The best way to see Israel is with an expert tour guide. But with thousands of guides to choose from, it’s hard to know who to choose. These simple tips will help ensure you choose the best guide for you.
Guiding in Israel is not just a job, it’s a real vocation. All official guides in Israel have undergone a long and rigorous training program (two years and many exams) and they continue their education even after they are qualified.
This means your guide will have the requisite knowledge – and passion – to transform your trip. So double check that your guide is qualified before you agree to tour with them. A registered guide will be happy to show you a copy of the license.
Many guides are great generalists and you’ll have a great time if you tour with them. If you are looking for something more specific or off the beaten track, however, find a guide who specializes in what you need.
Want to tour wineries and breweries? Look for a guide with a passion for viticulture or brewing. Interested in hiking rather than cities? Choose a guide who knows the best treks and nature spots. Traveling with kids?
Make sure you find one who knows how to keep little ones engaged and entertained.
You should also think about your guide’s native language.
Most Israeli guides have excellent English, but perhaps you prefer a native English speaker, or perhaps you want to spend time with a “sabra” (someone born in Israel).
Remember, there are guides who are originally from all parts of the world living in Israel. This means, if you speak a less common language, we’re sure you’ll be able to find a guide who speaks your native tongue.
If you opt for a guide with a vehicle, make sure it is the right one for you. Ask about how many seats it has and check it is properly insured. If you have a guide with a car and you are spending at least a day walking around Jerusalem, ask if you still have to pay extra for the privilege of a vehicle.
Also, remember that not all guides are licensed to drive tourists (so called "Eshkol Van"), so make sure you only travel with one who is properly certified.
Before hiring your guide, ask for a detailed, written plan of what they intend to do over the course of your day or days touring.
Remember, you are not beholden to their initial plan. Add in or remove sites that interest you. It’s your tour, not the guide’s. Ask the guide to include their pricing in the plan so you know what the tour fee will cover and what extras you will have to pay for. This might include museum entrance, meals or accommodation for the guide.
Make sure you ask about the payment schedule– from an initial deposit down to the final payment at the end of the trip. Check how they want to receive it. If it’s cash, make sure you have enough money on you at the end of your tour to avoid having to look for an ATM.
Guiding is a tough job, and most guides are as tough as they come, but anyone can get sick. Ask your guide about their backup cover in case they have to cancel. Do they have another guide they work with in that case? Do they offer a refund of your deposit in case they have to cancel the tour?
In the same way, make sure you discuss what happens in case you have to cancel your tour for any reason.
Most guides have some online presence. Before making your final decision, do some research online.
Read the reviews and see what other people have to say about your guide. Ask the guide if you can speak to other clients so you can hear what others have to say in person.
Ask on travel websites or look them up on sites such as ibookisrael to make sure you choose the perfect guide for you. Words: Danielle Max