As Covid restrictions are easing domestically and around the world, you may have travel on your mind – finally! My home country, Israel, has enforced pretty strict Covid regulations, barring most non-citizen visitors and requiring testing and quarantines. It is now open and thirsty for visitors, welcoming the tourism industry back.
So, if Israel is in your travel plans, here are some tips before you go.
General travel tips:
- Passport expiration: Israel requires that your passport expiration date is no less than 6 months from your travel date. Be sure to check your passport to avoid issues at Passport Control
- Copies of valuable documents: Make copies of your valuable documents: passport, driver’s license, credit card and entry visa (if applicable – Israel does not require a tourist visa for stays under 3 months)
- Security notices: check U.S government travel advisory for any travel restrictions or recommendations
- Israeli Calendar: FYI – Israelis write their dates differently than Americans they go by date, month, year. Not month, date, year. So, 12/3 is March 12, not Dec. 3
- VAT: Israel collects a Value Added Tax from its citizens. As a non-citizen, you are not required to pay that tax. Hold on to your receipts and you can apply for reimbursement at the airport before you leave. Now, having said that, the process is not so straightforward. Friends and family members, who are not citizens like me, have encountered long wait lines, when they needed to catch a flight, plus were asked to show the items they purchased, which were packed away at their already checked luggage…
- Weather: The best time for travel is usually late fall, Oct. – Nov. or spring April – May -June. The weather tends to be sunny and pleasant hovering around 75F
Public: Israel has a very reliable and widespread public transportation system. Busses, train, and a unique service referred to as Sherut Taxi. To check out routes and times look at these links:
- Israel Railways
- Bus Service
- Sherut Taxi (Monit Sherut): shared taxi which can run from city to city, within a city or from the airport to major cities. This is a bit daunting for non-Israelis, but if you have an adventurous spirit, it’s a wonderful way to meet locals while saving money
Car Rentals: There is a wide selection of companies offering car rentals for pick up right at the airport or at major cities. Hertz, Budget, Enterprise and many more offer reasonable rates.
One important thing to remember: You will probably need to take on extra insurance for your rental car since most credit card companies do not include full car rental insurance in their coverage. To make sure, check with your credit card provider before you travel.
Now, for the fun part!! Where to go and what to do???
Israel offers a range of experiences; from hiking, biking, camping for the adventurous traveler to luxury hotels and spas, if you are looking for a more refined experience.
My favorite tour provider in Israel is Via Sabra, led by Avihay Tsabari. The company offers organized tours, individual trips, or even day trips. The hallmark of the company is unique experiences with impeccable service.
For the more independent traveler:
- Markets: Israel is well known for its open-air markets where you can find everything from fresh, colorful local produce, exotic spices, local foods, clothing, gifts and so much more. Check out this article for the best market experience.
- Yalla Basta: A matchless experience of exploring markets in Israel. Choose from guided private or group tours or even an independent stroll guided by a well-curated punch card of the establishment.
- Beaches: No visit to Israel is complete without experiencing its beautiful beaches and the leisure culture around it. Check out the Top 10 Israeli Beaches.
- Accommodations: Israel boasts everything from camping in the desert to Airbnb accommodations and luxurious 5 stars hotels. Depending on the experience you seek, you might like a family-owned guest house, perhaps in the Galilee, called a Tzimmer in Hebrew, or the spa Bereshit in the Ramon Crater. Here is some more information.
- Israel Trail: This is a unique hiking trail, marked and attended by volunteers that crosses Israel from north to south. You can hike the whole trail or choose select segments. It is an exceptional way to see the country, get some exercise and meet locals.
This article originally ran on the Mideast to Midwest Blog.