First week in Israel

Here is a list of things I have experienced during the first week in Israel and some tips for those of you who plan to visit me in Haifa!

Hainan airline has a direct flight from Beijing to Tel Aviv, and they have a resting area for transiting passengers in Beijing.

If this is your first time in Israel, make sure your arrival day is not Saturday or any holiday. Saturday (or holiday) means almost no public transportation, almost no restaurants and fewer people on the street whom you can ask help from.

Most Israelis are quite friendly and speak decent English. Even if someone does not speak English at all, he or she is always able to grab someone closeby to help.

You can exchange all major currencies (eg. US dollars, Chinese yuan) for new Israeli shekels at the airport in Tel Aviv at Bank Hapoalim. Expectedly, the rate is not as good as what you can get outside the airport. A lot of places accept major credit cards, such as Visa and Mastercard. Some places ask for a purchase of 20 shekels or more if you use credit card.

The vending machines for train tickets did not accept my Mastercard. The ticket from the airport to Haifa (Hof Hacarmel station) costs 35 shekels. The train is on platform 2 and it has WiFi connection. Use Google map to tell which station you are arriving if you, like myself, do not understand enough Hebrew.

The train from Tel Aviv to Haifa goes along the coastal line of the mediterranean sea. Highway no.2 lies between the rails and the coast, which resembles highway no.1 in California.

Bus no.11 goes from Hof Hacarmel to Technion. The bus fare is something slightly less than 6 shekels. Moovit is a must for public transportation planning, and it can send you notification when you are approaching at your destination.

Uber and Lyft do not have services in Haifa (but Uber does in Tel Aviv). People use Gett (aka Get Taxi) to call cabs. Since tipping is not required for taxi, remember to turn off automatic tipping in the app. You can use my code GTMLIYK for 15 shekels off your 1st ride.

The most popular messaging app is WhatsApp. I was asked for my WhatsApp contact for quite a few times.

Google Fi (global cellular service including data) works quite well in Israel. For the first week, I’ve heavily relied on my smart phone for navigation, transportation and information retrieving. It’s probably a good idea to carry a power bank. The outlet sockets in Israel are Type C and H.

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Mediterranean sea from Hof Hacarmel.

Other random observations:

On Sunday, the train is full of soldiers. A few were probably carrying M4 carbines when I was on the train.

The rent for the property listed online (eg. yod2.co.il or Facebook group) usually does not include city tax and building management fee.

Some apartments in Haifa have a separate room for the toilet only.

You give all the checks for the rent to the landlord when you sign the contract. Technion is able to write a guarantee letter to the landlord saying that they will freeze your last payment as the security deposit.

You will not be able to change the PIN, set by the bank, of your debit card, at least for Bank Leumi, the other major bank in Israel besides Bank Hapoalim.

Hebrew calendar and Chinese calendar are both lunisolar, so they are similar in a lot of ways. Friday and Saturday are weekends in Israel.

High schoolers can choose how difficult the math they want to learn. For example, calculus (including formulas like \(e^{i\theta} = \cos \theta + i\sin\theta\)) is offered in high schools.

However, most high school graduates need to go to army for 2-3 years and it’s hard to recall what they have learnt after the army. Top students might have the option to delay their military service.

Pork and shellfish are not Kosher, so you will not be able to see them in most supermarkets. It is also not Kosher to eat meat with milk.

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