The first week on my trip to Israel I was surprised in many ways. There were so many things I did not expect that I decided to start writing them all down. I love going to a country without any expectations, because those who have expectations can only get disappointed! Right? I found many reasons to visit Israel, but also some things I didn't like and that is how came up with this list of things to know before you travel to Israel.
June 2017 was the first I visiting Israel and I had such a blast that in August 2019 I decided to travel to Israel again. All my tips in this Israel travel blog are updated end August 2019 with recent prices and new info.
Stay connected on your trip to Israel and fix yourself an Israel sim card. Click on the link to read my complete guide for buying an Israel sim card for tourists. It is the only thing that is cheap in Israel! :)
Landing at Ben Gurion? Click here to read everything about buying a sim card at Tel Aviv Airport. But I can already tell you that ordering an Israel sim card online is much cheaper and easily saves you $20 to $40. Click on the link for more info or on the picture below.
When you decide to travel to Israel and are looking for tours around the country I can recommend you to use Abraham Tours. I have had an amazing time and got many lifetime experiences through them. If you are you looking for cool group trips, individual experiences and the best things to do in Israel check out the following tours.
Abraham Tours also offers multiple day tours those who travel to Israel, including Jordan tours. Check out these multiple day tours:
History of Israel
How can an Israel travel blog describe in short what has happened here over the years? Exactly... impossible! Israel was founded on May 14th 1948 by Ben Gurion when after World War 2 many Jews from around the world found a safe heaven in the land of what is Israel nowadays. Of course the Arab countries surrounding Israel didn't agree on this idea and attacked Israel, but never succeeded in their mission. Until today this is one of the world's most tensed area as the conflict never got solved.
Is it safe to travel to Israel
Yes it is safe to travel to Israel in 2019. Over the last years there have not been reported any major terrorism attacks. Although security is really tight at the airport you won't notice anything when partying in Tel Aviv or floating in the Dead Sea. I have never felt unsafe on any of my trips to Israel.
But this Israel travel blog is not about all these kind of things I want to keep it travel related and tell you about my experiences traveling in Israel and these are my Israel travel tips.
Israel travel tips
1. Country of hummus
You might not expect a dip to be healthy but hummus is actually pretty healthy and originates from Israel. With every meal you will get a plate of hummus either as a starter or as a main dish. It is pretty normal for Israeli’s to have a Hummus lunch, just some bread and a bowl of hummus. There is even a popular Instagram account called Hot Dudes And Hummus, check it out if you are into it before your trip to Israel so you know what to expect. Click here for a cool food tour through Tel Aviv.
Looking for things to do in Israel? Click on the link for the best Israel activities, including 8 not so standard activities like: ATV riding and a hot air balloon.
2. Sharing food is common
A trip to Israel is not complete if you didn’t try 281 dishes in 1 week! I am a big fan of 9 small plates on the table and dipping your bread or vegetable in all of them. A good thing to know before you travel to Israel because ordering a main dish for yourself is weird! :) Israelis love to share food and expect them to order a lot of different things and just try everything. Ordering a main dish just for yourself will frown eyebrows.
3. Food is suppose to be kosher
Food has rules in Israel as far as that counts for religious people. You will often find restaurants stating that they offer ‘kosher’ food, which basically means they stick to the rules of the religion, It is something like Halal food for Muslims. Main rule is: don’t mix dairy with meat. In reality most young Israeli’s don’t care at all, but it is good to know when you are planning a trip to Israel.
4. Betzavta - dine at a local home
Betzavta means together and as food is an important part of the Israeli culture I think this is one of the most unique things to do in Israel. Do you want to learn up close and personal about the Israeli culture than book a family dinner at someone's home. Go to the Betzavta website book your dinner and they match you with someone nearby that is going to cook you an amazing family dinner in their house. Experience the Israeli hospitality to the its fullest.
5. Fight for your right in Israel
Living in Israel is unlike in any other country and some expats explained me that they really had to get used to some Israeli habits when they moved here. From your 18th almost everyone in Israel has to join the army for at least 2 years, boys and girls. I saw kids walking around with a big gun in their hand who looked half my age, but on the contrary also cute girls flirting with me in their uniform. The military service is compulsory but it will definitely form you as a person. Israeli’s have a getting things done mentality and can be super direct! Get used to it, this hands-on mentality is how they have been raised.
6. Safety issues in Israel
Israel will always be a country with issues and yes there are always people that will have their opinions about the conflicts going on here. But I did not go to Israel to discuss this or to find out more about it. I was there to see the beauty, the crazy and the holy! But of course I can understand that safety issues are important visiting Israel tips. But just because Israel is a place of conflict that does not mean it isn’t safe. I have walked around on the streets at night and during the day and went to remote areas in the South and visit the Dead Sea, but didn’t stumble upon anything that made me feel unsafe. Security is so tight that it actually annoyed me like crazy sometimes. Expect long lines at the airport security. I waited 40 minutes to go through security, got questioned 20 minutes before entering Israel and 10 minutes when I left. Why? I assume it contributes to make Israel a safe place, which it definitely is nowadays. Safety issues? No worries…
7. Israel is damn expensive
This is may be one of the most important things to know before you travel to Israel. Wow Israel you really surprised me with your price levels! I did not expect anything like this at all. I just came from Sydney and was used to pay $7 for a beer, but a beer in Tel Aviv can easily cost $10. Damn it! Groceries are not cheap either. Apparently the salaries are not outrageous like in Australia so respect for those who are living here and have to deal with it. Streetfood $6 - $11, mid range hotel room $130, car rental $70 per day, meal at the beach $35. Damn I wish you were cheaper Israel!
This beer was $12!
8. Tel Aviv looks better at night
When I walked around my first time in Tel Aviv I was not really impressed by its beauty. From my friends balcony I could overlook the city and that didn’t really help either. Don’t expect stunning historical cities with beautiful squares like in Europe, during the day just go to the beach. The best Israel travel tip is to see the this city at night. Tel Aviv’s beauty comes out at night and wow the stories are true! Damn what an epic nightlife has this city! Unlimited bars and clubs and restaurants and the cool thing is that it is bustling everywhere. Inside the bars and outside on the patio. There are so many people hanging around in the streets. Don’t get disappointed walking around Tel Aviv by day, wait till the sun goes down! ;)
Have a look at this boutique hotel in Tel Aviv. It has a rooftop for guests only with the most amazing views. Read my complete review of Fabric Tel Aviv in the link.
9. Smoking in bars is normal
It felt like I was stepping back in time when I entered a bar for the first time back in 2017. Even in Thailand there are places where there is a strict law against smoking in bars, but everywhere I went in Israel people were smoking cigarettes. For the die-hard smokers this will be paradise, but for me it was hell! My clothes smelled so awful and my hair even worse. Every time I went out I had to take a shower when I came home in the middle of the night! Well, there was no escaping I had to get used to it…
Update: in August 2019 I figured that the law is much stricter now and I even found some bars with a no smoking policy. Must say though still many people smoke cigarettes and sitting on the terrace outdoor there is a big chance the table next to you is smoking cigarettes. Still can't get used to it: disgusting!
10. No Uber, but Gett Taxi
Unlike in many other countries I have traveled to Uber is non-existing. Instead you have to download Gett Taxi as that is the taxi app for Israel, cheaper than a normal taxi and the standard way of getting around in Tel Aviv. For long distance trips there are very comfortable busses, trains are comfortable but train stations are not centrally located.
Another very common thing in the streets of Israel: an electric bike!
11. Bedouin culture still exists
The South of Israel is covered in sand, this is the playground of the Negev Desert. There is hardly any life possible and obviously there are not that many places of interest but there are some oasis’ and since I had never been to any of them it was cool to stay overnight at one of these places. The Bedouin culture is still alive here and drinking tea and eating there the local food is a great experience. Want to experience this on your trip to Israel, the click here to find out more about Desert tours.
12. Second biggest Burning Man Festival: MidBurn
The desert can be fierce with temperatures touching 40 degrees during the day and getting as low as 10 degrees at night, but somehow this environment once a year lures 14,000 people to the middle of nowhere. Israel is home to the second biggest Burning Man festival after the original one in Nevada, USA. I was lucky enough to get tickets (with a foreign passport it is easy to get tickets for this sold-out festival) and to go wild in the desert for 4 days straight. Put this festival in your agenda when you are planning to to visit Israel. What an unbelievable experience, one of the most amazing festivals I have ever been to.
It is like CrazyLand, everything imaginable is possible! People come to Burning Man to explore what is beyond their borders in terms of sexuality, drugs, meeting people, giving, taking, caring. I am not a virgin anymore, I am a Burner! Midburn I will be back… Read here more about how I experienced the 10 principles of Burning Man at Mid Burn.
13. Liberal drugs policy
The country is very liberal towards drugs. I don’t know if that is one of the best Israel travel tips, but nowadays drugs is a very much accepted in society, although no one ever talks about it. Except me! Drugs are officially forbidden by law of course but everything is possible. If you have read my article 30 things I only experienced because I traveled you would know that I am normally not a fan of using drugs in a foreign country, but… I stumbled upon a local in Jerusalem smoking a joint in the streets with the police only meters away and a complete army peloton approaching us. I asked him if I could film him for my Snapchat and he said: no problem! Smoking a joint is even accepted inside a bar. Although I know the MidBurn Festival is not really a benchmark but I was able to lay my hands on anything imaginable. Although I had the opportunity I still have never tried LSD (Acid), but Israel will be the country where I tried GHB (the day-rape-drug) for the first time in my life. As I said MidBurn was epic! ;)
Don't tell people because of what Traveltomtom said about drugs was one of the reasons to visit Israel! I did not even name it in the list of 24 reasons, it was just an observation. Click on the link for way better reasons to travel to Israel.
14. Themed beaches
Tel Aviv is a beach destination and that means the city center is only footsteps away from the ocean. But before you walk to the beach make sure to ask someone where to go. This is one of those things to know before you travel to Israel or things can get awkward. LOL! A lot of beaches are specifically catered for a group of people whether religious, gay, families and even a beach where dogs are running around freely. Totally in line with the crazy contrasts in this country the gay beach is next to the religious beach.
Portable wifi device for Israel travel
How to stay connected when you travel to Israel? Try a Teppy, a WiFi device that lets you connect to the internet without a contract. Click on the banner to read more about it and use the TEP Wireless coupon code TRAVELTOMTOM to get an extra 10% discount!
Another option is to buy an Israel sim card, click here for a great offer and order a sim card for Israel online.
15. Israel is gay friendly
You might not expect it from Israel but it is on its way to become the gay capital of the world. Already 31% of the people living in Tel Aviv are gay. That said there is only one gay bar in town and according to locals there is no need as there are so many gay people around, every bar is 30% gay bar! If you are looking for more gay-information then sign up for a gay tour through Tel Aviv through this Facebook Page. An LGTB traveler? Then this definitely is a recommended and fun thing to do when planning a trip to Israel. If you are gay then this is your Mecca! ;)
16. Second biggest Gay Pride in the world
With all those gay people living in Tel Aviv it is no wonder that the city hosts the second biggest Gay Pride in the world. A massive parade will roam the city streets of Tel Aviv in the early morning and end up on the beach with a crazy party. Around 200.000 people witness the parade and party all day long. I was lucky to be part of it, although totally straight I loved it to bits and pieces, what an epic party! When possible try to squeeze this into your itinerary.
There is also a Pride Week Package (including accommodation and parties) available with Abraham Tours. Check it out if you are interested.
17. Jerusalem is the craziest (holiest) city in the world
Keeping up with the contrasts lets talk about Jerusalem! One of the best Israel travel tips: Tel Aviv plays, Jerusalem prays. This city is a place you have never seen before. Why oh why did those religious people all chose this city to be holy? The Western Wall is the most holy place in the world for Jews, only a stone throw away from Jezus’ tomb for the Christians and the third most holy place for Muslims is just across the street. Damn it can you make it even more complicated? Walking around here as a non-religious tourist you will definitely feel the Holy Spirit. After a day strolling through the spectacular old city I ended up in a gay bar, can there be any more contrasts?
In need of a great guide? Abraham Tours hosts many cool tours in Jerusalem:
There are also Jerusalem day-tours from Tel Aviv, 3 and 4 day tours including Jerusalem and Dead Sea and many more.
Check out some more tour inspiration and Israel travel ideas below! Click on the 'next page' button to see more tours. 100ILS = $27
18. Lowest point on earth
We all know about the highest point on earth, but not that many people realize that the Dead Sea on the border of Israel and Jordan is the lowest point on earth; a crazy landscape to discover and for sure worth the drive downhill. Enjoy the spectacular views from up top or jump in the only boat that drives on the Dead Sea apart from a research vessel. How to arrange this boat ride on the Dead Sea? Click here to get connected with Abraham Hostels as they are the unique seller of this tour.
There are a dozen different Dead Sea tours, see below. 100ILS = $27
Planning a trip to Israel
I was lucky enough to be chosen by Vibe Israel to join their yearly returning travel blogging trip and therefore most of my trip to Israel was planned for me. I wish though I had known a couple things before I traveled to Israel and therefore I hope this list was helpful to you. I sincerely hope you will consider this country to be your next destination and that my blogs about this controversial country convinced you that it is an amazing place to travel and to experience its great contrasts.
I feel privileged that because of my travels I am able to take away misconceptions. Therefore I also took a trip to Syria in August 2019.
In the next link you will find unusual things to do in Israel, not just the standard stuff but some epic adventures like zip lining, rappeling, ATV trips, a hot air balloon ride and more. In my 24 reasons to visit Israel I summed up a whole list of why you should visit this country if you are still not convinced.
If this blog about traveling to Israel was helpful would you like to help me a little? Please pin it on Pinterest, tweet it on Twitter or share it in a Facebook Group or somewhere on the internet. It would mean the world to me! Thanks a million...
May you still have questions about traveling to Israel please send me a message on my Instagram @traveltomtom and I am happy to help you out.