My husband and myself are beginning to plan a 2 or 3=week trip to Israel & Jordan for 2014 - probably in the Fall. We would like to rent a car for part of the trip and drive to Petra - Is there any problems driving from Jerusalem to Petra in a rental? We want to visit Jerusalem, Caeserea, Haifa, Akko, Nazareth, Masada, the Dead Sea, and all the usual must-see sights. We need any/all information and travel tips anyone would like to contribute. Thank you.
I have not been personally but a close friend of mine just went there with her good friend who does business in Israel on a regular basis and travels there extensively. They had a great time!
This is what she shared when she got home.
Her experience was that in Israel there was no problem getting around by rental car and train. The problem is crossing into Jordan and getting to Petra. It is difficult to go straight into Jordan, straight-on, west to east from Israel as the trip through Palestine, through the very tense, chaotic border, is not safe unless you really know what you're doing and are with a local person. What is recommended is to go to Aqaba down near the Red Sea and take a cab up to Petra. This way you don't stand out so much...remember, this part of the world, although fairly stable, has risks that you don't see in other places.
That's my two cents.
Thanks for your reply -- ALL information is appreciated!
First of all, a friend of mine who has traveled often and extensively in Israel has written a non-commericial guide (pdf format). If you send me your email address by private message, I'll be happy to forward it to you. He just made the trip to Petra in November and has updated the guide to include that.
When in the fall? The Jewish holidays begin this year on September 24 and end on October 16. It is highly recommended to come after that. That is one of the 2 worst times to be here as a tourist (the other is Easter week). It is a very popular time for tourists, and the schools are closed and many businesses too, so about half the locals are also on vacation then. Hotels fill up quickly at the highest prices of the year, and attractions/sights are packed and the roads are full of traffic most of the time. Weather from mid-October to mid-November is generally pleasant, it's rare to get more than a day or two of rain (if that) and it's still sandal/shorts weather in most of the country.
You cannot take a car across the border to Jordan (rental or other). Anyway, it is much easier without a car. Take a look at the Desert EcoTours website (they are one of the very best) for guided tours in Jordan. If you only want to go to Petra, you don't need a guide. It's easy to cross the border on your own (best from Eilat) and arrange for a Jordanian driver to take you to Petra and back. You don't need a guide in Petra. If you want to see more - most popular is Wadi Ram - you really need to use a guide with an all-terrain vehicle. You can drive to Eilat and drop the car, or park it for when you return. You can take a bus (about 5 hours from either Tel Aviv or Jerusalem) or you can fly from Tel Aviv's local airport (Sde Dov).
To visit the north (Sea of Galilee, Nazareth, Tiberias, Golan Heights and much much more), you need a rental car. You won't want a car in Tel Aviv or in Jerusalem (traffic, parking, one-way streets are all challenging). Haifa and Akko are easy to get to by train from each other and from Tel Aviv. Caesarea is easier with a car since there is no bus service to the site. The sites at the Dead Sea are easier to get to by car, but doable by bus. There are also day tours from Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. Or you can rent a car for 24 hours in Jerusalem just for a day trip there.
I hope this helps and doesn't overwhelm you. It really is easy to do, just takes a little more planning that European destinations.
Me and my husband are also interested in a trip to Israel & Jordan. If you have more info please write me on email@example.com.
We would like to fly to Tel Aviv or Amman from Europe and rent a car (if this is the best option).
Thank you in advance!
I cannot answer your main question about driving from Jerusalem to Petra, but I can address some of the places you mention because I vacationed in Israel last summer.
Jerusalem: I loved it. I wish I had spent more time there. Often, when I go to Europe, I sometimes think that I have spent too much time in big, aggressive cities, but Jerusalem was different. It's a unique blend of very old and new. The Old City, in spite of the pushy shop owners, is not like anything I have ever experienced. I saw the Western Wall and Church of the Holy Sepulchre, both very much worth visiting, regardless of your religion. I walked the Via Dolorosa, but I am Catholic and do not know if that would appeal to you. I wanted to visit the Temple Mount, but it was Ramadam, and there were limited hours. I also strongly recommend Yad Vashem, the Holocaust memorial, and the Israel Museum.
Jerusalem has an urban pulse. See the modern city. Ben Yehuda Street is a good place for this.
I also visited Bethlehem, which is under the purview of the Palestinian Authority, to see the Church of the Nativity. Bethlehem is only 8 miles from Jerusalem. A city bus takes only 25 minutes or so to get there. The Church of the Nativity, which was built in around 350, is the oldest free-standing church worldwide. A church in St. Catherine's Monastery in the Sanai is older, but that's a monastery church.
Dead Sea/Masada: I also loved this. I have never experienced heat like I did in the Judean Dessert, and it was worth it. Stay at the strongly recommended Ein Gedi Resort Hotel. You can visit a spa on the Dead Sea. Nearby is the Ein Gedi Nature Preserve, an actual oasis. As for Masada, I have seen antiquities all over Europe, but none of them surpasses Masada for sheer wonder.
Tel Aviv: If you go, swim in the Mediterranean and see the Carmel Market and Diaspora Museum.
Unless it's changed, there's technically a way to take a car into Jordan. The crossing has to be at Eliat or one other place. When I looked into it, it was a bureaucratic nightmare involving changing plates (which made it a non-stater for me), buying Jordanian insurance, paying exit fees, and I forget what else. I never got as far as figuring out about coming back since the people I was borrowing the car from were getting fidgety.
If you rented a separate car for each nation, it's just like driving around anywhere else. However, most people don't go wandering around Jordan that much (or even know much about it) so Chani's train and driver/guide suggestions make the most sense.
I'd like to suggest one addition to your proposed itinerary. In the far north, the aquifer below Mt Herman is one of the most beautiful places I've ever been. Incredibly lush greenery, flowing streams everywhere when we were there (late spring). Also, it was wonderfully free of crowds, and offered nice walks or hikes, depending on your energy level. It's in the area of the Golan Heights. Forgive my spelling on all of the following, since I didn't take the time to check for spelling: the name of the national park is Banias (and I've seen different spellings of that word); in the New Testament, it's the site of Caesarea Philippi; and in the Old Testament, Dan is nearby. There are also Roman ruins in the area, although I didn't take time to visit them.
Ed, I probably should have written "you cannot take a rental car" across the border. I suspect the only Israelis who take their cars to Jordan are the jeep enthusiasts planning desert adventures.
Point, set, and match to Chani.
The problem with having a pea brain is that the little sucker did not extend its thinking to the fact that you can't go around changing plates on a rental, let alone what other prohibitions might exist.
My previous post is nothing but trivial minutiae.
Oh my gosh, Ed. So sorry for the mixup. I thought your point was good and I was addressing it. It is kind of frustrating not to be able to drive to Amman, though. Maybe someday . . .