desert-group

How to Prepare

PASSPORTS & VISAS

Knowing the passport and visa rules is VERY important – as with any country, Israel has specific laws that you’ll need to follow!

Submitting Your Passport Copy
Every confirmed participant must submit a photocopy of the inside cover of their passport prior to the start of the program. The copy can be uploaded into your Secondary Application. It can also also be sent to us by email, fax, or postal mail. We definitely encourage you to submit your passport copy as soon as you are confirmed on the program.

Visa Requirements for Entering Israel
If you plan to travel to Israel on a USA, Canadian, or European Union passport, you do NOT need a visa to enter Israel.
If you are traveling on a passport from another country (e.g. Russia, Ukraine, etc.) you may need to obtain a visa to enter Israel (see Visa Requirements).

If you are traveling on a “USA Travel Document” in place of a passport, you will need a visa and you should contact your local Israel Consulate immediately. For more information, please contact the Israel Consular offices.

Israel Visa Requirements
If you plan to travel to Israel and are a citizen of another country besides the USA, Canada, or European Union passport, you may require a visa. Please contact your consulate to determine the exact requirements or our office for general inquiries. For more information click here, and contact your Consulate/Embassy for further information.

Passport Expiration Rules
All visitors to Israel must arrive with a passport that does not expire within six months from the date that you depart Israel. If your passport expires less than six months after your last day in Israel, you will need to renew your passport immediately or you may not be allowed entry into Israel. Please do not test this rule! If for any reason you do not get on the flight because your passport not being valid, you will lose your deposit.

Requirements for an Israeli Citizen or a Child of an Israeli
If either of your parents are citizens of Israel, or if you lived in Israel at some point in the past, it is your responsibility to make sure that your status with the Israeli Defense Forces is worked out and clear. If you hold an Israeli passport, you must enter Israel with your Israeli passport.

If either of your parents are Israeli citizens, you may still have obligations to the State of Israel that must be worked out prior to your trip even if you do not have an Israeli passport. It is critical that you take care of these matters before you arrive in Israel.

If you do not take care of these matters prior to your trip, you may be obligated to stay in Israel by the State of Israel until resolution. If this applies to you, you will be solely responsible for your own situation and any costs involved. Again, we highly recommend that you be extremely cautious about these matters and contact one of the regional Israel consulate offices if you have any questions.

PACKING

Here are some packing tips offered by our staff and alumni for you:

Keep Your Feet Happy!
We cannot stress enough: bring comfortable light-weight walking shoes! On group hikes and nature walks, you’ll be required to wear closed-toed shoes. You do not need to purchase special hiking boots, but participants have found rugged outdoor shoes – like Merrells or trail running shoes with tough soles – to be very useful. We do a lot of walking on our trips – and when your feet are happy, you’re happy.
Additionally, there are water activities on most our trips, so we recommend bringing an extra pair of shoes that can get wet and stay on your feet while you are being active. Adventure sandals – such as Chacos, Keens, Tevas – that have a supportive straps are perfect for this – you’ll be glad you have them when going into the Dead Sea, rafting, and water hikes.

Modesty at the Western Wall
Israel is a casual country when it comes to dress. It is not uncommon for business executives even to wear jeans and a t-shirt to work! However, we will be visiting some religious sites such as the Western Wall where “modest” clothing is appropriate. On these days, women should wear clothing that covers their shoulders and knees. We suggest bringing a scarf or cardigan to throw over your shoulders, plus a skirt that can be easily pulled over shorts for a more “modest” look. Pants or capris are also acceptable. Men should have their shoulders covered on the days where religious sites are on the itinerary.

Shabbat Attire
On Friday night, the pace of the trip slows down as we transition to celebrate Shabbat. To create a special atmosphere, we celebrate Shabbat with a fancier dinner. We recommend bringing something a bit nicer for Shabbat. A good rule of thumb is to bring something “a step up” from what you wear on a daily basis. Low cut, strapless, and mini clothing should be avoided on Shabbat. A polo or buttoned-down shirt with khakis or nice jeans is fitting for men.

Staying Hydrated
The sun is much stronger in Israel than most places even the warmest places in the UK. Carrying a water bottle is mandatory, as your body will require much more frequent hydration than you are probably used to, around 2-4 liters of water per day. Alumni have found CamelBaks or other hydration pouches to be very helpful for both carrying water and personal belongings when on the go. Israelis often recycle their plastic store-bought bottles of water by refilling them from the tap (which is safe to drink!). If you don’t have a water bottle or CamelBak, we will be making plenty of stops for you to purchase water.

Luggage – Suitcases
You will be the one toting your luggage to the airport, and between the bus and hotels, so pack your belongings in something that you are comfortable carrying! We recommend a rolling duffel bag with wheels: big enough to contain all your clothes for ten days, but not too big that you go over the size and weight limits for your flight (generally 50 lbs/ 23 kg).

Luggage – Day Packs
We recommend bringing a small day pack or backpack to carry around your daily essentials when touring: wallet, water bottle, camera, hat, and extra layers (depending on the season). This bag can double as your carry on for your flight.

What you pack for the trip largely depends on the season of travel. Everyone packs differently for travel. Here’s a sample list to consider:

Summer Packing List
Short sleeve shirts and shorts (or pants)
1 sweatshirt and/or sweatpants (the desert gets cold at night!)
Shabbat/modest clothing
Underwear & socks
Pajamas
2 bathing suits
1 towel
1 hat for hikes
Adventure water shoes
Comfortable walking shoes
Toiletries
Sunscreen
Sunglasses
Flashlight
Alarm clock
Camera
Power adapters/converters for electronics
Winter Packing List
A combination of short & long sleeve shirts and pants
1 sweatshirt & sweatpants
1 warm coat (e.g., fleece jacket)
Raincoat
Shabbat/modest clothing
Underwear & socks
Pajamas
1 bathing suit
1 towel
1 hat for hikes
Adventure water shoes
Comfortable walking shoes
Toiletries
Sunscreen
Flashlight
Alarm clock
Camera
Power adapters/converters for electronics

Optional Items
iPod & headphones
Journal
Frisbee, hacky sack, etc.
Guitar
Hand sanitizer
Over the counter meds (Tylenol, Dayquill, band-aids, etc.)
Snacks (granola bars, trail mix, etc. – especially if you are a picky eater!)

CURRENCY

Sure, it’s a free trip, but it’s still a good idea to familiarize yourself with a few tips and tricks before you get to Israel!

How Much to Bring
While this is a free trip, yes, it is a good idea to bring some money. Two meals each day are already included as part of the program. Lunch is on your own and is typically a quick and inexpensive stop. There is a good chance that you will want to supplement that allowance with your own money as well. You may occasionally want to buy bottled water (although the tap water is perfectly fine in Israel), snacks, drinks, etc.

Additionally, it is customary in Israel to tip both the tour guide and the bus driver at the end of the program. There is a good reason for this. The professional staff on the trip work around the clock to ensure the success of the program. They put their heart into the experience, and tipping a small way to say thanks.

Our experience is that £32 for the tour guide and £18 for the driver (£50 total) is appropriate. Tipping is not mandatory, and if this is something that you cannot afford or something you do not want to participate in, do not be embarrassed to tip less or to refrain altogether. Please note that it is neither customary nor appropriate to tip the North American support staff or the Israeli guards/medics on the trip. All in all, we recommend that you bring £140-£175 on the trip.

How to Bring It
Israel uses the shekel as its currency, and each shekel is worth about 15-20 British pennies. If you are bringing Sterling Pounds to Israel, a currency exchange representative will meet the group as we board the bus in the airport. We have negotiated a special group rate with this representative that is better than what is available inside the airport…and much faster!

You should also bring an ATM and/or credit card to Israel. ATM cards with a Visa or Mastercard logo work throughout Israel. If your ATM card is not part of Visa/Mastercard, you should check with your bank to make sure it will work in Israel. Finally, notify your ATM or credit card company about your travel plans to avoid them potentially suspending your account due to irregular activity.

Please DO NOT bring Travelers Checks or Israeli Bonds as there will be no time to get them cashed during the 10-day trip.

GENERAL TIPS

Electrical Current
If you plan to bring small electrical appliances to Israel, keep in mind that Israel uses a 220 volt electrical current and the outlet types are different as well (two circular prongs). In order to avoid “frying” any electrical items, bring a voltage converter (note: this is already built into most laptop computers). You will also need a simple adapter to plug your items into the wall.
Free Time & Rest
The Israel Outdoors program is jam packed with touring…and you will find that 10 days is a very short time to be in Israel. There will certainly be some down time on the trip, and we suggest that you use that time to relax and re-energize. If you would like to visit with friends or family members while you are in Israel, your best option is to extend your ticket and meet up after the program. If you can only meet during the program, the best time for visiting with family is on Saturday afternoon which is typically a relaxed time during the trip. Just keep in mind that apart from the one free night trip, Birthright Israel rules do not allow for leaving the group under any circumstances.
Kashrut & Special Dietary Considerations
All group meals, including meals on the plane, are kosher as certified under the supervision of the Chief Rabbinate of Israel. There is usually one meal per day that you will be purchasing on your own (typically a light lunch), and you are perfectly free to eat whatever you wish. People with special dietary situations (i.e. lactose intolerance, vegetarian, etc.) should contact us in advance to make proper arrangements for the flight and during the program itself.
Medication & Contact Lenses
If you are taking medication, we recommend that you bring enough medication to last for the entire time that you expect to be in Israel. We also recommend that you pack your medication as part of your carry-on luggage in case your main luggage is delayed. If you have a notable medical condition, please inform us in advance; no one likes surprises, and just remember that this is all for your safety (note: all medical records will be kept confidential by our staff).
Personal Property
The trip is only ten days, and we are constantly on the move. We highly recommend leaving your expensive electronics at home. Your personal property is exclusively your responsibility at all times. Although theft is not common in Israel, it does happen, and if you do bring electronics, be very careful about keeping track of them. Most importantly, this program is an experience more than a tour. Unplugging your communication technology in Israel is the best possible way to connect to the actual experience.
Rules of the Program

You have chosen a great trip, but there are some rules that are common for all Birthright Israel trips which will be followed strictly. All of the rules are designed exclusively for your own safety. The rules are as follows:

  • No illegal drugs of any kind
  • No drunkeness or excessive alcohol consumption
  • No leaving the group
  • No opting out of any group activities or programming
  • No physical or verbal abuse of any kind

Shabbat
Shabbat is the Jewish day of rest, and it is a perfect time to reflect on the experiences that you have had so far and to rest and re-charge for the experiences ahead. During the trip, there will be a public observance of Shabbat. What this means is that nothing in the program will force or encourage participants to violate the rules of Shabbat (or any other Jewish holidays that fall within the trip). There is also a great deal of scheduled free time during Shabbat, and what you do with that time is totally up to you. Keep in mind that there will be participants on your trip of all Jewish backgrounds, and we only ask that each person be respectful of everyone else’s individual level of religious observance.

Vaccinations
No special vaccinations are required or necessary in Israel. However we recommend that you come to Israel with an up-to-date Tetanus shot.

Water
Israeli tap water is perfectly safe to drink. If you prefer bottled water, it is widely available and is quite inexpensive. We recommend buying a bottle of water when you arrive and refilling it with tap water for the rest of the program…or just buying bottle of tap water throughout the trip. It’s sold everywhere.

This Trip is a gift from birthright israel

Birthright Israel is an innovative partnership between the people of Israel through the Government of Israel, private philanthropists and thousands of donors and Jewish communities around the world (North American Jewish Federations through the Jewish Federations of North America; the Jewish Agency for Israel; and Keren Hayesod).

People Riding Camels in Israel