CreativeRouteFilter: Canada to Israel
December 18, 2007 5:18 PM   Subscribe

Creative travellers: how can a guy get to Israel as cheaply and indirectly as possible?

So, here's the deal:
I would like, sometime between the end of january and the end of april, to be in Israel to visit a friend.

It's unlikely that I'll be able to afford to go, but I'd like to explore this as thoroughly as I can manage before I write off this possibility.

I live in Alberta, Canada [willing to fly out of either YYC or YEG], and the cheapest airfare direct to Israel [I'm trying to get to Haifa, specifically] that I can find is just over $1000. Surely there's a way to do this for less than that.

Ideally, this will involve a train or a ferry or hitchhiking across Egypt, or... I don't know... getting there via Beijing or something. If it will keep me moving, I'll consider it. My limits when travelling seem to be an aversion to boredom as opposed to a need for comfort. I always carry kit with me to sleep outdoors, and never more than a small backpack.
What I'm trying to say is: don't hold back if you think of something crazy.

I guess as a guideline, I'll say that I'm unwilling to walk for more than 3 days at a stretch each way, and that I'd like to spend at least two weeks [of the feb-april period] in Haifa.

I won't post a maximum budget because I will be trying to save as much money as possible in the interim. If you think of something supremely awesome that costs a million dollars, tell me about that, too. I promise to dream about it, and if it's really great I'll even buy a lottery ticket to finance it.
posted by Acari to Travel & Transportation (12 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
If you are Jewish and under the age of 24, are there programs in Canada (like the ones in the US) that will take you there, most expenses paid?
posted by availablelight at 6:13 PM on December 18, 2007

This is a longshot, but have you looked into flying into Eilat (Ovda VDA), rather than Ben Gurion? I've never flown there, but I understand that there are cheap-ish charter flights there from Europe. From Eilat, you could presumably catch a bus up north without too much difficulty...
posted by kickingtheground at 6:24 PM on December 18, 2007

Best answer: You won't get from Alberta to Israel for substantially less than $1000. But you might get very lucky. Here's a bunch of information you might find useful.

First of all, don't focus on getting to Haifa. Unlike Canada, Israel is a tiny country. You can get from anywhere to Haifa using public transit cheaply and easily.

Round-trip bus fare from Cairo is about $110, but less if you take an Egyptian bus to the Taba border crossing, take a cab across the border, and take an Eilat->Tel Aviv bus on the other side. You can book the express trip with Mazada Tours. There are also busses available from Amman, Jordan, but since it's not a major destination, I don't think you'll find a way to get to Amman for less than the money it would take to get to Israel.

Keep in mind that if you plan on getting to Cairo via another Arab country, you wouldn't be able to do this on the way back. Most Arab countries will not allow you to enter if you have an Israeli stamp on your passport. In theory, you can request the Israeli border control officer not to stamp your passport, but you will sometime be refused.

There are ferries from Cyprus, Greece and (I think) Turkey to Haifa.

Arkia and Israir are charter airlines that have deals on flights between Israel and Europe.

You can also arrive in Israel by boat, typically from Limassol in Cyprus. Wikitravel has useful information. It is also possible to hitch a ride with a freighter, but I don't know how to help you out with that.
posted by limon at 7:00 PM on December 18, 2007

Best answer: Also, check out Air Ninja, which lists discount airlines flying into
Tel Aviv and Cairo.

I was able to find:

JetAirFly will fly from Brussels to Cairo for about $375 CAD return.

TuiFly flies from Berlin to Cairo for even less (their website is buggy in Firefox, so I couldn't get a total price, but it was around 100 Euro.)

Aegeanair flies from Athens to Cairo for about 280 Euro return.

ThomsonFly flies from London (Luton) to Tel Aviv for about $400 CAD return (found by plugging in random dates; you might find something cheaper). They also fly to Cairo and Taba (right across the border from Eilat) but I was too exhausted to try and work those.

As for getting to Europe, you have many more options. There are usually good deals going to London from major cities in North America, but if you're willing to hop on a Greyhound bus to Toronto (or, better yet, New York City) you can find some fantastic deals.
posted by limon at 7:28 PM on December 18, 2007

Also (sorry) the biggest Israeli freight company (and thirteenth biggest in the world) is ZIM. You can try contacting them about hitching a ride with a freighter, but Israel has insane security infrastructure, so I suspect your inquiry will be met with an immediate refusal, if not outright hostility. But who knows, maybe if you manage to get to the right person, you could get lucky.
posted by limon at 7:33 PM on December 18, 2007

Okay, I apologize for continuing to spam this thread. One last option / post. I think you can get from Algeria to Cairo by bus. (From Cairo you'd use Egyptian transit to get to Taba and then with a Taxi to the border.) The prices will probably be extremely cheap, because all the countries involved are poor. The WikiTravel page for Libya (which is in the middle) confirms there are international bus connections to both Tunisia (to the west) and Egypt (to the east), but I am fairly certain buses go to/from Algeria as well. AFAIK, foreigners can't cross the border between Morocco and Algeria by land, so you couldn't start your trek in Morocco. Getting to Tunisia or Algeria could be a cheap ferry ride from southern Europe. Keep in mind that the very mention of Israel, in conversation or anywhere in your documents, is liable to get you into a world of trouble in these countries. FWIW, I don't think this is a prudent way to travel, but you wanted creative.
posted by limon at 8:04 PM on December 18, 2007

Response by poster: limon - It's not spam if it's informative. But are you sure about the ferries? I thought all ferry service stopped in 2001 or something. so says thorntree, anyway.

FWIW, I don't do many things that are prudent, and I've got the scars to show for it. That doesn't mean I go *looking* for trouble, though. I'll wade through all the links that you sent and see if one of them is both cheap *and* luxurious.

kickingtheground - I've checked airfares for every airport I could think of, and I'll keep on doing it until... until I stop, I suppose.

availablelight - I'm not jewish, and I will have just turned 25.

Does anyone know how much it might actually cost [taxes, etcetera] to take a train from, say, frankfurt to, say, jordan? Compared to the actual [taxes, etc.] cost of budget airlines?
posted by Acari at 9:16 PM on December 18, 2007

Best answer: This page on Seat61 says that you are able to do a London to Amman, Jordan train journey. Not sure on the cost, and keep in mind that you would be able to do this on the way TO Israel, but not on the way back, as you would have Israeli stamps in your passport.

Saying that, If you are nice at the border, the Israelis will sometimes stamp a peice of paper rather than your passport. Never done this myself tho. It is a short-ish bus ride from Amman to Jerusalem.

Good luck
posted by chromatist at 10:17 PM on December 18, 2007

Best answer: Network with people. Ask for help and suggestions, as you're doing here. Make your project someone else's chance to help!

I'd start by contacting synagogues and churches in your area, and asking if they are organizing any group charter trips to Israel in your time frame. Sometimes, you can take an extra seat on a charter flight, for below commercial air fare, and if you're willing to act as a chaperone for kids on a tour for a few days, you might even get free travel.

Next, given that you have some time, I'd hit up some of the travel agencies in your town. Their route planning and fare searching tools are better than those you'll find on the Web, and if you give them a time window as large as yours appears to be, and as few restrictions as you seem to have, you might be pleasantly surprised to find out how much the pros can really save you.

If you must "do-it-yourself," you could try working as an air courier, or using AIRHITCH® to get across the Atlantic cheaply. Taking this one step farther, you could head to your nearest general aviation airport FBO, and try thumbing rides on private aircraft. Getting to know a few corporate pilots or multi-engine operators isn't that hard if you're personable, and getting a hop even to Toronto might be fun and save you hundreds of dollars, while increasing your options. With fuel prices soaring, more private pilots are sharing costs with others, although pilots without commercial licenses generally can't charge more than actual pro rated expenses. However, sharing expenses in a slow single engine Cessna isn't any cheaper than driving, and not much faster.

Next up, if you drive, is to look into ferrying someone's car from where you are, to where you want to be. This won't get you across oceans, but it will get you to Toronto or larger markets, with better air fare options. Sometimes, you can even get paid a stipend for doing this, but mostly, you get the use of a vehicle, and maybe a gas allowance, and sometimes, can take additional ride share passengers, to cut your costs further.

Here's a list of 350 ships, including freighters, sailing the North Atlantic and Mediterranean. You're unlikely to save any money, versus commercial airfares, but people often look into it, any way. Occasionally, there are some "deals." Keep checking. If you're really adventurous, and have some skills, you might get paid to sail as crew on a yacht, particularly for owners re-positioning boats for the summer season.
posted by paulsc at 10:25 PM on December 18, 2007

Freighter World's listing of passenger-accepting routes in the Mediterranean doesn't seem to offer much hope for cheap passage to Israel or nearby locales - lots of ships don't seem to disembark at Port Said, and many are coming from China, which would net you a 3+ week route via Shanghai. There are a few ships setting out from Rotterdam that might be worth a call, but they aren't individually priced by port on the page, so it's tough to guess how much it might cost you.
posted by The Bridge on the River Kai Ryssdal at 12:44 AM on December 19, 2007

Best answer: FYI, you don't even really need a cab to cross the Taba-Eilat border; my friend just did it and said it was like a 15 minute walk. Faster than the cab even, because of the inspections.

Also, since you travel so light, you might be able to find people who need to ship some luggage across and willing to pay you to bring it. Just make sure you know exactly what's in the bags, as security on Israel flights is tighter than others.

Seconding the notion of not worrying about getting to Haifa. You can easily get there from anywhere else in the country, and get to tour a bit as well.

Also, look into the low-budget airlines that fly from Europe to Ben Gurion -- you'll have to dig around online, as they won't be advertised in Canada. This might chop a few hundred off if you can get a cheap flight across the Atlantic.

Please do post a follow-up with your plans! I'd be eager to hear how you pulled it off.
posted by prophetsearcher at 6:10 AM on December 19, 2007

Best answer: I've done the Cairo-Tel Aviv run and back many a time. If you're interested in adventure and discomfort, don't take the Mazada line - it's relatively overpriced. You can get from Cairo to Taba (which is the point immediately opposite the Eilat border crossing) for LE50, about CAD$10. That's an 8 hour bus ride on the East Delta Bus Company, which you pick up at the Turgoman bus stop. Check Lonely Planet for more details.

Getting into Israel will cost you something like NIS100, or about CAD25, if I remember correctly. From then, it's another NIS80 ride to Tel Aviv, and probably a NIS30 ride to Haifa.

Getting to Cairo's going to be your biggest challenge, but also I think your best shot, since Amman is expensive, and flying direct into Israel is in general a more expensive proposition.

Feel free to email me directly if you have more questions.
posted by awenner at 9:01 AM on December 19, 2007

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