There are various ways you can tour Israel. You can do it entirely on your own or in a structured and guided environment. Some prefer a large multi-day group bus tour, while others prefer the intimacy and flexibility of hiring their own private guide. Here are some advantages in choosing the latter.
Maximizing limited time – Considering its tiny size, there is a vast amount to see and experience in Israel. The time you have available for touring is always a limiting factor. By working with a tour guide, you’ll find that you can see so much more than when trying to figure it all out on your own. And the time you spend at each site will be of far higher quality with a professionally guided experience.
Crafting the most sensible day for touring – A good tour guide will know how to structure each and every day of touring to make sure you’re in the right places at the right time of day. For instance, a typical Christian walking tour in and around Jerusalem’s Old City should start with a morning panoramic view from the Mount of Olives (when the sun is in the right location to optimize those fabulous photos you’ll want to capture). Your tour guide will know just when to get you to the Pools of Bethesda before the site closes for siesta and will know where it makes sense to stop for lunch along the Via Dolorosa.
Planning an itinerary that integrates guided experiences with days of independent exploration – Not all visitors to Israel are interested in working with a guide for the entire duration of their visit. Sometimes budgetary constraints influence visitors to explore certain places on their own, while using a guide for other sites. A well-trained licensed tour guide can help you with itinerary planning for those days you’ll be on your own. He/she can make recommendations as to where you’ll receive the most benefit from a professionally guided experience versus which places you can effectively explore independently.
Bridging a cultural gap – Selecting a guide with a good command of the English language and with an accent you can understand is important. But is that good enough? Though your guide may have a good handle on English, does he/she understand the culture from which you come? There are many licensed guides in Israel who were born and raised in North America in environments similar to yours. They understand how you think and can put themselves into your shoes while you’re experiencing Israel. A bi-cultural guide can help you effectively understand the cultural differences between your world and the world you will encounter in Israel.
Handing off the logistics headache – Many sites in Israel require you to make advance reservations. Churches often having split opening hours. Sometimes something as mundane as lunch can become a challenge to integrate into a day of touring. By working with a tour guide, you’ll leave the logistics headache to a professional and free yourself to enjoy and absorb all Israel has to offer you.
Leaving the driving to a local – Driving in Israel, especially in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, is not for the faint of heart. Parking can be a considerable challenge in the major cities. Just the thought of driving in Nazareth leads many a Christian pilgrim right into the arms of a professional driving guide or guide with a dedicated driver.
Engaging children – Touring Israel as a family can be a particularly rewarding experience. But keeping the attention of young children or teens can be a challenge. A tour guide with experience in guiding families will know how to include kid-friendly activities in each and every day of your Israel program. Your children stand to gain the most from a guided experience they’ll never forget.
Setting a reasonable pace for those with mobility challenges – Touring in Israel, especially in and around the Old City of Jerusalem, requires a considerable amount of walking. Those with mobility challenges may find it impossible to keep up with the pace of a group tour. By hiring your own private guide, you’ll tour at a pace that’s slow enough for all in your group to enjoy. And if the walking challenge is too difficult, your guide will suggest a way to make the most of your days while keeping the physical challenges to a minimum.
Tailoring the tour to your own specific interests – A visit to Israel is not like touring in London, Paris or Berlin. The religious heritage and specific interests of visitors will always influence their Israel itinerary. A Jewish heritage program will look quite different from a Roman Catholic pilgrimage. And an evangelical Protestant itinerary will differ from either of the two. Share your background and interests with your private guide and he/she will come up with a program that’s geared specifically for you.
Enhancing the experience by making history and the Bible “come to life” – There is nowhere on earth where the Scriptures ‘come to life’ like Israel. Add to that thousands of years of human history and a multitude of cultures and civilizations. Making sense of it all is one of the biggest advantages in working with a professional tour guide. A good guide will tie together sites such as Old Jaffa, Caesarea and Mount Zion in exploring the birth of the Gentile Christian Church. A mound of rocks in Capernaum will come to life when your guide shares with you the significance of the historical house of Peter. The site of the crucifixion, burial and resurrection of Jesus is often particularly challenging for Protestants to grasp. An expert guide will help you make sense of some pretty intense places.