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Matman Feb 23rd, 2013 02:33 PM

Car Rental Closed On Shabbat In Haifa-Need To Park Overnight
We have a two day stop in Haifa and want to rent a car. The problem is that we want to return the car late afternoon on Friday and all the companies I've called are closed. They do not allow drop offs, which seems unusual, and I can't return it when they are open.

So two questions really;

1) Does anyone know a company in Haifa that is open until about 6pm on Friday, or has a dropbox for keys after hours?
2) If not, Tamir Rentals agreed to charge me extra and leave the car somewhere for pick up on Sunday which is a good option. Where could I park the car 2 days safely for free or a reasonable fee? I would prefer to be close to Haifa Port (cruising).

Any suggestions on how to deal with car rentals and Shabbat would be appreciated. The logistics are difficult.

AlexA Feb 23rd, 2013 05:04 PM

As far as I know, the only place in Israel where major car rental places are open 24/7 is at the airport. Since you'll be arriving/leaving the Haifa area it probably doesn't make sense to go that far out of the way and then you'd have to take a train or bus back to Haifa --or a taxi if it's still Shabbat when you return. Where are you planning on going with the car?

Personally I wouldn't return a car rental in Israel (or most places actually) without being there myself and having an agent check the car back in. I know someone who left her car at the airport lot and opted not to have the car inspected as she returned it. The company claimed there was damage to the car that my friend did not know about so there's no way to know if the damage happened after she left, or if it was exaggerated.

mbgg Feb 23rd, 2013 10:31 PM

Am I correct that you are arriving on a cruise and have a two-day visit ? What are you planning to see during these two days? If you are going to Jerusalem, then you can return your car at the airport and take the train to Haifa. However, we need to know the exact date you will be here in order to check when the last train to Haifa leaves (and at what hour you have to be back in Haifa). Please post more detailed information !!

Matman Feb 24th, 2013 11:26 PM

I arrive in Haifa Mar 21 at 6am and need to be back Mar 22 around 6pm for an 8pm departure. We are staying in Jerusalem the night of Mar 21st.

I plan on seeing as much as possible, and was planning on going from Haifa to the Sea of Galilee, Masada, down to the Dead Sea and any stops in between. We end up in Jerusalem and do what we can there on the first day.

The next day is Jerusalem and then hit the road through Tel Aviv and back to Haifa. We like the car idea because the tours seem lame and we think we can see more if we drive ourselves.

I have thought about taking the train to get the car but that seems like we are back tracking and wasting time. I'm not really wanting to be on the west coast of Israel. It would probably be cheaper for us though ironically because now I am paying a week rental rate for the privilege of leaving the car in a location. But I understand it's about 90mins each way from Haifa to Ben Gurion?

I thought about getting scammed for damage on the return but I plan on taking video of the complete car before I take it. Not sure if that will protect me but I do understand the concern.

Are you familiar with Tamir Rentals? Any opinion on using them? Any private people who want to rent me their car for 36hrs?

mbgg Feb 25th, 2013 06:13 AM

If you plan on seeing as "much as possible" you will end up seeing nothing ! What do you want to do at the Sea of Galilee ? What do you want to do at the Dead Sea ? The drive to Massada via the Sea of Galilee takes 3.5 hrs ! From Masada to Jerusalem is 1.5 hrs. If you just want to swim in the Dead Sea, the drive from Haifa to Kalya (at the north end of the Sea) is nearly three hours. So basically you will be driving all day and will not really see anything AND will arrive in Jerusalem too late to see anything.

Then you have the problem of "returning" the car late on the second day. You will have to leave Jerusalem no later than 4 PM to get to Haifa by 6PM, i.e. you can tour only to about 3 PM latest. YOU CAN EASILY SPEND A WEEK IN JERUSALEM !!!

Returning the car at the airport is not an option because the last train leaves at 14:08, i.e. you would have to leave Jerusalem around noon.

Here is good advice: You only have 2 days so you can't see everything ! Spend the 2 days in Jerusalem and save the rest for another trip:
- take the train at the "Hashmona" station outside the port to the Tel-Aviv Savidor station, then take the 480 bus to Jerusalem.
- on Friday, take the last 940 direct bus from Jerusalem to Haifa at 15:00. You will get to the Hof HaCarmel terminal at 17:15 and a short taxi ride will get you to the port by 18:00. This will give you almost 2 full days in Jerusalem and you will have no headaches with the car.

Elkaz Feb 25th, 2013 08:03 AM

What you are proposing to do is ridiculous. You will be seeing lots of road and very little of anything. ( basically agreeing with mbgg.) I DO disagree on one thing. S/he says it will take 2 hours to get from Jerusalem to Haifa--my experience tells me, only if you are lucky, you drive fast and the road is absolutely clear. If I had to make a cruise that WOULD leave without me--no way would I leave anything less than 4 hours. ( I believe in cushions)

Many years ago I did use Tamir. They would have you drop the car at the airport ( back in those days) and leave the key in the trunk. I never had a problem with trumped up damage! HOWEVER, in hindsight--if someone really did damage your car while it was parked--you ARE liable. Also, your video--you have no proof of when it was actually taken.

Do like mbgg recommends. Take public transport to Jerusalem and spend 2 days there. Leave enough time to take public transport back to the cruise. You can not squeeze what should be 7-9 days into 2. Cruise stops are for tastes of a country, not intensive , complete tours.

mbgg Feb 25th, 2013 09:41 AM

Elkaz is correct. It takes about 2 hrs from the exit from Jerusalem to the entrance to Haifa, so you have to add another half hour to drive through the city streets. Traffic is generally light on Friday afternoons.

If you take the last bus on Friday (at 3 PM) you should get to the station well in advance so that you are sure to get a seat! You cannot book in advance. The other option is to take a taxi which will cost you 745 NIS (about $200). The bus costs 42 NIS pp.

The other option is to spend the 2 days in the north: Haifa, Akko, Nazareth, etc.

Sorry, but you cannot tour Israel in less than 2 days.

AlexA Feb 25th, 2013 10:31 AM

With the additional details you've given, I totally agree with the idea to skip the car rental. Having a car in Jerusalem is unnecessary and in Tel Aviv it's an even worse idea. If you can't cancel the car, then stick to traveling in the north. If you want to visit the Dead Sea, that's all you will have time for and it will be a relatively long way each way. Many roads in Israel are very congested so it isn't the place for a road trip to just see the scenery. I still have no suggestions for dropping of the car after hours, though.
That Friday is right before Passover. Though Friday traffic is often less since many people do not work Fridays, that day will have more than usual number of people heading to the airport for overseas holiday trips, more arrivals, and people heading out to family and to vacations up north. Leave plenty of time if you are driving.

I understand what you mean, but I smiled when I read
"I'm not really wanting to be on the west coast of Israel"
Do you realize how narrow Israel is? In the Tel Aviv area, it is only about 25 km!

Matman Feb 26th, 2013 07:22 PM

So I guess a side trip to Petra is out of the question...


I appreciate the candid responses. In my defense, Google maps puts Masada at the south tip of the Sea of Galilee, and I now see that is totally wrong. It's at the Dead Sea (stupid Google).

Also, I only considered this because NCL is doing a 2 day tour to Masada with an overnight in Jerusalem, with tons of stops in between. Cost: $695/person. So my reasoning is that if they can do it by bus, why can't I do it by car? And see only what I want? (plus save fist fulls of cash - there's four of us)

When I map everything out, round trip is only about 500 km. Is it totally horrible to drive on the highways in Israel? Here's a map of what I was planning;

Sea of Galilee to Masada is 200km on hwy 90. Is it really 3.5 hours?? That seems terrible for hwy driving. And Haifa to Tiberias is 100km. I can cut this out but it doesn't seem too out of the way really. I have to head south anyway.

I'm not trying to be difficult. I just want to make sure you really have the distances and times correct. To clarify, I really only want a tour of Masada. Everything else will just be a "taste" as you say. It will be a quick look and then off we go! I understand we can't waste too much time at each stop.

And I am considering only Jerusalem. I think that is a great idea. But one in our party REALLY wants to see the Sea of Galilee. So there you go.

Take a look at my map please and tell me if I'm dumb.
Thanks Everyone! Shalom!

P.S. Cruise actually leaves at 8pm so I already have a 2 hour cushion built in

AlexA Feb 26th, 2013 09:20 PM

The cruise line has a trip (crazy price!) but if they are late coming back, the ship would wait, right? And if they have to skip a stop (some of which are probably either drive by sites or just 5 minutes to take photos), they will. You need to be prepared to skip things too

Stopping at the Sea of Galilee can be very meaningful (Christian sites? Jewish Sites? Something else?), but you may be shortchanging someone by just stopping and looking at the water in Tiberias (a resort city)You may prefer to stop at a smaller site.

Of course you could do a trip to Masada, but it really will take at least as long as you figured to get there, let you have just couple hours there (the site closes at 4 pm in March, last entry at 3pm which is not enough time anyway) and get to Jerusalem in the evening.

One or 2 sites in Jerusalem in the morning and then you should make sure to get back to Haifa with planty of time to spare before the car rental closes (6pm actually seems pretty late for a Friday, so verify that in writing)

There are highways, and there are highway. The east west road Haifa to Tiberias is not exactly a freeway, superhighways

Your route back from Jerusalem to Haifa is through the faster toll road 6, Car rental companies charge you the toll rate (There are no toll booths, the bill is sent later to the company) plus usually an administrative fee of about $50 US. (yes, $50).

The Jerusalem to Haifa driving estimate seems low to me. and don't forget the effect of a major holiday.

I see that this might be your one opportunity to see these amazing sights, so just pick the one that's the most important and focus on that.

AlexA Feb 26th, 2013 09:36 PM

By the way, about Google maps, it can be great, but Israel in general has a funny relationship with English names for places. You may see 3 road signs in a row for the same town or site and the name in English wil be spelled 3 different ways.

When I typed in Masada Isarel, I see where you found a different wrong location. You'd need to add "Dead Sea" or use the transliterated version of the Hebrew name (Metzada) to get the real location. Then you'll see the name on the map itself actually does indicate "Masada" (or Massada, for some nearby areas)

mbgg Feb 26th, 2013 10:37 PM

There is a Kibbutz Massada just south of the Sea of Galilee. Metzada (that's how it is pronounced in Hebrew) is at the southern part of the Dead Sea. You should assume that your speed will be no greater than 80 kmh (50mph) on the 2-lane roads from Haifa to the Dead Sea.

The car rental agencies open at 8AM. Lets assume that you start driving by 9AM. You will get to Tiberias around 10:30. Do you want to see something ? Stop to take pictures ? eat ? So assume you leave Tiberias at 11:30. You will arrive at Metzada at 2 PM. The site closes at 4PM in March so you will have less than 2 hrs at the top (you have to go up in a cable car and that takes time):
Drive to Jerusalem: assuming you leave Massada at 4:30 PM you will arrive in Jerusalem around 6PM, after all tourist sites close. So after checking into hotel and eating you cn walk around for a while.

On Friday you have to be at the port by 6PM, which means arriving in Haifa by 5:30 PM latest to drop off the car and get to the port. That means leaving Jerusalem by 3PM latest (and I would leave earlier because you need some margin for unexpected delays, traffic jams, getting lost, etc, etc) so you have to stop touring by 2PM or earlier to get back to the hotel, get luggage, etc, etc. So this gives you about 4 hours to run around the Old City.

Is it doable ? Yes. Would I do it ? NO. Why - because it is a lot of driving to see very little and under no circumstances would I leave a rental car in a lot without confirmation that I returned it !!!

The alternative: get on train in Haifa to T-A around 7AM; bus to J'm from T-A around 8:30. Arrive in Jerusalem around 9:30. Start touring around 11AM. The following day you can tour until around 2PM as stated above. Return to Haifa on 3PM bus or take a taxi.

The bottom line is that it is your vacation and your decision !!!

Elkaz Feb 27th, 2013 12:47 AM

You indicate there are 4 of you. How about instead of renting you hire a private touring guide for two days. The guide is approx. $700 per day. You could spend a night in Jerusalem and still be ahead of the tour group financially. ( and see what YOU want)

You question how the bus does it and you can't by car. EAsy

a. the driver knows where he is going--doesn't have to worry about getting lost.
b. the bus knows alternative routes if G-d forbid there is an accident or serious traffic on the road
c. the guide will move you in and out of places as needed. Besides, how many of the places are "visit' and how many are "see", drive-by" or "view" Unless you are visiting you are not really stopping for more than a few minutes.
d. The bus doesn't have to look for parking spaces--you do!

note to Alexa A--the monthly administrative charge is 50NIS. It is NOT $50!! I do not own a car, but do drive rentals and do use Route 6. I would know if I was being hit with a $50 charge. The administrative charge is because the company gets the monthly bill and has to figure out to whom to pass along the toll charges. If you drive a toll road on say, March 31 AND April 1--you will pay twice!

AlexA Feb 27th, 2013 11:12 AM

Elkaz, I can't believe I wrote $! I was so focused on it saying 50 rather than 5 that I got the biggest part wrong ;)

sandi Feb 27th, 2013 04:02 PM

It's been years since I've been in Israel and sure aren't up to speed on the new roadways and the distances as I recalled, but just reading what you wanted to accomplish in barely 2/days had me exhausted and will have you all checking your watch.

As those above with more current info, you have two options:
1) Visit Jerusalem only which can require years to really take it all in. You sure don't need a vehicle as it's a 'walking city' or short local hop on a bus trips. So take public transport to/from Haifa. Simple.

2) Between the 4 of you, you can certainly afford a private guide/driver/vehicle to get you to most of what you wish to see or advise you what is impossible. Simple.

As most countries, you can't believe what tour operators use as their language - see, view, stop, wave - these are there to hook you and that's what the ship's bus tour is offering and as the driver does this regularly knows all the shortcuts and doesn't have to deal with what you would navigating a strange country with their own ways of road travel.

Don't put any more pressure on yourselves and once you've had a taste, plan a separate trip to Israel so you can actually enjoy your visit. No need to try to do this "on the fly." Israel is worth your time and proper planning.

Good luck!

Matman Mar 2nd, 2013 11:52 AM

Thanks so much to everyone for your input. You have convinced me that renting the car is not necessary, and we are going direct to Jerusalem and skipping all the travel. I'm glad I asked before hand because I think my idea was unrealistic.

So if you don't mind filling in some blanks for me;

1) With the train, can you book tickets in advance? Do they have an observation car or first class? We are traveling with senior and we need to sit (willing to pay more)
2) What's the earliest we can get going on Mar 21st?
3) Is the Haifa train station walking distance from the port?
4) And finally, can we bring just US currency to Israel or do we have to have shekels as well? We would probably only be at the major sites and merchants. Can we exchange money when we get there and where?

Thanks again. You've really helped us with our planning!

Elkaz Mar 2nd, 2013 02:02 PM

1. Some trains have where you can reserve a seat, but no need to do in advance. Odds are starting in Haifa you will get a seat--otherwise people usually get up if someone really can't stand. Get train information here

I hope you are only going as far as Tel Aviv (Central, Savidor) by train and then switching to the 480 bus.

2. You need to use shekels in Israel. You will need shekels to buy your tickets. However, change money at the abundance of ATMs. Make sure you tell your bank you will be using your card overseas.

AlexA Mar 2nd, 2013 03:15 PM

In case it isn't clear, taking trains all the way to Jerusalem is actually not a good idea. The Tel Aviv to Jerusalem portion of the trip actually takes much longer by train than by bus! The train for the first part and then bus for the second is definitely the way to go.

Yes, change some money to shekels, but credit cards (mostly Visa and Mastercard) are widely accepted in Israel so you don't have to change very much.It does help if you have more than one card to try as every once in a while, one won't go through the system. Most of the time I've had that problem is at gas stations, but once at a national park too)

Here's the English website for Egged the national bus line.
I've found that the English site is not updated as frequently as the Hebrew one, so please verify the times of buses especially the last bus of the day.
March 21st may be the day that the clock is changed from winter/standard time to summer/daylight saving time in Israel, so be sure to ask someone about it! It is usually changed on a Thursday night (since many people do not work Fridays) and it's often right before Passover, That would put it exactly the days you're traveling and would cut off an hour from your trip and affect the bus/train schedules

AlexA Mar 2nd, 2013 05:19 PM

I looked at the schedules briefly (they only seem to be posted for a week at a time) and Egged has buses that go from Haifa to Jerusalem non-stop, They take about 2:45 but maybe it would be more convenient than train to bus.

AlexA Mar 2nd, 2013 07:54 PM

(having posting problems today)
"and Egged has buses that go from Haifa to Jerusalem non-stop"

Not necessarily non-stop, but meaning you don't have to change buses.

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