Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Tuesday Travels - Israel Reflections, Part Two

Yesterday, I discussed my reflections about my Israel trip. Today, I wanted to provide advice/thoughts on the logistic-y aspect of the trip.

We went through Noseworthy Travel, and they definitely did a good job of choosing sites and getting us from spot A to spot B. I liked our tour guide and driver. I would have preferred maybe a little bit less of a breakneck pace, though; our days were stuffed from dawn to dusk, and I would have liked a little bit more time to explore locations and fewer locations per day. Also, they usually took us to a lunch spot and said, "Here's lunch!", which didn't leave an opportunity to either explore during lunchtime or try different options. I had imagined being able to choose a street vendor for lunch, or wandering around a downtown area like Tiberius or Jerusalem for lunchtime, but that only really happened on the last day. Now, the lunch options were fine and tasty for the most part, but it was not what I expected.

The issue was more finding an ATM. As I mentioned in one of my first blog posts, I had expected to go to an ATM and withdraw shekels for the trip, but we didn't stop anywhere with an ATM until Jerusalem. Dollars were accepted everywhere, but some places had highly questionable exchange rates--and some of those places were where the tour company took us for lunch, so it wasn't like there was another option. Maybe I'm too suspicious, but I am curious about any kickbacks or something like that that the tour company got. I know the company said we didn't need to get shekels, but I'm very glad I did, and if I go again I will make sure to start off with a good chunk of shekels in case we don't stop at an ATM.

My other main issue with the travel company was that flight change. We changed flights, which lost us a night in Israel, and we didn't get a formal apology or any refund. Some people said they'd heard that it was the airline that changed our flight, but I heard it was the travel company, and in either case, you would expect something. That left me unimpressed.

The hotels we stayed at, Maagen Eden and the Olive Tree, were great, and I'd recommend them to someone exploring the area.

If I were to go again, the biggest change I would do would be to try and organize my own flights, at least part of the way. The trip included airfare from LAX, and I just booked a separate flight to and from LA, but while sitting in Newark on the way back, I saw several direct flights to SFO, and they looked so lovely. It would have cut maybe three hours off of my trip, which would have been worth the hassle.

The other idea, which Mum wisely mentioned last week, would have been to go to England for a few days before heading to Israel. A head start of the time change would have really helped, and breaking up the two flights could have also been nice. So if I was to go again, I might do that instead.

Other miscellany:
  • EU plugs, but I definitely saw "Israel Only" adapters. You just need ones for the EU.
  • Expect carbs. Lots and lots of carbs.
  • Drivers are very aggressive, so if you're driving, be prepared. I wouldn't want to drive, but I hate driving, so I might be in the minority there.
Will I go again? I'm not sure. I've seen everything I wanted to see in Israel, with the possible exception of the Jordan River--and then, it's more a matter of wanting to get some photos and possibly wade in it, since I technically did see it. So it's not a must-do again. But I could see, if I have a family, wanting to take them. So maybe I will return in a few decades.

I need a new vacation to start planning. Somebody, invite me somewhere interesting, please.

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