Israel Travel Blog


Most Recommended Ways to Visit Bethlehem During Your Trip to Israel

Bethlehem is a must destination for all Christian visitors to Israel, and for many non-Christians as well. Bethlehem is the biblical location of the nativity, where Jesus Christ was born on the first Christmas Eve. Bethlehem has become a household name to most Westerners.Saint Jerome Statue, Saint Catherine Church, Bethlehem. Photo credit: © ShutterstockBethlehem is remembered in nativity scenes at school; in Christmas carols (Oh Little Town of Bethlehem) and in biblical stories of the shepherds watching their sheep that night; the Wise Men (Magi) and the manger that gave Mary and Joseph shelter when there was "no room at the inn." These childhood memories of Christmas tales are what make Bethlehem a magical destination for anyone on a trip to Israel.Where is Bethlehem?Bethlehem is situated in the central West Bank in the Palestinian Authorities Territory on the southern portion of the Judean Mountains. Although Bethlehem is in the West Bank it is only 10km (6.2 miles) from Jerusalem and can be reached from Jerusalem in under an hour. The journey to Bethlehem takes you across the border (Checkpoint 300) between Israel and Palestine so you will need to take your passport. There is no restriction on passing between Israel and Palestine at this checkpoint as many times as you want. This is generally a safe and friendly crossing and even if traveling alone in a taxi you will probably have no problems at the border.Visiting Bethlehem on FootOK, this is only for the hard-core pilgrims who want to retrace Joseph and Mary's steps. The walk is doable but difficult and will take you at least 2 hours following Tel Khai Street out of Jerusalem, joining Bet Lechem Road and on to Hebron Road that leads you to Bethlehem. This route is best done with a group of pilgrims or guide and is not recommended.St. Catherine's Church, Bethlehem. Photo credit: © ShutterstockVisiting Bethlehem by TaxiYou can catch a taxi from Jerusalem to Bethlehem in one of the West Jerusalem taxis with a white number plate which can only drop you at the checkpoint. There you can cross into Palestine and catch a Palestinian taxi with a yellow number plate to Bethlehem or even walk the remaining way which could take about half an hour. Alternatively, you can take an East Jerusalem taxi with a yellow number plate which may be able to take you all the way to Bethlehem. You should negotiate a price before leaving Jerusalem and have the taxi driver wait for you in Bethlehem to take you back to Jerusalem.Visiting Bethlehem with a Rented CarAlthough you can rent a car in Israel and drive part of the way to Bethlehem you cannot take cars rented in Israel into the West Bank or across the border into the Palestinian Territory. This is for insurance reasons as cars rented in Israel are not covered by insurance in the West Bank areas not controlled by Israel. However, you could rent a car in East Jerusalem and drive to Bethlehem.Star Marks the Spot, Where Jesus Christ Born, Grotto of the Nativity Bethlehem.Photo credit: © ShutterstockVisiting Bethlehem by Public BusSeveral buses connect Jerusalem to Bethlehem. You can take the Egged #234 from near the Old City of Jerusalem or the Central Bus Station to Checkpoint 300 where you will have to disembark, cross into Palestine on foot and take a taxi or Palestinian bus into Bethlehem. The blue "Arab" Israel bus #21 leaves the East Jerusalem Bus Station on Sultan Suleiman St opposite the Damascus Gate of the Old City. This bus takes a different route than the Egged bus and travels through Beit-Jalla, across the checkpoint, and straight into Bethlehem. So this bus route is longer, cheaper and you won't have to change to a Palestinian taxi at the border. You will need to show your ID at the border crossing but will probably be able to stay on the bus. Unless you are looking for an adventure a bus journey is not recommended, it can be unsafe and there can be delays.Rooftop view of Bethlehem.Photo credit: © ShutterstockVisiting Bethlehem with a Guided TourBethlehem tours leave Tel Aviv and Jerusalem regularly throughout the year. These tours include pick-up and drop-off from your hotel or a convenient point in the city. Bethlehem one-day tours often combine half a day in Bethlehem with half a day in Jerusalem or Jericho or the Dead Sea. With day tours to Bethlehem, you don't have to worry yourself about any of the logistics of the border crossing process. Bring your passport and the tour guide will take care of the rest. On a typical tour to Bethlehem, you will visit Manger Square, the Church of the Nativity, St. Catherine's Church, and sometimes the Milk Grotto as well. This may not be the cheapest option but it is definitely the most recommended way to visit Bethlehem in terms of safety and convenience.What is the Most Recommended Way to Visit Bethlehem?Traveling on foot, by bus, taxi or rented car is not recommended. Although this part of the country is usually safe the language barrier, checkpoint crossing, and cultural differences can make these methods of visiting Bethlehem challenging. Overall the most recommended way to visit Bethlehem is with an organized tour. Prices are reasonable considering you get transportation, security, convenience and you're accompanied by a knowledgeable guide. For a really special experience take a tour to Bethlehem on Christmas Eve and enjoy Midnight Mass in Manger Square.Entrance to the Church of Nativity.Photo credit: © Shutterstock
Автор: Petal Mashraki

Welcome to Tel Aviv Ben Gurion Airport

Ben Gurion Airport (Tel Aviv airport code TLV) is Israel’s main airport located 19 km from Tel Aviv’s city center and 40 km from Jerusalem. The airport is among the top five airports in the Middle East thanks to its excellent design, service and because it is one of the world’s most secure airports. The security at Tel Aviv airport is high priority due to the delicate political situation in the region. In 2004 the airport opened after extensive renovations, modernization and the addition of Terminal 3. Today the airport has two terminals; Terminal 1 for domestic and low-cost international flights and Terminal 3 for international flights.Ben Gurion Airport ServicesAt the Tel Aviv airport you will find travel agent representatives, car rental companies, ATMs, a place to buy a local mobile phone SIM and convenience stores. There is an excellent information desk and customer service counter. You will find signage in English, Arabic and Hebrew. There is multi-level parking for both temporary and long-term parking. Throughout the Tel Aviv airport there is free WiFi. The airport is fully accessible. There is an airport synagogue.Tel Aviv Airport FeaturesThe airport’s stunning duty-free hall has a circular design with a dramatic ceiling-to-floor waterfall in the center. There are duty-free stores selling a range of local and foreign products. While you do some shopping and wait for your flight you can enjoy a meal or drink at one of the restaurants and cafes. Throughout the airport the ceilings are high giving an open-plan spacious feel. Although there are no hotels in the airport complex there are several hotels near Ben Gurion in Tel Aviv.Ground TransportationArrival and departure routes from Tel Aviv airport are via private vehicle, taxi, public bus and train. There is a pick-up and drop-off point for passengers and an easy to find taxi station right outside the arrivals hall. You can catch the Ben Gurion airport train to cities across the country including Tel Aviv city center, Jerusalem and Haifa.If you are on a package tour with Bein Harim Tourism Services or just need a pick up / drop off at Ben Gurion you can pre-book airport transfers.As of June, 2021, all travellers to Israel must have a negative COVID-19 PCR test result. The test must be taken within 72 hours prior to the scheduled departure to Israel. This requirement applies to people with a vaccination certificate or a certificate of recovery. All passengers (Israeli citizens and foreign nationals), including vaccinated and recovered passengers, who arrive in Israel must submit an entry statement (Inbound Passenger Clearance) within 24 hours prior to the scheduled departure time to Israel. To check the current Israel travel COVID-19 restrictions feel free to read this article.Foreign nationals must have an entry permit certified by the Population and Immigration Authority. On arrival in Israel, all inbound passengers must have a COVID-19 PCR test done at their own expense. All travellers must register for the COVID-19 test at Ben Gurion airport website prior the arrival. It is recommended to pre-book. The airport transfer can be booked for one hour after the scheduled test time (the test time should be specified in the transfer booking comments).Besides the COVID-19 test, visitors arriving in Israel pass though passport control, proceed to baggage claim and pass through customs. Travelers aged 17 and over are permitted to enter with no more than one quart (0.94 liters) of hard liquor, two quarts (1.89 liters) of wine, half a pound (226.79grams) of tobacco and no more than 6 pounds (2.72kg) of food. You can bring in up to $200 worth of electrical goods and gifts. After passing customs you exit into the Arrivals Hall (Greeters’ Hall). Ben Gurion is located 40 minutes from Jerusalem and about 20 minutes from Tel-Aviv. Transport is readily available by rental car, taxi, bus and train. As you exit the Arrivals Hall you will see signs directing you to the various transport options."According to a decision by the government of Israel and in accordance with Aviation Regulations, all passengers departing from Israel, except recovering and vaccinated passengers, will be required to present a negative covid-19 test (PCR) before boarding the aircraft, taken no more than 72 hours before takeoff. Attention, upon arrival, you must present a printed copy of your covid-19 test results! It is important to note that many destination countries also require the vaccinated and recovering to present a negative covid-19 test before boarding. It is recommended to check the requirements of destination countries when booking your tickets.Departing passengers can be tested for COVID-19 at Ben Gurion Airport. The tests are carried out by Omega, through Check2fly. Departing passengers, click here to book a COVID-19 test. As a result of the pandemic, a lot of changes have been made in operating processes at Ben-Gurion International Airport. The services provided to passengers at Ben-Gurion International Airport have been significantly restricted, as have movements by passengers and aircraft", - the airport website says.On leaving the country travelers should arrive at Terminal 3 three hours before their flight. There are 10 self-service check-in stations or you can check-in through the usual airline desks. Travelers will be asked pertinent security questions like “did you pack your own bag” and “did anyone ask you to take something onto the plane for them” and then you proceed to check-in.After check-in and receiving your boarding pass you move through to the area where hand luggage is checked. You can then enter the duty-free area. Duty free is open 24/7 and is centered on a beautiful rotund with walkways leading off to the various departure gates. Israeli duty-free is one of the cheapest in the world! In the same area you will find money exchange points, children’s play areas, Xbox 360 game stations, smoking areas, a mother and baby room, post office, banks, a synagogue, restaurants and cafes. V.A.T. Refunds can be obtained from the Changeplace counter in the duty-free area or in the check-in area. If the goods are going to be packed in your checked-in luggage stored in the airplane hold then you can get your V.A.T. refund from a counter in the check-in hall. You will need to show the goods you have purchased and the receipts for them. The refund is given on goods valued at $100 or more and bought from stores registered with the Ministry of Tourism.Ben Gurion Airport Services available at the airport include baggage storage at the western parking lot on the ground floor; a first aid clinic open 24/7 near entrance 21 in the gallery of the Greeters’ Hall; information counters; 3 V.I.P. lounges; a police station in the parking lot opposite Terminal 1 and with posts in Terminal 3 Greeters’ Hall next to entrance 11 and public telephones operated by either Telecards or coins. Every effort has been made to make the airport accessible for wheelchairs and visually or hearing impaired. Ben Gurion offers free WiFi throughout the airport and there are free luggage trolleys. Have a safe flight!
Автор: Petal Mashraki

What is the Best Way to Get from Ben Gurion Airport to Tel Aviv?

Lucky for visitors to Israel the international Ben Gurion Airport is relatively close to Tel Aviv and there are multiple transportation options to take you from the airport right into the city center. Take into account that public transport in Israel is limited (and in some cases non-existent) on Shabbat (from Friday sundown to Saturday sundown).Private Transfers from Tel Aviv Airport If you want to avoid high taxi prices and the pitfalls of public transportation then your best option is a private transfer from Ben Gurion. Private transfers from Tel Aviv airport are definitely the most convenient and fastest way to travel. You can book a private transfer from Tel Aviv airport online. A driver will be waiting for you at Ben Gurion where he will be holding a sign bearing your name as you enter the airport arrivals hall. Once you have met your driver he will help you with your luggage to the waiting car and take you straight to the doorstep of your Tel Aviv hotel.The advantages of private transfers from Tel Aviv airport are that you don’t have to go looking for a taxi; you don’t have to wait in a queue; private transfers operate on all days of the week including Shabbat; the price is prepaid so no haggling or need for cash in hand; no need for multiple transfers (from train to taxi or bus to bus) and you have the peace of mind knowing that your arrival transport is arranged and will go smoothly. Private transfers from Tel Aviv airport can also be arranged to other destinations in Israel including Jerusalem, the Dead Sea and Herzliya.Train from Ben Gurion to Tel AvivThe Ben Gurion train station is immediately outside Ben Gurion’s Terminal 3 lower level and you can buy your train ticket from a machine or ticket booth alongside the platform. Taking a train from Ben Gurion Airport to Tel Aviv is, in theory, a low-cost and fast option. However, the Tel Aviv train stations are not centrally located and you will have to take a bus or taxi from the station to your hotel. Israeli trains do not operate on Shabbat (from Friday sundown to Saturday sundown) but are otherwise operational 24/7. From 6 am to 11 pm there are two trains an hour from Ben Gurion to Tel Aviv’s four stations and from 11 pm to 6 am there is one train an hour which stops only at Tel Aviv’s Arlozorov Station. The journey takes about 20 minutes but adds to that travel time from the station to your hotel.Bus from Ben Gurion to Tel AvivEgged Bus Company operates buses from Ben Gurion Airport and although they are an economical option most travelers will not enjoy navigating the Israeli bus system as they step off the plane! Egged line #5 operates between Ben Gurion’s three terminals and Airport City (a commercial development 5km from Ben Gurion) from there you will need to take a connecting bus into Tel Aviv. Other bus companies operate similar services. Regular buses do not enter the airport area and have limited or no routes from Friday afternoon to Saturday sundown and on national holidays.Taxi from Ben Gurion Airport to Tel AvivTaxis operate 24/7 from Ben Gurion Airport to Tel Aviv and other destinations. The price of a taxi varies according to the time of day (it is more expensive at night and on Shabbat). You will also pay more depending on the number of passengers and the number of pieces of luggage. Although there are measures in place to monitor taxi drivers and the fees they charge it is not unheard of for Israeli taxi drivers to overcharge travelers from Ben Gurion. Follow the signs from the arrivals hall to the taxi queue where you can wait your turn for a taxi. Be sure to ask the price before getting into the taxi.
Автор: Petal Mashraki

5 Ways to Visit the Dead Sea

The Dead Sea is a must-see attraction for any trip to Israel. This natural wonder is a salt lake at the lowest point on Earth 418m below sea level in southern Israel’s Negev Desert. The Dead Sea is not centrally located; it is 170km from Tel Aviv and 100km from Jerusalem. Once there you can enjoy one of the many Dead Sea beaches, the Dead Sea spas and hotels. The high concentration of minerals in the saline water and Dead Sea mud has health and beauty benefits. Even the sunshine and air in the Dead Sea region are known to have properties beneficial to our health.View of the Dead Sea from the top of Masada Fortress.Photo credit: © ShutterstockPublic Transport to the Dead SeaThere are no trains that reach the Dead Seaalthough you could catch a train to Be’er Sheva and from there a bus to the Dead Sea. Alternatively, take the bus from Tel Aviv or Jerusalem to the Dead Sea. The buses stop at Ein Gedi and Ein Bokek, both places where there are things to do near the Dead Sea. The journey takes about 1.5hr-2hrs. Buses leave from the Jerusalem Central Bus Station and from Tel Aviv’s Arlozorov Bus Station. It is advisable to leave early so that you can maximize your time at the Dead Sea. The last bus from the Dead Sea back to central Israel leaves in the late afternoon so be careful not to miss the bus! There are no buses to the Dead Sea on Shabbat or public holidays.Road Sign on the way to the Dead Sea, Israel. Photo by Amit Lahav on UnsplashDead Sea ToursThe easiest way to visit the Dead Sea is to join a Dead Sea day tour. There are several to choose from including tours that include stops at other popular sites like Masada, Jerusalem, Jericho, Ein Gedi, or Qumran, where the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered. Some day tours stop at several sites while others give you a full day at the Dead Sea and can offer the option of Dead Sea spa visits or lunch at one of the Dead Sea spa hotels. The Dead Sea is usually included in multi-day package tours that cover attractions across the country.Renting a Car to Drive to the Dead SeaYou could rent a car from anywhere in the country and make the trip south independently. Use a navigation app or GPS device to help you reach the Dead Sea. The steep winding roads through the desert hills are notoriously dangerous and you will need to drive very carefully.The Dead Sea Shore from above.Photo by Artem Belinski on UnsplashVisit the Dead Sea by TaxiIf you are nervous about traveling alone by car to the Dead Sea then it is possible to go by taxi although this is quite an expensive option. Taxis to the Dead Sea should be arranged in advance and can include hotel pick-up. A slightly cheaper option is a shared taxi (mini-bus) run by a private taxi company which departs from major cities. You will then have to find an available taxi to make the return journey or preferably arrange it ahead of time.Take a Private Tour to the Dead SeaOn a private tour to the Dead Sea, you can tailor-make your trip by including other sites along the way. Popular destinations often included on a private day tour to the Dead Sea are Jerusalem, Jericho, Qumran, or Masada. On a private tour, you will have the driver, an air-conditioned vehicle, and a guide who will devote all of his time to you.A man reading a book in the Dead Sea, Israel.Photo by Toa Heftiba on Unsplash
Автор: Petal Mashraki

The Best Way to Combine Israel and Jordan in One Trip

Israel and Jordan share a border and the two are friendly neighbors with many ties. Both countries are home to incredible historic and cultural sites worth seeing. When the two are so close it seems a pity not to combine Israel and Jordan in a single trip. Even if you only have time to visit Jordan's top attractions, the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Petra which is also one of the Seven Wonders of the World. Luckily there are many tour options that combine Israel and Jordan no matter how long you plan to spend in the region. For tour packages that include places in Jordan like Jerash, Madaba, and Amman the Sheikh Hussein Border Crossing near Jerusalem is often used. Other tours enter Jordan from the Arava Border Crossing in Eilat which is the closest crossing to Petra.Package Tours that Combine Israel and JordanIf your time is limited then a package tour might be the best option to seeing Israel and Jordan on one trip as all the logistics are taken care of for you. Some Petra tours from Israelsplit the days evenly covering top destinations in Israel as well as several highlights in Jordan. For example, you can see Israel and Jordan in one tour package over 12 days starting in Israel and spending 8 days in the Holy Land and 4 days in Jordan. Tour places like Nazareth, the Sea of Galilee, Golan Heights, Jerusalem, and the Dead Sea. Then travel to Jordan and visit Jerash, the capital Amman, Madaba famed for its Byzantine mosaics, Mount Nebo, and the spectacular ancient city of Petra. There are shorter package trips where you spend just one day visiting Petra in Jordan and the rest of your time in Israel. To make this quick trip to Petra possible shorter package trips may include a flight from Tel Aviv to Eilat and from there it is just 2 hours across the border to Petra. With longer package tours the journey can be made by entering Jordan by bus via the Sheikh Hussein Border Crossing.Petra Tours from Tel AvivIf you're based in central Israel, you don't have to miss out on a trip to Petra. You can travel to Petra from Tel Aviv with a 1-4 day tour. The shortest of these tours start with an early morning flight from Tel Aviv to Eilat where you are met at the Ramon Airport and taken across the Arava Border Crossing to Petra. At the end of an exhilarating day, the tour ends with a return flight from Eilat to Tel Aviv. There are similar tours that give you an extra day to enjoy Eilat and others that last 3-4 days and include more destinations in Jordan and overnight stays in Amman and Petra. These 1-4 day tours from Tel Aviv are perfect for combining with a longer stay in Israel.Petra Tours from EilatThe Israel-Jordan border crossing closest to Petra is in Eilat, a beach resort city on the edge of the Red Sea. There are a number of tours to Petra from Eilat; some include an overnight stay in Eilat while others include an overnight stay in the Jordanian town of Wadi Musa, the gateway to the Petra Archeological Park. You can take a 1-day tour from Eilat to Petra or opt for a 2-day tour that gives you a guided tour of Petra and a day to explore the ancient city by yourself. One of the most exciting tours to Petra from Eilat is the two-day tour that gives you a tour day in Petra and a day in Wadi Rum, a Jordanian desert wilderness with striking rock formations. On one of these tours, you can take a desert jeep safari through Wadi Rum and even a short panoramic tour of Aqaba, Jordan's Red Sea port city.
Автор: Petal Mashraki
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