I thought I would share a little bit of our experiences in Israel. I had some questions on this forum regarding car rental, Q Hotel in Netanya, and driving in Israel. Here we go.
We flew from Vancouver to Frankfurt. Do yourself a favor and bring snacks/ water with you. 12 oz. of water costs 3.5 euro at the Frankfurt airport, that's around 5,6 dollars. Sandwich and coffee can set you back 20 bucks. From Germany we came to Krakow, Poland, which is very nice. Lots of tourists and tasty, not overpriced food in Krakow. Check out those Old World coffee shops at Rynek Glovny, (Main Market Sq. ). We went to Europejska Kawiarnia on the north-west corner, outstanding decor and nice coffee/snacks.
BTW, from Canada to Europe we flew Condor. It's unbelievably tight. I don't want to fly those budget airlines again. From Krakow we flew to Israel through Warsaw and Riga, not the shortest route, but we saved some money. Warsaw has a nice, modern airport (the one in Krakow is really small and...provincial). The flight Warsaw-Riga was on Air Baltic. Again the plane was very tight, and all, all food and drinks had to be paid for. I would not fly Condor or Air Baltic again. Polish Lot was OK. The airport in Riga has a very nice feel to it. It`s not v. large but v. pleasant and quiet (it`s easy to relax between flights there).
We arrived at Ben Gurion at 1 am. The Israeli immigration asks a lot of questions, like where you're staying?, do you know any people? etc. and line ups are long and slow. We came up from the plane tired and had to wait about half an hour to be "interviewed".
Ben Gurion is suprisingly large. It has an American feel to it. We rented a car from Eldan. I decided to follow the advice from this forum and go with Eldan, not Avis or Hertz. There was a bookstore at the airport, but unfortunately they didn't have Israeli atlases IN ENGLISH, (next time I'm getting one before I leave). We drove from Ben Gurion to Netanya, at 2am. Roads are quite empty, which is good because you don`t feel rushed, but almost all gas stations are closed and there isn`t anybody around to ask for directions. Israeli roads are not easy to drive on I would NOT recommend to drive here unless you are pretty good with maps. We drive in Canada and US all the time and never get lost. Here, in Israel, we almost drove into the Palestinian territories (we went the opposite direction-roads here don`t have the East-West/South-North sings). Route 40, which we took from the airport turns sharply at some point (it looks totally straight on Google maps) and we ended up in a industrial dead end. We found a gas station which was open (miracle), and after we came back to the car it WOULD NOT START. It turned out Israeli rentals have a security panel where you have to enter a code. We were not given the codes by a nice Eldan rep. (he looked new). A good Samaritan at the gas station lent us his cellphone to call Eldan (pay phones don't take change but some kind of cards). Eldan ph. # 3452 or something like that is NOT a direct line-it takes you through the menu (press one for latest offers...etc. ). In the end we got a live rep. and he gave us the ph. to the Ben Gurion Eldan office, which is open 24hrs. which we should have been calling in the first place. That's the one that helped us. Get the Ben Gurion Eldan ph. # and treasure it!
After security check up I was given the code for the panel in our car (thank you unknown clerk at the gas station for your cell ph. and help !). We started driving again, found the correct turn on rt. 40, found Highway 5, and .... ended up in front of sings warning us not to take unauthorized stuff (I think it said guns) into the Palestinian Territories. It looked kind of like toll boths, and it didn't have an official turn around, luckily we found a clearance between the roads and headed back towards the coast.
From Highway 2 we had to fin the exit to Netanya, it should say "Poleg Beach", and it did, once, (like a 1000m before) and then it never showed up again, it is the 553 exit on the East side of the Highway, on the West side where the Q Hotel is, one has to go on Sderot Ben Gurion street. But of course that`s not clear on the sings. So we flew right past that exit, had to find a way to turn back (not as straighforward as it would seem) and then three simple, wrong turns later we found the Q Hotel. There are no sings leading to it. You have to locate the Shulamite street.
I read here that GPS is not that practical for non-Hebrew speakers, but what I`m going to take next time is a simple compass (for north south directions), indispensible at night.
Now, the Q Hotel is v. nice. For all of you who are considering it, but can`t find any reviews-DON`T FRET. The "Q Hotel` is new (only 4 months old, under the new name and ownership). We were let in at 4am, by some employees working the grounds.
We had nice clean white sheets, flat screen tv, an AC. and the carpet is quite new. It is built like a motel with entrances from the outside. There is not much to do on the grounds, but it is 5min. to the beach (the water was excellent, warm on Sep. 12), and it looked like they rent BMX bikes for the nearby dunes. Breakfast is very nice, cheese, toast, eggs, lettuce, tomates, jam, etc. it is simple but quality food. There was only one bug to the Q Hotel. and I mean it literally. A huge cockroach in the bathroom. Like 1 inch long. To be fair, we haven`t seen any other bugs there, there was only this one and everything else was very nice. I would definitely stay at the Q Hotel again. We usually stay at the Holiday Inns and the Q Hotel may not quite measure up but it's totally fine.
Israeli people are great, very straightforward, helpful, and just seem like good people. So far so good. I hope this report helps others.
I'm not sure I would drive here again, although it is nice to have a car. But make sure you buy a good atlas (not just a map) beforhand. Map out your route step by step you will do fine.