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Is it a mistake to tour Israel during Sukkot? If not, how?

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Is it a mistake to tour Israel during Sukkot? If not, how?

My friend and I booked FF flights arriving in Tel Aviv at 10 pm on Yom Kippur (Oct 4) and leaving at 4 pm on Oct. 20. We thought we would be past the holiday season. We have since discovered that there are no escorted tours running until Sukkot is over. (Not that we necessarily want to be with a group.)

However, a prominent tour operator told me today that going during that period was a huge mistake -- we would have difficulty booking hotels without a minimum night stay; day tours from his company and others would not be offered; that businesses would be closed so that many Israelis would be on vacation (hence difficulty in booking hotels) and some tourist sights may be closed. Also, he said, trying to travel Israel by bus would be massively time consuming and confusing since we do not speak Hebrew. Finally, he said that we could see Haifa and Acre in one day, which seemed to me too short to see all of the historical sites, museums, etc. in both places.

I welcome feedback on the veracity of these comments and any suggestions on whether we should change our dates or how we can best visit Israel without renting a car or a private driver during the time we have currently slotted to see Israel.

I abhor the idea of doing day tours which require an hour of pick up at other hotels before hitting the road, so that more time is spent on the road than seeing things. And all of them see to start and end in either Tel Aviv or Jerusalem. My preference would be to spend a couple nights in Tel Aviv, then Haifa, then Galilee, then Jerusalem, the Dead Sea and then go down to Eilat and Petra.

We've already got flights that give us 16 days in Israel. If necessary, we could stay a similar amount of time if we can find other flights later in October.

My friend and I are seasoned travelers who have seen a good part of Europe and Latin America over the past 25 years on our own. Once we did a group trip -- it was Gate 1 to Vietnam. It was okay, but we didn't enjoy being dragged out of bed at 6 am and into marble, silk and other vendors for long visits en route.

Please also know that I love planning trips and would have no problem working out a complete itinerary with hotels, daily sights to see, transportation, etc. if I knew what transportation makes sense and if I could be assured the sights would be open. I have done this for numerous European and Latin American trips.

FYI. I live in NYC and don't drive, and two stressful driving trips in Italy have killed my travel buddy's interest in getting behind the wheel overseas. Please also note that our style is to spend two weeks in a country, e.g. Portugal, or in particular regions, e.g. Rome, Naples & Amalfi coast. We would never plan an overseas adventure that is less than 2 weeks in length.

Our thanks to TA colleagues for any advice provided on provide on whether we should change our dates and how, no matter what date, we can have the most comprehensive, educational, adventurous tour of Israel without renting a car.

Best regards,

Passport Pat

Arik Private Tours In Israel
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1. Re: Is it a mistake to tour Israel during Sukkot? If not, how?

First of all you will not be landing on Yom Kippur because the airport is closed until about 8 p.m. which is after the holiday. This being said, Sukkot is not a great time to come as it's high season. Meaning very high prices for hotels (book at least 4 months in advance for less expensive rooms) and very crowded roads as it is a week long public holiday which half the country on vacation. This being said if you are Jewish it could be a fun experience. The greatest crowds are in Jerusalem and the north.

Very little if anything is closed except on the holiday itself, but most historical sites and museums are open on these days as well as on Shabbat. Just note that on the eve of the first and last days of the holiday and the eve of Shabbat everything closes early (from 1 to 3 depending on what and where).

Chana

Israel

Edited: 30 May 2014, 05:14
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2. Re: Is it a mistake to tour Israel during Sukkot? If not, how?

If you can change the dates, come after the holiday period when sites will be quieter and your touring more enjoyable

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3. Re: Is it a mistake to tour Israel during Sukkot? If not, how?

Adding to the above. On the holidays 1st day ( Oct 8 in the late afternoon to Oct. 89after sundown ) and last day

(Oct. 15-16) as well as Friday afternoon until after sundown on Saturday there are no buses. ( which are NOT hard to navigate even if you do not speak Hebrew) Since you are not driving, you will need to either travel by taxi or with a guide who drives.

In terms of what the travel agent told you I have copied and taken apart your comments so I can interject mine.

However, a prominent tour operator told me today that going during that period was a huge mistake -- we would have difficulty booking hotels without a minimum night stay;--TRUE

day tours from his company and others would not be offered;--which is his company. I can't imagine day tours not going. It is a high tourist season. Here is the website of Egged

http://www.eggedtours.com/

why not contact them and ask.

that businesses would be closed so that many Israelis would be on vacation (hence difficulty in booking hotels) TRUE

and some tourist sights may be closed. Not really. During the first and last days of the holiday a handful of places will be closed. Kosher restaurants will also be closed. However, there is plenty to keep you busy.

Also, he said, trying to travel Israel by bus would be massively time consuming and confusing since we do not speak Hebrew. --WRONG!! this sounds like a lead up to his getting you a private guide. If you DO want a private guide we'll guide you on how to hire one directly.

Finally, he said that we could see Haifa and Acre in one day, which seemed to me too short to see all of the historical sites, museums, etc. in both places. TRUE--most people skim Haifa. If you want to do it in depth, than you will need more time.

Israel
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4. Re: Is it a mistake to tour Israel during Sukkot? If not, how?

The disadvantages of being in Israel on Succot have been well covered, so I'll address some other points.

<<Also, he said, trying to travel Israel by bus would be massively time consuming and confusing since we do not speak Hebrew. >>

Thousands of tourists who do not speak Hebrew travel by bus without any problems. While you can't expect bus drivers to be able to hold an extended conversation on deep philosophical subjects in English, they all know enough English to sell you a bus ticket and tell you when you have reached your required destination. And you can always ask other passengers if you are not sure. While not everyone in Israel speaks English, it is never hard to find someone who can help out. Israelis learn English at school from an early age; it's not as if you're looking for someone who can speak Bulgarian or Navajo! There is nothing confusing about travelling by bus. It can be time consuming in sparsely populated areas where buses are infrequent, but that is true of anywhere in the world.

Haifa and Akko in one day - yes, it is too much if you want to see anything beyond the "Welcome to Haifa" and "Welcome to Akko" signs.

I think you should find another tour operator.

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5. Re: Is it a mistake to tour Israel during Sukkot? If not, how?

About renting a car. My husband and I avoided it on our first two trips - partly by doing tours and partly by spending a lot of money on taxis. You don't need a car in the main cities but it is hard getting around in the north, around the Kinneret/Sea of Galilee and in the Golan Heights without one.

This year, for the first time we decided to try driving a car rental - not in the cities but just up in the north. For us it meant driving on the "wrong" side of the road (we live in Australia and drive on the left). There is little traffic in the north and driving was easy except we were coping with trying to remember to drive on the right side of the road instead of the left. You wouldn't have that issue. It is nothing remotely like driving in Italy. We located ourselves in a hotel on the northern side of Tiberias on the road we would travel out from and could travel easily right across the Golan heights and around the north. (Staying in a Kibbutz in the country would mean you wouldn't even have to drive in Tiberias at all - it iis small but on the busier side.). There is little traffic and roads are easy to navigate.

I just thought I would add that to the other comments because it would have been so much easier if we had done that on our previous trips. I really think your friend would cope ok with driving there (though I understand her not wanting to drive overseas - we wouldn't either until this trip).

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6. Re: Is it a mistake to tour Israel during Sukkot? If not, how?

We are arriving in Israel on the 9th October and we are aware that it is going to be busy but we have already booked our car hire and hotels. We will just go with the flow if something is shut that we want to go and do/see but going during a holiday time will bring some other things to the holiday. I am hoping that we will get to see some of the local traditions because of it. We are very excited about coming and I read the site regularly to get lots of tips and advice. Thank you to all the people who contribute all the information.

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7. Re: Is it a mistake to tour Israel during Sukkot? If not, how?

My thanks to all of you for your comments and suggestions. I welcome any other thoughts on how we should approach the trip if we arrive as planned late night October 4, or if we should try to change our flights, visit later and sign up for an escorted tour. Thanks again.

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8. Re: Is it a mistake to tour Israel during Sukkot? If not, how?

Hi Pat. If you can, DO DO change your dates. Anytime later than October 16 or even early November is a great time to visit. You can easily visit much of the country on trains, buses and shared taxi (sherut). The only area that is preferable by rented car or group tour is the Sea of Galilee and Golan Heights area. That's because there isn't much (or often any) bus service and many of the sights are in rural areas. That's also a good time to go to Eilat - 5 hours by bus from Tel Aviv or Jerusalem, or a short flight from Tel Aviv's Sde Dov airport. With two full weeks here, you could even consider an overnighter in Petra, Jordan from Eilat.

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9. Re: Is it a mistake to tour Israel during Sukkot? If not, how?

Hello, I will be in Israel during sukkot, October 6 to 18, I have already booked everything ... I tried to organize my movements in the days during the holiday week but the 16 I should take the train from Haifa to Tel Aviv; I checked on the official website and it gives the possibility to buy a ticket, can I trust that there will actually train?

thanks

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10. Re: Is it a mistake to tour Israel during Sukkot? If not, how?

I will risk piling on in two regards:

(1) Yes, change your dates if you can. Why visit when the country is packed, significantly more expensive than usual (and Israel is never a cheap destination), and many places are closed on certain day?

(2) Renting a car for the countryside really is easy, as Heather states, and is actually the only way to see certain areas well unless you hire a driving guide (very expensive) or take an escorted tour (significant downsides in my view, but not everyone's). You just don't want to rent a car or drive in Jerusalem or Tel Aviv. But to see the sites in the Galilee, the Dead Sea and Masada, or the south, it really is the best way.

Good luck to you, whatever your choices!

Douglas Duckett