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  1. #1
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    Default Suggestions for Traveling Abroad.

    My church is planning a mission trip to Israel next June and, having never left the United States before, I was wondering what tips and suggestions anyone here would be able to give me if were to go. Generally, what should I keep in mind when traveling abroad to help make everything go as smoothly as possible? Specifically, what should I keep in mind traveling to and through Israel? Firsthand experience would be awesome. Thanks for your suggestions.

  2. #2
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    I haven't been to Israel, but I have travelled a lot.

    #1: travel as light as possible. If you are staying awhile, see if you can do laundry. I'd say pack for about one week max.
    #2: leave expensive cell phones and electronics at home. (check and see if you will have some access to the Internet for emailing. I know in Europe they have a lot of Internet cafes.)
    #3: check weather for both day and night and the averages for your stay. You may find you need a light jacket for night, etc.

  3. #3
    No me digas, che! Recoleta's Avatar
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    Also haven't been to Israel, but have traveled through Europe/South & Central America.
    - Comfortable shoes and clothing that can be worn many times and can be mixed/matched with other things
    - Depending on how long you're going, you may want to check what the electricity wattage and shape of plug exists in that country. I know when I went abroad I had to buy an electrical converter to plug in things like my laptop, hair dryer, phone charger, etc.
    - Go ahead and pack some basic over-the-counter medicines (pepto, tylenol/advil (PM), cold medicine, bandaids, etc.)
    -Antibacterial wipes....you never know when soap will/will not be available...or when/if a bird will randomly decide to poop on you!

    When abroad it's important to remember that you are in another culture, and things will often not function like you are accustomed to. This may be minimized if you are traveling with a large group, but be open and flexible if plans change or if something doesn't work out. Don't be afraid to try new things like local cuisine or to ask questions.

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    Lay the coin on my tongue SilkRoad's Avatar
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    Another one who hasn't been to Israel, but I have friends who have. I would do some research on the country if you have not yet and be very aware of cultural sensitivities, as it is a country with a complex history and a very complex current political situation. This may be flamingly obvious but don't make controversial comments about the whole Israeli-Palestinian situation, regardless of whether you are with Israelis or Palestinians...it's a good idea to let the locals direct the conversation with those sorts of topics should they arise.

    A friend went to Israel some years ago and someone in her travel party went into Jerusalem wearing a shirt with the Statue of Liberty and Stars and Stripes on it...again, maybe totally obvious but don't do things like that From what I've heard, Jerusalem is a wonderful city but understandably full of all kinds of tensions, as the Jews, the Christians and the Muslims all claim it - doing something very flag-waving/patriotic doesn't seem right and not everyone is a huge fan of America.

    In more practical terms, make sure you apply for your passport well in time. Not sure how long it takes in the US these days to get a passport but always best to be on the safe side.

    I'd love to go to Israel, I am sure you'll have a very interesting time. Hopefully someone will comment on this thread who has been!
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  5. #5
    Away with the fairies Southern Kross's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by corey_vann View Post
    My church is planning a mission trip to Israel next June and, having never left the United States before, I was wondering what tips and suggestions anyone here would be able to give me if were to go. Generally, what should I keep in mind when traveling abroad to help make everything go as smoothly as possible? Specifically, what should I keep in mind traveling to and through Israel? Firsthand experience would be awesome. Thanks for your suggestions.
    Israel!

    I lived in Israel for a while and traveled through it fairly extensively. I can give you as much advice as you want, but it all depends on the sorts things that interest you. Perhaps I should ask, how interested you are in history and the outdoors (hiking etc) and how long do you have to spend there? I could also give you a list of more specific religious sites worth visiting if you would like.

    My list of must see places (ask me if you want more because it was hard to limit this!):

    - The Old City of Jerusalem - Both in and around it are so many AMAZING places and it could have its own list of must see and do.
    - The Israel Museum and Yad Vashem - the museum has among many things the Dead Sea Scrolls and holocaust muesum is very interesting and moving.
    - Beit She'an - an ancient Roman city
    - Caesarea - an ancient Roman city
    - The Dead Sea - floating on it is unlike anything else
    - Masada - do the sunrise climb to the top (jawdroppingly beautiful) and see the amazing ruins.
    - Haifa - particularly see the German Colony and do a tour of the Baha'i Gardens.
    - Akko Old City - lots of crusader ruins including secret underground tunnels
    - Nimrod Fortress - an awesome 12th Century Crusader/Islamic Castle
    - The Ramon Crater - Israel's Grand Canyon of sorts. Its beautiful and great for hiking.

    And its also worth going to see sites in the Palestinian West Bank (Bethlehem, Jericho, Qumran etc)

    General advice about travelling in Israel that might help:
    - Eat falalfel and lots of it. Its the best in the world!
    - Jerusalem is a very sensitive place so religious respect is paramount. Adhere to requests made of you or any rules written on signs. Lots of people ignore these, which is just shockingly disrespectful and can get you into trouble.
    - Wear modest clothing in Jerusalem, especially in the Old City and especially on Shabbat. I'm not sure if you're male or female but either way its best to at least cover upper arms, chest and legs to the knees (and with baggy clothes). Covering of the head isn't necessary, except for women when entering a mosque and for men on entering a synagogue. However, for the most part, this dress code doesn't apply in the rest of Israel.
    - On Shabbat almost everything shuts down. This is no exaggeration; Jerusalem in particular becomes a ghost town. Many of the shops are closed by 3pm on Friday and won't open until Sunday, and you might have difficulty finding a place to eat during that time, so make sure you have what you need. If you're travelling on Friday by any public transport make sure you get to where you want be by 4 or 5pm, because you will be trapped there for at least 24hrs. Also stay away from religious neighbourhoods during this time.
    - Be prepared for a lot of security. Your bags will be searched and/or x-rayed at bus and train stations and even shopping malls, supermarkets and some cafes. The airport security on the other hand, is totally off the scale! but nonetheless fairly efficient.
    - Don't worry too much about the terrorism dangers. People get paranoid about this but its pretty safe overall. Read the papers, find out where the trouble spots are and stay away from them - its pretty simple really. I also found the Palestinian West Bank to be fairly safe too and the Palestinians extremely friendly and generally lovely.
    - Leave your raincoat behind because it doesn't rain at all in the summer months in Israel. It is, however, consistently rather hot everywhere you go (albeit early June isn't as bad), and along the coast, it is also very humid. AC accommodation is essential and its best to consider the heat when planning activities. Also it might be a good idea to bring extra light clothing (t-shirts, shorts, underwear etc) because even a gentle walk can lead to everything being soaked in sweat. Don't bother too much with things like jeans or other heavy clothes; they're pretty much unwearable in such temperatures.
    - Drink a lot of water; this is extremely important! If you're out in the sun during summer (particularly if walking around etc) you need to drink 1 litre of water per hour (I think that's about a 1/4 of a gallon). It seems like a lot but you will get health problems if you don't.
    - Don't take valuables to the beaches in Tel Aviv. I've had friends who had their passport and wallet stolen out of their bags as they sunbathed next to it.
    - Initially, some people often find the Israeli demeanour off-putting, as they are very blunt, to the point, and seemingly, rude. Once you get to understand it you'll find its actually because they're very laid-back, brutally honest, strongly opposed to affectation and they speak to strangers as if they're on familiar terms. In fact, I found them to be a really great people and often would go out of their way to help me out.
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  6. #6
    meinmeinmein! mmhmm's Avatar
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    i know a lot of great hotels and good food.
    the best place to start when travelling, is to
    have a clear budget. and to know which
    cities in the country you'll be in.

    and no kissing in front of the western wall.
    every normal man must be tempted, at times,
    to spit on his hands, hoist the black flag,
    and begin slitting throats.
    h.l. mencken

  7. #7
    Away with the fairies Southern Kross's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mmhmm View Post
    and no kissing in front of the western wall.
    No anything in front of the Western Wall...
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    they've gone through and through me, like wine through water, and altered the colour of my mind.

    - Emily Bronte

  8. #8
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    i just have general global experience - i spent about half a year abroad, bouncing amongst countries

    - get a very good pair of versatile walking shoes. wear them in a little first.

    - that plane trip is a bitch. get an aisle seat (pay extra if you need to, it's worth it) and bring a blanket and pillow and headphones. also snacks, because sometimes plane food is less than stellar. also wear layers. my plane was really, really warm where i was sitting and really cold in the section behind me. it can vary a lot, and you will be stuck there for 10+ hours.

    - black, white, brown/khaki modest clothes: really useful. also, clothes that can pass as nice or casual, like well-fitting tops and loose but nice pants. that way you can move from hiking to going to a religious ceremony without missing a beat. i like to wear low-key things... my go-to outfit ended up being a black shirt, black cardigan, sleek black pants, and black boots, and a neutral scarf (i was mostly travelling in winter). i never felt like i stood out awkwardly in it.

    - pack what you think you need, then take a fourth of it away. seriously. even a third, if you can. anything you really, truly need, you can buy, and you'll want room to bring things home. replace things with more versatile things as much as possible. bringing a pair of loafers takes away the need to bring both sneakers and dress shoes, etc.

    - research recent events.

    - follow silk's advice about the passport; do it asap. visas and passports can take a really long time.

    - southern kross covered this really well, but make sure you know when things shut down. i HATED missing the last bus and then having to walk 5 miles home. or walking 5 miles to the store to find it closed, and then having to walk 5 miles home. or having no bread for the whole weekend.



    - take photos if/when you are allowed

    i definitely think you should go, if it all works out that you can. travelling in other countries an incredible experience; the world literally opens to you, and you open to it. especially somewhere with such a rich history and culture as that should be fascinating. it's often just pure exploratory fun, but also you really gain a new perspective on everything. one of the best things i discovered upon returning home was that once you've faced the scale of challenges you face abroad, obstacles and inconveniences here just don't seem like that big of a deal any more. what? the gps died? that's nothing. this one time i was lost in rural russia with nothing but a waterbottle, my house key, and a few hundred rubles...

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    No pragmatic advice for me but just a philosophical point I might suggest.

    Take some time away from your church group to experience the place under your own terms. Maybe its taking a night to go clubbing alone. Perhaps its spending one afternoon to climb a nearby hill. Try to do something that isn't in the first 30 pages of your Lonely Planet and you'll feel like you got more out of the trip than everyone else did.

  10. #10
    Lay the coin on my tongue SilkRoad's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Southern Kross View Post
    - Initially, some people often find the Israeli demeanour off-putting, as they are very blunt, to the point, and seemingly, rude. Once you get to understand it you'll find its actually because they're very laid-back, brutally honest, strongly opposed to affectation and they speak to strangers as if they're on familiar terms. In fact, I found them to be a really great people and often would go out of their way to help me out.
    This interested me. It sounds a bit as though the Israelis may come across like South Africans. I found South Africans a bit abrasive at first but have got along well with them when I got used to the straightforwardness and bluntness.

    The people I know who enjoyed Israel and also commented on the helpfulness and kindness of strangers went to the country with no preconceptions, an open mind, respect, ready to enjoy themselves etc. The people I know who didn't like it and went on about how horrible and rude the Israelis were, well, they went to the country with what I'm afraid I'd probably have to call an anti-semitic perspective (or at least sufficient dislike for the country's political policies that it had spilled over to become pretty much prejudice against all Israelis), so I wasn't surprised they didn't like it.
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