Help a Reader Travel: Israel

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Welcome to another post of helping a reader travel! Due to the recent mistake fare to Israel, I figured this would be the perfect way to help those who jumped on the deal plan their trip. Unlike some of the other “Help a Reader Travel posts, I actually have been to Israel, but it was when I was 16 years old. My trip consisted of a 5 week tour with my Brookline, New Hampshire-based summer camp. There was over 100 of us on this teen tour, some who I knew since I was 8 years old. Mr. Deals was actually on this same trip with me (yes, we met at a very early age!) and neither of us have been back since. While this trip was amazing, I hardly remember where we went and what we saw. It also did not consist of utilizing hotel points, which I am sure many of you are eager to do! Instead, we spent our nights sleeping at hostels, a home stay at a kibbutz, a moshav, sleeping at a bedouin tent, sleeping outside in the desert, sleeping outside of a water park (to this day I cannot figure that one out!), and a variety of other random sleeping situations. What I remember loving about Israel is that it has activity, culture, beach. Not too many places where you can find all three!

If you are looking to use your points, I’ve compiled a list of all the chain hotels (which is very limited):

  • Starwood:
    • Le Méridien Eilat – This is located in the southern part of the country on the Red Sea. When I was there I remember going sailing and snorkeling in the Red Sea. This area is relatively far from Tel Aviv and Jerusalem and I am not 100% sure of the safety of Eilat right now.
    • Sheraton Tel Aviv Hotel and Towers – This is located on the promenade, which is right on the beach.
    • Le Méridien Dead Sea – Located near the Dead Sea and Masada. Both are must-do’s if you haven’t been to Israel. If you are going to Masada, I’d suggest staying there the night before so you can wake up early (4am-ish) and hike to the top. You can also do this as a day trip from Jerusalem if you’d prefer and not sleep over. This hotel only requires 2,000-3,000 points a night, but the reviews are not very good
  • Hilton:
    • Hilton Tel Aviv – Located on the promenade with beach access. This is a popular hotel in Tel Aviv and I have a friend that just stayed there a few weeks ago. She recommends the hotel, but it is quite expensive if you aren’t using points.
    • Waldorf Astoria Jerusalem – Not yet open. Expected to open March 2013.
    • Hilton Eilat Queen of Sheba Hotel – I do not know much about this hotel, but again, it is near the Red Sea.
  • Marriott: 
    • Renaissance Tel Aviv Hotel – Also located on the promenade with beach access. I have another friend that just stayed at this hotel and they probably would not recommend it. It also just went up to a category 6 recently, so is a lot of points for not a great hotel.
  • Hyatt: 
    • No Hyatt hotels in Israel
  • Club Carlson:
    • Park Plaza Orchid Tel Aviv – On the promenade a great opportunity to use your Club Carlson points! While this hotel does require 44,000 points/night, hotels in Tel Aviv are over $200/night.
  • Priority Club:  
    • Crowne Plaza Jerusalem – This hotel receives mixed reviews on TripAdvisor, but only requires 25,000 points/night.
    • Holiday Inn Resort Dead Sea – I unfortunately have no information about this hotel.
    • Crowne Plaza Tel Aviv City Center – This hotel is NOT on the beach, but more in the city.
    • Crowne Plaza Tel Aviv – This hotel is on the beach, on the promenade. Another friend stayed here and said it’s a solid hotels. Reviews on TripAdvisor were pretty decent. This hotel is close to the Hilton.
    • InterContinental David Tel Aviv – Also on the beach and has a nice pool (says my friend who stayed here).
    • Hotel Indigo Tel Aviv Diamond Exchange – This hotel is not opening until April 2013.
    • Holiday Inn Ashkelon – If it is your first time to Israel, this is probably not a city you need to visit.
    • Crowne Plaza Haifa – While I went here during my first trip, I do not remember anything about Haifa. However, I’ve heard it is a good place to go. Suggestions here would be much appreciated!
    • Crowne Plaza Eilat – Again, I do not know anything about this particular hotel.
  • Wyndham:
    • Ramada Jerusalem – This hotel is a 15 minute walk to the Old City and receives good reviews on TripAdvisor.
    • Ramada Hotel and Suites Netanya – As a tourist I do not believe Netanya is a city you’d visit, however, it is only 15,000 points!

While this Israeli-based hotel chain, Dan Hotels, will not allow you to use your points earned, they seem to have great reviews. You can, however, use your CapitalOne points, American Express pay by points, or Chase Ultimate Rewards pay by points:

  • Jerusalem: King David Jerusalem, Dan Jerusalem, Dan Panorama Jerusalem, and Dan Boutique
  • Haifa: Dan Carmel, Dan Panorama Haifa, and Dan Gardens Haifa
  • Tel Aviv: Dan Tel Aviv and Dan Panorama Tel Aviv
  • Eilat: Dan Eilat and Dan Panorama Eilat
  • Ashkelon: Dan Gardens Ashkelon
  • Herzliya-on-Sea: Dan Accadia
  • Caesarea: Dan Caesare

If you’ve been to Israel, let’s help out many readers (and me!) by commenting below. Thank you in advance!!!

  • What are some of the “Must-do’s” if it is your first time being in Israel
  • What are some of the “Off-the-beaten-path” things to do if you’ve been before and want to get away from some of the touristy stuff?
  • What hotels would you recommend?
  • How would you recommend getting around the country?
Some of my recommended must do’s from what I remember: Dead Sea (with the mud), hike Masada, go to the wailing wall and take the tour through the tunnels, raft down the Jordan, go to Yad Vashem (Holocaust Museum), visit the desert/ride a camel, go on many hikes, visit the natural spring pools, go to the cities of Tzfat, Haifa, Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Gaza strip (although not sure what it is like there now). Also, when you plan your trip make sure to keep in mind that many things in Israel are closed Friday night – Saturday night (Shabbat), especially in Jerusalem. Also, make sure to check out the recommended things to do from blogger Very Good Points. She has been to Israel many times and compiled a great list!

Also, if you have any upcoming travel where you need some help, feel free to email me at dealswelike@gmail.com to be a featured “Help a Reader Travel” Monday special. Feel free to check out some of the other “Help a Reader Travel” posts as well: MauiThe Greek IslandsThe Pacific Coast HighwayArgentinaCosta RicaCape Cod & The IslandsIceland, Geneva, Canadian Rockiesand Rome.

Comments

  1. This is a great post for those of us (cough) headed to Tel Aviv aka TLV aka T-A.

    The hotel list is a breeding ground for my wife’s next credit card churn. She needs to sign up for the Priority Club credit card (Intercontinental), followed by Marriott. She already has the others. Wink. Maybe you can provide the link.

    Don’t forget to take a jeep ride in the northern Galilee. You”ll be riding high, where the Syrians were shooting down on the Israelis. A guide will help you understand why Israel will never give up that part of the country. I don’t mean to editoralize, but going on vacation is always an educational experience, especially in this part of the world.

    On Saturday afternoon, when we had free time, we entered the old city at the Lion’s Gate. Our guide was very upset with us, because it’s not as safe as the other gate entrances. I’m still glad we did it as the area looked like a Hollywood set circa 1925. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lions'_Gate

  2. While you are over there, a must see would be Petra in Jordan. There are full day tours leaving from Eilat or Tel Aviv. The Tel Aviv origin requires a flight down to Eilat. The tour is on the pricey side but well worth it considering it includes the border crossing, ride there and back, and guided tour of the ancient carved city. You can read about it in my blog to get more info. I felt it was easily as awe inspiring as anything I found in Jerusalem or Israel.

  3. Is it “safe” to be traveling to Jerusalem? I am set to leave during late November for a 6 days stay. I have read on the U.S. State Travel Advisory that there are problems in Gaza and West Bank.

    What do you all think?

    I will be staying at Abraham Hostel and doing a couple of day tours with them. But the rest of the time, will be exploring Jerusalem and Tel Aviv as a solo female traveler.

  4. One of my favorite places in Israel is Tiveria or Tiberias.

    I’d also recommend going to Ein Gedi and the Dead Sea of course!

  5. Not too many people visit Qumran which you can side trip to on the way to the dead sea. Although you don’t enter the caves, it is the cave where the dead sea scrolls (and many other scrolls) were found along with ruins of an essence village. Flash floods come thru here. It is über-desert, not a growing thing. I picture Jesus here for 40 days.

  6. @traveler,

    LA had its drive by shootings.
    The US had the September 11th attack.

    Does this mean you wouldn’t travel to Boston or San Francisco?

    While distances are close in Israel, Gaza is out of the way, and won’t affect you unless missile attacks are falling on Ashkelon, or other cities close by.

    As for the West Bank, even if you do drive through on the way to a tourist site, the only problem you’ll find is the drivers!

  7. @ all
    Israel is just as safe as any other place in the world if you know where you going , where you staying, and what you doing . its the nicest and most beautiful country i have been so to all of who r going lets be safe and have fun
    @traveler
    even in your home town (where ever that is). IM SURE there are places you will not go at all x of day or night

  8. Just came back from there. Stayed at crowne plaza jersualem. No real complaints. Its a very busy hotel as are all of them in Jerusalem as there are always countless tourists.

    The guy making the omelettes for breakfast had a little atttitude the first day but set him straight and never had trouble again.

    Safety is a non issue. Just don’t be stupid and walk into the dead of ramallah or any other non Israeli town although most entrances have Israeli soldiers posted warning you that you enter at your own peril.

    The security is really well organized and you reallly feel well safe when out and about. Taxis are expensive – probably Manhattan prices. But if you don’t mind buses I would recommend them. They are fast and convenient plus they now have a train going through Jerusalem that seems well organized although I never took it, but jogged alongside it every morning.

  9. I’ve stayed at the Renessaince Tel Aviv several times and disagree with your recommendation. While not the fanciest Renessaince I’ve stayed at, the room was VERY nice (though typically small), the location excellent, the concierge lounge more than adequate, and the breakfast buffet (included EVEN IF ON AWARD TRAVEL) quite good. That said the lobby bar at the Sheraton next door a nicer place for a bottle of wine.

    As for safety…. I feel safer in Jerusalem and TA than I’ve EVER felt in New Orleans. Just use common sense you’d display when travelling in ANY major city.

    Tour recommendation: While expensive it’s really worth the splurge to book a PRIVATE guide for a day tour in Jerusalem.

  10. I’ll echo Archi above – do not miss Petra. Also, although there are a million things to do in Jerusalem, I’ll note a few favorites – HaMoshava HaGermanit (The German Colony) is a bustling neighborhood just outside of the old city, and renting an apartment there for a week will be cheaper than staying in a hotel. My absolute favorite restaurant in town is Sami’s, right outside of the shuk. And don’t miss Ir Dovid (City of David) which includes underground water tunnels carved to help stave off the Roman seige, which you can actually walk through – truly one of the most remarkable experiences of my life. With regard to safety – you will never be in any personal danger but guard your personal belongings closely-just as I’d hope you would anywhere in the world. Our car was stolen on our last trip. Oh well – all part of the adventure!

  11. If you head down to Eilat…

    I have stayed at the Hilton Queen of Sheba, one of the nicest hotels in the city. On the other hand, It has been 5 years since I was last at the Holiday Inn Eilat, but it was not such a nice property and is a far walk from the water and everywhere else you will want to go down there.

  12. You gotta do the hike at Ein Gedi by the Dead sea. Its beautiful and you can cool off in the cool springs.

    You can go visit the city of Sderot on the border with Gaza. You may have to run to a shelter as their is continuous rocket fire.

    You can also go to Eilat and go scuba diving and see the beautiful coral reefs.

    Up north you gotta check out the Kinneret and Winery’s.

    Down south their is a museum at the Hatzeirim Aif Force Base. You can get a free tour guide which I highly recommend. It is an active IAF base so you see a lot F-15’s and C-130’s in flight.

  13. I stayed at the Crown Plaza right on the beach for our honeymoon for five days. They upgraded us because of Ambassador status. It is a solid hotel with a free HUGE buffet at breakfast that filled me up til dinner. I think they were redoing the bottom entrance to the beach while there. They have a pool and give you your own beach towel when you go out to the beach. We went and sat out on the beach at night and walked everywhere. The rooms were comfortable and somehow there was a mixup and we ended up with 17 pillows but we loved it!

    I would go back in a heartbeat, but would probably stay at the Sheraton next door just to try it out. Or Intercontinental David which is in a great area. Friends have stayed at the Intercontinental David which they said was AMAZING!

    The Hilton is further down and is huge. They say the gay beach is near there but it was nothing gay about it. It was families and mixed. It is looks like a nice hotel but if I remember correctly you have to walk a bit to get to the beach as it is on a little hill instead of walking out right onto the beach.

    We did all our tours through the hotel. We did a private tour to Jerusalem and to the Dead Sea and Masada! They were awesome! Can’t wait to hear your report and I am kicking myself for not getting this fare!

  14. Here goes.. Had a great vacation a couple of years ago but I don’t need to rush back.

    Sheraton Tel Aviv is located perfectly. It is actually across the street from the beach. Get a room facing North to avoid the sun and the possibility of a major embassy blowing up!

    Eilat….so touristy. I stayed across the border at the Intercon in Aqaba. Fab!

    Jerusalem…. stay in a non big name hotel. See Sheraton comment. Grand Court Hotel was great. 20 minute walk from the old city. It is right on the rail line. If you need a private guide let me know I have an excellent one.

    Rent a car. It’s a small country and good to travel in. Nimrod’s castle was spectacular but may be cut off due to the problems in Syria.

    Caeserea is an awesome adventure even with the powerplant as a backdrop.

    Food was universally good everywhere. Even for a picky eater like me.

    Enjoy.

  15. I can’t believe I missed this post!!!! I just finished a post that is VERY similar!!!! oh well, there are differences though at least.
    I promised you some tips, so here they are.
    My friend stayed at The Queen of Sheba on points and said it was fantastic. The only thing is, is that one doesn’t get free breakfast there on points. And it’s pricey to purchase it.
    The easiest thing is to rent a car when you are in Israel. Most credit cards don’t cover primary car insurance in Israel. Chase Sapphire Mastercard might, but you should double check, that is if you have the card.
    You asked about a recommendation in Haifa, I’ve been to the Behai Gardens, which are very pretty. Put on good walking shoes as there are lots of hills.
    Have you been to “Mini Europe” in Brussels? I’ve been there and it was very cute. They have something in Israel called “Mini Israel” in the area of Latrun (40 min. south of Jerusalem). I haven’t been there though. “The Banias” are really nice if you were going to Israel during the warmer months, if you like swimming, but wouldn’t work in November.
    Jerusalem – The Temple Mount Institute (up the steps from the Wailing Wall). You can see the tools that they are preparing for the Third Temple. It is extremely interesting to learn the history and how they did things in the Temple when it existed.
    The Bedouin Cultural Center is in the South and is very interesting. They speak about the Bedouin culture while serving you tea. They teach you about tracking and you look at displays about their culture.
    Geula, a Hareidi area in Jerusalem would be interesting for you to see on a Friday afternoon.Just make sure to dress modestly.
    I think you probably want to stay away from Gaza. Take a look at my tweet from today about a house in Netivot that was just blown up.
    I will think of some more things and let you know.
    Happy Travels!

  16. Ive been to Israel 9 times in the past 5 years. I confirmed with MasterCard and their 3rd party insurance provider. They will NOT cover rental car insurance in Israel despite all the commentary out there in the blogosphere. As such you will have to purchase it from the Israeli car rental company even if its a US brand like Avis. My $34/day rental came out to $100/day after insurance and taxes. Insurance wasn’t an option at the Avis in Haifa. YRMV.

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