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GENERAL TRAVEL RECOMMENDATIONS
A 6 months valid Passport from the return date of the tour is required for all travelers. Make sure that you sign your passport.
We recommend that you also make at least two copies of the picture page, one to keep in your carry-on at all times and one with a family member or friend at home if you lose your passport. Your guide will have instructions as to when you need to have your official passport on you; since you might need to present it at checkpoints or at hotel check-ins.
American passport holders do not need an Entry Visa to Israel. If you are entering Israel using another passport, please check whether a visa is needed and ensure that you have the necessary visa before your departure date.
On the plane, subject to newer regulations, you will be issued a simple two-part Entry Form to fill out before landing at Ben Gurion Airport in Tel Aviv. The Israeli border control agent in Tel Aviv will issue a computerized blue sheet with your picture on it. This sheet will be your entry visa to Israel. It is essential to keep it safe with the passport. It will be required upon your departure.
The US customs has digitized its entry forms. Copies of Customs Forms for returning to the USA can be found online to view in advance. All luggage is subject to search and inspection by the US and Israeli Customs and Security. Unless you have the international travel lock, you are required to unlock your checked-in luggage out of Tel Aviv for inspection (if needed).
For American citizens returning to the US, you are allowed a duty-free exemption of US$800 (US) per person. It is recommended that you keep purchase receipts for large ticket items handy for declaring your purchases upon returning to the US. For more details on this issue, try the www.customs.ustreas.gov website. Be sure to follow the safety regulations about items you can or cannot bring on board of the plane. Fresh food, green plants, seeds, animals, or other such things are not allowed in Israel or the USA.
Depending on the airline, most overseas airlines allow one checked-in baggage (50 pounds, 23kg) and one carry-on. The enclosed luggage tags should be securely fastened to your luggage before leaving home.
Israel is well advanced in medical care. The Palestinian territories are much less. RTEP requires every traveler to have international medical insurance. RTEP can also help you find travel insurance.
Medical expenses and hospitalization can be costly (as it is in the USA.) It is better to be safe than sorry.
It is recommended that you go online and check the weather forecast for the duration of your tour in the Holy Land. Israel has four seasons. However, technically, for travel purposes, it has two seasons: winter (late Oct to mid-Mar), which is cool to cold, and rain is expected to fall. Winter in Israel starts with showers in October and advances to periodic heavy rainfall from November to March. On rare occasions, it snows in Jerusalem. Snow is more frequent in the higher Galilee mountains, Golan Heights, and Mount Hermon (ski resort). Summer is (Apr-Oct), which is warm to hot and virtually rain-free.
Casual and comfortable clothing is recommended. Unless your tour has special meeting arrangements and a required formal dress code, there is no need for formal clothing. Dress conservatively and respectfully for holy sites. Churches do not accept sleeveless blouses, or short shorts, or short skirts/dresses. Short is defined as anything that is above the knee. Please wear comfortable walking shoes, sneakers, or sandals. There is no need for women to cover their heads anywhere.
On the other hand, men need to cover their heads with their cap, hat (or Kippa provided on-site) at Jewish Holy sites such as the Western Wall and Tomb of King David. Men must also remove all hats in churches. In the heat of the sun, make sure that you have the proper sunscreen creams.
In general, there are restrooms at every location visited on tour. However, clean restrooms at the holy sites require a surcharge (NIS 2 – 4 approx $US1,00). There are no restrooms on tour buses. Tour guides are keen to have restroom stops over long travel distances. Even though some restrooms collect a fee, there are no promises that the bathroom will be clean or have toilet paper. Make sure you have Kleenex and hand Sanitizers, just in case.
WIFI & Calling Home:
Most hotels in Israel & Palestine offer free Wifi. Some might offer it in the public space such as reception and lounge. Other hotels charge for Wifi for the duration of your stay. As for international calls, if you plan to call home, check with your local, long-distance company before you leave your country on how to make a call. Also, calling cards are available from many grocery and lottery shops. Cell phones can usually be set up for international calling through your carrier.
Make sure you have a good package deal for international calls prior to your departure. Using the roaming on your phone without prior arrangement is bound to be very expensive. The usual prefixes to call from Israel are 012, 013, 014 1 (for the USA), and then the number.
Shopping is always a tricky issue in the Holy Land. We always say, ‘you cannot outsmart the locals.’ We have heard and experienced hundreds of visitors who fell prey to some local shop owners. The Old City of Jerusalem is full of shops and street vendors, TEMPTATION after another (a lot is made in China). This is our recommendation to you. Follow the general guidelines of your local travel agent and/or your RTEP tour guides. They know the good places, places they trust, where you can trust that you will have genuine merchandise, be it Olive Wood or Jewelry, your person and your credit card will be safe. These places will be primarily Christian and will benefit the local Christians. Use cash in the Old City and enjoy the bartering experience!
US Dollars and Israeli Shekels (NIS) are welcome everywhere in Israel and Palestine. Palestine (such as Bethlehem and Jericho) does not have its own currency and uses Israeli currency instead. You will need cash for street vendors and smaller shops. Still, larger souvenir shops and establishments (recommended by your agents/guides) accept major credit cards. One US Dollar ($1) is approx. equal to 3.30 NIS or Israeli Shekels.
Tips to Hotels & Restaurants:
Check your tour brochure whether tips to hotels, restaurants are included in your package or not. For meals on your own, waiters expect a 15% tip.
Tips for guides & drivers:
Check your tour brochure whether tips to guide and driver are included in your package or not. Tips are an essential constituent of the income of guides and bus drivers. You should consider giving the minimum tip of $10 per person per day for the guide and $7 per person per day for the driver. Tips offered to the guide and driver will be collected at the tour leader’s discretion, and the time he sets during the pilgrimage.
All flights are non-smoking. In Israel, there are laws prohibiting smoking in public areas. Nevertheless, smoking is still very much part of the social customs. In Palestine, smoking is popular even in public spaces.
We recommend “travel gear clothing” if possible, which you can wash by hand in the sink. However, hotels have laundry services for an extra charge. Convents that offer pilgrims room services do not usually offer any laundry services.
Israel & Palestine’s electric current is 220/240 V/50Hz. Most (4-5 star) hotels provide 110-220V outlets for shavers only. However, to be sure, we recommend that you visit the website of the hotels you will be staying at for more details. Otherwise, we recommend that you have dual voltage appliances such as hairdryers and electric toothbrushes. You will also need a converter and an adapter plug if you plan to use electrical appliances. American plugs have flat prongs; Israel and Europe have round prongs.
You may bring your laptop if you wish. But, hotels tend to offer at least one public computer for public use for email or the internet. Do not forget an adaptor for your charger!
Credit Cards, & ATMs:
Most establishments do not take extra charges for VISA credit card use. Charges may apply for American Express Cards. ATM machines are available in Israel and Palestine; ask your guide for locations.
It is always good to have some US$ with you and not as many Israeli shekels. The Holy Land is dependant on tourism, and the US$ is respected almost everywhere. Most ATMs dispense Shekels; few give out US$. Please notify your bank about your travel to Israel and Palestine and that you would be using your credit cards. Some credit card companies add about 2% currency exchange fees.
Food & Dining:
Buffet Breakfast and dinners are included in your package. Check your brochure if lunches are included. Different days offer various menus from Middle Eastern to European or American food. Beverages are the same as in the US, but many more choices are available. Be sure to inform RTEP or your tour leader of any special food requirements such as vegetarian or gluten-free food. Be open to experience different foods and drinks. You might want to try the special fresh lemonade or local Arak (Greek Uzzo).
Like any foreign country, not all stomachs can quickly adapt to the local water. It is best to drink bottled water, which is readily available. Bus drivers usually also have bottled water for a cost. It is also recommended that you bring Imodium or other antidiarrhea medicine. Bring Dramamine (motion sickness) if you are not used to sitting on a bus for long-distance traveling.
Israel is 7 hours ahead of USA Eastern Time, 8 hours ahead of Central Time, 9 hours ahead of Mountain Time, and 10 hours ahead of Pacific Time. Israel is 2 hours ahead of GMT. Israel also has daylight saving time which starts in late March and ends in late October every year.
Weekly day off:
Saturday (starting after dark on Friday) is a holy day for Jews. Friday is the holy day for Muslims, and Sunday is a holy day for Christians. Guides might amend your itinerary, taking these days into consideration.
Suggested books to carry:
RTEP encourages pilgrims to have a bible with him/her during the pilgrimage to be used at the sites. Since you are traveling with RTEP, we recommend the book “Closed for Renovation, On the Road to Emmaus, a spiritual guide of the Holy Land towards a permanent pilgrimage.”
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