Why You Should Hire a Tour Guide in Israel – Part 2

Car in front of our jeep in the Golan Heights

Even when you go off-road in this country, you might hit traffic!

In Part 1 of this post, I highlighted two of my top five reasons you should hire a tour guide for your visit to Israel. I spoke about a tour guide’s ability to take you to places off the beaten track — places you would probably never have visited on your own, but which were still well worth the visit. I also mentioned our constantly up-to-date knowledge of what is happening in this country.

Here are three more types of added value that tour guides in Israel can offer you.

[Read more…]

Israel: Land of Diversity

Hedge arch in Akko Baha'i Gardens. Israel.

Take a seat and enjoy the view in the Baha’i Gardens in Akko, surrounding the Shrine of the Baha’ullah

I just finished guiding an American family for the past two weeks, and we traveled all over Israel. We left out the Negev (south) because it is too hot in the middle of August, but beyond that, we pretty much hit the rest of the country and got at least a taste of all of its diverse regions. I designed the itinerary, and when planning an itinerary of this nature, the main guiding principle is going to be geography, i.e. we visit things that are close together on a single day, and move from region to region in logical sequence. In this case, we basically made a circular route, heading from the airport to Tel Aviv, then up the coast, across the Galilee to the Golan Heights and Kineret region, down the Jordan Valley to the Dead Sea, and then to Jerusalem and the Shefelah/Lowlands.

Of course, in designing such a tour, I also aim to present things that show various aspects of what this country has to offer. No one wants to spend two weeks seeing the same things over and over. But it wasn’t until I was on the tour with this family, a few days in, that it hit me just how diverse were the sites we were visiting. I know I’ve discussed Israel’s diversity before, but I was still impressed that we literally visited almost no sites that were redundant with each other.

[Read more…]

Review: The Written Exam (Dec. 2011)

Title Page of the Israel Ministry of Tourism licensing exam for potential tour guides

The cover page of the written licensing exam

As most of you know, I took the written portion of the Israeli Ministry of Tourism licensing exam for tour guides this past Sunday, December 4. (For my posts on preparing for the exam see Part 1, Part 2, Part 3 and Part 4.) Since one of the focuses of this blog is to provide information to others who are interested in taking the tourguide course in Israel, I wanted to fill you all in a bit on this past administration of the exam.

For starters, I will say that I feel really good about my performance on the exam, and am fairly certain that I will pass. Obviously, there is no way of knowing for sure until I hear back from them (probably in another 2-3 weeks), but I’ll say that I’ll be relatively surprised if I don’t pass. Mainly this is because, while I would not say this exam was easy, I don’t think it was particularly tough, nor did I think there was any part of it that was “out there” or designed to screw with us. It was fairly straightforward, and I feel like I was about as prepared as I could be. I can’t really imagine getting a test that would be preferable to this one, which is why I would be disappointed if I failed this one.

[Read more…]

Sample 1-Day Jerusalem Itinerary

The Catholicon (Greek Orthodox sanctuary) of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre

One of the fun things that I do as I prepare to become a tour guide in Israel is practice! It helps me learn to plan a tour, make it flow seamlessly and learn such things as timing, reading the audience, use of visual aids and organization of material. So it is really a very necessary aspect that, while not an official part of my tour guide studies, I still take quite seriously.

A few weeks ago, I took two women around for a day-long walking tour of the Old City of Jerusalem (mostly). They were two friends, one of whom was Jewish and one of whom was Christian, though neither was particularly religious. The Christian was here on her first trip to Israel, while the Jewish woman lives here, though not in Jerusalem. My goal for the day was to expose them to the sheer wealth of history that fills Jerusalem, as well as show them the diverse cultures and religions that are found here. Ultimately, I wanted them to see what a beautiful, complex and historic city I live in. I thought it might be interesting and useful to describe the itinerary we had for the day.

[Read more…]

The Final Itinerary

Inside one of the natural grottoes at Rosh Hanikra

In my last post of a few weeks ago, I asked for some advice in helping my friend Lara to plan a great itinerary for her first trip to Israel. Many of you here, and on my Facebook, made wonderful suggestions of things to do, places to go, and even food to eat. In total, Lara was here for 16 days, and I spent a large portion of that time with her. Your collective assistance was a great help, and I wanted to share with you the bulk of her trip, so you can see the kind of balance we included.

[Read more…]

What is the Israel Dream Itinerary?

Lake Kinneret / Sea of Galilee behind the palms

A good old friend of mine is finally making her first trip to Israel next week. She’ll be here for 2-3 weeks, and I am excited to be showing her around a lot, and helping her plan her time here. Someone else (a friend of a friend) contacted me to suggest places for her to visit when she comes here in the Fall. And many other times people ask me similar questions when they hear I am studying to become a tour guide.

Itinerary planning is a job and skill in itself. And it is a major task in the tour guiding profession. But it is not yet something which I have studied or have a lot of experience with. And yet, I am going to have to get started on it now to help Lara have an awesome fun time here! So while I’ve started to think about it, I’d love to hear from you guys as well.

[Read more…]