Home to delicious food, mesmerising attractions and plenty of cultural experiences, Israel is a destination that is sure to delight travellers from across the globe.
It is, however, important to understand that Israel is a country surrounded by internal and external conflict, and there are a few areas that travellers should steer clear of. But, that doesn’t mean the entire country should be overlooked, and let’s not forget that Israel is also home to one of the most exciting, modern and cosmopolitan cities in the world, Tel Aviv.
So is it safe to visit Israel and Jerusalem in summer 2018? The answer is yes, and at the time of publication, there are plenty of local tour operators that operate their tours daily without so much as a hiccup. In general petty crime is almost non-existent, although, there are plenty of taxi drivers who might try to rip you off. Like any country around the world, whether it is conflict-filled or not, travellers should be aware of the current events and exercise extra safety precautions where possible.
If you’re ready to go to Israel but still feeling a little bit wary, we’ve compiled a few tips and tricks to help keep you safe during your travels.
Travel to: Israel
Book a group tour
If you want to visit Israel, but feel uncertain thanks to CNN and the like, the best option for you would be to join a multi-day group tour. This will allow you to travel to the historic sites, see the beautiful landscapes and explore the bustling city of Jerusalem while helping to keep your mind at ease knowing you are in the safe hands of local experts.
Depending on which itinerary you go for, you can set your eyes on visual treats such as the Dead Sea, Mount Zion, Temple Mount and Dome of the Rock, not to mention the plentiful opportunities for eating falafels and bartering at markets in the company of new-found travel buddies and your local guide.
The best part, of course, is the insider tips provided by your local guide that you won’t find by yourself. Another benefit is that your guide is there to ensure you’re always steering clear of unsafe neighbourhoods and regions without ever sacrificing important cultural experiences. They know the local areas intimately and are experts in reacting to the unexpected quickly and efficiently.
See Also: Should I Visit Israel?
Avoid high-risk regions
As with most countries, Israel has a few areas that you should avoid. Stay clear of the West Bank due to the unpredictable security situation there. You can still visit Bethlehem, Jericho and Ramallah but we strongly recommend travelling with a reputable tour operator who can manage unexpected conflicts safely as these cities are surrounded by contested regions. The Gaza Strip should be avoided entirely. Finally, to check all your boxes, avoid political demonstrations and keep an eye on current events so you remain aware of what’s happening on the streets throughout your visit.
Learn a few phrases in the local languages
The Israeli people are kind, generous and always willing to help if needed. English is taught in almost every school across the country, but it never hurts to learn a few phrases that you can use if you do find yourself in trouble. The three official languages you’ll find spoken throughout the country include Hebrew, Arabic and Modern Standard Arabic. Depending on what neighbourhoods you’ll be spending the most time in you might find Hebrew to be more useful than Arabic and vice versa. Either way, any effort you make will be greatly appreciated.
Watch out for creative scam artists
Similarly, with most cities and countries all over the world, scam artists will be waiting for naive tourists. It’s nothing to lose sleep over but just something to stay diligent about. Like we said, petty crime is certainly on the low side, however, it is best to avoid these common tourist scams and vulnerable situations.
Some thriftier scammers may offer to take photos of you outside some of the major tourist attractions, and then demand a payment for their trouble. At the same time, also be conscious of pickpockets and keep your eyes on your belongings at all times. Obvious yes, but an expert pickpocketer will be waiting for the second you drop your guard and will be ready to swoop in. Most importantly, if you do find yourself confronting a local thief, just remember that your safety is worth more than your wallet or your iPhone.
Don’t draw attention to yourself by looking like a tourist
When visiting the many sacred sites of Israel, it is important to be mindful and respectful of your surroundings. As a general rule of thumb, stick to speaking softly and treading lightly. Travellers, women, in particular, should dress conservatively when visiting some of the more holy locations. Shoulders and knees should be covered to prevent being denied entry to these sites.
Although it can get quite hot and humid, try to pack more lightweight, breathable clothing options. Sunglasses are also a handy tool to avoid eye contact if you’re getting hassled.
Don’t joke about politics or neighbouring conflicts
What might seem like a harmless barb amongst friends can cause irreparable damage while abroad. If you’re an outspoken person by nature you may need to make twice the effort to be sensitive to your different environment, especially when you’re travelling through a politically complex country like Israel. And, if you’re in the wrong place at the wrong time, you never know what can happen.
Best piece of advice? In this case, when travelling in Israel, keep your opinions to yourself.
If you do find yourself travelling around Israel solo, or if you’re spending some time alone after your tour ends, consider downloading Moovit. To help combat the language barrier, this app can get you from A to B with minimal worries as it compiles accurate schedules and directions for all public transport options and more. Safe to say, you’d be lost without it.
Always purchase travel insurance
A necessity of any successful trip is travel insurance, to ultimately protect yourself in the event of injury, missed flights or AWOL luggage. Shop around for a suitable deal, not as an expectation that something will go wrong on your trip to Israel, but rather a small precaution to make sure you are covered in case of unlikely events. Plus, travel insurance is a compulsory requirement for almost every tour, so in some cases being responsible is mandatory. When you do book your travel insurance, make sure you choose a plan that covers your personal needs and travel itinerary.
It is important to thoroughly understand that as with any country, a visit to Israel does come with the usual (and some specific) risks. However, you’ll be hard-pressed to find one nation that has as much spiritual and historical significance as Israel. Take note of the above, remain vigilant, enjoy the experience and you’re bound to leave the country with new perspectives and memories that will last you a lifetime.
See Also: 6 Myths About Travel Insurance
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