Coming to the Holy Land?

The Holy Land is an exciting place to visit. With some advance planning with your travel agent and tour operator, it needs not be complicated!  Below is some general information and tips regarding travel to the Holy Land and Jordan.

Visa Requirements and Procedures

Israel supplies Three Month On-Arrival Visas for citizens of most Western nations, which expire immediately upon departure from the state of Israel and the Allenby Crossing in the West Bank.  On-arrival visa recipients receive a small ticket-sized card in place of a stamp in their passport at Ben Gurion International Airport or any border crossing.  This card must be kept for the duration of a person’s stay in Israel and Palestine.  This card will allow for free travel throughout Israel, East Jerusalem, the West Bank and the Golan Heights.  A separate visa procedure for the Gaza Strip is in place.  Jordan requires a separate visa for tourists, with on-arrival visas available for a cash fee; check with your travel agent and tour operator for more details.

Airports and Border Crossings

Ben Gurion Airport near the city of Tel Aviv presently serves as the only international airport in the Holy Land. Shuttle buses and private taxis are available on a 24-hour basis, with a light rail connection to West Jerusalem on schedule to open before the end of this decade.   The Queen Alia Airport in Amman is the most commonly used international airport for Jordan.

Border crossings to Jordan include the Sheik Hussein crossing near Beit Shean in the lower Galilee, the King Hussein/Allenby crossing near Jordan, and the Wadi Araba crossing near Eliat and the Jordanian city of Aqaba.  Bridge crossings remain complicated, with differing procedures and opening hours varying and subject to change.

Military checkpoints are in place between Israel, East Jerusalem and the West Bank. Have your passport and Three Month tourist visa card with you when travelling to and from the West Bank and Jerusalem, but rest assured that tourists cross checkpoints with ease.

Emergency Services

The Israel authorities are responsible for all emergency services within Israel, the Golan Heights and East Jerusalem, with the exception of emergency medical services in some parts of East Jerusalem.   In the West Bank, the Palestinian Authority maintains a distinct Tourism Police division responsible for the well-being of all tourists, while the Red Crescent society provides emergency medical services.   Emergency service contact information will vary from region to region; check with your hotel or guest house for specific information.  For both Israeli and Palestinian regions, the emergency numbers for Police is 100, Ambulance is 101, and Fire is 102.

Time Zone, Winter and Spring Times

The Holy Land functions on GMT+3.  Winter and Spring times are observed, with changes usually occurring in the months of October and March, but at different times between Israel and Palestine.  During the month-long period of Ramadan, which “moves” towards the month of January each year, time changes may also be impacted.

Holidays

Major Muslim and holidays are nationally observed in Palestine, while major Jewish holidays are observed in Israel, meaning banks and government agencies are closed.  During the feast of Yom Kippur in Israel, which occurs in early to mid-autumn, all highways, roads and thoroughfares are closed.

Climate

The Holy Land has a Mediterranean climate, with the coastal regions typically being warm to hot from the late spring to mid-autumn with substantial levels of humidity, and cool with rain from the late autumn to early spring.  Further inland, warm to hot late springs to mid-autumns with an arid, dry climate, and cool to cold late autumns to early springs with moderate levels of rain are common.  Approximately 90% of the year has sunny skies, with high levels of UV rays.

Language

The official language of Palestine is Arabic, with the unofficial second language being International English (with a slight preference towards American English).  English is nearly universally spoken in the tourism, hotel and hospitality sector. In Jerusalem and Bethlehem, French, German, Spanish, Russian, Polish and Italian are also often-used second languages.

In Israel, Hebrew and Arabic are official languages, with English being consider the unofficial “third” language of the country, followed by Russian.  As with Palestine, the tourism and hospitality sector uses English as the primary language, again followed by French, German, Spanish, Russian, Polish and Italian, especially in Nazareth and in the Galilee.

Hebrew and Arabic use different scripts and alphabets, but dual Hebrew-English and Arabic-English signs, instructions, forms and menus are common throughout the country.

Public Transportation and Car Rentals

A limited national railway service is active in Israel, with a national upgrade plan currently underway.  A national and municipal bus system and shuttle bus program is the most common mode of public transportation. A light rail line is also available in parts of West Jerusalem.  Taxis in Israel are white with a yellow toplight and yellow license places;  taxis in Palestine are yellow (private) and yellow and black (shared service taxi) with a green or yellow toplight and green-and-white license plates  Seven-passenger service buses are also common throughout the West Bank; they are most commonly orange-yellow and occasionally white.   Israeli taxis are able to travel throughout the country, while some companies may have restrictions on entering certain Palestinian cities in the West Bank, as well as certain West Bank roads.  Palestinian taxis may only be used in the West Bank.  Car rental agencies, including both international, regional and locally-owned companies, are available in both Israel and Palestine, but a very limited number of companies located in Israel are able to lease cars traveling to Palestinian-controlled regions of the West Bank, while no Palestinian car rental agencies lease cars that are able to be driven in Israel.

Currency, ATMs and Credit Cards

The New Israeli Shekel (NIS) is the most commonly currency in Israel and Palestine.  US Dollars, Euros, the British Pound are the three most commonly accepted international currency, with the US Dollar being the preferred currency. Exchange offices will accept currencies from a wide range of currency units.   Jordan uses the Jordanian Dinar (JD).

ATMs are to be found across the Holy Land in city centers, transportation terminals and often near hotels.  Currency will be most commonly dispersed in USD or NIS; International bank withdrawal charges and exchange rates set by the bank regulating the ATM will vary.

Credit Cards are accepted throughout Israel, and to an increasing extent in Palestine.  Hotels and restaurants will typically accept major international credit cards, as will car rental agencies. Souvenir shops and handicraft centers tend to prefer cash-based transactions.

WiFi and Electronics

The Holy Land continues to increase its WiFi coverage in all regions.  Most hotels and restaurants offer free WiFi.   Many churches and Old City areas constructed with thick stones have weak and intermittent wireless signals.  Partnered coverage for phone and internet service is more common in Israel than Palestine.  Certain apps may have no or limited functions in the West Bank.  SIM cards and pre-paid phone credits are available in all urban areas.

Electronic devices in the Holy Land operate off 220 volts at 50 Hertz, using a two or three-pin socket as found in most of the European Union.  Any standard international adaptor set available at an electronics or travel accessory store will include adaptors to fit two-to-three pin sockets.

Hospitals, Health Care and Pharmacies

Palestine has one of the highest level of physicians per capita in the Arab world.  East Jerusalem, Bethlehem and all other major cities in the West Bank have clinics and hospitals with general practitioners and specialists, typically open either Sunday through Thursday, or Monday through Saturday. (In practice, this means it is almost always possible to find an open medical or dental clinic during the daytime).  Most physicians and pharmacists in East Jerusalem and the West Bank speak English with some degree of fluency, with Russian being the second-most common language.   Pharmacies are well-stocked, and remain open six to seven days a week from early morning to early evenings.  In the case of more complicated injuries or illnesses, cases are sometimes transferred to Israeli hospitals due to better-equipped facilities and a broader range of specialized care.

Israel’s health care infrastructure is considered to be equal with most Western nations.   Clinics typically function from Sunday to Friday morning.  English and Russian are commonly used by doctors, dentists and other health care practitioners.

Essential Tips

  • Remember that the Holy Land and Jordan are both located in the GMT + 3 Time Zone. Check with your tour operator on Spring and Winter times in Israel, Jerusalem and the West Bank if you have time-sensitive phone calls or messages to pass along.
  • Your passport and three-month visa card should be with you at all times, unless otherwise recommended or directed to by your tour manager or guide.
  • Notify your credit card companies that you will be travelling to the Holy Land and/or Jordan, for better ease of use for ATMs and purchases conducted with a credit card.
  • If visiting Jordan, consult with your tour operator regarding visa requirements and associated costs.
  • Check with your health insurance provider regarding policies and procedures for reimbursement for clinical visits and medicines. If you are taking any medication that requires a prescription, it is best to have enough of a supply to last for a few days longer than your time in the Holy Land.
  • Tap water is drinkable and potable in nearly all hotels.
  • If your ears are sensitive to changes in altitude, be aware that altitude changes do occur with regularity throughout much of the Holy Land, especially when travelling across different regions.
  • For travel throughout the year, pack lightweight clothes with an eye to fabric that “breathes,” hats and sunglasses, and sunscreen. During the late autumn to early spring, a light jacket, light to medium sweaters, and an umbrella are also recommend.
  • Shoes with good traction and support are always recommended.
  • If visiting religious sites, modest clothing is recommended. Men are expected to wear long pants, while women are expected to cover shoulders and often wear ankle-length dresses. Flashy and revealing clothing is generally frowned upon.  Rules regarding taking photos and videos vary from place to place.
  • Always be conscientious of taking pictures and videos of local people. Ask permission when and where possible.
  • In general, the Holy Land remains a cash-based economy. Keeping a mix of small and larger bills as well as plenty of coins (especially when visiting churches) is a good idea.
  • For more tips, contact your tour operator and visit the informational websites of our partners found in the Links section of our website.

Safe travels….we look forward to welcoming you!