On Sunday, I shared my trip report about how I spent 48 hours in Jordan. This post will cover the next 4 days that we spent in Israel.
Crossing the Border from Jordan to Israel
Leaving Jordan, we arranged for an 8am taxi pick up at the Crown Plaza Dead Sea for our 25-minute ride to the King Hussein/Allenby crossing for 30 Jordanian Dinars (~$42). There are separate entrances for Palestinians and foreigners. We joined the foreigner line and gave the agent our passports for review, then moved to the next window to pay our 10 JD departure tax as we waited for 10 minutes for the bus to the Israeli border.
When you board the bus on the Jordanian side, you pay 7 JD for the bus + 1.50 JD for each bag. Your passport is returned individually on the bus by an agent. Once you arrive at the Israeli border, armed soldier come onto the bus to inspect passengers and passports. All bags are scanned and inspected too. After all of the inspections are done, you wait in line to be interviewed.
During my research, I read that interviews can take up to 3 hours. I figured that with my passport, and some of the places I have traveled to, I’d be detained for a long interview, so I hoped for the best and prepared for the worst. When I approached the agent for the interview, I was cordial and answered all her questions, even using some humor. 5 minutes later, I heard, “Welcome to Israel!”
Getting from the Border to Jerusalem
Once you cross the Israeli border, you can take a taxi (very expensive), a bus to Jerusalem central bus station, or a “sherut”, which is a shared taxi to Damascus Gate (Bab Amood). We were staying at the Hashimi Hotel, near the Damascus Gate, so we elected to take a “sherut” to the Damascus Gate.
To buy tickets for the “sherut”, make a right after you exit the border, and you’ll see a booth selling tickets. The tickets cost 40 NS (~$11)+ 5 NS per bag. The “sherut” leaves when full, and the trip took 45 minutes,
2 Nights in Jerusalem
We stayed 2 nights at the Hashimi Hotel. The hotel was great for us- in the middle of the “action” between the Muslim and Christian quarter, 500 yards from Damascus Gate, and a rooftop view that was spectacular.
I was able to negotiate a room with 3 beds, including breakfast, for $130 per night. No credit cards were accepted. Since this is a Palestinian hotel, no alcohol was permitted or unmarried guests. I sent email to explain my situation (that I was traveling with my sister and my niece) to get approval to book. The service at hotel was exceptional.
To reach the hotel, once you come in through Damascus Gate, keep right, and you will see the sign about 500 yards away. Ring the bell, and you’ll be allowed in. Check in and check out is 10:30 am, and they will hold your bags if you need more time to sight-see after check out.At 2pm on our first day, we met Sandermans Free Tour of Jerusalem by the Jaffa Gate. This was a great overview to get us accustomed to the 4 quarters of Israel. They work for tips, and the tour was good.
Later that night, we visited the Western Wall, where men and women are required to be separated. Men must wear a “yamurlke”. We all did the customary practice of “placing notes in the Western Wall“. We followed up the Western Wall with a visit to the “kotel”, which is a popular attraction and underground tour of the Western Wall, which I highly recommend you book online ahead of time before your trip. The cost is 30 NS each (~$8).
Visiting Bethlehem by Bus
Visiting Bethlehem from Jerusalem by bus is relatively-easy. Here’s how we did it for the cost of 5.40 NS (~$1.50) per person:
- Make a right at Damascus Gate ,and walk to Arab bus station, where you can take bus #231 to last stop, Beit Jala.
- When you exit the bus, you will be bombarded with taxi drivers trying to sell you tours.
- You can walk about 1 mile down Childrens Street to reach Manger Square.
We ended up negotiating a taxi ride for 15 NS, without a tour. Our driver tooks us to “border wall” to show us Banksy art, and to show us the political situation from his point of view.We visited the Church of Nativity and Milk Grotto. We ate lunch at Afeem, a family restaurant with good food and prices near Manger Square. After lunch, we walked back to bus stop to depart for Jerusalem. Once we arrived in Jerusalem, we did the Via Dolorosa walk to visit all the stations of the cross. We attended mass at the church of Supelchre and visited were Christ resurrected.
Visiting Mount of Olives by Bus
The next day before check out, we wanted to visit the Mount of Olives on our own. Bus 255 leaves from the East Jerusalem bus station. To reach the bus station, make a right when you exit Damascus Gate, cross the street, and walk 2 blocks. Be sure to ask bus driver to drop you off close to the Church of the Ascension. The trip takes 30 minutes, and the cost was 5.4 NS each. This was really a great place to take panoramic pictures.
Getting to Tel Aviv from Jerusalem by Bus
After we checked out of the hotel, we exited Damascus Gate, made a right, and proceeded to take tram to Central Station stop, for our ride to Tel Aviv (you can also take this tram to Yehuda market).
The bus to Tel Aviv is #405, and costs 16 NS (~$4.15), and the ride is about 45 minutes to 1 hour. When you arrive, beware of the taxi cabs by Central Station – one quoted us 80 NS for the 3-mile ride to the Intercontinental David, where we were staying. He even proceeded to tell me that half of Tel Aviv is closed, and if he uses his meter it would cost me more. I put him in his place, and found an honest taxi driver, that used the meter. The correct fare was 36 NS.
We spent the next 2 nights at the Intercontinental David. For the first night, I used my annual free night award, and my sister used 40,000 of her IHG points. The property was excellent, overlooking the water. From the hotel, we walked to Carmel market, Jaffa, Neve Tzdek, Florentine neighborhood, and Rothschild Boulevard, where there’s nice nightlife and many great restaurants.
We really enjoyed this multi-generational family trip, and hope I was able to inspire you to take a similar trip on a budget, using public transportation. Israel’s fresh, clean air was a vacation for my lungs, and there’s nothing quite more enjoyable than all of the fresh pomegranate juice, falafel, shawarma, hummus, and all that history.
Have you taken a similar trip to Israel? Feel free to share some of your favorite spots as well. I can’t wait to go back.