Is it safe to travel to Israel, especially for solo female travelers?
Short answer: YES.
I have been here exactly two months today, and I’ve been way up north, to the Golan Heights, where you can see into Syria, and to the south, in Eilat, where you’re just a fence away from Egypt.
Except for a weeklong Holy Land Tour with my mother (which was the family’s gift to her, as part of the celebration of her second chance at life), I have been traveling solo in Israel for two months now.
I walked around Tel Aviv at 3am, hitchhiked to my hostel in Mitzpe Ramon after a few hours of hiking through the desert, hiked solo in the jungles of the Golan (and hitchhiked back), and snorkeled by myself in the Red Sea.
Traveling solo in Israel is safe, I can’t emphasize that enough. Except in areas where there are ultra-religious Jews and Muslims, there are no restrictions when it comes to clothes, activities, or companions. Indeed, Israel is as liberal a country as you can get.
I can’t blame people for asking me this question, though. After all, Israel has had skirmishes with its neighbors, and it’s not a stretch to imagine that you might get caught here during a conflict.
I, for one, am not worried. Israel seems to be prepared. There are security checks everywhere; flying in and out of Israel can indeed be time consuming as they really take security inspection seriously. However, if it keeps us all safe, I’m not going to complain!
Here are some of the questions I’d been asked about traveling in Israel as a woman.
Traveling solo in Israel — what do women wear?
You can wear what you want in Israel, whether it’s a short dress, a mini-skirt, or a pair of booty shorts during the summer months. Walk around Tel Aviv, for example, and you might as well be in New York; men and women dress the way they like. Along the beach in Tel Aviv, people are free to run, walk around, or just chill by the beach in their swimsuits.
There is no dress code even outside Tel Aviv. People are definitely laid back here.
However, there are areas populated mostly by Arabs or conservative Jews, in which case, observe and respect the local culture. If you don’t see locals wearing revealing clothing, dress modestly.
In holy places and religious sites, as well, like in Jerusalem, you can’t enter wearing shorts, and that goes for both men and women. Bare midriffs, low-cut and revealing blouses are also not allowed for women. Bring a scarf or a wrap in case you’re not sure about your clothes.
Where to stay in Israel
As a solo female traveler, I would highly recommend staying in hostels. You can get a lot of traveling advice from the staff working there, and you’ll meet other solo travelers, too.
Plus, if you stay at a hostel belonging to the ILH Network, you’ll be assured of a quality stay; hostels that don’t maintain a certain standard in cleanliness, staffing, facilities, and other factors are removed from the network.
Here are my recommended hostels in the cities I’ve visited:
- Tel Aviv — Abraham Hostel (the biggest hostel in all of Israel!), Little Tel Aviv Hostel (one of my favorites aside from Abraham), Florentine Hostel (for party people), and Beachfront Hostel (right across the beach).
- Jerusalem — Abraham Hostel (my fave in Jerusalem), Stay Inn Hostel
- Mitzpe Ramon (in the Negev Desert) — The Green Backpackers (my favorite hostel of all time)
- Nazareth — Fauzi Azar Inn by Abraham Hostel (one of the most beautiful hostels I’ve ever stayed in!)
- Golan Heights — Golan Heights Hostel (very cozy, very homey)
- Eilat — Arava Hostel (not a favorite, but good enough)
- Tiberias (Sea of Galilee) — Tiberias Hostel (good breakfast, strategic location)
When booking accommodation in any of these hostels, book direct. You’ll pay when you arrive there, and it’s probably cheaper than Hostelworld or Booking. Average rates are around 80 shekels ($22).
How to go around Israel
It’s very easy to go around Israel via buses, and it’s cheap, too. Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, for example, costs only 15 shekels, whereas it will cost you 23 shekels if you take the train.
There are three main bus lines: Metropoline, Egged, and Dan. Wifi in the buses is a hit and miss but Metropoline and Egged are usually connected (and Dan in the cities). You can buy the tickets from the driver on the bus or at the ticket booths in bus stations. Only cash payment is accepted by the drivers, but you can pay by credit card at the ticket booths.
If you’re staying longer, like I do, buy the Rav Kav (the green bus/metro/train card) at any central bus stations. You get 20% more of the value, plus there are unlimited daily, weekly, and monthly packages, too.
There’s no need to reserve a seat in advance, unless you’re going to/from Eilat. There are no assigned seats, as well, except for those coming from/going to Eilat.
If you can’t read Hebrew, I suggest researching the bus numbers and times before going to the station. I just Google it. There are info booths as well in the bus stations in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.
An important thing to know: if you’re not getting off at the last stop, you’ll need to tell the driver to drop you off at the correct bus stop. He will not stop otherwise.
You can also listen to the announcements in the bus. It’s in Hebrew, but the announcement will basically mention the next stop. Once you hear yours (e.g., “Blah blah blah Sapir” if you’re going to the town of Sapir), press the stop button above your head. It’s either a yellow button with the letter S, or a red button. I learned this the hard way!
If you want to explore the countryside more, like in the Golan Heights, the Galilee, or the Negev Desert, hiring a car would be more convenient, otherwise, you’d have to take several buses to reach tourist attractions, and/or hitchhike on your way back to your hostel.
Within the city, there are buses (in Tel Aviv, the fare is 5.90 shekels per ride) as well as sherut (shared taxi, same fare). In Jerusalem, there’s also a tram that passes by outside the central bus station (same fare).
If you arrive in Ben Gurion airport in Tel Aviv and want to go straight to Jerusalem, I recommend taking the sherut for convenience (61 shekels, one way). They’re right outside the arrival area.
Another important point: Avoid flying into or out of Israel on Shabbat, which starts Friday at sunset and lasts until sunset the next day, Saturday. There won’t be any public transport going to the airport; you’d have to take a taxi which costs around 140 shekels ($39). Most groceries and commercial establishments are closed, too, and you can’t travel from one city to another as there won’t be any buses. Unless you have a car, of course.
Must-see places in Israel
Generally, it depends on what you’re interested in. Catholics (like my mother), would prioritize all the holy sites. In my mother’s stay here, for example, we had the following itinerary for ONE WEEK:
- Jerusalem (Old City)
- West Bank (Jordan River, Jericho, Bethlehem)
- Masada and the Dead Sea,
- and Tel Aviv.
If you have TWO WEEKS, you can do the above itinerary plus include Haifa and Mitzpe Ramon (highly recommended for the hikes in the Negev Desert).
If you have THREE WEEKS, you can add Tiberias and the Golan Heights. You can spend 4-5 days in the Golan alone, as the area has so many hiking trails. I even went river rafting!
These itineraries include cultural and religious sites, beaches, rivers and waterfalls, and the desert. If you’re into the nightlife, you’d love Tel Aviv, too. So basically, just adjust your itinerary based on your interest.
There are just so many things to do in Israel. I have blog content enough for several months, even if I stop traveling now. I still have to fully explore the Golan Heights, and I haven’t even been to Haifa and Akko yet. I’d spent 6 weeks in the Negev and Judean Deserts, but I still haven’t taken all the hiking trails there!
Indeed, if you’re looking for a new country to visit as a solo female traveler, make it Israel. You’d love it here, as I did. However, once you arrive here, you may not want to leave. Consider yourself warned.
Have you been to Israel as a solo traveler? What additional piece of advice can you give?