Plan a trip abroad this summer, avoid quarantine requirements, and make sure you have the perfect cell phone plan for your vacation!
Israel has – touch wood – beaten the COVID-19 pandemic. We led the way with mass vaccinations and life is pretty much back to normal. If there are no new viral strains that can bypass the vaccine, the difficult period of lockdowns, masks and social distancing is all but over. With summer just months away, many Israelis are keen to fly abroad and take a foreign vacation. We’ll take a look at how realistic that goal actually is.
At first glance Israel seems disorganised, even anarchic at times. But when a crisis hits, this country can get things done – in its own idiosyncratic way. After the initial confusion and political hesitation and u-turns, some kind of cohesive policy emerged. It wasn’t perfect, but it was ultimately effective. Few other countries managed as well as Israel; many are still in dire straits.
Israel was helped by having a fairly small population, existing health funds with a proactive approach to medicine, and a high degree of control over its national borders. Nonetheless, it was a tough year for a lot of people. Israelis suffered from unemployment and financial problems, health worries and family stress. The end of the lockdowns coincided with sunny spring weather and Chagim, 2021 has already seen a flood of visitors to national parks and hiking trails.
The toughest lockdowns saw us restricted to within 100 meters of our homes and it’s great to be out and about again. Israel is a truly beautiful country with an astonishing variety of landscapes and natural environments. There are few countries in the world where there is so much history and culture crammed into such a small space. Israel is amazing, but some of us also crave the stimulation and adventure of a trip abroad.
If you were going stir crazy during the lockdowns, you may be getting twitchy and googling for cheap flights. The problem is that there are currently few destinations available for tourists – particularly if you’re not prepared to sit in quarantine. Fortunately there are countries ready to open their borders to travellers, and some of these are in easy reach of Israel.
The UK is not far behind Israel in getting its population vaccinated and beating the COVID-19 pandemic. Britain is easing restrictions and getting life back to normal as quickly as it safely can. The UK government and travel industry is already talking in terms of a ‘Green List’ of countries that can be visited without the need for quarantine or special precautions. The good news: Israel is at the top of the list.
The chances are that if you have an Israeli passport and you’ve been vaccinated, you’ll be able to take a hassle free holiday in the UK. This might be a city break in London or a longer holiday touring the beautiful British countryside. The British weather has a poor reputation, but when they do have a good summer, they can have two or three months of perfect sunshine. London is just a five and a half hour flight from Tel Aviv and the country is already a popular destination with Israelis.
Other countries expected to be on the UK’s green list are Portugal (including Madeira and the Azores), Greece, Spain, the US, and Costa Rica. Party people will be happy to know that Phuket in Thailand will be open to vaccinated tourists from July 1st. America and Costa Rica (already open for months) are long haul flights. But there may be some good deals from struggling airlines that are keen to get back into business.
Probably the single most popular destination for Israelis this summer will be Greece. It’s just a 2 hour flight and there are expected to be loads of cheap package deals on offer. Greece is welcoming to Israelis and is generally considered to be a safe destination. The Mediterranean culture and hot weather is ideal for relaxing on the beach or by the pool and the nightlife is good.
If you’re looking for more than just a week on the beach, Greece offers some of the world’s most famous and important historical and archaeological sites. Its numerous islands are a delight to explore and there is some serious hiking available in the mountains and forests that cover much of the country. The euro is currently worth just under 4 Israeli shekels which means that you may need to budget carefully. That said, Greece is still cheaper than Tel Aviv!
Many Olim will be keen to visit family abroad after a worrying and frustrating year of lockdowns. Family gatherings over Zoom were better than nothing, but it’s not the same as a visit. Rosh Ha Shanah this year begins on the 6th of September and many families may be planning a reunion abroad. Four months into the future is a long time when it comes to predicting new COVID-19 regulations, but it’s possible that restrictions may be eased across the Anglosphere.
It’s likely that the US will be allowing vaccinated Israelis quarantine free visits. Possibly Canada, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa will follow suit. Governments are keen to get the airline and tourist industries moving again. They need life to get back to normal and are unlikely to place obstacles in peoples’ way. We may see a big surge in long distance flights by the end of the summer.
If you are travelling abroad this summer, one of your concerns will be to stay in touch with family and friends. Even if you’re keen to take a break from your work routine, you may still need to be in contact with your office… A cell phone plan with full roaming – or even a local number – is vital. Too many travellers have been stung by unfair charges when they use their phones outside Israel.
You’ll also need full internet access if you want to explore the local sites, particularly if you plan to get off the regular tourist trail and need to research your itinerary. Even if you’re just lounging by the pool, you may want to check your social media accounts or read the newspaper online. A year of lockdown made many of us completely dependent on the internet and you (probably) don’t want to be stuck without it.
It’s definitely worth checking out TCS’s Platinum Sim program. It gives you free international roaming with 2GB a month and unlimited international calls. You also get a free virtual number and 3,000 minutes + 3,000 messages a month. The benefits of free roaming are pretty obvious, but not everybody knows about virtual numbers.
A virtual number makes you look like a local every time you call while you’re abroad. You can keep your personal Israeli number concealed, which is not only great for privacy – it may also protect your security. If you’re planning to work or do some business while you’re outside Israel, a virtual number definitely makes sense.
The other advantage of taking out a Platinum Sim is that TCS is an English-speaking service created specifically for Olim in Israel. If there is a service issue while you’re abroad, dealing with a native English-speaking rep is one less headache. A quick switch to a Platinum plan could save you a lot of hassles next time you fly!