1. So I’ve landed and customs here are a little more stringent
A common problem for travelers wishing to visit not only Israel but also the Palestinian territories is what to say on arrival at Tel Aviv airport. It’s a matter of record that the Israeli authorities look dimly upon any expression of intention to visit Palestine and you’ll be booking yourself into a private chat with Israeli immigration officials if you do. It is best to avoid mention of any intention to visit Palestine. Jerusalem is OK but it’s best if you can name a hotel.
2. I’m in Palestine and these hotpants seem to be attracting attention.
No surprises there. You will find Palestinians expect a degree of modesty of themselves and of visitors. In Jerusalem you will find this is true of many communities (from all three Abrahamic faiths – Islam, Christianity and Judaism), particularly – but not exclusively – when entering a religious site. Women should avoid low-cut or sleeveless tops, shorts and above-the-knee dresses. Keeping a long scarf or wrap handy for entering religious sites is a good idea. Men should also dress conservatively.
3. The art of the taxi
Although the vast majority of taxis in the Palestinian territories do – despite appearances – have meters, these are rarely used. Talk over a price with your driver before you get in the car and agree it. Be aware that as a tourist, you are fair game for excessive taxi charges. A little Arabic and a confident poker face and you’ll soon be flying around Palestine on Palestinian charges.
4. The art of the servee
How we get around whenever we’re lucky enough to be in Palestine, a servee is essentially a shared taxi that sets off when it becomes full. The entire West Bank is well served by service taxis with major stops in Ramallah, Hebron and Nablus. There are also various stops throughout serving the villages and towns of the area. There is almost always an English speaker making himself useful at the stations and it is by far the cheapest and most immersive way of getting around.
5. Learn your plates
Learning to distinguish different types of car number plate enables you to tell whether a car is driven by an Israeli Palestinian, a diplomat, a government official or a West Banker. That can be important should you wish to catch a taxi or rent a car. Those green plates? They’re not much good if you want to grab a taxi from Ramallah to Jerusalem.
6. You want HOW MUCH?!
The Israeli shekel is around five to the pound, so you’ll be paying 12 NIS for a newspaper and 500 NIS equals just £100. Bear this in mind when you’re shopping for souvenirs anywhere in Palestine or Israel. Israeli stores will often be price-tagged but Palestinian stores are more anarchic. Don’t worry if you haven’t the time to do all the legwork in looking for good quality stuff at reasonable prices – we’ve compiled an extensive list available in our fact sheet.
7. I’ve got some fantastic pictures of Palestine on my camera!
Congratulations! You’ve got yourself a whole library of memories to show family and friends. Why wouldn’t you? Well, Israeli customs officials can and sometimes look through the picture on your camera on your way back out, so if you’ve got images you think might raise eyebrows, find another means of getting them home. Nowadays you can send them by email or upload them on a website.
8. What is this number on my passport?
If you get a sticker at passport control starting with the number 6 while your friends got a number starting with 2 or 3 you’ll have a pretty good idea what the numbers mean because you will be more stringently searched. Tel Aviv Ben Gurion is the most secure and safest airports in the world and there is a clear reason for this. We haven’t found a short cut around the security questions. What we do know is that a mention of Palestine will get a 6 stuck on your sticker and a date with a friendly official quicker than lightning.
9. Learn a few key phrases
They’ll stand you in good stead, both Palestinians and Israelis are a very friendly people with a love for chatting. You’re not going to ingratiate yourself with either wandering around assuming everyone wishes to speak English (which almost everyone can, but this is immaterial) we’ve drawn up a few phrase sheets so wherever you are in Israel or Palestine, you can talk the talk, at least a little.
10. Where should I visit?
Where shouldn’t you? Both Israel and Palestine are easily traversed by car within a day which leaves both countries your oyster. We’ve drawn up 5 big hitters which you can find on our website but hit up our factsheet for the tourist hot spots and a few lesser known must-sees.