Are you planning a trip to Israel? You have come to the right place!
After my first trip to Israel in November 2016 and falling in love with Tel Aviv, I ended up going again and again. In the last few years, I have visited Israel more often than I can remember – getting to know the local culture; making life-long friends; and slowly becoming more of a local myself.
Israel is an easy country to travel to. It’s small and super easy to move around; literally everyone speaks English to a certain degree; the food is varied and delicious. But despite being so small, there are many places to visit, and an incredible variety of landscapes and sights. So you will want to plan your trip very carefully – especially if you have limited time for your vacation.
11 Steps To Planning A Trip To Israel
When to visit Israel
Any time of the year is good for a trip to Israel, if you ask me! But first timers will surely want to have a bit more information.
The weather in Israel is usually mild in the winter, but very hot in the summer. Keep in mind that although the country is small, there are several climates and environments – deserts, mountains, coast, etc.
If you ask me, the best months to travel to Israel are October and November, when the temperatures are very pleasant in Jerusalem and it is still quite hot on the Mediterranean coast and in Tel Aviv – you can still go to the beach. March and April are quite warm too – with the occasional heat wave. May is just about perfect!
December and January are a bit colder – the average temperature in Tel Aviv is around 16 degrees Celsius, while it can be much colder in Jerusalem (9 degrees during the day), where it can even snow. Winter in Israel usually means rain, with terrible thunder storms that can last for days and often cause flooding – and will force you to change your plans.
One more thing to consider is the religious (or even non-religious) holidays – theirs, not yours! The reason I say this is that if you visit during a local holiday, accommodation is often more expensive and it books up much faster.
These are only a few of the Israeli / Jewish holidays to keep in mind:
- Pesach (Easter) – it usually overlaps with Christian Easter.
- Roshashana (Jewish New Year) – it takes place in September and it’s huge. That’s when most Israelis travel, either domestically or overseas.
- Yom Kippur and Sukkot – they fall right after Roshashana.
Hopefully this will help you decide when to visit.
How long to stay in Israel
Despite being a small country, there is a lot to see and do in Israel and it will take you multiple visits to get to know it.
This is a place that you can truly appreciate even if you have a short break – in fact, one of the most successful marketing campaigns by the Israeli Tourist Board has been the “Two Cities, One Break” which ideally pairs Tel Aviv and Jerusalem as a perfect trip that combines culture, history, fun, glamor, sunshine and more.
Having said that, I would say that ten days to two weeks are ideal to get a proper feel for the country. With that amount of time, you can visit Jerusalem and the Dead Sea, Tel Aviv, the Galilee and the North, and you may even be able to stretch it all the way to Eilat and the Red Sea.
Traveling to and from Israel
Israel is well connected to the rest of the world through its Tel Aviv Ben Gurion International Airport. Low cost flights land both in Tel Aviv (at terminal 1) and also in Eilat, in the Red Sea. This makes it incredibly easy and fairly cheap to travel to Israel.
Security for flights to and from Israel tends to be stricter than average, especially on El Al (Israel’s national airline) flights. Whether flying to or from Israel, plan to be at the airport well in advance.
In my experience, depending on the stamps you have on your passport, the questioning and searches are more thorough. The way to go about it is pretty obvious: answer the questions in all honesty and just be patient, as the security staff are just doing their job.
Crossing the border to and from Jordan
Many travelers try to join a trip to Israel with one to Jordan, either to just visit Petra for a few days, or to explore the rest of the country. You will be able to cross the border in 3 places: Wadi Araba, which is located between Eilat and Aqaba, in the South; Allenby / King Hussein Bridge, which is the closest one to Jerusalem and Amman; and Sheikh Hussein at the North, closer to Nazareth and Lake Tiberias.
Crossing the border is relatively easy and pain free (there’s a small exit fee on both sides, but in Jordan that depends on the duration of your stay). However, keep in mind that while it is possible to travel to Israel from the 3 borders, it is only possible to enter Jordan from the North and the South borders.
How to move around Israel
My Israeli friends will likely disagree, but Israel has quite good infrastructure and the public transportation system is efficient yet cheap. Buses and trains go literally everywhere in the country.
A thing to keep in mind, however, is that public transportation doesn’t work at all during Shabbat, which pretty much signals the weekend in Israel and starts right before sunset on Fridays and ends right after sunset on Saturdays.
On those days, do like the Israelis do and rely on sherut, or shared taxis, or use Gett – an app that is similar to Uber that allows you to book taxis for a cheaper price than those you commonly find in the streets.
Avoid flying to and from Israel on Saturdays, because getting to the airport then can be a real hassle – not to mention expensive.
Unless you are traveling alone and it ends up being expensive, renting a car is a great idea, and quite cheap to do (though gasoline isn’t).
If you intend to move around by public transportation, make sure to get a Rav Kav. This magnetic card can be used on all public transportation in Israel. You can upload credit at kiosks, stations and bus and metro stops, and it makes traveling a bit cheaper.
Your itinerary around Israel will inevitably vary depending on a number of factors – first and foremost your interests, but also how long you are going to stay and on how you plan to move around the country.
Keep in mind that Tel Aviv and Jerusalem are pretty much at the heart of the country, and you can easily take many day trips from there – either with your own car or on organized day trips. However, there are places such as Galilee and Eilat that can’t really be visited on day trips.
If you have 2 full weeks, I recommend splitting your time this way:
- 5 nights in Jerusalem;
- 2 nights in the Dead Sea;
- 3 nights in Tel Aviv;
- 4 nights in the Galilee, with a stop to Caesarea on the way.
If you have 10 days, this is a good rough itinerary:
- 4 nights in Jerusalem, with a day trip to the Masada and the Dead Sea;
- 3 nights in Tel Aviv;
- 3 nights in Galilee.
For shorter trips, I recommend only focusing on Jerusalem and Tel Aviv and at opting for day trips from there. Keep in mind you don’t need a car in either of them.
Things to do
I can’t possibly go through all the things to do in Israel in this post, as there is simply too much to see and do.
Having said so, there are some things that are simply unmissable – namely:
- Visiting the Western Wall and Temple Mount;
- Visiting Yad Vashem, the Holocaust Museum;
- Exploring Old Jaffa;
- Taking a walk on Tel Aviv Waterfront;
- Taking in the view from the Bahá’í Gardens in Haifa;
- Walking around Old Akko;
- Floating on the Dead Sea;
- Hiking to the top of the Masada.
The best way to experience the cities is to walk around – that’s how you discover the most hidden corners and the true local gems. Also remember that Israel is a fantastic hiking destination! Definitely take your time in appreciating each place, and look out for local tips (and come back to this blog) on what to see and do.
Where to stay in Israel
Israel has an incredible range of accommodation options – from campsites to hostels, from nice airbnbs to boutique hotels and large luxury chains. Deciding where to stay will mostly be a matter of budget.
Jerusalem and Tel Aviv will have the largest choice of accommodation options.
In Jerusalem you will find large historic hotels such as The YMCA and The American Colony. Inbal is a great affordable luxury option. The Post and Abraham are both excellent hostels in the center of town. And there are many good Airbnbs such as this one.
In Tel Aviv, you will find some fantastic hotels right by the waterfront such as The Dan; or you can opt for fabulous boutique hotels such as Poli House. Abraham remains one of the best accommodation options in town for budget travelers and backpackers; and there are some great Airbnbs such as this one.
Find more hotels in Tel Aviv here.
If you decide to spend a couple of nights in the Dead Sea, look a good resort with a fabulous spa as that will be the highlight of your stay. In Galilee, there are plenty of hotels and smaller bed and breakfast-style accommodation usually called Zimmers. If you go to Eilat, there are plenty of large hotels too.
Look for a room in Eilat here.
What to pack for your trip to Israel
Remember to pack wisely.
If you plan on visiting religious sites – Jewish, Christian or Muslims sites in Jerusalem – or even simply take a walk around certain neighborhoods, you will have to dress modestly. For example, if you go on this guided tour of the Ultra-Orthodox neighborhood in Jerusalem, you will need to cover your arms, knees, chest and shoulder, and on some occasions even your hair.
Other than that, Israel is super easy going in terms of what to wear (unless you are a fashion victim visiting Tel Aviv, that is!) and casual wear is pretty much the rule here. I recommend packing according to the weather you expect to get, and make sure to bring comfortable shoes and a swimsuit – no matter the season, because chances are you’ll swim in the Dead Sea. A light jacket may come in handy even in the summer months – air conditioning in some restaurants may cause you to freeze.
Make sure to also read my post What To Wear In Israel.
Getting online in Israel
Good news! Wifi works really well in Israel, and it is basically available in the entire country. Hotels, hostels, restaurants, bus and train stations, buses and trains usually have wifi. Even most cities have free wifi.
Yet, I believe it’s better to get a local SIM card once you get to Israel – it will make your life much easier, especially if you need to use apps such as Google Maps, or even just Gett to urgently call a taxi.
You can get a local SIM card directly at the airport for a convenient price. Just opt for a plan that gives you data only and just for the duration of your stay.
Other useful things to know before planning a trip to Israel
I bet that before planning a trip to you will be wondering a few more things.
Is Israel expensive?
I can’t really sugar coat it: Israel is an expensive country and you really can’t expect to visit Israel on a $10 USD per day budget. Keep in mind that a bed in a dorm costs around $25 USD; a meal in a local fast food chain (think stuffed pita, or hummus and pita) is around $10 USD; and a pint of beer costs around $7 USD.
The official currency in Israel is the Israeli Shekel (NIS). At the time of writing, the exchange rate is NIS 3.25 to $1 USD and NIS 3.5 to €1 euro.
Is the food in Israel good?
To make a long story short, yes. You will find food to accommodate any taste, diet, and craving. If you are vegan, it will be a feast.
If you care to know more, make sure to check out my posts A Complete Guide To Israeli Food, Tel Aviv Vegan Food Guide – The Best Vegan Restaurants In Tel Aviv and The 17 Best Restaurants In Jerusalem.
Is Israel safe?
This is the most common questions I get asked. And yet, I have left it at the very end of the post. You see, despite what many foreign affairs government websites say about Israel being a high risk area, this is actually a very safe country, even for solo female travelers – you will realize this the moment you arrive.
Israel really is an incredible place. It’s my home away from home, my favorite place outside of Italy, and I promise you – you will love it. Go to Israel with an open mind, and you will meet many fantastic people; you will experience a country that is so underrated, enigmatic and beautiful. You will hopefully grasp a but more of its difficult past and present, and end up having the time of your life.
These posts will be useful to plan your trip:
- 35 Tips For Traveling To Israel
- How To Plan The Perfect Trip To Israel
- The Best Places To Visit In Israel
- 21 Absolutely Unmissable Things To Do In Tel Aviv
- Where To Stay In Tel Aviv: Recommendations By An Almost Local
- The 13 Best Day Trips From Tel Aviv
- Abraham Hostel Tel Aviv: A Complete Review
- 15 Great Tel Aviv Beaches
- The Best Bars In Tel Aviv For The Best Tel Aviv Nightlife
- 24 Things To Do In Jerusalem You Can’t Miss
- 9 Fantastic Day Trips From Jerusalem
- Where To Get The Most Impressive Views Of Jerusalem
- 15 Great Bars In Jerusalem
- What You Need To Know About Shabbat In Jerusalem
- Masada Sunrise Guide: Hiking The Masada Snake Path
- 17 Truly Unmissable Things To Do In Eilat, Israel
- A Guide To The Things To Do In Haifa, Israel
- Masada Sunrise Guide: Hiking The Masada Snake Path
- Everything You Need To Know To Hike The Jesus Trail
- The Best Airbnbs In Tel Aviv