Tourist Tip #60 / The Old City of Jerusalem

There's no reason for a tourist to feel unsafe in Jerusalem's Old City, but take some easy precautions to avoid unpleasant encounters with the Artful Dodger.

The Old City of Jerusalem sometimes gets a bum rap for being unsafe, mostly when it comes to tourists. Not so. Tourists are generally not a target of violence, but they should be on the lookout for prowling pickpockets.

Pickpockets tend to favor crowded parts of the Old City, like the narrow and bustling markets, and distract their prey using various ruses. If someone approaches you in a seemingly innocuous manner, trying to sell you some postcards for example, be alert and watch your valuables – they may be distracting you while an accomplice rifles through your rucksack. Keep bags and purses zipped and buckled at all times.

Flashing large amounts of cash is also never a good idea, but it may be worth eschewing the credit cards when making purchases in the bazaar, as some travelers have complained online about extra charges on their credit card statements following purchases there. If you must use a card, do so only with an electronic transition – not a handwritten one, which is easier to alter. Make sure you are charged in the same currency or total value you were quoted and always get a receipt with the store’s details.

Some people may caution against visiting the Old City at night, but watching the walls change colors with the disappearing day and listening as silence settles over the alleys is unique and worthwhile, though best to have a friend with you both for safety and to share the experience. Seeing the Western Wall illuminated at night is to see the Old City in a whole new light.

Israel has special "tourist police" patrolling tourism hot spots to assist visitors in a variety of predicaments – whether the victim of an Artful Dodger or having simply strayed from their tour group and gotten lost.

Should you need to contact the police – anywhere in Israel and for any reason – dial 100 from a local phone.

Gora Berger