Travel Resumes

Richard Page & Meredith Hill Page, daughter of founder Ed Hill…veterans of over 200 trips to Israel.

JUST RETURNED FROM ISRAEL! Richard and Meredith Page have just returned after accompanying the first two EHT groups to go to Israel since February 2020. We can report that the procedures for entering Israel and re-entering the U. S. were much easier and simpler than we had imagined they would be. As always, the tours were amazing, all sites could be visited, and nearly everything about touring and Israel itself was normal. Everyone at the hotels, sites, restaurants, and shops were so excited and grateful to see us back. It was great to see guides, staff from our Jerusalem office, and hotel and restaurant personnel we have known…it was often like a family reunion.

Expectations are that tourism will be back in full swing by spring of 2022. We are grateful for the pastors and tour leaders who have trusted us to continue to handle their travel events throughout the rescheduling we’ve faced for the last 20 months. Groups that were scheduled to depart in the spring and fall of 2020 had to be rescheduled…some more than once. But we are excited that they now have what appears to be definite dates for their tours in the spring and fall of 2022 and beyond. We all look forward to traveling on many more amazing journeys very soon.
 
As tourism begins again, there will initially be certain guidelines and protocols in place which will vary somewhat at different destinations. One or more of the following will be required for entry at many destinations: a negative COVID test, vaccinations, or showing antibodies.
 
What you will need to know before traveling. Shortly before departure, travelers will fill out a Wellness Declaration for us. On many international flights, travelers will be required to show a negative COVID PCR test taken within 48-72 hours of departure or arrival at a destination. This is typically done at the airline check-in counter. At some destinations, travelers should anticipate another PCR test or a serological (antibodies) test on arrival. Israel presently requires being fully vaccinated for COVID-19 within 6 months (180 days) of the  traveler’s entry date to Israel. (This had previously been the departure date from Israel.) Other countries such as Greece require either a negative PCR test, having antibodies, or being vaccinated. When required, travelers must carry the official proof of their negative test and vaccination. Many of these protocols may be adjusted or phased out as conditions allow.
 
The vaccination issue. Being fully vaccinated is presently a requirement for entry to Israel and other countries. So at this time, those who cannot or do not wish to be vaccinated will not be able to travel to these countries. We believe everyone has the right to decide whether or not to receive the vaccine. However some individuals appear to be influenced by information/misinformation and theories circulating on social media, by word of mouth, or coming from certain ministers. These range from legitimate concerns to the seemingly irrational. We do not wish to be considered pro or anti-vaccine, but we believe the decisions people make should be made based on widely-accepted facts, common sense, and not on anecdotal stories, theories, or speculation. We simply encourage potential travelers to consult their physicians for the best information and advice. Of course, government restrictions, mandates, and protocols, as well as the decisions people make regarding the vaccine are beyond our control.
 
Israel Travel. Israel initially re-opened to tourism on May 26, and a few small groups were allowed to enter. Then on August 9, 2021, due to the quick spread of the Delta variant, Israel effectively closed itself to tourism again by adding back quarantine requirements for travelers from the USA and many other countries. As of September 19, Israel reopened the pilot tourism program for approved groups. Israel will now allow an unlimited number of groups to enter, but between 5 and 40 in a group. The details described below are “educated assessments” by the Incoming Tour Operators Association in Israel, and are based upon ongoing conversations and negotiations with the relevant authorities.
  1. What we know at this point: With the temporary quarantine requirements now lifted, tourists from approved countries (US and EU vaccines) will be required to complete a health declaration prior to arrival, have a negative PCR test up to 72 hours prior to arrival, and scan a vaccination certificate upon arrival.
  2. Tourists from approved countries will be required to have a PCR test upon arrival at Ben Gurion Airport. We pre-schedule this test, and having now returned to Israel and experienced the process ourselves, we can attest that it goes very quickly and smoothly with only a swab of the outer nose or mouth. Following the test, groups continue normally, either on the bus or to the hotel until the test results arrive electronically within a few hours.
  3. Before their flight home, EHT schedules the PCR test to be done at the group’s hotel within 72 hours of departure. This process is also very brief taking only a few minutes for the entire group.
  4. PCR tests are paid by the passengers for a moderate fee.

As the State of Israel begins welcoming tourists again, your EHT team and our travel partners in Israel look forward to supporting our travel guests. The hotels we use subscribe to the highest levels of cleanliness and sanitation, and our transportation partners utilize the most up-to-date health and safety protocols available.

Greece Travel Update. Greece has begun welcoming tourists again WITHOUT mandatory vaccinations “as long as they EITHER have antibodies, have been vaccinated, or have tested negative for COVID” according to Tourism Minister Harry Theocharis. He recently announced the country’s plan to welcome back travelers beginning on May 15. “Greece is ready with a complete protocol for summer 2021,” Theocharis said. “Tourists will be welcome if before travel they are either vaccinated, have antibodies, or test negative.” However at this time, being fully vaccinated is required to re-enter the U. S. from any nation including even those that did not require vaccinations to enter. You may check out our Steps of Paul Tours to Greece by Clicking here.
 
What is now apparent. The desire to visit Israel, Greece and other biblical and historical destinations has not lessened. We are available to answer questions regarding present bookings or assist you with making reservations for future tours. We are not a 24/7 business and normal office hours are 10 am to 5 pm Eastern time Monday through Friday. However hours may continue to vary at this time. You may email us at tours@edhilltours or call 800.780.7801 to leave a message. When not in our offices, we consistently check calls and emails and answer all messages promptly.
 
Ed Hill Tours has been making travel dreams come true for Christian travelers since 1962…to Israel, Jordan, Greece, Italy, and various locations in Europe. Through the years, we have gone through many other “storms”… wars, terrorism, economic downturns, and other health crises. Although COVID-19 has been a challenge unlike any other, we believe the expertise we have gained through other crises, has informed our response to this one. Ed Hill Tours remains dedicated to the care and safety of those who trust us to operate their travel events, and we will continue to do so with honesty, professionalism, and fairness. Don’t stop dreaming of an amazing journey in the near future.
 
 
 
 

Debunking Israel Travel Myths and misconceptions / “Knowledge is Power”

“Israel is a dangerous place to visit” Since it’s inception as a nation, 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. Although we do, on many occasions, visit Palestinian towns such as Jericho and Bethlehem, our travel itineraries never go into an area of possible danger, including anywhere in or near Gaza.

“It is expensive to visit Israel.” Travel costs to almost any destination seem to become more expensive every year, and some destinations such as London, Paris and Tokyo are 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 consistently recognized as Israel’s largest incoming tour operator. 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 possible 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.

“Why do some tour companies include free lunches?” The old quote “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, in effect, 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 say they offer free lunches and tour members don’t realize they have already paid for these “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 the “free water” on the bus some companies advertise…an amount was already added into the tour cost. Tour hosts seldom ask EHT to include lunches, but we can do so if asked. We will simply add a fair amount to the cost of the tour as a separate item, and will not call it “free.”. 

“All airlines are basically the same.” Not exactly! Airline travel in general is certainly not “glamorous” or in many ways 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 have used charter flights which typically fly older planes, offer even less service, and often have long waits at connecting airports…not a good experience! Some tour companies use flights on an airline that connects in Europe. This is usually not a problem 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, only to find it necessary to go through a long security line again after having gone through one before leaving the U.S. Large European airports such as London, Paris, Frankfurt, and Istanbul can be confusing and intimidating to even experienced travelers. That’s why we prefer nonstop flights to Israel on ELAL, American, or United from international gateways such as New York’s JFK, Newark, Dallas/Fort Worth, Miami, Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, and Toronto. ELAL recently added service from San Francisco, and offers limited schedules from Las Vegas and Orlando. Note: Due to COVID-19, some airlines are currently operating less flights, or have temporarily eliminated some routes.

“Some tour companies offer really good deals.” There is an old adage, “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 often advertise just the “Land Only” price without including the airfare. Admittedly, it would be difficult to quote accurate airfares on that many tour dates, however, the deception lies in the fact that these companies rarely state that the price they’re quoting is just the Land Only price. Good luck finding that information somewhere on their website. We also see advertising which excludes the “carrier-imposed fees” – formerly the fuel surcharge. This fee can easily amount to $600 or $700 for round trip flights to Greece or Israel. So the 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.