The basics

Money

Israel uses the Shekel, abbreviated as NIS (New Israeli Shekel), made up of 100 agorot. ATMs are widely available throughout the country and American Express, MasterCard and Visa cards used at most Israeli stores, restaurants and hotels. An 18% value added tax (VAT) is already included in most prices and waived for tourists at hotels, tour companies and car rental agencies. If you are visiting, you may be eligible for a VAT refund when leaving the country.

Languages

Israel is a multi-lingual country at heart with a long history of languages from far and wide in the region, including English, which is taught in school alongside the official languages of Arabic and Hebrew.

Geography & Culture

Located in Southwest Asia between the Mediterranean and the deserts of Syria and Arabia, Israel is a small territory with an incredibly diverse landscape and climate. To the west is the sunset-drenched and fertile Mediterranean coastal plain, home to Haifa and Tel Aviv. To the north are green hills and snow-capped mountains, peaking at Galilee's Mt. Meron at 1,208 meters (3963 ft) above sea level. To the east: the Jordan Rift Valley and the Dead Sea, the lowest point on the earth at 420 meters (1,378 ft) below sea level. And in the south, the expansive Negev desert stretches to the Red Sea and Eilat Bay.

Transportation

Israel Railways is an affordable and convenient way to travel between major cities in Israel and provides service to Ben Gurion airport. Tickets may be purchased at the ticket booths and automated machines at the station or reserved online in advance. Trains do not operate on Saturdays (Shabbat).

Because Israel is so compact, car travel is a great way to see the country whether traveling 37 miles between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem or the 90 miles from Tel Aviv to Haifa. There are multiple international and national car rental chains, available in all of Israel's major cities and at Ben Gurion Airport in Tel Aviv, but it's best to reserve a car before you arrive. Driving in Israel is on the right-hand side of the road, and most signage is written in Hebrew, English and Arabic.

Convenient, comfortable and frequent, buses are the most popular form of travel in Israel. Check the Egged bus company online, which operates most of the intercity lines and local service in the larger cities and towns . Tickets may be purchased at any city's central bus station or from the driver. Anonymous Rav Kav Cards are also available to visitors for multi-ticket or single fare refills and usually at a 20% discount. Note that the majority of buses do not operate in Israel on Saturdays (Shabbat) or Jewish holidays, and travelers should check government websites for travel warnings and keep up to date with local media reports due to the number of security incidents.

Israel has two international airports: Ben Gurion near Tel Aviv and the smaller Haifa city airport. Several companies provide domestic flights if you prefer to fly the short distances between Eilat and Ben Gurion Airport, Sde Dov Airport in north Tel Aviv or Haifa. Air fares are reasonable but much higher than bus fares.