Food and Drink
It’s amazing. Eat as much as you can!
Food is safe everywhere, and water is always safe from the tap. One caution is the mineral content, while great from a nutritional standpoint, it can have adverse effect on sensitive people. Most visitors prefer, and we recommend, drinking bottled water due to the fact that the high mineral content can make people uncomfortable who are not used to it.
If you’re staying in Tel Aviv, check out Rothschild Blvd if you’re getting thirsty! The municipality is bringing free water coolers along this pedestrian boulevard so that you can refill your water bottles with fresh, cool water, helping you to stay happy and hydrated.
Speaking of hydrated, Israel is hot (see below for more details)! It is very important to stay hydrated, so we recommend buying some 1.5L bottles to use and refill at all times. Sunstroke is no fun when you are on vacation, but is unfortunately all too common here.
A great place to purchase water bottles and other snacks is at the larger chain grocery stores. They are cheaper, as is often the case globally, than the smaller stores (or in Hebrew: Makolets). Purchasing a six pack of bottled water to leave in your hotel room or apartment will also save you money in the long run.
As we said before, Israeli food is wonderful and you will find ample opportunity to try new and unique foods regardless of where you visit. But you will also find plenty of American style restaurants as well. A word to the wise for our guests who are concerned about Kashrut. Israel is incredibly diverse as a people, which means the level of Kashrut is as well. If you have concerns about what to eat or where to eat, we recommend doing your research before you arrive.
Phones & Internet
If you need a local phone, you can either rent a phone, or buy an inexpensive SIM card to put in your own phone (just make sure your phone is SIM-unlocked and accepts international SIM cards, especially smartphones!). There are services that allow you to rent a phone online, which you can pick up and return at the airport: www.simply-israel.com/phone-data-services.pdf
If you don’t need it right away, you can save a little money by waiting until you get into the city, where there are a lot of electronics stores. Be mindful that they may be closed over Shabbat. Prices are very competitive between the service providers, and change often. If you know someone who can help you with the Hebrew – there’s a price comparison website which can help you select the best package for your purposes before your visit.
Plans usually include unlimited calls and text messages within Israel. You can get data plans ranging from 200MB to 6GB or more. Some packages market an “unlimited data” plan, but this does not exist. Usually it just means that they offer a lot of data, and don’t expect you to ever reach the maximum, though some will only limit your speed after reaching the cap. Make sure you are reading the fine print so you don’t get charged unexpectedly. Plans are offered on a weekly or monthly rate. However, if you need it for 2 weeks, it’s already cheaper to get a monthly plan in most cases.
Drivers/guides: If you have a driver on a tour, or a private driver, it is appropriate to tip them. If you are on a big tour group, you might tip less than for a private guide.
At a restaurant or café, it is appropriate to tip 10-15%, depending on how much you liked the service. Note that most wait-staff prefer to be tipped in cash. If you are paying with credit card, you have to ask to add the tip to the total amount before the card is charged, unlike in North America where you can write in the tip amount on the receipt. Some restaurants require tips to be made in cash, so it is a good habit to carry small money with you for that purpose.
Taxi drivers do not get tips.
Plan on tipping your bellman around 5 NIS per bag carried. Leave your maid around 5-10 NIS per day. It is always wise to be more generous with your maid at the start of your hotel stay in Israel – this will mean that you should come back to an even cleaner room each and every day.
If you order room service, tip the servers 5% of the total bill, although check to make sure that the hotel did not automatically add a gratuity to your bill (which is the usual practice around the world). If they did, there is no need to leave an additional tip unless you really want to and they insisted on providing you with exceptional service.
In Israel, tipping is not common for spa services. If you are very happy with your spa services, feel free to tip your therapist as much or as little as you like. They will be very grateful and what better way to show your appreciation? However, just know that your tip will more than likely come as a surprise.
Tipping tour guides is common in Israel, but the amount depends on whether they are self-employed or employed by a company. If you are taking a tour by a self-employed tour guide, you are not expected to tip because a gratuity is certainly included in the cost of the tour. If you are taking a group tour from a tour guide who works for a larger company, plan on tipping him or her around 15% of the cost of the tour. In addition, you should also tip any drivers on the tour. Be prepared to give the driver around 120-150 shekels per day.
Weather here is as diverse as the country. Summer is usually hot – unbearably so if you are not used to it, especially in the coastal plain and Negev. If you are along the coastline, it is also very, very humid. It’s good to pack layers with you though, because cars, buses, and shops tend to have the AC on max. It is very common for people to get summer colds due to the air conditioning (also known as masgan disease).
The winters in Israel are usually very mild, but it can get very cold in some areas. Again dressing in layers will help keep you warm and dry. Keep in mind that Israel is primarily a desert climate so one word to the wise, if it rains at all, everything shuts down in some places. This can be caused by flash flooding or the fact that Israeli’s are simply not used to driving in the rain which can lead to traffic jams. In Jerusalem and up north it is cooler and it snows basically once a year, but even so, most people are surprised and like the rain it can cause traffic delays and the closure of public places depending on the severity!
And finally, our last tip is… Wear sunscreen!
Re-apply after a few hours, especially if you’ve been in the water or are sweaty! Lightly colored loose long sleeves and wide brim hats also keep you cool and protect, UV blocking sunglasses will reduce eye strain especially if driving.
We hope that this little guide has been helpful to you. If you have any questions, feel free to check out our website: www.simply-israel.com, or e-mail us with your questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.
See you soon in Israel!
Simply, Israel Team