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I would appreciate your reactions to my tentative plans

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Oct 8th, 2011, 11:33 PM
  #1
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I would appreciate your reactions to my tentative plans

My husband and I will be in Israel Nov. 15-28. I was there the summer of 2008 on a group tour; this will be the first time for him.

My current tentative plan is to be in Tel Aviv the days of Wed., Nov, 16, and Thurs., Nov. 17. Then to fly to Eilat the morning of Fri., Nov. 18, and stay there through Mon., Nov. 21. Will there be any birdwatching opportunities in Eilat in November?

After that I would like to spend time in Haifa and environs (perhaps 2 nts.) and Jerusalem (5 nts.). Would it make sense to fly from Eilat to Haifa?

My husband is very leery about driving in Israel, even though he's driven in a number of other countries and has always done well at it, and the postings on this site all suggest that it's not difficult. He worries that it's unsafe. To get back from Haifa to Jerusalem we could drive if he's willing to give it a try. Is it a problem to rent a car in Haifa and drop it off in Jerusalem?

I don’t know if we'll go to the Masada/Dead Sea/Ein Gedi area. If we do, it probably will be as a day trip from Jerusalem. I saw all of these places on my previous trip.

My current thought is to stay at Dan Panorama hotels in all four places where we’ll be spending nights -- Tel Aviv, Eilat, Haifa, and Jerusalem. The hotel offers better prices if you stay at least 7 nights at their properties in Tel Aviv, Haifa, and Jerusalem, and I have written to them to see if they might be able to offer an even better deal if we stay 12 nights at their properties.

I look forward to hearing your comments on my tentative plans. Thanks in advance.
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Oct 9th, 2011, 12:39 AM
  #2
 
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Here are some Israel bird-watching sites. I suggest that you contact them for more info:
http://www.birdingisrael.com/blog/
http://www.israbirding.com/
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Oct 9th, 2011, 04:12 AM
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What do you want to see while using Haifa as a base? Depending upon your answer you should be staying further North. Touring in the North however, is difficult without either a rental car or a private guide who will drive you.

I am unsure what "unsafe" your husband is referring to.

If your husband absolutely refuses to drive there is no reason to rent to go from Haifa to Jerusalem. You can travel a combination of trains, buses, taxi ( or train to the airport and then take the sherut) However, Israel is the King of one way rentals. It is no big deal to pick up in Haifa and return to Jerusalem. Be aware that rentals of less than 3 days are usually expensive!
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Oct 9th, 2011, 05:06 AM
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I personally would not miss Masada or a float in the Dead Sea. Both are very unique experiences that your husband would most likely enjoy.
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Oct 9th, 2011, 06:20 AM
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It isn't a problem picking up a rental car in Haifa and dropping it off in Jerusalem. You could drive from Haifa through the Galilee and Golan, then through the Jordan Valley to the Dead Sea, then from the Dead Sea to Jerusalem. You should aallow 4 days for this trip. There is no problem driving a rental car on Highway 90 through the Jordan Valley and then on Hwys 90 and 1 to Jerusalem.

The roads are good and all of the signs are in English. You can also get a GPS. Much of what is said about Israeli drivers is an Urban Myth. Statistically, the number of injuries and fatalities in Israel is less than many western European countries. It is strange that people who are wary of driving in Israel are not afraid of driving in Italy and France, for example.

As for flights from Eilat to Haifa - check the Arkia, Israir and El Al websites. When in Haifa you could take the train up to Akko (Acre) for one day. You could also fly back to Ben Gurion, pick up your car there and drive up the coast to Haifa, stopping at Caesarea on the way.

Haifa is not a good base for the Galilee; I recommend Rosh Pina.
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Oct 9th, 2011, 08:18 AM
  #6
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Thanks very much for all of the replies.

I think my husband is afraid that terrorists will blow us up or waylay us on the road.

I will see if he's interested in going to the Dead Sea and Masada. Going there while we still have the rental car (before we settle down in Jerusalem) is an interesting idea, and it would help us get around the higher rates associated with a short rental.

If we fly from Eilat to one of the smaller airports near Tel Aviv or Jerusalem, would we be able to pick up a rental car there?

I picked Haifa as a base for the north because it sounded like a nice city and, on a map, didn't look too far from other things we might want to see. I will look into other options. Rosh Pina looks nice. Do you have any recommendations about lodging there? (Does my plan to stay at Dan Panoramas everywhere else seem OK?)

Will there be flowers at the botanical gardens in Haifa or Akko in late November? Is there much difference between the botanical gardens in Haifa and those in Akko? Is it worth going to both of them?

In 2008 our group went to the Hula Nature Reserve and really enjoyed it, especially the show at the visitors center. I would like to go there again.

Do senior-citizen discounts in Israel apply to tourists or only to Israelis?

Thanks again for your help. It is much appreciated.
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Oct 9th, 2011, 10:23 AM
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All I can say about your husband's fears is that they are currently unfounded; stop worrying about it once you decide to come here. You will be stopped at a roadblock if you inadvertently try to drive into a dangerous area.

Another place you can go to at the Dead Sea is the Ein Gedi Nature Reserve. You can get information about it (and many other sites, including Massada) at the National Parks website. Note their "Money saving ticket":
http://www.parks.org.il/BuildaGate5/...php?mc=378~All

There is no airport near Jerusalem; the closest is Ben Gurion. I know that Shlomo-Sixt car rental has a desk at Sde Dov airport in Tel-Aviv. I don't know about Haifa airport, although I think that some companies (Eldan?) have branches in the general area. You have to do research on this.

Haifa is a nice city and you should see the Bahai Gardens. There is usually a tour every day at noon:
http://www.ganbahai.org.il/en/
But it is not a good base for the Galilee and the Golan because you will spend a lot of time driving back-and-forth.

Information about the Hula Nature Reserve can be found on the National Parks website.

Senior-citizen discounts ? Ask me in a few years
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Oct 9th, 2011, 11:04 AM
  #8
 
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To answer some of your questions - just repeating what mbgg said - your fears are unfounded.

Despite the apparent proximity on a map, Haifa is not the best spot for a base to tour the north - Rosh Pina is a much better choice - it will cut a lot of your driving out and is a lovely place to stay.

The Bahai gardens in Haifa are different from those in Akko - the question is how much of a botanist are you that you want to spend so much of your time in Israel visiting both of them. Yes - there will be flowers in November - don't forget that most of the indigenous plant life here is based on the fact that it doesn't rain in the summer so November is the start of the period when we see re-birth of plants.

Senior citizen discounts are not always available to tourists, even when available for Israelis - it is an individual decision of each place you visit - just ask, at worst they will say no.
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Oct 9th, 2011, 08:25 PM
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Thanks, again.

I thought my husband was wrong about the danger of driving in Israel. I think renting a car to explore the north makes a lot of sense.

I'm not much of a botanist, but I always enjoy botanical gardens. If we only go to one, would you recommend Akko or Haifa?

It appears that flights from Tel Aviv to Eilat are a lot cheaper on Arkia compared to El Al. I read somewhere that the domestic airlines sometimes run late. Given that, would it be best to book the first flight out of the day?

How much time in advance of departure time does one need to get to the Sde Dov airport for the flight to Eilat and to the Eilat airport for the return flight? Both of these airports appear to be quite close to the cities, so taxi rides to them should not take long or cost much. Is that correct?

Am I likely to get a better deal on flight + hotel if I book a flight/hotel package with Arkia?

Rosh Pina sounds very nice, but lodging is fairly expensive. Does anyone have a recommendation of a nice place to stay there that's fairly reasonably priced (around $200 or less, including breakfast) or of another nearby location. Hotel, B&B, or kibbutz would be OK.

Has anyone been to Agamon HaHula (to see birds)? Has anyone done the Midnight Bike Ride in Jerusalem. I stumbled upon it in Trip Advisor. Reviews are very complimentary. However, there may only be one ride a week in November, when we'll be there.
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Oct 9th, 2011, 10:15 PM
  #10
 
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Just a word of caution about driving: there are more bad or aggressive drivers here than in N. America, so considering that you will be driving in unfamiliar surroundings you should always drive defensively nonetheless.

I would go to the Bahai Gardens in Haifa, simply because of the setting and the view. It is not a real 'botanical garden', just a beautifully landscaped location. There is a real botanical garden in Jerusalem:
http://www.funinjerusalem.com/en/fun...l-gardens.html

I don't know how punctual the local airlines are, but personally I think it is always a good idea to get an early start

The airline's websites tell you how much in advance to arrive at the airport. There is a security check on local flights. Sde Dov is a 15-20 minute taxi ride from the center of T-A.

Arkia deals: you have to check this out yourself. November is off-season so you are likely to find a good deal somewhere. Keep on searching !

Rosh Pinna: Again - keep searching. There are many web sites that list 'zimmers' in Israel, e.g:
http://www.zimmeril.com/
I stayed at a place called "Posh Pina" that I can recommend. It is not cheap, but as I said it is off-season and if you stay 2 nights, etc, etc. (try haggling).
http://www.poshpina.co.il/

Note that there are now two sites in the Hula Valley:
- the Hula Nature Reserve
- the Agamon HaHula
Both are recommended. Apparently the Agamon feeds the birds so there are always a lot there.
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Oct 9th, 2011, 10:54 PM
  #11
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Thanks so much for the quick reply. I went to the Hula Nature Reserve when I was in Israel in 2008 and really enjoyed it, especially the AV (and other senses) show. We may try to go to it and the Agamon HaHula this time. I presume the two are different.

I'll look at the zimmer website and ask Arkia about package deals.
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Oct 10th, 2011, 10:37 AM
  #12
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We are now thinking of two full days (rather than three) in Eilat (arrive Friday morning, depart Sunday morning); this would give us more time for Haifa and the north. Our main interests for Eilat are snorkeling and seeing the aquarium. Does anyone have recommendations of lodging close to these? Location is more important to us than fanciness.

I am concerned that the checked-luggage limit on Arkia is very low -- 10 kg. Does anyone know what they charge for excess weight? Could we check luggage we won't need for Eilat at Sde Dov? It's possible that the excess luggage charge could outweigh the savings of flying Arkia rather than ElAl to Haifa. ElAl limit is 23 kg.

How much time in advance of departure time does one need to get to the Sde Dov airport for the flight to Eilat (for security, check-in, etc.) and to the Eilat airport for the return flight? This may affect how early of a flight I want to book.

Another option we are considering is flying from Eilat to Haifa and getting the rental car there, though this won't work if we've checked luggage at Sde Dov. If it does work, it would probably save us some time compared to flying from Eilat to Sde Dov, renting a care at Sde Dov, and then driving to Haifa. Or is there a lot to see on that drive?

I read somewhere that Zippori is nice. Is it worth seeing given that we'll have about 3-1/2 days for Haifa, Hula, and the north?
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Oct 10th, 2011, 11:23 AM
  #13
 
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Look at this:
http://www.tripadvisor.co.uk/ShowTop....html#32830148
I suggest that you call them (972-3-6903712) to confirm.

I think that you have to be at the airport 1.5 hrs in advance for domestic flights, but call or email them to confirm.

Flying back to Sde Dov is an option. You can stop at Caesarea, Zikhron Yaacov and/or Atlit along the way.

Zippori is a very interesting site and recommended by many. There are dozens of interesting sites up north, much more than you can possibly see in 3.5 days. Make a list and prioritize !
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Oct 11th, 2011, 11:08 AM
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I heard back from Arkia: "Eilat baggage allowance for tourists is 20 kg. Per person, extra weight charge today is 6.00 NIS per Kg. Hand bag weight is limited to 7 Kg. dimensions 20 X 40 X 55 cm."

"Tourists" are non-Ilsraelis. You may need to show evidence of your international flights to qualify. The "today" part suggests that the rates change. The first reply I got said that you needed to ask about the excess baggage charges when you checked in.

All in all, much better situation than I was expecting, and the reply came quickly.
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Oct 11th, 2011, 11:53 AM
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I'm glad that you got that sorted out. I'm not surprised because many tourists fly down to Eilat.

Sorry I can't help you with the Eilat hotels. I am not a beach person and never go there.
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Oct 15th, 2011, 12:23 PM
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I wouldn't recommend you to drive from Eilat to Haifa, it's a very long drive - about 7 hours, you just don't have the time for it on your trip.
It's a good idea to go to the Dead sea aria as a day trip from Jerusalem, it's close and will be not expensive, but it's a must see place (did you know that it might become one of the new7wonders of nature? you can vote for it here: http://www.facebook.com/VoteDeadSea)
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Oct 16th, 2011, 09:20 PM
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We are not planning to drive from Eilat to Haifa. The question is whether to fly from Eilat to Tel Aviv and then drive to Haifa, or to fly from Eilat to Haifa and rent a car in Haifa.

We would like to do a one-day guided tour from Jerusalem to Masada, the Dead Sea, and the Ein Gedi Nature Reserve and would appreciate recommendations of good tour operators. We are not interested in the spa or shopping for Dead Sea products. I think I did all three in one day when I was in Israel previously, but perhaps I'm not remembering correctly. Is it reasonable to try to do all three -- Masada, the Dead Sea, and the Ein Gedi Nature Reserve -- in one day? We'd like to do this on a Saturday, so renting a car would be complicated because of Shabat, though perhaps we should consider doing it on another day. We don't want to pay the high price associated with getting a private guide just for the two of us. Or I may need to give up on the idea of going to the Ein Gedi Nature Reserve. It is not hard to find tours that go to Masada and the Dead Sea.
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Oct 16th, 2011, 10:14 PM
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As far as I know, none of the standard tours include a hike in the Ein Gedi Nature Reserve, but they all do the spa and shopping. If you want to rent a car for Saturday you have to pick it up on Friday afternoon and return it Sunday morning. There is no problem going to Ein Gedi by public transport - it is about an hours bus ride from the Jerusalem CBS. But doing both Ein Gedi and Massada by bus requires two days.

I found this site, but I don't know anything about them.
http://www.toursbylocals.com/Ein-Gedi
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Oct 17th, 2011, 10:44 AM
  #19
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I wrote to toursbylocals. They don't provide transportation from Jerusalem and don't work on Saturdays, so it won't work for us, but it looks like a good option for people without those constraints.
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