Israel: travel recommendations

This week I’ve posted about the adventures during my incredible trip to Israel. Find all of the stories and pictures here: https://exploreopenhorizons.wordpress.com/tag/ddisreal16/ 

This nation is so unique, I HIGHLY recommend putting it on your bucket list. Even if you spend only a couple of days in Jerusalem, it will be well worth it. I made a list of some recommendations for anyone who plans to travel to Israel anytime soon.

Recommendations:

  • The first nights in Jerusalem we stayed at Citadel Youth Hostel. Its location in the middle of Old City couldn’t be more perfect. The inside of the hostel looks incredible with its old walls and the view from the rooftop alone is enough reason to stay there. As long as you’re okay with youth hostels (and the quality of its beds and bathrooms), this is a great place to stay. Make sure you bring earplugs, it’s very noisy at night.
  • The rest of the week we stayed at different places found on Airbnb. If you don’t know AirBnb, please just click this link and sign up. People can list their spare bed, room or even whole apartment for prices ho(s)tels can’t compete with. It’s a great way to meet locals who often have great recommendations for the area. I’ve had such great experiences, I won’t stay in hostels anymore. My favorites in Israel were the one in Arad (great location if you want to catch the sunrise at Masada) and the one in Tel Aviv (in the middle of the arty neighborhood of Florentine).
  • Some great restaurants we ate at were ShokoLulu in Tel Aviv, Muza in Arad and Panoramic in the middle of the Armenian Quarter of Jerusalem (their kebab is incredible).
  • The Ramparts Walk isn’t too touristy, and it was one of my highlights of the whole trip. You can buy tickets at the ticket center next to the Jaffa Gate, that’s where the entrance is too. Wear good walking shoes though, the steps are steep and the stones can be slippery.
  • There’s a 24/7 worship and prayer room on Mount Zion that looks out over Jerusalem. It’s kind of like IHOP, and a great place to ‘pray for the peace of Jerusalem’. It’s called Succat Hallel.
  • The best time to visit the Western Wall is just before sunset, especially on Fridays.
  • Only rent a car for the days you’re traveling through the country, not while staying in Jerusalem or Tel Aviv. The big cities are chaotic to drive in and really hard to find parking. The public transport in Israel is comfortable, cheap and fast, so you could even choose to travel like that.
  • If you do want to drive yourself, make sure you’re aware of the different territories, especially in the West-Bank. Road 90 and road 1 are under Israeli supervision even though they go through the West-Bank, so those are safe to drive and covered by your insurance if you rented the car in Israel. All the other roads are best to be avoided. If you want to visit Bethlehem or Jericho, it’s way safer to hire a taxi.
  • When you show your boarding pass at the road check points, you avoid many questions, because they see that you’re planning to leave their country soon again.
  • A good GPS or a prepaid phone plan with data is pretty essential if you’re driving around. In the cities you can use a great app called OSMandMaps that lets you download offline maps (up to three countries for free).
  • There’s an app called ‘U-talk’ that teaches some basic Hebrew words. I also learned some phrases from this website.
  • Research really make this country come alive! Besides having read many articles and websites, we also watched two documentaries. One is about Masada, and one is about Jerusalem. 

Things I don’t recommend:

  • Our rental car company: Avis. Even if our car hadn’t broken down, even if it hadn’t taken 4,5 hours for help to arrive – then I still would be an unhappy customer. The service at the locations both in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv was absolutely terrible. If you’re lucky enough to find someone who speaks English, they still don’t take the effort to explain to you where your car is, how things work or why they reserve 750 euro on your creditcard even though everything is already paid for online. Many of the cars looked and sounded like they had seen too many miles, as proven by our car that refused to start. Seriously, save yourself the trouble and avoid Avis.
  • The Holy Church of Sepulcher. I found the Garden Tomb a way better place to end the Via Dolorosa. Especially if you want to have a time of prayer and contemplation, you can skip the touristic charade of the Holy Church of Sepulcher.

I’m not an Israel-expert by any means, and all of these recommendations are in my own humble opinion. I don’t receive any benefits or income from these links, except for some ‘travel credit’ if you sign up for AirBnb via my link .

I hope this is helpful for someone! Feel free to shoot me a message if you have any questions or comments.

Onward and foreward to the next adventure!

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