Cash is a traveler's best friend. Unlike international credit cards, which carry fees when used abroad, there's no markup. But when you're traveling out of the country, getting cash can be a challenge.
Before you go to the ATM, make sure you know how the system works.
Don't assume that every ATM in Israel will swallow your card and spit out cash in exchange. Before you slip your plastic into the slot, look for decal stickers marked PLUS, Cirrus, Visa, American Express, or any combination thereof.
Some ATMs will also bear international flags, alerting you, the international traveler, that cash beckons just behind the punch screen.
As soon as you insert a foreign card, most ATMs will switch from their default language of Hebrew to English – but not all. If your Hebrew skills are especially weak and you are concerned about making a mistake during your transaction, stick to teller machines at major banks, where you are guaranteed an English-language options menu.
Also, be a smart traveler: Call your bank before you leave your local shores and alert them to the fact that you will be abroad. Many banks, ever-wary of identity theft and credit card fraud, will immediately freeze your card if they see a suspicious international transaction and weren't previously tipped off that their customer is traveling.
While you're on the phone, ask your bank if they place limits on international withdrawals. Many banks allow their customers to withdraw only a set amount of cash per day when they are out of the country, so plan accordingly.
A word to the wise: Israeli ATMs have occasionally been known to run out of cash, especially just before Shabbat and before major holidays, when withdrawals are heavy. Make sure you have a back-up plan so you're not stuck trudging across town in search of a stocked ATM. Because nobody likes to make a run for his money, much less a tired tourist.
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