Israel Essentials

tea towelsPacking:

Your most important item is a good walking shoe. Usually, your sport shoe can do the trick. Save the flipflops for the pool and crocs for the water tunnel.

A hat with a brim. A baseball cap is good too, but even better is a hat with a brim, it is like an instant sun umbrella. Think Indiana Jones.

A light wrap or jacket for Jerusalem nights in the summer. For winter, a good jacket.

Casual clothes all day and night everywhere. Shabbat is casual too, but not shorts.

For women at the Kotel, no shorts or sleeveless. You can bring a pashmina or scarf to tie around your shoulders. Same for churches.

Goggles for the pools.

Sunscreen for all.

Medicine, doctors and pharmacies:

Check your health insurance before you go to see if you have overseas coverage in Israel.

Travel insurance is a very low cost item to buy and is recommended.

Bring all your regularly prescribed medicines in their bottles. (lower quantities of course)

We have pharmacies here but you would be surprised what they do NOT sell over the counter. (ie: neosporin, benedryl, anti-nausea meds). If you think you will need, then bring it.

checking etrogMoney:

The shekel is really the standard payment for everything. People don’t use traveler’s checks here. The money changers are pretty good. The shekel rate varies between 3.50-3.60 to the dollar at this time. You can get some shekels at the airport when you land and then get some more near where you are staying. Banks don’t offer the best rate here. Getting about 3-4 agurot under the world rate would be considered a good rate.


It is very important to drink here, even if you don’t think you are thirsty. One can get a headache by the middle of the day if your tissues are not hydrated and from there it is the fast track to heatstroke or dehydration. The standard tip is to drink about 2-liters a day. You can buy bottles of water for your apartment or hotel room at a supermarket (cheaper than the hotel gift shop). Bring your water for yourself and your children for the whole day. The water in the bottles is yummy and fine.


Tipping of cab drivers is not necessary. It is customary to give a private driver of a cab or a minibus  or bus a certain percentage of the day (10 percent), depending on what you thought about your customer service. . At restaurants,sometimes they will add a 12 -15 % gratuity for a large group but sometimes on most regular bills it is not included. The wait staff is usually tipped this percentage. Your private guide should also be tipped if you felt they delivered excellent service and you had a great time.

Haggling for a price:

This is one of our national pastimes. The shop keepers in the Arab shouk expect it. They give you an inflated price, you give them your lowball and then you go from there. If you don’t have the energy to do this, just say, ” how much for two?” and you get a good price.

Jet lag:

Is inevitable. You will find yourself getting tired at 6 pm the first couple of days and then wide awake at 3:30 am. Best way to fight it is to push yourself a little later on those days to go to bed at regular time. If you are up early, take a walk and see the city, village or town you are in and see the people wake up.


If you have a smart phone, make sure you know how to turn off your roaming. You can get a sim card here for your phone as long as it is unlocked. Most phones in America are locked but you can get it unlocked before you go. You can purchase/rent a regular flip phone at the airport or from a company in America. Travel cell or Talk n’ save and Ness Mobile can help you with this.

Gotta Eat:

One of my favorite pastimes. We have great food here. Local specialties include falafel, shwarma and other middle eastern treats. They will ask you if you want it “harif” which for us from the west coast means “Do you want some hot sauce on that “. It is hot, but if you are used to it, go for it. Fine dining abounds and you can a pretty decent meal here. Ask for ice for your drink, it usually doesn’t get served to you. Not everything is kosher, especially in Tel Aviv. If you need special options such as gluten free, etc. you can ask at your hotel to see if they can accomodate you. The fruits and veggies are fresh here and only sold in season.You should wash your produce but don’t have to peel it.

Traveling with the younger set:

glidaBring their favorite toys, coloring books, markers, etc. Sometime driving around for an hour to one and a half hours to a destination can be daunting for the parents.Whatever keeps them happy and occupied. Important word to know here is: “gleeda”. It means ice cream. Once you know it, then 85% of the time your troubles are over.