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Flights to Eilat take off from Ben Gurion Airport (about halfway between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv), Sde Dov Airport in north Tel Aviv, and Haifa Airport. Two domestic airlines serve Eilat: Arkia (09/8644444 www.arkia.com ) and Israir (03/7954038 www.israirairlines.com ). Plane fares vary wildly, often cheapest for crack-of-dawn flights or off-hours. In Eilat, the airport is actually in the middle of the city. From there, it's about a five-minute cab ride to hotels and a ten-minute walk to the center of town.
The national bus company, Egged (03/694–8888 or *2800 www.egged.co.il) provides frequent bus service to Beersheva from Tel Aviv and Jerusalem; each takes about 1½ hours. Buses run from Tel Aviv to Eilat at least four times a day and twice at night and take 4½ to 5 hours. Service from Jerusalem to Eilat takes about 4½ hours. You can reserve Eilat bus tickets up to two weeks in advance, recommended for weekend travel. Within Eilat, Bus 15 starts at the Central Bus Station (entrance to town) and runs through the hotel area to pick up passengers and take them to points south, ending at the Taba border with Egypt. Bus 16 follows the same route, only in reverse.
The only way to see the Negev Desert comfortably and efficiently is to drive (air-conditioning in summer is a must). Beersheva is 113 km (70 miles) southeast of Tel Aviv and 83 km (52 miles) south of Jerusalem. To get to Eilat from Tel Aviv, the most direct way is Route 40 south to Beersheva, which takes about five hours.
In Eilat, the preferred way of hopping from one place to another is by taxi. Rides don't usually cost much more than NIS 35, and you can hail a cab on the street.
Israel Railways (03/6117000 or *5770 www.rail.co.il/EN) provides service only between Tel Aviv and Beersheva. There's frequent service (except on Saturday, when just two trains run, and both late in the evening) from the north to Beersheva all day; new high-speed trains have shaved time off the trip, allowing you to get from Tel Aviv to Beersheva in 50 minutes.