Travellers usefull tips
Things to know about Israel
Religion: The main religion in Israel is Judaism. Islam and Christianity are recognized as well.
Israel has two official languages – Arabic and Hebrew. French, Spanish, Italian and Russian are spoken too.
There are nine climatic zones in the country. Weather conditions are quite different depending on the region. Most of Israel is characterized by a subtropical climate, with warm and dry summer, which lasts from April to October, and a fairly mild winter. The central part of the country receives most of the precipitations, the greatest number – in winter. In the south, the country receives less precipitations. The temperature of water in the Dead Sea in winter is +25°C and +30°C in summer.
Currency: New Shekel (NIS). One shekel is equal to one hundred agorot. Currently circulated banknotes are in denominations of 20, 50, 100 and 200 shekels, and coins in denominations of 5, 10, 50 agorot.
Means of payment
Most big shopping centres and hotels accept any freely convertible currency, but the change can be given in the local currency; VAT is not charged. In most stores located in the street, as well as in transport and at markets, you can pay only in new shekels. Credit cards of the world's leading payment systems Visa, American Express, MasterCard, DinersClub are accepted almost everywhere.
You can exchange foreign currency at airports and in hotels. However, private exchange offices often offer a more favourable rate than banks or hotels. Most banks are open from Sunday to Thursday from 8:30am to 12:00am; on Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday – from 4:00pm to 6:00pm. On the eve of major Jewish holidays, banks are open from 8:30am to 12:00am. During the holidays, most banks are closed.
Calls to Israel from other countries: to make a call from a landline phone, dial: +972 (area code) X-XXX-XXX; example: +420 (30) X-XXX-XXX.
Calls from Israel to other countries: in the country, there are many telephone boxes that work by plastic cards. Such cards are sold at post offices – the rate for a phone call depends on the time of day. Telephone conversations are cheaper from 6:00pm to 8:00am. In Israel, calls to other countries are provided by several companies – each with its own code: 012 – Kavei Zahav, 013 – Barak, 014 – Bezeq.
Useful phone numbers in Israel:
Urban referral service: 106
Tourist police in Jerusalem: 539-12-54
UTC (IST) +2 (GMT)
Local Time (summer time): UTC +3
Daylight saving time: the last Friday before the second of April,
Daylight saving time: Sunday between Rosh Hashanah (New Year) and Yom Kippur (Day of Judgment).
You can bring into the country duty-free:
1) up to 1 litre of spirits, 2 litres of wine;
2) up to 250 cigarettes, 50 cigars;
3) up to 250 grams of perfume;
4) gifts and souvenirs for the amount of no more than 200 American dollars.
Import and export of foreign currency is unlimited; you must declare the amount you bring into Israel.
Most shops are open from Sunday to Thursday from 9:00am to 7:00pm. On Friday and at holiday eves, all shops are open only in the morning.
Transport in Israel
a) Public transport
1. Taxi can be used both within cities and to travel for longer distances. This is the only mode of transport that works on holidays. At night, the fare increases by 25%. The initial fare is 11 shekels.
2. Subway. In Haifa, there are 6 metro stations; the total length of the lines is 2 km.
3. Tram. In Jerusalem, there is only one tram line. It is 14 km long.
4. Bus is the most popular public transport in Israel. Ticket price is about 6.7 shekels. You can buy tickets of different validity; the most common is a monthly ticket. In Tel Aviv and other big cities, day tickets are sold; their price is about 12 shekels. Due to Sabbath Day, bus service stops working at sunset on Friday and resumes its work at the same time on Saturday. On heavy traffic routes, an additional form of urban transport – a comfortable taxis bus – is available; they run every day from 6:00am until late. The fare in a taxi bus is much cheaper than in a bus, but a season bus ticket is cost-effective.
5. Bicycle. In Tel Aviv, you can rent a bike at any Tel-Ofan public bicycle rental station. A weekly price for renting a bicycle is 60 shekels, for a day – 14 shekels. First 30 minutes by a bicycle season ticket are free, after you must pay 5 shekels for every 30 minutes. If you don’t return the bicycle to the nearest station after 330 minutes, you’ll pay 100 shekels over.
b) Long-distance transport
1. Bus is the most common type of long-distance communication in Israel. Bus lines connect almost all cities. Ticket price depends on distance.
2. Train: In recent years, rail transport system of Israel has developed rapidly. Double-decker coaches are available on many routes. Modern railway lines pass through the most densely populated areas: the northern, coastal and central regions. Just like buses, train service isn’t available on Shabbat. You can buy tickets at the train station, but you shouldn’t throw it away until you leave the station.
Eilat Airport and Ben-Gurion Airport located in Lod have the most number of international flights. Haifa Airport has also some international flights. Domestic flights are provided by two airports: Sde Dov Airport located near Tel Aviv and the other one in Jerusalem. The most popular domestic flight is Tel Aviv-Eilat, as there is no train connection between these cities and journey by bus takes about five hours.
Water transport in Israel is mainly used for freight. Eastern Mediterranean cruises often include stops at Haifa and Ashdod ports.
The country has a lot of companies offering car rental services. The cost of such lease starts at 40 US dollars per day. To rent a car, you must have an international driving license and an international bank card. Driver's age must be at least 21 years.
There is no standard grading of hotels in terms of service. All hotels are divided into 4 categories: E – meet the standards of European two-star hotels, T – three-star, A – the first class, D – five-star hotels. Check-in time is from 2:00pm, check-out – until 12:00am. Hotels sometimes alter check-in and -out time. During the national religious holidays, hotel prices are significantly higher.
Tipping is appreciated. It is 10% of the total bill. A 1 dollar tip is expected by porters.
Only Jewish national and religious holidays are widely celebrated in the country. All Jewish holidays begin on the sunset of the previous day. They are celebrated by the Hebrew calendar. It is a lunisolar calendar, the year of which begins in September-October.
Holidays by months:
1-2 – Rosh Hashanah (New Year)
3 – Fast of Gedaliah
10 – Yom Kippur
15 – Sukkot
16-20 – Chol Hamoed
21 – Hoshana Raba
22 – Simchat Torah
25 – Hanukkah (until the 2nd of Tevet)
10 – Tenth of Tevet, a day of fasting, mourning and repentance
30 – Family Day
13 – Fast of Esther
14 – Purim
15 – Shushan Purim
Nisan (March-April, April-May)
15-21 – Pesach (Passover)
22 – Mimouna
5 – Independence Day
Sivan (May-June, June-July)
5/6/7 – Shavuot (Pentecost – the 50th day of Omer)
Tammuz (June-July, July-August)
17 – Seventeenth of Tammuz
Av (July-August, August-September)
9 – Ninth of Av
Traditions and behaviour rules
In Israel, Saturday is always a holiday. It is called Shabbat. It starts on Friday evening after sunset. Honouring Shabbat includes a solemn meal and an evening Friday service. On Shabbat, it is forbidden to work, light a fire, and use transport. All public institutions, ministries, shops and offices are also closed on public holidays. On these days, public transport doesn’t work, just taxi is available. During Ramadan, Mosques and Temple Mount are open only for Muslims. In order to visit religious sites and cultural monuments, you need clothing that covers yours knees and shoulders.
Dishes in Israel are rich in various ingredients. Kosher dietary rules prohibit Jews eating pork and seafood, excepting a few species of fish. Milk and meat dishes are separately cooked. However, you can find non-kosher restaurants and cafes, where you can order dishes of European and Oriental cuisine.
Citizens of Russia, Ukraine, all countries of the European Union, Croatia, Bulgaria, Canada, the USA, Japan, Australia, the Central African Republic, Lesotho, Malawi, Mauritius, the Republic of South Africa, Swaziland; Hong Kong, Korea, Macau, Mongolia, the Philippines, the Caribbean, the Commonwealth of the Bahamas, Barbados, the Dominican Republic, Grenada, Haiti, Jamaica, Mexico, St Kitts and Nevis, Trinidad and Tobago, Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia , Costa Rica, Ecuador, El Salvador, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Guatemala, Honduras, Suriname, Uruguay, Albania, Andorra, Gibraltar, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Macedonia, Monaco, Montenegro, Norway, San Marino, Serbia, Switzerland; Oceania, Fiji, Micronesia, New Zealand don’t need visa to Israel. A visit shouldn’t exceed 90 days.