Solo Travel in Israel
Israel is safe for females travelling alone. More women are now travelling to the country solo, making up half of the travellers that visit. Contrary to what you read in the press, this cosmopolitan country is actually very safe (when not in conflict with Palestine).
Israel is more western than some of the other Arab states and because of the obligatory army service, the country is full of strong, independent women and not how you may perceive women in the Middle East to be.
Most areas can be freely explored but the more religious areas such as Bethlehem can be a little daunting. People are generally friendly and you can backpack, camp or travel around with no problems (we’ve even known people to hitchhike here, although we don’t recommend it).
Is it safe to travel to Israel? Because of the conflict between Palestine, the situation here can change so always check the Foreign Office website before you go.
Where else can you find the holiest place on Earth than in Israel? Jerusalem is a mecca for pilgrims who come to visit the many religious attractions and monuments that this 3000 year old city has to offer. This Biblical land is fascinating whatever your religious or non-religious beliefs, Jerusalem has a mix of Armenians, Christians, Muslims and Jews who all live peacefully within the city.
The Church of the Holy Sepulchre is where Jesus is believed to have risen from the dead and the Tomb of the Virgin is said to be that of the Virgin Mary. But if you only visit one, make it the Western Wall (known as the Wailing Wall), the centre of Jewish worship but don’t visit on a saturday as you are prohibited to take pictures. The Mount of Olives is worth a look too.
You can easily find your way around the old city with the Dome of the Rock as its beacon. Its maze of lanes and high walls feel like a labyrinth and if you rise before the crowds, you’ll witness the diversity of locals here amongst the religious quarters. It’s also full of gorgeous little shops with handmade jewellery and Bedouin bags but if you’re looking to do some serious shopping try outside the old city as souvenirs inside Old Jerusalem can be overpriced.
The contrast between the old city and the new is astounding. One is a religious place of pilgrimage and the other; a great place for shopping, drinking and partying! If you’re more into the latter, Ben Yehuda is the place to people watch and sit in the many bars al-fresco style where you can sample the local shisha. This area is great for a bar crawl and has some hidden gems in its side streets. You can also get trams from here to the bus station for your onward journey.
Bethlehem is definitely worth a visit but be prepared that it actually falls under Palestine and it is better to go there on a tour. Here you can see the Shepherd’s Field and the holy manger in the Nativity Church which is the oldest church still used in the world and sits above the cave where Lord Jesus was born.
Many believe that if you touch the stone in the cave you will be blessed. There are options to stay overnight in a Palestinian refugee camp if you wanted to spend more time in this ‘little town’ but don’t expect to see many little donkeys.
If you keep heading north you’ll reach the Sea of Galilee where you can walk all the way from here to the Mediterranean but we don’t recommend doing it alone as it’s easy to get lost. Skip Genosar and head north for some cycling on the many bike paths around the Sea of Galilee, where not many tourists seem to come.
If you prefer to trek then why not try the Jesus Trail, a 60km trail where you get the chance to meet local communities en route. If you’ve got 40 days to spare try the Israel National Trail, a 1000km footpath that starts from the Lebanese border all the way to the Red Sea.
Tel Aviv is one of our favourite places and you cannot visit Israel without coming here (especially as it is the main hub for flights). Fancy lounging on the beach in the morning, shopping in the afternoon then checking out the nightlife in the evening? These are just some of the things to do in Tel Aviv as well as trying the Israeli cuisine and looking around museums. There are arranged bar crawls in the evenings which are just perfect for women travelling alone to Israel.
The pinnacle of shopping has got to be jewellery and Israel is one of the world's leading producers of diamonds – supposedly a girls’ best friend. The Diamond Bourse Visitors Centre near Tel Aviv shows the transformation of a rough diamond into a sparkling new one.
Miraflores is the place for swanky bars and restaurants but virtually anywhere you go in Israel you’ll find the country’s favourite fast-food snack; hummus and you can even get hummus flavoured ice-cream!
If you fancy some historical architecture you’ll love the old town of Jaffa, one of the oldest ports in the world and from here you can stroll back to Tel Aviv along the promenade. There’s a great hummus restaurant next to the flea market which is worth a window shop and as you venture back into Tel Aviv take a stop at the marina for a slap up meal whilst watching the sunset.
There is no better place to watch the sunrise in Israel than at the edge of the Judean Desert in Masada. The stunning view of the Dead Sea, the Moab Mountains and the Masada Gorge makes the very early morning start well worth it. The Dead Sea, the lowest point in the world is amazing and you cannot leave here without floating it its saline waters to cleanse your skin. There really is nowhere else like it. You can either hire a car or book a full or half day tour from Jerusalem to experience it.
If you have time, travel south to Eilat where Israelis go for their holidays. With the Sinai mountains as a backdrop, the Red Sea is the place to snorkel and dive, but you have to pay an entrance fee for access into the sea. There are three beaches to choose from and you can hire snorkel equipment from 15 ILS. Restaurants line the promenade which comes alive at night and although it resembles the Costa del Sol, it is a fun place to relax.
Other places to visit in Israel are: Nazareth for organic goat farms, Haifa in the north, Golan Heights – a contested area of rings of ruins (be careful as it’s very close to Syria) and the Garden of Gethsemene where graves line the hills of Jerusalem.
Israel is more modern than you think and is an interesting country to visit. Where else can you can find religion, culture, a sea where you can float and 300 days of sunshine a year.
Shabbat is the Jewish holiday in Israel and begins every Friday from sundown until Saturday at sunset. Be careful when booking tours or transport during this time as nearly all businesses close or have a reduced timetable.
Although the Occupied Territories are striving for independence from Israel, they remain under the Israeli control and have been occupied by Israel since 1967. It is difficult to enter various parts of Palestine and the West Bank without being part of an organised tour. Israeli soldiers have checkpoints outside each territory and check every vehicle entering.
Israeli border officials may have forbidden you to enter Palestinian territories by making you sign when entering the country. Learn more about the Palestinian people. Palestine is a land that has to be discovered to be fully understood and a sign on the wall that divides Palestine from Israel aptly says; ‘Make hummus not wars.'
Avoid talking about politics and the conflict between Israel and Palestine.
How long do I need?
You need at least a week to sample this fascinating country. Fly into Tel Aviv, across to Jerusalem and south to Eilat.
Accommodation in Israel
Boutique hotels, sleeping in monasteries or even camping, Israel has a variety of accommodation options to choose from, including guest rooms in rural villages or a kibbutz. There’s a good Couchsurfing network for a chance to stay with the locals plus opportunities for working on farms. Plus there’s Airbnb which connects you to staying with locals. Save $20 off your first stay with this Airbnb link.
If you are travelling Israel on a budget, you’ll find hostels in Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, Eilat and Haifa. If you choose to stay nearer the Dead Sea, accommodation is more expensive with spa hotels to treat yourself in.
GatG Favourite – Ben Yehuda Apartments, Tel Aviv
These spacious apartments are situated in the heart of the Israeli capital on one of the city’s most vibrant streets. Popular with solo females, reception is open 24 hours. Prices from £82 p/n. Find out more…
GatG Favourite – The Market Courtyard: Boutique Apartments, Jerusalem
In the heart of Jerusalem, these boutique apartments are great for those wanting to be self-sufficient. Choose from a terrace or a balcony in your air-conditioned room. Prices from £75 p/n. Find out more…
GatG Favourite – Soleil Boutique Hotel, Eilat
We love this boutique hotel just steps away from a sandy beach. Not only are the staff friendly but there is a bar to meet others (and you get free toiletries in your room too). Prices from £79 p/n. Find out more…
If you are looking for some company for some or all of your trip, G Adventures and Intrepid Travel are responsible travel companies and good for women travelling alone. They offer group tours from 8 days to 23 days incorporating Jordan or Egypt as part of a multi-centre trip and make travelling to Israel less daunting. I have personally used G Adventures and recommend them as a solo female friendly company.
- Volunteering For Peace – This local organisation offers an alternative tourism with geo-political tours to the city of Hebron, visits to Bedouin families and the desert, as well as environmental and hiking trips.
- Sandemans Tours – Offer a free walking tour in Jerusalem (you give a donation depending on how much you enjoyed the tour), a tour to the Holy City, Mount of Olives tour and a Shabbat Experience.
- Jerusalem Midnight Biking – If you are looking for something to do in the evening, consider taking a guided bike tour in old and new Jerusalem.
- TLV Nights – Another great evening tour where you are guaranteed to meet others on this sociable bar and club crawl.
Travelling Around Israel
Buses are pretty reasonable and travel between the main cities and towns. Buy tickets from the central bus station in each town. The towns also have a great inner city bus network although trains also run some of the routes and can be quicker than the heavy rush hours. Minibuses also run between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem or take the 480 bus. If you’re travelling from Jerusalem to Eilat board the 444 bus which stops halfway for snacks. Travelling to places other than the cities such as Masada can be difficult on public transport. If you choose to hire a car, you must be over 24 years old with an international driver’s licence and credit card – reserve one before you go to guarantee it. There’s an extensive road network and signs are in English as well as Hebrew and Arabic.
Uber – When getting around the cities you may feel more comfortable with Uber instead of taking a taxi. Uber is a driver app where each driver is vetted beforehand, and you can see the driver’s picture and registration number before they arrive. Save up to $20 off your first ride with Uber using promo code RIDINGUBER20
To hire a car we recommend pre-booking car hire with Avis so you can collect your car when you arrive at the airport.
From the Airport
Ben Guiron airport is 12 miles from Tel Aviv and 30 miles from Jerusalem. An express train runs to Tel Aviv opposite the terminal’s entrance – buy your train ticket from machines on the ground level. Buses run to Jerusalem from the Egged terminal and can be purchased on the bus. Taxis can be found on the ground level but Sheruts are much cheaper and go anywhere in the country (you have to share these with other passengers).
Feel more confident with someone waiting for you at the airport when you pre-book a transfer with Hoppa, a reliable and safe service for solo females.
Travelling onwards (check visas before you travel)
Flying into Amman then travelling onto Israel can actually be cheaper than flying directly into Israel. Departing Israel is a lot easier than entering and crossing into the Occupied Territories is challenging. A stamp from Israel in your passport can prevent entry to other countries so ask for it to be stamped on a separate blank page instead. Border crossings may close due to religious days.
Israel to Jordan:
Via Aqaba: A taxi from Eilat is less than a 15 minute drive. You have to pay a departure tax (which can be paid by credit card) then you walk through to the arrivals and a taxi rank from here will take you to various places in Jordan.
Via Allenby: The 963 bus runs from Jerusalem or get a taxi from the Damascus Gate for 40 minutes to the airport-terminal style border where you pay your departure tax. From here the JETT bus will take you from Allenby to the King Hussein border then once you’re checked in, a minibus will take you to Amman’s Abdali bus station.
Israel to Egypt: Cross into Taba from Eilat. take the Egged Route 15 from Eilat bus station to the terminal where there are taxis at the crossing. (Visas for Egypt are not issued here).
- Can I drink the water? Yes.
- Is tipping expected? Yes in restaurants, not really for taxis.
- Fixed price or barter? Barter in the markets.
- Any ATM’s? Yes.
- Which side of the road do they drive? Right.
- Good for vegetarians? Yes and also Kosher food.
- Any seven wonders of the world? No, but the Dead Sea should be.
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Capital – Jerusalem
Population – 7.6 million
Language spoken – Hebrew, Arabic, English
Did you know? Israel has an ethnic group called Samaritans.
Israel is an eco-friendly destination.
Mind Body & Soul
Staying in a Kibbutz
A Kibbutz is a rural community of people where everyone has their own role. They were originally formed in the 1920s by Russian immigrants and based on the principles of social equality. All chores are shared and they are a great way to experience Israeli life for a fraction of the cost. Most kibbutz are now privatised and only the financially successful stay remain. You generally have to arrange your placement before you go and commit to 2 months.