Travelers often think of the climate in the Middle East as being warm (or blazing hot like the surface of the sun) year-round, Israel truly has four distinct seasons – and I’ve been there for them all! I’ll take you through what to pack for Israel in this season-by-season guide, including your travel to Israel checklist of items that you’ll need every time you visit. Whether you’re wondering how to pack for a 10 day trip to Israel or a two month visit, keep reading for all the essentials!
Year-round travel to Israel checklist
There are a few items you’ll need when you visit Israel in any season. Fortunately it’s a very developed and westernized country with a huge international population, so you’ll be able to find anything you forget, but there are a few things I always like to bring from home.
First up, allllll the stuff you need to charge your devices. This is the 21st century, after all. Israeli homes and hotels uses European-style outlet, so you won’t need a specific Israel travel adapter. You can buy these cheap European plug converters or, if you prefer to minimize clutter like we do, a single nice multi-country one.
Our favorite gizmo that we acquired during our gap year was this USB power strip and extension cord. It completely revolutionized our charging set up, as we no longer needed six plug adapters and four USB plug adapters to connect to them. We also didn’t have to worry about apartments and hotels having only one accessible outlet – or all the outlets stuck behind furniture. No, our multi-country power adapter combined with the extension cord could simultaneously charge the camera, laptop, two phones and two tablets. Amazing! This is definitely our recommended Israel power adapter solution. We forgot our beloved extension cord behind in the last week of our gap year and replaced it with this one – slightly heavier, but also heavier duty with a built-in surge protector.
For days of city exploration, a casual medium sized bag like this one works great. Just enough space for your phone, camera and water bottle… but not so huge that you stand out for the wrong reasons. It’s versatile enough to cover you for museum-hopping or dinner out.
You’ll want a great, functional daypack to take with you for extra layers, sunblock, snacks and WATER for long days outside. So much water. Dehydration can be a real problem for some visitors to Israel, as there’s a lot of walking and the climate is very dry in many areas. My favorite daypack for Israel is a Camelbak, and I definitely recommend one like this that holds a full day’s worth of stuff. Israel is an extremely casual country (and full of tourists, to boot) so you won’t feel out of place carrying it around. It’s the perfect option when you’re hitting the beach, hitting the trail or hitting the historic sites.
It may seem like a small item, but a quality travel towel should always be on your list of what to pack for Israel. You’ll use it at the beach and Ein Gedi at a minimum, and maybe a few other times as well – definitely worth it for the minimal space it requires! I recommend the XL size if you want one big enough to use at the beach.
Of course, since Israel is an extremely photogenic country you’ll want to bring a great camera. There are some wonderful choices these days in the “bridge camera” space and that’s what we’d recommend for most travelers who aren’t taking pictures for a living. You get full manual controls and a great zoom lens, but in a compact body that doesn’t require thinking about which lens to use. It’s not the right choice for everyone, but for most travelers, this type of camera will suit your needs without breaking the bank.
Finally, make sure to grab some packing cubes to keep your stuff organized. They’ll help you quickly see when you’re down to that last pair of underwear and it’s time to do laundry. (This is my life when traveling full-time with kids – regularly counting everyone’s underwear.)
Style notes: what to wear in Israel
Travelers visiting Europe often worry about “looking like a tourist” or “standing out”. The good news for travelers to Israel is that you don’t need to worry about dressing up. I’ve attended both weddings and funerals in Israel at which family members and guests we wearing jeans. It’s a casual country!
If you want to bring nicer clothing for dinner or going out at night, jeans will suffice. Men often pair them with a casual button-down shirt, while women might wear a nice top and any shoes that aren’t full-on running shoes. But daytime clothing in Israel can include shorts or even athletic wear without so much as a second glance. That said…
Is there a dress code in Jerusalem?
While most of Israel could easily be described as “casual”, clothing in Jerusalem is just a little… different. Along Yafo Street and in other popular areas, you’ll see a healthy mix of secular Israelis and tourists in shorts, young soldiers both in and out of uniform, and religious Jews and Muslims with varying levels of coverage. While there’s no formal dress code in Jerusalem and you’ll see people of all stripes, some sites do require more modest attire.
When visiting religious sites in Jerusalem, both men and women should plan to keep shoulders and knees covered out of respect. Men who are visiting the kotel (Western Wall) should plan to cover their heads with a kippah – either bring your own, or don one of the freely available cardboard ones (yes, cardboard). For married women visiting the kotel, it is also appropriate to cover your head though you’re unlikely to face much scrutiny – and if someone says something to you, feel free to ignore them.
If you plan to visit Jerusalem’s very religious neighborhoods like Mea Sharim, make sure that you are dressed as modestly as you can imagine. Women in particular should be covered from the ankle to the wrist to the collarbone, and your head should definitely be covered if you even look close to marriage age (which is young). You may be harassed for dressing in a way that residents consider immodest. Consider yourself warned.
Seasons in Israel
There are two primary season in Israel, summer and winter. Summer runs May through October and winter runs November through March. There’s a tiny little Spring in Israel, usually in April. What do those seasons mean for you as a tourist?
Summer is generally hot everywhere – especially in southern Israel. The beachside city of Tel Aviv is generally warmer and more humid than Jerusalem, which sits up in the mountains. Beware of jellyfish in the water in July and August.
The weather in Israel in October can be transitional but is usually still excellent for tourists – dry, but not as brutally hot as the peak summer months. Moreover, locals are celebrating the joyous fall holidays making October the best time to visit Jerusalem in our opinion.
November can start to become cooler and even somewhat rainy, while December and January can be downright cold and wet. Not what you’d expect for weather in the Middle East, eh? We’ve experienced torrential rains and more during winter in Israel.
Does it snow in Jerusalem? Yes, sort of, sometimes. Snow isn’t necessarily an annual event, and when it happens it’s usually just a nice dusting that doesn’t stick around long. But if you’re interested in chasing winter weather make sure to head to Mount Hermon in the north – you can even go skiing in Israel!
After some late winter rains in February and March, April brings glorious weather and blooming wildflowers. We think it’s the best time to visit Israel, especially if you enjoy hiking and plan to visit the north. Just beware that many Israelis take their own holidays during Passover – some domestic and some overseas – so book accomodations early.
What shoes to wear in Israel
I always like to start my own clothing packing lists by considering footwear and then working my way up. This is not a country where you’ll sit around or see everything from the window of a car, so the most important item you can pack are the best walking shoes for Israel. And which ones are those? It depends on your own needs and the time of year!
Pro tip: I’m a huge fan of wool socks! Regardless of the season, they’re comfortable and they keep your feet dry and stink-free thanks to their naturally antimicrobial properties. You can even wear them a few times between washes and they won’t be gross. I traveled the world for a year with just four pairs (two of these and two of these) and it worked out great.
Shoes for summer in Israel
Summers in Israel generally vary between “hot” and “extremely hot”, so you’ll want footwear that’s appropriate for walking but will also keep you cool. The good news is that there are some great options now that could be your one and only shoes for travel in Israel! I’ll admit that I haven’t tried these myself, but I sort of wish I had brought them on our round-the-world trip to minimize my shoe count. They will work equally well for beach days, city walking and middle-distance hikes on all but the most rugged terrain.
Another option if you are ok bringing two pairs of shoes for Israel is to pair these comfortable flip flops with trail runners that can be worn equally well on rocky trail or in water. I wore these shoes to hike at Ein Gedi (and the into the water) and they worked perfectly thanks to great drainage. These socks are the perfect mate since wool keeps your feet cool, healthy and dry (as long as you don’t wear them in the water, obviously).
Shoes for winter in Israel
Winter in Israel can be chilly and rainy, so you’ll want to pick sensible shoes that are comfortable for walking long distances. You can probably get by with one pair of shoes if you choose them well! Unless you plan to do major hiking, cute, comfortable athleisure shoes should do the trick; I like to bring along quality inserts if I feel like I need extra support for a long day of walking. If you want to blend in like a local, don’t leave home without a pair of Blundstone boots – they’re everywhere in Israel and will work equally well in town or out on trails.
Israel packing list for summer
It’s easy to pack light for a summer trip to Israel, and summer lasts a long time! You’ll find locals dressed in skimpy outfits in humid, beachy Tel Aviv and a little more conservatively in Jerusalem (where the temperatures tend to be a bit cooler but the reflections from all those stone buildings are intense). What’s a good traveling to Israel packing list for April through October?
-2 shorts or skirts
-3-4 short sleeve or sleeveless shirts
-1 cardigan or light jacket
-hat (check out this awesome rollable one!)
-1 swim suit
That should be enough if you follow the capsule wardrobe method to make sure everything coordinates! The maxi dress with a cardigan over it should take care of what to wear in Jerusalem when visiting religious sites. For all other places, comfort and practicality are in order.
Israel packing list for winter
If you’re planning to visit Israel in winter, you’ll need to pack warmer clothing that’s appropriate for rainy weather and cooler temperatures. What to wear in Israel in November? Even in March, high temperatures rarely rise above the 60s, so you’ll want to leave the shorts and tank tops at home. Fortunately that warmer clothing will take care of any concerns about the modest dress code in Jerusalem’s religious sites!
-1 hiking pants (These Prana pants served me well all over the world – they’re practical and flattering and can even be worn off the trail without looking weird. Another option is quality black leggings, but be sure to choose a pair that can double as pants if you need them.)
-2 long sleeve shirts, 1 short sleeve shirt (I recommend a merino blend like this one – it looks nice enough to wear on its own and offers warmth and breathability without bulk, making it perfect for layering too. It can also go a few wears without getting stinky – bonus!)
-hat, scarf and gloves for December through February (Check out this amazingly cozy hat I brought to South America!)
Good news for winter travelers: most homes and apartments in Israel have clothes dryers! Feel free to bring your jeans and enjoy them. They’ll look great with your new Blundstone boots. How many winter accessories to bring on your trip is a matter of personal preference, but many parts of Israel can be mighty cold on winter evenings and I’ve seen snow dusting the palm trees in Jerusalem.
*If you’re packing for Birthright, you’ll probably still need to bring a swimsuit. But if you’re visiting on your own in winter, you can decide whether or not to pack it (I wouldn’t).
Did we miss any essentials from your Israel packing list? Let us know in the comments!
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