Israel FAQ

Travel

Is it safe to travel to Israel?

For anyone who watches the news, Israel appears to be an extremely dangerous place. And, in some parts of the country, that might be true. However, the reports on television and in the newspapers focus so intensely on these isolated events that they make the problem seem more widespread than it really is. The vast majority of Israel is, statistically, safer than major urban areas in the United States.

The violence and terrorism that has occurred in Israel has been centered in very specific areas and at very specific times. These include:

  • The public transportation system, especially the Egged bus line, bus stops, and some commuter trains.
  • Discotheques, nightclubs, schools, malls, and other locations where Israeli teenagers and young adults congregate.
  • Jewish residential areas located on the coast near the West Bank.
  • The Jewish commercial and social heart of Jerusalem, especially the area bounded by Jaffa Road, King George Street, and Ben Yehuda Street.
  • The Gaza Strip and some parts of the West Bank, especially where Jewish settlements are in close proximity to Arab population centers (such as Nablus, Jenin, Tulkarm, Hebron, and Ramallah).
  • Jewish markets just prior to the beginning of the Sabbath (Friday afternoon), Jewish night spots and pedestrian malls just after the end of the Sabbath (Saturday night), and during Jewish religious holidays (Passover, Yom Kippur, Hanukkah, etc.).

The following steps have been taken to avoid places and times where violence has occurred:

  • We will use a private motorcoach, not public transportation, for the entire trip.
  • We will not travel to the Gaza Strip, nor will we visit any areas in the West Bank where there is any potential for violence. (We will not visit Shechem/Nablus because they are located in the West Bank.)
  • When in Jerusalem, we will avoid malls, schools, and other modern sites.
  • We will not visit any Jewish sites Friday afternoon or Saturday evening.
  • We will remain in constant contact with the land operator throughout the trip. Should any potential problem arise, we will immediately change our itinerary to remain well clear of any trouble spot.

We take the safety of the group very seriously, and we expect all tour participants to follow these precautions.

What will airport security be like?

Airport security for flights to Israel is among the most thorough in the world. Expect a complete check of your suitcase and hand luggage. This is often accompanied by a set of specific questions asked by a highly trained Israeli security specialist. Although you might feel intimidated, remain calm. The entire procedure is designed with your personal safety in mind. We can be thankful that Israel is so security conscious!

Are any shots or vaccinations required for travel to Israel?

You do not need any special shots or vaccinations to visit Israel.

Can I make my own travel arrangements and join the tour in Israel?

Individuals can make their own travel arrangements. This option could be an attractive option for those wishing to redeem frequent flyer miles or for individuals who want to schedule an extension to Europe or to some other destination. Morning Star Tours will provide an airfare credit to those making their own flight arrangements. However, those taking this option must assume responsibility for matching their travel schedule with that of the rest of the group–or else assume responsibility for the cost of arranging ground transportation from the airport to the hotel. Please contact Morning Star Tours (972-690-0092) if you decide to make your own air arrangements.

Can I upgrade to business class?

The group air seats are not upgradeable, but we’d be happy to provide you with a quote for business class seats. In this event, your account would be credited for the amount of the group airfare and you would be charged the amount for the business class seats instead. For more information, please call us at (972) 690-0092.

Will I get motion sickness on the tour bus?

The tour bus is very large and most people have no problems. If you get motion sickness easily you may want to bring along some Bonine or Dramamine.

Trip Cost

What is included in the cost of the trip?

Some trips advertise a low basic price only to surprise participants later with a list of additional charges. This is not the philosophy behind our tours. Our cost includes airfare (unless otherwise noted), departure taxes, and all currently published fuel surcharges for flights from all predetermined gateway cities. It also includes hotel room charges (based on double occupancy), all breakfasts and dinners, ground transportation while on tour, group transfers between airports and hotels, guide, driver, admission to all sites listed on the itinerary, study guide, journal, and all tips. The published price does not include the cost to obtain a passport, the cost of transportation to the nearest gateway city, lunches, or other incidental travel expenses (drinks, snacks, souvenirs, etc.). While every effort is made to make the price as all-inclusive as possible, the cost is based on current schedules and tariff rates and, as a result, is subject to change.

Why are some trips cheaper?

To some, the price of the trip might seem high, especially if they have seen other trips that appear to cost less. However, there are many factors that influence the cost. Some groups travel in off-peak times when the days are shorter and the weather more inclement. Some spend fewer days in Israel on tour. Some don’t include the tips or other added expenses in their published cost but then collect those amounts later.

Our price includes virtually everything except lunches, beverages (other than coffee, tea, and water) at meals, and personal expenses (obtaining a passport, snacks, souvenirs, etc.)

Documentation

What travel documents do I need?

You must have a valid passport with expiration date not less than 6 months after your return date. No visas are necessary for individuals with U.S. or Canadian passports. Keep your passport with you at all times.

How do I apply for a passport?

To obtain a U.S. passport for the first time, you need to go in person to one of 6,000 passport acceptance facilities located throughout the United States with two photographs of yourself, proof of U.S. citizenship, and a valid form of photo identification such as a driver’s license. For detailed information on applying for a passport, plus a downloadable application, go the U.S. Department of State web site at http://travel.state.gov/passport/passport_1738.html.

Do I need a visa to travel to Israel?

U.S. and Canadian citizens as well as citizens from most European countries, Mexico, Latin America, Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa do not need a visa to visit Israel. They do, however, need a valid passport that will not expire until at least 6 months after the tour. You can check the requirements for other nationalities at http://www.worldtravelguide.net/data/isr/isr040.asp.

Food

If lunches are not included, where will I be eating?

Israel has a number of restaurants that cater to tourists. Whenever possible, we will seek to stop at restaurants that offer a variety of items that can be purchased a la carte. Occasionally, however, we may need to stop for lunch at restaurants that only offer complete meals at a fixed price.

Will I be able to find American-style food?

Quite often restaurants have “American” food options. Fresh fruits and vegetables, along with breads and soups, are quite common. At the hotels it’s often best to begin with foods that are familiar, but then to take small portions of dishes that might be less familiar. Very often you will discover new foods that will become your “Middle East favorites.” There is sufficient variety at every meal so that individuals can find foods they will enjoy.

How do I pay for my drinks at dinner?

Beverage charges and any other miscellaneous charges (laundry services, spa/exercise facility entrance fees, etc.) will be charged to participants’ rooms. Payment will take place at the time of check-out. Payment can be made by cash (U.S. dollars) or through the use of a credit card. (MasterCard or Visa are preferred; Discover and American Express are rarely accepted in Israel.)

Do I need to have Israeli money for these food expenses, or do they take US dollars?

Virtually every store will accept U.S. dollars, though sometimes they will give you back your change in Israeli shekels.

Can you accommodate special food requests for those with special needs?

Because of the large number of tourists served each day, it is difficult for hotels and restaurants to accommodate special food requests. However, the wide variety of food choices makes it relatively easy for most individuals to find the foods they can eat. Those with very special needs might want to bring along some snack items to supplement their diet.

Can we drink the water?

Yes, the water in Israel is okay — especially at the hotels. So for the most part you don’t need to worry about water or food. If you’re not sure or want to be extra cautious, you can buy bottled water which will be available on your bus.

Luggage

How much luggage can I bring?

You are allowed one checked piece and one carry-on bag at no additional cost, generally with the following parameters: up to 50 pounds and 62 inches (L+W+D) for checked piece and up to 40 pounds and 45 inches (L+W+D) for carry-on. Baggage restrictions often vary by airline. It is important to refer to the airline’s international baggage regulations prior to packing, as these can change without notice.

What does it mean by “porterage” of only one piece of luggage?

The price of the trip includes the tip for one piece of luggage to be delivered to your hotel room at the time of check-in, and one piece of luggage to be brought down from your room at the time of departure. You will need to personally transport any carry-on items to the bus each day.

What should I wear?

Most churches and Orthodox holy sites require respectful dress. This generally means shoulders and knees must be covered for both men and women, and men must cover their heads (a baseball cap is adequate). On days that we visit these sites, we will warn you to dress accordingly. Nylon pants or pants with zip-on/off legs provide an easy, quick cover-up. Women could also pull on a light skirt over shorts and use a scarf to cover the shoulders. Otherwise, casual, comfortable clothes for touring are appropriate.

Money

How much spending money do you recommend per day?

While many people spend very little during the course of the tour and still have a great time, be prepared with reliable access to funds for your daily needs. These include lunches, additional beverages at meal times, snacks, and souvenirs. You can plan to spend between $20-30 per person per day.

Can I use credit cards?

It’s important to have an alternative in case one money method doesn’t work. We recommend bringing one credit card (Visa or MasterCard), as well as cash.

A Visa or MasterCard offers excellent exchange rates, as well as important fraud protection. Use your credit card for hotel charges, meals, souvenirs, and other major expenses. While many credit cards can also be used for “cash advances” at ATMs, steep interest rates and fees make this an option for emergencies only. (Before you leave, get a 4-digit PIN code for your card just in case, and find out about fees and interest charges.) As at home, save all receipts until you can verify your statement.

Although credit cards are widely used throughout Israel, there are stores (especially in the Old City of Jerusalem) that only accept cash. Therefore, we recommend that you also bring cash (in U.S. dollars) for those times when credit cards are not accepted.

How should I keep my cash and credit cards safe?

We strongly recommend using an undergarment money belt. It’s essential for the peace of mind it brings. You could lose everything except your money belt, and the trip could still go on.

How is tipping handled on this trip?

Your driver is well tipped by Morning Star Tours (MST). Likewise, tips for all local guides and hotel staff are also fully paid by MST. There is no need to tip beyond this. It is not necessary to tip the restaurant staff when group meals are provided, nor is it necessary to tip the hotel staff.

Accommodations and Facilities

How hard is it to find bathroom facilities?

Bathroom facilities are always a challenge while traveling, and Israel is no exception. The guides are sensitive to this need, and they will do everything possible to make sure there are regular stops at available bathroom facilities.

Will I have a chance to do laundry?

We will keep you busy every day and you will not have time to do your own laundry except in your room. Laundry service is available at hotels, but you must make sure there is enough time to get it back before we pack up and leave. Bring clothing that can be washed in your hotel room and that will dry quickly. You can bring small packets of Woolite and/or laundry detergent for this purpose.

Will my electrical appliances work in Israel?

The electric current in Israel is 220-volt A.C., single phase, 50 cycles which requires special adapter plugs with round prongs. If you take appliances (hair dryer, electric razor, etc.) that are suitable for both 110 and 220 volts, you will need a set of adapter plugs. If your appliance is for 110 volts only, you will also need a converter. Please check your appliance before going to verify its voltage. Don’t assume that it will work unless it clearly indicates that it will run on 220 volt.

If I do not have a roommate, will you help me find one?

Morning Star Tours cannot guarantee that we can find a roommate for you, but we will do everything possible to pair together individuals who wish to have a roommate. Ultimately, each participant is responsible for finding his/her own roommate, and single rooms must be paid for if a roommate is not secured.

Communication

Can I receive messages from home while on the trip?

You will receive a complete hotel list for your tour prior to departure. Leave a copy with family and friends so they can contact you if necessary. Although the hotels may have fax machines and e-mail, please do not rely on them for receiving personal messages. If family and friends need to reach you, please have them call. For those who have web-based e-mail accounts (such as Yahoo or Gmail), Internet cafes are sometimes an option.

How can I call home from Israel?

To call the U.S. from Israel, dial 00 + 1 (US country code) + area code + local number.

To call ISRAEL from the U.S., dial 011 + 972 (Israel’s country code) + local area code number (single digit number-delete 0 if it appears before a number such as 02 for Jerusalem would be just 2) + local number.

To call ISRAEL CELL PHONES from the U.S., dial 011 + 972 (Israel’s country code) + cell area code number (2 digit number-delete 0 if it appears before a number such as 051 would be just 51) + local number.

U.S. phone cards: You can bring an international calling card from your long distance provider (Sprint, AT&T, etc). Be sure to ask for their best price option for calling from Israel to multiple U.S. numbers. If you choose this option, be sure to get their international access numbers and double-check for any hotel connection charges. It may be cheaper to call from a pay phone rather than from your hotel room.

What is the time difference?

The time change from Central Standard Time to Israel is +8 hours (so when it is 10:00 PM here, it is 6:00 AM there). You will find a hotel list with phone numbers included with your final documents. The best time for anyone to reach you will be between 6:00 – 7:00 AM, but if they call you at 6:00 AM you may think it’s your wake-up call!

General

Will there be opportunities for shopping?

This tour is not primarily designed to be a shopping tour. However, there will be a limited number of opportunities to shop while in Israel. Many of the sites we visit have gift shops where you can shop for small souvenirs. There are also a limited number of special vendors who specialize in items like necklaces, DVDs, and books, and you will have an opportunity to purchase these.

What is the weather like?

Average high/low temperatures:

Jerusalem Tel Aviv Sea of Galilee Dead Sea
December 56 / 47 66 / 47 68 / 53 74 / 51
January 53 / 43 65 / 49 65 / 48 70 / 49
February 57 / 44 66 / 48 67 / 49 73 / 51

Winter weather has a high probability of rain. Expect cool days and nights.

Jerusalem Tel Aviv Sea of Galilee Dead Sea
March 61 / 47 69 / 51 72 / 51 79 / 56
April 69 / 53 72 / 54 80 / 56 87 / 63

Spring weather is very pleasant, with occasional rainfall. Expect cool to warm days and cool nights.

Jerusalem Tel Aviv Sea of Galilee Dead Sea
May 77 / 60 77 / 63 89 / 62 95 / 69
June 81 / 63 83 / 67 95 / 68 99 / 75
July 84 / 66 86 / 70 98 / 73 103 / 77
August 88 / 66 86 / 72 99 / 75 104 / 79

Summer weather is very stable. Expect warm to hot days and warm nights.

Jerusalem Tel Aviv Sea of Galilee Dead Sea
September 82 / 65 89 / 69 95 / 71 96 / 81
October 74 / 58 83 / 63 84 / 61 89 / 72
November 67 / 54 76 / 54 78 / 59 83 / 61

Autumn weather is very stable with rain likely in November. Expect warm days and cool nights.

For more specific weather information, go to http://www.weatherbase.com, http://www.worldclimate.com or http://www.weather.com.

How much walking will we do?

Israel is a land of beautiful hills and valleys, and we will be walking on several of them. The walks are not extremely strenuous, but be prepared to do some walking over uneven terrain. The best way to prepare is to begin walking, on a daily basis, in the shoes you will be wearing while in Israel.