Tips for travellers to the Holy Land (Jerusalem etc) from Kerala
The tips given here are based on my very limited experience of visiting the Holy Land for only one time. I am writing these tips for people like me who has not made any international travel before. (based on our travel in May 2008)
1. In all the destinations (Amman - Jordan, Nazareth, Bethlehem, Jerusalem, Cairo) we will be dining in multi cuisine restaurants meant for people from all the continents, since these are tourist destinations for people from all over the world. (Hence there is no question of expecting our traditional dishes.) One basic problem travellers from Kerala find is most of the dishes are not at all spicy. I suggest you take with you pickles. Remember, you may not be allowed to keep it in your hand luggage in plane. So keep it well packed with tape around the lid and keep in your suitcase. When you go for dining you can keep it in your carry bag.
2. Most tour operators offer packages with buffet breakfast and dinner. I could observe many of our people taking all the dishes from the buffet table (as if to compensate for lunch) and finally wasting a lot of food. As I told you these are multi cuisine restaurants catering to multi cultural population. The restaurants arrange an array of dishes so that some dish will meet the requirement of some one. I suggest the tour operators give some sort of training on this.
3. Another area where the tour operators can help is on the combinations. Many of the dishes need mixing of sauces or some other dish to get the real flavour. Many travellers may be unfamiliar with this.
4. Restaurants expect different group of travellers to come at different time. So it is usual that they reserve certain area in the restaurant for your group. Please do respect such divisions unless they are glossily insufficient. Best solution to sit with your friends is to come early to the dining area.
5. For those who are vegetarian (like Rosy) or those who opt to be one on travel (like me), it is not good news. Often we had to confine ourselves with salad and leaves.
6. Since we are all in the habit of having lunch, many tour operators take extra amount to arrange for (what may be called) lunch. Mostly such lunch will be burger, sandwich etc. Be prepared for that.
7. Many of us may feel hungry during the day time travel. We had taken nuts and dates with us which were of great use during day travel.
1. Our tour operators had informed that unlike in our country, water is not served free with water in most of the countries. So they had asked us to take water with us. But our water bottles resulted in over weight for our luggage and had to remove them at Kochi Airport. What I suggest is water is expensive, but it is not unaffordable if you buy it from parlours of tourist spot rather than from restaurants. At Egypt we had to pay $ 4 for a bottle of Aquafina at the boat restaurant, but got two and a half litters of the same from a shop opposite to our hotel for $ 1. (Of course we had not seen Slum Dog Millionaire at that time). A little bit of caution should solve the problem.
1. Most places accept dollar. But most give change in local currency, which is of no use in another country. So better keep your dollar in denominations of 1, 5,10 etc. We could do this at Sharjah airport.
2. Credit card purchase is expensive.
3. If you intend to buy anything from duty free shop at Kochi, reserve dollar for the same.
1. One typical difficulty we had was we could not find public call booths where we wanted or when we had time to call during day time there. (The worst experience was at Sharjah airport where there were a couple of card phone on the day of our arrival, but they were not seen on the day of our departure.) So better make a call whenever you can rather than waiting for the best time.
2. Phone call rates and modalities are different in different regions and countries. In Jerusalem for instance it is cheaper to call from your room than to call using a calling card. Better consult your tour operators.
3. BE CAUTIOUS IN EGYPT. They charge for unanswered calls. The meter starts metering after a couple of bells at the destination.
1. Do read a good travelogue to the Holy Land before you start. Or visit websites related to the spots you visit. This will help you to enjoy and learn better.
2. Sit in the front of the bus or ask your guide to speak loudly.
3. Though your trip starts from Jordan, you will have to cross over to the border on the second day. The border crossing could turn out to disturbing and even humiliating.
4. At border crossings there are duty free shops from where you can buy articles at a relatively low price. Though we did not buy, many of our co travellers bought articles including liquor. At all such shops including Cochin duty free you have to pay in dollar.
5. Shopping at the main shopping centres is really expensive.
6. If you are interested in photography, the good news is unlike in our country photography is permitted and is free in most places. Walk in front of your group so that you can get photos without too many people.
7. Keep your travel documents (passport, visa) safely. Some recommend carrying the travel documents with you in a waist valet. Some recommend keeping it safe in your hotel room. But considering the fact we had theft in our hotel room confuses me. Consult your guide.
Last but not the least, do ask your guide for clarifications. Too much familiarity may make them forget some basic facts, like our guide forgot to tell about the phone metering problem in Egypt.
This is incomplete. I shall add some more. You are also welcome to contribute / comment.