Everything You need to Know Before you Go to Israel

Masada Israel
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Israel is a small country but also one that is extremely rich in history and culture. Bordering Egypt and the Gaza Strip to the Southwest, Jordan to the east, Syria and Lebanon to the North, Israel leaves itself open to a gorgeous long coastline to the west. Politics aside, this country has so much to offer in terms of history – dating back as old as the world itself. Together with Jordan, Egypt and the Palestinian Territories, Israel is part of the Holy Land and thus has some fantastic sites on offer for travellers looking to explore more of the Middle East. Here’s everything you need to know before you go to Israel, in order to make the most of your trip!

One Week in Israel - Jerusalem

Good to Know

Passport & Visa

Passport stamps are no longer, so you needn’t worry about outdated advice claiming to beware of a stamp showing you have been to Israel. Instead, nowadays a paper visa is issued at entry which shows your stamp.

Visas are issued on arrival (free of charge) to USA, UK, Canadian, Australian, New Zealand and Irish passport holders.


Recommended: Polio & Typhoid


Hebrew & Arabic are the official languages of Israel and the Palestinian territories, however English is widely spoken.


Israeli New Shekei


In restaurants, bars and for tour guides, tip around 10-15%. Outside of the food and tourism industry, tipping is not expected nor common.


Haggling is expected in the Old City markets.


History & Politics

As hard as it is to describe the historic and political situation in the modern state of Israel, it would be an injustice not to provide some background so that readers are aware before they travel of the issues that will invariably be presented upon arrival and throughout your travels in Israel. Prior to 1948, the modern state of Israel was named Palestine and though not recognized internationally as a state (country), this was the homeland to around 1 million Palestinians. After a war between the Israelis and Palestinians, the modern state of Israel came to being in 1948 following a UN mandate which specified the borders of Israel and those of Palestine. Since then the borders outlined have been contentious, resulting in ongoing unrest between Arabs and Israelis. It is a complex history that requires much further detail, so if you’re interested in learning more I strongly urge you to do your own research (just check your sources)!


While Israel is for the most part safe to visit, it is no secret that conflict can arise and escalate quickly. Be sure to stay updated before and during your trip. Areas of issue are usually on borders and the Gaza strip is to be avoided. However don’t be afraid to visit Palestinian territories, as this offers a great insight into history as well, with towns/cities such as Jericho and Bethlehem not to be missed.


It is important to know that from sunset Friday through to sunset on Saturday is Shabbat – the Holy day for Jews, when many businesses will close for the day of rest.


It should go without saying that as a heavily religious country, both women and men should dress respectfully, particularly women should make an effort to cover up (blouse with sleeves and long pants or skirt). Men at Jewish religious sites need to wear a kippa (skull cap).


When to Go:

Nov-March is cool and rainy; Feb-March is when the country is leafy and green; April-October is extremely hot and dry.

Where to Go:

Popular cities include Tel Aviv, the commercial hub of Israel; Haifa, Israel’s third largest city; and Jerusalem, the capital of Israel. The Dead Sea is another popular destination and the lowest place on earth.

If you are religious and looking to visit sites referenced in the Bible, Torah or Qur’an, then you will find endless sites of interest throughout Israel. These sites differ for each religion, however Jerusalem has an important significance to all three religions and absolutely should not be missed.

Israel - what to eat

What to Eat:

Israel has an exciting Middle Eastern palette, with many fantastic foods to try. Be sure to try falafel, hummus, haloumi cheese, shawarma (also known as a kebab in the Western world!), baklava and mint tea. Pictured above is the sizeable “Jerusalem Bagel” available on the streets of Jerusalem – great for a cheap snack!

Basic Hebrew:

Hello – Shalom

Goodbye – Shalom

Please – Bevakashah

Thank you – Toda

English? – Anglit?

Yes – Ken

No – Lo

Thanks to Go Israel for arranging my trip to experience Israel and Palestine.

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    April 4, 2016 at 4:43 am

    Ah just one thing, it’s Jerusalem, Palestine not Israel. Old City of Jerusalem are mostly Palestinian, a tiny proof from a large pool of evidence that Palestinians were there wayyy before the Israelis(however Israelis are sure trying to change this demographic through illegal evicting and installing illegal settlers, illegal according to the international law of UN).

    Also, the whole world agrees Israel annexed the city from Palestinians, so please don’t say Jerusalem belongs to Israel.

    February 9, 2016 at 2:42 pm

    Love this!
    As an Israeli ex-pat living in Australia, I just wanna say that in regards to dress code, you don’t really need to cover up unless you go to holy sites. Israel is a hot place, and locals don’t tend to wear much clothes!
    So don’t feel obliged to wear clothes you wouldn’t normally wear in Western countries. I wore a short dress in Jerusalem, and while I got a few looks from ultra-religious Jews, it was fine.

    Siddharth Kaushik
    January 4, 2016 at 5:44 pm

    One of my hobbies is travelling with my buddies and visiting Israel has always been in my bucket list. Thanks to your informative and detailed post, now I can plan my trip very easily with all the necessary tips mentioned by you. I wish to capture the beauty of the country under my lenses to cherish it for a lifetime.

    November 25, 2015 at 8:20 pm

    This is fantastic. I think it’s so great that you visit so many places off the typical tourist path, it really demonstrates how wonderful and accessible these places are. Don’t listen to the negative people and keep pushing boundaries – it’s inspiring to many! I’ve always been curious about Israel and now I want to go more! So thanks for the post 🙂

    November 25, 2015 at 10:24 am

    great pictures – sounds like an amazing trip!

    November 25, 2015 at 5:47 am

    Love these kinds of post – useful and essential!

    the cape on the corner
    November 25, 2015 at 5:09 am

    did you not eat halvah? girl, you missed out. the chocolate covered kind??!?! mmmm.

    Becky Markovitz
    November 24, 2015 at 7:05 pm

    Thanks for the great tips! I’m traveling to Israel for the first time next month, and now I’m anxious to get my hands on a Jerusalem bagel! What were your favorite sites to see?