Tips For Travelling Solo in Israel

Getting to grips with Tel Aviv, the largest city in Israel, can be tough even for nationals
Getting to grips with Tel Aviv, the largest city in Israel, can be tough even for nationals | © PhotoStock-Israel / Alamy Stock Photo

Israel may be a tiny country, but it can nevertheless be a daunting place for a lone traveller. For starters, the language and alphabet can be tough to navigate, while the culture is unique. This is a list of dos and don’ts to ensure you have a smooth trip here.

Keen to visit Israel but prefer to do so with some company? Culture Trip’s specially curated seven-day Israel trip allows you to explore this incredible country with a small group of like-minded travellers, led by our Local Insider.

Download Moovit

Download Moovit for a handy transportation guide to Israel

Moovit is a lifesaver for tourists and locals alike. Download the free app to get accurate public transport schedules, live arrival and departure times, directions and route plans. It also offers a car-sharing service, which is essentially hitchhiking but far less scary: for a tiny fee, you can schedule a tremp (ride) within the app with Israeli drivers, all of whom have a profile and reviews.

Take the ‘monit sheirut’ to get around

Stick your arm out to flag down a shared taxi cab

The monit sheirut (service taxi) is pretty hard to get the hang of but it is certainly a useful and effective way to get around. They are shared taxis, normally 10-seater minivans, that are common throughout Israel. There are three types: those that operate within cities which follow fixed routes, those that travel between cities in which the driver will drop you off anywhere along the route and those from Ben Gurion Airport that can take you right to your front door.

You don’t have to be at a bus stop to hail one – they can stop anywhere along their route so just stick your arm out, ask the driver if he’s going to where you need and hop on. Sit down first and then put your coins down – they’ll eventually arrive with the driver.

Israelis are helpful and often speak English

People in Israel are typically helpful and normally speak English well

Israeli society is altruistic by nature, so don’t be afraid to approach people for help. Locals will be more than happy to offer advice or directions and most Israelis speak a decent level of English, especially in Tel Aviv.

Meet like-minded travellers at your hostel

Make the most of a solo trip by gaining friends along the way. Although it is safe to travel to Israel alone, with fellow like-minded travellers you may feel more comfortable exploring further afield to places you may otherwise have missed. With efficient, if slow, public transport, a high number of English speakers and signage, and the opportunity to join organised group tours across the country, Israel is a safe destination for solo female travellers.

If you don’t mind being in the company of a few other travellers, our week-long Israel trip will take care of all your planning for you – and reveal the best cultural experiences thanks to our dedicated Local Insider.

Tell taxi drivers to use the ‘monay’

Ask your taxi driver to turn the meter on to ensure you get a fair price

Israeli taxi drivers are known to rip off tourists, so be aware. One way to minimise the chances of this is by telling the driver to turn on his meter (monay in Hebrew). Alternatively, download Gett, Israel’s version of Uber, which allows you to pay a legitimate price in advance with your credit card.

Do your research before visiting holy sites

Visiting the Dome of the Rock? Make sure you research it before you go

If you’re planning a trip to Jerusalem, make sure to do some research about what to wear and customs. At the Western Wall, for instance, women must cover their shoulders and knees, while men must wear a kippa (skullcap).Moreover, it can be deemed disrespectful leaving the wall with your back towards it and as a result, it is customary to begin walking away from it by walking backwards, so you are still facing it. This research should also include checking the daily news: if there are tensions at the Temple Mount, for instance, put your visit there on hold.

Consider the Shabbat

The Shabbat is a sacred time for locals

This is something pretty important for tourists to consider. Every week in Israel, as the sun sets on Friday evening and until it sets again on Saturday, public transportation comes to a halt and most restaurants and shops close. Plan around this to avoid getting stranded somewhere and make sure you have enough food. In Tel Aviv, however, many restaurants, bars and supermarkets remain open over Shabbat.

Make a note of the Jewish/national holidays

Check out the religious calendar to make sure you know what’s going on

Jewish and national holidays are something you should take into account when you’re in Israel. On Yom Kippur, the holiest day in the Jewish calendar, there is no public transport, the roads throughout the country are virtually empty and the country closes its air space. Sukkot, the most entertaining Jewish holiday, will see two days of wild street parties, drinking and costumes, particularly in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. Yom HaZikaron (Remembrance Day) includes a resounding nationwide siren (that will give you a shock if you’re not expecting it), which signals people to stop what they’re doing and pause for reflection in silence until it passes.

Join ‘secret’ city groups on Facebook

Many cities in Israel have Facebook groups, such as ‘Secret Jerusalem’ and ‘Secret Tel Aviv’. They have thousands of members, many of whom are locals. These groups are great platforms to ask for help, rides and recommendations from a community of well-informed, ready-to-help locals.

Learn these useful Hebrew terms

Knowing a few key Hebrew phrases will help you maximise your Israel trip

While most Israelis speak at least a decent level of English, it is still worth knowing a few essential Hebrew terms. Ata medaber anglit? (do you speak English?), efshar heshbon? (can I get the bill?), ata yachol la’azor li? (can you help me?) and eizeh civoon hachof? (Where is the beach?) should all come in handy.

Always haggle in markets

To get the true value of an item, make sure you haggle

In all open-air markets in Israel, you are expected to haggle – buying something for 40 percent to 50 percent cheaper than the original price is not unusual. Don’t be a fryer (sucker): whether you’re buying a bracelet or a backgammon board, push hard for a deal. Show your interest, ask for a reduction, then begin to walk away and watch the seller crack under your razor-sharp bargaining skills.

Solo travel doesn’t have to be an entirely lonesome affair. Join Culture Trip’s seven-day Israel adventure for the chance to experience Jerusalem and beyond with a small group of travellers who are as culturally curious as you are.

Culture Trips launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes places and communities so special.

Our immersive trips, led by Local Insiders, are once-in-a-lifetime experiences and an invitation to travel the world with like-minded explorers. Our Travel Experts are on hand to help you make perfect memories. All our Trips are suitable for both solo travelers, couples and friends who want to explore the world together.?>

All our travel guides are curated by the Culture Trip team working in tandem with local experts. From unique experiences to essential tips on how to make the most of your future travels, we’ve got you covered.

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