Yes, it’s possible to tour Israel with the help of public transportation. There is no tour company, which is offering this and many people think it’s not possible, uneasy, hard, difficult and more of that jazz. But honestly, it’s a question of the right planning, because the public transportation in Israel is really good.
Having a vacation in Israel and see the country depends on several costly factors:
- Entrance fees
Airfare is indeed an issue for many tourists overseas. It’s very normal you pay more then $1,000 for a return ticket from the States or $400 from Europe. There are some companies (like the Turkey’s Airways), which are offering low-budget flights, which means hundreds of dollars cheaper for flights from America! The same cheap flights are applicable from Europe.
You can find accommodations here in Israel in several classes. You have the normal tourist traps and maybe good deals as well … but there are also alternatives, like guest houses (instead of $100-$200 or more per night, you pay $40 (for a double room)). See here for more information about choosing the right hotels. And I’m here talking about hotels, hostels, guest houses, campings, zimmers and the like. But if you use your head, there are other options available in Israel, which saves you hundreds of dollars for your vacation and you can live like a king or queen in full luxury.
Think with your head and start calculating
Instead of a hotel, or hostel, or guest house and the like, consider hiring an apartment for a short time. If you are alone or with the two of you, this might or not be a good idea, financially speaking. A hotel room can cost from $100 per night, and a short term apartment from $200. But when you are with four people, then this is an excellent idea, financially speaking.
And when an apartment is finally doable, you might consider to change your tour in Israel strategically. What I mean is that conventionally you want to see Haifa, you take a hotel in Haifa; the same for Tel Aviv and Jerusalem and the Golan and Sea of Galilee, etc. If you have an apartment, you change your tour in a way, that you still can visit those places, but in the evening you go back to your apartment. For example, visit Nazareth, Sea of Galilee, Golan, even Haifa, you choose an apartment in a central location.
Alternatives for restaurants
Food is also an issue. Restaurants are everywhere here in Israel; it’s actually overloaded with restaurants! But there are alternatives for restaurants! Supermarkets supply excellent food, but you need to have a place to prepare it!? Not really. There is pre-made food for sale, which is considerably cheaper then food from a restaurant. For example, one of the large supermarket chains are offering an excellent and large dinner-take-a-away-for-4-persons for $20, while you pay in an average restaurant $60 (per person)!
Entry fees is something nobody can do about it. It must be paid if you want to visit the sight. For example Masada is expensive in entry fees (in my opinion). You have the luxury of a cable car and you pay NIS 114 shekels (p.p.) for that (two way) and combined with an entry ticket, but still it costs a lot of money. Alternatively you can skip that and use the Snake path and only pay NIS 29. And at Masada there are alternatives for tents and campsites (for a fee of course). If you take a sleeping bag and you choose an alternative place, it’s free! Many young people are doing this.
You pay per day $100 (or less) for a native Israeli guide (without credentials and 18+ of age), $150 for me or similar guides, who are experienced (40+ of age) or a licensed guide for $250 (and more expensive) (mainly native Israelis).
But do you need them? No.
Only this site contains information about almost 700 touristic sights in Israel, full with free city and walking tours, day tours and even free seven day tours. You need to invest in books or print out the content of sites like this and bind it in a book. Ask questions, and questions cost you nothing then an email about your plans and ask for tips (use the contact page here and I answer of course) or use the social media for questions and tips.
But … if you really are interested in professional guidance of a tour, then you rent a really good and experienced guide. He might by expensive, but earns his or her money back in the form of added services, guaranteeing your safety, taking responsibility for you and your group and giving you advice for the best places to do things, which you can’t find in books or websites.
And now we come to the core of this article, public transportation.
Use the combination of bus, train and taxi for your tour
The public transportation in the major cities in Israel are excellent. In Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, you have many times buses popping up every 10 minutes! The worst what can happen is that there are buses every 20 minutes!
The public transportation between the major cities are also excellent (with exceptions). For example, there is a direct bus from Jerusalem to Tel Aviv and visa versa each 20 minutes for NIS 16. And then we have the trains in Israel, which connect the center of Israel to the north very well. Within a hour you can be there. There is of course the exception of Eilat, which is not (yet) connected with the rail system. For this you need to take the bus.
If you want to use the public transport for your tour in Israel, the secret of it is planning it out in the details beforehand … not at the last moment. And how do you plan the public transport for your tour? Well, use the Internet of course. The website for Egged is here. Their website is in English and Hebrew, Russian and Arabic. On that website you can plan ahead. You can find out which bus lines to where, how many stops, how much it costs and how late you need to leave and how late you need to go back to your accommodation.
Having full fledged tour for under the $600?
Yes, that’s possible, even with a tour of 7 days. I receive many questions if it is possible to have a low-budget tour in Israel. In the beginning I thought that’s impossible … well … I was plain wrong. When I started to calculate and included the alternatives, I suddenly discovered by changing the strategy of the tour, it was possible to tour Israel for under the $600 per person indeed. Better, those groups had a better time with the tour then those conventional ones.
I created even tours for people for $600 for 7 days tour in Israel and they saw and experienced Israel the same as people who are paying more then $1,800! That’s three times more! And they had also more fun, more excitement and were much more involved then those of the conventional tours.
How to get an organized tour of $600?
The method of the tour depends on the number of people in the group. If you are talking about two people, the structure of the tour will be different then when you have 30 people in the group. The price will not change much, even when you are with 30 people (normally it does, because you can negotiate better prices for 30 then with 2 people).
The difference in the structure of the tour is first the location of the accommodations. The main difference is that each day is treated like a day tour. In conventional tours, each day is part of the flow of the tour, where you get dragged from city to city, from hotel to hotel. Not here. You return in the evening to your apartment or guest house or place you stay.
- During the tour through Israel, you change two or three times the accommodations. For example, you choose an accommodation in Jerusalem and from there you visit the sights in Jerusalem and the surroundings of Jerusalem. The same for Tel Aviv and surroundings. And the same for the north. If you are Catholic or Orthodox, change the location to Tiberias or Nazareth and visit the sights in the region.
- The type of accommodations must be different then hotels. You choose guest houses as alternative. Guest houses are family owned (most of the time) and they are really nice, clean and more quiet (but no luxuries like spa, swimming pools, etc.). An other, very good alternative is an short-term apartment, but this totally depends on the number of people in your group. With the apartment, you really save money, but not in luxury! Can you imagine, your own private bath and showers, TV, Internet, large bedrooms, absolute freedom, no screaming kids in the night, meeting Israelis and friends, excellent food (take-a-way or you cook yourself or pre-made food from supermarkets). And not to forget the security! You can lock your apartment when you’re out and nobody can enter it! And if you are with 8 people, you pay $25 per night instead of $100-$200!
- Transport must be chosen wisely. When you move from sight to sight in the cities, you can walk, or use the local public transport, which is excellent or you use taxis if you really must. From transport from city to city, use the train or bus to do that. It’s a question of careful planning to reach Tel Aviv from Jerusalem early morning or late evening. And if you want to go to the south of Israel, consider a combination of public transport and renting a car, depending on the number of people in your group. This doesn’t depend on the size of your group; from 2 till 30 people, for public transportation it’s all the same and if you must rent transportation, rending a mini-van is not expensive as well. It’s all in the details and careful planning what makes you the money.
By changing your tour strategically, you still have your full Israel experience and live like a King or Queen and earn thousands of dollars for the group and personally you pay 60% less then usual for a tour in Israel.
If you want to have such tour designed for you, contact me. I charge $40 per hour for consultancy (it takes usually 2 hours to make a tour for you), but you have your tour custom made and save thousands of dollars for your group. Click here for more details or contact me.
Examples of such ‘low-budget’ tours
Catholic tour, 8 days, $455 per person.
A group of 20 Catholic people wanted such ‘low-budget’ tour. They wanted to visit ‘all’ the Christian sights in Israel, but not the Negev or Eilat.
That was an easy one.
They wanted me to arrange a pickup from the airport and place them on the train to Jerusalem and help them with the luggage.
I arranged for them three apartments in Jerusalem (near the city center) for $120 per night (with 3 bedrooms each and one apartment had 4 bedrooms). They paid each person $18 per night for that luxury. And it was luxury, which they didn’t expected at all! TV, Internet, computer, radio, air conditioning, pray sessions and even holy mass in their apartments. I arranged for their pre-made dinners (large dinner (barbecued chicken with vegetables, chips) $20 for 4 persons).
From their apartment in Jerusalem, they toured intensively all the Christian sights in and around Jerusalem and then it was time to expand the tour. They still kept their apartment, and took ‘day tours’ to Bethlehem, Masada, Ein Gedi and the Dead Sea. The next day they said, they wanted to keep it civilized (“… not eating sand …”) and left for Tel Aviv and returned to their apartment in Jerusalem. There is not much to see in Tel Aviv, which might satisfy Catholic people. For all of those ‘day tours’, they bought food for their lunches (prepared in apartment) for picnics and hand food. They spend totally five days in the Jerusalem apartment and used mainly buses as transport (and they took my free day tours as well).
Oh, they also went to two (free) concerts in the evening in Jerusalem. They rented movies at home to watch.
Then it was time to move up to the north and visit Nazareth. The group dragged their luggage and moved by bus to Nazareth, where I arranged for them apartments, which were even cheaper ($80 per night). They paid per person $12.
From their new base, the spent their time in their apartment in Nazareth to visit the Holy Sights in the city of course, and visited the sights surrounding Nazareth like Cana, Tiberias, Sea of Galilee, Golan and more. They spent totally 3 days in their apartment in Nazareth.
I needed to arrange their trip to the airport for them and I did. With a mini-van they were brought to the airport on time for their flight back home. They spend totally $455 per person on this 8 day tour.