Israel's public telephones are mostly for phone cards only. A few public phones take one-shekel coins, and one-shekel coins are needed for pay phones in neighborhood groceries and restaurants. Many convenience groceries and newsstands sell prepaid calling cards in denominations ranging from NIS 18 to NIS 100 ($4.50-$25/£2.25-£13). Even if you've made cellphone arrangements, it can be a good idea to have a low-denomination calling card as backup.
For reversed-charge or collect calls, and for operator-assisted overseas or person-to-person calls, dial tel. 188.
For local directory assistance ("information"), dial tel. 144; 1-700 and 1-800 numbers are toll-free. All operators speak some English and if necessary will connect you to a special English-speaking operator. Phone calls from your hotel will be ridiculously expensive.
In order to decide what kind of cellphone option you need, you have to think about how you plan to use your phone. If you want to mainly keep in touch with your family at home, you might want to rent a phone that will work in Israel but see if it can be set up with a number in your local home calling area, so calls to and from your family will be local. In the U.S., a company such as Talk'n'Save (www.talknsave.net) can do this for you.
Amigo (www.amigo-us.com) is another company that will rent a phone to you that is ready to go for use in Israel -- no worries about compatibility with SIM cards or installing them. Amigo's rates are $1 per day and calls from Israel to the U.S. are 12¢ per minute. They'll ship your phone to you before you leave for Israel, and you ship it back to them on your return. For a phone user calling the States daily and making only a few calls inside Israel, the cost, including shipping, could be around $75 for a 2-week rental. Most companies offer repair service in Israel, though not on Shabbat.
Many travelers find arranging for a phone to be delivered in advance is easier than buying or renting or trying to add a SIM card when you arrive at Ben-Gurion Airport, exhausted, jet-lagged, and in a line at a cellphone counter behind 20 other arriving passengers. If you plan to visit Israel for multiple visits or a long period of time, buying a phone is an option; comparison shop. If you go to www.israelsims.com, you'll find deals for purchasing an unlocked cellphone for about $50; they'll ship it to you ahead of your trip and also sell you a Cellcom card for whatever amount you feel you'll need. You'll know your phone number ahead of time, and be ready to phone as soon as you hit Ben-Gurion.
Cellular Abroad (www.cellularabroad.com/israel) rents cellphones for many overseas destinations. They have multiple-country packages that could allow you to use your phone on excursions to Jordan and Sinai.
At the main Arrivals Concourse at Ben-Gurion Airport after picking up your baggage and clearing Customs, you'll see the Telecommunications Center, where all major mobile and satellite phone providers have desks. You probably won't be in shape to do comparative cellphone rental shopping after a 12-hour flight, so advance planning is useful. Cellcom (tel. *123; www.cellcom.co.il/cultures/he-il/roamers_info) is the largest provider in the country, followed by Pelephone (tel. *166; www.pelephone.co.il) and Orange/Partner (tel. 800/054-054; www.orange.co.il).
Two other possibilities are Israel Phones (www.israelphones.com) and Tikshoret Besheva (tel. 972/2-652-2353; fax 972/3-684-4392; firstname.lastname@example.org). Both companies will deliver a cellphone to your hotel or apartment. Daily rates (subject to change) are approximately $1 (50p) a day with an optional additional charge for insurance. With Tikshoret Besheva, incoming calls are free; calls within Israel to Cellcom or land phones begin at 25¢ (13p) a minute; calls to the U.S., Canada, or the U.K. begin at approximately 40¢ (20p). Prices are lower after 9pm and, with some plans, on the Sabbath. Note: In the Jordan Valley and The Dead Sea area, which are the lowest points on earth and far below sea level, cellphone communications are not usually optimum.
Voice-Over Internet Protocol (VOIP)
If you have Web access while traveling, consider a broadband-based telephone service (in technical terms, voice-over Internet protocol, or VoIP) such as Skype (www.skype.com) or Vonage (www.vonage.com), which allows you to make free international calls from your laptop or from a cybercafe. Neither service requires the people you're calling to also have that service (though there are fees if they do not). Check the websites for details.
Internet & Email
With Your Own Computer -- Downtown West Jerusalem from the post office on Jaffa Road to the Ben-Yehuda Mall, up to King George Street, and the adjacent Yoel Salomon, Rivlin Street and Jerusalem Courtyard neighborhoods are Wi-Fi (wireless fidelity) access zones: Cafes and restaurants are filled with locals and travelers communing with their computers. Large areas of downtown Tel Aviv and Haifa are Wi-Fi access zones.
In addition, many hotels, cafes, and retailers are providing Wi-Fi zones where you can get high-speed connection without cable wires, networking hardware, or a phone line . For dial-up access, most business-class hotels throughout the world offer dataports for laptop modems, and a few thousand hotels in the U.S. and Europe now offer free high-speed Internet access. In addition, major Internet service providers (ISPs) have local access numbers around the world, allowing you to go online by placing a local call. The iPass network also has dial-up numbers around the world. You'll have to sign up with an iPass provider, who will then tell you how to set up your computer for your destination(s). For a list of iPass providers, go to www.ipass.com and click on "Individuals Buy Now." One solid provider is i2roam (tel. 866/811-6209 or 920/235-0475; www.i2roam.com).
Wherever you go, bring a connection kit of the right power and phone adapters, a spare phone cord, and a spare Ethernet network cable -- or find out whether your hotel supplies them to guests.
Note: In Israel you will need an adapter addition for your computer's electric plug that will match up with Israel's round-hole electric sockets. Most small appliances will operate on a two-prong adapter plug, but some appliances and some Israeli electrical outlets require three prongs. For Jordan and Sinai, it's a good idea to have both a two- and a three-round-prong adapter. Many hotels will lend them out, or you can buy one for under a dollar at most electric appliance or hardware stores. Electric current in Israel is 220 volts -- make sure you have an automatic internal current adapter or an external adapter designed especially for your computer or it will get fried.
To find public Wi-Fi hot spots at your destination, go to www.jiwire.com; its Hotspot Finder holds the world's largest directory of public wireless hot spots.
Without Your Own Computer -- It's hard nowadays to find a city in Israel that doesn't have a few cybercafes. The Jaffa Road/Ben-Yehuda Mall area of downtown Jerusalem and lower Ben-Yehuda Street in Tel Aviv, near the main Tel Aviv hotel district, are well stocked with Internet cafes and centers. Even amid the labyrinths of the Old City of Jerusalem, there's Mike's Center, Suq Khan es Zeit Street (the main road from the Damascus Gate southward) -- Mike's is located above the Abu Assab Carot and Orange Juice Shop and offers private booths (air-conditioned in summer) for you to work in.
Aside from formal cybercafes, most hotels and hostels have at least one computer with Internet access. Rates will not be great, but at the end of a long day, the convenience could be worth the price. Avoid hotel business centers unless you're willing to pay exorbitant rates.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.