Executive Travel Report
Tel Aviv (Israel) Fast Facts
Status Financial center of Israel and 2nd most populous city
Time zone UCT/GMT +3 hours
Political system Democracy
Main religion Judaism
Language(s) Hebrew, Arabic, English
Currency exchange rate 1 ILS = 0.26 USD; Inverse 3.76 USD
Arriving to Ben-Gurion International Airport (Tel Aviv)
The airport is located 20 km (12.5 miles) outside the city. Equipped with 3 terminals, the airport is designed to service approximately 16 million travelers a year. You will arrive to Terminal 3 that accepts international flights. Inside the terminal you will find an emergency clinic, post office, currency exchange centers, 24 hour banks and a number and of dining and retail places. Information desks are available in the main hall and Departure area of the terminal. The airport’s security is heightened: Travelers may be randomly subjected to body and luggage searches.
Public transportation consists of trains and busses. Buses are available at the gates 21, 23 and 24 of Terminal 3. They are inexpensive and easy to use. A day pass can be purchased for 6.90 NIS. Trains run regularly between 3 AM and midnight. It takes approximately 15-20 minutes to commute to Tel Aviv from the airport, and the cost of the ride will amount to 16 NIS. Public transportation is safe and reliable.
Taxis. Hiring a taxi is the most convenient way to get around the city. However the ride can be expensive: To get to the city from the airport costs approximately $70. It is best to use regulated taxis, as private cab drivers may charge you extra. Taxis operate on two tariff bases. Depending on a time of the day you will be charged as per either Tariff 1 or Tariff 2. Tariff 1 applies to 5.30 AM – 9 PM time slot and Tariff 2 to 9 PM – 5:30 AM. Tariff 2 is 25% more expensive than Tariff 1.
Car rental is not necessary: Tel Aviv’s public transportation system is extremely reliable and convenient to use. You can get to any destination in a number of minutes. On the other hand parking in the city is very limited and Tel Aviv’s drivers are notorious for aggressive driving.
Tel Aviv’s May weather is summer-like. Average temperature in May is 21°C (70°F) and tends to be 5-10°C higher at the end of the month. There is a 75-80% chance of a sunny day. Monthly number of rainy days averages at 2.
Israel’s currency is New Israeli Shekel (NIS). Minor unit 1/100 = Agorot. Both coins and banknotes are used. 20, 50, 100 and 200 are popular shekel denominations and 2, 5 and 10 are popular agorot denominations. 1, 5 and 10 shekel are also available as both, banknotes and coins. Exchange centers are widely available on the streets; money can also be exchanged in banks and hotel bureaus. Avoid independent money dealers, as they are likely to scam you.
Israel’s major banks are Bank Leumi, Bank Hapoalim and Bank of Israel. There are typically opened from 8:30 AM to 12 PM (Sun-Fri) and from 4 PM to 6 PM (Sun, Tue, Thr). Most banks are closed for business during afternoon hours and on Saturdays. ATMs are widely available and major credit cards are accepted by most businesses in the city.
Israeli official languages are Hebrew and Arabic. Most of the Tel Aviv’s population also speaks fluent English. Russian is another popular language in the city. International business is conducted in English, whereas Hebrew is used locally. Refer to Appendix 1 for common phrases in Hebrew.
Tel Aviv is rather a peaceful city. The number of instances of the foreign travelers being attacked is negligible. Usual safety measures should be used.
Avoid walking alone on isolated streets and beaches at any time, as many instances of crime have been recorded there. Tel Aviv’s police is always alert because of the risk of suicide bombing. Foreigners are usually not targeted.
Any possession of personal weapons is prohibited and considered to be a crime. Don’t photograph police officers or stations, nor any military bases or their staff. In case of police emergency dial 100. In case of a fire dial 102.
Health and Hazards
There are no particular health hazards for travelers to Tel Aviv. Usual safety measures should be observed. Although tap water is considered safe to drink, opt for bottled water whenever possible. Avoid purchasing food from the street vendors, as it might be undercooked or improperly refrigerated.
The sun is strong during this time of the year, so adequate hydration and sun protection are a must at all times. Pharmacies in the city are available within walking distance from any place. For medical emergency dial 101.
Food and Drink
There are many restaurants and cafes in the city, including those that are available right at the hotel. Locals go out to eat frequently and usually split the check. You are expected to leave a tip. Tip is not included in the bill and should equal to 10-12% of the bill. Alcohol is available, yet very expensive. That said, people drink regularly and it is accepted to drink during business dinners.
Doing Business in Tel Aviv
In general local people are really straightforward and blunt, unlike people from many western countries. Locals express their opinions and give advice readily, even when they are not asked to. Foreigners who are not prepared for such brutal honesty might think that local people are rude and obstinate. Locals enjoy engaging in loud conversations and debates, haggling and negotiating. No “no” is ever final.
Tradition matters more than rules for local businessmen. Local business people don’t mind bending rules for a good deal. Although business environment is generally fast-paced, Tel Aviv is infamous for its ubiquitous bureaucracy: Simple formalities may take weeks, if not months, to settle.
Business hours in Tel Aviv are based on Jewish religious traditions. Shabbat is observed by religious Jews from sundown on Friday’s to Saturday’s sundown, and businesses are closed during Shabbat. Business offices are opened from 8:30 AM to 7 PM, Sunday through Friday. Many businesses close for a couple of hours during midday.
Business dress is relaxed. Business casual attires are common. However, you should avoid wearing anything revealing, as it might offend your more religious colleagues. A long skirt and short-sleeve shirt are always safe to wear. Local women cover their knees and oftentimes elbows, and usually don’t wear trousers. Always have a head scarf with you, since you may need to cover your head, as local married women do.
Business etiquette is relaxed, as is Israeli society in general. You should expect to communicate on a first name basis with your colleagues. Handshakes – always use your right hand – and sometimes a kiss on a cheek are acceptable greetings. You should always come on time but don’t expect the same from the locals, as attitudes towards time vary significantly: Some business people are extremely punctual, whereas others may be late to meetings for more than half an hour. Tel Aviv’s people are very hospitable and it is common in business to give small gifts to express welcome. Take business cards with you, as business people in Tel Aviv often exchange cards after meetings.
Attitude Towards Foreign Women
There are numerous policies and regulations promoting gender equality; local women are even allowed to serve in the military. Tel Aviv is generally safe for foreign women, however, it is not uncommon for local men to openly stare and approach foreign women in a pushy and aggressive manner. In order to stop such advances you must be straightforward and blunt, otherwise you will not be heard.
Business environment is heavily male-dominated, there are especially few women in positions of power. General attitude towards foreign business women is egalitarian and respectful.
Kuwait City (Kuwait) Fast Facts
Status Capital and most populous city
Time zone UCT/GMT +3 hours
Political system Hereditary monarchy
Main religion Islam
Language(s) Arabic, English
Currency exchange rate 1 KWD = 3.31 USD, Inverse 0.30 USD
Arriving to Kuwait International Airport (Kuwait City)
Kuwait International Airport is the only airport available in the city. It is located 16 km (10 miles) away from Kuwait City. Equipped with two terminals, Terminal 1 and Sheikh Saad Terminal, it is designed to service more than 9 million travelers per year. A health center, food court, currency exchange bureau, banks and many shopping areas are available at the airport. There is a large car parking garage just outside the airport. Taxis are available outside as well, however local hotels arrange transportation from the airport for their clients; it is the most convenient way for travelers to get to their hotels.
Public transportation consists of buses and taxis. Kuwait’s public transportation system is not well-developed. Trains are not available and the railroad system is under construction. Both public and private busses are available and they cover a large area of Kuwait City. Bus fares average at 200 fils per ride but costs are usually higher for greater distances. Busses are available around the clock, they are convenient, modern and air-conditioned. Seats in the front half of every bus are reserved for women.
Taxis are ubiquitous. Taxi drivers don’t usually rely on meters, instead a zone system is used. Radio-controlled call-in taxis are the most reliable but they may be very expensive if you need to travel far. “Orange cabs” can be either shared with other passengers or used privately. It is best to agree on price before getting in a taxi because oftentimes local drivers don’t speak English. Avoid stopping transport on the city streets, especially unregulated cabs: Most likely you will get overcharged, not to mention that some women previously reported being harassed by taxi drivers.
Car rental is not necessary. Although signs are available in both Arabic and English and navigation is not a concern, traffic is a big problem in the city. It is becoming more and more congested, as new vehicles are added to the roads. Roads need a lot of improvement as well.
Kuwait City’s May weather is typically very hot and sunny. May temperatures in Kuwait City average at 32°C (90°F) and tend to be higher at the end of the month. There is a 75-80% chance of a sunny day. On average, in May there is only one rainy day in Kuwait City.
Kuwaiti Currency is Kuwaiti Dinar (KWD). Minor unit 1/1000 = Fils. Both coins and banknotes are circulated. Frequently used coin denominations are 5, 10, 20, 50 and 100. 1, 5, 10, 20, 250 and 500 are frequently used banknotes. Exchange centers are available in city-center financial establishments. Avoid independent money dealers and exchange centers inside hotels as their rates are notoriously inflated.
Kuwait’s major banks are National Bank of Kuwait, Kuwait Finance House, Samba Financial Group and First Gulf Bank. There are many other well-managed and well-financed banks. Banks are typically opened from 8 AM to 1 PM and from 4:30 PM to 6:30 PM Saturday through Wednesday, and from 8 AM to 12 PM on Thursday. Local banks are not opened on Fridays. Drive-in services and ATMs are widely available and major credit cards are accepted by most businesses in Kuwait City.
Modern Standard Arabic (MSA) is the state language of Kuwait. Most of Kuwait City’s population speaks some English. Most signs are available in both Arabic and English.
Contracts and other business documents are written in Arabic. You may request a copy in English but the Arabic version will be referenced in case clarification is needed. While English is used for international business, some knowledge of MSA will be helpful for everyday interactions. Majority of the locals speaks in colloquial dialect, Kuwaiti Arabic, but MSA is widely understood. Refer to Appendix 2 for common phrases in Arabic.
In general, Kuwait City is very safe for travelers. Crime levels are low in the city. Avoid crowded places, as pickpocketing and purse-snatching are quite common in such places. Always remain watchful. Although streets are usually quiet at night, avoid walking alone. For police, fire and medical emergency dial 112.
Health and Hazards
Intense heat and humidity are the main health hazards in Kuwait City. The sun is strong during this time of the year and it may causes exhaustion and even heatstroke, so adequate hydration and sun protection are a must at all times. Additionally, winds carry dust from the desert and make the air hard to breathe; the effect is compounded by construction pollution.
Pharmacies in the city are available in every administrative region, many of them are opened 24/7. Basic medicines are available over the counter; that said, some over-the-counter medicines that are readily available in the west, are dispensed per prescription only in Kuwait City. You should not bring sleeping medicines with you, as they are banned in the country.
Ambulances are not as available here as they are in western countries. Unless your trauma is extremely severe, you will be asked to transport yourself to the local hospital.
Food and Drink
Alcohol is prohibited in Kuwait City. Dining etiquette is based on Islamic principles and practices. When visiting someone’s home, it is rude to refuse any food or drink that your host offers you. Long conversations are customary before sitting down for a meal and soon after the dinner is over it is time to leave. When the host stands it serves as a signal for the end of the dinner.
Be punctual when meeting someone for dinner. Eat and accept drinks only with your right hand. Don’t cross your legs, as pointing the soles of your feet at someone is considered rude. When you are out for dinner to a restaurant, check the bill carefully, as sometimes tip is already included. Otherwise, 10-15% tip is expected.
Doing Business in Kuwait City
Although many expatriate managers live and work in Kuwait City, general business environment is firmly grounded into Arabic customs and principles. Relationships are important for Kuwaiti business people, so it is paramount to establish a high level of trust with your colleagues and partners.
Pace of doing business is typically slow. Patience is truly a virtue in Kuwait and haste is discouraged. It is ill-mannered to dive straight into business when meeting local business people, first conversations must be held. Be aware of prayer times – Muslims pray 5 times a day – and expect meetings to be postponed or interrupted accordingly.
Business hours in Kuwait City are usually from 8:30 - 9 AM to 5:30 - 6 PM, Saturday through Thursday. On Fridays Muslims rest, so businesses are closed. Some companies follow the 5 day work week, in this case either Saturday or Thursday will be used as a day off. International businesses prefer to take Saturdays, while local business take Thursday off.
Business dress is typically conservative. Women must cover their knees and elbows as well as their torsos up to the neck. Clothing that is too revealing or tight-fitting is considered offensive.
Business etiquette is very important in Kuwait City. Always use proper titles when addressing you colleagues and partners in Kuwait. Don’t use the others’ first names to address them, unless they specifically ask you to. Always use your right hand to shake hands and accept anything given to you, and when greeting a woman, let her extend her hand first. Business meetings and discussions may take a while, as Kuwaiti business people don’t value time the same way as their western counterparts. Don’t rush, it’s disrespectful. Small talk is a must at the beginning of any meeting. Repeat the main points you want to make, repetition will signal that you are being honest. Take business cards with you, you will need to give them to everyone you meet.
Attitude Towards Foreign Women
Local women experience a greater degree of freedom, as compared to women in other Arabic countries. Still, Kuwait is not as liberal as many western countries, for instance, local women rarely socialize in groups in public. There are a few women in positions of power, those local women who do have influential positions usually come from middle and upper class families and gained their positions with the support from the male side of the family.
There are great many foreign women working in Kuwait City, so locals are used to their presence. Harassment at work is not common, as it is a punishable crime. Foreign women are perceived as hard-working and in general are respected for their work ethic.
Common Phrases in Hebrew
Common Phrases in Arabic
Travel Folder Checklist
Confirmations of all reservations
Confirmed arrangements for transportation from and to the airports
Money, both dollars and NIS/KWD
Addresses of every destination visited (including hotel address) in Hebrew/Arabic and English
Printed directions to every destination visited
Contact numbers of reliable taxi companies in Tel Aviv/Kuwait City
Printed addresses of hospitals and police stations near hotel and in the cities
Timetables for local public transport
Confirmed business hours of all destinations visited
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