5 things you need to know before visiting Israel

OK, so you’re ready to buy that ticket and spring for a new pair of flip-flops/sandals, but do you really know what to expect when you land in Israel? Here are FIVE things we think you really should know before you head for Israel…of course, there’s so much more to the Holy Land than this little lot, but they’re a good place to get started!

1. Israel is SMALL

Surfing in IsraelThe compactness of Israel always surprises many, because despite all the big news stories and huge world interest, Israel is actually pretty tiny. And yes, believe it or not, you can snowboard, surf, and take a hike in the desert – all on the same day!

Head to the north of Israel in the early spring for some snow, then to the Mediterranean coast for some sun and surf, and wind up the day in the desert in the south of the country. It’s definitely doable (but we wouldn’t recommend it, you’ll be too rushed to really enjoy the sights and sounds)! But even though Israel is small, squeezing in many of the must see things to see and do in Israel is a tricky task and you’ll probably have to prioritize according to your schedule and interests.

2. The food in Israel is AMAZING

Hummus The food in Israel – and the wine – are amazing! From the numerous street vendors to the ever-expanding roster of top-class restaurants in cities like Tel Aviv, expect to be wowed by a fusion of tastes and smells. Fall in love with fresh, piping hot felafel, squeezed into a pita full of salad and tahini sauce; learn from the locals how to wipe a plate of hummus clean; visit the boutique wineries throughout Israel to savor the delicious local reds and whites; or simply head for some of the most amazing cafes and restaurants in the Middle East, host to some of the leading chefs in the industry…It doesn’t matter what tickles your taste-buds, whether it be sweet, sour or spicy, we guarantee you’ll find something to knock your socks off. Yes, come hungry and curious!

3. Israel is SAFE

Israeli army girlsIt’s safe, very safe. I’m not sure how many times I can stress that, and how many times the BBC and CNN will try and hype the exact opposite, but it IS safe here. And I’m not just referring to the famed suicide bombers and terrorists, I’m also talking about general street safety. I don’t think there are many countries left in the world where single girls can walk the streets at night and feel relatively safe. Of course, there are nutters, but they, unfortunately, exist everywhere. And what makes the “security issue” all worthwhile is seeing those cute 18-19 year old army girls with M-16s slung over their shoulders. Need further convincing? Then this is a must-read.

4. Israel is NOT cheap

Israel isn't cheap!It’s more expensive than you probably thought! Don’t expect to sleep in hostels for 10 shekels a night, or get by on $10 a day – it’s not going to happen. It is possible to get by cheaply, with fresh (and delicious) market produce and cheap street food, like felafel and hummus, but it’s often the small things you’ll find are annoyingly expensive, like groceries from the supermarket, deodorants, and, of course, gas/petrol (approximately $8 a gallon).

You won’t need to remortgage the house to visit Israel, but just be aware that you might need a bit more spending money…

5. Israel is a MELTING POT of cultures and styles

flip flopsIt’s a melting pot! With so many immigrants from different cultures making up the population, Israel is one place where you won’t stand out like a sore thumb, whatever your color or creed. Israel is also a lot more casual than you might expect; expect to meet bank managers and hi-tech executives dressed in jeans and even shorts and flip-flops. And with all those diverse cultures mixing it (east meets west meets black meets white), don’t be surprised to see large numbers of very beautiful women, and very handsome men…

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Check out our Frequently Asked Questions page for some other handy tips you might need to know before visiting Israel, as well as other useful travel tips here.

And just to give you a taste of what to expect in Israel, the video below is one of the best we’ve come across…enjoy!

15 Comments

  1. Shem Tov Sasson

    September 6, 2012 at 9:10 am

    Nice article. And yes, Israel is insanely safe, there is barely any crime in the smaller cities!

    • Rusti Brookes

      April 7, 2013 at 10:02 pm

      I am coming to Israel in June – is it safe right now?

      • Ashley

        April 8, 2013 at 6:07 am

        In one word – yes! It always seems much more dangerous on CNN or the BBC, but if you stay on the tourist trail you’ll be perfectly safe AND you’ll also have an amazing time! If you have any more questions, feel free to throw them my way!

  2. Karim Daoud

    May 24, 2013 at 5:15 pm

    I’m going to Jerusalem in a week, really looking forward to it as it’s my first time there, I’ve always wanted to visit the place. Thing is I look middle eastern with a beard, lol. Some say that I should shave for some reason ! Not sure if it would cause a huge problem for me, would it ?

    • Ashley

      May 25, 2013 at 10:01 am

      Karim, Jerusalem is amazing, especially the Old City! One thing: with a name like yours, you might get a bit of a grilling at the airport.

  3. Roni

    July 1, 2013 at 10:33 am

    great article! I am hooked to your articles and Pixi’s. so interesting and so true :D

    • Ashley

      July 1, 2013 at 1:23 pm

      Thanks Roni, plenty more to come!

  4. Willem

    July 7, 2013 at 4:23 pm

    Hi, my wife and I would like to visit Israel for a Christian experience. We are not in a group but, since we do not know the place, are there reliable group tours specifically designed for our objectives? How can we identify the rip-offs and the reputable operators? We are considering November or May next year.

    • Ashley

      July 8, 2013 at 9:19 am

      Hi Willem, thanks for dropping by – I sent you an email.

  5. janet Buckingham-Hopkins

    July 8, 2013 at 11:29 am

    Hello Ashley,I’m planning to come to Israel with my eight year old Grandson, thinking about next April 2014, it started out as a month plan went down to a ten day plan, and now I’m thinking on the lines why not a six month or three month stay to really drink in the Life and Flavor of Israel! We’re Christians and I’m all sold out for the Lord, life is too short and I’m too old to do things in half measures. I’m wondering if there is a doable way of doing this financially? I thought of home exchange or work exchange for lodgings? I think there must be a way, privately or through some Christian organization. Can You Help us? Sincerely Janet Buckingham

    • Ashley

      July 8, 2013 at 1:16 pm

      Hi Janet,
      The only thing I can think of to make your stay as economical as possible is to work at a hostel or guest house in somewhere like Nazareth or Jerusalem. It’s often an acceptable way for many travelers to stay a bit longer (I did it too). Let me know if you need addresses and I’ll email them to you.
      Ashley

      • janet Buckingham-Hopkins

        July 12, 2013 at 9:05 am

        Yes Please Ashley, that would be very helpful. Thank you. Would I be able to do that with a young eight year old in tow I wonder? I was thinking Ashley, would it be an option to rent a one bed apartment? could you help with contact info? there surely must be some reputable agencies who deal with 3 to 6 month lets I should think. What do you think Ashley? I really appreciate your help. Jan

  6. Eliezer Yair

    December 29, 2013 at 1:35 pm

    We’ll be there this summer. Can’t wait, tell you that. It´ll be my 20th time to my most beloved country. Never felt unsafe not even during wartimes or intifada´s. I recomment it to everybody.

  7. lee

    December 2, 2014 at 7:19 pm

    Hi
    I was looking at travelling to israel over Xmas for a week. I have lots of tattoos on my arms, I am also in the British military!?- would any of these factors affect my stay.

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