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Israel Travel Frequently Asked Questions

Israel FAQ’s

Do I need a Passport to travel to Israel? YES – and you need to have at LEAST 6 months validity left on your passport from your planned date of DEPARTURE from Israel. U.S. and Canadian citizens do not need a visa to visit Israel – just a valid passport. Visitors from most European countries, Mexico, Latin America, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and many other countries also do not need visas.What about travel protection coverage? Here’s information for travel insurance that covers medical, emergency trip cancellation, travel delays, trip interruption, baggage delay… travel insurance Please do not get on the plane without full travelers insurance as your local health insurance may not cover your medical needs while in Israel.Do I need any vaccinations? No vaccinations or shots are required for U.S. or Canadian visitors to Israel. (If you’ve visited a country prior to coming to Israel where cholera, typhoid or yellow fever is endemic, you will need a vaccination certificate.)What is the currancy in Israel and how much should I bring with me? The Israeli currency is called the Shekel and its current worth is about 4.2 Shekels for 1 US dollar (you can consider 1 Shekel to be equivalent to 25 cents). You do NOT need to purchase Shekels before you come to Israel. Most places are happy to take your dollars and any large purchases can be made by credit card. My suggestion is that you use a $20.00 bill to buy your first lunch. You will be given change in Shekels which will be enough for postcards, cold drinks, ice cream etc. When you run out of your Shekels, you can make another small purchase with a large bill and just use the change for small purchases. There is no reason to convert a large sum of dollars into Shekel as you lose a lot in the Exchange rate. Rates are subject to daily fluctuations. If you want to know the rate just prior to the start of the trip, visit the following web site: www.BibleOnTour.com and use the Currency converter under the Israel page.How does Hebrew work? Hebrew is read from right to left. Each character represents a sound. They don’t have vowels as such; some characters make a combination consonant/ vowel sound.
Interestingly they use regular numbers, which are read from left to right. Even more interesting is that our numbers come from Arabic, which is another language that is read from right to left!
Is everything in Jerusalem made of stone? Apparently it’s a city ordinance that all buildings need to be made of stone, or at least have a stone facade. There were a number of 20-or-so story buildings in the New City and they all had stone on the outside.

I heard that their workweek is different?
Israelis work from Sunday to Thursday; their weekend is Fri/Sat. Saturday is also called Shabbat, their holy day, and almost nobody works. The very religious don’t even operate machinery (cars/dishwashers) or simple light switches on Shabbat. So the streets are empty of cars.

What will airport security be like? Airport security for flights to Israel is among the most thorough in the world. Expect a complete check of your suitcase and hand luggage. This is often accompanied by a set of specific questions asked by a highly trained Israeli security specialist. Although you might feel intimidated, remain calm. The entire procedure is designed with your personal safety in mind. We can be thankful that Israel is so security conscious!

Can I extend my stay in Israel?
The answer is yes. Individuals could remain in Israel to do additional exploring on their own. The travel agent from Bible On Tour can help make the necessary hotel arrangements.

Can I upgrade to business class or first class?
A limited number of upgrades are available on all flights. For detailed information, including costs, contact Bible On Tour.
What is the Food Like? All hotels provide full buffets for both breakfast and dinner. The Israeli breakfast buffet in the hotels provides many options including eggs, a large variety of cheeses, fruit, vegetables, fish, cereals, breads, juices, tea and coffee.How can I call home from Israel? To call ISRAEL from the US, dial 011 + 972 (Israel’s country code) + local area code number (single digit number-delete 0 if it appears before a number such as 02 for Jerusalem would be just 2) + local number. To call ISRAEL CELL PHONES from the US, dial 011 + 972 (Israel’s country code) + cell area code number (2 digit number-delete 0 if it appears before a number such as 051 would be just 51) + local number. To call the US from Israel, dial 00 + 1 (US country code) + area code + local number. Local phone cards: If you’ll be calling home a lot, or calling another European country, use local phone cards (purchased at post offices, convenience stores and newsstands), and dial direct. This will save you money and hassles. US phone cards: Another, more expensive (but possibly more convenient) option is to bring an international calling card from your long distance provider (Sprint, AT&T, MCI, etc). Be sure to ask for their best price option for calling from Europe to multiple US numbers. If you choose this option, use their toll-free access numbers and double-check for any hotel connection charges. It may be cheaper to call from a pay phone rather than from your hotel room.

How much luggage can I bring? You are limited to one piece of checked luggage whose total dimensions are not to exceed 62 inches (height plus width plus depth) and 50 pounds. The airlines do allow two checked suitcases but due to the bus size, you are only allowed to take one suitcase.
How much spending money do you recommend per day? While many people spend very little during the course of the tour and still have a great time, be prepared with reliable access to funds for your daily needs. These include lunches, additional beverages at meal times, snacks, and souvenirs. You can plan to spend between $10-25 per person per day.

Note: Keep in mind your medical insurance policy may not provide coverage abroad. Medicare and Medicaid are not valid outside the US. If you are forced to cancel your trip at the last minute due to an emergency in your immediate family, you forfeit all money paid for your trip. And, if you have a medical emergency requiring emergency evacuation to a location providing specific medical care, you would have to pay for that emergency evacuation.

What is a a kibbutz? Communal settlement in modern Israel. Originally, they focused, on agriculture, but many of them they are now are engaged in a variety of activities including tourism, high-tech ventures, and other industries.
Agricultural Products: Citrus and other fruits, vegetables, cotton, beef, poultry, dairy products Major Industries: Food processing, diamond cutting and polishing, textiles and apparel, metals

Time Zone? Israeli time is seven hours ahead of Eastern Time. When it is 12 noon in New York, it is 7 pm in Jerusalem.

ATMs: Most banks have ATMs and are open every day except Saturday. However, you are traveling with a group and not often in the city. The whole group cannot wait while one or two people line up for the ATM machines every time you run out of money. The ATM Machines provide you with Shekel at the current exchange rate.

What items should I shop for in Israel?
Israel is famous for its exclusive lines of bathing suits (Gottex, Gideon Oberson), skin-care products made from mineral-rich Dead Sea mud, glass, art, leather coats, silver jewelry, diamonds, painted tiles, embroidery, religious items & antiques.

What are the voltage requirements in Israel?
Voltage: 230 V; Plugs H & C. You will need a voltage converter, and plug adapter in order to use U.S. appliances. We recommend getting a universal adapter and converter kit. Most Israeli sockets are three-pronged, but many of them can accommodate other varieties. Most luxury hotels provide hair-dryers and all hotels have sockets for U.S. shavers.

Will I get motion sickness on the tour bus? It is a very large bus and most people have no problems. We have heard people recommend Bonine for Motion Sickness and always ask your doctor what is best for you

Do I need to have Israeli money for these food expenses, or do they take US dollars?
Virtually every store will accept U.S. dollars, though sometimes they will give you back your change in Israeli shekels. Though U.S. dollars are easy to use, it’s often good to have some Israeli shekels for making small purchases since the price in shekels is often rounded up to the next highest dollar.

Can you accommodate special food requests for those with special needs?
Because of the large number of tourists served each day, it is difficult for hotels and restaurants to accommodate special food requests. However, the wide variety of food choices makes it relatively easy for most individuals to find the foods they can eat. Those with very special needs might want to bring along some snack items to supplement their diet.

Can we drink the water? Yes, the water in Israel is fine, especially at the hotels. So for the most part you don’t have to worry about water or food. If you’re not sure or want to be extra cautious, you can buy bottled water. Bottled water will be available on your bus for a charge of $1 per bottle.

Dinner buffets also provide a large variety including soup, a large variety of salads, several options of meat, fish and or poultry, cooked vegetables, starches (potatoes or rice) and desert. Please note, soft drinks such as coke and sprite and wine are not provided at dinner. Only water can be found on the table.

In Israeli hotels, we follow all of the Kosher regulations which do not allow the mixture of milk and meat products together. Therefore breakfast is a dairy meal and most nights, dinner is a meat meal. Some hotels provide a dairy dinner once a week.

Is there internet access? Most hotels have Internet Access of some sort. If they do not have access in the rooms, then usually the hotels have access in the lobby area.

How do I pay to call family and friends in the USA? Best way to call is to purchase a phone call at the hotel gift shop or ask the guide for the first opportunity to purchase one at a Kiosk or gift shop. You do NOT want to call the US directly from your hotel room (very expensive).

If I can only have one piece of luggage, can I bring a small rolling carry-on bag? Some airlines restrict carry-ons to not be larger than 45 inches (9” x 14” x 22”) and may not weigh more than 18 pounds. We are asking passengers to limit themselves to one piece of checked luggage (not to exceed 50 pounds) that will be portered to and from their rooms and that will be transported by truck between hotels. You may bring a small rolling carry-on bag (if within the airline size guidelines), but you will need to porter it to and from your room, and will also need to place it in the cargo hold underneath the bus because there is not sufficient room in the passenger compartment to store it.

Do you have any packing tips? Pack a light jacket or sweater. While daytime temperatures should be pleasant, evenings can be cool, especially at higher elevations such as Jerusalem. Most churches and Orthodox holy sites require respectful dress. This generally means shoulders and knees must be covered for both men and women, and men must cover their heads (a baseball cap is adequate). On days that we visit these sites, we will warn you to dress accordingly. Nylon pants or pants with zip-on/off legs provide an easy, quick cover-up. Women could also pull on a light skirt over shorts and use a scarf to cover the shoulders.

Can I use credit cards? It’s important to have an alternative in case one money method doesn’t work. We recommend bringing at least two of the following money options:
· ATM card
· Credit card
· Cash
Using an ATM card is like writing a personal check: the money is withdrawn from your checking account. While they have Visa or MasterCard symbols on the front, ATM cards are not credit cards. Your card allows you to get cash from European ATMs at a rate close to the excellent interbank/wholesale exchange rate. To use your card overseas, it must have a Cirrus or Plus symbol on the back. You also need to know your four-digit PIN code. Many European machines do not accept longer codes and may not have alphabetical equivalents marked. Check with your bank for overseas transaction fees and daily withdrawal limits before you leave.

A Visa or MasterCard credit card also offers excellent exchange rates, as well as important fraud protection. Use your credit card for hotel charges, meals, souvenirs, and other major expenses. While many credit cards can also be used for “cash advances” at ATMs, steep interest rates and fees make this an option for emergencies only. (Before you leave, get a 4-digit PIN code for your card just in case, and find out about fees and interest charges.) As at home, save all receipts until you can verify your statement.

Although credit cards and ATMs are widely used throughout Israel, there are stores (especially in The Old City of Jerusalem) that only accept cash. Therefore, we recommend that you also bring cash or traveler’s checks (in US dollars) for those times when credit cards or an ATM cards are not accepted.

How should I keep my cash and credit cards safe? We strongly recommend using an undergarment money belt. It’s essential for the peace of mind it brings. You could lose everything except your money belt, and the trip could still go on.

How is tipping handled on this trip? Your driver and tour guide are well tipped by Bible On Tour. Likewise, tips for all local guides and hotel staff are also fully paid by Bible On Tour. There is no need to tip beyond this. It is not necessary to tip the restaurant staff when group meals are provided, nor is it necessary to tip the hotel staff.

How hard is it to find bathroom facilities? Bathroom facilities are always a challenge while traveling, and Israel is no exception. The guides and the faculty members are sensitive to this need, and they will do everything possible to make sure that there are regular stops at available bathroom facilities.

Will I have a chance to do laundry? We will be keeping you busy everyday and you will not have time to do your own laundry except in your room. Laundry service is available at hotels, but you must make sure there is enough time to get it back before we pack up and leave. Bring clothing that can be washed in your hotel room and that will dry quickly. You can bring small packets of Woolite and/or laundry detergent for this purpose.

If I do not have a roommate, will you help me find one? We can’t guarantee that we can find a roommate for you; however, Bible On Tour will do everything possible to pair together individuals who wish to have a roommate. Ultimately, each participant is responsible for finding his/her own roommate, and single rooms must be paid for if a roommate is not secured.

Can I receive messages from home while on the trip? You will receive a complete hotel list for your tour prior to departure. Leave a copy with family and friends so they can contact you if necessary. Although the hotels may have fax machines and e-mail, please do not rely on them for receiving personal messages. If family and friends need to reach you, please have them phone. For those who have web-based e-mail accounts (such as Yahoo or Hotmail), Internet cafés are another convenient option.Will there be opportunities for shopping? This tour is not primarily designed to be a shopping tour. However, there will be a limited number of opportunities to shop while in Israel. In addition, many of the sites we visit have gift shops where you can shop for small souvenirs. There are also a limited number of special vendors who specialize in items like necklaces, DVDs, and books, and you will have an opportunity to purchase them. Finally, you will have an opportunity to shop on your free afternoon in Jerusalem.

How much walking will we do? Israel is a land of beautiful hills and valleys, and we will be walking on several of them. The walks are not extremely strenuous, but be prepared to do some walking over uneven terrain. The best way to prepare is to begin walking, on a daily basis, in the shoes you will be wearing while in Israel.Should I bring my prescription medicines? Bring your medicine in the original bottle. Also, bring a copy of the generic names for each. If you have medications, which need to be refrigerated, you will need to make the appropriate arrangements with the airlines & hotels.
An ID bracelet or a note from your doctor regarding any special treatments you are receiving will prove invaluable in the event of an emergency. Always carry medication that is needed on a daily basis in your carry-on.

Will my tour schedule ever change? Every effort will be made to ensure you see the sites listed in your program; however, we reserve the right to alter the sightseeing itinerary to accommodate changes in local conditions and/or circumstances.

Will my group travel together on the same airline?
Every effort will be made to keep groups together if they are traveling from the same departure city; however, depending upon the size of the group and the availability of seats on the same flights, some groups may be on several different domestic and/or international flights. You will be on the same tour bus during the entire program.

What if my luggage is lost or damaged? File a claim at the airport before you leave the baggage claim area. It will be the airline’s responsibility to get lost luggage to you or to compensate you for damaged luggage. We strongly suggest that you pack at least one change of clothes in your carry-on bag.

What about my luggage? Upon arriving at the hotel, you will be asked to label your bag (with a sticker provided by the hotel) with your hotel room number. The porters will then bring your bag to your hotel room. You will be responsible for your carry-on. Travel Insurance

What meals are included in my journey? Breakfast and dinner are included. Lunches only included when specified. Coffee or tea is served at breakfast but beverages at dinner will be at a supplemental charge. All other meals are at your expense. Tap water in Israel is safe to drink. Drink bottled water only in Jordan and Egypt.

How long is the typical sightseeing day? Some days you will depart the hotel between 7:00-9:00Am and return on the late afternoon around 5:00-6:00PM. Your guide will announce the sightseeing schedule.

What are the buses like? The deluxe touring motor coaches are air-conditioned and will accommodate approximately 50 passengers.

Are there rest rooms on the buses? Maybe,depedning ont he bus, sufficient stops will be made for the comfort of our passengers.

Should I exchange some money before departure? This is totally up to you. You can use US currency for small purchases and credit cards for larger ones.

What about traveler’s checks and credit cards? We do not recommend the use of traveler’s checks as you may experience difficulty using and/or cashing them. In addition, banks usually charge a significant handling fee when cashing travelers checks. Credit cards are recommended for larger purchases. VISA and MasterCard are much more prevalent than Discovery and American Express. Larger stores accept checks.

Will US currency be accepted for small purchases? Yes, generally US currency is accepted for small purchases.

What about the “VAT” or Value Added Tax? VAT (Value Added Tax) is a sales tax that is charged for most goods in Israel, Jordan and Egypt. This amount is part of the price – not added on at the cash register. VAT in Israel, Jordan and Egypt is at least 17%. It is possible for you to claim back most of this tax. The best way to do this is to see if the retailer you are buying from is affiliated with “Tax Free” shopping. If so, they will give you the instructions for your refund. Generally, all you have to do is collect a completed form from the store which lists your purchases. You MUST have the form stamped by customs when you leave the country. Look for the TAX FREE SHOPPING symbol.

I have limited mobility. What special facilities are available? Due to the lack of handicapped accessible facilities, persons needing wheelchairs or ambulatory assistance will find travel on this program quite difficult and many sites will be inaccessible.

What if I lose something on the program? Leave valuables, including items of sentimental value, at home! Put your name, address, departure date and bus color on all belongings so that any recovered items will be returned as quickly as possible. Shipping costs will be your responsibility. We suggest you make a list of all items you take along with their perceived value. Double check before you leave the hotel, bus, airplane, etc. Bible on Tour cannot assume responsibility for lost items.

What about prepaid phone cards? If you decide to purchase cards here or overseas, you will need a card or access for each country. (Make sure your prepaid card is for international use.) If you have a cell phone you can check with your local provider for International Service.

Is there any free time during the program? Each day is quite full with sightseeing but you can notify your guide if you wish to miss a day of touring (itinerary permitting).

Any last minute items I shouldn’t forget?
Bible, sunglasses, a sun hat, sunscreen, wipes and wash cloths, camera (and extra film and batteries) and sundry toiletry items are musts. You may wish to bring a calculator for exchange rates while shopping. Passengers bringing video cameras are advised that museums and archeological sites frequently charge a fee for their use. In the event of inclement weather, bring a light waterproof jacket or an umbrella.

Any other tips?
Yes…
1. Be on time for the bus and be prepared to rotate seats on the bus.
2. Settle personal charges the night before checking out of the hotel.
3. Notify your Tour Leader, Bus Captain or Guide if you will not be on the bus for sightseeing.
4. No smoking allowed in dining room or on bus
5. Remember you are a guest in another country…
Be gracious…Expect that customs and food will be different than at home and enjoy your new adventure.

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Cruising in Israel!

August 21, 2009 Leave a comment

Israel will receive a new wave of cruise ships this autumn, beginning when the 2,500-passenger Royal Caribbean ship Vision of the Seas docks in Haifa and Ashdod during an 11-night tour. Also, Celebrity Cruise’s Celebrity Equinox will anchor in Israel during a series of nine cruises in October.

*Above adpated from Israel’s Ministry of Tourism newsletter

Let us know if you have an interest in taking one of these cruises