Solo Female Travel in Israel: Is it Safe?

Although it may not be the location that immediately springs to mind, Israel is a great solo female travel destination. I spent two weeks travelling solo through Israel in July of this year and the country quickly became one of my favourite travel destinations to date.

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Growing up in the UK, the only time that I ever really heard any mention of Israel was when there was a clash or confrontation of sorts between Israel and neighboring nations in the Middle East. As such, I always thought that the country was a potentially volatile or “dangerous” place to visit and that solo female travel in Israel would be completely out of the question. When I arrived however, the situation on the ground was wholly different to media depictions. I found Israelis to be incredibly warm, hospitable and welcoming, and I felt  safe wherever I was in the country – from remote northern towns and villages, to the cities of Jerusalem and Tel Aviv.

Related article: Yes it’s completely safe to travel to Israel right now

Although it is located in the centre of the Middle East, Israel is a nation that is considerably more liberal than its neighbors. For starters, you can clear any images or assumptions that Middle Eastern women are timid, meek, or oppressed straight out of your mind. Israeli women are strong and empowered. Israeli women have to serve in the Israeli army and are treated with every bit of respect. Israel definitely isn’t a patriarchal Middle Eastern nation.

Related article: Understanding Israel’s culture

The people I met in Israel were among the nicest I’ve encountered anywhere. It’s not uncommon for strangers (both male and female)  to strike up a conversation with you in a coffee shop or on a bus. I guess that’s a part of our cultures having somewhat different social norms.

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(Looking for inspiration on where to go in Israel? Follow my Israel itinerary here.)

Solo Female Travel in Israel:
What to Wear

As a relatively liberal country, dress in Israel follows suit. You can pretty much dress as you please in the major cities – shorts, tank tops, dresses and swimsuits are all completely acceptable and you will note that local women dress the same.

If you visit certain religious sites and city districts though, you should prepare to dress more conservatively. By conservative, I mean wearing full length trousers and a long sleeved shirt that does not show any collar or cleavage. In some places you may be asked to cover your hair so I would always carry a light scarf in my backpack just incase. The old town of Jerusalem is a very religious area divided into sections for different religions (Muslim quarter, Jewish, quarter, etc). I would recommend always dressing conservatively here so as to be respectful, and also not to draw attention to yourself.

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Solo Female Travel in Israel:
The Political Situation

The important thing to do when travelling anywhere is to check your government travel advice to check the latest situation prior to departure. Incidents do happen occasionally but remember that 98% of the time Israel is just a country like anywhere else – filled with people just trying to get by and live their lives. That said, situations can unfold suddenly and unexpectedly so always be aware of your surroundings. If you notice local people going inside, or a crowd gathering then remove yourself from the situation. I have read a few things about avoiding Israel during religious celebrations such as Ramadan but I’m not sure that’s entirely necessary. I was in Israel during Ramadan and Eid and never felt the need to be on guard as a result.

Solo Female Travel in Israel:
Safety & Security

Airport Security in Israel

Security procedures at Tel Aviv Ben Gurion Airport are strict and you should not be alarmed if you are questioned upon exit or arrival (This is the same at the land border crossings with Jordan and Egypt too). You should allow for at least an extra hour for security checks upon arrival in Israel, and before boarding your plane on departure from the country. I had no problem entering the country but when I was leaving, I was taken to one side and questioned about numerous stamps in my passport. I had traveled to a lot of Arabic nations though, so this may not happen to everyone.

Crime Rates in Israel

Rates for petty crime, assault or attacks on tourists are pretty low in Israel. You should be mindful of your belongings when navigating through some of the markets in Jerusalem’s old city as this area is rife with pickpockets. There have also been reports of people having their things stolen while on the beach in Eilat, Tel Aviv or the Dead Sea… but it seems like common sense to me to not leave your things unattended on the beach while you go off into the sea, no?

Army Presence 

All Israelis have to serve two years in the army. Many of these individuals are stationed around towns and cities – particularly near notable sites (there are dozens by the wailing wall) and at busy transit points such as bus/train stations. It can be alarming to be faced with soldiers holding machine guns but remember that they are there for your safety. Even considering this presence, the atmosphere never really felt tense.I suspect that now a lot of people are used to this sort of thing anyway with the heightened security measures in place in Europe a lot of the time.

Safety Concerns in Israel

My only pointer for solo female travel in Israel  is to be careful around East Jerusalem. I was walking alone near the mount of olives and I hadn’t realised that the area had a bad reputation. I was walking along a main road by the old city walls when a teenager came along and… Groped my crotch! What the heck? I slapped him away and he kept reaching back for it before he shrugged and walked off. When I googled this, I read of another woman who had the same experience so be mindful. East Jerusalem is filled with Palestinian settlers and there is occasional conflict and confrontation between the Israelis and Palestinians.

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Solo Female Travel in Israel: Israeli Men

Israeli men are damn fine (take a look at the hot dudes and hummus Instagram account and thank me later) and I concluded while I was in Israel that I would quite like to move there for a while and have 7 hunky tanned Israeli boyfriends – one for each day of the week (you only live once right?)

Israeli men are known for being macho and confident and like guys anywhere they might try out their moves if they see a pretty foreign lady enjoying solo female travel in Israel but I seldom felt uncomfortable or as though someone was pestering me or acting creepy. If you’re not interested, give them a simple no and they’ll be on their way.

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 Solo Female Travel in Israel:
What About the Scary Israeli Passport Stamp?

As a result of the unrest between nations in this part of the world, having an Israeli passport stamp in your passport prohibits you from entering several nations that consider Israel as being an “enemy”. These are officially Syria, Lebanon, Libya, Kuwait, Iran, Iraq, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Sudan and Yemen.

Some travellers have also reported difficulty travelling to Malaysia with an Israel stamp but that is the decision of the border control guard you encounter at arrivals, as opposed to entry being confirmed as forbidden.

Arab/Muslim countries that do accept travellers with Israeli passport stamps are The UAE, Egypt, Jordan, Oman and Morocco.

Because of these problems, Israeli border control provide you with a little blue slip of paper in place of a stamp that allows you access to the country. You must not lose this as it will be needed for any border crossings and when exiting the country. When you leave Israel, they trade this for a pink departure slip.

The only time that you will experience issues is potentially at the border crossings with Egypti and Jordan. I crossed the border at Jordan and the Jordanian guard stamped my passport making it clear that I had just been in Israel and therefore prohibiting me from traveling to many of the above countries so keep that in mind.

Related article: Crossing the Israel – Jordan border

 

Solo Female Travel in Israel:
Getting Around

Public transport in Israel is okay, but it does leave a lot to be desired when it comes to wanting to travel anywhere outside of the major towns and cities. Buses are relatively low cost and they connect the majority of the major towns and cities. I stayed at the Abraham hostels in Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and Nazareth and they have a great shuttle bus that runs between the cities a couple of times per day. If you decide to hire a car, feel assured that road conditions in Israel are pretty good, and the signs are all in English as well as Hebrew.

Sheruts or shared taxis run on routes around the cities and between the city centres to the airports and border crossings.

Related articleHow to Travel Israel on a Budget

Solo Female Travel in Israel:
Border Crossings

Israel – Jordan Border Crossing

Israel and Jordan make a nice travel pairing and crossing the border from Israel to Jordan is not as difficult or intimidating as you may think. 

Israel – Palestine Border

I would also recommend traveling to Palestine and exploring the West Bank. You can take a bus from Jerusalem and the process is straightforward (Palestine is contained within Israel so there is no customs or border control process)

Israel – Egypt Border Crossing

If you want to travel to Egypt from Israel, you can take the number 15 egged bus from Eilat to the crossing into Taba. (Note that you cannot get Egyptian visas on arrival here.)

Borders with Lebanon and Syria

Israel also borders Syria and Lebanon but crossing is not permitted at this time.

Related article: Solo Female Travel in Palestine

 

Solo Female Travel in Israel: Can I Drink the Water?

According to guidebooks and travel resources, you can drink the water in Tel Aviv but you should be mindful in other parts of Israel. That said, I got quite sick with an upset stomach in Tel Aviv. I hadn’t eaten anything untoward (just some store bought hummus and pita) so I can only think that was why. As such is recommend you opt for bottled water.

Have any other questions or concerns about solo female travel in Israel? Just let me know in the comments below!


Melissa Douglas

Melissa Douglas is a British Travel Writer and Blogger based in Athens, Greece. She writes for numerous high profile travel publications across the globe - including Forbes Travel Guide, Matador Network, The Times of Israel and The Huffington Post.

2 thoughts on “Solo Female Travel in Israel: Is it Safe?”

  1. Thank you so much for your article. I plan to travel to Israel independently before joining a group. Your article has confirmed that it is quite safe for a woman alone to navigate Tel Aviv.

    Reply

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