Money in Israel: What You Need to Know Before You Go

Visiting Israel? It’s not just about the history and the culture; understanding that money matters will ensure a smoother trip. Here’s a simple guide to help you navigate through the world of Israeli currency, tipping, and much more. Tel Aviv was recently ranked as the most expensive city in the world. Read this post and learn how to adjust your finances while visiting Israel.


Currency and Exchange Rates

What’s the currency? The official money of Israel is the New Israeli Shekel, often abbreviated to NIS. Denominations of the NIS are varied:

  • Coins: 10 agorot, ½ shekel, 1 shekel, 2 shekels, 5 shekels, and 10 shekels.
  • Bills: 20 shekels, 50 shekels, 100 shekels, and 200 shekels.

Having small bills on hand when you arrive in Israel is advantageous for tips and small purchases.


Can You Use Foreign Currency in Israel?

While Israel primarily operates with the New Israeli Shekel (NIS), you might wonder if foreign currency is accepted. The answer? In main tourist spots, it’s not unusual for places to accept Euros and US Dollars. However, once you step out of these tourist zones and into local restaurants or shops, you’ll find that they prefer their home currency. So, while it’s handy to have a few international bills in your pocket, it’s best to have some shekels on hand for a more authentic, hassle-free experience.


Where can you exchange money?

  • Currency exchange bureaus: Typically the best choice due to competitive rates without commissions. You’ll often find these bureaus in major cities and tourist areas.
  • Banks: Reliable but with occasional waiting times. It’s worth noting that opening hours may differ from what you’re used to, especially on Fridays and Saturdays.
  • Hotels: While they offer convenience, especially for late-night arrivals or sudden needs, they might come with higher fees.


Credit Cards and ATMs

In Israel, Visa and Mastercard are widely accepted. While American Express is recognized, it isn’t taken everywhere. Some boutique stores or smaller vendors might prefer cash, so it’s always good to ask beforehand.

It’s crucial to inform your credit card company about your travel plans to Israel to avoid unexpected blocks. Especially in a digital age, where monitoring for fraudulent activity is intense, foreign transactions can raise flags.

ATMs are in abundance, from shopping malls to small streets. However, bank-affiliated ATMs generally offer better rates. It’s also not uncommon to find ATMs within convenience stores or supermarkets.


Tipping in Israel

Israel has a robust tipping culture.

  • Restaurants: If service was good, 12-15% is standard. Cash is always preferred, but if you’re looking to charge the tip to your card, make sure to inform them in advance.
  • Taxi Drivers: Usually, it’s a matter of rounding up to the nearest ten or adding a few shekels.
  • Hotels and Tours: Whether it’s the housekeeping staff, bellboy, or your insightful tour guide, a tip is a pleasant way of showing appreciation.


Getting Around: Navigating Israel’s Transportation Options

While Israel might be small in size, it boasts a robust and modern transportation system that ensures visitors can easily move around. Let’s rank the top means of transportation:

  1. Taxis: The easiest and most direct way to get from point A to point B. With the convenience of apps like Gett or Yango, you can hail a taxi from almost anywhere in the country. These apps not only allow for cashless payments but also offer features like ride-tracking, ensuring both safety and convenience.
  2. Tel Aviv’s Red Line Underground: The newest gem in Israel’s public transportation crown. This underground line has significantly improved mobility within Tel Aviv, connecting various parts of the city with ease. The best part? You can pay for your rides using popular apps like Hop On or Pango, making it a hassle-free experience even if you’re a first-time visitor.
  3. Other Public Transportation: Israel’s extensive public transportation network includes buses, shared taxis (known as ‘sheruts’), and trains. While they’re efficient and connect most parts of the country, there’s a bit of a learning curve, especially if you’re not familiar with the routes or don’t speak Hebrew. However, English signs in major stations and English settings on apps make the process more accessible. Plus, it’s an authentic way to experience the country like a local!


Making the Most of Your Money in Israel

Navigating Israel’s financial landscape might seem daunting, but with a little prep and know-how, it can be smooth sailing. Embrace the local culture, try that street food, and let Israel’s rich tapestry of experiences fill your trip with memories.

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