The people of Israel use the new shekel as their chosen currency. They have done so for several years now after getting rid of the old shekel back in the Eighties. The plural for shekel is shkalim. It is a decimal currency and can be divided into 100 agora. The plural for agora is agorot.
There are several coins available for use in Israel today. There is only one that is valued in agorot, and this is the 10 agorot coin. Aside from this you can use the ½, 1, 2, 5 and 10 new shkalim coins.
You also have four banknotes valued in shkalim, which are the 20, 50, 100 and 200 new shkalim notes.
Alongside some other currencies in the world, the Israeli new shekel is actually quite a new currency. It replaced the old shekel in 1985, even though the ‘old’ shekel as it was then had only been used for five years. Before this point in time the country had got by with the Israeli lira or the Israeli pound.
The new shekel is not one of the most frequently used currencies available today. As such you may find you have to order whatever you need prior to going on holiday there. Make sure you request the exact amount you want from your chosen bureau de change in plenty of time so you can collect it a few days before you go away. As usual, shop around prior to doing this so you get a good deal.
Once you are in the country you can use a variety of cash machines available across the country. Not all of them will take foreign cards though, so you may have to search for ones that do. They are more common in popular tourist areas such as Jerusalem so you should bear this in mind. Banks are generally closed between noon on Friday and Sunday morning.
The best way is as always to use a proper currency converter. There are many of these available online so you can go to your favourite currency website to get the conversion you need. Make sure they offer a regularly updated amount so you can be sure of getting the right figures.
Remember that the conversion you get will be the most basic one, swapping your currency for the new shekel. If you are going to visit a bureau de change to get new shekels to take to Israel you will need to ensure you look for one that offers a good rate of exchange.
You should find you can use a credit card to make payment in some situations as well, although you may want to check on the charges for doing so. Credit card charges are notoriously high so it might be worth finding out how much the charges will be before you leave home. Indeed, you should also alert your card provider to your trip abroad so they know the card isn’t being used by someone under fraudulent means.
It is wise to obtain as much information as possible regarding a potential trip to Israel before you go. One website that could help you with this is the official website for the Israeli Embassy in London, which is part of the Israel Diplomatic Network. This can be found at http://embassies.gov.il/london/Pages/default.aspx.
If you are considering going to Israel it is imperative that you know exactly which areas are relatively safe and which ones to avoid. Travelling to Gaza is not recommended at all in any manner, for example. In relation to a country such as this, where things can change quickly in terms of which areas are safe to travel in and through and which ones are not, it is best to seek up to date advice. When you are planning to travel there make sure you stay updated on the run-up to your trip and indeed the whole time you are there. This applies to areas that are popular tourist attractions as well, such as Jerusalem for example.
In terms of protecting your belongings make sure you do not carry anything in plain sight when it comes to your valuables and money. Separating cash into different pockets can help prevent you losing everything if you are targeted.
Israel is a pretty small country but it shares its borders with several other countries. Included among them are Egypt, Lebanon, Jordan and Syria.
The country has a strong religious history and indeed this is one of the reasons certain areas, such as Jerusalem for example, attract a lot of tourists. The City of David, which is located in Jerusalem, is a must-see destination for many. It is a settlement that dates from as far back as the Bronze Age. There are walls, buildings and tunnels here that have to be seen to be believed. Among the sights are the Tomb of Pharaoh’s daughter, which you may see referred to as the Monolith of Silwan.
The Old City of Jerusalem is quite rightly on the UNESCO World Heritage List, although it was listed as an endangered site in 1982 – just a year after it made it onto the list in the first place. This is due to bombings and also the influx of tourism, not to mention a lack of care in protecting and preserving the site as it is today. Another sight worth seeing is the Western Wall, more commonly referred to as the Wailing Wall.
You may also want to go to the Sea of Galilee, which is quite well prepared for tourism. Indeed it is a popular tourist destination and many pilgrims come here. Tiberias is one of the more popular cities in this region, and it has its own beach too.
While Jerusalem and other religious sites are popular among many visitors, there are other sights worth seeing as well. For example there are the Nahal Me’arot prehistoric caves, which are located in the nature reserve of the same name. There are three caves here and they date back thousands of years to prehistoric times. If you never paid much attention during history class this might make you sit up and take more notice!
Israel also has its fair share of Crusader fortresses, which include the Belvoir Fortress and Montfort Castle. The Belvoir Fortress is only a few miles away from the Sea of Galilee and dates back hundreds of years. It is a large site and was once surrounded by a moat. Montfort Castle meanwhile is in ruins today, but it still makes for a majestic sight in the Nahal Kziv nature reserve. The ruins date back to the Middle Ages and there are enough of them left to get a reasonable idea of what the castle must have been like back then.
When you are staying in Israel you will have the opportunity to spend some of your new shkalim on some Israeli food and drink. Some of the cuisine you taste here is derived from the preferences of various religions. In other cases you may spot a Mediterranean influence as well as more traditional Middle Eastern dishes popping up for you to try.
You will find lots of street foods available when you are visiting tourist places. Pitta breads are popular as they can hold fillings quite easily and be eaten while they are on the move.
A tasty breakfast you may wish to try is known as shakshouka. This consists of fried eggs cooked in a tomato sauce that has a bit of a kick to it. Sometimes you see sausages or other ingredients added to the sauce but often it is served just with the eggs. But if you want to try a classic dish from Israel, try the Jerusalem mixed grill. It is unlike any other mixed grill you may have tried because it consists of lamb, chicken giblets and a selection of spices and garlic. It is quite tasty and is a popular street food so watch out for it on your travels.
You can certainly spend the odd shekel or two tasting all kinds of street foods on your travels throughout Israel, so make sure you don’t miss out on some of the best dishes on offer.
While Israel isn’t the safest country in the world to visit, most tourists do manage to enjoy a nice holiday in the country with no problems at all. Providing you are sensible and avoid all areas that you are recommended to avoid, you shouldn’t have any issues while visiting some of the best sights in the country. You don’t have to have any religious beliefs to explore some of the finest parts of this engaging country.