Fact file: Israel

Did you know?
There are sites in Jerusalem that Jews, Christians and followers of Islam hold sacred - which explains why it's one of the most fought-over places on earth.
Language
Hebrew, Arabic and English.
Visas
No visa required for UK residents for a stay of up to three months.
Getting there
The main airport is Ben-Gurion, east of Tel Aviv and 50km from the capital Jerusalem. Ovda, the other international airport, is 60km north of Eilat and is used mainly by charter flights taking holidaymakers to the Red Sea resort. Flights go from most major UK airports.
Flying time from London
About five hours.
Getting around
Internal flights are pricey and, as Israel is tiny, flying may not be cost effective. Flights connect Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Haifa, Rosh Pina, Kiryat Shmona and Eilat. Buses are a great way to get about - the roads are excellent and bus passes can save you money. In Nazareth, East Jerusalem and the West Bank, Arab bus services tend to be dilapidated so it's better to use a sherut (service taxi). Trains are cheaper than buses but inconvenient due to location of stations and a tiny network. The main line is Haifa-Tel Aviv, and for this journey or the journey to Akko or Nahariya the train is the best. Hire cars are good for seeing the Negev and Golan, but make sure you hire a car with Palestinian plates if going into Palestinian areas - and vice versa - because stone throwing is not unheard of if you have the "wrong plates".
Currency
New Israeli shekel or shekelim or "sheks". Each shekel is divided into 100 agorot.
Costs
As a guide expect to pay: Litre of petrol 70p; bottle of beer £2-£3; moderate restaurant meal for two with wine £15-£25.
Weather
Whatever time of year you visit will be pleasant although it can get very cold at night, especially in Jerusalem, which is in the highlands and can be rainy too. Summer averages 20-38C (70-100F); winter averages 15-23C (60-70F)
Time difference
Two hours ahead of GMT.
International dialling code from the UK
00 972, plus 2 for Jerusalem and Bethlehem; plus 7 for Eilat; plus 3 for Tel Aviv.
Voltage
220V, 50Hz. Bring an adaptor for UK appliances, as they're expensive in Israel.
Opening hours
On Shabbat (the Jewish Sabbath) all Israeli shops, offices and places of entertainment close. Shabbat starts at sundown Friday and ends at sundown Saturday. You will need to plan for Shabbat in advance as travel is difficult, food is hard to buy and money can't be changed. Muslim businesses open on Saturday but are closed all day Friday; Christian businesses shut on Sunday. Otherwise, business hours are from 8am-1pm and 4-7pm Mon-Thurs and Friday from 8am-2pm. Banking hours: Sunday to Tuesday and Thursday from 8.30am-12.30pm and 4-5.30pm and on Wednesday, Friday and eves of holy days from 8.30am to noon. In Nazareth, banks open Friday and Saturday morning but close on Sunday.
Health - Before you go
No vaccinations needed; no major health hazards. Make sure you have adequate travel insurance as the UK has no reciprocal agreements with Israel on health treatment.
Health - When you are there
In an emergency dial 911 for an English-speaking operator, or call the medical tourist helpline: 177-022 9110. Doctors and hospitals in Israel generally expect immediate cash payment for health services, which will usually be excellent. Make sure your travel insurance covers these payments.
Warnings
Peace is fragile here, so keep an eye on the news and check with the Foreign Office on 020 7238 4503/4 (http://www.fco.gov.uk/travel) before you go. Tell people where you are going if travelling solo. Palestinians are not hostile to anyone non-Israeli, but if you are a Zionist, keep your opinions to yourself in mainly Palestinian areas, and vice-versa. In the Golan Heights, some areas are sealed off with barbed wire fences and warning signs because they are full of unexploded land mines. Don't ignore these warnings. Be sensible.
Emergency
Health emergency - dial 911 for an English-speaking operator, or call the medical tourist helpline: 177-022 9110. Dial 100 for police. British Embassy in Tel Aviv: 192 HaYarkon Street, Tel Aviv. Tel: 03 544 0250. In Jerusalem: 19 Nashashhibi St, Sheikh Jarrah, East Jerusalem. Tel: 02 582 8281. In Eilat: 14 Tsofit Villas, Eilat. Tel: 07 372 344.
Customs
Try not to offend anyone when talking about whether it should be called Palestine or Israel. None of the three big religions are keen on alcohol, dancing or sexually explicit behaviour, so be considerate in religious districts or smaller towns and villages. Keep to Tel Aviv or Eilat if you want to wear skimpy clothes and snog in public. Remember that many of the sights are profoundly sacred places; act accordingly.
Pets
Israel is not part of the Passport for Pets scheme, so pets would have to spend six months in quarantine on their return.
Tipping
Not so long ago it was not expected, but today most bills state: "Service Not Included". At your discretion.
Tourist office
Israel Government Tourist Office, 180 Oxford Street, London, W1D 1NN. Tel. 020 7299 1111.


Telephone

+44 (0) 203 696 2870

Mon – Fri 8:30am – 5:30pm

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