“A trip to Israel is worth ten years of Sunday School.” —Zola
Israel Tour Comparison Tips
When you are shopping for the best tour to Israel, there are several things you should keep in mind:
- What hotel accommodations does Zola Tours provide?
We choose hotels very wisely, drawing on our years of experience with almost all of them. We do not use hotels with low ratings, and we do not use “better hotels” that give poor service. We have found the best hotels at the best prices for our pilgrims.
Our choices may include the very well appointed Rimonim Galei Kinnereth Hotel or the Leonardo Plaza Hotel in Tiberias for our Spring and Fall Tours.
In Jerusalem, we frequently stay at the Dan Jerusalem Hotel for our Spring and Fall tours.
When in Eilat, we stay at the Dan Panorama Hotel, the Leonardo Plaza Hotel, or the magnificent Queen of Sheba Hilton.
In Greece, we use the luxurious NJV Athens Plaza Hotel or the Divani Palace Acropolis Hotel in Athens.
These are all first-class hotels, offering excellent service and beautiful accommodations. The meals are full buffet breakfasts and dinners of the highest quality.
- What sites does the tour cover?
Zola Tours covers the major biblical sites in Israel and Greece. But in addition, Zola Tours offers some things that others may not, such as a visit to Ancient Shiloh, the center of worship where the Tent of Meeting housed the Ark of the Covenant for almost 400 years, and where Hannah prayed for her son, Samuel. Often, extras that are not formally advertised in our brochure become available. For example, some tours have been treated to a Messianic congregation service, a music concert by a local Messianic believer, or visits to the Hadassah Hospital to see Marc Chagall’s famous stained-glass windows.
- What about travel accommodations inside Israel?
Our bus drivers stay with the group 24 hours per day. Some other tour operators’ drivers are off evenings, going home and returning to the group the next morning. Our drivers know our groups and know how to serve us. And because we operate large luxury buses, we have more clout at local sites. We get shorter waits in line and more preferential treatment.
- What expenses are covered by the tour price?
Our tours are designed to cover virtually all of your expenses. We do not have an “a la carte” price where you have to pay admission fees in Israel. Everything is figured in except lunches in Israel, extra snacks or drinks along the way, personal expenses (such as laundry, phone calls, etc.), and travel insurance.
For everyone’s convenience, each passenger contributes to a tipping fund and we pass those tips out as we travel.
- What else should I consider?
Our tour groups are treated well because of our pro-Israel TV programs, and the remarkable reputation Zola Tours has built over the years. We do our best not to subject you to excessive shopping (as some others do because they make commission agreements with local vendors).
We don’t know of anyone who has been to Israel and the Holy Land more times (100+) than Zola Tours. The people, the places, and the moments you will experience while on a Zola Tour will become memories to enjoy forever. Israel is God’s Promised Land—and you will be there! Is there anything more exciting or wonderful? We hope, of course, that you will choose to go with one of our groups because we know what you will get for your money. But no matter how or with whom you choose to go, His land beckons you. His hand guides you. Heavenly treasure truly awaits you!
Israel Travel Safety
Many people ask us whether it is safe to travel in Israel. This is a question that is usually raised only by people who have not been to Israel. Once our pilgrims tour with us, they realize that Israel has one of the world’s lowest crime rates, and that it is safer to walk in Israel’s cities than in most North American or European cities. We have taken more than 100 tours to Israel, never cancelled one, and never had a safety problem in 35 years.
The news media tend to over-dramatize the occasional, isolated incident. The potential danger to passengers who travel on group tours to the Middle East is no greater than what they would experience in domestic travel. Israel’s streets and villages are more secure than the streets and cities of our own country. Our tour operators abroad are knowledgeable, efficient, and equipped to handle last-minute changes in our itineraries, such as special attractions that become available. Any hint of risk or compromised safety is avoided immediately. The pilgrim who considers canceling or postponing tour plans because of presumed insecure or dangerous conditions is simply misinformed.
Our own tour hosts travel with our groups, and our highly-trained guide(s) and driver(s) constantly monitor current political situations in the region in order to avoid potential hazards. Our good reputation—our very business—depends on keeping our tour groups safe.
During our time in the Holy Land, no one has access to our tour buses except members of the tour. Since our bus drivers own their own buses, they take extreme care to maintain them and keep them secure. Any time our drivers must be away from their buses, the buses are always locked. We have never had a security problem in all our 35 years and more than 100 tours in Israel.
Israel Travel Tips
- How should I pack?
Comfortable, casual, lightweight, wrinkle-free, fast-drying, and “mix-and-match” are the secrets to a successful tour wardrobe. Casual wear is acceptable for dining throughout the tour, with country club casual wear requested for the Greece cruise ship restaurants. Some pilgrims do choose to dress up for Shabbat dinner and/or the Farewell Dinner, so you may want to pack a suitable outfit in case you decide to dress up for those; but it is not required. Be sure to take comfortable, sturdy walking shoes, sunscreen, sunglasses, a sun hat, a swimming suit, a travel raincoat, small umbrella, and a sweater or jacket for cool evenings. Shorts are acceptable on portions of the tour, especially at Masada and the Dead Sea. However, modest outfits with both shoulders and knees covered will be required approximately 40% of the time for touring religious sites. Some even choose to cover their heads at religious sites out of respect, but this is strictly optional. Scarves and pashminas come in handy for women to cover bare shoulders, and/or their head, for those who wish to do so. You will be notified the day before when modest dress is required. We suggest bringing washcloths, tissues, and a small portable alarm clock, if you’re partial to them, as some hotels don’t provide these. In Israel, our land agent will gift you with a full-size backpack to carry your daily items, as part of our tour package. (Please note that those going to Greece first in the fall will not receive this backpack until you get to Israel.) Other items to consider are an inflatable neck pillow, an eye mask, ear plugs, earbuds for the flights, and a small flashlight to keep by your bed at night.
- How many pieces of luggage am I allowed to take?
For Deluxe or Grand Petra Tours, see the El Al website for economy class specific information.
For Grand Athens or Ultra Grand trips, see the Delta website for economy class specific information.
Also, check with your domestic carrier for their luggage requirements, restrictions, and fees.
- What travel documents do I need?
You will need a passport that expires at least six months after your return date. USA and Canada citizens do not need a visa to travel to Israel or Greece (others should check with your government travel departments for requirements). For those going to Petra, we secure the Jordanian visa for you once we get your passport information. There is no additional charge for this visa. If you decide to join one of our tours, we suggest that you apply for your passport (and any other necessary documents) immediately, if you have not already done so.
- Do I need an electrical adapter?
Yes. The electrical voltage is 220 in ALL places the tour visits, except on the Greek cruise ship, which is 110 as we are here in the USA. If your appliance says “dual voltage,” 110–220V, or “worldwide voltage,” you need only adapt the plug. You can typically find plug adapters or a voltage converter at stores such as Walmart, Fry’s Electronics, Best Buy, or a travel/luggage store. Be sure they state that they are for the Middle East and Europe, and have two or three round prongs. Remember to check the voltage of and provide a plug adapter for your cell phone, laptop computer, iPad, tablet, or other technical devices, as well as personal grooming devices.
- Do we need any shots?
No inoculations are required.
- Should I take my Bible?
Yes! Having a Bible with you greatly enhances your experience in the Holy Land, since you will be seeing the places where so many of the Bible’s significant events occurred. You may want to bring along a specially colored pen/pencil or highlighter to mark those Scriptures that you study while in His land. Some passengers have found it helpful to bring along a journal as well.
- Will we be able to purchase things overseas?
Yes, as far as souvenirs and such, and you’ll want to leave some room in your suitcase for packing the items you purchase.
However, there is almost no opportunity to buy personal items like allergy medicine, snacks, and other items that you easily pick up in the States. We recommend that travelers pack 40% clothes and 40% personal items, leaving 20% space for items you purchase during the tour. (Please note: all snacks need to remain in their original individually sealed vendor packaging for the flights.)
- Will I be assigned a roommate on the tour?
If you have not designated single accommodations or a specific roommate on your registration form, we will strive to assign a compatible roommate based on the information you provide on your registration. Please note that if a compatible roommate cannot be found, or your roommate cancels prior to departure or during the tour, or should your roommate assignment not work out, you will be responsible for paying the additional single supplement noted on the registration form.
- May I take photographs?
Yes, and please remember to bring fresh batteries or your charger. You may also want to bring extra memory or SD cards to download pictures off your camera, phone, tablet, etc.
- May I record the guides during the tour and on the bus?
Yes, we recommend it! And, again, be sure to bring plenty of memory and extra batteries.
- How much money should I take along?
For Deluxe/Grand Petra Tours, we recommend taking around $600 per person. For Grand Athens/Ultra Grand Tours, $800 per person is recommended. Please bring mostly 10s and 20s and NO 50s or 100s. These amounts are strictly recommendations, as it is your personal preference as to how much money you plan on spending on the tour, and most places do accept Visa and MasterCard now. If you take a credit card, please be sure to notify your card company of your travel plans to avoid a fraud hold being placed on your card. (Please note that lunches in Israel usually range $10-$20 USD per person per day.) For your convenience in Israel, water will be sold for $1 per bottle on the bus each day, so having some $1 bills will come in handy.
Important notes on money exchange:
- Greece: We recommend you get $200 per person in Euros. (Strictly a recommendation.)
- Israel: No money exchange is needed. All vendors take American money (but it must be in good shape with no tears), and most will now take US credit cards (mainly Visa and MasterCard). Change from US dollars will usually be returned in shekels.
- Petra: We stay at a hotel in Israel during the Petra extension. The day we tour Petra, in Jordan, Zola Tours will cover the cost of your lunch, but drinks will be extra.
- How do I carry prescription medicine?
Keep it in its original bottle with label, if possible; otherwise, label it plainly. Please be sure to pack any medication you will need while traveling in your carry-on luggage. If it contains liquid, it will not count toward your quart-size bag limit, but it must be presented at the security check.
- Will we be safe in Israel?
The areas where we travel are completely peaceful. We have never had a problem in 35 years of touring.
- What about Travel Insurance?
For more information and to purchase, please either apply online with Travel Guard Insurance or call at 866-385-4839. And please reference Zola Code 217022 when speaking with Travel Guard by phone. Even if you choose not to insure your tour investment, we urge you to make sure you have overseas medical coverage. Travel Guard has a MedEvac plan that you might consider. Please contact Travel Guard directly, or our tour manager, Sandra Luttrell, at 214-696-9760 for a link with more details.
- What will the weather be like?
Average Temperatures during our tour months:
Spring — Israel: 50°–83°, Petra: 65°+
Fall — Israel: 60°–92°, Petra: 80°+, Greece: 62°–79°
- Will I have the opportunity to do laundry?
Laundry and dry cleaning is not self-serve in the hotels. You drop your clothes off at the front desk and they will be returned to your room. The laundry and dry cleaning services are very expensive, so we highly recommend avoiding this service, if at all possible.
Many passengers find they can either wash items in the sink or take enough delicates to get them through the entire trip. If you do choose to have items laundered or dry cleaned, please get a return time and date so you can be sure we’ll still be at that hotel once your clothes are ready.
- What is the time difference?
Both Greece and Israel are seven hours later than U.S. Eastern Time. For example, if it’s 7am in New York, it’s 2pm in Israel and Greece. However, due to a difference in Daylight Saving Time (DST) changes between the USA and these countries, they are sometimes only six hours later than U.S. Eastern Time for a short period in both spring and fall.
- Can I keep my valuables in my room or on the tour bus?
There is a small safe in each hotel room (not large enough for most laptops); and the tour bus is locked at all times when we are touring. Be sure to retrieve your valuables from the safe before our final departure from the hotel, though.
- Do we have to be careful about what we eat and drink?
Public health standards at our tour locations are equal to those in the United States. The water is completely safe to drink. The food is excellent throughout the tour.
- Will we have any tips or fees?
All tips and fees are collected with your final payment and are shown on the tour Registration Form (hard copy only). Once you leave your gateway city, all tipping and fees will be handled for you by your tour escort (except for on-your-own lunches).
All entrance fees for all excursions during the tour are included and pre-paid on your behalf.
- What if there is an emergency?
How can my family get in touch with me and how can I call home? Included in our tour packet is a daily itinerary as well as our hotel contact information. If you plan to call home during the tour, we recommend you consider bringing or renting a cell phone while in Israel. It is considerably less expensive than making calls through the hotel operator. Also, a phone could come in handy if you need to call the hotel while on tour during the day to secure a doctor or call a pharmacy to see if they have a certain medicine.
Contact your provider to see about adding an international plan for your personal cell phone. If you take your own cell phone, please make sure that it is fully charged and in working order for the airport security check, otherwise, it may not be allowed on the plane.
- How can I avoid dehydration during the flights and the tour?
The air inside airplane cabins is very dry. Because the transatlantic flight is long, many passengers find they arrive feeling very “dried out.” We encourage you to drink plenty of water during the flights, and you may find it soothing to take along a ChapStick or lip balm. These suggestions will also be very helpful throughout the tour, as we spend a great deal of time outdoors.
- Can children go along?
Yes. Children 7 and older are welcome on the trip, usually enjoy it very much, and seem to derive a special inspiration from it. We have found that children younger than 7 do not typically do well on the unavoidable long flights and days of the tour.
- Is there a number I can call to get further information?
Yes, call Zola Tours at 214-696-9760 during office hours (M–F, 9am to 5pm Central Time) and we will be glad to help you. You may leave a message on our answering machine after business hours.