5 Things to Know Before You Visit the West Bank

What’s the West Bank? If you’ve never visited Israel, it’s a totally valid question! The West Bank is one of two Palestinian Territories (the other is the Gaza Strip) within the borders of what is recognized as Israel according to the United Nations. The West Bank is literally the Palestinian Territory on the west side, or West Bank, of the Jordan River. Here are a few things to know to get you started in your trip planning for Israel and the Holy Land!

Update: We have a podcast! The Israel Travel Podcast is now live on Apple Podcasts and Spotify!

The West Bank is Big

So, the West Bank is more than just the land on the actual West Bank of the Jordan River. The area actually cuts almost all the way to the Mediterranean side of Israel in some areas. You’ll also notice it cuts in sharply toward Jerusalem, because that particular city is divided between Israel and the Palestinian Territories.

It’s all complicated, but the important thing to know is that the West Bank is a large area. You will almost certainly want to see some places within its borders, so just be prepared. (You’re here and reading this, so you’re already doing great!)

The dotted lines within the Israeli borders show the Palestinian Territories.
Read next: 5 Things to Know Before You Visit Jerusalem

You’ll Need to Bring Your Passport

If you’re coming from the Israeli side of the border, you won’t need your passport to enter the West Bank. However, you may need it on your way from the West Bank back into the Israeli side. It all depends on your mode of transportation and who is checking papers at the border when you cross. As long as you do not have an Israeli passport, you won’t have any trouble. Just keep it with you, and you’ll breeze through!

Bring your passport with you!
Also helpful: Your Ultimate Guide to Passports

There are Plenty of Biblical Sites to Visit Here

I know what you might be thinking. Why would I want to visit Palestine? I’m here for the Biblical sites! Well… If Bethlehem, Jericho, Jesus’ Baptismal Site, and the Dead Sea Scrolls Caves are on your list of places to go in Israel, you will be heading into the West Bank!

You don’t need to be worried about it, but if you have opinions, you will need to keep your opinions to yourself. Unless you’re living in Israel or Palestine, are of Jewish or Palestinian descent, or have been studying the conflict for years already, your best course of action will be to say less than you think, and listen much more. There is a lot to learn about the current situation, as well as about your own faith at the Biblical sites in the West Bank.

If you want to see where Jesus was baptized (spoiler alert: this is what the water looked like back then, too!), you’ll need to go to the West Bank for that!
Keep reading: 10 Things to Know Before You Visit Israel and Palestine

Your Rental Car is Not Allowed

Oh, you want to explore the West Bank on your own? Nope! Sorry. If you rent a car in Israel, you will not be able to drive it across the border. If you do, you will have voided your car rental contract. In any case, guards at the border will be able to tell where your car belongs according to its license plate on the front and back of the car, so you won’t be able to fool them and do it anyway.

Honestly, you’re much better off with a guide and driver or going on a tour anywhere you go in Israel anyway. Let someone else, with the appropriate paperwork, do the driving!

You will need a car to see all the sites in the West Bank, so it’s best to hire a tour guide and driver, or go with an organized group!
Read on: 5 Things to Know Before You Visit Bethlehem

You Israeli Guide Will Not Guide You Here

Israeli tour guides are not allowed to guide groups in the West Bank. Seems unfair, right? Maybe, until you realize that Palestinian tour guides are also not allowed to guide in Israel. There are exceptions, but they are few and hard to come by. This makes logistics kind of complicated for visitors.

This is just one of the many logistical reasons why you’ll want to consider going to Israel and Palestine with a tour company like Elevation Journeys. You want to do this trip the right way, the first time. Letting someone who knows the ropes arrange your plans will make the whole trip easier and more efficient for you!

My Palestinian Christian guides welcomed me with open arms!
Read next: The Things Your Tour Guide Wishes You Knew

And don’t forget to check out All the Reasons You Want to Go to Israel & Palestine with Elevation Journeys!

Want more? Check out my dedicated Israel and Palestine Page!

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