Safety in Jerusalem is a crucial concern that most people have in mind while thinking of travelling to this city. So, let us review the safety of tourists in Jerusalem from various aspects.
Overall Safety in Jerusalem
Predominantly, Jerusalem is a safe city for tourists. Visitors can travel and explore without worrying much about street crime. The streets of this city are comparatively safer than most of the city streets in the USA. Even so, it is always advised to remain watchful every time, particularly while using public transport services, and stay wide awake for pickpockets. As per the stats presented by the reputed database platform Number, the Safety Index of Jerusalem is 63.85. So, overall Jerusalem is a safe city to travel to, but let us dig deeper to review the safety in this city with different aspects.
Public Transport Risk: Medium
Public transport in Jerusalem is somewhat vulnerable as, since the 1990s, the buses and bus stops have been targeted by Palestinian terrorist groups. So, stay alert when travelling by public transport in Jerusalem. Also, during rush hours, try to avoid travelling by public transport. If it is unavoidable, be mindful of your surroundings all the time.
Pickpockets Risk: Medium
Pickpocketing and sometimes bag snatching can happen in Jerusalem, like in any other area with touristy crowds. It is especially an issue in cities like Jerusalem since it is majorly visited by tourists. So, don't carry much cash. Besides, theft of credit cards, passports, and other belongings also take place in public areas. Stay cautious and observant in crowded tourist attractions and public places like railway stations and airports. Always take care of your valuables and keep them safe.
Mugging Risk: Low
There are very few chances that someone might get mugged in the city of Jerusalem. The crime rates in Israel have decreased over the past years, and specifically, violent crime against tourists is highly improbable. The streets of Jerusalem are safer than most of the cities in the USA and Europe. There is a risk of kidnapping in Israel in the areas near the borders of Syria, Egypt, and Lebanon. Jerusalem is relatively safer.
Scams And Fraud Risk: Low
There is quite a low risk of getting scammed in Jerusalem city. It is still advisable to should negotiate everything in advance. You must double-check your change and never make any payments in advance. Notably, the probability of fraud and scams is there in high tourist areas like the Old town of Jerusalem. Hence, don't opt to visit shops that lack proper signage. Also, you should not do such transactions for which you are unsure of the exchange rate.
Terrorism Risk: High
The acts of terrorism are probable to take place in Jerusalem. Though, the city's locals assert that such acts are very rare, and the number of people killed in terrorist attacks is less than those killed in car crashes in a year. From an overall perspective, Israel is vulnerable to being attacked by Palestinian terrorist groups. Hence, avoid visiting the areas near the borders with Syria, Lebanon, and Egypt in any case.
When there are periods of high tensions in Israel, the government of Israel considerably delimits travelling to Jerusalem. Notably, you do not have to worry about that, you can get such information that Jerusalem is safe to visit during your trip duration via your tour service provider, locals, or the embassy of your country.
Natural Disasters Risk: Medium
Israel's West Bank and Gaza are located in a seismically active zone. In 1834, it suffered a major earthquake whose epicentre was in the Jerusalem region. The destruction due to this quake involved the partial collapse of the city wall near the Dome of the Rock, the collapse of the dome constructed over the Chapel of the Ascension, a minaret, one of the Mount of Olives, the collapse of several large houses in Jerusalem. Besides earthquakes, one can expect sandstorms and incidental floods, which are not frequent. Notably, flash floods are likely to happen in the Judean Hills and Negev desert area in the winter season. Contrastingly, sandstorms or dust storms can happen during the summer months.
Travel Scams in Jerusalem
Tourist scams are pre-purposed acts done to gain monetary advantages for tourists. One may fall prey to them while visiting famous tourist attractions. Similar to any other tourist destination, Jerusalem also observes some typical scams. Here are the popular tourist scams that are likely to occur in Jerusalem:
A well-known scam in Jerusalem is the picture scam. In this, a local ask you to click their picture. They give their camera to you to take their picture. Then, while returning the camera, they deliberately drop it and hold you in charge of breaking it. Then, they demand money as compensation. Hence, you are advised to kindly refuse to take pictures for anyone unless you are completely sure they are genuine tourists.
Overcharging Taxi Driver
When cab services are unavailable at a destination, we use the local hired taxis. In Jerusalem, you must remember to ask them to turn their meter on whenever you take a taxi. It is also advisable to map out your journey before hiring a taxi, so you have a rough idea beforehand of how long the trip will be. Then, you should also ask your taxi driver before hopping around how much time the trip will take and cross-check it with what Google Maps tells on your phone.
Disguised ATM Helper Scam
A person comes to you at an ATM cash machine to help you avoid local bank fees in Jerusalem. This disguised helper has a true intention to scan your debit/credit card with the card skimmer they have kept in their pocket. Then, they watch you enter the pin so that they can exhaust your account later.
Another popular ATM scam is when your card is not working at an ATM, and someone comes to you to help you figure it out. It is recommended that while you are entering your pin, always hide the number pad with your hand. It is better to refuse any help while using the ATM. It is ideal if you can exchange your cash in a local bank in Jerusalem and travel with credit cards that are devoid of foreign currency fees.
Deceiving Bar Friends
If you are planning to visit bars to enjoy the nightlife in Jerusalem, beware of this scam. In this, two friendly girls or guys will approach you and do some friendly talks making you believe that there is mutual interest. Then, they will recommend visiting a nearby bar (with which they are partners) for a drink and invite you to come along. After a couple of shots, you will be charged 5-to-10 times more. They will offer to hand over a specific amount, and if you refuse to pay, the bar bodyguards escort you to an ATM to withdraw cash to make the bill payment. To avoid such a scam, you must not visit bars suggested by unknown (sceptical) people. Secondly, whenever you visit any new bar, please ensure that you ask for the menu as you arrive so that you will get to know the actual prices.
Bird Poop Scam
In this scam, while you are exploring the streets of Jerusalem, someone throws a little spatter of white paste on your shoulder so that you will naturally look up, assuming it is bird poop. Suddenly, a friendly person (local) offers you help to clean up all this while cursing the bird for messing up your dress. As they pretend to help clean you, they pickpocket you. Hence, unless it is an emergency call, kindly refuse any help from the locals who unwantedly approach you in a hurry to help you. Hide away all your valuables, cards & cash in the inside pocket safely.
Guessing Game Scam
On the streets of Jerusalem, you may notice a man with some boxes and a group of people surrounding guessing which box he has hidden the ball in. One of the people in the group guesses the correct answer, and the man gives him the prize money. Another person from the group does the same. All this attracts more crowds to see this street performer. Then, they ask an innocent person from the crowd to guess (which can be you if you also get attracted to it). While the innocent person is concentrating on where the ball is, their group members quickly pickpocket that person.
Safety of Women Travellers in Jerusalem
Israel is surely safe even for solo women travellers. To ensure the safety of all visitors, there are special tourist police at most of the notable sites in Jerusalem. Women are advised to just use their common sense and think wisely all the time. Avoid ill-lit and isolated areas at night. Also, avoid places packed with drunk people.
Concerning the dressing of women, it is advised not to wear short skirts, shorts, and sleeveless tops. Women who do not know where they will be visiting should wear tops that at least cover their arms up to the elbow and trousers that cover the ankle, but the trousers should not be skin-tight. It is good to dress modestly, especially when visiting Orthodox Jewish neighbourhoods of the city. Notably, the Old City of Jerusalem has many religious sites, and you should be modestly dressed when visiting this area.
Useful Safety Tips
If you notice any person acting suspiciously, then you should immediately communicate this to your tour guide or the authorities. Also, never leave your bags unattended. They might create panic as people may suspect it has a bomb.
The tourists in Jerusalem should duly follow the itinerary of their tour guide. While planning your independent itinerary in Jerusalem, you must check if there is any ongoing street demonstration on your way.
Avoid areas where there are large events, gatherings, and demonstrations. Specifically, ongoing protests can sometimes lead to violent clashes.
The Old City of Jerusalem has a history of heckling tourists. Hence, you must stay cautious of aggressive salespersons when visiting this area. If possible, plan your meals in advance and ask the travel guides or research online about safe places for shopping.
Always keep your expensive cameras packed away in your backpacks instead of hanging them around your neck. Also, wearing expensive jewelry and accessories must be avoided on the Jerusalem city tour.
You should not carry all of your identification documentation and valuable belongings every time you go out. Opt to explore the city with only the most necessary documents and belongings.
It is recommended to have travel insurance when traveling to Jerusalem. Notably, medical care in Jerusalem is of an exceedingly high standard but is very expensive. Travel insurance will cover the costs of medical expenses (in case of any mishappening) as well as theft and loss of valuable belongings.
In case of any natural disaster or severe weather, keep your passports in a safe place, monitor the local media, and follow the advice of local authorities.
It can be concluded that Jerusalem is overall safe to travel to. The crime rates are significantly low, and tourists are free to explore the streets of this beautiful city. Most people planning to travel to Jerusalem are a bit doubtful of the possibility of terrorist attacks. In reality, you will not likely witness or be caught in such. You must remain watchful all the time, especially while using public transport. Other than this, for the most part, Jerusalem is safe to visit. You just need to be observant of where you are and the people around you. Stay mindful, think wisely, and travel to this holy old city of Jerusalem without worries to make beautiful memories.