Travel Guide: Middle East

Sources: Apolis, Trans Global, Explore Corps, Surfing 4 Peace, Holy Land Trust || Photo: Lonelyleap

Travel Logistics

ISRAEL FLIGHT:
There are many good airlines which fly into Tel Aviv from the United States. The most popular are United from Newark, US Air or Delta from Atlanta, and El Al from JFK or LAX. Round trip fares can vary daily depending on many things, the most common being the season and how far in advance you book. An average fare is around $1400-$1500 from the East Coast and $1600-$1700 from the West Coast. For an individual, couple or small group, it is wise to shop online companies such as: Expedia, Kayak, Bing and Hipmunk.

ISRAEL LOCAL TRANSPORTATION:
Take public transit – the busses are very safe and run all day long. Cabs are also easy to find and it is best to ask for a metered price.

PALESTINIAN TERRITORY TRAVEL:
During Apolis' brief visit we met up with friends in Bethlehem and HebronApolis did not travel into Gaza. Thanks to Explore Corps we received an exclusive overview of travel tips for Gaza. We recommends learning about the entire Palestinian territory by reading the Palestine Ministry of Tourism Website.

GAZA FLIGHT & TRANSPORT:
Fly to Tel Aviv or Cairo, depending on point of entry to Gaza. Round trip tickets from New York range from $1000-$1500. Getting to the border from Tel Aviv will run around $100 in a taxi and will take an hour. From Cairo, the drive is around six hours and the cost is similar. Due to the risk of kidnapping in the Sinai desert, transport arrangements should be made through a fixer in Gaza. Any individual applying for a HAMAS "Visa" will be thoroughly researched online by the relevant Ministry. A "fixer" is a must.

GAZA LOCAL TRANSPORTATION:
Local taxis are cheap but they travel only to general areas, not specific addresses and are not monitored or regulated by the government. A taxi service or private driver is a must for any visitor. Trips around town run with a taxi service run around $2USD one-way and a driver can be hired for around $40 a day or more, depending on the quality of the vehicle.

Budget

ISRAEL:
The current Israeli Shekel exchange rate is about 3.6 shekels to the US dollar. There are money exchanges all over the larger cities and at the airport and post offices.

GAZA:
Gaza runs on Israeli shekels, though it is often difficult to break large bills.  There are several money exchanges around town that offer reasonable rates, often better than the rates in Israel.

Lodging

ISRAEL:
There are many decent, clean hotels, none are particularly cheap. The youth hostels are of a very high standard, but for 2 people per room the cost is the same as a 3-4 star hotel; however, if you are prepared to share a larger room amongst 4-6 people, the cost is very reasonable.

GAZA:
There are a variety of hotels at a variety of prices, usually starting at around $75USD a night.  For travelers on a budget who still want a decent restaurant and wifi, we recommend the Marna House Hotel.  For the upscale traveler, we recommend the Al Diera Hotel.

    

Highlights

ISRAEL SURFING:
Surf spots from south to north of the Mediterranean coast (Photo Highlights): Ashkelon: Kever Hashech Beach, A super fun and consistent beach break, breaks both and lefts and rights. Palmahim: An open beach breaks which works best on north winter swells, creates a long left hand wave & gets hallow. Tel Aviv: Hilton Beach, Considered to be Israel's best wave, breaks off a shallow rock reef in both directions and gets every swell direction. Herzliya: Zvulun Beach, A stretch of a mile with many sand bars which break in both directions. Netanya: Kontiki Beach, A beahch break which forms of a jetties creates a strong and short barrel. Haifa: Casino considered to be Israels best left hand waves, usually breaks at big winter storms. Nahariya: Israel's northest surf town Sokolov Beach, Israel's most powerful beach break, works best during big and clean winter swells.

GAZA EXPLORE:
Gaza is home to some unique communities, including the Gaza Surf Club and an amazing Parkour team.  If team sports are more your thing, there are soccer and handball clubs around town and a pick-up game can always be found on the beach in the evening.  Any exploring should be done with a fixer and travel into Refugee Camps are discouraged, unless specifically invited by a resident in good standing. 

Communication

ISRAEL CELL PHONE:
Talk n Save will deliver a phone to your door in the US for $5.00, the daily plans range from $4.99-$7.99 for unlimited calls (Learn More).

PALESTINIAN CELL PHONE:
Palestinian cellular provider JAWAL operates several shops in Gaza. SIM cards are around $5USD and minutes can be added in small or large increments at JAWAL stores and at convenience stores around town at reasonable rates. JAWAL phones will also work in the West Bank though not in Israel.

LANGUAGE:
The native language in Israel is Hebrew, but most Israeli’s also speak English. In Hebrew, “Shalom” means hello, goodbye and peace. “Kama Zeh Oley” How much does it cost? Arabic is a must for anyone traveling throughout Palestinian territoryPhonetically in Arabic "Ma-ha-ba" means hello, "Shook-Ron" means thank you, & "Ma-Salem" means good bye.

Dining

ISRAEL:
There are too many good restaurants in Israel to list them all. In Jerusalem: Dolphin Yam (Sea Dolphin)- steaks/seafood, Ceilo-Italian, and Chakra –steaks/seafood, and Machneyuda-meditteranean, Tel Aviv has some of the best and trendiest restaurants in the Middle East. A few include: Gillies and Benney’s at the Tel Aviv Port, Mollie Bloom- hamburgers, Abu Hassan- humus, Orna and Ella very reasonably priced. Manta Ray seafood on the Beach. Tiberias: Decks-one of the very best restaurants in the Middle-East!

GAZA:
Food prices differ drastically depending on the venue. Many local restaurants cater to the wealthy locals and the small expat community and feature prices similar to Israel at around $15-$20USD for a meal. The budget traveler can enjoy delicious street food such as a bowl of Humus, side salad, plate of Falafel and a Coke for around $3USD. Visitors should not miss the opportunity to enjoy Gaza's best culinary creations, it's home-cooked meals.

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