For those who are visiting Eilat (or are going to do that) without plan (like most of you do), here are some tips for you to make your life a bit easier if you want to see something of Eilat. It’s the problem of getting there and how to move around and with what. Did you know that you can fly to Eilat instead of driving for 4 hours by car? Do you know how much that cost? It cost you $35 and 35 minutes. Voila, you earned your reading back with this.
Transport in the air
Eilat’s municipal airport (1 700 705 022; http://www.iaa.gov.il/Rashat/en-US/Airports/Eilat) is right in the heart of town. There are plans for a new airport to be built in Timna, north of Eilat – when completed (estimated dates vary wildly, and some cynical locals doubt if it will ever happen) it will replace the current civil airports in Eilat and at the Ovda air-force base.
Ovda Airport (IATA Code: VDA; 1 700 705 022; http://www.iaa.gov.il/Rashat/en-US/Airports/Ovda) is about 67km north of the center of Eilat. It serves occasional charter flights from Europe as well as Arkia and El Al flights, but its distance from town means it’s not the most convenient landing post.
Transport per bus
Egged services to Tel Aviv (bus 393, 394 or 790, 82NIS, five hours) depart from the central bus station every 90 minutes or two hours from 5am to 7pm, with an additional overnight service at 1am. Services on Fridays and Saturdays are greatly reduced. It’s a good idea to reserve long-haul bus tickets for travel to/from Eilat via http://www.egged.co.il or by calling 2800; reservations can be made up to two weeks ahead.
Bus 392 to Be’er Sheva (60NIS, three hours) stops at Ovda Airport (25NIS, 45 minutes) and Mitzpe Ramon (49NIS, 2¼ hours). To Jerusalem (bus 444, 82NIS, five hours) there are four buses per day between 7am and 5pm; these pass through Ein Gedi (49.50NIS, three hours). Services on Fridays and Saturdays are greatly reduced. There are no direct buses from Eilat to Cairo.
Transport within Eilat
The town center is walkable, but you’ll need a bus or taxi for locations along the Taba road. Bus 15 leaves from the central bus station and travels to the Taba border crossing via Coral Beach (4.90NIS, 30 minutes) every hour from 8am to 9pm Sunday to Thursday, 8am to 3pm Friday and 9am to 7pm Saturday. It changes to bus 16 for the return trip. A taxi from the town center to the border crossing costs around 60NIS. To reach the Yitzhak Rabin–Wadi Arava border crossing into Jordan, you’ll have to take a taxi (45NIS).
Cars in Eilat
You can rent a car by calling Eldan, Hertz or Budget, located with a number of other car-hire companies in the Shalom Center opposite the airport.
A land of snow (Hermon), the land of the sub-tropics (Eilat), the land of the deserts and mountains, the land of the ancient cities, the land of the ancient cultures, dynamic modern cities, the many hotels, hostels, guest houses, zimmers, and not to forget the incredible natures reserves with truly unbelievable landscapes … the only thing it misses is sailing. But does it?
Sailing in Eilat
You haven’t really visited Eilat if you haven’t been aboard a boat! And I mean a little mini-cruise on a real boat on the Red Sea. And there are many types of boats for a little cruising, depending on your taste and preference, of course (and your kids). We are talking about those boats with a glass bottom, where you can look what’s in the Red Sea, straight under your boat, or you prefer a wooden sailing boat, where you can enjoy the wind and water.. Or maybe some larger boat where you can eat and drink and have fun! Maybe you can see the wildly exotic fish and colorful corals more clearly from the Underwater Observatory at Coral World, but there’s something about the experience of being out on the Red Sea that can’t be topped. Boats are available at Coral World and from entrepreneurs such as Atlantis at the Eilat Marina (1-800-200-312) and Israel Yam. If you’re not claustrophobic, try the Yellow Submarine, which traverses a 45-meter-deep Wall of Corals. Or rent a kayak, sailboat, banana boat or motorboat along the Eilat coast.
Rafting on the River Jordan
Jordan River Rafting trips leave from a dock about 10 minutes from Rosh Pina in the Upper Galilee, passing through a scented eucalyptus grove (972-4-900-7000), while Kfar Blum Kayaks can be taken along routes including the Hatzbani and Banias streams to the Jordan. Choose a raft for up to six people, a kayak for two, or a kayak-and-zipline option. For ages five and up.
The limestone grottoes of Rosh Hanikra on the Mediterranean Sea near the Lebanon border are one of Israel’s most visited tourist spots. A two-minute cable car takes you down to the grottoes from the top of the cliff. Between April and November, you can also enter the grottoes via boat from Betzet Beach. Before setting sail with a guide, passengers (ages 10-70) receive training and orientation. Details: 972-52-379-8610.
Shipshape in Haifa
It only costs NIS 35 (about $10) for a 50-minute sail on the Carmelit, a double-decker ship leaving from Haifa’s Kishon fishing marina (972-4-841-8765/6). Or rent a yacht for NIS 340 per hour (NIS 410 on weekends) for a group outing; Aya-Yam offers packages for romantic outings, birthdays, bachelor parties, etc. Details: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Cruising in Acre
At the ancient port of Acre, NIS 25 will get you a 35-minute excursion aboard a ship operated by Malkat Akko (Queen of Acre). The day liner has a cafeteria, dance floor, refreshments and a recorded explanation of history and geography as you cruise around the Old City walls or to Haifa or Rosh Hanikra. Information: 972-4-991-3890.
Gondola, solar cruise in Ra’anana
The expansive Park Ra’anana encompasses several novel features, including Israel’s first fully accessible playground, Friendship Park. There’s an artificial lake with one of the world’s only solar-powered cruise boats, as well as a gondola for hire. Information: 972-9-771-3275.
Pedal boats near Solomon’s Mines
Timna National Park near Eilat is devoted mostly to the archeological ruins of an extensive copper-smelting plant from ancient times. Unexpectedly, there’s also a manmade lake on the site where you can rent a pedal boat for no additional cost.
In this article we describe the processes to get visas when you want to travel to Israel, Jordan, Egypt and lands under control of the Palestinian Authority. I think it’s good information to have when you plan to come to Israel, Jordan and Egypt, but please double check, because information in this article might not be accurate (anymore).
Visas and passports for Israel
Israel no longer stamps tourists’ passports (though it retains the right to do so). Instead, visitors are given a small loose-leaf entry card to serve as proof of lawful entry. It’s easy to lose but try not to as it’s your only proof that you’re in the country legally.
We’ve heard reports of Israeli authorities at Allenby/King Hussein Bridge and Ben-Gurion airport issuing ‘Palestinian Authority Only’ entry permits to travelers with family or personal connections in the West Bank, making it difficult or impossible to get past the IDF roadblocks that regulate traffic from the West Bank into Israel, including Jerusalem.
Conversely, authorities at the airport have been known to require that some travelers sign a form declaring that they will not enter the Palestinian Authority without permission from Israeli authorities.
Students require a student (A/2) visa; kibbutz volunteers must arrange, through their host organization, a volunteer’s (B/4) visa. ON-ARRIVAL TOURIST VISAS
In general, Western visitors to Israel and the Palestinian Territories are issued free on-arrival tourist (B/2) visas by Israel. For specifics on who qualifies, visit http://www.mfa.gov.il (click on ‘Consular Services’ and then ‘Visas’). Your passport must be valid for at least six months from the date of entry. Officials can demand to see proof of sufficient funds and/or an onward or return ticket but rarely do so.
On-arrival visas are usually valid for 90 days. But some travelers, such as those entering by land from Egypt or Jordan, may be given just 30 days or even two weeks – it’s up to the discretion of the border control official. If there is any indication that you are coming to participate in pro-Palestinian protests, plan to engage in missionary activity or are seeking illegal employment, you may find yourself on the next flight home.
To extend a tourist (B/2) visa, you have a couple of options: Do a ‘visa run’ to Egypt, Jordan or overseas. This might get you an additional three months – or just one. Ask other travelers for the latest low-down.
Apply to extend your visa (90NIS). Extensions are granted by the Population & Immigration Authority (www.piba.gov.il; generally 8am-noon Sun-Tue & Thu), part of the Ministry of the Interior, whose offices include bureaus in Jerusalem (1 Shlomzion HaMalka St), Tel Aviv (Kiryat HaMamshala, 125 Menachem Begin Rd) and Eilat (2nd fl, HaKenyon HaAdom, HaTemarim Blvd). Bring a passport valid for at least six months beyond the requested extension period, a recent photo, a letter explaining why you want/need an extension (plus documentation), and evidence of sufficient funds for the extended stay. Offices in smaller towns are often easier and faster to deal with.
If you would qualify for an oleh (immigrant) visa under Israel’s Law of Return – ie you have at least one Jewish grandparent or have converted to Judaism and have documentation demonstrating this – it’s easy to extend your tourist visa for as long as you’d like, or even become an Israeli citizen.
You can be fined if you overstay your visa. Travelers who overstay by just a few days report no hassles or fines but it’s best not to risk it.
Visitors from most Western countries are eligible to receive single-entry, extendable, two-week visas at the following places:
The Jordan River–Sheikh Hussein crossing (visa costs JD40), 30km south of the Sea of Galilee.
The Yitzhak Rabin–Wadi Araba crossing (visa is free), a few kilometers north of Eilat and Aqaba.
Note: on-arrival visas are not available at the Allenby–King Hussein Bridge crossing.
Contact a Jordanian embassy or consulate (abroad or in Ramat Gan, near Tel Aviv) for a visa in any of the following cases:
You want to enter Jordan via Allenby–King Hussein Bridge.
You need a multiple-entry visa.
At-the-border visas are not available to people of your nationality.
Single/double/multiple entry visas, valid for two/three/six months from date of issue, cost a hefty JD40/60/120.
Note: if you crossed into the West Bank and/or Israel through Allenby–King Hussein Bridge and re-enter Jordan the same way, you do not need to apply for a new Jordanian visa, provided you return while your Jordanian visa or its extension is still valid. Remember to keep the stamped exit slip and present it on returning.
Israel and the Palestinian Territories abound with volunteer opportunities. In Israel these are often on archaeological digs, at hostels or environmental organizations, while in the Palestinian Territories they often involve helping the many NGOs working to improve everyday life for Palestinians.
These websites list a selection of organizations that arrange volunteer placements: The National Council for Volunteering in Israel (www.ivolunteer.org.il), Israel Hostels (www.hostelsisrael. com/volunteer-in-a-hostel) and Medical Aid for Palestinians (www.map-uk.org).
If you’re between 18 and 35, it’s also possible to volunteer on a traditional kibbutz in Israel. Volunteers interested in a taste of the lifestyle at these communal agricultural centers can expect to spend two to six months helping with manual labor, which could include anything from gardening to washing up or milking cows. Food and accommodation are provided and sometimes a small weekly allowance. For more information, visit http://www.kibbutz.org.il/eng or read about one Brit’s personal experience at http://www.kibbutzvolunteer.com.
OVERSEAS ISRAELIS & PALESTINIANS
According to the US State Department, the Israeli government regards the foreign-born children of Israelis as Israeli citizens and therefore requires them to enter and exit Israel using an Israeli passport and to comply with the country’s military draft laws; and it treats Palestinians born in the West Bank or Gaza – and, in some cases, their children and grandchildren – as Palestinian nationals who must exit and enter using a Palestinian passport, regardless of whether they hold a foreign passport. For details, see http://www.travel.state.gov – type ‘Israel’ under ‘Learn About Your Destination’, then expand the ‘Entry, Exit & Visa Requirements’ tab.
Unless they receive special advance authorization, persons considered by Israel to be Palestinian nationals are required to enter and exit the country via Allenby-King Hussein Bridge rather than, for instance, Ben-Gurion airport. Conversely, persons considered Israeli citizens can use any Israeli airport or land crossing except Allenby-King Hussein Bridge.
Nearly every major Israeli city has a tourist office offering brochures and maps; some also organize city walking tours. The only tourist office in the Palestinian Territories is in Bethlehem.
Useful websites include: www.goisrael.com – Israel’s Ministry of Tourism. www.igoogledisrael.com – tips on traveling and living in Israel. www.parks.org.il – Israel Nature & Parks Authority. www.sirajcenter.org – an NGO that sponsors cross-cultural and community tourism in Palestine. www.travelpalestine.ps – Palestinian Ministry of Tourism & Antiquities. www.travelujah.com – comprehensive information for Christian travelers. www.visitpalestine.ps – excellent Ramallah-based travel website.
Female travelers will generally feel as safe and comfortable in Israel and the Palestinian Territories as they would in any Western country. Thus, you should take the same sensible precautions as you do back home – for instance, don’t hitchhike or hike by yourself, and avoid dark and deserted alleyways, lanes and paths. On some beaches foreign women may attract unwanted attention.
When you plan your day, keep in mind local expectations regarding modest attire. While tight-fitting, revealing outfits are common in urban centers such as Tel Aviv, they are inappropriate in more conservative parts of Israel and the West Bank, and are likely to be met with overt hostility in Gaza and in ultra-Orthodox Jewish neighborhoods such as Me’a She’arim in Jerusalem. When visiting conservative areas and when visiting all religious sites – Jewish, Muslim, Christian, Druze and Baha’i – you should wear clothing that covers your knees and shoulders. In Muslim and Christian areas, long trousers are OK, but in some Jewish areas – and at all Jewish holy sites – only a long skirt is acceptable.
It’s a good idea to carry a shawl or scarf with you at all times. You will need this to cover your head and shoulders when visiting Muslim holy sites (mosques, tombs and the Temple Mount), and it can come in handy if your definition of modest attire doesn’t align with that of the caretaker in charge of a religious site.
In buses and sheruts, a woman sitting next to an ultra-Orthodox Jewish man may make him uncomfortable. Depending on how you look at it, that’s either his problem or a local sensitivity you should respect.
Travelers used to be able to turn up in Tel Aviv and find casual work in bars and restaurants but these days the pickings are thin. One option in that city might be to inquire at guesthouses and restaurants near the beach. Working legally requires a permit from the Ministry of the Interior and, as in North America or Western Europe, these aren’t easy to get – with one exception. If you would qualify for an oleh (immigrant) visa under the Law of Return – ie if you have at least one Jewish parent or grandparent and have documents to prove it – you can arrange a working visa with relative ease.
If you do find work and discover that you have been cheated by your employer, you can get free advice from Kav LaOved Worker’s Hotline (03-688 3766; www.kavlaoved.org.il; 4th fl, 75 Nachalat Binyamin St, Tel Aviv); see its website for the times English-speaking staff are on hand.
How strange it is, there is work to find, but in the north of the country with Arab (sub-)contractors, but the work is heavy (mainly construction).
This article is about Israel at a glance. Many tourists asked me where they suppose to go! Well, here is your oversight depending on your intentions and preferences. Some people love historical sights, others religious, cultures, hiking, family, cities, beaches, deserts and much more. If that is so, Israel is your excellent destination.
Diversity – Ultra-Orthodox Jews wearing shtreimels (fur hats), secular Jews in short shorts and tank tops, Palestinian Muslims on their way to Al-Aqsa Mosque, Christian clergy in long robes, feminist Orthodox Jews, gay-rights activists, free-spirited artists – you’ll run into them all on Jerusalem’s wonderfully diverse streets.
As a tour guide, I led and created many tours in Jerusalem. If they were religious tours, pilgrim tours, Israeli or gem tours, the city is huge and the number of sights are staggering. And Jerusalem hides so much history and excitement from us normal tourists, like secret half hidden caves, ‘cursed sites’, haunted houses, curious neighborhoods, hidden churches, tunnels and caves and grottoes and so much more. And it’s Jerusalem, this city with a history not normal (destroyed twice, besieged 23 times, attacked 52 times, and captured and recaptured 44 times) and its age is 6,500 years! The Jewish people (King David) sacked Jerusalem from the Canaanite inhabitants in c. 1000 BCE. For sure that there are many stories to tell about this city (source).
Tel Aviv-Jaffa (Yafo)
Fine Dining – Yes, Tel Aviv has fantastic beaches, but the city’s real passion is food. From felafel stalls and hummus joints to gelato parlours, European-style cafes, sushi bars and restaurants run by celebrity chefs, you won’t go hungry here.
Entertainment – Tel Aviv is the White City, which never sleeps. That’s certainly true, whenever you are awake, Tel Aviv too but never sleeps itself. The entertainment there goes from the restaurants, bars, nightclubs and dancings to the dynamic street life, enough to entertain anyone in this city. If you are looking for free entertainment, or the most fanciest opera or ballet, or rock concert to techno music, it’s there. And we are talking about entertainment for the teenagers, for the elders and everyone between and not to forget the children with their Luna parks, theme- and water-parks and much more.
Boutiques – Tel Aviv has Israel’s best shopping. Shop till your credit card groans in bazaars, modern malls and designer boutiques on Sheinken, Dizengoff and Shabazi streets. And then we have the markets, from the middle eastern styled markets like the Carmel market in the center of Tel Aviv, to the specialized markets like flea-, second hand-, vegetables-, meat- and food-markets.
Exhibitions – Head to the Tel Aviv Museum of Art for Israeli, Middle-Eastern and European art, Beit Hatfutsot and the Eretz Israel Museum for history and culture, and Design Museum Holon for contemporary exhibits and many other museums.
Beaches – Many people are dreaming about white beaches and Tel Aviv has loads of white beaches in an excellent state and they are full each summer day when the tourists are waking up and fill the white burning sand near the cooling water of the sea.
Tel Aviv is not an ancient city, but relative young. But it’s combined with Jaffa, and that’s an old, ancient city with a huge often bloody history.
Ancient Ports – Caesarea was one of the great ports of antiquity and, 1000 years later, a walled Crusader stronghold. Akko (Acre), visited by Marco Polo on his way to China, is brimming with medieval and Ottoman history.
Spiritual Gardens – Haifa’s incredible Baha’i Gardens are a spiritual highlight for people of all faiths. Elijah’s Cave in Haifa is sacred to Jews, Christians and Muslims. The area was once witness of the titan battles between the Jewish and the foreign gods with fire and brimstone and all.
Sea Grottoes – The sea grottoes of Rosh HaNikra feature hues of blue you never knew existed. For stunning panoramas of the Mediterranean, head to Haifa’s eagle’s-eye promenade, high atop Mt Carmel.
Lower Galilee & Sea of Galilee
Jesus’s Ministry – Mary is said to have experienced the Annunciation in Nazareth, later Jesus’s childhood home. It is believed that the Transfiguration took place at Mt Tabor, and Jesus spent much of his ministry around the Sea of Galilee. Here you can truly follow the footsteps of Jesus.
Roman Sites – Top excavations include the Roman and Byzantine city of Beit She’an, ancient synagogues at Hamat Tverya, Korazim, Capernaum and Tzipori, and the Belvoir Crusader castle.
World Food – Nazareth is known for its East–West fusion cuisine; in Kfar Kisch you can dine the French way or sample delicious cheeses; in Kfar Kama you can try Circassian dishes from the Caucasus.
Upper Galilee & Golan
Wild Trails – Trails for all fitness levels abound, from the alpine summit of Mt Hermon (elevation more than 2000m) to the banks of the Jordan River (elevation less than 200m), and through the cliff-lined canyons of the Banias and Yehudiya Nature Reserves.
Migrations – Half a billion birds migrate through the Hula Valley – you can spot local and migrating species in the wetlands of the Hula Nature Reserve and Agamon HaHula, especially in spring and autumn.
Winery Visits – Many of Israel’s finest wineries, some of them boutique, can be visited at Katzrin, Ein Zivan and Odem on the Golan and on the Dalton Plateau northwest of Tsfat (Safed). But honestly, wineries you can find also in and around Jerusalem, even in the Negev, right in the middle of the desert.
And don’t think that the Golan is some dump nature area, because you are very wrong. The Golan has its own history and can also be called ancient, it knew Israelite settlements before many other cities in Israel (and the world). Ancient civilizations existed here already before the Canaan!
Bazaars – West Bank cities revolve around their lively bazaars. Shop for fresh fruit, taste sweets and haggle over handicrafts in the colorful markets of Hebron, Nablus and Bethlehem.
Local Food – Don’t pass up any invitation for a home-cooked meal in the West Bank, where the dinner table overflows with spicy, tangy Middle Eastern delicacies. The best restaurants are in Ramallah.
The what is now called West Bank is an area, with a many cultural influences from the Christians to the Israelites. Later it was conquered by the Muslims and since then they stamped their presence all in the area.
The Dead Sea
Dead Sea – Float on your back while reading the newspaper – a cliché but eminently doable in the hyper saline waters of the Dead Sea, which will relax your nerves and soothe your skin.
Masada – The Romans had already destroyed Jerusalem, but high atop Masada, 1000 Jews resisted the besieging might of Legion X, in the end preferring death to slavery.
Desert Oases -Year-round springs feed the dramatic desert oases of Ein Gedi and Ein Bokek, where hikers encounter cool streams, luxuriant vegetation, Edenic waterfalls and rare wildlife such as majestic Nubian ibexes.
But that is not all, of course. There are important caves, there are mountains, deserts, wilderness, which is hardly touched by humans or civilizations.
It’s history is long, far before the Israelites, Romans, even the Canaan were populated the Middle East. Many traces of lost civilizations are still visible, but others are gone, hidden under the sand and waiting to be discovered over the coming years. Now the wilderness is traveled by Bedouins, trekkers, hikers and some tourists, with here and there some islands of wineries and other settlements, which manage to turn desert into grasslands or agriculture.
Desert Trails – The Negev desert is filled with life. Hike through the wilderness of Makhtesh Ramon, Sde Boker or Ein Avdat and you’ll likely spot camels, ibexes and soaring birds of prey.
Coral Reefs – Keen to explore coral reefs and swim with schools of tropical fish? Then come to the Red Sea to snorkel or dive. Just dip your head underwater and enjoy the show.