I was very excited when we finally decided to go to Israel. As I mentioned in the earlier article I was afraid and I had doubts that it was a good idea to visit this country during a tense situation, (caused by USA President’s statement that Jerusalem is a new capital of Israel and his decision about a movement the American embassy to Jerusalem) riots and rocket attacks.
Now, after our return, I can say that we made a very good decision because this country impressed us.
As you know Israel is a country situated in a Near East in Western Asia on the southeastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea. It borders on Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, the Palestinian territories of the West Bank and Gaza Strip and Egypt.
Israel is a very important sacred place for tree religious: Christianity, Judaism, and Islam. Every year thousands of tourists visited this country to see the Western Wall, The Church of the Holy Sepulchre and The Dome of the Rock. Unfortunately, this holy place is a long-time issue of religious conflicts.
Except for religious aspects, Israel also offers a lot of natural and historical attractions.
I invite you to my Israeli adventure. All information below is updated for 2019.
When is the best time to visit Israel?
Theoretically, you can visit Israel whenever you want throughout the whole year. The climate here is the Mediterranean, with hot summers and kindly winters.
Although we were in Israel in December out of season the temperature showed about 18 degrees. Every day the sun was shining.
The best time to visit Israel is between April and May or September and October because the temperature is not as high. Sometimes in summer, the temperature is higher than 40 degrees.
Did I feel safe in Israel?
Surely I can assure you that Israel is a very safe country. During our journey, I felt a little worried only when I met soldiers patrolling streets or watching the gates of Jerusalem. Their view caused that I was a little stressed and I started thinking that something bad can happen. A view of soldiers with rifles is normal in Israel, especially in the old part of Jerusalem. Sometimes you can meet them in public transport.
Passport control – why it is so difficult to leave Israel?
Don’t be surprised how long you will spend during passport control, especially when you leave Israel. Israelites are very sensitive about safety in their country. They ask a lot of personal question, e.g. where are you from, where do you live, what is your occupation. If you travel with somebody expect a question about the relationship between you. I’m married, but I didn’t change my surname and it was a problem for them and I had to excuse why I didn’t do this.
When we were the second time in Israel, we traveled with our friends. They had a problem because they are a couple and they don’t live together. At first, they were asked together, then separately to compare their answers. It was for us an abstract situation.
Except for the personal questions they ask about a reason why do you visit Israel, where are you going to sleep, where are you going to travel along Israel, how long are you going to stay there? When you leave Israel you can expect questions like: did you pack alone, did you keep your belongings with you, did somebody give you something etc.
Good advice for you: be sincere, your answer should be simple, don’t hesitate. Above all don’t panic.
“Bad stamps” in your passport
You should know that Israelites will check all your stamps in passport thoroughly. If you travel a lot and you visited some of the Arabic countries probably you will have a problem with entering Israel. On the other hand, if you have a stamp from Israel you will also have a problem with traveling to other countries, e.g. United Arab Emirates, Syria, Iraq, Iran, Lebanon or Saudi Arabia.
Currently, if you enter Israel via Ben Gurion Airport you will get a little blue document with your data. Remember to keep it, because it will be necessary when you leave the country. On the way back you will receive an additional document but in color pink. If you enter Israel via entering crossing you will receive a stamp to your passport. Remember, you can ask for a document not stamp. On the other way, you will have to apply for a new passport.
Public transport in Israel
I was really surprised how well-developed is the public transport in Israel. Bus connections are available to almost every city and to some attractions.
Unfortunately, a train network is not as developed as a bus network. The main problem with public transport is that during The Sabbath (from Friday sunset to Saturday sunset) it doesn’t function. You have to pick Muslim taxis or buy an organized trip. The second problem is that the buses are crowded and sometimes it happens that you can’t board the bus – especially in high season.
A single ticket for a bus or train costs 6,90 NIS.
You can also buy a special Rav-Kav card, which offers a discount on your journeys. It’s dedicated to tourists, who are going to take public transport frequently.
More information about Rav-Kav card you can find here: https://www.rail.co.il/en/ravkav
From the Airport to the city center
You can choose the train, shuttle transfer, sherut (shared taxi) or you can take a taxi or rent a car if you want to get from the airport to the city center. As you can see there are many available options.
Among all of those choices, the train is definitely the cheapest and the most comfortable. From Terminal 3 to HaHagana train station in Tel Aviv it leaves every 30 minutes. The travel time is approximately 20 minutes, but you should know that all the stations are on the edge of the city and you will need a bus to get to your hotel. The ticket costs 15 NIS.
If you want to check the train timetable and its stops go to page: https://www.rail.co.il/en
Shuttle transfer is another option to get to the city center of Tel Aviv. It is available 24/7. Shuttle bus directly drops off you at your hotel. All vehicles are modern and comfortable. The cost for each person is 19$. You can order your transfer online.
Another option to reach the city center is a sherut – a shared taxi. It is a minibus which takes about 10 passengers. It’s a popular choice among tourists who get to Israel at late hours. It runs 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, including the Sabbath. You can find them on Level G outside Arrivals.
You can also take a taxi. They are located outside the Arrivals. Fares from the airport are legally fixed and depends on the time of day. Drivers can also charge for luggage.
Major of car rentals you can find on the airport site. A reservations desks are situated above the arrivals hall.
From Tel Aviv Airport to Jerusalem
If you want to travel directly from the Airport to Jerusalem you can take shuttle bus number 485 from Egged company. It’s a green bus. Its bus stop is located at the bus station on the second floor in the public transport lane. The bus operates 24 h a day, leaving every hour. On Friday, the line operates up to 2 pm., whereas on Saturday evening, the line starts from 7 pm. The journey lasts about 1 h. The bus stops in several points in Jerusalem, ending at Jerusalem bus station. A single ticket costs 16 NIS.
From late 2018 between Ben Gurion Airport and Jerusalem (Yitzhak Navon Station) has started operating a new high-speed train, officially called King David Line. The approximately time of journey is 20 minutes. The train leaves every half hour.
How to get to other places in Israel
Along the Dead Sea run buses number 444 and 486, average every 20 minutes, but it depends on the time of day. From Jerusalem Bus Station (3rd Platform) you can get for example to Ein Gedi Reserve, Masada fortress or to Ein Bokek. The time of the journey is between 1,5 h (to Ein Gedi Reserve) to 2 h (if you are going to Ein Bokek beach). A ticket costs 37,5 NIS.
From Jerusalem to Bethlem you can get by bus number 231 from Hevron Road/HaTnufa. It takes you about 1 h. The cost of the ticket is about 8 NIS.
Accommodation in Israel
Unfortunately, Israel is an expensive country for tourists. You can buy low-fare flight tickets (because the government of Israel pays extra to airlines for tickets to develop tourism in their country), but accommodation, transport, and living here is very expensive.
In Israel, you shouldn’t have a problem with finding a place to sleep. Everything depends on how much you want to pay for it. Usually, we have budget trips and this time we were looking for something cheap.
In Jerusalem, we have slept in the old part of the city. We found a room in Hebron Youth Hostel. For 2 nights we paid 108 $. It’s quite old and destroyed hostel with a huge problem with humidity, but we were spending the most time outside, so it wasn’t so annoying. The big advantage was the location of the hostel because we were in the heart of the old part of the city center. Everywhere was so close. Another plus was a free dinner, which was served by hosts. Unfortunately, we didn’t taste it, because we were late.
In Tel Aviv, we stayed at Florentine Backpackers Hostel. For our room, we paid 60 $. The hostel is situated in a Florentin district, about 15 minutes away on foot from the city center. I recommend this option for you, because of the atmosphere of this place. It’s a hostel dedicate for young people, which can integrate each other. The hostel consists of a big terrace, where are organized meetings for guest. You can buy there something to eat or to drink. Then you can go together to the city center. We spent a great time there.
Have you ever been to Israel? Did you feel safe there? Share with us your opinion!