ensure that it will work with the electricity described above. It is recommended that you bring at least one extra set of rechargeable batteries, or several sets of regular batteries.
Restrictions on photography – Generally photography is encouraged as a means of remembering your experiences on the trip. Outdoors there is no restriction on photography, except for military bases, which should not be encountered on this trip. Indoor photography is generally permitted, but there could be a few cases, such as in some congregation meetings or in the Israel museum, where photography is restricted.
What should I know about money?
Cash is better for bargaining (shekel or US dollar). Credit card is useful and may be required if one does a lot of shopping).
The currency of Israel is the New Israeli Shekel, which has an approximate exchange rate of USD $1 = NIS 3.7, or AUD $1 for approx. 2.8 shekels.
Check XE.com for approximate rates. Even though US dollars are accepted at some tourist shops, it is highly recommended to have some shekels available for purchase, since these are used everywhere in the country.
Credit cards are accepted everywhere in Israel, except at very small shops. The only concern here is to let your credit card company know that you will use the card in Israel, since they might flag the expense and think that it is fraudulent use, since it is being used outside of Australia.
Debit cards are best used mainly for withdrawing cash, since interest is charged for credit card cash withdrawals. All that is required is the card and the PIN. It is recommended that you get some Israeli Shekel cash on the first night to have it available for use on the trip. There is a possibility that some debit cards might be blocked for foreign transactions, so this should be checked before arrival.
US dollar cash can be brought and is accepted in some shops. US coins are not accepted anywhere in Israel. Traveler’s cheques are not necessary.
Some stamps might be required to send back picture post cards. Since it is not easy to purchase stamps during the trip, we will try to have some stamps available for purchase to those who would like them.
Even though breakfast and dinner at the hotels are included in the price of the trip, lunches are not included. Lunch locations are usually chosen for food preparation and to get a feel of the local middle-eastern culture. The price at most lunch stops is around 70 shekels (about $23). Dead Sea visit allow $50 includes swimming showers, change rooms, spa.
Souvenirs can be an important part of remembering the trip, and are generally encouraged. Be sure to leave room in your luggage for bringing back souvenirs. You can bring up to $800 worth of purchases per person (check latest custom brochures). There are also some restrictions on what can be brought back, such as obvious illegal items, and there are also restrictions on fresh produce and some kinds of food.
We recommend a tip of $15 per person per day for the guide / driver. This tip is usually given at the end of the trip. The more awkward part of tipping is at the hotels. Hotels have gotten acclimatized to getting extra tips from tourists, and it is tempting to give tips to the baggage handlers at the hotels. Some hotels claim to coordinate tipping for all of their staff, while others encourage individual tipping. There is no good answer.
What should I know about the flight to Israel?
A passport is required at check-in for the plane trip. A free tourist visa will be issued to all Australian citizens upon entry at Ben Gurion airport that is valid for the entire trip.
Inoculation – Neither inoculation nor medical records are required to enter Israel.
Please seek the latest advice on inoculations and any other preventative measures from a recognized medical professional or travel health centre.
Be sure your routine vaccinations are up-to-date such as diphtheria and tetanus and ask them also whether you need a doctor’s note if planning to carry any medicines – this may help at Customs in some countries. Keep a copy of your blood type; medical /optical prescriptions; plus information on any allergies for foreign doctors’.
If you have medications keep them in their original boxes with their printed labels, you may also need to get a doctor’s certificate authorising the necessary meds.
Should we bring Bibles?
It is highly recommended that you bring a Bible or equivalent since many of the places visited will connect with places in the Bible.
Should we bring computers?
If you would like, you can bring a portable (laptop) computer to take notes or to connect to the internet. If you are bringing a computer into Israel for personal use, there should not be any custom duties. However even a laptop computer might be too bulky to carry around when visiting sites away from the bus, so it should be packed away on the bus or secured in the hotel during the day. There is internet available at least in the lobby of most hotels, but some of the hotels will charge a daily fee for the use of the internet.
Should we bring maps of Israel?
A map of Israel will be provided with your tour backpack.
Is there laundry service in the hotels?
Hotels can provide laundry service, but it could be fairly high priced. You can also wash clothes in the room, especially if you bring some detergent for washing.
Do we need to be careful about what we eat in Israel?
Public health standards in Israel are equal to those in Australia. In many ways the food is better because most of it is locally grown, and should be excellent throughout the tour.
Do we need to be careful about drinking water in Israel?
The water is completely safe to drink in hotels and at sites in Israel. However bottled water can taste better, since the tap water tends to be very “hard” in some places. Even though it is not as critical at cooler times of the year, it is still important to drink plenty of water during the trip, especially when walking outdoors.
Will we be safe in Israel?
This question comes up frequently (or even subconsciously) because of the news media focus on the conflicts in the Middle East. The areas that we are traveling in are completely peaceful, and there has never been an incident with tour groups since at least the early 1970’s. We will not be going to areas of conflict, such as the Gaza Strip. Our guides and staff are professionally trained to ensure safety of our tourists in all of the areas that we visit.