Tour Jerusalem Safely: Top Tips to Keep in Mind

by Mendel Wuensch | Jul 23, 2023 | Getting Around In Jerusalem | 0 comments

Traveling to Jerusalem can be an exciting and rewarding experience for tourists. As one of the most historically and religiously significant cities in the world, Jerusalem is a must-visit destination for many travelers. However, it is important to remember that safety should always be a top priority when touring the city.

In 2023, Jerusalem remains a relatively safe destination for tourists from the USA and around the world. However, as with any major city, there are certain precautions that visitors should take to ensure their safety. This article will provide some friendly safety tips for touring Jerusalem, including advice on how to avoid pickpocketing, how to dress appropriately for religious sites, and how to stay aware of potential scams or other dangers.

Understanding Jerusalem

History of Jerusalem

Jerusalem is one of the oldest cities in the world and has a rich history that dates back over 3,000 years. The city has been conquered, destroyed, and rebuilt many times by various empires and civilizations. It is considered a holy city by Jews, Christians, and Muslims and has been the center of many religious conflicts throughout history.

Cultures in Jerusalem

Jerusalem is a city of diverse cultures and traditions. The city is home to Jews, Muslims, and Christians who have lived together for centuries. Each community has its own customs and practices, which contribute to the unique atmosphere of the city. Visitors can explore the different neighborhoods and experience the different cultures that make up Jerusalem.

East and West Jerusalem

Jerusalem is divided into East and West Jerusalem, with the Old City located in the eastern part of the city. East Jerusalem is home to many Palestinian Arabs, while West Jerusalem is predominantly Jewish. The division of Jerusalem has been a contentious issue for many years, and visitors should be aware of the political sensitivities surrounding this issue.

Despite the complex history and cultural diversity of Jerusalem, visitors can enjoy a safe and rewarding experience by following some basic safety tips. By being aware of their surroundings, respecting local customs and traditions, and avoiding political demonstrations or sensitive areas, visitors can have a memorable and enjoyable trip to this fascinating city.

Preparing for Your Visit

Visa and Itinerary

Before traveling to Jerusalem, visitors should ensure they have the necessary documents for their trip. Visitors from the USA can enter Israel without a visa for up to 90 days, but it’s essential to check the visa requirements for your country of origin.

It’s also important to plan your itinerary before your trip to Jerusalem. The city is full of historical and religious sites, and it’s easy to get overwhelmed. Research the attractions and make a list of the places you want to visit. Consider hiring a tour guide to help you navigate the city and learn more about its history.

Best Time to Visit

The best time to visit Jerusalem is during the spring (March to May) and fall (September to November) when the weather is mild, and the crowds are smaller. Summers can be hot and humid, while winters can be cold and rainy.

It’s also important to consider the Jewish holidays when planning your trip. Passover and Rosh Hashanah are the busiest times of the year, and many attractions may be closed during these times.

When visiting Jerusalem, it’s important to dress modestly, especially when visiting religious sites. Visitors should also bring their passport for security checks and arrive early to avoid long lines.

By preparing for their visit to Jerusalem, visitors can ensure a safe and enjoyable trip to this historic and religious city.

Safety Tips

When touring Jerusalem, it is important to take certain safety precautions to ensure a smooth and enjoyable trip. This section will cover some important safety tips to keep in mind during your travels.

Avoiding Scams

Tourists are often targeted by scammers in Jerusalem, and it is important to be aware of common scams to avoid falling victim to them. Some common scams include people offering to sell fake jewelry or other items, or asking for money for a charity that does not exist. It is important to be wary of anyone who approaches you on the street and tries to sell you something or ask for money. Always be cautious and use common sense when dealing with strangers.

Dealing with Crime

While Jerusalem is generally a safe city, crime can still occur, especially in crowded areas such as the Old City. Tourists should be aware of their surroundings and keep an eye on their belongings at all times. Pickpocketing and mugging can occur in crowded areas, so it is important to keep valuables such as wallets and phones secure. Tourists should also be cautious when using ATMs, and avoid carrying large amounts of cash.

Terrorism and Unrest

The security situation in Israel can change rapidly, and tourists should stay up-to-date on travel advisories and security alerts. While terrorist attacks have occurred in the past, the Israeli government has taken extensive measures to ensure the safety of tourists. Tourists should avoid large gatherings or demonstrations, and be cautious when traveling near the borders of the West Bank or Gaza Strip.

Overall, tourists should take common sense precautions to ensure their personal safety in Israel. By being aware of their surroundings, keeping valuables secure, and staying up-to-date on travel advisories, tourists can have a safe and enjoyable trip to Jerusalem.

Getting Around Jerusalem

Tourists visiting Jerusalem have several options for getting around the city. The two most popular ways are by public transport and hiring a taxi.

Public Transport

Jerusalem has an extensive public transportation system, including buses and trains. The Egged bus company operates most of the city’s bus routes. The buses are modern and air-conditioned, making them a comfortable way to get around.

Tourists can purchase a Rav Kav card, which is a rechargeable smart card that allows them to pay for their bus and train fares. The card can be purchased at the central bus station or at any of the city’s train stations.

It is important to note that public transportation in Jerusalem can get crowded during rush hour. Tourists should plan their trips accordingly and avoid traveling during peak hours.

Hiring a Taxi

Taxis are readily available in Jerusalem, and they are a convenient way to get around the city. Tourists can hail a taxi on the street or use one of the city’s taxi stands.

It is recommended that tourists negotiate the fare with the driver before getting into the taxi. Taxi fares in Jerusalem are regulated, but it is still a good idea to confirm the fare before starting the journey.

Tourists should also be aware that traffic in Jerusalem can be heavy at times, especially during rush hour. It is important to factor this into travel plans when using a taxi.

In summary, tourists visiting Jerusalem have several options for getting around the city. Public transportation is a convenient and affordable way to travel, while taxis offer a more personalized experience. Regardless of which option tourists choose, they should plan their trips carefully to avoid rush hour traffic and ensure a safe and enjoyable journey.

Exploring the Old City

When visiting Jerusalem’s Old City, it is important to take certain precautions to ensure a safe and enjoyable experience. The Old City is a vibrant and culturally rich area, but it can also be crowded and overwhelming for first-time visitors. Here are some tips to help you navigate the Old City with ease.

Visiting Religious Sites

The Old City is home to many religious sites, including the Western Wall, Dome of the Rock, Temple Mount, and Church of the Holy Sepulchre. Visitors should be respectful of these sites and dress modestly. It is also important to note that some sites may have specific dress codes or restrictions on entry for non-believers.

When visiting religious sites, it is best to go early in the morning or late in the afternoon to avoid crowds. Visitors should also be aware of their surroundings and avoid leaving their belongings unattended.

Navigating Narrow Streets

The Old City is a maze of narrow streets and alleys, which can be confusing for first-time visitors. It is important to stay aware of your surroundings and carry a map or use a GPS device to help navigate.

Visitors should also be aware of pickpockets and scams in the area. It is best to keep valuables hidden and avoid carrying large amounts of cash.

When walking through the Old City, visitors should also be aware of the different quarters, including the Muslim Quarter, Armenian Quarter, and Jewish Quarter. Each area has its own unique character and attractions, but visitors should be respectful of local customs and avoid causing offense.

Overall, exploring the Old City can be a rewarding and enriching experience. By taking the necessary precautions and being respectful of local customs, visitors can enjoy all that this vibrant area has to offer.

Food and Nightlife

Local Cuisine

Jerusalem is a city that is famous for its local cuisine. It’s a melting pot of cultures, and this is reflected in the food. Visitors can find a range of traditional dishes, from hummus to falafel, shakshuka to knafeh. One of the best places to try local cuisine is at the Mahane Yehuda market, also known as the Yehuda market. This bustling market is a great place to sample local delicacies and to immerse oneself in the local culture.

One of the most popular dishes in Jerusalem is hummus. Visitors can find hummus everywhere, from street vendors to high-end restaurants. Abu Shukri is a popular hummus joint that is well-known for its tangy tahini-laden hummus accompanied by crispy falafel. For those who want to try something different, Yudale is a great place to sample modern Israeli cuisine.

Bars and Nightlife

Jerusalem has a vibrant nightlife scene, with plenty of bars, cafes, and clubs to choose from. The nightlife scene starts late, around 10-11 PM, so visitors should be prepared to stay out late. The city’s secular population, combined with a large student population, makes for a lively and diverse nightlife scene.

One of the best places to experience Jerusalem’s nightlife is at the bars in the Mahane Yehuda market. Beer Bazaar is a popular bar that serves a wide range of local and international beers. For those who prefer cocktails, there’s the trendy Gatsby Cocktail Room. Visitors looking for a more laid-back atmosphere should check out the beloved Abu Musa’s Cafe.

Overall, visitors to Jerusalem should be prepared to experience a unique and exciting nightlife scene, with plenty of opportunities to sample local food and drink.

Visiting Other Locations

Day Trips from Jerusalem

Jerusalem is a great base for day trips to other locations in Israel. Some popular destinations include Tel Aviv, the Dead Sea, the Negev, Bethlehem, and the Mount of Olives.

Tel Aviv is a vibrant city known for its beaches, nightlife, and cultural attractions. It is located about an hour away from Jerusalem by car or bus. Visitors can explore the city’s museums, art galleries, and markets, or relax on the beach.

The Dead Sea is a unique natural wonder located about an hour and a half away from Jerusalem. It is the lowest point on earth and famous for its salty water and mineral-rich mud. Visitors can float in the water, cover themselves in mud, and enjoy the therapeutic benefits of the minerals.

The Negev is a desert region located in southern Israel, about two hours away from Jerusalem. It is home to stunning landscapes, ancient ruins, and Bedouin culture. Visitors can hike in the desert, explore the ruins of Masada, and learn about Bedouin life.

Bethlehem is a historic city located about 20 minutes away from Jerusalem by car or bus. It is known as the birthplace of Jesus and home to the Church of the Nativity. Visitors can explore the city’s religious sites, markets, and art galleries.

The Mount of Olives is a hill located just outside Jerusalem’s Old City. It is an important religious site for Christians, Jews, and Muslims. Visitors can enjoy panoramic views of the city, visit ancient tombs and churches, and learn about the hill’s significance.

Safety in Other Locations

While Israel is generally a safe country, visitors should exercise caution when traveling to certain areas. The Golan Heights, a region located in northern Israel, is near the Syrian border and has occasional military activity. Visitors should avoid the area unless they are on an organized tour.

Lebanon is a neighboring country that has a history of conflict with Israel. Visitors should avoid travel to Lebanon due to safety concerns.

In other locations, visitors should be aware of their surroundings, avoid large crowds, and follow local security guidelines. It is also important to respect local customs and dress modestly in religious sites.

Respecting Local Customs

When traveling to Jerusalem, it’s important to be aware of the local customs and traditions to ensure a respectful and enjoyable trip. Here are some tips to keep in mind:

Dress Modestly

Jerusalem is a religious city, and many of the locals dress conservatively. As a sign of respect, it’s recommended to dress modestly, especially when visiting religious sites. This means covering your shoulders and knees, and avoiding revealing clothing.

Respect the Culture

Jerusalem is a city with a rich history and culture, and it’s important to respect it. This includes being mindful of local customs and traditions, such as not eating or drinking in public during Ramadan, and avoiding public displays of affection.

Be Mindful of Religious Sites

Jerusalem is home to many important religious sites, and it’s important to be respectful when visiting them. This means dressing appropriately, not taking photos during prayer times, and following any rules or guidelines set by the site.

Other Customs to Keep in Mind

Here are some other customs to keep in mind when traveling to Jerusalem:

  • When invited to someone’s home, it’s customary to bring a small gift, such as flowers or sweets.
  • It’s considered polite to greet people with “Shalom” (hello) or “Salaam” (peace), depending on the language spoken.
  • When paying for items or services, it’s customary to round up to the nearest shekel.
  • It’s considered impolite to point with your finger, so use an open hand instead.

By respecting the local customs and traditions, visitors can have a more meaningful and enjoyable experience in Jerusalem.

Money Matters

Currency and Exchange Rates

Travelers to Jerusalem should be aware that the official currency of Israel is the New Israeli Shekel (NIS) and that credit cards are widely accepted. It is advisable to carry some cash for small purchases and for places where credit cards are not accepted. ATMs are readily available in most areas, and travelers can withdraw cash in NIS or their home currency, depending on their bank’s policies.

Exchange rates fluctuate, so it is recommended to check the current exchange rate before traveling to Jerusalem. It is also essential to note that exchange rates at airports and tourist areas are typically less favorable than those at banks or exchange offices.

Dealing with Pickpocketing

While Jerusalem is generally a safe city for tourists, pickpocketing can occur in crowded areas and public transportation. Travelers should be cautious of their surroundings and take necessary precautions to avoid theft.

It is recommended to keep wallets and purses close to the body and avoid carrying large amounts of cash. Valuables such as passports, credit cards, and cash should be kept in a secure location, such as a hotel safe.

If a traveler becomes a victim of pickpocketing, they should immediately report the incident to the police and contact their embassy or consulate for assistance. It is also advisable to cancel any stolen credit cards and change any compromised passwords.

By being aware of currency exchange rates and taking precautions against pickpocketing, travelers can enjoy a safe and stress-free trip to Jerusalem.

Staying Informed

When traveling to Jerusalem, it is important to stay informed about the current safety situation. This is especially important for tourists who may not be familiar with the area. Here are a few tips to help you stay informed:

  • Check travel advisories: Before traveling to Jerusalem, it is important to check travel advisories issued by your home country. These advisories will provide information about any safety concerns in the area and may include recommendations for travelers.
  • Follow local news: It is also important to follow local news sources to stay informed about any safety concerns in the area. This can include checking local newspapers, websites, or social media accounts.
  • Talk to residents or expats: If you are staying in Jerusalem for an extended period of time, it may be helpful to talk to local residents or expats. They can provide valuable insight into the safety situation and may be able to offer advice on how to stay safe.
  • Be aware of Western countries’ policies: It is also important to be aware of the policies of Western countries. For example, some countries may have restrictions on travel to certain areas or may advise their citizens to avoid certain activities.

By staying informed, tourists can help ensure their safety while touring Jerusalem.