10 Things to Expect When Visiting Israel
When visiting Israel for the first time, you might stop to think about those little details that are necessary to guarantee you have a great time. For example, how will I order a burger? Do they accept US dollars? Will I have internet access? How will I communicate with the locals? It can get a little bit overwhelming, so we came up with a list of things travelers can expect when visiting the Holy Land.
The Shuk, we love the Shuk!
The shuk is the equivalent of your local mall. In this case, it’s a huge market with 250 vendors opened 24 hours except on Shabbat. If you’re hungry you go to the shuk, if you feel like window shopping, you go to the shuk, if you’re in need of a last minute gift for your anniversary, you definitely go to the shuk! It’s very busy on Tuesdays and Fridays so plan accordingly during your free day of touring and we can guarantee you’ll have a great time.
Should I learn a bit of Hebrew? How do I get around?
No need for Rosetta Stone or a Hebrew class at the local community college. You will find that most people speak three languages, Hebrew, Arabic and English. You’ll even find that most signs, menus and ads are written in these three languages, so it’s very easy to get around for those who speak English!
Tipping, how much and who should I tip?
Tipping in Israel is very similar to the US. A tip of 10% to 15% is usually expected in restaurants and cafes. For some reason locals do not tip taxi drivers, so they will not be expecting tips from their passengers. Always carry small amounts of cash so you can pay your tips, since most waiters will ask you to not add it to the bill when you pay with a credit card.
Shabbat and the Ten Commandments
Shabbat takes place from Friday to Saturday, sunset to nightfall the following day. It’s the holiest day in Judaism. In fact, it’s the only day mentioned in the Ten Commandments and it’s forbidden to work, switch electricity on and off, travel in vehicles and cook. Most hotels try to cater to all faiths, and while you might find limited access to shops and restaurants in the city, you will experience full service and no interruptions at your hotel. For tourists that follow this holy day, you will find Sabbath elevators that are automated and other amenities related to the day.
Money, money, money… The Shekel
While we suggest you do not bring large sums of cash during your tour, it is recommended you bring a small amount during the days you tour the Old City, since establishments usually take payments in cash. Most (if not all) shops and vendors will accept US dollars as well as the New Israeli Shekel, so often people can get by without converting a dime!
ATMs are readily available throughout the city and credit cards are widely accepted, you can always exchange at the airports, banks, post offices, most hotels and at licensed exchange places. Most hotels offer a safe so you can feel comfortable storing your cash there.
Free WiFi around the city
Tel Aviv is one of the only cities in the world that offers free Internet to its citizens and tourists! With about 60 WiFi hotspots around the city, you will find free Internet at the beach, parks, cafes and museums.
You will get yelled at
Israelis speak loudly and quickly. They might also give you an impression of being in a rush or frustrated, when in fact they are friendly and enjoy interacting with tourist. If you go to the market and a lady next to you sounds like she’s upset at her husband, she’s most likely telling him how much she loves him and asking what’s for dinner. This is why Israelis are known as Sabras- a local fruit that is prickly on the outside and sweet on the inside!
Will I float in the Dead Sea?
We often get this question and the answer is yes! You will most likely float regardless of your weight or swimming skills. The high concentration of salt means that most people will float effortlessly due to the natural buoyancy- it’s actually very similar to the Great Salt Lake in Utah but even more buoyant! Please make sure not to splash water into others or dip your head in the water. The salt will sting and you’ll end up with red eyes for the rest of the day.
Hanging out with the locals
For those arriving in Tel Aviv early, if you would like to hang out with the locals and experience Israel from a local’s perspective, we highly suggest meeting with a Tel Aviv Greeter. A group of residents that volunteer to walk with you around the city and show you around. Visit www.telavivgreeter.com and plan a few hours of sightseeing with a local.
What to eat? What to try?
The food in Israel is amazing! The favorites are hummus, falafels, shawarma, shakshouka, bourekas and more! Just click here to visit a list of our top 10 things to eat in Israel. You’ll enjoy the yummy local treats!