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Travelers Information - What You Need to Know
12-27-12

 

Weather

Language

Currency

Work Week

Electric Current

Shopping

Credit Cards/ATM Machines

Value Added Tax (VAT)

Dress and Clothing

Transportation

Driving

Food

Restrooms

Telephones

 

Weather

The weather varies from hot and dry in the summertime (April- October), to cool and rainy in the winter (November-March) throughout the Holy Land. Depending on where you are in the Holy Land the weather can be very different. In the north and the center of Israel and the Palestinian territories, the summers are hot and occasionally humid with cooler evenings. Generally, hilly areas are chillier (Jerusalem, Bethlehem, The Golan, etc.). Throughout the winter, the north and center of Israel and the Palestinian territories are prone to a lot of rainfall; whereas desert areas (the Negev, Eilat etc.) receive very little rain. In winter desert areas can become quite chilly at night.

Weather extremes in the region include slight snowfall in Northern hillier areas of Israel and the Palestinian territories in winter as well as occasional humid heat waves throughout the summer and fall.

 

Language

The national languages in Israel are Hebrew, English and Arabic while in the Palestinian territories the language is Arabic. Most everything throughout the area  is marked in Hebrew, Arabic as well as English. Natives tend to be bilingual.

 

Currency

The Israeli currency is the New Israel Shekel (NIS) or shekel for short. In a shekel there are 100 Agorot. Bank notes are distributed in denominations of 200, 100, 50, and 20 NIS. Coins are available in 10, 5, 2, and 1 NIS. Agorot are available in 10 and 50 agorot. To see the current exchange rates see here (http://www.xe.com/ucc/) Money can be exchanged at most banks in Israel and money changing storefronts can be found throughout the country in most major cities. We recommend you check with the day's exchange rate before exchanging your currency. However, we have found that many of the money changers are quite fair in their exchange rates. Banks are open Sunday-Friday from around 8:15- 8:30. Afternoon hours differ by bank, all banks are closed Friday afternoons.

 

Work Week

In Israel, the workweek is Sunday to Thursday. Shops and businesses are normally open on Fridays but close early afternoon for the Jewish Sabbath. The Jewish Sabbath lasts from after sundown Friday to after sundown Saturday. Many shops that are open on Friday are closed on Tuesdays for the shop owners to rest. Shops closed Saturdays for the Sabbath tend to open up Saturday night. Muslims and Christians observe their own Sabbaths on Friday and Sundays, respectively.

 

Electric Current

In Israel, electricity is mostly 220 volts, 50 cycles and in most major hotel rooms you can find a built-in 110-volt electric razor transformer. Electrical sockets tend to be three-pronged but are still different than those used in Europe and the US. Packing an adapter set is very useful to those bringing in electrical appliances.

 

Shopping

During the workweek (Sunday through Thursday), stores and shops are open from around 9.00 am until 7 pm in the big cities. Most shops in Jewish areas are not open on Saturdays, though there one can find many boutiques, wineries, restaurants, etc open in the non-religious moshavim as well as non-religious areas of the country. Many shops in neighborhood areas are closed from 2-4 pm for the traditional afternoon siesta. There are a large number of malls throughout the country which have more flexible hours, and some of the retail tenants are open on Shabbat. For supermarket needs, the grocery chain Tiv Taam is opened throughout the country and the drugstore outlets of Superpharm are open as well in particular areas.

In addition there are also many smaller markets that sell everything from fruits and vegetables to arts and crafts. Local makolets can be found scattered throughout the residential areas of most neighborhoods and these sell most essential items including fruits, vegetables, dairy products, fresh breads, personal hygiene items, meats, etc. There are several major outdoor markets located throughout the region, the two most famous of these, Mahane Yehuda and the Carmel market can be found in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, respectively, and are open most of the week. Exceptionally fresh fruits and vegetables, as well as homemade local food specialties such as humous, tahini, grape leaves, shnitzels, olives, nuts, cheeses, breads, pastries and other prepared food items can be found amongst the numerous vendors. In addition, clothing, household items, cleaning supplies, etc are also available throughout the markets, known locally as the "shuk". Other worthwhile "shuks" to visit include the Jaffa Gate and the Damascas Gate markets in the Old City of Jerusalem, the Nahalat Binyamin crafts market on Tuesday and Friday in Tel Aviv, the Dalyiat HaCarmel market in the Carmel mountains outside of Haifa, the Jaffa "Shuk HaPishpishim" which is an antique market as well as adjacent Jaffa shuk. Several other smaller shuks can be found in several other towns throughout the region as well. 

 

Credit Cards/ATM Machines

 Most major hotels, restaurants and retail shops accept all major credit cards such as Visa Curopcard/Mastercard, Diners Club and American Express. Many of the smaller Christian guest houses, bed and breakfasts and boutique shops prefer cash. ATM Machines are widely available throughout Israel.

 

Value Added Tax (VAT)

The VAT in Israel is 15.5% and unless otherwise noted, all bills are inclusive of VAT. However, Non- Israelis paying in foreign currency are exempt from VAT payment at hotels, car rental, on the purchase of goods priced at more than $100 at shops listed by the Ministry of Tourism and they are able to receive a VAT refund at the Ben Gurion Airport upon departure with proper documentation.

 

Dress and Clothing

When packing for your trip, it is important to consider the season and climate in which you are visiting Israel. Although most of the year is hot and sunny, the winter can be cold especially in the mountains, and at night. It is also very rainy in the winter so it is important to bring raingear. Keep in mind that most of the buildings are made of stone which keeps the interiors cool for the hot summer, but also makes it particularly cold inside in the winter too. Comfortable flat shoes are very important as Israel's many cities are very easy to walk through. Keep in mind that there are many stone sidewalks which can be uneven and  stairs or steps are quite commonplace as well. For those who may be slightly uneven on their feet, bringing a cane can be reassuring. Also, there are many holy cites in Israel it is important to wear modest dress (not shorts or sleeveless, and sometimes a head covering) when going to visit these places of interest. During the summer, we recommend that women keep a small sweater packed in their backpacks, or even a wrap skirt. These items can be particularly easy to slip on at a moment's notice if necessary. People of different religious belief dress differently, from long skirts and head coverings to shorts and no head coverings so dress can depend on where you plan to travel. Israel's overall dress is very casual so unless you are coming on business, it is very unlikely you will ever need a suit or tie.

 

Transportation

There are many different modes of transportation available. Within Israel there are buses which travel Sundays through Friday afternoon and Saturday nights after the Jewish Sabbath. The Arab neighborhoods in Israel as well as the Palestinian run areas provide bus services on Shabbat. To view bus schedules click: http://www.egged.co.il/Eng/ or http://www.dan.co.il/english/default.asp . There is also the option of train transportation through Israel Railways, which is quite dependable. The rail service which operates between Israel's main cities. To view routes, fairs and schedules go to www.israrail.org.il Private taxis are available in all cities and drivers are required to turn on their meters. Some smaller cities do have set rates for rides within that city so inquire first. It is not necessary to tip a taxi driver at the end of a ride, though it is customary to tip a tour guide and driver if you are satisfied with their service. Shared taxis, known locally as sheruts, are available at the airport and are also available for hire in the downtown areas and/or close to the central bus stations in most major cities.

 

Driving

Most Israeli roads, nature parks and other attractions are well-marked and as a result, those preferring to rent a car are able to manage quite well as long as you have a detailed road map. Carta publishes an excellent one in English that is available in most book stores.

While the roads tend to be very good, in some areas such as the road to Eilat (known as the Arava) are reputed for courting accidents. Watch out for drivers that are passing in both directions and stay alert to he lanes which can weave back and forth. Israeli drivers are not the most patient so driving defensively is your best bet.

When parking your vehicle, it is advisable to keep your belongings out of view and in the trunk. Watch the speed limits which can vary between cities.

Israel's only toll road, Route 6 opened a few years ago and is an excellent north south artery for those wishing to bypass the busier Highway 2 which runs along the coast north from Tel Aviv. If you have a rented car, the rental company will send you the bill. Currently the toll road offers unimpeded driving from Kiryat Gat in the south going to north to Road 65. Additional extensions to the north and south will be added in the future.

 

Food

Many restaurants in Israel are kosher, however there as the country has become much of an international hub, the selection of non-kosher restaurants has grown as well. Israel's traditional food is Mediterranean, which includes humus (made from chickpeas) tehini, falafels and pita. A comprehensive restaurant listing can be found at www.rest.com.il.

 

Restrooms

Most public washrooms are clean and generally well-supplied, however we do recommend you travel with tissues just to be sure. Wheelchair accessible facilities are become more common all over Israel.

 

Telephones

Most public phones can be operated by using phone cards. In addition, cell phones are available for rental from the airport as well. Another option is to rent a phone in advance through a carrier such as Israel Phones. Most of the shops, post offices and news stands sell phone cards that can be used for calls worldwide. Just ask!

 

 

 

 

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