Useful travel tips from our Holy Land expert, Therese O’Connor

The Holy Land enjoys a temperate Mediterranean climate with long, hot and dry summers followed by short, cool to warm, wet winters. The most pleasant temperatures occur September to October with average daytime temperatures around 24°C, making the Holy Land an ideal autumn destination. With every step steeped in history and every stone resembling a monument, this destination beyond comparison makes every minute of the flight worth it. Not that you are going to dread it when flying with outstanding carriers like EL AL and Turkish Airlines who will cater for all your needs on board and do their utmost to make your journey comfortable.

Set your watch 2 hours ahead, sit back and relax while trying some entertaining tongue-twisting exercises on commonly used Hebrew phrases (see below) that may help impress the locals. Don’t worry, most Israelis and Palestinians do speak English, but one or two words will surely help please a taxi driver or a shop assistant which may win you a bargain. Indeed, like many other Middle-Eastern societies, the Israelis like to haggle before closing the sale. This applies even to clerks at clothes’ shops that may otherwise look quite Westernized. Be confident and say what you really think: not only will it save you a few bob, but will equally earn you some respect. The official currency in Israel is Shekel (ILS), however, many purchases can be made in US dollars (USD). Due to instability of the currency, we recommend changing only small amounts of Shekel to carry with you on a daily basis for immediate use such as tipping service workers and small daily purchases like water which will be vital while touring in warm temperatures.

So will a pair of comfortable walking shoes. A lot of sites are accessible on foot only and you will have an opportunity to complete some walks. Your pilgrimage to the Holy Land will include visiting many holy places as well as places of historical and religious importance. The highlight of a Joe Walsh Tours pilgrimage is a mass held at an important site each day. What concerns respectful dress in churches, shrines and Orthodox Jewish neighbourhoods, it is advisable to pack some modest clothes or carry a shawl that can be wrapped around your shoulders or bare legs. Shorts may not always be accepted and we do not advise ladies to wear heels, open toes or sling-back shoes. A good guideline to follow is not to wear anything to holy places that you wouldn’t wear in your own church, keep shoulders and knees covered, wear comfortable and secure footwear and, regardless of your own personal views, respect those of the local people. Apart from the holy places, dress in Israel is casual and even the head Israeli politicians can be seen in short sleeve shirts, wearing no ties. Your packing list should include light clothes, something warm for the evening time, a lightweight raincoat and a foldaway umbrella for possible but unlikely showers (better be safe than sorry), and of course a full sun package including a sun hat, sunglasses and sun cream.

A swimsuit and a large towel will be necessary if you intend to avail of a full submersion in the River Jordan. White gowns are available for hire on the spot, but you will be required to wear a swimming costume underneath. Due to the particular nature of the country, we recommend consulting your local doctor or chemist who may like to suggest suitable medication to offset any possible tummy upset that may occur. An insect repellent cream might also prove useful. If you are taking any prescribed medication, it would be advisable to pack it in the check-in baggage, except the medicines you need for the flight, and to bring your prescriptions with you. Security with airlines flying to Israel is strict and thorough, and being at the airport at the specified time prior to departure and abiding by the rules in relation to restricted baggage items may spare you some unneeded stress.

At Joe Walsh Tours, we monitor the political situation in the Holy Land at all times and do not travel out at unstable times to ensure full safety of our customers, so there is no need to worry about safety. However, being aware of the conflict in the region may help getting around travel obstacles to the Middle East in future. If Arab countries are on your future travel list, you can request for the Emigration Official at Ben Gurion airport not to stamp your passport. Instead, the stamp can be put on the white card you fill in on your arrival in Israel, which you will need to hold on to for examination upon your departure from the country. As usual, be sure your passport is valid for travel for 6 months beyond the date of return from Israel and seek advice as to whether a visa is required if you hold a passport other than Irish or British. Have a lovely pilgrimage! Thérèse

Useful Hebrew Expressions

  • Greeting: Hello/Good-bye (literally, “peace”) shalom
  • Good morning! yom tov / boker tov 
  • Good evening! erev tov
  • Good night! laíla tov
  • Good bye/See you again!lehitra’ot 
  • Generic toast (literally, “to life”) le’hayim
  • Yes ken
  • No/not lo 
  • Please/you're welcome bevakasha 
  • Thank you toda
  • Excuse me/sorry slee’ha
  • How much does it cost? kama zeh oleh 
  • More yoter 
  • Less pahot 
  • Alright beseder
  • I'm hungry/ thirsty aniraev / ani tsame 
  • Bon appetit bete'avon 
  • Where is the restroom? eifo ha-sherutim
  • I feel sick ani hole 
  • I need a doctor ani zakuk lerofe
  • I don’t understand ani lo mevin (M)/ ani lo mevina (F)
  • Do you speak English? atah medaber anglit (M)/at medaberet anglit (F)

Posted 23/06/2017