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Living in Israel
What You Should Know about Living Costs and More in Israel
Israel country facts are essential for you to know when moving there, also known as the Holy Land. For example, in case of an emergency, you will want to memorize the number 100. This will connect you to police if you require assistance. We cover this and more in this Country Facts section.
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The cost of living in Israel is quite high. In fact, Tel Aviv is the most expensive place for expats living in the Middle East. We break down various costs for you so you are prepared with what to budget for when relocating to the Holy Land.
In addition to the costs you can expect, we will also equip you with cultural and social etiquette rules in Israel, as well as communication information so you know how to interact with locals. For example, when meeting a religious person, do not reach out to shake their hand. Instead, wait for their cue on how you should greet them as some may prefer a verbal greeting.
Driving and public transportation are both options in this country. However, the best way to get around between cities is the intercity bus. If you do plan on driving in this country, you must be at least 16 years and 9 months of age. To rent a rental car, you will need to be at least 24 years old.
For practicality reasons, you should know that the main airport for getting into the country is Ben Gurion Airport.
If you have recently relocated to Israel, it is important to know vital information such as emergency telephone numbers, main airports, and your nearest embassy. We outline some of this practical information below.
- United Hatzalah Emergency Help—1221
- Fire and Rescue Services—102
- Israel Electric Company—103
- Home Front Command Emergency—104
- Collect Call—142
- International Operator—188
- Walk-Up Call—1475
The following are national public holidays in Israel for 2020:
- Passover—April 9
- Seventh day of Passover—April 15
- Independence Day—April 29
- Shavuot—May 29
- Rosh Hashana—September 19–20
- Yom Kippur—September 28
- Sukkot—October 3
- Shemini Atzeret / Simchat Torah—October 10
Embassy of Russia
HaYarkon St 120, Tel Aviv
Embassy of Ukraine
Yirmeyahu St 50, Tel Aviv
Embassy of Romania
Adam HaCohen St 24, Tel Aviv
Embassy of Poland
Soutine St 16, Tel Aviv
United States Embassy
HaYarkon St 71, Tel Aviv
48 Petach Tikva Road, Tel Aviv
Ambassade de France
112 promenade, Herbert Samuel, Tel Aviv
Embassy of Argentina
Medinat ha-Yehudim St 85, Herzliya
6340507, HaYarkon St 202, Tel Aviv
Embassy of Bulgaria
Leonardo da Vinci St 21, Tel Aviv
The international airports in Jerusalem are Ben Gurion, Ramon, and Haifa Airport. Ben Gurion is the country’s main airport for flying in and out. Ramon Airport is the second largest in the country.
Ben Gurion Airport
PO Box 7
Ben-Gurion Airport 70100
Phone: +972 3-972-3333
Be’er Ora, Israel
Phone: +972 8-955-3888
Yulius Simon St, Haifa, Israel
Phone: +972 3-975-8337
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Cost of Living
The average cost of living in Israel is higher than most OECD countries (countries that are part of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development). It is also one of the highest in the developed world.
Are you wondering: is it expensive to live in Israel? The cost of living in the Holy Land can vary between mid to high depending on where you choose to settle and your lifestyle. Urban city centers will be more expensive than more rural, mountain towns. In general though, yes, Israel is expensive and has one of the highest costs of living in the world. Tel Aviv is quite expensive, ranking high (15) on the Mercer Cost of Living Survey (2019).
Living Expenses in Israel
We break down the average costs of Israel’s grocery prices, food and alcohol, dining out, transportation, healthcare, utilities, education, and more. This way you are fully prepared and know what to save and budget for before relocating to the Holy Land.
Israel’s Grocery Prices
On average, Israel’s food and alcohol prices are as follows:
|1 lbs boneless chicken breast||20||6|
|1 dozen eggs||14||4|
|2 lbs of tomatoes||6||2|
|2 lbs of apples||10||3|
|1 loaf of bread||7||2|
|1 domestic beer||9||3|
|1 imported beer||27||8|
Average costs for eating out in Israel are as follows:
|Basic lunchtime menu||59||17|
|Dinner for two in cheap restaurant||49||14|
|Dinner for two in mid-range restaurant||153||44|
The cost of electricity in Israel is 0.708 ILS (0.20 USD) per one kWh. For an 85 squared meter apartment, the cost of electricity, heating, and gas, is about 996 ILS (285 USD) per month for two people. For one person in a 45 squared meter studio apartment, the cost of those same utilities is approximately 615 ILS (176 USD).
Regarding water and hydro, every household is automatically charged for two people, even if only one person lives there. The monthly charge per residence charges each person for 3.5 cubic meters of water at 6.552 ILS (2 USD). This includes VAT. For every extra cubic meter of water used, a household is charged at a rate of 12.40 ILS (4 USD).
Internet on average costs 75 ILS (21 USD) per month per eight megabytes. A minute of a prepaid mobile phone tariff with no discount or plans is about 0.54 ILS (15 USD).
Cost of Education
While the government subsidizes free public education from preschool to grade 12, there are still some fees associated with attending school in this country. Higher education, private schools, and international schools will require you to pay tuition fees as well. Daycares and childcare services also have a price. Here is a breakdown of some of the costs:
|Private daycare service||1,900-2,400||550-690|
|1st to 6th grade||500-900||140-260|
|7th to 9th grade||1,000||290|
|10th to 12th grade||1,150||330|
The following are rent prices for various accommodations across main cities in Israel:
|City||Home Type||Average Cost in ILS (USD)|
|Be’er Sheva||four-room apartment||3,500 (987)|
|Ashkelon||four-room apartment||3,500 (987)|
|Tel Aviv||four-room apartment||7,000 (1,974)|
|Tel Aviv||three-room apartment||5,500 (1,551)|
|Eilat||two-room apartment||2,500 (705)|
|Eilat||four-room apartment||3,500 (987)|
Public healthcare in Israel is universal and free. However, residents can opt for additional supplementary insurance or even private insurance at an extra cost. Salaried and self-employed workers also contribute 3.1% of their income to fund the healthcare system.
The cost of private insurance in this country depends on the level of coverage. Typically though, the average cost for a private health insurance plan could be 3,096 USD annually for a middle-income family. A family of five with two adults around the age of 35 can get a fully comprehensive program for less than 300 ILS (85 USD) a month. Cheap policies exist at only 50 ILS (14 USD), which cover only transplants and medications.
If you plan on having a baby in this country, and you are not covered by any kind of insurance, it will cost you. The cost of having a baby without insurance in Israel can be about 8,000 ILS (2,286 USD) for regular delivery, and up to 15,000 ILS (4,286 USD) for a C-section.
Travel and Transportation Cost
Approximate costs for traveling around Israel on a bus are as follows:
- bus from Jerusalem to Tel Aviv (one-way)—18 ILS (5 USD)
- bus from Jerusalem to Haifa/Nazareth—40 ILS (11 USD)
A local transportation ticket (one way) is around 6 ILS (2 USD). A monthly transportation ticket will cost around 221 ILS (63 USD). A liter of gas in Israel is roughly 6 ILS (2 USD).
Starting prices for taxis are close to 12 ILS (3 USD). For every kilometer, it is about 4 ILS (11 USD).
Renting a car in Israel for a week (basic, economy car) can set you back 400 USD (1,399 ILS). Do not forget to factor in car rental insurance, which can be an additional 80 USD (280 ILS).
Culture and Social Etiquette
When you arrive in the Holy Land, you will want to ensure you are in the know on local customs, traditions, and social etiquette to avoid any potentially embarrassing social faux pas and awkward situations.
What Should You Know Before Arriving in Israel?
Israelis are very honest, warm, and open people. They do not appreciate hypocrisy. They are very hospitable and consider it rude if you do not accept invitations. If you are at an Israeli’s home, they will offer you a lot of food so be prepared for this. Be grateful and compliment the chef and your host/hostess.
In this Middle Eastern country, it is considered rude to be belligerently drunk in public. You also cannot drink unless you are 18 or older and this is strictly enforced. You also need to be 18 to buy cigarettes and tobacco. Smoking is not allowed in public places. While smoking is common, drugs are illegal and possession can result in large fines, deportation, or prison time.
If you still require help adapting and integrating into your new culture, contact InterNations GO! and learn more about our Cultural Training service. Our local culture experts introduce you to the etiquette, ways of thinking, and traditions of the country you want to integrate into. Ask questions about the new culture, and learn its peculiarities before you face them in real life. This service is made for you, whether your job involves communication with locals or you wish to adapt sooner.
Meet and Greet
Shaking hands is the normal way of greeting someone when you first meet them. Men shake hands warmly and maintain direct eye contact. Handshakes might be accompanied by light touches on the shoulders or elbows. Between good friends and family, light hugs may be exchanged. In social settings, some men might greet each other with kisses on the cheek (first right, then left). Women always use a simple handshake when meeting each other for the first time. Between friends, one kiss on the cheek may be exchanged. When meeting Muslims, always shake with the right hand.
Between men and women, handshakes are acceptable when meeting for the first time, especially in a business setting. In social settings, kisses on the cheek are okay. The exception is if you are meeting someone who is religious. It is best to follow their cue on whether to shake hands or not. Some may just prefer to simply exchange a verbal greeting. It is considered taboo for religious men to touch women and vice versa.
Israelis are very informal when it comes to addressing one another. First name basis is okay. When you first meet someone in a business setting surnames can sometimes be used but you will find that very quickly people will switch to first names. Israelis like to create a comfortable atmosphere for everyone right from the start. Israelis can sometimes speak loudly almost to the point where they sound like they are yelling or angry, but they are not, so do not be turned off by this. This is just how they speak and for them, it is a normal tone of voice. They are also very energetic, animated, and direct when they talk. So much so that foreigners might consider them to be quite blunt.
When interacting with locals, you will want to make sure you avoid talking about potentially controversial topics such as the Arab-Israeli conflict or Holocaust. Try subjects like sports, weather, or food instead.
Israelis use a lot of hand gestures when communicating. Kissing, hugging, and touching are the norm. For example, it is common for an Israeli to touch your shoulder as they speak to you. It is polite to smile and be warm and friendly when interacting with the locals. Maintain eye contact when you are talking. This is a sign of respect.
Western expats might be shocked at first by the lack of personal space in this country. Israelis will stand very close when they speak to you (one to two feet away). Do not back away as this can be considered rude. Religious people might keep more of a distance and may not touch you.
While a lot of hand gestures are used in day-to-day conversations, some are considered rude and obscene and should not be used. For example, raising the middle finger here is an insult. Putting your thumb in between your middle and index finger is obscene. You will want to avoid receiving anything with your left hand when interacting with the Muslim community. They also do not appreciate showing the sole of your foot or using your feet to move or pass an object. The “OK” gesture as a thumbs up is okay in Israel.
It always best to be on time in this country; however, for social gatherings and events, it is acceptable to be 20–30 minutes late.
Dining out is done the Continental way, with forks on the left and knives on the right. Hummus, Falafel, Shawarma, and Sabich are eaten with the hands. To sound like a true local, LeChaim means “cheers” and Beteavohn is the equivalent of “bon appetite.” Tipping is expected (usually, around 12%).
Because the dress code is relaxed, you can dress and come as you are in Israel. Even universities are very casual. It is normal to see students on campus wearing jeans and attending lectures this way. The places where you might want to be more careful is at religious sites. Women should dress modestly and cover up out of respect, and men should wear kippahs or a hat.
A man or a woman can ask someone out on a date. Israelis are very direct and forward. Typical first outings may include going to the beach, grabbing coffee, dinner, or a movie. It is common for the man to pay on the first date. Kissing and holding hands in public is acceptable.
Women are considered equal in this country. They hold the same rights as men do and can hold political, corporate, and civil defense positions. Working women and mothers are supported as raising a family is encouraged in the Middle Eastern country. In religious households, women are expected to do most of the housework, cooking, and childcare. They are not expected to work outside of the home.
Driving in Israel
Driving in Israel can be a shocking experience for a new expat. Honking is normal and you will hear a lot of yelling. Crowded and aggressive driving is also common. The age for driving in Israel is 16 years and 9 months old. Driving in Israel with a UK/US/European license or any other foreign license is allowed for up to a year. The license must be valid and you do not need an international license to drive. After one year, foreigners must convert their foreign license to an Israeli one.
How to Get an Israeli Driving License
You should be able to convert your foreign license without taking any tests so long as you have a license that was valid for five years before moving to Israel. If you are a temporary resident, however, you may be exempt from a written test, but a short road test might still be required. To convert your license you will require:
- ID card OR passport;
- immigrant booklet;
- foreign driver’s license;
- green form with a photograph (forms can be picked up at a Femi Premium station (at an optician’s store) or ISSTA station (located at a MEMSI)).
Conversions are usually done in the morning so you will want to get to the Misrad HaRishui branch early.
Driving in Israel: Rules
- Israelis drive on the right side of the road.
- Do not turn right or left at red lights. Wait for the turn signal.
- U-turns are legal unless there is a sign stating otherwise.
- Talking on a cell phone that is not hands-free is illegal, including at red lights.
- The alcohol limit is 24 mg of alcohol per 100 ml of blood. The limit is lower for drivers under 24 years of age (5 mg per 100 ml of blood).
- All passengers must wear their seatbelts.
- Babies and young children (until about 7 years old) must sit in suitable child seats at the back of the car.
- Unless there are signs indicating otherwise, parking on the side of streets is allowed and free.
The speed limits are as follows:
- inner-city routes—50 km/h (31 mph)
- intercity routes—80–90 km/h (50–56 mph)
- main highways—100–110 km/h (62–68 mph)
- Highway 6—120 km/h (75 mph)
Driving a Rental Car
Renting a car in Israel for a week (basic, economy car) can cost 400 USD (approximately 1,399 ILS). Do not forget to factor in car rental insurance which can be an additional 80 USD (280 ILS). You will want to make sure you book in advance as certain times can get quite busy. In the summertime, for example, you will want to book months in advance.
You must be over 24 years old to rent a car in most of Israel. You cannot cross the borders to Sinai or Jordan in a rental car. Before you take off in your rental, inspect the car for any damages so that you are not liable for something later that may have already been there.
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Public Transportation in Israel
How is public transportation in Israel? Public transportation in Israel is actually quite convenient, especially for traveling between cities. The most common form of public transportation in Israel is the bus. In fact, the best and fastest way to travel within the country and between cities is via the intercity buses.
Trains are also useful as they provide fast connections. You will want to prepare for traveling during Shabbat (Friday evenings), as public buses and trains shut down. You can either use one of Israel’s shared taxi services or a sherut (shared van).
The Rav-Kav Smart Card
When you first arrive in Israel, you will want to obtain your Rav-Kav smart card. This is your personal rechargeable pass for using the public transportation system. It is non-transferable. You are able to use this card on buses and trains. You can get one in person at a Rav-Kav office or order one online. Cards are issued free of charge. You will need your passport or ID card. To load your Rav-Kav card, you can do so at central bus and train stations. There are also several loading points scattered throughout the main cities. You can use either cash or credit to charge.
Cost of Public Transport in Israel
A local public transportation ticket (one way) is around 6 ILS (2 USD) in Israel. A monthly public transportation pass will cost around 221 ILS (63 USD). The following are approximate costs for specific methods of transportation around Israel:
- Jerusalem to Tel Aviv (one-way)—18 ILS (5 USD)
- Jerusalem to Haifa/Nazareth—40 ILS (11 USD)
Tel Aviv to
- Haifa—32 ILS (9 USD)
- Akko—42 ILS (12 USD)
- Nahariya—47 ILS (13 USD)
- Ben Gurion Airport—16 ILS (5 USD)
- Be’er Sheva—32 ILS (9 USD)
- starting price—12 ILS (3 USD)
- every kilometer—4 ILS (11 USD).
An important thing to note about taxis in Israel: Drivers may try to scam you if they can tell you are a foreigner. To avoid this, make sure you ask for the meter to be turned on before you take off in your ride.
Do you want to relocate? If you have never moved abroad, the process will be overwhelming, and if you have, you know the burden that lies ahead. Whatever stage you are at, InterNations GO! can help you with a complete set of relocation services, such as home finding, school search, visa solutions, and even pet relocation. Our expert expat team is ready to get your relocation going, so why not jump-start your move abroad and contact us today? Best to start early!