Backpackers traveling around the Middle East will need to plan their trip to Israel carefully, especially if you will be visiting other nearby nations such as Yemen or Iran. In any event, long term travelers and backpackers should make sure upon arrival into Israel, that their passport stamps are put on a blank, separate piece of paper. This is because many other Middle East counties will not allow those with Israeli stamps in their passports to enter. At immigration, most Israeli border officers will comply and stamp somewhere other than your passport for these reasons. Don’t neglect holding on to this piece of paper though, you will be asked for it when exiting the country.
Also, be prepared to have your bags thoroughly examined as well as be questioned by security, particularly if arriving at the Ben Gurion International Airport in Tel Aviv. It’s an experience that could be a bit jarring if you’re not expecting it, but answer all of the questions you are asked honestly and it shouldn’t be a terribly long experience. How long you are questioned will have a lot to do with the number of other stamps (particularly Arab) you have in your passport. On a brighter note, consider it an interesting travel story!
Security In Israel
Many people are often worried about the security once inside of Israel or when backpacking in Jerusalem. The truth of the matter is that public transportation inside of Israel, especially Tel Aviv is remarkably safe. Security controls and checks are in place throughout each city and, for travelers, don’t make it too terribly cumbersome to get around.
- As far as prices go, Israel is an expensive destination in the otherwise (relatively) inexpensive Middle East. Prices are similar to those in many major US cities and near where they are in Western Europe as is especially the case when backpacking in Tel Aviv.
Bargaining is acceptable in most markets and be careful to only pay in the local currency, shekel. Most people asking you for Euros or dollars are a tip-off you’re probably in the process of getting ripped off.
As far as accommodations go, Israel has a huge selection of hotels, hostels, and is a good country to Couchsurf in. The ease of booking and moving around in the country as well as the accessibility of tours are some of the best in the Middle East. Jerusalem is a popular destination and one that is well deserved. The home of three major religions in an expanse for a city, Jerusalem is a photographic, historical, and touristic marvel. The city itself is sectioned off between Israeli and Palestinian sections and it’s a good idea to check for any planned demonstrations before heading into town.
Backpackers might also be interested in a more relaxed pace for a few days and the Dead Sea coast can provide just that. You can look for hotels or smaller places to stay near Masada and visit the ruins there as well. Another destination we highly recommend is Jaffa, along the Mediterranean Coast and mainly an Arab city, wonderful to eat, swim, and relax.
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