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 Women travelling alone - General

It is only natural to be a little afraid, but once on your way, it’s a fantastic experience! Keep your wits about you, as you would at home, be respectful of other cultures and a trip of a life time awaits you’
(Joyce Milbrook, 64, Maidstone)
 
Now days, women of all ages, nationalities and from all cross sections of society, frequently embark on exciting solo global adventures to discover their world more personally.
 
Choosing to explore, integrate, learn and understand the different cultures, religions and lifestyles of our world, statistics show that women travelers make up a large percentage of the travelling population and are the primary customers of the nature and cultural travel market.
 
Solo women travelers are now a common sight in travel locations the world over, our presence no longer raising an eyebrow in most places.
 
Having said that, it is important to understand that there are a few extra precautions women travelling alone need to heed to when going abroad to ensure a safe enjoyable and trouble free experience.
 
Aguide2israel.com celebrates the independence of women travelling solo and delightedly encourages women to travel to Israel…and to have fun and feel relaxed. We are sure you will find an exotic paradise, where locals are warm, friendly and helpful and where a rich cultural diversity offers you an experience that will take your heart and soul on a journey you never imagined. 
 
  

 Women travelling alone - Israel

  
To help make the Women travelling alone in Israel easy to use, we have created a number of different topic categories. Simply click on the topic below that interests you and it will take you to that specific information. We offer tips for general behavior, acceptable dress codes and have also offered a little insight on the local male population in the hope that one is not offended by any differences to ‘the guys at home’ that you may encounter.   
 
Overview          Respect Local Customs          Making Friends
 
    
 
   
Usual Annoyances          Male Population          Cell Phones 
 
 
Women Traveling Alone - Statistics*
 
Women—young, old, single, married, and widowed are fuelling an explosive growth in the travel industry. More women than ever before are travelling,  for business and for pleasure. According to a Travel Industry of America survey 9/2001, 72 million US women travelled during the past year. Of those who currently take nature, adventure or cultural trips, 75% are women. Ten years ago, there
were no such statistics. Now we know that the average dventure traveller is not a 28-year old male, but a 47-year-old female. And she wears a size 12 dress.
Last year women spent $55-billion in Outdoor Equipment, from hiking boots to specialized bike seats designed for the female anatomy. The number of women-only tour operators has increased
230% in the past six years.
*Excerpted from the introduction to Marybeth Bond's books and from articles she's written on the subject of "Women Travellers"
 
 

 Women travelling alone - Overview

 
Whether on a solo travelling adventure to simply relax in the sunshine, discover ancient biblical sights, enjoy holistic dead sea health treatments, join a kibbutz volunteering program or perhaps accompanying a partner on a business trip, and site seeing and touring solo, women make up a significant percentage of the annual travelling population to Israel and are warmly welcomed.
 
Israel, steeped in ancient history, divine natural wonders and exotic cultural flavor is in general, delightfully respectful and open minded towards women making it a very safe and easy country for women of all ages to visit and travel.
 
Genuine respect for the elderly in the community allows senior citizens to on the whole, enjoy wonderfully active, safe and peaceful lives. And children, who are without a doubt, the gleaming apple of the Israeli communities’ eye are unabashedly adored and cherished the nation over, allowing them the kind of freedom and safety that is sadly a bygone era in many other parts of the world.
 
"Gathering with the extended family for the many religious holidays’ plays an important role of life in Israel. Perhaps these frequent reunions with the extended family unit, to feast, laugh together and share news allows children and elder relatives to develop stronger connections and a deeper understanding of one another, resulting in wonderful relationships amongst young adults, teenagers & elder members of the family that naturally influence the community as a whole." (Nayana - Australia) 

In terms of typical crime, Israel is a very safe country. While single women should still take care late at night, one can feel quite comfortable to walk solo around the main cities and towns in the evenings, many local women are doing the same. Mugging and drunken violence are not common place in Israel and the general risks of danger is far lower here than practically anywhere in Europe.

Israel is not a place one need be afraid of harassment. Women are respected and lead independent lives here. While you may meet the odd over friendly soul from the male population, no eye contact and completely ignoring them usually does the trick and is not considered at all rude. 
 
Making friends is easy in Israel. Israelis are friendly and delight in an opportunity to chat with international visitors. For women travelling alone, women and families are your best option for more intimate conversations, though for general questions feel welcome to ask anyone.
 
In the modern cities feel more than comfortable to dress as you do at home. In Jerusalem and other more religious cities and towns however, it is recommended to dress conservatively, covering your legs and shoulders in order to respect the local religious community. We suggest carrying a shawl or wrap with you while touring Israel. This allows you to cover up more conservatively if ever the need arises and will give some relief from the blasting air conditioners commonly used in restaurants around the nation in the summer.
 
Travelling by bus and train is very safe for women travelling alone. Be sure though to be planned and know the return timetable of your public transport choice to ensure your ride home. 
Bringing your cell phone is a great idea. Apart from the added safety precaution it gives, there are many bonuses to having your phone and a contact number.
 
An endless array of experiences awaits the solo woman adventurer in Israel. We hope you enjoy your travels. We are sure you will return home with a suitcase of memorabilia, a diary full with wonderful travel stories and personal insights and a heart full to over flowing with the self confidence, independence and sense of freedom that travelling alone offers. Shalom Ladies!
 

‘Although travelling solo, you are never really alone in your travels.There are many other solo woman travelers just like you, its easy to make friends if you feel like it’  (Judith Parker, 49, London)

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Places where women travelling alone will be very comfortable:

- Shopping centers and malls, store areas in general

- University campuses

- Markets

- Buses, trains, taxis (also at night)
 
- Streets (also at night)

- The cinema

- Popular beaches

- Museums, art galleries

- Tourist sites

- Coffee-shops

- Big hotel lobbies, spas, etc.

- Movie theaters at daytime


May be a little uncomfortable:

- Formal restaurants

- Small, popular Nature Reserve trails

- Public gardens

- The Old City of Jerusalem - best to book a group walking tour in your language or English, most are free


May bring unwanted attention:  

- Bars, pubs

- Evening shows and movies, discotheques

- Non-central beaches
 

Not recommended:

- Any place deserted (beach at night, woods, the desert, open country, dark alleys, etc.)

- Jerusalem Old City at night
  
 

 Women travelling alone – Respect Local Customs

 
By dressing and behaving in a way that shows you know and respect local customs, you will ensure that you are, in turn, treated respectfully.
In Israel, the more modern cosmopolitan cities of Tel Aviv, Haifa, Eilat, Herzliya, Netanya, are not so different from other cities around the globe in terms of dress standards and behaviour.
It is the more traditional and religious cities, towns and religious sites that require more sensitivity and awareness. Clothing is one of the main factors that will signify respect for the local custom and covering your skin, at least from the knees and the elbows up, choosing loose clothing and generally dressing modestly will usually ensure you are showing respect.  
Markets are also usually quite a traditional environment and a more enjoyable experience with the local traders will be had if respectful conservative dress is worn.
Ultra religious men (usually dressed in Black) are not encouraged to converse with women when not in the company of their wives so it is best not to try to have contact with them.  
Shabbat, which begins from sunset on Friday evening and runs through to sunset on Saturday evening is the holy day of the week is Israel. While a large percentage of the population is secular and do not observe the Shabbat in its religious sense, preferring instead to enjoy the weekend in the same way you would at home, if you find you are in a religious neighbourhood, town or city on Saturday, conservative dress and a quiet persona is suggested.
While pork has become more widely available in Israel in recent years, we suggest refraining from eating this on the Shabbat so the smell of it cooking does not offend any religious folks who may be in close vicinity to you.  

‘It is true that women travelling alone anywhere in the world need to take a few extra precautions. While this is also true in Israel, I believe that with common sense and good judgment, solo travel here can be exciting, safe and empowering for women’ (Dafna Katz, Tel Aviv)

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 Women travelling alone – Making Friends

Making friends in Israel can be easy. While the most comfortable for women travelling alone is families or other women, most Israelis, young and old, male and female are friendly helpful and will often go out of their way to ensure you are ok. They are honored you are visiting their country.

Israelis love to talk, especially in English. More over, the mentality is still largely that of the old pioneer days that ‘nobody is a stranger we’re all family’ so if the urge to have a chat with the locals grabs you, just do it, ask someone a question and allow the conversation to flow.  
 
If you are shy and don’t know where to start, asking for a recommendation for a gallery, museum or restaurant is always a good start.
 
So one is not offended, it is worth mentioning that privacy boundaries in Israel are a little different. Questions like what you do for a living, your age, marital status, qualifications, where you are staying and how much you pay are all considered normal questions in any new conversation in Israel, whether between locals or international visitors.  
 
While we do suggest side stepping the questions on your hotel name and costs by saying something along the lines of ‘oh it’s a little place on the HaYarkon, my husband booked for me’ do not feel at all threatened by their interest in these areas – its very innocent.   
 
Friday nights are traditionally family nights and are fun and enjoyable. If you are invited to a Friday evening with a family, seriously consider it. Besides delicious food, the atmosphere is light and friendly and the hospitality is always warm.
 
The Jerusalem post, an English newspaper of Israel has a detailed community section which outlines many of the weekly community gathering events that are held in English. Whether a lecture, a game of scrabble or a afternoon volunteering, attending one of these can be a delightful way to meet with some local people.
 
If you have a hobby you enjoy at home, perhaps try to be in contact with a group doing the same thing in Israel, it could be the beginning of a great new international friendship.
 
 
Travelling solo as a woman is a wonderful experience. Its great fun and offers a wonderful opportunity to develop your self confidence’
 (Meredith Blackmore, 45, Sheffield)
 
 
 
 

 Women travelling alone – If In Danger

 
 
The best Hebrew expression to call attention if you sense danger is:
 
 
  HA TZEEL OO
 
 
This means HELP so if in danger scream it out at the top of your lungs!
 
 
 

 Women traveling alone - Know Your Area

 
For women travelling solo, having a travel plan and letting your hotel or guest house know about it is a great travel habit.
Get to know someone on reception or perhaps the concierge and make a point of chatting with them about your daily touring plans. This way you have an opportunity to perhaps get local tips about good restaurants etc and special places of interests as well knowing if your plans are achievable in the time frame you have allowed and are suitable for solo travel.
Get maps of destination cities and study them before you leave; it helps to know where you are going and what you want to see before you set out.  
 
It is recommended that women travelling alone stay away from deserted places  -  beaches at night, woods, the desert, open country and dark unlit alleys etc.  Jerusalem Old city at night is also not recommended.
If you plan to stay away from your hotel, pre booking at least the first night is always a sensible habit.
 
Before leaving the hotel, ensure you have a business card of the hotel with all the contact numbers and the address in case you get lost and need to find your way back.
 
Having the hotel address written in Hebrew is always a handy piece of information incase you fall upon a taxi driver who does not speak English well.
If catching a taxi to a destination, ask the hotel the approximate cost of the journey prior to leaving.
If using buses, memorize the shortest well-lit route from the bus stop back to your place of stay.
When using public transport, know when the last train/bus returns and from where, then plan to take the one before it.

If you’re staying out of the way, perhaps in a rural setting, plan to return no later than 8 pm, to be on the safe side. Be aware of your bus or train station platform to return home BEFORE you move away from the area where you got off.

If possible, schedule Friday overnight at a major town or resort that doesn’t slow down much on Shabbat and where you can wander a lot on foot. The Dead Sea, Eilat, Tel Aviv are key Friday overnight choices. Or book a guided tour in advance.
 

Planning your travels will ensure you get the most from your trip. Leave a day or two free of plans though, for spontaneous adventures or just to relax and rest by the hotel pool. (Lorraine miller, 62, Essex)

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 Women travelling alone – Appropriate Dress

 
Main Israeli coastal cities
 
Dress standards in the main Israeli coastal cities are the same as in any other modern cosmopolitan city around the world and may even be considered more casual than most.
 
Day time - During the day, feel very comfortable wearing shorts, tank tops, singlets and skirts and if you fancy a refreshing ice cream or a light bite on the way back from the beach, your swimwear and sarong are acceptable attire for the local ice cream parlor or one of the many cafes that line the beaches.
 
On the beach, nudity or topless bathing is not common. While there is apparently a nudist beach in Israel, it is neither popular, nor recommended for women travelling alone. 
 
Evenings - In the evening in these cities, whether you are going out for dinner or going to a show, casual jeans and a nice shirt are acceptable attire. Don’t misunderstand the fashion concept though, if you feel you’d like to dress up in an elegant evening dress you will most certainly not be alone. There are women of every dress sense in the cities, from elegantly classic to modest conservative & casual to utterly sexy and hip. Fashion is dynamic in Israels’ cosmopolitan cities and being original is encouraged. Dress how you feel comfortable and you will not be or feel out of place at all wherever you go in the evenings.  
 
Religious & Rural cities/towns
 
For religious sites, the more religious cities of the nation such as Jerusalem and Zefat and traditional rural villages of any faith, a far more conservative modest dress standard is recommended. Rural villages are included in this section as usually the locals are traditional people for whom modesty is considered respectable and common place amongst their residents. Many are not accustomed to the modern dress styles of the cities.
 
Day time - During the day while it is ok to wear knee length shorts and a T-shirt or blouse, just take a shawl to cover up when visiting the religious sites. To feel more at ease in your environment in the religious cities though, it's probably best to consider wearing a skirt that falls past the knees and a shirt that covers your shoulders and arms until the elbow and covers your chest. Wearing tight, revealing or transparent clothes is not appropriate. Adding a shawl or wrap to your day bag will allow you to cover up further if you feel it’s needed.
 
Evenings - In the evening, modest dress is again recommended. Conservative dresses, mid length skirts or long pants are probably the most appropriate dress for religious cities. The focus is on modesty and not exposing too much bare skin. Religious women are often incredibly fashionable but their style is definitely more modest and conservative.  
 
In the rural towns and cities modesty is appropriate and casual attire probably more the norm. A pair of jeans and a nice shirt, or skirt and top or a mid length summer dress with a shawl will be fine. Covering the shoulders and knees is the main idea.
 
 

 Women travelling alone – Usual Annoyances

 
Whether travelling alone, in a group or with a partner or friend in Israel, there are some typical annoyances that effect all travelers and need to be dealt with in such a way to ensure they do not spoil your day or your holiday atmosphere.
 
Customer Service In Shops
Average wages in general stores and shops are not very high and do not always attract staff of the highest caliber. Training in customer service is also not usually offered. These factors mean often we do not receive the type of customer service we are accustomed to at home.
 
Do not get upset or offended if you are not acknowledged in the way you are used to at home when trying to buy your bread, milk or daily newspaper. It is quite common not to get any eye contact or individual attention from the staff member in these shops so just clearly state what you want when you walk in rather than wait for them to acknowledge your presence.
 
Do not be offended that the boy or girl behind the counter continues their conversation on the phone while serving you. Annoying yes, but very common place.
 
Having said this, service in restaurants and cafes is usually fabulous. These guys rely on tips to boost their low salaries and if you receive good service a tip is recommended.
 
Orderly Lines and Queues
Standing in line is not common practice in Israel and for folks used to this orderly way of getting served, Israel can be somewhat frustrating. Here, it’s all about getting the servers attention and clearly shouting out what you want, so get ready to strategically plan your move to the front or simply shout out your request from behind. Either works fine.
 
Taxi’s
As in most places in the world, taxi drivers can be a frustrating experience. Rudeness and deceitfulness are often common place and there is not a traveler on the planet who doesn’t have a bad taxi story to tell from their global travels. With that said, there are also many helpful, honest and genuinely kind drivers who want your trip with them to be a pleasurable experience. They just seem to be out numbered 100 to 1.
 
To help avoid bad taxi experiences, try to find out the approximate cost of your fare from a local and how long it should take.  
 
Make sure the meter is on when you head off on the journey, many bad taxi tale has come from an argument over the cost. Always ask for the receipt in case you mistakenly leave some of your possessions in the taxi. With the complete information of the receipt you stand a much better chance of getting your belongings back.
 
If possible have your destination written in Hebrew, and better still try to practice how to say it like an Israeli so you sound as if you been here a while.
 
And in the cases where things don’t turn out to be fair or just, it’s easier to pay and walk away than cause a huge scene which will spoil your feeling for the day.
 
Markets and touristic area hassle 
Again, as in most places around the globe, markets are a place for bargaining and negotiating the price. It is a game of show and if kept light hearted, can be a fun way to buy your trinkets. 
 
It is not recommended to go along with suggestions to check the merchandise that’s inside the store in the markets- all merchandise available is usually displayed outside or near the door. Invitations may be particularly insistent, just firmly utter “I can’t, my husband’s waiting for me. I must rush’ and leave without looking back however long they keep calling. Rather than rude, this is the expected behavior if you’re not interested. This sometimes happens while bargaining. Bargain away by all means, there’s no reason to deprive yourself of this pleasure, just be in control of its end as expressed here.
 
Understand that when visiting popular tourist attractions like the old city of Jerusalem you will usually be hassled in some way by touts, guides and salespeople. Be firm with your NO, have no eye contact or ignore them completely and they will move onto the next person.
 
 
 

 Women travelling alone – Israels’ Male Population

 
Over the years, a myth has been created about Middle Eastern male’s behavior towards female tourists and in some countries in the region, it is known to be distasteful. Women travelling alone in Israel however, can rest assured; Israeli men definitely do not belong in the same basket.
 
While Israeli fellows are a passionate bunch and feel comfortable expressing their adoration of the female species, hissing and making lewd comments is not their style.
 
The more mature of the men seem simply to appreciate women and enjoy giving compliments, while it's the younger men who are usually the over zealous ones. Light hearted in their approach and often incredibly charming, they are not usually offensive and certainly do not mean any harm when trying their luck to get to know the younger women visitors a little.
 
If you are not interested, firmly say I am not interested, leave me alone/go away.   
 
Show you mean it by giving no eye contact and no smiling or communication so your message will be clear. 
 
There is no reason to feel unsafe around Israels’ male population. They respect women and respect No as an answer. Just give a clear NO, ask them to go away and carry on with your travels. 
 
 
General tips from local Israeli women to help you along your way:
 
If you look like you mean business and business only, you’ll most likely be perceived as such and left alone. A smile is an invitation for increased interaction. Use it with discernment.
 
When travelling alone and visiting religious areas and villages of any faith wear loose fitting modest clothes as outlined in the appropriate dress section.

For the young women travelling solo, remember your smile is a sign of encouragement for interaction.
 
If you find you have gained an admirer and you are not interested, just don’t make eye contact, don’t smile, and look bored and say a curt ‘I am not interested’ !
 
 
The women of Israel are on the whole, confident, independent and self assured. Try to take time in your travels to observe the wonderful women of this nation; the girls, the young women, the mature and the elderly in their day to day lives and how they interact with the general male population.
It’s fascinating and for many, can be enormously stimulating, offering remarkable insight into a culturally different male/female interaction.
(Nayana – Australia)
 
 
 

 Women travelling alone - Cell Phones

 
With today’s technology, there is no reason one need be without their cell phone while travelling.  
 
If you have a contract phone, try to have it unlocked before you travel abroad so that a local SIM card (local number) can be used. This is the cheapest option. If this is not possible, then ask your cell phone company to set your account with international roaming which will allow you to use your phone abroad.
 
Once in Israel if your phone is unlocked, simply buy one of the local ‘pay as you go’ SIM cards (there are a number of local companies offering these) and you will have a local Israeli number. Both the SIM card and the credit needed to make calls can then be purchased from any corner store around the country.
 
  


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