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Traveling from Zurich to Israel, have some questions

We have plans to travel to Zurich on business in mid March and now have been invited to a wedding in Jerusalem for the weekend following, so rather than travel around Switzerland as originally planned we want to take advantage of a great excuse to go to Israel which has always been on our "to do" list. My questions at this point mostly have to do with the flight booking. I have been pretty comfortable booking all our travel arrangements myself when we have made several trips to Europe and just want to know if there is anything I should be aware of now that there is an Israel leg? The reason I ask is because so many of the flights seem to arrive/depart Israel in the middle of the night? I plan on booking NYC-Zurich-Tel Aviv-NYC as one multi city ticket unless someone suggests that wouldn't be best. We prefer nonstop flights when possible.
We hope to be in Israel 7 nights and realize that we won't have time to see everything so we would like some help deciding how many nights in Jerusalem vs Tel Aviv. We arrive in Israel on a Tuesday, the wedding is Friday morning, and we plan on leaving the following Tuesday. Thanks in advance.

Posted by
10344 posts

We can give more useful advice if you can clarify these things:

1) How many full days for sightseeing do you have, not counting partial days when you're flying in or out, and not counting the time devoted to the wedding?

2) Can you give us some idea of what your main subjects or areas of interest are, in Israel?

Thank you.

Posted by
15053 posts

I'm not sure why you're concerned about flying in and out of Israel in the middle of the night. The conventional wisdom is that if it's a transatlantic flight, it's overnight; if it's a European flight, it allows for good connections through Europe or gives you more sightseeing time on arrival and/or departure days. United flies non-stop from Israel to Newark, Delta and El Al fly non-stop to JFK. I know United partners with Lufthansa and it looks like Delta also flies to Zurich.

Anyway, there is inexpensive ground transport between Jerusalem and the airport 24/7, there are taxis to/from Tel Aviv (about $30-35) all the time too. The airport is between the 2 cities, somewhat closer to Tel Aviv. The airport is positively buzzing with activity in the middle of the night, often the busiest time of all. All the shops and cafes are open.

With 7 nights, it will be a little hard to visit both the north and Tel Aviv. The north is usually terrific in March, lots of greenery, wild flowers and flowing water, migrating birds too. If you are willing to rent a car, you can see quite a bit in 3 days around the Sea of Galilee. From Jerusalem you can do a day trip to the Dead Sea, visit the Ein Gedi nature reserve, Masada, and have a dip in the salty sea - complete with mud bath. You can do it on your own with a car or with a guided tour.

Or you could split your time, without a car, between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. You can easily visit the Crusader city of Akko and Haifa by train from Tel Aviv (but not on Friday or Saturday). You can even get to Caesarea with its Roman and Crusader ruins with a combination of train and taxis.

Posted by
81 posts

I now have the details on what our obligations are for the wedding. We arrive in Israel, I assume late afternoon on Tuesday March 24. Just for clarification to a previous question, we are not afraid to arrive/depart in the middle of the night, we just prefer to be SLEEPING :) on a somewhat normal schedule. Our first wedding activity will be a dinner Thursday evening in Jerusalem, then the wedding Friday morning, then another dinner Friday evening. Therefore we would need to stay in Jerusalem at least Thursday and Friday nights, possibly Saturday night, maybe even longer. We plan on flying out Tuesday March 31.
The question is where to stay when? Since this is a 7 night trip we prefer to not move more than 3 times and have a minimum of 2 nights in each hotel. The less we can move the better. While we want to see as much as we can, we also are happy to just take time to absorb the vibe of the area we are in. As far as our interests, we assume we will be back at some point so for this trip we would want to focus on the historical Jewish aspects of Israel. My husband also is interested in visiting the Rothschild Winery. Thank you in advance for your suggestions.

Posted by
15053 posts

We arrive in Israel, I assume late afternoon on Tuesday March 24. Just for clarification to a previous question, we are not afraid to arrive/depart in the middle of the night, we just prefer to be SLEEPING :) on a somewhat normal schedule. . . . We plan on flying out Tuesday March 31.

There are 4 scheduled flights arriving from Zurich on the 24th, at 2.20 a.m., 3.35 a.m., 2.40 p.m. and 5.55 p.m. They all appear to be SwissAir-ElAl code shares.

There are non-stop flights to JFK and Newark. Most people like the overnight flight - you leave around midnight and land in the US around 5-6 am. You'd have to fly on El Al or a US airline. All the other airlines will have connections somewhere. With a "midnight" flight, you'd leave Monday night? Tuesday night? If the latter, that gives you another entire day in Israel. You may in fact be departing on April 1 (at half-past midnight).

Posted by
15053 posts

Our first wedding activity will be a dinner Thursday evening in Jerusalem, then the wedding Friday morning, then another dinner Friday evening. Therefore we would need to stay in Jerusalem at least Thursday and Friday nights, possibly Saturday night, maybe even longer.

Tuesday land in Israel 2.40 p.m. (?). Get to hotel in Jerusalem around 5. You could drop your luggage and take a taxi to the Israel Museum (highly recommended) which is open until 9 on Tuesday. Or walk around the center and have a nice dinner.
Wednesday Spend the day at the Dead Sea (Masada, Ein Gedi, Qumran, and a dip in the salty water). The best way would be to rent a car for a day. Eldan is a very reliable company with good rates (book online for best rates). Their Jerusalem office is open from 8.00-6.00. You may not have time to get the car Tuesday in Jerusalem, so either rent from the airport and drive to Jerusalem (and pay for 2 days rental), then get an early start in the morning, or pick up the car first thing Wed. morning and return it Thursday morning first thing. Sunset is just before 6 p.m. so you'll have lots of time during the day. You could take a guided tour, but you won't see as much and it probably won't be cheaper.
Thursday Sightseeing in Jerusalem
Friday Wedding
Saturday Either Jerusalem or Tel Aviv during the day. Spend the night in Tel Aviv hotel.
Sunday Visit Caesarea and Zichron Yaakov. It may be a little easier with a car but definitely doable without. Take the train from Tel Aviv to Binyamina, then a taxi to Caesarea. Arrange with the driver to pick you up later (there are no cab stands at the sight) or get his phone number and call him when you're ready to leave. Important there are 2 entrances. Have the driver drop you at the southern entrance and pick you up at the northern one - otherwise it's a long walk back! Then either take the taxi back to Binyamina and the train to Zichron, or just taxi to Zichron.
Monday Take the train to Akko (Acre) and spend the day. Stop on the way back in Haifa, from the train take the Carmelit (Israel's subway!) up the mountain and walk to the Bahai Gardens for the best view on the coast. Then back down to the train and back to Tel Aviv.
Tuesday sightsee in Tel Aviv and Jaffa. On Tuesday afternoons, there's an arts and crafts fair in Tel Aviv. Between that and the Jaffa flea market, you'll have lots of opportunities for souvenirs and gifts to take home.

If you want whirlwind:
Tuesday head to Tel Aviv
Wednesday Akko/Haifa as above
Thursday morning transfer to Jerusalem, sightseeing in Jerusalem
Saturday Jerusalem
Sunday get a rental car first thing in the morning, head to the Dead Sea. Mid-afternoon, drive north to Tiberias. It's about 2-2.5 hours easy driving, but you want to do it in daylight. Sunset is around 7 p.m. (we go on DST on the 27th).
Monday-Tuesday explore the Galilee and Golan Heights, drive to the airport to drop the car and fly home. It's about a 2-hour drive from Tiberias to the airport without traffic. If you have a midnight flight out, you need to be at the airport around 8.30, so you should miss most of the rush hour traffic.

Posted by
15053 posts

There are two wineries that were established by Rothschild at the end of the 19th century under the name Carmel one in Rishon Le-Zion, just south of Tel Aviv and the other in Zichron Yaakov. I think only the one in Zichron has a visitors' center. Frankly it's large and uninteresting as a winery. If you are interested in Rothschild, you will enjoy Ramat Ha-Nadiv Memorial Gardens in Zichron. Ha-Nadiv was one of the nicknames of Baron Rothschild. Several of the family are buried in the gardens. http://www.ramat-hanadiv.org.il/en

If you want wineries, there are boutique ones within an hour's drive of Jerusalem and many in the Galilee and Golan Heights.

Let me know what sounds good to you and I'll be happy to give you more info and ideas.

Posted by
8889 posts

EasyJet also flies Basel to Tel Aviv. May be cheaper.

Posted by
81 posts

Thanks- lots of good advice. Things are staring to firm up. I just found out that there is a hotel block for the wedding and it would make the most sense for us to definitely be in Jerusalem for Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights. We could still go directly to Jerusalem upon arriving on Tuesday which would give us 6 nights there but I am thinking that might be too much if we are looking to get some other things done. Or we can just not worry about it and use it as our base for everything. So we have two nights to possibly enjoy elsewhere at the beginning of our trip and one or two nights somewhere before we fly out. Questions- The Dead Sea region and Masada- are they okay doing as a day trip from Jerusalem or would it be better to stay in the area to enjoy them? Several people have mentioned Petra in Jordan, should we figure out a way to fit this in or should we just use the extra nights we have in Tel Aviv which looks like it has plenty to do and explore. Thanks.

Posted by
15053 posts

There's no reason to stay overnight at the Dead Sea. There's nothing to do after dark except have dinner in the hotel and read a book - or go to a bar in another hotel.

You could go to Tel Aviv for Tues/Wed and use Wednesday for a day trip by train to Akko. Then go back on Sunday to see more of Tel Aviv-Jaffa and a day trip to Caesarea and Zichron Yaakov.

Posted by
15053 posts

The only way you could realistically visit Petra is to take a 6 a.m. flight from Tel Aviv's Sde Dov airport to Eilat, cross the border to Jordan and take a 2-hour drive to Petra for a few hours, then drive back, cross the border and a late evening flight to Tel Aviv. There are organized tours that will meet you at the plane, escort you to the border, pick you up on the other side, and take you to Petra. It's really not worth it if you can't stay overnight in Petra or Eilat.

Posted by
41 posts

We've been to Petra, and personally I wouldn't miss it. It was incredible. It's an extra journey, but when are you going to be that close again. Just saying. Russ

Posted by
81 posts

I haven't been active on this post due to other travels but now this trip is fast approaching so I am looking to firm up more details.
We arrive Israel Tuesday on the 2:40PM SwissAir and I have reservations for two nights in Tel Aviv at what seems to be a very nice place, the Diaghilev Live Art Hotel. Our plans are basically to just absorb the culture, check out Jaffa, stroll the neighborhoods, etc. if there is one "must do" in Tel Aviv I am open to input.
On Thursday we head to Jerusalem for five nights. We have family obligations Thursday evening and Friday morning and evening, not sure about midday. We are free to explore all day Sat, Sun and Monday. Our flight leaves early Tuesday morning.
Here are a bunch of basic questions. Sorry in advance and that leads to my first question:
Question one: Since Rick doesn't have an Israel guidebook, what is the second best guidebook to use? I did purchase the Eyewitness Travel Top Ten Israel pocket guide to take with me but I am not finding it helpful for preplanning.
Question two: what would be the best way to get from the airport to our Tel Aviv hotel? We do not plan on renting a car.
Question three: what is the best way to get to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv?
Question four: we will be interested in hiring a guide who will do a non religious, more factual/historical tour. I have started researching and some mention that they don't provide transportation. How close is everything? Does that mean they use public transportation or mostly walking? We are good walkers. We might have some family members join us at the last minute so I don't know how that will work with the transportation? How about going to the Dead Sea and Masada?
Any input on guides with a great knowledge of the area and a good sense of humor are welcome.
Question four: what is the best way to get from Jerusalem to the airport? How far in advance of our flight should we plan on arriving?
Question five: Some Israel travel websites mention that you shouldn't get your passport stamped if you plan on traveling to an Arab country in the future. How do most travelers here deal with that?Who knows where we might travel in the future?
Question six: How close is Rick to doing an Israel guidebook. As he can see, I am lost without him! :)

Posted by
39 posts

I never have my passport stamped when I visit Israel.

Posted by
15053 posts

Question two: what would be the best way to get from the airport to our Tel Aviv hotel? When you exit the airport, turn left and walk a few yards to the taxi stand. Ask before you get in the taxi what the fare is. I believe you have a choice of using the meter or taking the fixed fare. If so, you're better off taking the fixed fare option, since you're likely to be in rush hour traffic.

Question three: what is the best way to get to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv? Take a taxi to the Tel Aviv bus station, intercity bus to Jerusalem, then taxi from the Jerusalem bus station to your hotel. Or take a taxi from hotel to hotel. It depends on how much you want to spend to save some time and how much luggage you're dealing with.

Question four: what is the best way to get from Jerusalem to the airport? How far in advance of our flight should we plan on arriving? Generally you need to be at the airport about 3 hours before take-off. It may be a little less if you can do on-line check-in and print out your boarding passes in advance. If you have a connecting flight, be sure to print out boarding passes for that flight too. Most people use the Nesher shared taxi service (it's the cheapest option, but can take up to an hour longer than a "regular" taxi). You call them a day in advance to book the service (your hotel will have the number and be able to help you). You tell them what time you need to be at the airport and they tell you when they'll pick you up. You may be the first pick up or the last pick up for that run, which determines how long it takes. If you have an early morning flight, you'll be driving to the airport in the middle of the night, no traffic, so about 45 minutes, once the taxi is full and headed out of the city.

Question five: Some Israel travel websites mention that you shouldn't get your passport stamped Passports are no longer stamped in Israel. You'll get a small card on arrival. Hang onto it until you leave.

Posted by
81 posts

Thank you for the replies. It has helped us to decide that taxis are probably the best option for us. While we try not to pay higher costs necessarily, we also value time and ease of travel. Thank you also for clarifying the Israel passport issue, I had been getting conflicting feedback.
Another question, some relatives have suggested meeting at the Domaine du Castel Winery. Is this worth our time? We do have an interested in wine and usually do try to visit a winery in our travels. We have decided that the Rothschild Winery is too much out of our way for this visit. Any other good choices near Tel Aviv/ Jerusalem?