Solo female travel in Israel: an unusual choice? Israel may not be the usual travel destination for solo female travellers. Until recently, the country remained relatively off the beaten path. It was mostly people of Israeli and Jewish descent that travelled here on birthright tours which is a shame. Israel has so much to offer.
So is Israel safe for solo female travellers? What can you expect when adventuring through the narrow streets of old Jerusalem, and the seafront promenades of trendy Tel Aviv?
This article aims to answer all of your burning questions and help you plan for your trip. This is a fairly comprehensive guide so feel free to use the table of contents to navigate to the various sections.
- 1 Falling in Love with Israel
- 2 Shaking Off the Media’s Negative Portrayal
- 3 Highlights of Solo Female Travel in Israel
- 4 Where to Travel in Israel as a Solo Female Traveler
- 5 Common Questions About Solo Female Travel in Israel
- 5.1 Is Israel a Sexist Country?
- 5.2 Will I Encounter Any Problems with Israeli Men?
- 5.3 Will I Attract Attention as a Solo Female Traveler?
- 5.4 Do I Need Travel Insurance?
- 5.5 Are Israeli Border Controls Strict?
- 5.6 What Should I Wear in Israel?
- 5.7 Is it Safe?
- 5.8 What Are the Crime Rates Like?
- 5.9 Be Careful in East Jerusalem
- 5.10 Is the Army Presence Intimidating?
- 5.11 Is it Easy to Meet Other Travellers?
- 5.12 Can I Drink the Water?
- 5.13 Are there Any Customs I Should be Aware of?
- 5.14 What About the Scary Israeli Passport Stamp?
- 5.15 Learn to Relax and Enjoy Your Time
- 6 Getting Around Israel as a Solo Female Traveler
- 7 Solo Female Travel to Israel:Conclusion
Falling in Love with Israel
I spent just over two weeks travelling through Israel. This experience has been one of my favourite travel adventures so far. That is saying something considering the fact that I have been to almost 50 countries!
Israel has a little something for everyone. The country is a fabulous mixture of ancient tradition meets contemporary living. Here, glittering modern cities sit against a backdrop of rugged desert terrain, dramatic canyons, and rolling green hills.
This little country is steeped in history and religion, but regardless of your beliefs and affiliations, you will find something to love about Israel.
Shaking Off the Media’s Negative Portrayal
Sometimes it seems as though Israel constantly appears in the media for all of the wrong reasons. This is unfortunate as the situation in Israel is perfectly fine 98% of the time. For the most part, life in Israel goes on just as it does anywhere else in the world and yes, Israel is safe.
Why does the media always make Israel seem out of bounds? Sensationalism. It’s a sad reality that shocking news stories sell, whereas heartwarming tales do not.
When you arrive in Israel, and you haggle your way through the fragrant stalls of Mahane Yehuda Market or watch a beautiful sunrise from Masada, you will realise just how wrong the general perception of Israel is.
Highlights of Solo Female Travel in Israel
- Learning about local culture and tradition with a Shabbat dinner
- Discovering hidden backstreets of Tel Aviv and Jerusalem on a walking tour
- Bobbing along like a cork in the Dead Sea
- Hiking to Masada and Ein Gedi to witness a majestic sunrise
- Searching for Banksy graffiti in the West Bank
Where to Travel in Israel as a Solo Female Traveler
Israel is a relatively small country and it is easy to get around. If you are limited on time, you should at least make time for spending a few days in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.
The glitzy modern city of Tel Aviv may well be one of the trendiest cities in the world. Tel Aviv may not have a lot to offer by way of historical and archaeological sites, but it oozes personality and character at every turn.
Each of Tel Aviv’s various neighbourhoods have their own distinct personalities. For dining and nightlife, head to Rothschild’s Boulevard. This palm-tree-lined boulevard is filled with chic bars and wonderful restaurant options from around the globe. Head to Florentin to admire the awesome street art, and then venture over to Neve Tzedek for trendy brunch cafes and boutique shopping.
Jerusalem and its walled old city are a highlight of any trip to Israel. The city is of the utmost importance to Jews, Muslims, and Christians alike.
You could easily spend an entire week in Jerusalem exploring its winding passageways, its bustling marketplaces, and its quaint tearooms. Some of the most important religious and historical attractions in Israel can be found here – including the wailing wall, the temple mount, the mount of olives, and the city of David.
The picturesque city of Haifa awaits just one hour north of Tel Aviv. Set on the slopes of Mount Carmel, Haifa is renowned for its Baha’i Gardens.
Next to the beautifully manicured Baha’i gardens, you can also find the Haifa German Colony. This is an area that was founded in the 1860s by German Templars and is now filled with dozens of trendy shops, cafes, and restaurants.
It takes around 90 minutes to reach Haifa from Tel Aviv. One day here is really all you need.
The West Bank
The West Bank is one of the “occupied Palestinian territories”. It is relatively easy to travel to Palestine, and you can take a bus to Bethlehem from Jerusalem.
Bethlehem is a popular day trip destination among tourists who wish to see the place where Jesus was born. There are also some interesting Banksy graffiti pieces around the separation wall.
Hebron, Nablus, and Ramallah are all interesting places to stop in the West Bank. You can travel independently via bus, or you can opt to hire a local Palestinian tour guide.
The Dead Sea
The Dead Sea is one of the world’s most peculiar natural phenomenons. The water here is so salty that it causes you to effortlessly float like a cork once you enter. This is the lowest point on earth, and the mud that is found beneath the water is rumoured to have healing and beauty properties.
There are several points where you can access the Dead Sea. Ein Gedi beach and the Ein Bokek resort beach can be easily reached on a day trip from Jerusalem.
The old city of Nazareth is home to one of the largest Arab populations in Israel. Nazareth is a city of great biblical importance. It is said that the Basilica of the Annunciation here is where Gabriel told Mary that she would have a child. Of course, Nazareth is also where Jesus supposedly grew up.
Modern-day Nazareth has developed and expanded into a city that is brimming with sophistication, culture, and an emerging culinary scene. Wandering through the narrow cobbled alleyways of Nazareth old town, bypassing the crumbling remnants of Ottoman-era mansions, and quaint Arabic tea rooms make Nazareth well deserved of at least one day of your Israel trip.
Masada is a popular day trip from Jerusalem. Here, you will find an ancient fortress that is perched on the top of a flat plateau in the middle of the desert. The sunrise at Masada is one of the most beautiful in the entire Middle East.
Many local tour companies offer excursions like this one that combines a trip to Masada with the Dead Sea, and the nearby waterfall of Ein Gedi.
Common Questions About Solo Female Travel in Israel
An assortment of questions that may be buzzing around your brain as you plan your solo female travel to Israel are answered below.
Is Israel a Sexist Country?
During my time in Israel, I had no problems with Israeli men. 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 Israeli women are timid, meek, or oppressed straight out of your mind. Women here are strong and empowered. They have to serve in the Israeli army and are treated with every bit of respect. Israel definitely isn’t a patriarchal Middle Eastern nation.
Will I Encounter Any Problems with Israeli Men?
Israeli men may try and approach you or strike up a conversation – just like men anywhere! Men in Israel are known for being macho and confident, but it is impossible to generalise an entire nation of men. If someone approaches you and you are not interested or feel uncomfortable, just tell them that.
In general, I thought that men in Israel were far more attractive than the average man – take a look at the hot dudes and hummus Instagram account and thank me later! When I was in Israel, I concluded 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?
Will I Attract Attention as a Solo Female Traveler?
Backpackers, including solo female travelers, are a pretty common sight in Israel. Locals are generally very friendly and welcoming. Rest assured, you will not attract stares, comments or unwanted attention from people asking why you are travelling alone.
I personally found Israelis to be among the most friendly people I have ever met. I would only have to wander into a coffee shop on my own and order a coffee, and people would strike up a conversation with me.
Do I Need Travel Insurance?
You should ensure that you have comprehensive travel insurance before you travel anywhere. This includes Israel. Most vacations are trouble-free, but you should always have the worst-case scenario in mind.
Should you be unfortunate enough to fall ill or suffer an accident, medical treatment in Israel is excellent but expensive. Try to find an insurance policy that covers you for at least $1million worth of medical coverage. Good, comprehensive policies also include things such as cancellation, item loss, and repatriation.
Are Israeli Border Controls Strict?
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 at least one 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.
What Should I Wear in Israel?
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. I always carried 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.
Is it Safe?
Israel is safe most of the time. It is important to be aware of the country’s relationships with its neighbours, and to read about the latest political developments when you travel, but not to the point of worrying yourself into a frenzy.
The country shares its borders with Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, and Egypt. Lebanon and Syria do not recognise the state of Israel. Only the borders with Jordan and Egypt are open for travel. While Middle Eastern conflict is concerning, things go on as normal here most of the time. Check the UK/USA government travel advice for more details before your trip.
What Are the Crime Rates Like?
According to the Global Crime Index, Israel is safer than a lot of western countries. This includes the USA, and the UK. You should be careful on the light rail network and in the old city of Jerusalem as petty theft does happen from time to time.
You should use the same common sense when travelling in Israel as you would when travelling anywhere. This means always keeping your eye on your personal belongings, not walking alone at night, and having comprehensive travel insurance.
Be Careful in East Jerusalem
Jerusalem is a highlight of any trip to Israel. That said, the city is tenser than the majority of the country. Both Israelis and Palestinians regard Jerusalem as their capital. East Jerusalem is a predominantly Palestinian neighbourhood and clashes between Israelis and Palestinians happen here occasionally. Don’t walk around the Mount of Olives at night.
I was on my way back from the Mount of Olives in the early afternoon and a Palestinian teenager blocked my way on the path with his bike. He reached over and grabbed my crotch, and I had to fight him off. That was the only time anything bad happened to me in Israel, but I have heard of other female travellers experiencing the same in that part of East Jerusalem. Just be aware of this and be careful!
Is the Army Presence Intimidating?
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.
Is it Easy to Meet Other Travellers?
Israel may not be a “mainstream” tourism destination yet, but it does see its fair share of adventurers. There is a big Couchsurfing scene in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. A great way to meet locals and travel buddies is to go along to the CS meetings.
There are also numerous hostels around the country that have fun, social atmospheres. One great choice (and where I stayed) is the Abraham Hostels in Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, and Nazareth.
Abraham hostels are huge, and host events, tours, and parties virtually every day of the week. If staying in a dorm isn’t your thing (it wasn’t mine), you can also book a private room. This is great if you are travelling on a budget too. Generally speaking, private rooms at hostels are cheaper than rooms at hotels.
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 recommended that you opt for bottled water, or filter the water yourself.
Are there Any Customs I Should be Aware of?
Israel is a very religious country. Most of the population are either Jewish, Muslim, or Christian. Hasidic male Jews should not shake hands with women. You should be mindful of this when you encounter people from various faiths around the country. Do not take this personally.
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”. This was a major cause for concern in the past, but today Israel does not stamp passports. Instead, you are handed a blue slip of paper on arrival in Israel which acts as a substitute stamp.
Learn to Relax and Enjoy Your Time
Thoughts and stereotypes of various countries are often far worse than the actual experience of travelling there. This is very true of Israel.
By all means, plan, research, and manage your trip carefully but relax and enjoy it too. Security in Israel is high for your safety. Most trips here are trouble-free. Relax and enjoy the beautiful scenery, the fascinating history, and the hospitality of the friendly people.
Getting Around Israel as a Solo Female Traveler
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.
Consider Free Walking Tours
There are a number of free (tip-based) walking tours that operate in Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, and other large cities across Israel. These are great for allowing you to get your bearings in a new place, discover off the beaten path neighbourhoods, and meet other travellers.
Take Guided Tours of Less Accessible Areas
It is fairly easy to get around Israel independently. That said, there are some places which are a little remote or tricky to get to with public transport. Places like Masada and the Dead Sea, for example, may be easier to visit on a guided tour.
There are plenty of local tour companies in Israel that offer excellent and affordable day excursions. These take some of the stress out of getting to certain places, provide an extra level of security, and help you meet fellow travellers.
Buses and Rail Services
“Egged” buses are the main public transport bus network in Israel. Services run regularly between the major Israeli towns and cities, in addition to more remote places and touristic sites such as the Dead Sea. You can check the various routes and schedules here.
Trains can also be a convenient way of getting from city to city in Israel. It is worth noting that the rail network is not as comprehensive as the bus network. Trains run between Tel Aviv, Haifa, and Jerusalem.
Sheruts are shared taxis that operate within Israeli cities. These are basically little minivans that follow a set route across town. You can also take sheruts to and from various Israeli airports and border crossings.
Sheruts are substantially cheaper than private taxis. If you find yourself staying at a hotel in an off the beaten path area of town, ask the Receptionist where the nearest sherut stop is. Sheruts are safe and help you save some money during your trip.
Renting a car in Israel is a great way to get around. This gives you a lot more freedom and flexibility than if you have to rely on public transport.
While driving in Israel may sound crazy or intimidating, the roads in Israel are pretty good and well signposted in both English and Hebrew. Car rentals in Israel start from as little as $15 a day.
The only thing to keep in mind is that you should not drive into the West Bank with Israeli license plates. If you wish to self-drive around Israel and the West Bank, you should try and find a car with Palestinian plates in East Jerusalem.
Solo Female Travel to Israel:
Do you have any questions about visiting Israel as a solo female traveler? Feel free to reach out to me via the comments below and I will get back to you as soon as I can. Safe travels! Melissa xo
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