That is truly a great question. Many, arriving in Israel, think that they can save some money (why not, right?) and rent a car at the airport and drive themselves everywhere. While they are right and that can be done, you probably shouldn’t. The money you’ll save will be spent on the time you waste this way and stress you experience.
Israelis are considered some of the toughest drivers in the world. So why bother? Better to invest a bit more into your vacation and hit the road without the worry of finding your way, accommodation, or highlights along the way, to truly focus on the experience and enjoy the moment.
However, should you get a driving guide or a guide and a driver? That is a complicated question. Assuming you’ve read my previous blog – Hire the best guide when visiting Israel if you want to be amazed – it should be obvious to you why I am assuming you have chosen to hire a guide. Do you hire a driving guide? A guide and a driver? That is a different question.
Well, there are 2 key factors one must consider: The size of your group and its participants, the funds you can or are willing to invest into this experience. The fact is that hiring a driving guide instead of just a guide and a rental car will probably cost you almost the same. It will free you up from the stress of driving, navigating, loading and unloading the vehicle, parking etc. That is money well spent and some may say that not doing so would be a mistake. However, should you be satisfied with a driving guide or should you invest in a guide and a driver? A driving guide would usually drive a luxurious, comfortable, new vehicle that can hold up to 6 adults in comfort (sometimes 8). If your group is about that size it seems like this question is resolved right? Why spend more money if this works? Read to the end and make your decision after that, is all I’ll say right now.
A driver can drive any size of a vehicle: a 10 seater, a minibus (16-20 seater) or even a full bus (55 seater). Which do you need? If your group is more than 8 people, you have to get a driver. If not, should you? There is no doubt this will cost you more. Between the added expense of the driver, his/her accommodations, meals, tip etc. this will no doubt end up at a higher expense.
If your group is 8 or less, is there even a question? Here are a few thoughts:
When one parks a vehicle in one spot, you will always have to get back to it when you’re done at the site. If any in your group has issues walking (physical issues, age, etc.), that may be a reason to consider a driver and guide. Your guide will call the driver and you can be picked up from where you are instead of walking back to the car. Sometimes you don’t end up where you started and it could be a long distance.
The car does not start itself and the A.C. is off. Believe me, Israel can get VERY hot at times. When you have a driver and guide, your guide will call the driver ahead of time and let him/her know when to expect you. There is nothing better than getting into an ice-cold car at the heat of summer, especially at the Dead Sea.
What do you do if someone from your group decides to stay back for a few hours because they have already seen it, are tired, or whatever other reason may be. It becomes a huge hassle when they want to rejoin you 3 hours later. With a driver and guide you can tour with your guide while the driver goes back to get them and communicates with your guide exactly where to meet up. Hassle free.
Israeli roads aren’t difficult, but it sometimes may be challenging. You may want your guide to focus on the guiding instead of the GPS, other drivers, parking etc. This way you can have a relaxed conversation about local culture or history with your guide while enjoying his full attention.
The drivers stay with the car. That means that you can leave things in it without worrying about it being broken into and items going missing. That is especially important on the first and last days when all your luggage and passports are there. It is also helpful during regular days when you can just head out of the vehicle carrying your camera and a water bottle trusting that your laptop will be safe until your return.
All tourism vehicles have a fridge for water but the larger the vehicle, the larger the fridge and the colder the water in it. That in its own is no reason to spend so much added money but it is a perk if you’re already doing it.
More room is nice. With a larger vehicle you don’t have to sit tightly against one another and having some additional space may be very pleasant. Especially now, with Covid-19, some additional physical space sounds nice and comfortable, in more ways than one.
So, what should you do? Get a driving guide or a driver and guide? That’s for you to figure out. At least now you know why you may want to consider the options and not automatically say no. Most come to Israel once, some come more. If this is an important visit, you may want to consider spending a bit more and getting a lot more in return ☺