Traveling to Israel could seriously be one of the biggest adventures you will ever experience!
This small state, around the size of New Jersey, is bang in the center of the Middle East (though many locals will convince you they are as far from the Middle East as is humanly possible!), and has an abundance of amazing things to see and do. From south to east, north to west, you’ll find a ton of great attractions, together with a unique combo of awe-inspiring history and some downright crazy nightlife!
With so much fun on your agenda and so many stories to tell to your loved ones back home, the only real worry you’re going to have is how to actually communicate with all those people back home!
With the advent of the Internet and smartphones, things have certainly got a lot easier, but here are the THREE main ways you can keep in touch with back home (we’re gearing this article mainly towards readers from the good ol’ US of A, but most of the points below are relevant for everybody)…
1. Using the Internet and apps
Today, since many of you will be traveling with a smartphone, it’s got a lot easier to call home from Israel using one of these two very popular apps:
WhatsApp is a very popular app in Israel, you’ll often find you can meet people and quickly add them to your contact list and while offline, send them messages once you find a WiFi connection. When using WhatsApp you can choose between making a voice call or a video call, and as this is a service running online, you are not charged for the calls. Download here: WhatsApp for Android | WhatsApp for iPhone
Skype is a well-known solution for people who are traveling around the world to call back home with, as you can make decent quality video and audio calls, and, unlike WhatsApp, connect with people on their phone or on their PC/Mac. Download here: Skype for Android | Skype for iPhone
Using the apps we mentioned above to call home from Israel can be a good solution – but the major factor you have to take into consideration is what happens when you don’t have Internet/WiFi access?
Of course, roaming charges aren’t cheap at all, so your best bet is to look for the nearest WiFi network available. Israel does have plenty of coffee shops, restaurants and public places where you can access WiFi, and especially in cities like Tel Aviv or Jerusalem. However, in places like the Dead Sea or the Golan Heights, you can have a big problem accessing WiFi. Trust us, we’ve seen the movie.
One more thing to consider: while using apps on your trip to Israel is great and you get to share videos of your floating on the Dead Sea or photos of a gorgeous sandy Tel Aviv beach, using WhatsApp for example, you cannot call mobiles and landlines directly, but only to people who also have this app installed on their mobile devices – so good luck calling grandma!
2. Using a prepaid Israeli SIM card
If you’re really looking to make your trip to Israel run like clockwork, we’d highly recommend getting yourself a prepaid Israeli SIM card for your phone. This will enable you to call from Israel to Canada or to the U.S.A (or anywhere else of course) at anytime!
Getting yourself an Israeli SIM card before you fly to Israel is easy, and will certainly make your life a lot easier upon arrival, safe in the knowledge that you are available at all times, have access to the Internet, can backup your phone, use navigation apps as required, and much more….
One company who is offering a prepaid Israeli SIM card are simpatic.net, who offer unlimited calling minutes and unlimited data with a fixed price. You even get to keep the SIM card for yourself or you can hand it to your friends to use on their next trip to Israel.
Looking at their Facebook page, Simpatic.net has some pretty good customer reviews, and they have pickup locations scattered around the U.S.A and Canada, but I believe they are also shipping the SIM cards (you should check with them).
You could always hunt down a SIM card in one of the many phone shops in Israel, as they’ll also be likely to have what you need, it’s just a question of finding the time and the right shop! And, if you’re like me, sometimes you just want to land and get switched on, without the additional need to hunt down a SIM…
3. Using a landline
Yes, there are people, even nowadays, that are still using landline phones to call one another – and if you are one of them, do not feel alone!
In Israel, the public phone booths are operated by the company Bezeq, the largest communication provider in Israel, both for telephony and for Internet, and most of the phone lines in Israel belong to them.
FYI, if you are looking to find a landline phone somewhere on the streets of Israel, ask people to direct you to a telefon tzibury, which is the Hebrew word for a public phone booth. But then comes the problem – you will need to use a “Telecard” to make the call, which is a phone card you put inside the telefon tzibury, but it is very rare to find one these days…so good luck with that idea!
Another way to call from Israel using a good ol’ landline is from the hotel you’re staying at – but BEWARE, they generally charge an arm and a leg for this service as they know some tourists are desperate to get in touch…
Whatever option you go with (and we’re pretty sure you can work out the best option for you from the above list), we hope you enjoy your stay in Israel – and don’t forget to call us and tell us all about it!