This blog post is part of a series jotting through my trip to Israel in June 2019. For contents page for the posts see the Introductory Post. If I've reported something incorrectly, please let me know via post comments (below) or my contact page. All photographs are Copyright © James Oakley, June 2019, unless indicated otherwise.
To round off, a few simple travel tips for those planning to visit Israel themselves.
I said this in my opening post, but I'd strongly recommend travelling with an organised, Christian group, who treasure the same things you'll treasure, who can show you around and explain the significance of what you see, and who can get you access to many ancient sites far cheaper than if you paid for individual admission to each one. You'll get a lot more out of your visit. Oak Hall would be an excellent choice, for the reasons I outlined a few weeks ago.
The New Israeli Shekel, currently about 4.5 to one pound sterling. They do have a coin at less than one shekel (the agora) but it's little used. All the big cities have ATMs, as does the baggage reclaim and arrivals areas at Ben Gurion airport in Tel Aviv. There are also bureaux de change in the major towns if you wanted to change sterling you'd brought with you. Outside of Jerusalem / Tel Aviv, it seems to be recommended to pay by cash, even if card is taken.
It's hot. In June, daytime temperatures in the heat of the day ranged from 32 to 42 degrees. Take cool clothing. And a hat.
But you also need long trousers and clothes that completely cover the shoulders etc. Plenty of places you visit may not have a particular dresscode, but many do. You may be visiting a church that's built over the site where some event occurred, or a site (like the beach at Tabgha) may be run by a monastery or convent. Strictest of all is if you wish to visit the Temple Mount, one of the holiest sites in Islam. It's not just a matter of being respectful, some of these places have a requirement, and if you're not suitably dressed you won't be allowed in.
(Don't forget to leave your shooter behind, too!)
You'll need to drink lots. It's a dry heat, so you can lose a lot of water without realising it. Most days I drank 4 to 5 litres just out and about. There are often shops that will sell you a bottle, but in the tourist heartlands expect to pay well for it.
Israel is not in the EU. So any roaming arrangement you have to use your mobile phone abroad at the same price as at home may not work here.
There is one exception: Three.
Three has a system called "Go Roam" whereby 71 countries around the world cost the same as they do at home. So if you're on Three, you're fine. If you're not, you may wish to get a Three SIM, and top it up and activate it in the UK to take with you. Their website is (in my opinion) slightly unclear on one point: Some people seem to think you have to turn your PAYG credit into a bundle to use it abroad. So, you'd lose £10 of your credit, say, in return for unlimited calls and texts and 2 GB of data. You can do that if you wish. But the 3p per minute, 2p per text, 1p per MB PAYG tarriff works in Israel at those same prices.
If you have a dual-SIM phone - lucky you. If not, you'd have to take a second cheap handset or switch your SIM to Three (depending on if you need to receive texts on your non-Three regular number whilst abroad). I say "texts" not "calls" because the other networks will charge you to receive calls. So before you leave the UK, find out how to redirect all calls from your regular mobile number to your Three one. This is how people end up leaving you a message on voicemail - their call to you is routed to your voicemail if you're busy or your phone is out of range. But there's also an option to reroute all calls, not just busy / unanswered ones, and to do so to a number of your choice. You must choose the "all calls" option, otherwise your network will ring your phone first, and then you may find you've already been changed.
There's one other thing to watch with using Three in Israel. On top of Masada, my phone picked up a Jordanian mobile mast instead. In Golan, you might pick up Syria. At Banias, you might pick up Lebanon. And, even more likely, if you visit Bethlehem or elsewhere on the West Bank, you're no longer in Israel for mobile phone purposes but in the Palestinian Territories. None of these other countries are part of Three Go Roam, so be prepared to disable mobile data if you start to pick up non-Israeli networks.
I'd highly recommend any Christian, or anyone exploring the Christian faith, book with a group like Oak Hall and go and see where the events unfolded for yourself. You won't regret it.
This is the last of my posts looking back on my trip. Thanks for reading, if you have. I'll now edit the opening post and insert a contents list to index these posts.