The main unit of Israeli currency is the New Israeli shekel (NS) and some denominations are dispersed in either bill or coin form, so you’ll need to pay attention to how you store it. The shekel also has fractional denominations called agora, also in coin form.
We need to talk about I.S. money also, and this will be a nice addition for travelers used to dealing with dollars. Many businesses will accept U.S. currency, and this is reflected in some, although not all, ATM’s around Israel. As of this writing, some Bank of Israel ATM’s will offer you the option of receiving currency in dollars rather than the Israeli Shekel. Although I would still advise you to deal with local transactions, in the local currency of whatever country you happen to be in, including Israel, I like the fact that if you happen to find yourself with only United States currency in hand, you won’t necessarily be high and dry.
This is also a good time to reiterate some of the rules of the road when it comes to dealing with money overseas, because Israel is one of the many places where you can find yourself with extra fees and charges for otherwise normal tranactions you would make at. Home. As I wrote in this post, getting cash from an ATM with a debit card could very well be your worst option, and there are numerous fees you need to be aware of if you are going to use ATM’s out of your home country to get cash. This is especially risky if you are going to use your debit card instead of a credit card for point of sale tranactions at local restaurants and merchants.
I wrote in this post about the pros and cons of using credit cards overseas, and how the normal rules of the road can seem reversed when traveling. The bottom line is that if you leave your home country with good credit, you may want to make the bulk of your purchases with a credit card, but only if you are using a credit card that you are absolutely certain does not have foreigh transaction fees. Further, a cash advance may even be your best option if you need cash in a hurry, if you plan to repay yourself immediately, and by immediately, I mean within the first 24-36 hours of the cash advance. read the details in this post.
By and large though, spending and getting money in Israel should be a relatively painless process for U.S. travelers and not a real problem for anyone else either.
Coming up next: getting a break, whether you want it or not.