If you’re a first-time traveller planning a trip to Jerusalem, these five useful tips will surely come in handy. Beyond that, prepare to enjoy one of the holiest cities in the world, and marvel in its natural beauty and historic past.
1. Ben Gurion International Airport is in Tel Aviv, not Jerusalem
There are many transport options to reach Jerusalem from the airport. This includes taxi, shared taxi and the bus service. The cheapest option is the bus, which costs NIS 16 (£3.5; €4).
It takes around one hour, depending on traffic, to reach the central bus station in Jerusalem. The shared taxi is the better option if you want to be dropped off to your hotel. However, the downside is you’ll have to wait for the driver to drop everyone off at their respective hotels. Shared taxis cost NIS 62 (£14; €16) per person.
Transportation options can be limited if you arrive on a Friday or Saturday because of the Jewish tradition of the Shabbat, so plan ahead.
2. Security checks take longer in Israel
Before travelling to Israel, some friends had advised to allow more time for the security checks on both ends.
From the UK side, everything is routine, and security is nothing out of the ordinary. Departing from Tel Aviv is another story. After meeting an officer who asks you questions about your trip, you then continue to the bag check. Here, every traveller goes through a thorough bag search with an individual guard. When I say thorough, they scan everything from clothes to umbrellas with a detector.
Top tip: don’t spend too much time packing, as you’ll have to do it again!
3. Prices aren’t as cheap as you might think
Maybe a slight misconception on my part, but I travelled to Jerusalem thinking prices would be lower than in the UK. I was wrong.
There are some areas where bartering is welcome, ie in the markets in the Old City. Other than that, I found some prices were similar to what you’d pay in London. Take eating out: a hamburger, sides and cocktail (alcoholic) at a trendy restaurant in the Shuk area cost £28 (€33; $35).
Locals almost never use taxis for the simple reason that they’re expensive. The Jerusalem Light Rail is an excellent option as it’s fast and cheap. A single ticket costs £1.45 (€1.70) and includes a a 90-minute transfer time. This means you can re-use your ticket on either the light rail or bus.
4. It’s colder than you might expect
If you travel to Jerusalem in spring expecting high temperatures and scorching hot weather, think again.
While there’s plenty of sunshine throughout the year, it can get very cold, especially at night. That said, be smart and pack wisely.
Bring a good jacket/light coat and keep warm by layering up. You don’t want to miss out on Jerusalem at night.
5. Jerusalem is safe
Like most people, I was slightly nervous about travelling to Israel. Seeing constant news about terrorist threats and tensions with neighbouring countries would make anyone uneasy. The reality however was completely different.
There wasn’t any time I felt I was in danger or sensed any tension between the diverse groups in Jerusalem. What’s more, as a lone female traveller, I also felt completely safe exploring the city solo.