How to Choose a Great Tour Operator in Israel - 11 Tips
So you’ve decided to visit Israel. Well, first of all, congratulations - you’ve made a fine choice. This is a country that has something for everyone - historical and religious sites, culture galore in the form of museums, are galleries, high-quality guided tours, theatre and live music, not to mention mountains, deserts and miles and miles of beautiful coastline. Finding ways to spend your days here is no problem.
Tourists on a Bahai Gardens tour, Haifa. Photo credit: © Dmitry Mishin
The big question is, if you’re coming in a group, then how do you go about choosing a good tour operator? Google a search and you’ll be confronted with a wealth of information that can, all too quickly, become overwhelming. As tour operators ourselves, we know how important it is to make a good choice of the company because, let’s face it, from the moment you land, you’re going to be in the hands of these people. Here are a few things we think are worth taking into consideration before you press the ‘book now’ button…
1. Check if the Tour Operator is Registered with the ITOA
Membership of the Israel Incoming Tours Operators Association means that the tour operator is both professional and reliable, using qualified and only licensed tour guides. IOTA membership means you can have peace of mind, knowing that the organization you’re booking with has passed a credibility test.
Jerusalem courtyard, Old City. Photo credit: © Dmitry Mishin
2. Don’t Necessarily Go with the Lowest Price
When a price looks too good to be true, that means it probably is. Sure, grabbing a bargain is a great thing, but if you aren’t careful, you could end up spending more in the long run because you haven’t read the fine print. In some cases, cheap prices mean that you’ll be paying your own entrance fees, be limited in terms of pick up and drop off points, and may even end up compromising on the quality of your accommodation and guides.
Another thing is that higher prices don’t always mean you’re being fleeced. Reputable tour operators work with fleets of buses and a maintenance supervisor (rather than cheaper operators, that may be leasing smaller vehicles). And, of course, licensed, accredited tour guides are going to have higher fees - but you’re paying for their knowledge and experience. Our advice? Check carefully as to what is and isn’t included in the price, before you make your decision because cheap in the short term could be costly in the long term.
Byzantine Cardo, Jerusalem. Photo credit: © Dmitry Mishin
3. Do Your Research. Check the Reviews on Trip Advisor
If 90% of the reviews you read are positive, then it’s pretty safe to say that the tour operator is trustworthy. Ask around too - maybe you have friends or colleagues who’ve been in Israel and they can recommend someone? Hearing first hand about someone’s trip, or reading a well-written review, will give you crucial insights into the company you are looking at. So take your time when looking around - because carrying out some homework will always pay dividends.
4. Define Your Specific Needs
There are so many different kinds of Israel tours on the market - and one size never fits all. Some people don’t mind being in a large group….other travelers seek something smaller and more intimate. Certain travelers want a trip that’s packed full of historical sites and places of worship; others want more ‘fun’ attractions such as wine-tasting and a chance to shop.
Entrance to the Tower of David, Jerusalem. Photo credit: © Dmitry MishinAsk yourself what you really want. Are you looking for a tour that takes you to museums and galleries, with group dinner each night? Or are you looking for something with a bit of free time included, letting you spend occasional afternoons or evenings alone? Also, check with the tour operator if there’s flexibility in the schedule, or whether you’re committed to the entire itinerary. Equally importantly, ask if it’s possible to be collected or dropped off in another city, if you’re arriving before the group, or departing after them.
5. What’s Their Customer Service Like?
Customer service is probably one of the most important things you’re going to be looking for when making a decision about a tour operator. First and foremost, make sure that there will always be a direct phone number you can call, 24/7 if any problems arise. It’s essential to be able to speak to a real live human too, rather than an automated service that some companies use out of hours. Also, find out what the tour operator’s policy is if an outing can’t take place, because someone in the group is late for morning pick-up, or the tour bus breaks down? Check reviews too - when people feel let down, they will often write about it publicly.
The Western Wall, Jerusalem. Photo credit: © Shutterstock
6. Are They Tech-Savvy?
Not all tour operators in Israel have an online booking system that is constantly being updated, in real-time. When you use a reputable company, they have access to very smart, unique software, which ensures that the moment you book, you're confirmed, which means you know you’re on the list. This gives you real peace of mind.
7. Are All the Major Attractions You Want to See Included in the Tour?
Whether you’ve been to Israel before or it’s a ‘once in a lifetime trip for you, you’ll want to know that a fair few of the attractions you want to see are included in the trip. This is where choosing the ‘right’ Israel tour package comes in - for pilgrims tours to Jerusalem, Nazareth and the Galilee are all key.
Multiplication Church, Tabgha. Photo credit: © Shutterstock
For history lovers, visits to Roman and Crusader sites like Caesarea and Acre are a must. For culture vultures, a visit to Jerusalem’s Israel Museum will be imperative. And for many, no trip to Israel would be complete without a day in Tel Aviv, the Non-Stop City, with its Bauhaus architecture, thriving food scene, and lively nightlife. Choose carefully - because even in two weeks you won’t be able to see everything!
8. Take a Look at the About Us Page on the Website.
This will give you in-depth information on how long they’ve been in business, what services they offer, and if they collaborate with other travel companies around the world (always a good sign). A reputable Israeli tour operator won’t have anything to hide - after building up their business over the years, and learning from their mistakes, they will not fear transparency!
Gamla, an ancient Jewish city, Golan Heights. Photo credit: © Shutterstock
9. Don’t Be Afraid to Ask Lots of Questions.
A good tour operator will be happy to answer all of your questions. After all, you’re the customer and you’re paying for this experience, so it should measure up to your expectations. Check to make sure that all of the main attractions you want to see are included. Ask what happens on free days and if you’ll need to budget for your own lunches and dinners. Double-check on what’s included and what is not. And feel free to ask away about who is leading your trip - a tour guide can really make or break your trip!
What’s the conclusion then? Well, we might be biased but we think you could do far worse than to consider Bein Harim Tourism Services for your tour operator. We are, indeed, a member of IOTA, and with our own fleet of minibusses and supervisors (under the eagle eye of a maintenance officer) you’ll travel in comfort. The vast majority of reviews about us on Tripadvisor are positive, so you can book with confidence. And we offer a round-the-clock service, for any problems or mishaps that may arise, which means you have complete peace of mind, should anything go awry.
Tour of Masada. Photo credit: © Shutterstock
10. Test of Time
Something else about us that’s important for you to know is that we’ve been in business a long time. Bein Harim was established in 1993, which lets you know we’re not a ‘fly-by-night’ company. We’re well known for our high-quality tours, all offered at affordable prices, and our years of hard work and listening to the customer mean we’ve built a well-deserved reputation. We work with small and large groups, classical Israel tour packages, Christian, Jewish and Muslim trips, Petra and Jordan tours, airport transfers, and ship to shore excursions. We can pick you up and drop you in a number of cities, including Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Herzliya, and Netanya, as well as Ben Gurion airport.
And for those interested in traveling privately, if you book a private tour with us, we can customize it according to your exact requirements. If you want to visit a boutique vineyard in the Golan Heights, visit a chocolate-making workshop in Jerusalem or abseil down the side of the crater at Mitzpe Ramon, we can make it happen. We want to make sure our customers don’t just have a wonderful trip but go home telling other people about it. Brochures and websites are important but we think you can’t beat word of mouth.
Dome of the Rock, Temple Mount, Jerusalem. Photo credit: © Shutterstock
11. Don't Compromise on the Quality.To sum up, whether you’re a Christian pilgrim, a history buff, or a culture lover, we’ve got a tour that’s right for you. From the Dead Sea and Masada Day Tours to ‘Petra from Eilat’ we can make sure you have a holiday you’ll remember for years to come. We operate a highly sophisticated booking system too, allowing you to book tours that are 100% guaranteed to depart, the moment you receive confirmation. And, as we’ve mentioned before, should any problems arise, we’re here for you night and day.
So if you’re looking for a tour operator that has the passion, dedication, and experience you expect, why not take a look at some of our Israel and Jordan tour packages on offer? We’ll be happy to talk to you, either on the phone or by email, and answer all of your questions.
Blooming almond in Israel. Photo credit: © Dmitry Mishin