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Spontaneous traveling in Israel

spontaneous-traveling-in-israel

Public transport in Israel is cheap, and the train lines go all the way from Naharia in the north to the Beér Sheva in the south, just 3 hours from Eilat, Israel’s most southern city.
Our friend Kaja, traveled across the country on her own, with public transport.

“I had been to Israel two times already, but both times with big groups and with a well-planned program. I always wanted to come back and explore the country on my own. With Norwegian’s direct flights from Gardemoen to TelAviv, The Promised Land was only 5 hours and 1500 kroner away.”

Kaja hadn’t planned much and didn’t book any hotels in advance. This made her trip exciting and gave her a lot of freedom.

“I had a week, but as I love to be spontaneous and take things as they come, I planned as little as possible. I had some ideas of where I wanted to go and see, but without any time schedule. I started with some surfing in TelAviv, then headed up to Jerusalem, and spent my last days in the Galilee. I booked accommodations from day to day. I am not a picky person when it comes to accommodation or transport, and my opinion is that the longer down you go on the ranking, the more you will experience. I used Hostelworld to find a place to stay, chose something cheap, that had a relatively good rating and reviews. Headed to Jerusalem, I had one goal, to experience the old city up close, and I, therefore, booked a hostel in the middle of the Old City. This was a very unique experience. The atmosphere after the markets closed, and when all the tourists disappeared, something very different than I had experienced before.”

A Norwegian and 40 Orthodox Jews

I was impressed when Kaja suddenly stood outside my doorstep, and when I heard about what she had experienced.

“The next morning, I packed my bag and took the tram up to the bus station. I am a Norwegian, and I just HAD to buy a cup of coffee before going on the bus. Of course, this cost me the direct bus to Amirim, and I had to find a new route. With the help of google maps and some very helpful crew at the bus station, I managed to find a new route, that included a couple of bus changes.

It was time for my first bus change, and after waiting in no man’s land for one hour, I realized I had to start looking for a new bus route. Israel has impressively a lot of free wifi around, but out there, I was forced to ask for help from the people around me. There were both soldiers, an elderly couple and some young people. I felt safe the entire time, and all of them were eager to help me out.

40 minutes later, my bus arrived. I stepped on, bought a ticket and turned around to find a free seat. All I saw was black. Orthodox Jews at every seat and the only colorful thing in the bus was me. This was for sure another adventure, I thought to myself while trying to find a comfortable place to sit on at the floor in the hallway. I spent the next hour just watching. It was super fun and interesting to get a closer look at their behavior, almost as a look behind the scenes. Even though they all have the same look, they have different personalities and interests. Somewhere listening to music, others were conversing, while somewhere reading in the Torah. I felt lucky to get a glimpse into their everyday life”.

Only positive experiences

“I can’t remember any negative experiences. Everybody that I met could speak English, so there was never any language barrier. Public transport was surprisingly good and I had never excepted to see so much free Wifi.
I am comfortable in my own company, and I didn’t have any challenges with traveling alone. I tried to blend in with the crowd as much as possible, and not stand out as a typical tourist. I got to talk to more people and experience this country in a completely new way.
It was a fantastic trip, and I can’t wait for the next time I get to come back to Israel!”.

 

 

Useful links, apps, and information

Traveling by train: If you want to plan your route with the trains in advance, you can go to https://www.rail.co.il/en, they also have an application, called Israeli Railways. You can change the language in the upper left corner.

Traveling by bus:  Moovit, Efo Bus

Tips:

  • On Shabbat (Friday afternoon until Saturday afternoon), all public transport is put on hold.
  • Most busses and trains have power outlets, so you can charge your phone, but bringing a power bank is always a good idea.
  • Buy an Israeli sim card (you can do that at the airport), since you are depending on staying updated on routes and lines, you need 3G, and you would not want to spend a lot of money using your abroad supplier.
  • Asking the people around you for directions will get you to your destination much faster, we have only met friendly Israelis, eager to help.
  • At arrival at the airport, there will be signs on the wall that will guide you to the bus and train stations. The train is on level G while busses are on level 2, where you also will find the ticket machines. There is always airport personnel there, ready to help.

 

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Birgitte Eisenberg

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