I guess the strongest statement I can make is that we Returning with another group this coming year. The thought of using someone else has not even crossed our minds. These people took care of business, and became our friends in the process.
Bring along your Bible. Israel's best guidebook.
In Israel, plan to dress casually, packing clothes which can be layered if the weather changes. Choose comfort over fashion. If you plan on dining in exclusive restaurants, you may want to pack just one dressy outfit. Bring along a light-weight jacket which will not prove to be too cumbersome if you end up carrying it for a few hours. Do not make yourself a target by wearing expensive jewelry. A good way to conceal your valuables is by purchasing an inexpensive but light-weight travel pouch which attaches around your waist and is worn under your clothes. Do not over-pack...leave room in your suitcase for souvenirs. It is highly recommend to bring a hat, sunglasses and sunscreen as protection against the harmful rays of the sun. Women should wear a scarf to cover their head and shoulders. If you are traveling with a companion, cross-pack. Put half of your items in your companion's luggage and vice-versa. This will ease the frustration of lost luggage. Don't forget these travel sized necessities: sewing kit, first aid kit, tissues, travel clock, toiletries, notebook and pen.
Purchase your film and batteries in the US.
Many seasoned travelers are not aware that their health insurance will not cover them outside of the country. For a minimal amount of money, travel insurance is a must. If you need to cancel your trip due to an unforeseen emergency or serious illness, most of your trip may be non-refundable. In the event you become ill during your travels, finding and receiving medical care may be very frustrating. Travel insurance also covers lost baggage, and worldwide emergency assistance coverage.
Before you travel to Israel, ask your doctor to write a prescription for any medications you may be taking with you in the event they are lost. Keep all of your medications in their original bottles or packaging.
Leave your Israel travel information with a family member or friend, include a copy of your passport, your flight itinerary, travel itinerary, hotel names and phone numbers.
Most airlines restrict passengers to one piece of carry-on luggage (in addition to your purse, laptop, camera case). Sizes and weight of carry-on luggage are determined by airline, so be sure to check with airline on dimension requirements before you leave.
Keep important items and documents with you at all times. Medicines should be carried in their original packaging (if you have a copy of the prescription, bring it with you). Do not keep travelers checks, money, valuables or travel documents in your luggage.
Make sure your luggage is clearly tagged on the inside as well as the outside.
Check-in time for international flights is normally two hours prior to departure. When checking in at the airport, a US passport (valid for six months after your return date) is needed as proof of identification to enter Israel. No visa is necessary. Non-U.S. citizens are responsible to fulfill appropriate entry requirements of the destination country. Contact your local consulate for information.
Do not leave your luggage unattended for any length of time (no matter how short) or accept packages from strangers to carry on to the plane for them.
Clearing customs in Israel may take a little longer than in most foreign countries. Keep in mind that upon arrival Israel you will need to go through customs and exchange money. Therefore, it is wise to give yourself plenty of time between landing and connecting to another form of transport.
You're at the gate, your plane awaits...the excitements mounts. After take-off and checking out all the neat little amenities and freebies, the novelty wears off. Hours and miles across the Atlantic yawn ahead of you. Below are some tips for the making your flight as easy as possible.
Dress comfortably for the flight. Wear comfortable clothes that allow freedom of movement as you will most likely be trying to sleep on the flight. Wear shoes that slip on and off easily.
In order to avoid jet-lag, do not drink alcohol, caffeine or carbonated beverages. Choose natural fruit juices and water.
Before you leave, choose a good book that will keep you occupied for most of the flight. Before your return flight, buy another - not only will it pass the flight time quickly but it will become a souvenir of your trip.
Store your coat and anything you are not going to use in the overhead compartment. You'll be much more comfortable with a minimum of things to shift around.
Take off your shoes and make yourself as comfortable as possible right away.
Bring along a moisturizer as the air in the cabin is extremely dry.
Get up once in a while and stretch your arms and legs.
If you find yourself extremely exhausted upon arrival in Israel, take a brief nap after check-in and plan on beginning your sightseeing in the afternoon after resting.
For weather information visit www.israelweather.net
In Israel, it is customary to tip hotel personnel, guides and drivers. When traveling on our tour program, you should give $1.50 per day hotel staff tips to the guide at the beginning of the tour. The guide will then pay the appropriate tips to the baggage handlers and restaurant staff. Please expect to tip your guide $5.00 - $7.00 per day and your driver $3.00 - $4.00 per day (amounts are per person). A 15% tip is the average in lunch restaurants that are not part of the Israel tour package. While tipping is not mandatory for taxi drivers, some visitors choose to do so anyhow. Remember that a tip or gratuity is earned for services rendered in a courteous and professional manner.
All of the old towns in Israel have bazaars but the ultimate is to be found in the Old City of Jerusalem. Favorite times to purchase include leather goods, pottery, crafts, olive-wood carvings and hand blown glass. Vendors are anxious to bargain.
Purchases can be made in Israeli Shekels, U.S. dollars or Euros. Tourists who have purchased items with a value exceeding $100 (including VAT) in stores that are registered with the Ministry of Tourism or in stores participating in the VAT-refund plan are entitled to a refund of VAT when they leave the country.
Stores that offer VAT refund service have a special sign.
To receive VAT refund, ensure that you get a receipt with a list of all the items you have purchased and details of the purchaser. The receipt and purchases must be put into a sealed bag.
Tourists must then go to the “Change Place” at Ben Gurion airport or other exit port. If you wish to send the items that you purchased with your luggage, you must declare the purchase at the security check, and present your passport, flight ticket, purchases and receipts at the counter. The attendant will open the bag, examine the contents, sign the receipt, and refund the VAT in any currency minus a commission. The VAT refund can also be sent to your address abroad for an additional charge.
There is no VAT refund for the following items: food, drinks, tobacco products, electrical appliances, cameras, film or other photography equipment.
Additional information about VAT refunds is available here.
When traveling with a group, most meals are included. When you travel through Israel on your own, again, check with the front desk at your hotel for suggestions (be sure to mention the price range you are looking for).
Most hotels in Israel will have 220 volts AC 50 Hz. You will need to bring along necessary converters and adapters to operate any 120 volts, 60 Hz appliances such as hair dryers, electric razors, etc.
The currency in Israel is the shekel, sometimes called the new shekel. As the economy fluctuates, it is wise to keep an eye on rates of exchange as you approach your departure date. We recommend that you withdraw money from ATM machines in Israel in order to get the best exchange rates.
Israel's airport security is probably the tightest in the world, so it is vital that you arrive in plenty of time to board your flight. Be aware that you will need at least two hours for pre-departure screening and even more time for check-in.
Wear very comfortable shoes. The streets of Jerusalem can be hilly and uneven in places.
Sight-see with your hands free! No one wants to walk around the city holding a soaking wet umbrella and ten different shopping bags. A rain hat and poncho (or rain coat) are a lot easier to deal with than an umbrella. Keep your purchases in your day pack. You'll be less tempted to spend and spend as the pack gets heavier and heavier.
When entering a mosque, be sure to take your shoes off. Be sure to wear modest clothing when visiting any religious shrine.
If you opt to sight-see with an Israeli tour guide, you are in for a treat. The tour guides are extremely knowledgeable, friendly and strictly regulated by the Israeli Ministry of Tourism.
Three languages are spoken in Israel: Hebrew, Arabic and English. Communications should not be a problem.
Israel meets western standards of sanitation and no special precautions need to be taken. Both the water and food are safe to consume and medical facilities, while not quite up to US levels, are more than adequate.
If you are planning to travel on to Egypt or Jordan from Israel, you will need a visa which is obtainable at the borders of these countries. Have your passport stamped on a separate piece of paper when leaving Israel.
Bring along the Bible. It could well be the best guidebook for Israel.