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Tips on travelling to Israel from Noam Matas

Noam is CEO of tour operator America Israel Travel and has years of experience in the travel industry. He is a born and bred Israeli and very proud of his country.

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What is your favourite thing about Israel?

Israel is one of the top bucket list destinations for travellers from all over the world. It is a travel destination that combines old and new like no other. My favourite thing about Israel is that one can enjoy both worlds, visiting 3,000-year-old archaeological sites while also enjoying the best of modern life and leisure travel. Even though Israel sits on top of thousands of years of history, at the same time it is a diverse, vibrant, trendy, and modern country with a fun nightlife that would be a top tourist destination even without its historical and biblical origin.

Where would you send a first-time visitor in Israel?

Most of the must see sites are centred in and around Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, the Mediterranean coast, the sea of Galilee and the Dead Sea.

In my opinion, first-time visitors should travel on a fully guided tour. Even though Israel is very small in size (the size of New Jersey), it can be challenging for first-time visitors to find and experience the sites on their own.

What are your favourite tourist attractions and activities in Israel?

The top attraction in Israel is, of course, the Old City of Jerusalem. As a sacred hub for three of the world's major religions this is the crown jewel of Israel. A visit to Jerusalem has a huge impact on travellers.

The Sea of Galilee is also on the must see list and of course Tel Aviv is a wonderful destination for those who want to complement their visit with more modern, leisurely activities.

Is there good infrastructure for tourists in Israel?

Israel is a modern country with great infrastructure for tourists. Furthermore, Israel invests substantial efforts and resources to enable comfortable conditions for travellers with disabilities.

What is the best means of transport when exploring Israel?

For first-time travellers a tourist bus is the best option. For repeat visitors or independent travellers a rental car can be used to travel around the country.

How safe is Israel for tourists?

Contrary to what is presented in the media and the general conception, travelling to Israel is very safe. In fact, more than three million visitors are enjoying Israel each and every year. This figure includes about 750,000 tourists from the United States annually. Over the past 15 years Israel has implemented many solutions that keep all tourists in the country perfectly safe and secure even during the occasional conflict around its borders.

Are there any parts of Israel you would tell travellers to avoid?

The areas that should be avoided are those areas with high potential for conflict and political unrest. Areas such as Gaza and the West Bank should be avoided, but at the same time, those regions hold little interest for the average tourist.

What are your favourite local meals?

While there is a tremendous variety of cuisine eaten in Israel, certain dishes are considered typical Israeli food. My favourites are all street food and have all become quite familiar internationally: falafel, a mix of chickpeas or fava; hummus, a kind of dip or spread made from crushed chickpeas and mixed with tehina sauce, lemon, olive oil, salt and garlic; and shwarma, slices of turkey, chicken or lamb, shaved off a huge rotating slab.

What are the best souvenirs to buy in Israel?

Religious items, Roman artefacts, Armenian pottery, art, Israeli jewellery and accessories, Dead Sea skin-care products and wine are all top options.

How long would you recommend people spend in Israel on holiday?

My recommendation is to spent between seven and 10 days in order to allow enough time to experience the country and its must see sites.

How expensive is Israel as a travel destination?

A typical fully guided 10 day land and air package will cost around USD 3000 per person staying in a double room. Tour packages include airfare from the US, accommodation in four star hotels, breakfasts daily, sightseeing, transfers and so on.

Independent travellers will find both budget and luxury options for accommodation in Israel and the high quality street food makes it possible to eat cheaply if necessary.

When is the best time of year to visit Israel?

Spring (March to May) and autumn (October to November) are the very best months to visit Israel. During those months the weather is great and there is very little chance of rain.

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