If you go on a ship's tour of Bethlehem you will be required by the Palestinian/Israeli agreement to be given a shopping opportunity.
You know what this means! Being taken into a large, very commercial outlet with extremely high prices. Once you've had the sales pitch about some wood carving or something else you are free to browse but not to leave the shop. I tried but found the door locked and I was ushered back into the main room.
Some of the other passengers were pressured into buying things.
After about 15 minutes we were permitted to leave and board our coach. Of course, in the parking area there were some boys trying to sell small wooden flutes. I bought three for $5 which brought the wrath of their 'gang master' on the boys! 2 for $5 ---but he was too late because I was on the coach by then with my 3 flutes. Good Christmas presents!
Unique Suggestions: People were not allowed to stay on the coach or wander off so....
Fun Alternatives: There is none!
Please don't think that I'm suggesting that you don't visit here ---I'm not!
We had arrived on a cruise ship (Princess) tour and after parking we walked through the town to the church.
Bethlehem was a shock: a thriving town of concrete rather than some idyllic scene of tranquility!
In the church, we queued for over an hour to reach the grotto where Jesus is reported to have been born. There was a large group of Japanese tourists ahead of us and they enjoyed having individual and group photos taken of themselves down there. Then a Russian group were allowed to overtake us. Our Palestinean guide explained that they had the right of way; I never quite understood that one...
However, my real warning is about the heat generated by so many people in that confined area. There was no water to be had, nowhere to sit down unless you left the queue (which was about five people wide before it went underground) and sat on some staging.
In the end, I felt just too hot and I left my wife to it whilst I sat down. Several others had already done the same.
One other warning: your visit may be curtailed if there is a service about to begin. Our guide said that he didn't always know when there are services, they were rather unannounced he suggested. I was amazed.
Would I go there again? Yes but I'd take my advice.
Unique Suggestions: Take a bottle of water and perhaps a hand-held fan.
Fun Alternatives: There really isn't is there!
I was talked into going to Bethlehem by a taxi driver who promptly brought me to Johnny's Souvenir shop to "purchase" a cross for "blessing" at the church of the nativity. When you go to
Johnny's prepare to be pressured and fleeced. Shame on me that I let them fleece me. Please do not let it happen to you. I suspect the cab driver shared in the "spoils".
Unique Suggestions: Make sure that you buy only what you need and do not let them charge dollars.
Fun Alternatives: Take a authorized tour to Bethlehem and do not go to any souvenir shops in Bethlehem and especially stay away from Johnny's Souvenir shop. Don't go with a cab driver who offers to take you to Bethlehem.
Our tourguide at the Church tried to make everyone feel guilty if you didnt buy something in the shops. They say that after the wars and all of the negative publicity that people are not visiting, so they guilt you into buying stuff. It worked on me, i bought a nativity scene that
cost me $ 100, lol. Its nice and all, but not worth that of course. When i looked at the receipt and looked up the company, they had a location somewhere in Manhattan too, so i bet its big business preying on innocent tourists! So i wouldnt buy anything, dont let them guilt you into it......buy only if you want
Unique Suggestions: dont spend a lot on something that doesnt seem worth it.