I thoroughly enjoyed reading the heated debate on whether or not I should post about my trip. In the end of the day I think that one of the advantages of this site over other deal sites is that there is a live person finding and posting the best deals, and working through the problems together with everyone else, so it only makes sense for me to write down my own experiences and share the lessons I learned with my readers.
As any friend that I’ve ever traveled with will attest to, the first thing that I do before going anywhere is buy a guidebook, and read as much as possible in advance in order to plan the trip.
While planning a trip down to every minute detail was much more critical for past 48 hour trips to Hawaii and Florionopolis, Brazil, or even 1 week jumps to Japan, it is still very helpful when trying to squeeze everything possible out of 23 days in Israel.
In general my favorite guidebook’s are the ones published by Lonely Planet, as they are easy to read, and have really great info.
For this trip, being that I had 2 of my brothers as trip planners to help out, I went all out and bought 5 guidebooks.
Lonely Planet ($14.95 from Amazon, published March 2007): I was extremely disappointed to read the blatant and repetitive anti-Israel rhetoric spread throughout this book. However this book does deliver on its usual great suggestions, and is a must-have if you plan to do some hiking in Israel.
Frommers ($14.95 from Amazon, published November 2006) A good compliment to Lonely Planet.
Fodors ($14.93 from Amazon, published July 2006)
Let’s Go ($14.03 from Amazon, published December 2002) Intended for low-budget travelers
Israguide ($5 with rental of Amigo cell phone) Was very helpful with finding restaurants and kivrei tzadikim (graves of righteous people)
Short of hiring tour guides for hundreds of dollars a day, there is no way I could’ve accomplished all that I did without buying at least a few of the guidebooks, so they were a great investment.
I rented 3 cell-phones from Amigo US (MIRS in Israel) They run on IDEN, the same technology that powers Nextel in the US. Under the “short-term student” plan that I chose the phones were $20/month each including insurance, and included unlimited walkie-talkie minutes between each other. Minutes to the US were a hefty 25.9 cents/minute, and minutes to Israel were 15.9 cents/minute. Incoming calls were free. Internet usage is shockingly usurious at a whopping 9 cents/kilobyte (over $90 per megabyte!!!!!!) so stay far, far away from browsing the web on your phone. Shipping for the 3 phones to me was a flat $7.50 each direction. The main reason I rented from Amigo was for the free walkie-talkie feature, which we used extensively, and came in handy on many an occasion.
Being that incoming calls to our phones would be free, it only made sense to find a good way for my parents to be able to call us from the US.
The most convenient, gimmick free international calling card that I have found is the Sonico Green card from Cloncom.
It offers no connection/maintenance/monthly fees, it never expires, and it has 1 minute rounding. Best of all it can be set up for pinless dialing, so you can just dial an access number from your home/cell phone, and then dial straight to your international number, without entering in any kind of pin/password! Additionally, the card can be recharged easily online, and they even accept payment via Google Checkout, so they won’t even have any of your credit card info! To find the card just type in Israel, and it is on the 2nd page of cards (click “view more cards”)
Rates to Israel via local access numbers are 3.4 cents/minute to landlines and 10 cents/minute to cell phones.
To be continued…