a guide to independent travel in israel

Have my Israel posts been able to inspire you to make your way to one of the most fascinating [and historically and potentially volatile] countries in our world? I hope yes. Yes enough to add it to your bucket list, have day-dreams about it, and make plans for a journey post COVID-19.

Though I’ve ended each post on Israel with related travel tips, I thought I’d collate the important ones into one post and add a few extra. Just to make it easier for you.

I assure you this will be a short post. Most of my Israel posts have been on an average 2,500 words long. If you indeed read through them, credit goes to the country—it is beautiful—and to you. Thank you super much for giving me company through the series, for liking the posts, and for commenting on them. It has encouraged me and kept me focussed on writing the entire set.

So, here goes my last and 13th post in my Israel series, a country that was long on my wish-list and one I finally got to explore on a solo, independent, 15-day travel in November 2019. Wishing you happy travels too, someday soon.

[Please note there are NO affiliate links in this post, or in any of my posts. Links are provided only to help you with your plans or for you to get extra info.]

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My Blue Slip on entry into Israel and Pink Slip on exit.

Getting an Israeli visa
Is not that complicated. Just make sure you submit ALL the documents required. If you have a valid US or Schengen visa, the processing is quicker. I got my Israeli visa in two working days. Ben Gurion airport immigration was smooth and fast as well.

Why independent travel and not a package tour for Israel
Firstly, because independent travel in Israel is cheaper. Secondly, you’ll have more time at each place. And thirdly, since you’ll have more time and saved on the money part, you’ll be able to have deeper, more meaningful experiences.

Tel Aviv Abraham Hostel is filled with funky art.

Staying there, but where
There are loads of hotels, guest-houses, and Airbnb throughout the country. But when it comes to location, convenience, and price, Abraham Hostels is tops. You’ll find travellers of all ages from all over the world here. Their private rooms with attached bathrooms are spotless, and self-help Israeli buffet breakfasts are generous.

Jerusalem’s iconic skyline with Dome of the Rock as seen from Mount of Olives.

Exploring Jerusalem
Jerusalem Audio Walking Tours [developed by the Jerusalem Development Authority] has 21 fantastic self-guided walks of the Old City. The App is available on both Apple and Android. Plus, they are free. By the end, you will be a pro on Jerusalem!

Exploring Nazareth and Tel Aviv
You only need a map [which Abraham Hostels will give you] and two sturdy feet.

Walking along the steep sides of the mesa to the Northern Palace’s lower terrace in Masada.

Day tours for the ‘Sights’ outside the cities
Abraham Tours, a sister concern of Abraham Hostels is again the winner here. There are two types of tours: The self-guided ones provide transport and reading material with time allocated for each stop. The guided ones have an expert to help you get really under the skin of the place.

Picnic lunch by the beach at Ma’agan Michael Kibbutz in Northern Israel.

Food for thought
Do you like Hummus and Falafel? Well, you better, as you will find them everywhere. Pomegranate juice is especially popular in the Arab quarters and there are enough cafes and restaurants serving western fare to ensure you don’t go hungry.

The Israeli Rav-Kav travel card gives you access to buses, trams, and trains.

Getting from point A to B
Get yourself a Rav-Kav travel card and save yourself the bother of buying a ticket for each journey on public transport. It is valid for buses, trams, and trains and costs 5 NIS. Once bought, money can be loaded onto it.

Egged buses run between all major towns and cities in Israel. Abraham Hostels has a shuttle service connecting Nazareth, Tel Aviv, and Jerusalem. To explore Palestine, Arab buses leave for various cities from East Jerusalem. For the airport, there are sheruts [shared taxis]. Ask your hotel to arrange one.

During my stay in Israel I used a 019mobile sim card.

International roaming or local SIM
I used a 6 GB 30-day validity data plan sim from 019mobile for US$ 20 which I bought in Israel itself. It ensured I had access to google maps with public transport routes, and that I did not get lost. 😀

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It is a given all hotels have WiFi and local currency can be withdrawn from the ATMs.

Have I missed anything? If you have any questions, please feel free to ask in the comments section. If I have the answer, I promise I will share it with you.

PS. In case you missed any of my Israel and Palestine posts, here they all are. Thank you once again. ❤


… and Palestine

a self-guided walk through biblical mount of olives

Caution: This post is for travellers. Not tourists.

Whew. Now that I have got that out of the way, let me write on. Comforted by the thought you and I are on the same page.

Some of us like to wander. To immerse ourselves at a particular site just because, inexplicably, it touches a chord within us. To gaze at the details. Behind and under the obvious. To look at all versions of history and legends with an open mind.

The reason I bring it up particularly for my post on the Mount of Olives is because one cannot not visit the Mount of Olives while in Jerusalem. For that would be blasphemy. But you’d like to do it at your own pace.

Why? Because you are in the Holy Land. And Jesus Christ spent his last night before his crucifixion as well as ascended to heaven from here. Christian communities from around the globe have built a string of lovely churches down a near perpendicular street between these two key sites. Because you do not have to be believers of the Old or New Testament to believe in a higher sacred self. Or Roman Catholic or Eastern Orthodox. But also, because the view from the top and the walk to the bottom is what memories, which make you all starry-eyed once back home, are made of. 🙂 Continue reading

36 hours in tel aviv

Flashback. 11 April, 1909. There are 66 Jewish families standing in a circle on a desolate sand dune, just north of Jaffa, the ancient Arab port-city on the Mediterranean coast. Inside the circle are two boxes. One contains 60 grey seashells with plot numbers and the other has 60 white seashells with names of the families. A girl randomly picks up a grey seashell while a boy picks up a white seashell.

And hence, the first 60 plots of Tel Aviv meaning the ‘hill of spring’ are assigned and Israel’s future city is born. Within one year all the homes are built along with the main streets.

Flashforward. November 2019. The Tel Aviv I am standing in is futuristic and forward-looking. It is an IT hub, gay capital of the Middle East, vegan capital of the world, secular, hedonistic, and has an all-night party scene and 15 kilometres of sun, sand and sea.

There are around 3,000 high-tech companies and start-ups in the city, the highest outside Silicon Valley, to the extent Tel Aviv and its surrounding areas are called Silicon Wadi [Wadi is Arabic for valley]. The technology behind all chats, the world’s first anti-virus software, and USB stick were invented here.

I see lesbian couples indulging in heavy PDA and muscled men in leather briefs strut down the jogging paths on Rothschild Boulevard. Everyone seems to have a dog. According to statistics, Tel Aviv has a 17-to-1 people to dog ratio and 60 dog parks. And yes, it is also one of the top 10 cities for the most beautiful women … and men.

But Tel Aviv is not just all beauty and brains and their furry best friends, as I discovered. Continue reading

the three magnificent jewels of israel’s judaean desert

It was 2 am and I could not take my eyes off the exhilarating landscape in the travel documentary. I sat hunched over my computer with goose bumps on my arms, infatuated at the desert and oasis and sea which unfurled in front of me. I was leaving for Israel in a couple of weeks.

“This can’t be for real???” was all my cynical mind could muster at regular intervals. But numerous other media reiterated the same splendours with stubborn vendetta to my doubting self.

Not many places live up to their hype—except the Judaean Desert. As I discovered last year in November. Continue reading

global travel shot: uninterrupted prayers at the wailing wall


Welcome to my blog post series on Israel, a tiny country where world politics and religions converge, and it takes a mere five hours to drive across its entire length. 🙂

So, is Israel on your bucket list? It was on mine. For a very long time. But I was filled with doubts on how to go about it. It turned out that the one country I was most unsure and nervous about travelling to solo and independently was in fact the easiest to explore on my own. Israel is an independent traveller’s dream come true.

Don’t believe me?

Come along with me as I blog about Israel over the next few months, the land of Yhwh’s “Chosen Ones,” in a series which traverses three Abrahamic religions and countless natural sites of mind-boggling beauty over a 15-day voyage—at the epicentre of which is the “Wall.” Continue reading