The Philippines is the only Catholic Country in Asia and more or less 86% of the population are Catholics. This is why I assume that at least once in your life, you’ve dreamt about going to Israel especially for the Holy Land Tour. This is where you can see various places you only read in the Holy Bible like the Sea of Galilee, Bethlehem, Jerusalem, Basilica of the Nativity or the birthplace of Jesus, the Dead Sea, and so much more.
I say keep on dreaming because dreams do come true! Jonathan and I were lucky to do this last 2016 and it was one of the most memorable trips of our lives. Regardless of your religion, Israel is a country that is very interesting to see. It has landscapes that are unique to them and it showcases massive deserts, beaches, beautiful mountains, as well as valleys.
For Filipinos, it is not very easy to travel to Israel and I’ll tell you why. In this post, you’ll find things that you couldn’t miss in Israel and I’ll also answer Frequently Asked Questions such as:
What is the visa requirement for Filipinos traveling to Israel?
Is it safe to travel around Israel?
How much should I have?
Should I bring cash or card?
Should I join a group tour?
Is it possible to travel around Israel on a budget?
Can Filipinos go to the West Bank? How can we go there?
Is an Israeli stamp on one’s passport indeed a liability?
What are the languages spoken in Israel?
WHAT IS THE VISA REQUIREMENT FOR FILIPINOS TRAVELING TO ISRAEL?
None. Filipinos can travel to Israel Visa-Free for a period of 90 days for the sole purpose of tourism. Note, however that because of the influx of Illegal Filipino Workers in their country, they are very strict in letting Filipinos in at border controls. So despite being a visa-free country, you should have the following documents with you when you visit Israel:
Valid Passport for 6 months past your stay (Here’s how to get your Philippines passport);
Confirmed Return Flight Ticket or an onward ticket to your next destination;
Travel Itinerary – I highly suggest you book directly with a travel agency;
Confirmed Hotel Booking
Cash or Credit Card; and
Travel Insurance – This is not required by the Immigration Officials but is necessary as always when traveling abroad.
IS IT SAFE TO TRAVEL AROUND ISRAEL?
Israel had always been a hot seat for political unrest so Travel Advisories were issued by the US and New Zealand for their citizens. We’ve been here last 2016 and everything went well for us. I think a big factor is how our tour agency took good care of us. We felt safe and we even went to the Syrian border. However, this doesn’t mean that we weren’t at risk at that time. Danger is everywhere and that means even within the comforts of your own home. This is more so when you’re traveling so I suggest you always get a travel insurance.
HOW MUCH SHOULD I HAVE WHEN VISITING ISRAEL?
Israel is a very very expensive country. This is the easiest way to describe how expensive it is-- a meal at McDonald’s will cost you $14! How much you have while traveling around will entirely depend if you book a group tour or not. If you already did (which I highly suggest you do), then you should have at least $40 a day for your personal expenses. If you’re planning to do things on your own, then you should have more or less $100 per day of stay.
SHOULD I BRING CASH OR CARD?
Definitely bring your card for safety purposes but always take a small amount of cash with you. I recommend bringing at least $300 to $500 in cash.
IS IT POSSIBLE TO GO ON A TOUR AROUND ISRAEL ON A BUDGET?
Sure! Here are some of my tips:
1) Book hostels and consider booking the ones outside of the city centre (check this list of backpackers hostels in Israel);
2) Book something that comes with free breakfast and fill in your tummy before heading out;
3) Always always bring a lot of water! (tap water in Israel is safe to drink); and
4) Join free walking tours.
These are simple tips to save some money but a couple of dollars you’ll save per day is a big thing already. Some tours charge cheaper rates but you’ll definitely be a part of a big group who waits in line for 20 minutes just to get a photo. Remember, you came all the way here so I suggest you make the most out of it and splurge some on food and experiences.
CAN FILIPINOS ALSO GO TO THE WEST BANK?
Yes. Filipinos can enter the West Bank without any visa. Jericho and Bethlehem are both located in the West Bank of the State of Palestine.
HOW CAN WE GO TO THE WEST BANK?
You have three options: 1) Get a tour which also stops at the West Bank; 2) Rent a car in Tel Aviv (here’s my recommended car rental company); or 3) Take public transportation. I highly suggest you just do the first option.
SHOULD I JOIN A GROUP TOUR?
For Filipinos traveling to Israel, I highly suggest you join a group tour for several reasons:
1) Immigration Officers are very strict in letting Filipinos in especially if they find out that you’re traveling on your own;
2) It is more convenient;
3) It is safer to have a local with you the entire time you are there; and
v4) It could possibly cost you more if you do things on your own.
HAVING AN ISRAELI IMMIGRATION STAMP IS A LIABILITY! ONCE I HAVE THIS, OTHER COUNTRIES COULD REFUSE ME ENTRY TO THEIR BORDERS-- HOW TRUE IS THIS??
Some say you could also be refused entry to Iran, Iraq, Pakistan, Syria, Sudan, Lebanon, Libya, and Yemen. However, the Israeli Immigration wouldn't stamp your passport anymore if you arrive by flight. Instead, they will just give you a BLUE CARD which will serve as your entry permit and is considered your Israeli Visa.
However, if you’re crossing the border from Jordan or Egypt, they could still stamp your passport so I highly suggest you get in by flight or if you do not have a choice, ask them if it’s possible to just get the blue card instead.
WHAT ARE THE LANGUAGES SPOKEN IN ISRAEL?
Hebrew and Arabic. English is also spoken as a second language.
SOME COOL THINGS THAT YOU COULDN’T MISS IN ISRAEL
1) Just keep floating on the Dead Sea- I would want to say keep on swimming but in this case, you’d have no choice but to float. Not only that, the water and its mud are also known for its healing and beautifying properties.
2) Hike up the Masada Fortress- Close to the Dead Sea is this Fortress which dates back as far as 3,000 years ago. If you don’t fancy hiking, the 5-minute tram is something worth taking.
3) Go back into the old biblical times by visiting the Old City of Jerusalem- Walking around this city is a very spiritual journey as you walk exactly where Jesus himself walked while carrying the heavy cross. One day isn’t enough as this area is filled with spirituality, history, and beauty-- all from the Catholic, Muslim, and Jewish points of view. Shops and restaurants are also all around the place so it wouldn’t hurt to bring some cash.
Things to see in this area: Dome of the Rock Mosque, Church of the Holy Sepulchre, Via Dolorosa, Jewish Quarter, the Tower of Citadel, etc.
4) Go on a trip to Nazareth, Tiberias, and the Sea of Galilee- Another spiritual tour you can’t dare miss is this-- the places where Jesus himself grew up from the day he was born to the day baptized, to where he was taught and to where he performed his miracles at an early age.
5) Go on an Underground Tour from the City of David to the West Bank- Look at things from an entirely different perspective with this tour. Book your tickets in advance as this can sell out quickly.
That’s it for this guide and I wish you safe travels in Israel!