Israel Lodging Primer
Israel has plenty of hotels belonging to major international hotel chains and smaller national networks, as well as independently run lodgings. Some are utilitarian, but some recent trends are a rise in distinctive boutique hotels and in luxury properties, whether in the cities or the countryside.
In contrast, options such as kibbutz hotels and bed-and-breakfasts (known as zimmers in Israel) offer a glimpse into local life and a more leisurely experience.
In 2012, Israel approved a one- to five-star ranking system for hotels similar to that used in many places in Europe. The Ministry of Tourism has already rated the country’s nine thousand B&Bs. They’re ranked A, B, or C, based on size and the facilities offered.
Apartment and House Rentals
Short-term rentals are popular, especially in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv and particularly for families who would otherwise be taking two or three hotel rooms. Options range from basic studios to mansions, and most are privately owned.
Over the past decade, thousands of zimmers have sprung up, especially in the Galilee and the Golan. These are intimate cabins, usually featuring one or two bedrooms, a kitchenette, a hot tub, and an outdoor lounging area. Prices aren’t necessarily lower than hotels, but if it's peace and quiet you're after, these may be just the thing.
Many zimmers are located in moshavim—semicommunal rural communities. Private-home owners are also increasingly opening their doors to guests.
Campgrounds in Israel are more rustic than in the United States. They're known as khenonyanei layla (night parking) and may be found in national parks everywhere around the country. It's illegal to set up camp outside parks, but despite this, Israelis like to camp on the beaches. Camping on the shores of the Sea of Galilee is ideal in late spring and fall.
Lodgings called Christian hospices (meaning hotels) provide accommodations and sometimes meals; these are mainly in and around Jerusalem and the Galilee. Some hospices are real bargains, while others are merely reasonable; facilities range from spare to luxurious. Those in rural settings are often tranquil retreats. Most give preference to pilgrimage groups, but most will accept individual travelers when space is available.
Home Exchanges and Vacation Rentals
With a direct home exchange you stay in someone else's home while they stay in yours. More common in Israel is the vacation rental. You're not actually staying in someone's full-time residence—it’s usually his or her investment property.
Around the country, kibbutz hotels offer a variety of accommodations in what are often lovely settings. Some kibbutz hotels are luxurious, while others are more basic. Most have large lawns, swimming pools, and athletic facilities. Some offer lectures about the history of kibbutzim and tours of the settlements and the surrounding areas. These kibbutz hotels are popular with large tour groups.
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