Palestine–A Guide to Gaza and West Bank
Inside dorit al habash. photos Visitpalestine.org.
A Travel Guide to Palestine
By Sami Khoury
The official language of Palestine is Arabic, but English is widely spoken – especially in the major towns and cities. Hebrew, French, German and Spanish are also spoken by many Palestinians but to a lesser extent. There are more than a few names for this region, composed of the West Bank and the Gaza strip inside and south of the state of Israel. Occupied, Disputed territories, or just Palestine, all refer to the same two places in the Middle East.
Currency & money
Currencies used in Palestine include the Jordanian Dinar and the US Dollar, but the most popular is the New Israeli Shekel (NIS). Visitors are advised to take dollars and Euros, but any other major European currency can also be freely changed at banks and money changers. Major credit cards, Visa, MasterCard, Diners Club and American express are all accepted in banks, hotels and restaurants as well as with many ATMs.
Climate & attire
The weather in Palestine is usually moderate but July and August are typically the hottest during the year. However, evening hours experience cooler temperatures. Summer highs typically reach 35 Celsius and in the winter they can drop as low as 0 Celsius. In the workplace, the dress code varies amongst the different types of companies; however the majority of organizations dress business casual.
Time & hours
Bobbing on the dead sea in Palestine.Business hours of operations for different organizations across Palestine are not standardized; therefore it’s important to check the opening hours of the specific businesses you wish to visit during your stay. The opening hours of retail and corporate businesses are as diverse as Palestine itself.. In areas such as East Jerusalem, the Gaza Strip and the West Bank you will find that the majority of businesses close all day on Friday to observe the Muslim holy day.
kherbet balamehIn addition, larger companies also close on Saturday for an additional time off of work while smaller retail shops and businesses open and thus operate six days/week.
It is also important to keep in mind that many businesses drastically change their hours of operations during the holy month of Ramadan when Muslims fast from sunrise until sunset.
Ramadan follows the lunar calendar therefore it falls at a different time every year, business is typically slow during this time. Christian owned businesses, which are mainly concentrated in Jerusalem’s Old City, Bethlehem, and in some parts of Ramallah officially close on Sundays to observe their day of worship.
Some of these businesses also close an additional day (Saturday) to observe a longer weekend. Furthermore, many retail shops typically operate extended hours and tend to close later at night when traffic in the city dies down, which makes for a convenient shopping experience. Palestine Standard time: Two hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time (GMT +2).
Many countries around the world have upgraded their networks from 3G to 4G while Palestine is still unable to access 3G. Palestinian telecommunication companies are unable to provide 3G services due to the occupation from the Israeli government. Israeli authorities control cellular networks throughout the West Bank and Gaza strip making it harder to do business and access important information on the go.
There are ongoing political debates and discussions around the issue and the Palestinian Authority (PA) is trying its best to resolve this issue in the upcoming years. This could be somewhat of an obstacle to some business travelers, however the majority of Palestinians have put forth great efforts to offer customers and clients free WIFI connectivity in office buildings, retail shops, restaurants, hotels, etc.
The Dome of the RockIn addition, make sure you electrical equipment is suitable for the voltage specifications in Palestine. The power supply in Palestine is a single phase 220 volts at 50 Hertz, which is comparable to many European countries.
Another tip is to remember to let your cell phone provider aware of your travel plans in order to ensure that your devise operates in Palestine. Currently there are two Palestinian mobile operators working in Palestine, Jawwal & Wataniya so be sure to check which operators give you better rates with your local mobile operator.
Dining in Palestine
We recommend you make use of the concierge service within your hotel for making dining reservations. Your hotel concierge will be able to recommend the best restaurants in the area for you, and may even be able to get you reservations in a restaurant that is fully booked. Chain restaurants are not typically found in Palestine.
Most people dine at local and independent restaurants, which are known to offer delicious authentic dishes. Unfortunately, not all restaurants have websites, however a list of restaurants by city can be found by clicking on www.visitpalestine.ps
Lodging & transportation
The nativity churchFinding the right hotel can sometimes be a difficult process. If you plan to stay in East Jerusalem, you will have a number of options to choose from like the Ambassador Hotel, Jerusalem Hotel, and National Hotel. If you plan to stay in Ramallah, the Mövenpick, Royal Court Suites, and Grand Park are a great choice. To see a list of all hotels in Palestine www.visitpalestine.ps can provide you with a full list of lodging options.
In order for you to get to all of your meetings on time, we recommend you use a private taxi. Private taxies are plentiful and surprisingly inexpensive across the country, and are a great way to travel within the bigger cities.
Public transport however, is difficult and fairly complicated for visitors to navigate, so it’s best avoided if possible. If you plan on conducting several meetings in different areas during your time in Palestine you might want to consider renting a car from a Palestinian owned and East Jerusalem based car Rental Company.
This will allow you to drive through both Palestine and inside Israel, meaning your travels won’t be restricted at any point. If you choose to hire a car from an Israeli based company, then changes to insurance policy regulations means you won’t be covered if you drive in the West Bank.
Finally to help you find your way once you’ve hired your car, a new GPS navigation system has just been launched which is called “Igo Palestine”. This will help you locate towns, villages, check points and everything else you’ll need.
For more information on preparing for your trip please visit www.visitpalestine.ps.
Sami Khouri lives in Palestine and is the owner of Visit Palestine, a tour operator in the region.
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