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Private Tour Guide info and Trip Update

Level Contributor
53 posts
6 reviews
17 helpful votes
Private Tour Guide info and Trip Update


This post is very very long overdue!

I was travelling around Israel for approximately 2 weeks in late Oct / 10 - early November. I was travelling with my 70 year old mother and my husband.

There are plenty of posts that highlight the various attractions and give great reviews so I am not going to repeat what's already been written many times -

We visited Jerusalem, Haifa, Eilat, Jordan - Petra, Tel Aviv, Nazareth & the Galilee, Tiberias, Bethlehem

I highly recommend all of those locations - what I would like to focus on in this review is what I would have done differently.

First off - I made the very grave error of only booking a private tour guide for one day. That error caused me a lot of stress while on vacation. I did a lot of research prior to my departure and based on the forum discussions I decided that one day of touring with a guide would be enough and decided that I was enough of a 'seasoned' traveller to be able to guide my party on my own.

The other reason I was swayed away from hiring a guide was the costs involved - I've used private guides in China and Africa in the past and the costs for a private guide were very very inexpensive compared to guides in Israel - I had a hard time justifying the $500 / day.

Boy was I ever wrong - and was I ever sorry for having listened to the feedback that you can do Israel on your own with a good guide book - This was not the case for me - or my travel companions - we found we really needed the professional assisstance of a guide for there is just so much a guide book could teach you - and not all sights - infact - few sights have good signage telling you where you are and what you are seeing - or much historical reference. The cost definately reflects the end product - an organized and informative visit to a land filled with a very rich narrative history!

We had prebooked a guide from Toronto to visit Massada / Dead Sea / Ein Gedi - for this portion of the trip we used Madeleine Lavine - mobile # 054-4504098

email: madl@smile.net.il

Madeleine came highly recommended on this forum and after months of back and forth with her I finally booked her at the last minute - but I left it so long that by the time I made up my mind she was already occupied for the dates I was going to be visiting. Fortunately for us she was available for the full day -

She was incredible - A huge wealth of information - extremely professional - and a wonderful sense of humour - we thoroughly enjoyed our day with Madeleine and were very sad we only had the one day. I can't say enough about Madeleine - if you have a chance, don't think twice about it - just book her!!

I beleive we met with Madeleine on the 3rd day into the trip - and I knew by then that one day with a guide was not enough - So I asked Madeleine if she could help by referring me to a colleague she would recommend - we were still in Jerusalem, feeling very overwhelmed by all the sites, and realized we couldn't see it all on our own - well you could definately see it all on your own - I just found we had a hard time understanding and appreciating the historical reference. Madeleine made some calls for us and before we knew it she had connected us to yet another great guide - For a walking city tour of Jerusalem we used Shmuel Browns

Tel: 02 561-0785 Cell: 052 311-1265

Website: http://israeltours.wordpress.com

Once again - a very professional and dedicated guide - Shmuel was super - he went above and beyond what was expected and left us with one of the most beautiful days of memories of our trip - He was patient and kind and incredibly knowledgeable!

Again, an exceptional guide who I highly recommend!!!

While I was in Israel I was emailing guides that had been recommended on various forums and they were all so kind and tried to help me - unfortunately it was so last minute that it was impossible to connect with anyone - but everyone online was extremely helpful - thanks so much!

The places I felt we did not need a guide were Tel Aviv and Haifa - We found them self explanatory and the guidebook was more than enough - ouside of Haifa (meaning north) you definately want a guide.

We rented a car for Haifa and I would not do that again - it's just too stressful being able to read the maps, explore the scenery, and find your way - I would recommend hiring a guide with a car if you are using Haifa as your base - we were in Haifa 5 days and that was too long 3 would be good. In Haifa we stayed at the Villa Carmel - it was beautiful - I would highly recommend this hotel!! We had dinner in their resto and it was soooooo delicious!

We also visited Acre from Haifa - we loved this little arab village - spent an entire day there and loved every minute of it - highly recommend a visit.

We visited Petra with Desert Eco Tours - Highly recommend them! Professional and efficient - Petra was exceptional and I recommend a visit when in Israel - it would be a shame to miss all that splendour when you're so close!! We stayed in Eilat overnight and didn't particularly enjoy Eilat - I would never visti Eilat for a vacation - but that's subjective - We stayed at the Dan Panorama and it wasn't so god- it was the equivilant of a run down canadian holiday inn.

We hired a private Taxi to Bethlehem - we were glad we took that last minute trip - Bethlehem is a very interesting place - worth exploring - a half day is hardly enough - but worth it if you have the time.

I found Jerusalem too crowded for my travel tastes - way too many travel groups - extremely large travel groups - you can't really appreciate the architecture and take in all the history when you are packed into a place like a sardine.

The final thing I wanted to comment on is our accomodations - we rented apartments while in Jerusalem & Tel Aviv - I found neither apartment was really what the advertiser portrayed on their ad - we rented through vacation rentals by owner - vrbo.com - the apartments we found had 2 reviews and the reviews were fine - I cannot recall the addresses right now - and the apartments weren't horribly bad - they were just mediocre - the only positive side to renting is the cost - it's considerably cheaper than a hotel - I had never rented before and I will never do it again - I like all the things a hotel has to offer!

So there you have it - my very long over due and very long winded feedback!!

Destination Expert
for Israel
Level Contributor
22,382 posts
326 reviews
212 helpful votes
1. Re: Private Tour Guide info and Trip Update

Thank you for your post which will be helpful for other people planning a trip to Israel.



Destination Expert
for Israel
Level Contributor
23,679 posts
121 reviews
49 helpful votes
2. Re: Private Tour Guide info and Trip Update

Thanks for sharing your experiences - it's always helpful to hear firsthand of experiences here.

I'm sure your trip report will prove very helpful to those trying to decide exactly how to structure their visit to Israel.

Come back and visit us again.

Level Contributor
622 posts
41 reviews
36 helpful votes
3. Re: Private Tour Guide info and Trip Update

Thanks for the information. I just sent an email to Madeleine. We do want a guide for a few days, so thank you for the recommendation. We were also thinking about renting apartments. We did that in Italy last year with good results. We may rethink that option.

Cincinnati, Ohio
Destination Expert
for Israel
Level Contributor
16,665 posts
233 reviews
225 helpful votes
4. Re: Private Tour Guide info and Trip Update

I am so glad that you found Madeleine helpful. She is indeed wonderful, and I'm not surprised that you loved working with her. She also has another e-mail address that I use, madl@zahav.net.il.

I certainly appreciate that for you using a private guide extensively was essential. Only you know your travel style and needs. I will stand by my own views, though, that it's not essential to everyone. Touring on your own without a guide does, of course, require more work and pre-travel research. Personally, I love doing that as it makes the trip "longer," but not everyone does.

But I traveled on my own without a tour guide for all but a few hours in Jerusalem all of my early trips, and had some of the peak experiences of my life. English is widely spoken, all the signs are in English, and every site has a brochure in English as well. Books like Frommer's and Fodor's have detailed, wonderful explanations.

Again, you did it your way, and I totally respect that this is right for you. But I do think others can and do enjoy self-guided traveling with adequate preparation. Still others really need to take an all-inclusive tour with a group. The variety of travel styles is what makes the forum interesting.

Welcome home, and thanks for posting!!!

Douglas Duckett

Vienna, Austria
11 posts
5. Re: Private Tour Guide info and Trip Update

I think another idea, just hire a driver with a car not necessarily a guide, but someone locally who knows well the places and roads that saves you a lot of time and headache of found the place, parking problems, etc..

Of course the price is much cheaper than a guide, if you have a guide book you'll be ok.

That's what I learned from my experience, after I had a previous unpleasant experience, I hired an excellent driver and it worked very well. Of course there is a need to find out and get information about a good driver.

Staten Island, New...
Destination Expert
for Providenciales, Turks and Caicos
Level Contributor
14,999 posts
43 reviews
46 helpful votes
6. Re: Private Tour Guide info and Trip Update

Just a minor correction if I may for future visitors. Acco (Acre) is not a small Arab village. Ancient acco is a small part of the much larger city of Acco

Bowie, Maryland
Level Contributor
398 posts
332 reviews
311 helpful votes
7. Re: Private Tour Guide info and Trip Update

Thanks for sharing, however, don't forget to post a review on VRBO.com, I generally ALWAYS rent homes or apts. when traveling, we LOVE it. I have only had one bad experience and that was in Portugal. But have rented at least 12 times so one bad experience is not a bad average. I do rely heavily on reviews so please don't forget to post one.

In a few days, I am off to Jerusalem, but it's a short stay so we are staying in a convent (my office mate and I) Ecce Homo on Via Dolorosa, we are combining private tour guide with touring on our own, that is generally how I plan my trips. I will report back on my return.

Thanks for listing the tour guides you used!

Tel Aviv, Israel
Destination Expert
for Tel Aviv, Galilee Region, Israel
Level Contributor
16,334 posts
59 reviews
61 helpful votes
8. Re: Private Tour Guide info and Trip Update

"just hire a driver with a car" is very expensive, might prove to be more than a driver-guide. Check before you decide.

9. Re: Private Tour Guide info and Trip Update

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Tel Aviv, Israel
Destination Expert
for Tel Aviv, Galilee Region, Israel
Level Contributor
16,334 posts
59 reviews
61 helpful votes
10. Re: Private Tour Guide info and Trip Update

NeilZimmer - 2 posts on a gps company...self promotion!

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