Israel

Overview

Forested mountains, fertile valleys, colorful deserts and bestrtiful coastline are all within a one-day drive of each other. Archaeological sites dot the landscape, echoing famous names and momentous events in world history.  Israel has beautiful weather most of the year, stunning beaches and a vibrant culture. People of all faiths visit Israel for religious reasons, and others visit the country simply to relax and enjoy the friendly culture and sunny skies. Depending on what you’re looking for in a vacation, certain times of year might be better to visit than others. Its off-season can be significantly cheaper, but the peak season can offer the best weather. Religious holidays can either mean huge crowds or spiritual communion. Israel has many vacation sites that offer a variety of leisure and sports activities. You can walk among sanctified historical and archeological treasures, wander among fascinating geological formations, or stroll through unique nature sites and panoramas. The choices of recreation are virtually unlimited.  

Israel enjoys long, warm, dry summers (April-October) and generally mild winters (November-March) with somewhat drier, cooler weather in hilly regions, such as Jerusalem and Safed. Rainfall is relatively heavy in the north and center of the country, with much less in the northern Negev and almost negligible. Regional conditions vary considerably, with humid summers and mild winters on the coast; dry summers and moderately cold winters in the hill regions; hot dry summers and pleasant winters in the Jordan Valley; and year-round semi-desert conditions in the Negev.  Weather extremes range from occasional winter snowfall in the mountain regions to periodic oppressively hot dry winds that send temperatures soaring, particularly in spring and autumn. Israel is a country with amazing beauty and diversity. Where else in the world could you ski down a mountain before breakfast, by lunchtime be floating in the Dead Sea (the lowest point on earth) and in the same day be sunbathing in the glorious heat of Eilat. 

 

Destination Info

This information has been compiled for your reference in good faith but please use this only as a general guide. We advise you to check with relevant authorities with regard to the latest requirement for passport, visa, travel advisory, entry restrictions, health requirements, local currency etc. as these are subjected to change with without prior notice and our information given below may not be as updated.

Best time to go: The state of Israel is a great place to visit basically all year around. Spring is the ideal time to visit Israel. People of all faiths visit Israel for religious reasons, and others visit the country simply to relax and enjoy the friendly culture and sunny skies. Depending on what you’re looking for in a vacation, certain times of year might be better to visit than others. Its off-season can be significantly cheaper, but the peak season can offer the best weather. Religious holidays can either mean huge crowds or spiritual communion.

Visa: New Zealand passport holders travelling to Israel for a visit of 90 days or less do not require a visa unless they are travelling for work or study. On arrival in Israel your passport must be valid for at least six months from the date of your planned departure from Israel and you must hold an outward travel ticket. 

Passport Control: Upon arrival in Israel, visitors undergo a security check and are requested to present a passport that is valid for at least six months from the date of their departure. Incoming travelers continue to the passenger luggage area after their passports have been inspected. Carts are at their disposal. From there, they continue to customs control and to the airport exit.  

Currency: The State of Israel’s currency is the New Israel Shekel (NIS) or shekel for short (pluralized as shkalim in Hebrew or shekels in English). There are 100 agorot (agora in singular) in each shekel. Bank notes are in denominations of NIS 20, 50, 100, and 200; coins are in denominations of NIS10, NIS5, NIS2 NIS1 and 50 and 10 agorot.

Changing Money: Unlimited sums of local and foreign money may be brought into Israel as cash, travelers’ checks, credit cards or State of Israel bonds. Foreign currency of all kinds may be exchanged at the airport, banks, post offices, most hotels or licensed exchange agencies in large cities. A passport is required when exchanging travelers’ checks. The rates vary from place to place, and banks charge a commission. It is recommended, though not obligatory; to carry a small amount of US dollars, since certain tourist sites, especially in the Old City of Jerusalem, take payment in dollars. More Information is available here.

Cash Withdrawal: Holders of international credit cards can withdraw local or foreign currency at banks which accept their credit cards. There are Automated Teller Machines outside most banks. 

VAT and taxes: All goods and services may be purchased with the following currencies, which can be freely exchanged: Euro; Australian Dollar; US Dollar; Hong Kong Dollar; New Zealand Dollar; Singapore Dollar; Canadian Dollar; Japanese Yen; Danish Krone; Norwegian Krone; Swedish Krona; Pound Sterling; Swiss Franc; South African Rand. Nevertheless, storeowners and service providers are not required to accept foreign currency and are permitted to give change in shekels even if payment was made in foreign currency.

Health:  Conditions in Egypt are different from here and you need to be prepared in advance for a comfortable trip. Though there is no need to take any precautionary vaccinations, it is advisable to consult your doctor well in advance as you will experience major change in climate, environment, food and water and general hygienic conditions. Your doctor will be able to help you prepare better.

Food and drinks: Israel’s diverse population is reflected in its varied culinary styles, and food forms an integral part of life, from socializing to family gatherings or religious events. From top gourmet restaurants to sumptuous street food, the country’s wonderfully varied tastes, foods and styles are one of the highlights of a trip. Most restaurants are moderately priced and of high quality, although street food is a great cheap option. Table service is the norm, except at the many fast food outlets, and restaurants, bars and cafés catering for tourists usually have menus in both Hebrew and English. Restaurants, cafés and bars rise and fall with popularity and it is not uncommon to see queues down the street for some of Tel Aviv’s most popular eateries. Kosher and non-Kosher restaurants can be found throughout the country, although more secular cities such as Tel Aviv have considerably less kosher restaurants than Jerusalem. Café culture is huge and there is little that Israelis would rather do than sip lattes or strong Arabic coffee in one of the outdoor cafés. Funky, artistic, chic or cozy, cafés are the place to be seen. All serve food which ranges from hearty breakfasts to sandwiches and light lunches. Bars serve high quality food until the small hours and stock all international brands of spirits and soft drinks. Alcohol is expensive however, including local brand beers.

Safety & security: There is some risk to your security in Israel due to the threat of terrorism and the potential for civil unrest and we advise caution. New Zealanders  in Israel should also be aware that the on-going conflict in Syria is having a destabilising effect on the region and this could also affect the security situation in Israel. We recommend you follow any advice and instructions issued by the local authorities.

The security situation in Gaza is unpredictable. We advise against all travel to Gaza (including the waters off Gaza). We advise against all tourist and other non-essential travel to the West Bank. The security situation in the West Bank remains tense and volatile. There are ongoing tensions and at times incidents of violence throughout Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories. Unrest may occur in areas frequented by tourists, particularly in the Old City and East Jerusalem. Violent clashes have occurred previously around the Haram al-Sharif/Temple Mount site. new Zealanders are advised to avoid all political gatherings, protests and demonstrations throughout Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories as they have the potential to lead to violence.

Like in any other part of the world, a few precautions need to be taken to avoid any problems. Please do not leave your bags unattended at any times. Please use safe deposit in your hotel room or Reception to keep your money or valuables including passport. When you leave the room, it is recommended that you lock your suitcase. It is also recommended to carry a copy of your passport including the visa page.

Clothing: You can dress up casually. Shorts and t-shirts are absolutely fine. Tel Aviv is the most liberal city and people can wear anything they would wear in any other hot Mediterranean resort type of place. Swimwear is fine too.

Some parts of Jerusalem are slightly more conservative - particularly Arab/Palestinian East Jerusalem. If you wander around East Jerusalem in shorts or other revealing clothes you will probably receive unwanted attention in the form of stares, pointing or wolf whistles (although physical harassment is less common). If heading into East Jerusalem I'd advise you to wear something a little more conservative, although jeans and t-shirt that cover your back/shoulders are ok.

Same thing applies with strict Jewish orthodox neighborhoods (particularly Mea Sherim) in Jerusalem. If you're a woman don't go into Mea Sherim wearing trousers or jeans, or exposing any bare flesh except your hands and face. If heading into Mea Sherim (or any orthodox Jewish area) it's best to opt for long skirts and loose, long-sleeved blouses. In any more secular Jewish neighborhood shorts/revealing clothes are acceptable and you will see many locals dressed in typical summer clothing like shorts, skimpy vests and the like.

When visiting places of worship (whether they be mosques, synagogues or churches), you may be refused entry if you are not suitably dressed. Some mosques provide cloaks to female visitors to put over their short/tight clothes for modesty. One useful tip is to carry a simple cotton scarf in your bag this can be used as a head covering in places of worship.
Best to pack cotton clothes as they will keep you cooler and more comfortable than anything made from nylon or polyester. Linen is also a good choice of fabric. Don't forget a wide-brimmed hat or some other kind of head covering to prevent sunburn on your head.

Language: Official language in Modern Hebrew Egypt is Arabic but English is widely spoken.

Gratuities: Tipping is mandatory in restaurants. When the bill does not include service, a 12% tip should be added to the payment. In hotels, one tips the bellhop or any other service provider. Taxi drivers are generally not tipped.

Airport tax: Generally your international air ticket should include airport tax on international departure. Domestic taxes are also included in the air tickets.

Internet: Just as with cell-phones, Israelis – per capita – own more PC’s than any other nationality in the world. Almost every hotel has internet access – in-room and/or Wi-Fi and/or at its Business Center. Internet cafes are to be found everywhere too. Laptops are always dual-voltage so all you’ll need is a European-style two-pin converter plug that will work in Israel. Israel has about 800 sites that provide wireless Internet services to mobile computer owners. Every year the number of hotspots in Israel doubles, with new spots added every day, offering visitors Internet surfing services either for a fee or free of charge.  Fast food restaurants and coffee bar chains offer free Wi-Fi services at their branches throughout the country. Hotels have made Wi-Fi connections a standard feature for the benefit of their guests, and over 100 hotels and guest houses already provide this service.  Another 100 or so hotspots are located in convenient stores beside gas stations, and even more Wi-Fi areas can be found at universities, colleges, museums, visitors' centers, convention halls, marinas, tourism sites and shopping malls.  Visitors to Jerusalem can enjoy free Internet service in the German Colony neighborhood, the downtown

Telephone: Egypt has a dialing code of 972 from New Zealand. Telephone service in Israel is world-class. The country-code for Israel is 972. Israeli area codes commence with a zero (e.g. 02-123-4567), so if you calling Israel from overseas, drop the zero (i.e. +972-2-123-4567). Per capita, more Israelis have cell phones than any nationality on earth. Even children have them. If your U.S. cell-phone and/or handheld wireless device is programmed for international service, it will work automatically in Israel. Alternatively, cell-phones can be rented as soon as you arrive in Israel. There are public phones throughout Israel. You’ll need to buy a “Telecart” magnetic card to use them: they’re readily available at newsstands, supermarkets, post offices or at your hotel front desk.

Time Difference: Israel is 11 hours behind New Zealand from April to September and 10 hours from October to March.

Photography: Taking photos of airports, government buildings and military establishments are prohibited. Photography is forbidden at the Western Wall on the Sabbath and some holidays.  If you are taking photos of locals, please politely ask for prior permission and be discreet during prayer.

Electricity: The voltage in Israel is 220V, and the frequency is 50 Hz. The electric outlets used are type H and Type C. Type H is a uniquely Israeli three-pronged standard, but most modern type H outlets (rounded) can also accept type C European two-pronged plugs while Type C outlet is available only in old housing. In fact, most electronic devices in Israel use type C plugs.

 

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