Getting to Bethlehem... the cheap way
Getting to Bethlehem from Jerusalem on your own is not as hard as it sounds. You will first have to take a bus--less than $1--which leaves from the station just east of the Damascus Gate. This bus will take you to the controversial wall which the Israelis have built to separate themselves from Palestine. You will have to flash your passport and then after taking a few steps you will officially be in Palestinian territory. Taxis will be waiting and they will all be eager to drive a tourist to the Church of Nativity. If you negotiate hard, the number of taxi drivers will work to your advantage.
Be sure to tell them where you want to go and how long you want the driver to wait there. You will likely pay between $10 and $15 for a driver to take you the Church of Nativity, wait for you there and then take you back. The driver will more than likely take you to one of his friend's shops where they sell olive wood crosses and other gifts. If you do want to shop, then this is no problem.
On your way back to the wall, make sure you have the exact amount you agreed to pay the driver. I thought my driver would try to pull a fast one, asking for more money, and that is exactly what happened. If you don't have the exact amount and there is a disagreement over price, you will be hard pressed to get change from your driver.
The wait to get through the wall will take longer going into Israel then leaving it as the workers there scrutinize every document from the Palestinians. (Palestinians have to have their hand digitally scanned and all their documents must be in order.) Try to avoid travelling to Bethlehem during heavy traffic times when people are coming and going to work.
Once through, wait for the bus to take you back to Jerusalem. The whole trip will not take more than four hours and cost about $20 for two people.
To Jerusalem from Jordan
You can go from Amman or Madaba, it's about the same time, distance and cost.
Taxi: Madaba - King Hussein Bridge (50 mins - 15JD)
Taxi: King Hussein Bridge - Border Crossing (5 mins - 1-2JD)
Jordan Crossing: approximately 1 hour
Bus: Jordan border - Israel Border 2.50JD
Israel Crossing: approximately 2 hours on a good day
Sherut: Israeli border - Jerusalem 28JD Shared Taxi (30mins - 4 hours)
For a much more detailed breakdown of the journey, check my travelogue (linked).
Circular route around the city aboard an opened-top, double-decker bus.
Explanations during the route in 8 languages in addition to Hebrew:
Arabic, English, French, Spanish, Italian, German, Spanish and Russian
through personal earphones,
introducing travelers to over 85 important sites throughout the city.
During the tour, visitors may step off at any of the 25 stops,
walk around and wait for the next bus to pick them up to continue the tour.
Tickets: 2-hour pass NIS 45, children – NIS 36;
Daily pass: NIS 65, children- 56 NIS
Ways to Jerusalem
From the west:
Highway 1: Latrun-Shaar Hagai-Shoresh-Motza-Ginot Sacharov-Jerusalem
Highway 386: Shimshon Junction-Nachshon Junction-Bet Shemesh-Ein Kerem
Highway 1: Castel-Beit Zait-Har Nof
From the north:
Highway 443: Nebi Samuel-Givat Ze'ev-Ramot
Highway 443: Begin Expressway
Highway 60: Ramallah-Eljeeb-Atarot-Neve Ya'akov
Highway: Bet El-Ofra-Chizme-Checkpoint-Adam-Pisgat Ze'ev
From the East:
A' Zayim - French Hill Junction
Highway 8: Ma'ale Adumim-Mount Scopus tunnels
From the South:
Highway 60: Gush Etzion -Tunnel Road-Gilo
Highway 2: Bethlehem-Gilo
Use of an Israeli road map is highly recommended. One can be obtained free of charge from any office of tourism or can be purchased at most local bookstores
Train to Jerusalem
It is now again possible to travel by train from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. End station is Malha, close to the big shopping mall and Teddy Stadium on the outskirts of Jerusalem. The trip takes about 1,5 hour; a sherut or bus is definitely faster but the view from the train is very nice and worth the trip.
Warning: on my way back to Tel Aviv the trip lasted 2,5 hours, when we just left Jerusalem, we had to wait for almost an hour until the train from Tel Aviv arrived; most part of the railtrack consists of only one rail.
A taxi from Malha station to Jaffa Road costed me 40 NIS.Related to:
- Budget Travel
From Amman to Jerusalem
There are no direct buses between Amman and Jerusalem. From Amman you take a service taxi or a bus from Abdali station. As I arrived to Abdali station by taxi (400 files) a bus was just leaving. The bus took an hour to the border at King Hussein Bridge and I paid 2 JD. I saw someone pay less but they said I was going to another gate (but it was not far away). It seems like all foreign people, or none arabs, leave from another gate (and also arrives to another gate at the Israeli side). After getting a stamp in the passport I was shown to sit down outside to wait for a bus together with many others. After an hour a bus came and for 3 JD it took us all way over the bridge to the building of the Israeli passport control.
For some people it was fast at the passport control and they got the stamp after a few questions. But I, and some others, who had a Syrian visa and stamp from Lebanon had to answer many questiona and then wait. After 1,5 hours I finally got the stamp in my passport (you can get it on a paper if you ask) and could continue.
It was sabbath (Saturday) and therefore no buses were running, but there are service taxis (sheruts). The service taxi to Jerusalem was 30 shekels and it took about one hour.Related to:
- Road Trip
- Budget Travel
If walking is too tiring, then locals can provide the ubiquitous ‘ship of the desert’ - the camel. Also fascinating to watch is the tourist interaction with the locals. Local Arab boys beat the animals, as a matter of course. Visiting tourists are infuriated and escoriate the boys whom have no idea what the fuss is all about. After all, that kind of treatment is deeper inlaid than most tourists wish to acknowledge or observe.Related to:
- Historical Travel
The route to Yerushalayim is very scenic. You can see a pine trees forests, as well as barren hills. The entry unto the City is usually slowed down due to the traffic, a good reason to look at the Judean desert or the Cemeteries, or the Olive Tree Hill, depending which way are you coming from. The way goes up towards the City, and it is in fact a narrow two lane road, so you can enjoy the virtuosity of the Israeli drivers.
Going to Jerusalem with a tourist bus is a good idea - you can learn a lot about the history of the City, and its surroundings. If you want to sense its present and its future - hitch-hike.
The magic words for the latter are "Ani tzarih Yerushalayim") (singular, male), or "Ani tzriha Y....." (singular female), or "Anahnu tzrihim Y..." (plural for men or mixed party), or "Anahnu tzrihot Y..." (plural for women only).
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