Travel Updates

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

Protocols and restrictions for foreign group travel have been a fluid and ever-developing situation. For instance, on August 9, due to the spread of the Delta variant, Israel added back travel restrictions for tourists from the USA and other countries. This temporarily prevented tour groups from entering. We now understand Israel will reopen to groups on either September 19 or October 1. We have groups scheduled to leave for Israel later this fall, and at this point, they are a definite Go! Please continue to check here for new developments and updates.

Travel experiences can be both exceptional and healthy. Expectations are that tourism will be back to a semblance of normal by spring of 2022. When group travel fully resumes, it will do so with enhanced safety and sanitation protocols to ensure a healthy travel experience. The safety and health of our travel guests has always been of utmost importance to us, and as tourism resumes, that will continue on even new levels. We are grateful for the many pastors and tour leaders who trust us to handle their travel events, and we look forward to traveling on amazing journeys once again.
 
Tourism begins. 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 should expect to fill out a Wellness Declaration for their travel company in the US. On many international flights, travelers will be required to show a negative COVID PCR test within 48-72 hours of departure or arrival at a destination. At some destinations, travelers should anticipate another PCR test or a serological (antibodies) test on arrival. Rapid Testing is already available at many airports in the US and other countries making it easier to conform to testing requirements before leaving or returning to the US. At present, Israel requires being fully vaccinated for COVID-19 within 6 months of travel as an entry requirement. 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. Here are a few things you can do to help protect your own well-being and the well-being of your fellow travelers:
  • Bring multiple masks from home to wear when in airports, flying, or other times when necessary.                
  • Hand-washing with soap for at least 20 seconds; use hand sanitizer when washing is not an option.
  • If you feel ill or are experiencing COVID symptoms, please stay at home. If you become ill while traveling, immediately let your guide or an EHT travel coordinator know.
  • When possible, maintain at least 6 feet of distancing between you and others who are not family members.  
To vaccinate or not? Although being vaccinated is presently a requirement for entry to Israel and other countries, some prospective passengers are hesitant or unwilling to receive the vaccine…of course, some have health issues that preclude them being vaccinated. First of all, we believe that everyone has the right to determine whether or not to receive the vaccine. However it appears many we speak to have been influenced by information (or misinformation) and various theories circulating on social media, other internet sources, and by word of mouth. These range from legitimate concerns to “It will give you the Mark of the Beast.” We do not wish to be thought of as pro or anti-vaccine, yet we believe the decisions people make should be made based on widely-accepted facts, common sense, and not on unfounded theories. So we simply encourage potential tour members to consult their physician for the best information and advice. We are aware that a relatively small number of individuals have been adversely affected by the vaccine. However, at this time, nearly 180 million Americans have been fully vaccinated with serious reactions, complications, and deaths appearing to be extremely low.
 
We are opposed to “vaccine passports” and mandates that many consider a government over-reach. Of course, government restrictions, mandates, and protocols as well as the decisions people make regarding the vaccine are beyond our control. We continue to pray for our nation and the world, and that somehow this pandemic will end soon or at least be controlled. Please continue to check this webpage for the latest information as we become aware of it. Click here to track COVID-19 vaccinations around the world.
 
Israel Travel. Israel officially opened to tourism on May 26, and a few small groups were allowed to enter. Due to the Delta variant, on August 9, 2021, Israel added back some temporary quarantine requirements for travelers from the USA and many other countries. Now we understand that Israel will reopen the pilot program for approved groups on either September 19 or October 1. (We have received both dates from the Israel Ministry of Tourism.) Israel will allow an unlimited number of groups to enter but a group must be no more than 30. If conditions allow we expect to see a much improved entrance procedure secured and formally announced within weeks. 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: When the temporary quarantine requirements are 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 these approved countries (US and EU vaccines) will be required to have a PCR test and a serological test upon arrival at Ben Gurion Airport. Following the test, the group will continue normally, either on the bus or to the hotel for self-isolation, until the test results arrive electronically within a few hours.
  3. Before their flight home, tests can be done at the airport before departure or booked by each traveler at an Israeli website: Check2fly.co.il.
  4. The planned outline is for both groups and individual tourists.
    • The PCR tests are paid for by the passengers for a moderate fee.
  5. Please note: The above requirements and changes in protocols is a fluid situation which can change from day to day as authorities continue to react to the Delta variant and other issues. We will do our best to keep our passengers informed with the latest information available. We look forward to Israel opening up again and to answering your questions and group booking requests. Please don’t delay as we are expecting a flood of renewed travel requests for travel to Israel with record numbers of bookings for 2022 and beyond.

As the State of Israel begins welcoming tourists again, your EHT team and our travel partners in Israel are prepared and excited to support 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, including state-of-the-art Aura Air filtration systems on every motor coach. EHT has several groups scheduled for Israel this fall, and many more in 2022. Click here to view our upcoming Israel tours.

 
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.” Check out our Steps of Paul Tours to Greece and the Greek Isles.
 
What is now apparent. The desire to visit Israel, Greece and other biblical and historical destinations has not lessened. We are always available to answer questions regarding present bookings or assist you with making reservations for future tours. Our normal office hours are 10 am to 5 pm Eastern time Monday through Friday, but hours may continue to vary at this time. However you may email us at tours@edhilltours or call us anytime at 800.780.7801. When not in our offices, we consistently check calls and emails and will get back to you 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. Keep your faith strong and don’t stop dreaming of an amazing journey in the not very distant 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.