In Part One of this post, yesterday, I listed the first 6 smart phone apps that I think are essential for anyone taking a trip to Israel (plus 2 alternates). I focused on apps that would help you self-guide tours in Israel, help you communicate while here, and a good Israel news app. Today, I will tell you about a few general apps that should help you manage the day-to-day while you are here, as well as some that will help you to get around (and out of) the country.
Managing the Day-to-Day
One of the things that can surprise and at times even frustrate tourists in Israel, if they are unprepared for it, is how many things are closed on Friday night and Saturday — the Jewish Sabbath. And even for those who are observant, Shabbat in Israel can still require extra knowledge. For example, Candle Lighting Time (Sabbath begins with the lighting of candles) in Jerusalem is 40 minutes before sundown instead of the traditional 18. There are many apps that provide candle lighting times, but I find Shabbat Shalom by Rustybrick to be an excellent and easy-to-use free app.
Another thing that can (at times) cause tourists some confusion, particularly when it is Americans visiting Israel, is the different units of measure. Sure, some are somewhat easier to remember (2.2 pounds = 1 kilogram, approximately 3 kilometers for every 2 miles, etc). But even with those, if you aren’t great at math, the conversions can still be tough to remember. And don’t even get me started on the temperature conversion from Celsius to Fahrenheit. Again, there are many conversion apps, but the best free one I have found is iConverter Lite. It offers ease of use, a wide variety of measurement units and the ability to upgrade if need be.
Finally, probably the most common conversion you will need to do, and the one that can be most difficult since it is always changing, is currency conversion. Back when the exchange rate was hovering around 4 NIS to 1 USD, it was easy to estimate. But the rate has been more in flux of late, and at around 3.5 to 1 (which is where it is currently hovering), the exchange is harder. You want an app that is kept up to date with daily changes. I like Currency+.
I also want to suggest some apps that will help you get around more easily and more quickly. Because less time wasted in the car, bus or train means more time sightseeing and enjoying all this country has to offer!
Waze is not just one of highest-profile acquisitions this year from this Start-up Nation. It is also (by far) the best app you can possibly use while driving in Israel. (And it probably will be a good app to use once you get back home as well.)
Waze takes typical GPS directions apps and mixes it with all the best aspects of social media. As more people use it, it provides even better information for all other users, by delivering real-time traffic data, information about accidents and speed traps, and alerting you to other potential hazards. Then it can modify the directions it sends you based on that real-time information, getting you to your destination more quickly. With Waze you can use an invention of Israeli ingenuity to also better enjoy Israel itself!
Okay, but what if you aren’t planning to drive while here? What if public transport is more your speed? Working on a similar principle to Waze, Moovit provides current information for all forms of public transportation. Here in Israel, that means buses, trains or light rail. Still seemingly fairly new, it is at times a bit glitchy. But I have found it getting better all the time, and I rely on it more frequently now than I did previously. The app works in many other locations around the world as well, and I’m sure they will add more as time goes by.
Lastly, we all know that you won’t be staying in Israel forever (unfortunately). So what about easing your departure somewhat? Want an app that will give you flight information, as well as lots of other information about what you can find in Ben Gurion Airport? How about one that will provide you the same information at lots of airports around the world? Well, GateGuru is the best I’ve found for this purpose, and I think you’ll feel the same.
With all the time and energy you save (and aggravation you avoid) by using these 12+ apps, I hope it will make you want to come back and visit Israel again very soon. And of course when you do, I’ll be happy to guide you anywhere in the country. Just let me know!
And please leave comments if you think there are other apps that I left out and should know about!