Random musings about my first trip to Israel for 24 days this past August with 2 of my younger brothers.
Conversion note: When I went to Israel in August the Dollar:Shekel exchange rate was about 4.3:1, it is now 3.9:1.
Planning the trip:
The trip was based around tailoring everything we wanted to see along with where the Starwood hotels were located!
This was where we stayed each night:
08/03-04: Friday-Shabbos: Sheraton Jerusalem Plaza, Starwood category 3. Upgrade: No.
08/05: Sunday: Le Meridian Haifa, Starwood category 1. Upgrade: Yes.
08/06-09: Monday-Thursday: Sheraton Tiberias, Starwood category 2. Upgrade: Partial.
08/10-11: Friday-Shabbos: Rented an apartment in Tzfas for $150.
08/12-08/14: Sunday-Tuesday: Herod’s Vitalis Spa Eilat, Starwood Category 3. Upgrade: Yes.
08/15-16: Wednesday-Thursday: Le Meridian Dead Sea, Starwood Category 1. Upgrade: No.
08/17-18: Friday-Shabbos: With relatives in Rechavia, Jerusalem.
08/19-23: Sunday-Thursday: Sheraton Jerusalem Plaza, Starwood category 3. Upgrade: Yes.
08/24-25: Friday-Shaboos: With relatives in Ramot, Jerusalem.
08/26: Sunday: Boeing 777.
Getting from TLV/Ben Gurion To Jerusalem:
We arrived in Israel on Friday morning, however I didn’t rent a car at the airport for a few reasons:
-You must be 23 to rent at the airport at most agencies (I am only 22.)
-We were leaving Israel just over 3 weeks later, on a Sunday, so the extra 2 days would add a not insignificant sum.
Everyone that I spoke to before the trip told me not to take a regular taxi but a Sherut, or shared taxi, from the airport. With 3 passengers I was quoted a cost of US$75 for the shared ride. With a little bit of negotiating our regular taxi to the Sheraton Jerusalem Plaza was just $47, and we didn’t have to wait for 9 other riders to join in…
There’s no way around it, if you want an automatic car you’re gonna pay for it! There is an agent called Chayat at 011-972-3570-5102 that has OK rates for Avis and free underage rentals.
Don’t rent a Hyundai Getz-the Mazda 3 is worth every penny for the upgrade over the Getz.
Only the World Mastercard covers CDW in Israel. As far as I could tell no other AMEX/Mastercard/Visa that covers CDW in Israel.
I hate to downplay the risk factor, as I know the statistics for Israeli car accidents are among the highest in the world. However I honestly didn’t find driving in Israel to be much worse than in NYC. Yes, driving in Jerusalem is not easy (and parking is even harder) but overall it wasn’t too bad.
Getting around Israel-Maps:
I came to Israel equipped with 2 great maps that I bought from Amazon:
Both were very good, but not quite good enough for navigation in unfamiliar territory.
Being in Israel and having a rental car for nearly a month coerced into buying a GPS for Israel.
Yes, I do own a GPS, the excellent Nuvi 680 courtesy of Sam’s Club. Unfortunately Garmin apparently does not make Israeli maps, and the Nuvi can only use Garmin maps…
So on our first day in Israel we went to the Office Depot in the Kenyon Malchah shopping mall in Jerusalem. I bought a small Mio GPS on my Starwood AMEX. It is light-years behind the Nuvi. The satellite lock took forever and the maps were passably accurate at best. It didn’t know that many of the streets in Jerusalem are one-way or only for taxis and buses. (We learned the hard way that the yellow arrows mean taxis and buses only. We were flagged over by 4 cops before we finally got off of the offending road)
However without the GPS we wouldn’t have accomplished half of the things that we got done. It was very helpful in many places where signage was spotty and best, but the most helpful part was the POI section. By just typing in “Tomb” we were instantly informed of the final resting place of every tzaddik ever buried in Israel. We always knew where the nearest gas station was. Best of all you could just search all POI’s and it would spit out tons of neat places that we didn’t even know existed!
All in all, the GPS wasn’t perfect, but I can still strongly recommend it.
To be continued…