Just as in the US or anywhere else, your groups leader can choose any level of accommodations. Often we stay in full-service hotels but rarely in luxury properties. Sometimes we stay in smaller hotels or guest houses. Your group will decide what level of accommodations you desire. In all cases, you can expect a private bathroom unless specifically noted in your itinerary.
Most accommodations have hairdryers available in each room. Some smaller properties or guest houses might require you to ask for a hairdryer at the front desk. In most cases, travelers can get by without packing a hair dryer. If you do bring one, make sure it can be converted to 220 volts or you have the appropriate electrical converter and/or adapter.
Depending on where your group stays, there will be varied access to laundry facilities. Some of our accommodations have full laundry facilities, while other will require you to send out your laundry. If you like to travel light, we can provide more information based on where you choose to stay, so you can bring the least amount of clothing necessary.
We will provide contact information for each hotel where we are staying for emergency contacts.
We will also carry a cell phones with a number local to the country we are visiting. We will share that number so that the group leader can be reached in an emergency.
Finally, many US cell phones can be used in other countries by contacting your carrier. Dialing instructions and fees vary based on carrier, so please check with them directly.
You should not need to call the US during our trip, but if you do, there are a number of options.
Pay phones are available in some locations, but can be quite expensive.
Our rooms have phones and you can use them to call the US. Any charges for these calls will be due when you check out.
One of the easiest ways to stay in touch with your friends and family in the US is using a VOIP app for your cell phone. There are a number available, including Viber, Skype, and Google Hangouts.
Finally, if your mobile provider supports it, some US phones can be used in Europe and Israel. You should check with your provider for costs and dialing instructions.
WiFi is widely available in the places we travel. Hotels and guest houses have WiFi for their guests, as do most cafes, restaurants, and bars. Sometimes they are open networks and sometimes you need to ask for the password. In some cases you can access the WiFi from your room; other times you might need to use the common areas.
Because of the wide availability of WiFi, we recommend using a VOIP app for your smartphone to stay in touch. We have used Skype and Viber before and both work quite well. You can also use Facebook Messenger and Google Hangouts. For free service, these apps require the person you’re calling to have the app installed, but Skype can call regular numbers for a small fee.
Do not expect the WiFi to be very fast, as many people may be sharing the same connection, but you can count on being able to check your email without issue.
If you have a newer smartphone, there is a very good chance that it will work in all of the destinations we visit.
The best way to be sure is to contact your carrier directly. They will be able to determine if your specific phone works and if you need to modify your phone plan to ensure you get service in your destination.
You’ll also want to discuss with your carrier the cost of making and receiving calls while traveling. Fees may vary by country, so be sure to ask about all the countries we are visiting, including for airport layovers.
Money and Shopping
Most of the time, yes, especially for larger purchases. For smaller purchases, some retailers will only accept cash. Also, if you plan to negotiate on the price, you’ll often get a better price when paying cash. ATMs are widely available, so you can also use your debit card to withdraw cash at an ATM.
You should notify your bank or card issuer before you travel so they do not freeze your card.
In Israel, as with most of Europe, credit cards use smartchips to reduce fraud. Most merchants can process US cards, but you may find it easier to ask your bank for a card with a chip and PIN, or a chip and signature.
Many card issuers and banks charge international transaction fees. We recommend looking around for a card that does not have these fees and that does not charge an annual fee. These cards, generally, have the chip mentioned above. Foreign transaction fees are small, but can add up over the course of your pilgrimage.
Well, that all depends on how much you like to shop…
All of our trips to Israel/Palestine are all inclusive, so you will generally not need any spending money for meals. In Ireland and Scotland there may be a few nights when dinner is “on your own.” These occasions will be specifically listed in the itinerary online. For most meals, water is included. If you desire to have soft drinks, wine or beer, you will need to plan for that. Generally wine and beer is priced similarly to the US, so expect to spend $8-10 for a glass of wine and a bit less for a beer.
There are small shops and large stores that sell anything you may desire, from socks to Oriental rugs, so you can spend as much or as little as you’d like. Some specialties of the Holy Land include olive wood carvings, mother of pearl, and Hebron glass. In Ireland you might buy wool products, whisky, or local arts and crafts. If you are looking for a meaningful gift or memento of your journey, we will provide adequate time to shop where you can support local merchants and artisans.
In Israel/Palestine, haggling over prices is accepted, and even expected, in many situations. If you are uncomfortable doing so, then don’t worry, but you can find some very good deals if you are willing to engage the owner in a little friendly negotiation. It is especially good to negotiate if you plan to buy multiple items from the same shop or are paying with cash.
In Europe, negotiating is less common but not forbidden. Again, if you are buying multiple items in the same shop and/or paying with cash, merchants are more likely to negotiate. In Europe, you should also ask for a VAT (Value Added Tax) receipt and reclaim your tax at the airport before departing. This is worth about 15% of the purchase price.
The Israeli currency is the New Israeli Shekel, or shekel for short. The shekel is also used in the Palestinian territory.
Ireland and continental Europe use the Euro.
Northern Ireland, Scotland, and England use the British Pound Sterling.
In some major tourist areas (especially in Israel/Palestine), US dollars are accepted, but make sure you are getting a good conversion rate. To find out the current rate, do a Google search for “currency converter” and input the currency type.
In Israel, the exchange rate generally hovers around 3.7 New Israeli Shekels per US Dollar.
In Ireland and Europe, the exchange rate varies between .87 Euros per US Dollar.
In the UK, the exchange rate hovers around .75 Pounds per US Dollar.
These estimates were last updated in January 2019.
For the most current rates, we suggest using Google to find the current rate just before your departure.
Yes, and frequently they provide the best exchange rate, especially if your bank or card issuer does not charge an international transaction fee. Be sure to notify your bank that you are traveling and plan to use your ATM card.
There will be ATMs at the airport and you will likely pass hundreds as we travel. All ATMs will dispense local currency. If we’re in an area where multiple currencies are used (for example Ireland and N. Ireland), you may find ATMs that dispense both Euros and Pounds.
Yes, assuming that you take some precautions and pay attention to the world around you.
We will be traveling via private coach for most of our trip. You may use taxis within Israel and Palestine without concern, though we recommend asking what the fare is before getting in the taxi.
Public transportation in Israel is also safe, but you will likely not need it during your pilgrimage.
As our pilgrimage will take us into and out of the West Bank, we will pass through a number of checkpoints. Some of these are small and easy to transit, at others, the security is tighter. It is not uncommon for IDF soldiers to board our coach at a checkpoint. They will be armed, but they are professional and want to complete their inspection as quickly as possible.
Israel and Palestine depend heavily on tourism, so you have very little to worry about in terms of street crime.
However, in both the Holy Land and Europe, criminals know to take advantage of large crowds of people that are unfamiliar with their surroundings. To that end, you should always be aware of what is going on around you and be proactive about protecting your wallet and other property.
For women, this means wearing a purse with a chest strap, so it cannot be pulled off your arm easily. For men, this means carrying your wallet in your front pocket, or making sure it is buttoned in your back pocket.
If you have a camera or camera bag, make sure you have it secured to your body as well as possible.
In 2018, the State Department unveiled a new system for reporting threats for travelers and ex-pats. You can visit their color-coded map to see the threat level for various countries. You can also visit the Travel Advisories page and enter the country to get specific alerts and information.
Progressive Pilgrimage will submit the travel details for our groups to the State Department so that we can be reached in case of an emergency.
As a US citizen, you do not need to apply for a visa to enter Israel.
Upon arrival, you will be given a tourist visa that is valid for three months. We highly recommend you tape this visa into your passport.
Israel currently does not stamp passports, instead using the tourist visa for both the visa and the passport control stamp.
As your guides, we will submit a list of all people traveling in our group and our contact information and accommodations to the State Department and the US Embassy in Tel Aviv.
We will be at Ben Gurion at least three hours before our departure.
Security leaving Israel is much more strict than arriving. Your carry on and check luggage will go through X-ray and CT scanning as you enter the airport. You may be required to undergo additional screening before you are allowed to approach the ticket counter. The additional screening takes place at stations staffed by professional security staff. The security procedure is very extensive, but the Israeli security staff is very professional and efficient.
After entering the secure part of the airport, you will find a number of restaurants and shops to pass the time.
When boarding the plane, you should expect additional screening, including disposal of any liquids you have picked up in the airport.
Ben Gurion should remind you of any new European airport and is more modern than most US airports.
When arriving, please tell the immigration and customs officials that you are part of a Christian pilgrimage; this generally expedites the process.
You should travel with your prescription medicine on your person at all times. You should also bring a copy of your prescription.
We highly recommend bringing the following items in addition to the clothing you select:
- Swimsuit for the Dead Sea
- Water shoes for the Dead Sea
- Hat and/or sunscreen
- Electrical adapters and voltage adapters if necessary
Weather and Clothing
We highly recommend you check out current forecasts for the weather in Jerusalem, the Dead Sea, and the Galilee before departure.
Pants are appropriate for both men and women. Jeans are acceptable but not common among middle age or older people. Knees and shoulders should never be exposed and tight clothing, such as leggings, should be avoided.
Women should being a scarf to cover their heads at some holy sites.
Finally, we’ll be doing a lot of walking, so please bring one or two pairs of comfortable, broken in shoes. You may desire a pair of sandals or other casual shoes to wear around the hotel.
Comfortable and broken in. If you are buying new shoes for your pilgrimage, we recommend wearing them for at least three months before we depart.
Although we have a coach while we’re in the Holy Land, we will walk quite a bit, so bring shoes that are supportive and lightweight.
We discourage sandals or other shoes that do not provide support, as it leads to fatigue which can make parts of your pilgrimage less enjoyable.
If you plan to get into the Dead Sea, we recommend some sort of water or shower shoes. The rocks along the shore are covered with salt that is very sharp, so shoes make entry and exit much less painful.
Our best recommendation is to check out Weather.com or a similar site and see the average temperatures during the time of your pilgrimage. Winters are mild, but summers can be quite hot, the Holy Land, after all, is a desert. No matter the time of year, we recommend comfortable clothing that can be worn in layers.