Israel currency is called the ‘shekel’. Shekels are abbreviated as either ILS, or more commonly NIS (which stands for New Israeli Shekel).
Shekels are the best currency to use while in Israel. Sure, you can find hotels, restaurants, guides and even taxi drives who are willing to accept payment in foreign currency, usually in dollars or Euro. But their exchange rate will not be in your favor.
Read below about where to change your money and paying with credit cads.
The currency converter table below is preset to convert 1 US Dollar to Israeli Shekels.
You can change the currency amount from 1 to any amount, and change the USD to your desired home currency.
You can also hop over to the Bank of Israel online Shekel exchange table that is updated daily.
Israel has 4 paper bank notes for: 20, 50, 100 and 200 Shekels:
And there are six coin denominations:
The whole denominations ae for 1, 2, 5 and 10 Shekels.
The 'cent' coins are called 'agurot'. A shekel is divided into 100 agurot. There are 5, 10 and 50 agurot coins.
The shekel is a very strong currency by any worldwide standard.
Nevertheless, you will almost always get a better rate for shekels by exchanging here in Israel rather than in your home country.
A point to consider: Some people recommend that you notify your bank or your card provider that you will be visiting Israel, so that they don’t think your card has been stolen and put a hold on your card. I've never done that or had any such problem on my international travels, but I have heard of such incidents.
After you land in Israel at Ben Gurion airport and leave the baggage area, there are ATM machines where you can withdraw funds using your credit card. The exchange rate is reasonable. There are also bank branches at the airport where you can exchange funds, but the rate is typically less favorable than at an ATM.
In fact, there are ATM machines all over in Israeli cities, and all allow you to choose an English language interface. Many also have French, Russian and Arabic language interfaces.
So even if you forgot to change money in the airport, its easy towithdraw money in local Israeli currency using your international credit card all over Israel. There are two main types of ATM machines in Israel: those associated with banks and ATMs that are privately owned by shops. Both are trustworthy and legitimate, but the private ATMs will charge a higher commission so banking ATMs are better.
If you brought cash with you and want to exchange it for shekels, you have 3 options: Exchange at:
You can read more about the banks of Israel where you can exchange your foreign currency.
You can find israel currency exchange stores all over the main cities of Israel, and they usually are open much later than banks and post offices. The banks usually charge the highest commission but give a fair rate. The licensed exchange stores often advertise 'no commission' but the exchange rate will be less good. Post Offices also charge no commission, but the rates are not always the best. Shop and compare.
As mentioned, the best way to exchange is using a good 'ol ATM.
There are 3 other points worth noting:
In the era of credit cards, there is no need to exchange a lot of money for your trip to Israel.
Credit cards, and especially VISA and Mastercard are accepted just about everywhere in Israel. Not every place accepts American Express and Diners, although there should be no problem at major hotels and car rentals.
You may want to check the credit card exchange rate before you fly from home, but I wouldn't worry too much about it. If you will be spending a few hundred dollars or Euros, you might save a few dollars by exchanging your money here in Israel versus the credit card exchange rate. But the convenience of paying with credit cards is worth it.
Like in the US, Israel has only partially moved over to 'smart' chip credit cards (EMV). So for your purchases, you may not need to use a PIN code.
Assuming you will be using credit cards, you will need to have some shekels on hand for places that may not accept cards:
Airport taxis are supposed to accept credit cards. Still, check with the driver before you enter the cab if you don't have enough shekels.
Although most restaurants accept credit cards, you often cannot tip your waiter on the card, so you need to have Israeli currency for tipping. The standard restaurant tip in Israel is ten percent. In the Tel Aviv area, its common to tip 12-15% if the service was very good.
Some people on organized tours with no independent time don't buy shekels at all, using US dollars or Euros for small amounts and a credit card for larger amounts.
But if you are not on an organized tour, having shekels on hand will be needed. Thee only places where you will charged and can pay in US Dollars are at major hotels and car rentals. Shops, restaurants and most other places all charge in local Israeli currency.
You may be able to pay here and there in US Dollars or Euro, especially at tourist shops, but you will get a bad exchange rate. So once again, whenever you are asked whether to be charged in shekels or in your home currency, its better to go with the shekels.
Enjoy your travels in Israel!
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