Much of the information on this page is quickly becoming “yesterday’s news”, however it is our experience that many are still not aware of the latest COVID-related travel news. Due to that we will continue to keep this page active as a resource for those who are not aware of the latest developments.
Ed Hill Tours (EHT) is now celebrating our 60th year of operating Christian group travel to Israel. Of course, we were happy when Israel began welcoming pilgrim/tourist groups again. In November 2021 we operated and accompanied our first two groups since February 2020. We also accompanied our Pastors FAM (Familiarization) Tour in January, then our long-time client and friend, Pastor Alberto Delgado in March. As of May 2022, we have had 9 groups in Israel since travel began again and some 20 groups are now scheduled to travel with EHT to Israel from October 2022 through May 2023.
As always, there is no way to describe Holy Land tours other than amazing. Just being back in Israel has been amazing! All sites are open and touring the Holy Land is back to normal. Of course, the hotels, sites, restaurants, and shops have been excited to see groups return. It is great to see our long-time guides, Israeli staff, friends, and hotel and restaurant personnel we have known for years.
On March 1, 2022, Israel began welcoming all foreign visitors of any age regardless of their vaccination status. This means both those who are vaccinated or are NOT vaccinated may enter. More great news!…No testing before travel to Israel or upon arrival in Israel! As of May 20, 2022, Israel no longer requires testing before a flight to Israel. Travelers arriving in Israel are no longer required to present any kind of COVID testing done before boarding their flight or be required to test again upon arrival in Israel. The antigen test which had been required by the U. S. government within 24 hours of the return flight has also been eliminated. Now the last COVID requirement has been eliminated: The “Online Entry Form” requirement has now been canceled. In accordance with the Israel Ministry of Health, the requirement to fill out the Entry Form before entry into Israel was lifted on October 8, 2022.
Some passengers had found it difficult to be tested and get results back within 72 hours of their flight. This issue no longer exists and with no testing required upon arrival in Israel, there is of course, no quarantine period until test results come back. If a traveler would develop symptoms or test positive during the tour, they may now self-quarantine in the hotel where they are staying (or any facility of their choice) until they fulfill the quarantine requirement. Additional costs incurred from any extra hotel days are the responsibility of the traveler, but these costs can be covered by their travel and health insurance policy. Travel to Israel and most other destinations has largely returned to normal.
Summary of current Israel entry requirements
- Proof of having a health insurance policy with coverage for the treatment of COVID is still required as of this writing. Having this insurance is a condition to enter Israel and proof of such is shown at the departure airline check-in counter.
- No testing required before your flight to Israel and no testing required at the airport upon arrival in Israel. Hence there is no quarantine period until results are received. The test formerly required by the U. S. before a return flight has also been eliminated.
- Masks are not required on the motor coach or any other locations that we are aware of. Of course there is the possibility that a particular indoor location may still require one.
- For more information CLICK HERE to go to the Israel Tourism site.
Since Israel began welcoming tourists again, EHT has operated 9 groups, offering our usual high level of touring, professional support, and care for our travel guests. There have been no problems with sites being open, anyone having to be quarantined, or any issue regarding the COVID protocols which were in place…all nine groups enjoyed wonderful tours. Even as the pandemic has ended, we want to assure our guests that the hotels we use subscribe to the highest levels of cleanliness and sanitation, and our transportation partners and motor coache sutilize the most up-to-date health and safety protocols available.
Debunking Israel Travel Myths and misconceptions / “Knowledge is Power” The following are statements or questions we have heard many times through the years.
“Israel is a dangerous place to visit.” Since it’s inception as a nation in 1948, Israel has experienced times of unrest, terror attacks and wars. Yet Israel is actually one of the safest places on earth! Most crime as we know it in the US is not prevalent or non-existent in Israel. Israeli security, both in Israel and on ELAL Israel Airlines, is considered the best in the world. Through the years EHT has taken over 50,000 travelers to Israel without incident, and to our knowledge, no tourist visiting Israel has ever been killed. We regularly visit Bethlehem and on occasion, Jericho or Hebron. These towns have proven to be very safe, but our travel itineraries never go into an area of possible danger, including most West Bank towns or Gaza.
“It is expensive to visit Israel.” The costs of travel to almost any destination become more expensive every year, and some destinations such as London, Paris and Tokyo are indeed very expensive. However, compared to those and many other destinations, Israel is still considered a bargain. Prices charged by different tour companies can vary widely as we’ll explain in more detail later in this blog.
“Large tour companies have better tours.” That’s similar to comparing the overall quality of a hotel based only on the size of the building. In comparing tour companies specializing in Christian group travel, EHT is a moderate-sized company. Our travel partner and land operator in Jerusalem is one of Israel’s largest incoming tour operators. Quality tours are based on many factors, and being a larger company is certainly no guarantee of the best travel experience, travel product, or personal service. For example, we know of larger travel companies that consistently use older buses, lower level guides and drivers, and lower quality hotels. Why? Because tour companies save a considerable amount of money operating that way. We use only hotels rated Superior 4-Star and 5-Star in excellent locations. We use only the latest motor coaches, and our guides are experts in the Christian tour, among the most requested in Israel, and have worked with us for many years.
“The hotel you stay in doesn’t really matter since you only sleep there.” Even if true, just sleeping in a 2 or 3-Star hotel is not a pleasant experience (think bedbugs)…however groups do much more than just sleep at a hotel. With a typical touring schedule, groups are back at their hotel from around 5 pm until 8 am the next morning. That includes having dinner and breakfast, and the better the hotel, the better the food and service. For groups desiring the experience, we can place them in a kibbutz or even a Bedouin tent, but typically we only use nothing less than Superior 4-Star and 5-Star Deluxe hotels.
“Some tour companies include free lunches.” The old saying “there is no free lunch” could not be truer than in this case. The cost of the “free lunch” some companies advertise is simply built into the overall tour price. When lunches are prepaid, every tour member pays the same amount no matter what they eat, if they bring their own lunch, or choose not to eat. Yet the tour company can advertise “free lunches” and tour members don’t realize they have already paid for these so-called “free” lunches in their tour cost. In addition, the tour company uses the same restaurants regularly and typically receives a “kickback” for doing so. The same applies to “free water” on the bus some companies advertise…an amount was already added into the tour cost. Tour hosts seldom ask us to include lunches, but we can do so if requested. We will simply add a fair amount to the cost of the tour as a separate item, but we will not advertise it as “free lunches.”
“All airlines are basically the same.” Not exactly! Airline travel in general is certainly not “glamorous” or as simple as it once was. Most airlines put as many seats as possible on their planes to produce more revenue. Of course, overall comfort, food, and service is markedly better in Business Class for those willing to spend more. Many international flights also offer “Premium Class”, which is priced between Business Class and Main Cabin. To offer lower pricing, some tour companies will use charter flights which usually means older planes, less service, and long waits at connecting airports…not a good experience! Some tour companies use flights on an airline that connects in Europe. This may only amount to an inconvenience for an individual, but for a group it can be a nightmare! Groups can find themselves at the connecting airport, with no escort, and left to find their way around a vast, crowded foreign airport on their own. Then they must go through a long security line after having gone through one before leaving the U.S. Large European airports such as London Heathrow, Paris/CDG, Frankfurt, and Istanbul can be confusing and intimidating to even experienced travelers. That’s why we prefer nonstop flights to Israel on ELAL, American, United or Delta from gateways such as New York/JFK, Newark, Dallas/Fort Worth, Miami, Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, and Toronto. Before COVID, ELAL had added service from San Francisco, and limited schedules from Las Vegas and Orlando. Many flights were necessarily cut back or eliminated and some have still not been reinstated.
“Some tour companies offer really good deals.” The old adage states, “If it sounds too good to be true…It Is!” Prospective tour hosts should be aware of deceptive advertising and “come on” pricing. Some tour companies offer tours on dozens of dates a year and advertise just the “Land Only” price without including the airfare. Admittedly, it is difficult to quote accurate airfares on that many tour dates. However, the deception lies in the fact that these companies do not plainly state that the quoted price is just the “Land Only” price, and if stated somewhere on their website, it is usually not easy to find. We also see advertising which excludes the “carrier-imposed fees” – formerly called the fuel surcharge. This fee has been $600 or $700 for round trip flights to Israel or Greece, but may increase substantially with the current higher fuel prices. So prices stated by some tour companies in their LARGE PRINT are NOT the total prices you will actually pay. Although this type of advertising is classic bait and switch, it is easy to be deceived if you do not read the fine print very carefully.