Too Good to be True Rental Phones

Discipleship Travel LLC is happy to announce a new partnership with TalknSave to provide our travelers with mobile phone service in Israel.

Below is a blog post that details our personal experience with TalknSave. It was published May 25, 2012 on Craig Dunning’s personal blog and clearly illustrates why Discipleship Travel LLC decided to partner with TalknSave.

Too Good to be True Rental Phones

Shortly before my recent trip to Israel, I was made aware of TalknSave, a company that rents phones to tourists for an unbelievable [to me] price of $5 per day. That $5 per day provides unlimited calls to/from phones in Israel, Canada and the United States.

Having lived as long as I did in Israel, I was skeptical of the offer as being too good to be true. However, rather than dismiss it altogether, I contacted the company and started an interesting “you gotta prove it” relationship with Elie Mamann, the company rep.

I explained my reluctance, which was based on typical Israeli marketing of large promises followed by zero customer service. Eli had heard the same reluctance by others, and he confided that he, too, was skeptical before he began working with this company. He assured me that the service was everything promised or he would not work there. Of course, that sounds like all the other “trust me” sales pitches I have heard in Israel. However, he said one thing that gave me enough confidence to give it a try: “I’m from North America, so I know what you have in mind regarding customer service.”

He convinced me, … sorta. I’m afraid I’ll be eternally skeptical of salesmen from that region. But, I told Elie that I would give him a try … and if the service is all he’s made it out to be, I promised to be his biggest supporter. On the other hand, if the service was fluff, I would be a megaphone warning others to stay away.

The result of our group’s use of TalknSave was total satisfaction. Elie provided all the personal service he promised, including meeting the group at the airport to deliver the phones at the bus. They also provide pre-paid mailer envelopes and a drop box at the airport for ease of return on the way out of the country.

We had 15-18 people rent the phones (a few different plans), and all were completely satisfied. We also had a few bring their home plans for various reasons. Some were happy with the home plan decision, even though they likely paid more. Those that brought Verizon service were sorely disappointed. Verizon agents may tell you that they provide service in Israel, but members of my group (and a previous one, too) found out that isn’t true.

I know that some will wonder, “what’s the use/need of having a mobile phone while touring Israel?” Here are some of the benefits:

  1. A growing number of tourists are on vacation, but still managing things back at the office because of the instant contact culture (calling, texting, surfing) that we are moving toward. These phones offer unlimited, instant contact at a very low price.
  2. Most tourists’ families are unaware that when they hear news of rockets coming into Israel, those rockets aren’t landing in every location. These phones offer unlimited calls that might be helpful in assuring folks back home that things are okay.
  3. In the case that something serious – like war, or the Arab Spring, or hospitalization – happens, these phones are an inexpensive way to be in touch with people back home. That might be helpful for the tourist and their families.
  4. As the group leader, my phone gave me an inexpensive way to be in touch with the guide, driver, and other people I needed to reach.
  5. Tourists aren’t always where they are supposed to be. Those that had phones were easily located.

Be aware that there are different plans available, including data and text plans. For those that want to take their own “Smart Phone,” a SIM card is available in this plan.

If this recommendation interests you at all, whether you are a single or group traveler, please click on the banner below to see the options and sign up.

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Heavy Rains Now – Snow on the Way

Israel has been blessed with an unusually wet winter already, and severe rain has been experienced all over the country since Saturday. However, the rain is expected to turn to snow beginning as early as Wednesday PM. That means you may see scenes like these:

mt hermon snow

Mt. Hermon covered in snow. Photo courtesy of BiblePlaces.com

One of the most common questions asked about the climate/weather in Israel is, “Does it ever snow?” Many are surprised to hear that it does actually snow in Israel, and that Israel has a ski area in the Golan Heights on Mt. Hermon, which is on the northern border that is shared with Lebanon and Syria. By the way, there is a clue in the Bible that Israel gets snow: Isaiah 1:18, “Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be made whiter than snow.”

You can find out more about this ski area, listed by Popular Mechanics as one of “The World’s 18 Strangest Ski Resorts,” at the Ski Hermon website.

Mt. of Olives cemetery with snow. Photo courtesy of BiblePlaces.com

Mt. of Olives cemetery with snow. Photo courtesy of BiblePlaces.com

Every other year or so, the higher elevations of the country also get snow, sometimes pretty heavy snows.

In this photo, the cemetery on the Mt of Olives has a nice blanket of snow. In the distance, you can see the Temple Mount in the Old City of Jerusalem.

If you are interested to know more about the weather in Israel, you can see The Weather Channel’s 10-day forecast here.

All of the precipitation is good news. Not only does it mean stunningly beautiful touring in the late winter and spring, it also replenishes the Sea of Galilee, which has reached dangerously low water levels.

What is included in the price?

Many people ask, “What is included in the price of the tour?” This is a great question because many companies have hidden costs that surprise passengers after it’s too late.

Discipleship Travel LLC offers an “all-inclusive” package. And by that we mean “ALL INCLUSIVE,” which includes:
1. Round trip coach airfare to/from Israel on a major airline. Upgrades to business class are usually possible at an additional cost according to airline availability.
2. Transfer to/from the airport/hotel in Israel.
3. Double occupancy rooms in a superior or deluxe hotel. (Certain groups may contract for other level hotels, but that is clearly stated in the specific group contract.)
4. Full Israeli buffet breakfast and dinner each day. Breakfast includes water, tea/coffee, milk and juice. Dinner includes water. Other drinks may be available at an additional cost.
5. All tour related transportation. Most of the transportation is provided on climate controlled motor coach, but travel on a boat, train, registered taxis, and licensed off-road vehicles are also common elements of our tours. Participants may choose to do extra activities outside the tour itinerary, and any transportation costs for such activities is not included in the tour price.
6. Entry for all sites on the published itinerary. Participants may choose to do things not on the itinerary (e.g. ride a camel or donkey, or use certain pools or spas, etc.), and any related fees are not included in the tour price.
7. Tips for the driver(s) and guide(s) and hotel staff.

Please note that personal items, health related costs, travel and/or health insurance, passport fees, souvenirs, lunch and certain drinks at meals are NOT included in the tour price. It is important to read the disclaimers in the “fine print” section of your tour brochure for information on other possible additional costs.

What are the hotels like?

Hotel rooms in Israel are typically smaller than average hotel rooms in the United States. And in some cases, significantly smaller. In fact, our ground company in Israel has told us that certain hotels are “off limits for Texans because they will feel too cramped and not enjoy their stay.”

The specific amenities at each hotel vary by chain, location, age of the building, and rating. All of our hotels have dining halls and provide breakfast and dinner buffets. Additionally, you can expect a clean comfortable room. Though some hotels have spas or fitness centers, you should not expect one except at the Dead Sea. If the hotel does have a spa or fitness center, it usually requires a day membership. The hotels along the Dead Sea offer free access to pools, but charge for massage/therapy treatments.* For those groups who are staying at the Dead Sea and are interested in massage/therapy, please speak with your guide early in the trip so the appropriate reservations can be made.

Many hotels provide hair dryers, and most offer access to an iron. If you MUST have a hair dryer, the safest course of action is to bring one with the necessary converter. Each hotel provides bath towels, but no wash cloths. If you require a wash cloth, please bring your own. However, make sure to keep your wash cloth separate from the towels in the bathroom because room service often unknowingly gathers them with the towels. All hotels provide a laundry service for an additional fee. Like in the United States, some hotels offer free wi-fi and others have fee based access to wi-fi. All of our hotels have a 24-hour front desk, luggage service, and provide wake up calls upon request.

Usually, we will not know the specific hotel your group will get until a few days before departure, and that is subject to change up to the last minute. The hotel managers often “trade” groups between comparable hotels in order to accommodate the flow of traffic based on group size and number of nights. Sometimes availability is limited to specific nights, which might require a group to stay a couple nights at one hotel and a couple nights at another hotel in the same city, or even to split their time in Jerusalem to the beginning and end of the tour.

*Massage/Therapy treatments are NOT INCLUDED in the tour price and are the responsibility of those who use the service.