We usually board our bus around 8am. Each day we set a wakeup call from the hotel.
On the bus, our guide will give a summary of the day’s schedule, and if we have Mass. We do not have Mass every day, but only at the most archaeologically verified places, such as Bethlehem and Nazareth, and usually in the morning. Remember, no shorts or sleeveless tops in Church. A scarf around the shoulders is fine. All other clothes are fine, such as jeans, sandals, and shorts in non-religious sites.
Our bus ride is usually just a few minutes. Israel is a small country and many of the sites we visit are close together. That is why any seat on the bus is as good as another.
After arriving at the site, we will disembark from the bus and quickly gather around our guide who will give a talk on the history, archaeology, and meaning of the site. We will each have wireless audio devices connected to the Guide’s microphone. Our Guide is enormously informative so we can learn a great deal with just a few minutes of attention. Feel free to ask questions too. He will also indicate where clean restrooms are located. After his talk, he will announce the time to return to the bus. Then we are free to take pictures and wander around the site as you wish.
Every site usually has a few vendors walking around selling small gifts, such as rosaries or postcards for a dollar. If you are interested, you might consider having a supply of one dollar bills to make the transactions quick and easy. Vendors use the age-old Middle Eastern practice of persistence. If you are not interested, a clear and politely spoken, “No thanks” will end their efforts. However, if you engage in conversation, well, you are now “in a relationship” with them and this doubles their persistence!
We usually stop for a buffet lunch between noon and 2pm at a restaurant designed for large groups. While breakfast and dinner are included in your package, lunch is on your own. You are welcome to join the group for lunch, choose another restaurant, or not eat at all. Lunch is always a very large buffet and includes your choice of the salad bar alone ($7-$10) or the salad bar and hot meal ($10-$15). It is best and faster to pay with cash, but cards are welcome too.
Every restaurant, gift shop, and hotel that we visit accepts US dollars. You can get Israeli Shekels and Jordanian Dinars at exchange booths at the airport, border crossings, and throughout the country. Our guide will also indicate where ATM machines can be found.
We usually return to the hotel around 4:30 to 5pm. Our guide will announce the schedule (and dress code if we’ll have Mass) for the next day. We can also set the time for dinner ourselves, which is often 6:30 or 7pm. Evenings are always free. I am usually in the outdoor hotel lounge area in the evening (often with a cigar) for discussion or questions about our trip, (or any topic). I will also offer an optional short talk after dinner on the second or third evening on archaeology and Middle East politics.
While you are always welcome to tip the staff, you might remember that all their tips and gratuities are already included on your trip, and all of the staff is aware of that, (and grateful!)