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Trip to Israel...would like some input

Hello! My wife and I are planning a trip to Israel in May and we would appreciate any advice anyone could be so kind to provide. We were planning on staying in Tel-Aviv the whole time (probably 6-7 days).

Do you recommend staying in TLV the entire time or should we stay in Jerusalem part of that time?

We would like to hire a tour but don’t want to do a huge group that would take 8-10 hrs. Are smaller tours available? Not sure if we want a truly private tour...guess we can’t be pleased right? Lol

Could we drive to Jerusalem on our own?

What about traveling to Bethlehem? Is that done via private tour only?

Do you advise renting a car to travel to other areas like Nazareth and Haifa?

We would like to stay in a hotel with a suite and fitness center...any suggestions there?

What areas of TLV should we consider in terms of hotel location? We would like to be around shops and stores.

We had planned on an bundle deal from Expedia, etc. Any thoughts on that?

Thanks so much in advance...I appreciate your time!

Posted by
15564 posts

If you plan on visiting Jerusalem, I would suggest staying there. Too much to see for just one day and commuting back and forth to Tel Aviv makes no sense. Personally, I preferred Jerusalem because of the history. Tel Aviv is a wonderful city and you could easily spend a day or two seeing the sights. But, I think Jerusalem is better for not only that city but to get to Bethlehem and other places like Masada and the Dead Sea.

You could drive to Jerusalem but there is also train and bus service. I''ve both driven and taken the train. Driving is on a highway, the train goes through the Judean Hills and the scenery is excellent.

I took two "one day" tours with Rent-A-Guide and was very pleased. I was there in May a couple of years ago and there were about ten people on each tour.

Expedia would not be my first choice for booking a deal but I'm not a fan of Expedia.

Be aware, Israel will be very hot in May so plan accordingly.

Posted by
15647 posts

TLV is the airport, which is not in fact in Tel Aviv. When it's not rush hour the drive from the airport to Tel Aviv is about 20 minutes, to Jerusalem about 40 minutes (the airport is between them on the main highway linking the two cities). The best way to travel between the two cities is by road (driving, private taxi, shared taxi or public bus). The trains are less frequent and the journey is much longer (it more or less following the road along the coastal plain, but then winds through the hills slowly up to Jerusalem so it can be scenic).

J'lem is by far the more interesting city historically, religiously, ethnically, and politcally. T-A is a modern city with great beaches and plenty of nightlife (though Jerusalem has its share) and historic Jaffa for a bit of history and diversity. From J'lem you can day trip to the Dead Sea by rental car, public bus or on a day tour. From T-A you can day trip by train to Haifa and/or Akko (aka Acre) which is one of my faves, and to Caesarea - though it's a bit more complicated with a short taxi ride from the train station to the sight. If you rent a car for 2-3 days while in T-A it would be easier to visit Caesarea (I'd still take the train to Akko/Haifa) and other sights on the coastal plain.

If you want to spend a couple of days seeing the area around the Sea of Galilee and the Golan Heights, you will need to arrange either a private tour or rent a car and DIY (not difficult but requires advance planning).

Driving in T-A and J'lem is miserable. I live in an outlying suburb of T-A and only go into the city a handful of times a year when I have no choice because of the traffic and lack of affordable parking. Now they've torn up some of the major streets in the city to build a light rail line, making it even worse. I drive a lot in J'lem but I know the city well and I know where I can park at reasonable rates (or even for free sometimes).

If you're staying in J'lem, getting to Bethlehem is easy. You can get a bus or taxi from outside the Damascus Gate of the Old City (easy to get to from the city center). It's about 3 kms so taxis aren't prohibitively expensive.

I think all the upscale hotels in T-A are within a couple blocks of the beach - doesn't much matter which part of the seashore - each has advantages and disadvantages.

May is a good time to visit. I think this year, the holidays are early so you won't have disruptions in early May when the weather is usually warm but not too hot. By the end of the month, it can get to sizzling summer temps but without the higher humidity that summer brings to the coastal plain.

Posted by
15647 posts

Be aware that trains and most buses do not run on the Jewish Sabbath. Also most Jewish shops and many restaurants and cafes are closed then and the beaches and the Old City in J-lem are most crowded.

Posted by
7826 posts

GO to Jerusalem, it is an amazing city, full of history. If you want to visit Bethlehem and the West Bank, a tour is advisable. Bethlehem is not far south of Jerusalem.

Also, consider going to the Dead Sea.

Posted by
457 posts

If you decide to do a tour, Bein Harim tours is the company that I used when I went to Israel last summer. If you pay a little extra for the "business class" tour, it will be in a smaller bus with fewer people. It seems that Bein Harim is the primary tour company in the area. We stayed in Tel-Aviv at the Embassy Hotel, which was only about a five minute walk from the beach. Our room was very clean, a reasonable price and included a nice, simple breakfast to start off the day.

Posted by
996 posts

As far as booking a bundle anything on Expedia, I would say that you need to weigh the pros and cons.

Up front, you have the convenience of booking everything all at once - hotel(s) and air fare. They may offer a great price for this deal. I have booked through Expedia in the past. It's not a bad deal at times.

BUT before you book anything, remember three major factors -

--Flights. Compare flights in the package to flights booked directly through the airline. Make sure that you are comparing comparable seats. If picking your seat in advance is important to you, make sure that the class of airfare you book on Expedia includes that feature. Also, note that if there is a problem with your flight, you will have to go through Expedia to resolve the issue vs. dealing directly with the airline.

--Hotels. Expedia has certain hotels it wants to push. Before you book, double check that these truly are the ones you want in the area in which you wish to stay. Again, if there is a problem with your hotels, you will have to go through Expedia to resolve this, even if you are standing in the hotel's lobby.

--Travel issues. I have mentioned this above, but I cannot stress this enough. If there is a problem on the day of the flight or a problem with the hotel reservations, you will have to go through Expedia, regardless of the fact that you're standing in front of the airplane's gate or hotel's desk. MOST of the time, this isn't a problem. Many trips proceed without a hitch. But you need to be aware of this before you book a package through anyone, whether it's Expedia, Orbitz, Travelocity, etc.