Israel's youth hostel association is making travel in that area of the world easier for young visitors. Their travel service, the Youth Travel Bureau, has arranged a simple and economical do-it-yourself package that can be combined with a variety of escorted hiking, desert camping and Egypt tour programs.
There are 31 youth hostels in Israel. Although the word youth is used in the name, age restrictions are not imposed. Last year 40% of the overnight stays recorded in the hostels were by foreign visitors. The official youth hostels post a triangular sign, and the association warns that they are not responsible for non-affiliated youth hostels: "We are not the letter box for complaints about such enterprises, especially in Jerusalem."
The special tour package for the independent traveler is called Israel on the Youth Hostel Trail. It consists of accommodation with breakfast at 24 of the 31 youth hostels, unlimited travel on Egged buses throughout the country, free entrance to 31 national parks and an information kit. You can buy 7-, 14-, 21- and 28-day versions of the packages. The seven-day version does not include free entrance to the national parks.
The 7-day YH Trail package costs $125 (all prices are in U.S. dollars), 14-day packages are $235, 21 days cost $331 and 28-day programs are $441. These prices will be valid until Feb. 28, 1987.
Guided Hiking Trip
You can combine a six-day guided hiking trip operated by the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel with the seven-day YH Trail package for a total cost of $280. The hiking trip on its own costs $135 and includes five nights accommodation in a youth hostel in Jerusalem with breakfast and dinner, one night at a field school, four days with an English-speaking guide, transportation, entrance fees and use of a bicycle in Jericho.
A variety of guided desert trips can also be combined with YH Trail packages. In the Sinai and the Negev you can join trips ranging from 2 to 14 days. For example, a two-day Sinai desert safari with a seven-day YH Trail package costs $237. A five-day Negev expedition with a 14-day YH Trail trip would cost $503.
In the Judean desert you could join a seven-day program with rock climbing and rappelling. This trip in combination with a seven-day YH Trail trip would cost $375. You travel in an open desert vehicle, spend two days rappelling, take a half-day camel safari and spend one of your nights at a Bedouin encampment. Climbing equipment, sleeping bags, entrance fees to Masada and most meals are included.
It's also possible to combine YH Trail packages with a budget guided trip to Egypt. A five-day Egypt tour visiting the Cairo area with the seven-day YH Trail package costs $259. This includes one night in a youth hostel in Tel Aviv, four nights in a tourist-class hotel in Cairo with breakfast and two days of guided touring. Entrance fees are not included.
Trips Are Combined
An eight-day Egypt trip visiting Cairo, Luxor and Aswan (with one night on a sleeper train between Aswan and Cairo) combined with the seven-day YH Trail package costs $444. Both trips travel by bus from Tel Aviv to Egypt and return to Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. Visa costs, border taxes, lunches, dinners and drinks are not included.
There's another option open to visitors who don't want to travel by bus--but you must be at least 21 years of age to participate. It is possible to purchase the YH Trail package with a rental vehicle instead of a bus pass. Prices depend on the number of persons sharing and the type of vehicle requested. You are also offered the option of accommodation in youth hostels or kibbutz guest houses. For example, the rate for two people renting a Ford Fiesta and staying at kibbutz guest houses is $256 each for the seven-day package.
For further details on any of these programs contact Youth Travel Bureau, Israel Youth Hostels Assn., 3 Dorot Rishonim St., P.O. B 1075, Jerusalem, Israel. In Israel call 211648.
Further information on Israel can be obtained from the Israel Government Tourist Office, 6380 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 1700, Los Angeles 90048, phone (213) 658-7462.