Travel

VISITING ISRAEL – Spend 10 Days with Me in Jerusalem

Israel has been on my bucket list for years now. There are quite a few Middle-Eastern countries that you cannot visit nowadays, let’s be honest. Being my adventurous self I definitely needed to travel to at least one. I haven’t ticked off all the destinations I want to see, so I’m going to visit again for sure.

Before I left I did a little survey myself and asked some of you, what you want to know about Israel. I was beyond happy to discover that most of you want to visit this beautiful country. Based on your answers I combined this little blog post so you can find valuable information before you commence your journey and also read about my adventures and experiences. I also put together new travel tips, which you can find at the very end, that summarizes my newly learned lessons. On my Instagram account, you can find the compilation of my Instagram stories as well under >ISRAEL< because I decided to vlog this way rather than making a separate video.
So let’s dive into it!

General Things to be Aware Of

Visa

Depending on your home country it can happen that you need to have a visa before you visit Israel. Luckily, a lot of countries made it to the exception list, my country as well, so make sure to check it by clicking on the link, before planning your trip.

Currency

The currency in Israel is still shekel. A good tip to check your money’s worth is xe.com. This is my favorite site when it comes to converting. I think it shows the average value so if you go to exchange your money, the prices can be higher not to mention the conversion fee they put on it. A general rule is to ask before you jump in. A good news though is that in Jerusalem, most of the exchange offices won’t charge you commission, which is a huge plus! Therefore bring dollars or euros with you and exchange in Israel. Not at the airport though! 😉

Weather

Another thing worth mentioning upfront is the weather! Beach lovers here we go! It can get really intense and I’m not joking. From May, which is still considered spring, till September, summer is raging so it can get as high as 45°C or even higher. There was a day when we had 43°C and it was excruciating for an Eastern European like me! I’ve never experienced heat like that before. Anyway, Israel became the country of firsts for me, but about that later. If you can’t stand the heat you need to go during the winter or early summer. Altogether just be prepared that’s all, have some high SPF sunscreen! 😉

Alrighty then, let’s see what you really want to know, based on the survey!

Safety

The highly requested topic of all time! Listen, you cannot always believe the news. Yes, there are some horrible things happening in certain parts, e.g. Gaza, which is making me cry, but it is not everywhere. To be honest, after a few days I felt safer than in Budapest. which is crazy!

Let me tell you my experience. One time, we got lost when we walked the streets of the Bazaar. It is basically a huge market if you will, with several narrow streets. I think for foreigners like us it is easy to get lost in that labyrinth. Unfortunately, we took a turn to a darker part and we could have gone further when two soldiers came after us shouting. My parents don’t speak English, so first they were afraid we’ve done something wrong. However, these two kind souls just wanted to let us know that the street is closed at the end and not very safe so we should head back and showed us the way to the Jaffa Gate. That’s all! They are there to help us, protect us and not to threaten us. As outsiders, we don’t always know the customs or certain parts of a city.

Soldiers in Jerusalem, Israel
Soldiers in Jerusalem, Israel

When we arranged the rental car, the lady warned us not to got to Palestine territories because those are the dangerous parts and our car can get stolen. However, we did talk to a Palestine taxi driver who said that it is not true! To be honest I believe him. You need to take care of your belongings all the time when you travel. It is the same in all country. You can go to Bethlehem or Nazareth if you want to, no need to be afraid. There was a fellow Instagrammer visiting Israel at the same time I did and she did visit these parts and she was perfectly fine! We didn’t however, but only because we signed the papers and agreed to the car rental’s term. Maybe next time!

Sights to See in Israel

Oh, I don’t know where to begin! It was just so different from what I used to. Maybe let’s start with the scenery. In Hungary, I’m more or less surrounded by many greens, trees, a lot of grass and not too high mountains. Now, Israel is the complete opposite! It is more like an Indiana Jones movie scene with a lot of deserted parts (it was my first time seeing a desert!) and a section of greenery. Those greens and palm trees though! They just tenaciously growing out of the ground as they have every right to. I was truly amazed.

Mostly we discovered Jerusalem during our stay. The Old City was definitely something we all agreed to check. This is where the Western Wall, the Dome of the Rock and Golden Gate is. The city of King David mesmerized us. As mentioned in the beginning, you can check out my Instagram story series for more visual experience!

The Dome, Old City
Golden Gate, Jerusalem

We also visited the green heavens, haha, for me that means Mount Olive, Garden of Gethsemane and the Garden Tomb. The olive trees are a few thousand years old as they are said to be from Jesus’s time! Increadible!

Gethsemane

Masada was also one of the highlights for me. I cannot explain my fascination with this 450 meters rock stronghold but I loved it! The history of the heroic fortress is just amazing! I good climb to the top if you ask me, as it takes you 700 steps on the 2 kms path to get to the top and 45 minutes to get back. Of course, you can choose to get in a cabin that will take you all the way for 74 shekels.

Oh and I cannot leave out my absolute favorite: the SEA! Again a first, because this was the first time I actually stepped into and then later swam in the sea. I annoyed the hell out of everyone on Instagram when I constantly posted to my stories about it. Anyway, in return I got sunburnt so badly hahaha still Tel-Aviv beach front was amazing.

Tel-Aviv

I didn’t float in the Dead Sea at the end of the day. Most of the beaches were ruined due to the sinkholes. We should have gone more south to Ein Bokek, but we didn’t know there was a beach there, at the time. This is something I want to go back for, it is on my bucket list, I need to make it happen. I need to float on water. 😀

Food

Be prepared! There aren’t big hypermarkets on all corners! What’s more, markets and small supermarkets are more popular than any other shops. If you really want to get the vibe you must visit a real traditional market. The closest to us was the Mahane Yehuda Market. The bread, milk bun and challah were all amazing and stayed fresh for days! You need to work on your haggling skills when you visit Israel, it is a must on the market and in the bazaar as well. You can have sweet deals, darlings, just remember practice makes perfect.

Regarding prices, one time we bought 6 bottles of water for 40 shekels. I still think we were conned. The sodas are cheaper than actual water which really surprised us. I guess people know the value of water there. Mainly we prepared our food in our apartment and went to a restaurant only once. It was a really nice one at the shore of the Sea of Galilee. The portions were huge and we had appetizers when we didn’t ask for it. We couldn’t eat it all. It was around 300 shekels for 4 people.

Traditions and People

I think I better let Tevye explain this one for you 😀

Fiddler on the Roof

We had our accommodation at the edge of Mea Shearim which is the Orthodox Jewish area. Have you seen the clothes, that people were wearing in the video? This is how the people dress in that territory, acting like it was still the 17th century. Also, if you check my ‘vibe video’ in my InstaStories it also shows their clothing, just to prove my point.

Shabbat

They keep traditions as they are and we witnessed Shabbat twice, during our stay. The shops close around noon or until 4 in the afternoon on Friday and only open on Sunday, IF they open. They say you need to rest during Shabbat as God rested on the seventh day after the creation. Jewish families have their special dinner that day. Of course, we couldn’t experience it, because we didn’t have any friends there, but it would be interesting to see I’m sure.

Another thing to mention is that you cannot drive during this period. The reason behind it is that you cannot light a fire during Shabbat and initiating the motor of the car is the modern version of fire according to the Jews. That led us to an interesting story which I just need to tell.
Our travel companion couldn’t navigate us well so unfortunately, we drove into Mea Shearim during Shabbat! I was so concerned. You know if you visit a country you are the one who is the stranger and you try to respect the nation as much as you can. My concern grew into fury. I was mad at us, but those people were so nice. Yes, they looked at us, but I think when they realized we are Europeans they kind of forgave us. They went to the side so we could slide away, along with our shame. For the rest of the weekend, the police blocked the area. I think that was for the best!

I need to highlight that Mea Shearim is just one small territory of Jerusalem the further you go from it the sooner the tradition softens. Only check this area if you are really interested, and respect their customs if you visit this place.

People in General

I need to mention that the temper of the people is completely different than what we are used to. They shout, gesticulate a lot and sound the horns of the cars all the freaking time! They can celebrate wholeheartedly, have the deepest joy ever! They feel everything so much stronger!
We were fortunate enough to be there during Jerusalem Day and also the foundation of the state of Israel. People were dancing on the streets, grabbing everyone they could to celebrate with them. They are that direct with everyone. They don’t mind going up to a stranger and ask them how they are doing, and they genuinely mean it. We met so many wonderful people!

Closure and Lessons

Let’s review some of the lessons I learned during the Israeli journey.

  1. Choose your travel partner well. It is so crucial who you are spending your time with and it is especially true when you are traveling. You need to know and trust the person because you need to be able to count on each other. Unfortunately, I made a mistake regarding this part.
  2. Agree on what you all expect from the trip. You can find yourself in uncomfortable situations if you don’t discuss with your travel partner(s) what you want to see and what you want out of this whole journey. Let’s say you want to stay at the beach all day while your partner wants to climb Masada. Or you would like to have nice photos for Instagram, so you need additional 10-15 minutes at each destination. Whatever it is, you need to come to an agreement when to do what. That way everybody can be happy and not just have a ‘nice little’ surprise when you have already traveled 2000 kilometers.
  3. You don’t need to stay in one place. I think one of the biggest mistakes was to stay in one city for 10 consecutive days. It would have been so much better to spend 2 or 3 nights in one place and then discover the next city. I will do it differently next time for sure.
  4. Plan properly what you want to see and how to get there. It is so annoying when precious minutes go wasted while you are trying to figure out Maps and the damn thing just freezes! Plan ahead that is always a good strategy.

I just want to go back. Honestly, that’s what I really feel. I missed a lot of things during our stay. I definitely want to float in the Dead Sea, check out Eilat and the Negev Desert. Also, maybe I would take a trip to Jordan and check out Petra. Will see!

Thank you so much for reading my “little” article, I really hope you liked it. If you are ever in Israel, send me some pictures and a few words about your experiences there. Can’t wait to hear from you! xx

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