Israel Receptive Tour Operator

Old May 2nd, 2022, 03:22 AM
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Israel Receptive Tour Operator

Greetings Fodorites,

We are planning a trip to Istanbul, Jordan and Israel in early to mid September 2022 for our family which includes us (70's) and three adult children. We're independent travelers, but we've used receptive operators in India and Egypt (thanks to excellent suggestions from Fodorites) and want the same type of service in Israel. We'll fly from Amman to Tel Aviv and plan that our base will be Jerusalem for 6 nights to avoid packing and unpacking as the trip will already have enough of that. We'd want airport and hotel transfers, a guided tour or two of Jerusalem as well as the West Bank and Masada. The rest of the time we'd like free. There seem to be a number of operators from my research, but I'd love any suggestions you might have from personal experience. Thanks in advance!
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Old May 2nd, 2022, 03:57 AM
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So you want a travel agent to arrange guides and hotel/airport transport to/from TLV airport and your hotel in J'lem? Seems much more sensible to just directly hire a private guide who you like and who comes recommended, rather than be at the mercy of an agency who will give you a guide you may or may not jive with and take half their money. TripAdvisor Israel forum is very active and has lots of guide rec info. You'll need a separate guide for the West Bank, though.
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Old May 2nd, 2022, 05:22 AM
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LAX,

If I correctly understand what you're saying, no, I don't want a travel agent to arrange guides. I want a receptive tour operator in Israel to guide and transport us. So when you say, "Seems much more sensible to just directly hire a private guide who you like and who comes recommended, rather than be at the mercy of an agency who will give you a guide you may or may not jive with and take half their money." This is what we want and what I thought I was asking for, but apologies in advance if it didn't come out that way! I think you and I are on the same page.
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Old May 2nd, 2022, 06:36 AM
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Yep, sounds like we're on the same page. I wasn't exactly sure what a "receptive tour operator" is -- sounds like industry lingo, and I figured meant a tour agency.

One FYI -- Guides in Israel are *very* expensive, especially compared to what you may be used to in third-world countries like Egypt and India. If you wanted to look at it as compared to group tours, the cost of a private guide shared by 5 adults still isn't so bad on a per person basis. Not sure on your budget but if you're comfortable with -- and enjoy -- mostly independent travel, you might want to be very selective about what you use guides for.
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Old May 2nd, 2022, 03:52 PM
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LAX,

Yes, you're right; it's industry lingo. I was a travel agent in my format life (MANY years ago) and old habits die hard!

My impression is that everything's expensive in Israel; it's definitely not India or Egypt, for sure, so your point is well-taken and we can be selective. We enjoy taking local transportation within cities which I understand may be a good option in Jerusalem. At our age, though, it's awfully nice to see our name on a sign at the airport when we arrive in a city we're not familiar with. Also, we'll want a guide outside of Jerusalem and maybe one or two within the city.

So if anyone has suggestions for guides, I'd love to have them. We can decide based on cost exactly how much we want to use them.
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Old May 3rd, 2022, 12:38 PM
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Yep, Israel is generally quite expensive. The only thing I find cheaper in Israel than in the US are the "cheap eats" type of food, like hummus, shawarma, falafel, etc. It's like US fast food prices, but fresh, delicious and relatively healthy.

The TA Israel forum is very active with lots of very knowledgeable regulars and there's tons of presumably reliable info about guides there, so you're going to get more info on guides there than here.
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Old May 4th, 2022, 02:35 AM
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LAX,

Excellent suggestion - thank you very much! I remember now that I posted on TA the same question for Egypt, I believe, and we found a great company that way.

I've started to scour that site and there are similar questions, so I may not even have to post.

Again, thanks for sticking with me here. September isn't very far away, so I'll get right on it.

Ellen
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Old May 4th, 2022, 01:41 PM
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You asked for guides from personal experience so let me endorse Avi.

Tours in Israel - Avitours


We used his services for two days in 2011. He will take good care of you and to this day we are friends so that says something. We even met while he was in Chicago some years back.

Yes private Israeli tour guides are expensive though IMO worth it as its like you are with a private history teacher so the experience is greatly enhanced.

Of all the places we've been Israel is in the top two on our list.

Enjoy!
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Old May 4th, 2022, 02:08 PM
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Re post #8, a personal rec is always a great one, but I took a quick look at the linked website and it appears that this Avi fellow has a tour agency that works with a variety of guides. About us -- "We work with the best guides in Israel, all of whom are licensed, insured and speak fluent English. Our guides are carefully vetted by us and their performance is regularly reviewed to insure that you receive only excellent service."

If OP chooses to work with this company, she should figure out whether she's going to be personally guided by this Avi fellow or whether he'll just be a middle man for her. OP seems like a very experienced traveler and may already know this, but I just wanted to point that out.
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Old May 4th, 2022, 02:35 PM
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Our guides included Avi and another guy who was also excellent.
Any questions please ask.
Larry

Last edited by jacketwatch; May 4th, 2022 at 02:38 PM.
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Old May 5th, 2022, 02:39 AM
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Jacketwatch,

This is just what I'm looking for; personal recommendations - thanks.

With LAX's excellent suggestion to look at TA, I now have a good list to which I'll add Avitours. We've been lucky in the past to have excellent guides when needed. I want someone who is going to be flexible and make suggestions: why don't you go there instead, etc. After all, they're the ones who know the country!

I'm prepared for sticker shock; it seems that most everything in Israel is expensive. And by the way, LAX, we love street food, so we're looking forward to trying it. We've been to the Middle East, but this trip also includes Jordan, so two first-time countries for us and we're looking forward to actually being able to go this time - fingers crossed!
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Old May 5th, 2022, 02:56 AM
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Originally Posted by ellen75005 View Post
Jacketwatch,

This is just what I'm looking for; personal recommendations - thanks.

With LAX's excellent suggestion to look at TA, I now have a good list to which I'll add Avitours. We've been lucky in the past to have excellent guides when needed. I want someone who is going to be flexible and make suggestions: why don't you go there instead, etc. After all, they're the ones who know the country!

I'm prepared for sticker shock; it seems that most everything in Israel is expensive. And by the way, LAX, we love street food, so we're looking forward to trying it. We've been to the Middle East, but this trip also includes Jordan, so two first-time countries for us and we're looking forward to actually being able to go this time - fingers crossed!
private tours were around $550.00 per day in 2011. I imagine they are much more now. However like I said it was like touring with a private history teacher to that is an intangible you can’t measure.

Avi was great. I wanted an Israeli beer which the place we went for lunch did not have. We then went to the Dead Sea and as I was getting out of the water there he was on the shore smiling with an Israeli beer he got for me. Sometimes it’s the little things.
In addition he was knowledgeable about the history there, on time, flexible and friendly.

Day two we had a different guide but there was no drop in service.
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Old May 6th, 2022, 04:06 AM
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I've sent a request to eight guides/tour operators in Jerusalem and one has already responded with questions. Flexibility is key for us when we travel and that will be an important part of what we'll look for in choosing someone.

Jacketwatch, I loved your story about the beer!

I've booked an apartment in Jerusalem, so after several Covid false starts, this may actually happen - fingers crossed!

Thanks again,
Ellen
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Old May 7th, 2022, 05:24 AM
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Originally Posted by ellen75005 View Post
I've sent a request to eight guides/tour operators in Jerusalem and one has already responded with questions. Flexibility is key for us when we travel and that will be an important part of what we'll look for in choosing someone.

Jacketwatch, I loved your story about the beer!

I've booked an apartment in Jerusalem, so after several Covid false starts, this may actually happen - fingers crossed!

Thanks again,
Ellen
it certainly looks like this is taking shape and I do hope that this works out for you. Going to Israel was one of the most amazing trips weíve ever had.
also very much enjoyed the coffee flavored with cardamom!
Cheers.
Larry
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Old May 16th, 2022, 08:15 PM
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Israel is generally quite expensive.
I am planning a 2023 trip and am not finding this to be the case. I am happy with private rooms in hostels so $40-$85/night in 3 places. I am comfortable with trains, buses, shared taxis and renting a car. Iím pleased itís shaping up to be less cost than anticipated.
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Old May 19th, 2022, 02:44 PM
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Hi Ellen, We, too, are planning an independent trip (in June) to Israel, Jordan and Istanbul. We booked our own accommodations and got several guide recommendations from friends, but most required full guiding/booking services. We ended up with a hodgepodge - a driver from TA for a day trip from Tel Aviv, a local tour company for Petra/Wadi Rum, and a guide/driver from our Ein Bokok hotel for the Masada/Ein Gedi. We're now looking for one more guide for a half day in Jerusalem and have some feelers our...Please let me know who you choose. Also looking for someone for two half days in Istanbul, if anyone has any recs.
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Old May 20th, 2022, 04:00 AM
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Crosscheck, so interesting that you're doing the same itinerary as we are! We've been very busy planning the Israel itinerary the past couple of weeks.

After digging through TA, I emailed 8 guides/companies and heard back from 4. We're using David Wexler of davidsland.com. We've talked to him three times now and have had numerous emails. He's very responsive and one thing I like is that he critiqued - very nicely - our initial itinerary and essentially told us we weren't seeing what we should see in Israel (we had planned to stay in Jerusalem all six nights).

Our itinerary now is 4 nights in Jerusalem and 2 nights in Galilee. With only 6 1/2 days there, there's only so much ground we can cover, but we feel his suggestions have improved the itinerary greatly. We're ending up with a guide each day we're there (which will be David except for the day in the West Bank) and he'll provide transportation to and from the airport. Here's roughly the itinerary.
Day 1 - Land at TLV, transportation provided to our apartment in Jerusalem (which I found on VRBO). Dinner and evening on our own.
Day 2 - An Arab guide will drive us into the West Bank; Jericho, Bethlehem and Ramallah
Day 3 - Jerusalem
Day 4 - Jerusalem
Day 5 - Drive north to Galilee stopping along the way; two nights in a hotel on the Sea of Galilee
Day 6 - Galilee and the Golan Heights including a "geo-political" jeep tour on the Israel-Syria border
Day 7 - Drive directly to TLV for an evening flight to Amman stopping along the way

We've just gotten the quote which works out to be about $400 per person per day which is what we figured it would be from our research. That includes meals while we're in the north, the hotel in the north and entrance fees where applicable.

One of the things I really like about him is that initially he said we should cross into Jordan by land at the Allenby crossing. Then later he started having second thoughts because he realized that we're going to cross just before Rosh Hashanah begins. He said that although rare, it's possible that the Israeli government could close the Allenby bridge with no warning and we'd be stuck. This is the type of advice I like to get from guides! So we're going to fly from TLV to Amman; otherwise we would have opted to go by land.

We have hotels in Amman, Petra and Istanbul but haven't started working on the Jordan details yet; that's next on the agenda. Three of five of us have been to Istanbul before, so we know what we want to do and will be totally on our own there.

Good news that David told us on our last call is that as of today, I think, Israel is no longer requiring a PCR test and quarantine upon arrival. That made my day and I hope it lasts! We will have to have a PCR or antigen test in the US before we leave for Israel and of course as of now the CDC still requires an antigen test 1 day before coming back to the US.

I've really enjoyed planning this so far and David seems as excellent as his reviews on TA. Initially we planned to be on our own in Jerusalem but we're happy that he'll be with us and we like what he's suggesting for those two days.
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Old May 20th, 2022, 04:06 AM
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Originally Posted by tom_mn View Post
I am planning a 2023 trip and am not finding this to be the case. I am happy with private rooms in hostels so $40-$85/night in 3 places. I am comfortable with trains, buses, shared taxis and renting a car. Iím pleased itís shaping up to be less cost than anticipated.
Tom, congrats on keeping your costs down! I don't know about food or the cost of dining out, but what hit me when I first started researching this trip was the cost of hotel rooms. We've traveled in Asia, Australia and a lot in Europe and there was a bit of sticker shock compared to what we've paid in other parts of the world.

I agree that with hostels, some flexibility and sharing taxis, etc. you can keep costs reasonable. As we age, we tend to appreciate our creature comforts even more and are willing to pay for them within reason. I hope you have a great trip!

Ellen
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Old May 20th, 2022, 05:45 AM
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Originally Posted by ellen75005 View Post
Tom, congrats on keeping your costs down! I don't know about food or the cost of dining out, but what hit me when I first started researching this trip was the cost of hotel rooms. We've traveled in Asia, Australia and a lot in Europe and there was a bit of sticker shock compared to what we've paid in other parts of the world.

I agree that with hostels, some flexibility and sharing taxis, etc. you can keep costs reasonable. As we age, we tend to appreciate our creature comforts even more and are willing to pay for them within reason. I hope you have a great trip!

Ellen
You can always go on the cheap no matter where you are but per this survey Israel ranks 7th costliest country to live in the world.
https://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/...ows-1.10559068

As for hotels just compare prices in Israeli with say prices in Malaysia for example.

And for us we are way past the hostel stage.

Going on the cheap does not mean the entire country is that way.

Glad tom_mn found a way around the high cost there.
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Old May 21st, 2022, 04:10 AM
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Thanks for posting your itinerary, Ellen. We're leaving in 2 weeks and have planned:

5 nights Tel Aviv (beach and foodie time, plus day trip north w/ driver to visit my former kibbutz)
2 nights Petra/Wadi Rum (Bedouin glamping)
1 night Ein Bokek (Dead Sea/Masada)
5 nights Jerusalem (1/2 day west bank visit)
2 nights Istanbul on way back.

We often book airbnbs, but are splurging a bit on hotels (yes - super pricey compared to other countries) bur we wanted to be able to cancel if there was a covid situation. It will be a hassle to leave from and return to Israel from Jordan compared to how you're doing it, but we had to set it up that way to see relatives. And we are doing a happy dance that the testing/quarantining has ended. We have an assortment of guides/drivers and are trying to include a lot of relaxation time in addition to sightseeing, will report back,

Tom, you will love your trip! We'e also way past the hostel stage but back in the day I spent four months backpacking in Israel and the Sinai (now Egypt) in hostels, beach tents, camel treks, etc. Some of my greatest memories. Now planning on lots of street food meals to keep costs down
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