Many people choose to go to the Holy land (Israel) for their first overseas trip. There is also a fear factor (“Is it safe to go to Israel?”)
Israel is generally safe if you stay out of the palestinian controlled areas. The army is stationed throughout the country and there is inspections any time you go into a store or hotel. I felt safer in Israel than I do in parts of seattle.
If you have a U.S. passport that is valid for 6 months after your visit to Israel, that is all you will need. There is no visa required in advance. Sometimes they will question why you are visiting and there is extra security especially around the Jewish holidays but on my trip in 2007, getting into Israel through Ben Gurion airport was quick and I wasn’t asked any questions. I traveled alone and had heard Israel security questions solo travelers so I was pleasantly surprised. Getting back into the united states, I had more questions from U.S. customs – and I had traveled back to the U.S. from Austria, not Israel.
Leaving the united states there is extra security / search before you board the airplane. I traveled through Newark (NJ) and the extra security for Israel was a separate security gate inside the regular security.
Once you go through the special security, you go through passport control. All this is is a check of your passport which is scanned. This is where they prevent people from leaving the country that shouldn’t.
Basically all of this is the same going into Israel – although only Israel residents went through customs in Israel (everyone goes through customs in the U.S.) This is not only Israel though – I never went through customs in Austria or Poland either.
- be safe and smart about your travels although not paranoid.
- Keep special guard over your passport
- know where all the consulates / embassies are in the countries you are visiting. If you lose your passport or need help, that’s what they are there for
- Most countries in the Mideast and Europe you can generally find people who speak English
- U.S. currency is widelyaccepted in the mideast
- Use your ATM card for cash in Israel you will receive Shekels at a better exchange rate than from a money changer
- never carry or use illegal drugs especially while traveling. In some countries, the penalty is death