Holy Land Tour Planning Frequently Asked Questions
Once a request for a tour or tour quote is received by Immanuel Tours, it is assigned to a Tour Operator, who’s responsibilities include working with you to provide you with the best suitable Israel tour itinerary to meet your group’s expectations. They will also provide you with a selection of hotels at the standard you expect and provide you with a detailed quote, which will include everything on the itinerary.
The tour operator will continue working with you throughout the tour planning stages, providing you with information and answers, organizing special visits, local contact or special needs for your group.
On arrival at Ben Gurion Airport in Israel, your tour operator will welcome you and introduce you to your guide and driver and answer any of your questions or concerns, if any will meet you. They will remain in contact with you throughout the tour; ensuring that everything runs smoothly, managing hotel check-ins and any special arrangements made.
If anything goes wrong, such as a tour participant falling ill or needing to return home due to an emergency, your tour operator will assist with providing the help needed, leaving you with the peace of mind to continue leading your group.
You will get to know your tour operator well and consider them a friend by the end of your journey as they attend your farewell dinner. Our tour operators’ jobs are very challenging, however they are also highly rewarding!
The Internet has revolutionized many industries and the way we buy and obtain certain products or services. In many ways, it has provided an opportunity to buy the same product for sometimes much less, but this is not suitable for everyone and puts more responsibility on the buyer!
When planning a tour to Israel you need to choose between arranging the tour and booking it though a local travel agent, or booking it directly with an Israeli tour operator. There are multiple things to consider:
Using a local Travel Agent:
- It’s a local relationship, so you know who you’re talking to.
- The agent will do the shopping for an Israel tour.
- In most cases, the agent will handle all or most of the logistics such as printing brochures, provide an on-line registration form, collect the payments from my participants directly, sell travel insurance, follow up with participants, provide air tickets and sometimes more…or less.
Booking directly with an Israeli Tour Operator:
- You will mainly communicate by e-mail with the possibility of phone communication daily considering the time difference. Our tour operators will make phone contact with you.
- You will work with the tour operator directly to get the tour customized to your needs and satisfaction. You will also receive your detailed quotation based on the hotel grade you chose and other trip choices you made.
- We do not offer flight tickets and upon request can connect you with a local partner in your area with whom we cooperate and who can offer you both air travel and insurance.
Like with most purchases, it is good to compare and shop around. The problem is that unlike a home appliance which you can compare model to same model, a tour is very different and sometimes difficult to pick up the differences or discrepancies. Most quotations will be detailed, but sometimes too many details make it difficult to pick-up on the hidden traps.
The three main areas you need to observe are:
- What hotels are being offered? Do not follow the grade or level (stars) described by the agent. Do some research, read reviews on sites like Expedia and Tripadvisor, and if you know someone who has been in Israel before, ask for their thoughts. At Immanuel Tours, we select the hotels in your quotation carefully and can provide you with detailed information on why we selected this hotel based on your wishes and/or budget. Hotel choices will make a major impact on the quote you receive.
- What entrance fees are actually included in the quote? Some quotes you receive may appear like they are a bargain, charging less for what seems like the same itineraries, however you may not be getting the same experience. For example, a visit to Caesarea should include entrance fees to Caesarea National Park. Some tours will include Caesarea on the itinerary, but the stop will actually be by the Caesarea aqueduct, which is outside of the park and excludes the entire experience of the real site and costs nothing! All Immanuel Tours itineraries and quotes include full admission costs to every location listed in the itinerary. We will never surprise you with extra costs and never provide you with less than the full experience!
- Check the itinerary for “free days” or half days. How many full days of transportation and guides are included? Free days mean less expense for the tour operator and more expense not included in the quote for tour participants.
There are of course other things to look for like, “Does my visit to “Abrahams tent” include a camel ride? Will my bathing experience in the Dead Sea include towels? Will each group member receive a wireless headset to be able to hear the guide? What size bus will my group have?”
Make sure you read and fully understand every quote you receive. You should not be asked to add any extra expense while on tour. This tactic used to underbid quotes is frustrating and can be embarrassing to you as a tour leader when you have to ask participants for money on the tour.
Some agents may include different site names in their quotation but do not include an actual visit to the site itself.
For example, a visit to Caesarea should include entrance fees to Caesarea National Park. Some tours will include Caesarea on the itinerary, but the stop will actually be by the Caesarea aqueduct, which is outside of the park and excludes the entire experience of the real site and costs nothing!
Another example is when the itinerary includes the term “drive by”. The itinerary will say it includes Megiddo, for example, but in reality they will simply stop by the side of the road or just slow down long enough for the guide to mention the site as you try to get a picture of it from a distance. Sad, but it happens.
All Immanuel Tours itineraries and quotes include full admission costs to every location listed in the itinerary. We will never surprise you with extra costs and never provide you with less than the full experience!
Ask for a detailed list of entrance and if in doubt – ask.
A typical tour package will include breakfast and dinner, both served at the hotel your group is currently checked-in to. If a group should arrive in Israel in the afternoon, the meal arrangement will begin with dinner at the first hotel the group is staying at. Sometimes, dinner on the day of departure may be served at a restaurant rather than the hotel as it may be at the end of a touring day and en-route to the airport.
Farewell dinners are generally held in restaurants, special locations, or a special dining area in the hotel.
For your reference while comparing quotes:
B/B = Bed and Breakfast, only breakfast is included.
H/B = Half Board, breakfast and dinner are included!
F/B = Full board, you’re getting it all! Breakfast, lunch and dinner are included.
For a minimal amount of money, travel insurance is a must. Travel insurance can be purchased for a minimal amount of your travel investment, and can cover the following:
- Hospital and doctor needs. Many seasoned travelers don’t realize that their health insurance may not be valid outside of their home country.
- Cancelled trip coverage. If you need to cancel your trip due to an unforeseen emergency or serious illness, most of your trip may be non-refundable. This can help you save thousands of dollars.
- Travel insurance also covers lost baggage, and worldwide emergency assistance coverage.
The payment terms may vary depending on how far in advance the booking or the confirmation is made, or the season (peak, regular or low) the group will arrive. In any case, the terms follow the same schedule of:
- Deposit. At this stage we confirm the entire arrangement and provide you with final confirmation of number of rooms held for your group in particular hotels.
- Down payment. This happens 60 days prior to arrival and includes payment of up to 50% of the total cost of package.
- Full payment. Full payment is due 30 days prior to arrival.
Your money is always safe with Immanuel Tours! We keep detailed record of all money received as well as all money paid out so you understand exactly where your money is going.
It is customary to tip the following persons: Tour Guide, Bus Driver and Hotel Staff (covering Front Desk, Dining room staff, Housekeepers and Bell Boys).
We are happy to provide you with customary tip rate suggestions upon request.
Your tour guide and bus driver begin their day’s work after breakfast and spend the day with the group as per the detailed itinerary. In many cases, they too spend the night at the same hotel with the group and will join you for dinner. They may choose to not do this every night if they live close by and wish to return home and see their families.
The farewell dinner is a great opportunity for the entire group along with the guide, bus driver and your tour operator to get together for a special meal during which the tour leader (Pastor or other) can address the group and reflect upon the tour. It is also customary that the guide, driver and the tour operator say a few words before tour participants get a chance to share their favorite moments of the tour. This is a memorable evening, and we at Immanuel Tours try to make it a special one with attention to detail, and selection of a suitable venue. Ask your tour operator for suggested locations.
The tour buses you may expect to find in Israel are mostly the latest generation of luxury touring buses, all of which are air-conditioned and many of which are equipped with free Wi-Fi. There are three basic bus sizes available:
Full size bus – 53 or 55 seats
Midi size bus – 42 Seats
Mini bus – 18 Seats
Please confirm with your Immanuel Tours tour operator what is the best bus size for your group. Be sure to not only consider the people in the bus, but the luggage below it! It is not unheard of for some tour companies to not consider this and end up having to bring in an additional truck to transport the luggage from hotel to hotel, and adding these additional charges to you while on the trip.
In an unfortunate event of a participant falling ill or having an accident, Immanuel Tours staff will provide you with the necessary help and coordination and in needed cases, the amendment of flights to return the participant home. It is of course important to ensure all tour participants have the adequate travel insurance.
Throughout our fifty years of service, we have handled groups of all sizes and from all corners of the world, ranging from groups as small at 10 people to groups in the thousands.
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