The land of Israel and Palestine is one of the most interesting places I have ever been and has, over time, become one of my favourite destinations. So much so that I actually spent 3 months living in Tel Aviv in 2022. However, while I’m confident in picking out what to wear now, the first time I visited I struggled to figure out what to wear in Israel. I knew that a huge part of this land was religious (for Jews, Muslims, and Christians) but I also knew that while modesty and respectful clothing was essential in some places, it wasn’t needed everywhere. After all, Tel Aviv which has a reputation for being one of the top party and beach cities in the world.
In the end, I packed very conservatively for my first trip. Which, given that I spent most of my time in Jerusalem and exploring the Palestinian cities in the West Bank, worked. However, having just spent some time living in Tel Aviv, I can tell you that modest wear is not essential or expected everywhere. In fact, in Tel Aviv, pretty much anything goes.
So, how the heck do you figure out what to wear in Israel? As someone who has been 4 times and lived there for 3 months, here are my tips and suggestions on what to pack for Israel and Palestine travel.
What to Wear in Israel & Palestine: Where are you going?
First things first is where are you planning to go and what type of tourism do you want to do? As mentioned above, Israel and Palestine are both considered very holy places Jews, Muslims, and Christians alike. If you are partaking in religious tourism, then you will want to be more modest in your attire for this type of tourism. Avoid sleeveless shirts and choose t-shirts or a long-sleeve tops/blouse that covers your shoulders and long pants or skirts or dresses that cover at least to your knees. Stay away from any crop tops and avoid showing cleavage.
Even if you aren’t on a specifically religious tour, it’s better to be more covered and modest when in Jerusalem. Not only in terms of the Old City which is full of historic churches, synagogues, and the Al-Asqa mosque but also around Jerusalem in general. Some of the neighbourhoods here are quite religious and women in these areas are expected to be covered down to their elbows and knees.
I suggest choosing more modest outfits when visiting Palestine and any areas with a large Muslim population such as Old Town Akko. In these places it’s best to follow a more conservative and covered dress code to keep in line with the local women there as well. Again, cover your shoulders and knees and avoid showing cleavage.
On the other hand, if you are visiting coastal cities like Haifa, Eilat, and especially Tel Aviv you have a lot more freedom in choosing what you wear. Since Tel Aviv is a pretty diverse city you will see a mix of everything here. If you prefer to dress more modestly, that’s fine. But if you are comfortable in crop tops, shorts, and mini skirts then you can wear them as well. On hot days it’s very common to see men and women walking down the Tayelet (boardwalk) in bikinis and board shorts.
What to Pack in Israel and Palestine: What Time of Year are You Visiting?
Another thing you will want to take into consideration is the time of year that you are visiting. Since Israel and Palestine are in the Middle East its easy to assume that they are warm destinations year-round. And that’s true for some areas (especially by my Canadian standards) but there are still parts of this land that do get snow in the winter. Golan Heights has its own ski resort and even Jerusalem gets snow sometimes. So be mindful of the weather and the season when choosing what to pack for Israel. Even if you are not staying somewhere with snow, the winter months tends to be very rainy so definitely make sure to have a rain coat! On the other hand, summertime in Israel and Palestine can be extremely hot, so you’ll want to pack lighter to stay cool.
What to Pack in Israel and Palestine: Keep it Casual
One of my favourite things about living in Tel Aviv and exploring Israel and Palestine is how casual it is. I frequently left my apartment with zero makeup wearing leggings and a t-shirt with my hair in a quick ponytail. Nobody cared. In fact, this type of casual outfit is very common. So don’t shy away from basic jeans, t-shirts, and athleisure type wear. Even in the professional world, people rarely dress up. Of course, you can if you want to. But this isn’t like Paris where you feel like you need to look like you walked out of the pages of a fashion magazine. You don’t need to feel like you have to impress anyone. Wear what you are comfortable in.
Suggested Packing List for Israel & Palestine
The above tips should help you feel a little more confident when figure out what to wear in Israel and Palestine, however, I do still have a suggested packing list based on my own personal experiences.
I suggest bringing a variety of tops that you can layer depending on weather and activities. A cute tank top is fine for the streets of Tel Aviv, but you’ll want to layer a light sweater over it if you are visiting Jerusalem. I couple of pieces I always travel with that come in handy for these situations is the evolve top by encircled which, if you’ve read any of my other packing guides, you will know features on every list. This is my favourite travel t-shirt of all time because it’s comfortable, cute, and very versatile. The sleeves can be made short or long and it’s reversible so the neckline can be higher or lower in the front depending on how you want to wear it.
I also love the butterfly wrap and mariposa kaftan from Diane Kroe. These are light, flowy layers that work really well to provide some extra coverage in hot weather. I always have one with me when I’m visiting more conservative areas. PS: use promo code HANNAH10 and you can save 10% off your Diane Kroe order.
As with all warmer destinations, fabrics like cotton and linen are very popular here to help keep you cool. The summer months of June, July, and August in Israel can be extremely hot!
Jeans are really popular in both Israel and Palestine and can be worn pretty much everywhere. Obviously, if you are going to more religious sites don’t wear a pair with holes and rips all through the thighs. But other than that, skinny jeans, wide-leg jeans, whatever is fine.
Since more casual clothing is widely worn across Israel and Palestine I also like to recommend my favourite pair of leggings. Especially if you want to do anything active like hiking (the North of Israel and the desert are very popular areas for this). My go-to travel leggings these days are the wunder train tights from Lululemon. They don’t slide down and they aren’t see through so I recommend them to everyone.
Another pair of pants that comes with me on every adventure are the dressy sweatpants, also from encircled. These are still fitted but not as tight as skinny jeans or leggings so, paired with a long top and my light sweater, they were my go-to for the more conservative tours and places we visited. Despite being called ‘sweatpants’ they aren’t heavy at all and normally make me feel like I’m wearing pj pants which I am 100% ok with.
Dresses and skirts are always great for travel and depending on the style and length they can potentially be appropriate for all travel in Israel and Palestine. While shorter hemlines are ok in Tel Aviv, I will warn you in advance that Tel Aviv can be pretty windy which is not ideal for short, flowy skirts. I definitely had a couple incidents walking through the streets of Tel Aviv so if you do wear short skirts or dresses, wear a shorts underneath them. Or just stick to a long dress or skirt to avoid wardrobe malfunctions.
PS: if you are looking for recommendations on my top picks for curvy-friendly travel brands check out this post.
You will absolutely want to bring a swimsuit with you! The beaches of Israel are spectacular plus, don’t forget about the Dead Sea which is a must-visit. That being said, the Dead Sea does tend to be a little more conservative than the beaches of Tel Aviv, so it might not be the best place for a string thong bikini. As I said earlier though, anything goes in Tel Aviv and the Red Sea area is much more liberal as well.
My biggest tip when it comes to what shoes to pack for Israel and Palestine is to keep in mind that you will likely be walking a lot. From Old Cities to shuks and markets, and along the beaches you will be spending a lot of time on your feet so bring a good pair of comfortable walking shoes. I love vessi brand for travel as they are casual, comfortable, and supportive plus waterproof. The waterproof factor is especially ideal for Israel in the winter which can be very wet and rainy. I personally love the Everyday Moves and Weekend styles. You can check them out here.
On top of that, a cute pair of sandals (or booties in the winter) and flip-flops will do the trick!
While Israel definitely doesn’t get as cold as Canada, you’ll still want to bring a jacket or layering pieces if visiting outside of the summer months. Again, be mindful of the possibility of heavy rain. I do recommend bringing a lightweight waterproof jacket (I have and love this one from Columbia). Denim jackets are also very common and are a great thing to pack as a light jacket for cooler days or evenings.
- A pashmina or scarf: I used mine multiple times to cover my neck or chest in Palestine and some of the more religious sites. Sometimes I made it part of my outfit, other times I carried it with me just in case- and I did end up needing it. I brought a bright, floral one with me similar to this.
- Sunscreen: The sun here is strong, especially by the beach and in the desert.
- Re-usable water bottle: You can drink the tap water in Israel so help cut down on plastic by bringing your own water bottle and filling up for the day. Don’t have one? Try this one. Another great eco-friendly accessory you can bring is a metal straw (buy them here) which can be really handy when you buy coffee or fruit shakes from the shuk.
- Backpack: A small day bag is easiest when out exploring Israel and Palestine. Especially if you need somewhere to keep your water bottle and scarf/sweater to cover up.
- A sarong: Mostly for laying on the beach and to use instead of a towel. But a sarong can also come in handy if you are in a situation where you need to cover up your shoulders or knees. If you spend lots of time at the beach, its also worth bringing a quick dry towel.
- Anti-chafing cream: for any of my ladies who fear the dreaded chub-rub! I use body glide to help prevent it when I’m super active. It basically goes on like deodorant but not white residue crap on your clothing. There is one aimed at women as well but as far as I can tell it’s just a pink container instead of blue.
Final Tips on What to Pack in Israel and Palestine
Packing for Israel and Palestine can be daunting but it’s not as hard as it seems. Think about where you are going, when you are going, and pack items that you can layer and feel comfortable in.
Hopefully, this guide on what to wear in Israel and Palestine helps makes packing easier! Happy travels!
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