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 $2 per day and calls from Israel to the U.S. are 14¢ 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.
Cellular Abroad (www.cellularabroad.com) 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 (www.cellcom.co.il) is the largest provider in the country, followed by Pelephone (www.pelephone.co.il) and Partner (www.partner.co.il).
Another possibility is Israel Phones (www.israelphones.com). Daily rates (subject to change) are approximately $1 (50p) a day with an optional additional charge for insurance. 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.
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.
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.