10 Tips for Traveling as an Orthodox Jew

Oia, Santorini (Photo taken July 2013, courtesy)

My husband and I love to travel. We’ve been to over a dozen countries and have never let being Orthodox stop us. Here are some tried and true tips based on our adventures.

Tip #1: Find the nearest Chabad and enjoy the delicious meals they have to offer. Just try not to think about the fact that your schnitzel was slaughtered on site.

Pro tip: If you want to make sure there will be a Chabad house, go to destinations that Israelis travel to e.g., Thailand, or follow South America’s “Hummus Trail.”

Tip #2: In the absence of Chabad and kosher food, pack a bag full of granola bars, cold vacuum-packed meals, tuna packets, and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. When you finally reach the top of Machu Picchu, and sit for a picnic to take in the view, you won’t mind the stale bread.

Tip #3: If going on a cruise, always request to be seated at your own table. There simply won’t be enough room at the table with all that aluminum foil for fellow cruise passengers to enjoy their meals. It’s anyway not conducive to making friends. Either way, act normal.

Pro tip: When they show you the menu of all the kosher appetizers, mains and desserts, remember not to choose the cheese cake dessert with the roast beef main.

Tip #4: When it comes to Shabbat and the obvious modern hurdle of needing electronic keys to get into your room, pre-arrange with your hotel that whenever you come to them on Saturday and ask to be let into your room, they sort of know why. Better yet, leave the room once in the morning and don’t return until sundown.

Pro tip: Try to explain that the dimmed lights you requested are just for your Sabbath, not for every day. Otherwise they might think that you weirdly like to have the mood set at all times.

Tip #5: If you ask your Bed and Breakfast to have someone meet you at the gate at 5:00pm to let you in from your Shabbat walk – don’t be late. Otherwise, you’ll find yourself stranded on a sidewalk, lurking like a creep.

Tip #6: If you visit a European city (i.e., Paris) with high security at Jewish sites and wish to go to synagogue on Friday evening, again, don’t be late. The guards will turn you away rather aggressively. Also, don’t try to reach for the door as you explain in broken French that you are Jewish, no one is getting past those guards. It’s comforting, in theory, but not when you’re the subject of suspicion.

Pro tip: To avoid eruv related issues, arrive well in advance to present your ID and to answer their survey questions (e.g., what community you belong to and what your rabbi’s name is).

Tip #7: Sad but true, consider taking off your yarmulke in destinations such as the above…But if heading to a kosher restaurant, no need to go to with your baseball cap, we all know you’re from Borough Park.

Tip #8: If out on Shabbat, better to rely on the three stars to let you know that Shabbat is over instead of asking strangers who don’t speak English what the time is.

Pro tip: Bring a working watch.

Tip #9: There is almost no place in the world that doesn’t have some kind of Jewish history (#wanderingJew). It’s worth looking up when you’re there. You’re bound to meet a fellow Jew and brush up on your favourite game – Jewish geography.

Tip #10: Don’t let being an Orthodox Jew stop you from seeing this beautiful world. And without eating out, you’ll do it at a fraction of the cost.

About the Author
Sarit was born in Israel and grew up in Toronto. She obtained a Masters in Public Policy and worked as a policy advisor for the Ontario government. Being the only Orthodox Jew at work, she began to humorously chronicle her experiences of being observant in the modern workplace in her blog, The Working Yid. In 2019, Sarit moved to Israel with her husband and baby boy and has been writing about her Aliya experiences and what it means to be an Orthodox Jew in the 21st Century. Her blog is now called The Modern Yid.
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