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To use a guide or not to use a guide

Los Angeles...
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To use a guide or not to use a guide

My husband and I will be in Jerusalem for 3 nights in mid Sept.and this is our plans:

1st day: Old City.. Western Wall..Church of Holy Seplcher..Temple Mount. Rampart Walk. Visit Machaneh Market.

2nd day: Four Quarters.The tunnels and Tomb of David...

3rd day : Masada day trip

I'm sure it a individual opinion but do you think we need a guide? Or can we pick up a local guide a each spot?

Many Thanks!

Israel
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1. Re: To use a guide or not to use a guide

As you said- it is an individual decision - everyone has their own travel style - however, you cannot "pick up a local guide" anywhere.

The Western Wall Tunnels is a tour with their own guide and you need to reserve in advance. You can get an audio guide for Masada - for the rest you would be on your own.

Also - what days of the week are these visits planned for - that is an important consideration regarding opening times, activities and transportation.

Jerusalem
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2. Re: To use a guide or not to use a guide

Agreeing with Oreets that picking up a local guide isn't an option in Israel.

People often say that it's a financial decision. They imply that ideally visitors should take a guide for as much of their stay as possible, and if they can't afford that - then choose the bits where a guide will make the most difference. In your itinerary, for example, I think many people would agree that a guide will add more to a visit to the Holy Sepulcher or the Temple Mount than to Machaneh Yehuda market. Massada is a site with complex history and you might think a guide is essential, but in fact there's a good audio guide available there, and between that and doing a little reading many visitors may not feel the need for a guide.

However, I respectfully disagree with that approach. As I've said before, if I won the lottery and had endless resources I would travel a lot, but I would rarely if ever take guides. It's just not my travel style. I prefer to read a little about where I'm going, go there at my own pace without a book in my hands, seeing what I like for just as long as I like, and then later read again about the place and put it all in context. Others like having someone to make logistical arrangements, prioritize from among all the things they could see, and give authoritative explanations during the visit itself.

The combination between where you fall on that spectrum, and what financial resources you can allocate to your trip, will determine if and when you will want to consider taking a guide.

Haifa, Israel
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3. Re: To use a guide or not to use a guide

As Oreet mentioned, You need to register in advance for the Wailing wall tunnel tour http://english.thekotel.org/VisitorInfo.asp?id=1; Unless you have a car you better off with tour to Masada / Dead Sea . Most common will be Abraham tour is http://abrahamtours.com/; For orientation is Jerusalem I will start with Sandman free tour (you end up paying tip to the guide) http://www.newjerusalemtours.com/

Gippsland, Australia
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4. Re: To use a guide or not to use a guide

A guide isn't essential, but if course having one will give you a a much fuller explanation of all you see, and you will probably see more in the time because you won't need to work out how to get from one place to the next. It is all a matter of personal choice and budget.

There is a link in the "top questions" on the Israel forum (you are in the Jerusalem forum) about how to choose a guide if you decide to go that way. Oreet, who just answered your question is a tour guide, and whilst I have never had her as a guide I know what wonderful answers she gives here on Trip Advisor, and I have met her for coffee - she is a really lovely person.

If you choose to do it by yourself then when you get to Jerusalem enter the Old City by the Jaffa Gate. Just the other side of the gate there are two information offices on your left. Go to the second where you can pick up a free map of the Old City and a lot of other ideas and info.

If you have a smartphone then there are a lot of apps you can download which will give you walking tours of Jerusalem and some of the sites.

As Oreet asked... Please let us know the days of the week you are planning to be there. But this could impact your plans a great deal.

On the first day the only place you listed that isn't in the Old City is the Machane Yehuda Market. I really think you will have a very full day in the Old City without this and the markets in the Old City are equally fascinating. However if you do want to include this then the light rail will take you there. You could get on the light rail at the stop outside the Damascus Gate, or go out through the Jaffa Gate and keep walking up the path alongside the City walk until you get to the road (don't get side-tracked through the Mamilla Mall or it will take longer.). When you reach the road you will see the light rail tracks and it's not far to the nearest place you can get on.

Gippsland, Australia
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5. Re: To use a guide or not to use a guide

Wow... Three of us posting at the same time. :)

Gippsland, Australia
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6. Re: To use a guide or not to use a guide

Oh... Don't pick up a local guide when you get to the Old City. Pic one does approach you he will probably not be a licensed guide and you could get told very inaccurate information. If you want a guide book a reputable one in advance.

Los Angeles...
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7. Re: To use a guide or not to use a guide

PRSV's post (#2) is entirely correct -- it's a personal decision based on how you like to travel. There are some places in the world were you absolutely *need* a guide (or at least to hire a private driver who has a decent command of English) or you just won't be able to see much of anything; Israel is simply not one of those places and tons of people have a great trips to Israel without one.

Edited: 19 June 2014, 09:49
UK
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8. Re: To use a guide or not to use a guide

The Sandeman tours are great, they have 3 different tours for Jerusalem. Ive used them in Jerusalem and other cities around world and find them very good value for money. Btw there are fraudsters who may approach you for guiding in Old City of Jerusalem, do not hire them!

Cincinnati, Ohio
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9. Re: To use a guide or not to use a guide

I wish I could click "Like" a dozen times (or yell "Halleluyah!") at PRSV's post. I could not agree more. It's not just a matter of money -- it is what you want out of a trip. Like he and LAX, Esq., I agree that the vast majority of Israel is easy to tour on your own without a guide. Some people on here say, "if they could afford it, everyone would want a guide for the whole trip." That's nonsense in my view! Like PRSV, the last thing I would want in any event is a guide at my side for every minute. I enjoy drinking in experiences, having time alone to pause, reflect, and sometimes pray, and being spontaneous at times. I don't want someone at my elbow or pointing things out every moment -- but sometimes in some places, a guide is wonderful to have and some of the ones I have encountered are also delightful to spend time with! (And, to be honest, some are anything but, however knowledgeable they may be.)

Of the places you list, some comments:

• Definitely take the Four Quarters overview of the Old City of Jerusalem, either through the "free" (but tip at least NIS 50) tour with Sandeman's or Zion Walking Tours (I think that runs about $35 USD, but check). That's a great introduction to the Old City -- and you can then decide what you want to see more of on your own. In fact, if you can do that your first day, that's better because that gives you the "balcony view" at the outset.

• I'd skip David's Tomb (which isn't). But most of the other stuff you describe in Jerusalem you can do on your own. While I can't speak for the Sandeman's tour (I've never taken it), the Zion Walking Tours Four Quarters Tour usually takes you into the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, and for most people that's enough. If you want in depth exploration, a guide usually does help. Do NOT pick up the "guides" hanging around the entrance -- untrained, unlicensed, and really useless.

• Masada, the Dead Sea, and Qumran (the usual full day trip) are very easy to do on your own. Masada has a great audio guide, and most guidebooks give good, in depth descriptions. Qumran has an interpretative intro movie (I usually hate this, but this one is pretty good) and is well signed -- and there is not all that much to see that you'd need a guide explaining it. And the Dead Sea is, well, bobbing in salty water for 10 minutes or so.

Good luck to you!

Douglas Duckett

Edited: 19 June 2014, 13:51
Los Angeles...
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10. Re: To use a guide or not to use a guide

What fantastic replies with your heart felt opinions and some great practical advice! Thank you all so much.

Monday will be our first day, of course meaning Tuesday and Wednesday our 2nd and 3rd

We will have our own car to drive ourselves to Masada.

We are excited!