Visiting Bethlehem – How to organize your day trip to Bethlehem
The birthplace of Jesus and one of the most popular destinations in Israel for Christian tourists, Bethlehem is only 20 minutes away from Jerusalem and can be visited in half a day. There are a few ways to visit Bethlehem, which is located in the West Bank, but the most recommended is with an organized day tour.
Visitors that hired a car in Israel won’t be able to enter Bethlehem with the rented vehicle and will have to use the local Palestinian bus services which might prove difficult, whereas the organized day tour sorts out all the logistics for you. In addition to this, the organized day tours offer the advantage of being available in many languages including English, German, Spanish, French and Russian.
The most important thing to be aware of when visiting Bethlehem is that visitors arrive at the crossing point between Israel and the West Bank with their tourist bus and Israeli tour guide and after the crossing switch vehicle and meet their local Palestinian tour guide in Bethlehem. The process is usually uncomplicated and straightforward.
Please do not forget to bring along your passport. Once on the other side, visitors can enjoy exploring Bethlehem’s highlights comprising the Church of the Nativity, Manger Square, Milk Grotto, the market and views over Shepherds Field.
Bethlehem is a must see city to visit while in Israel !
Bethlehem and beyond
You can combine a visit to the site of the Nativity with a tour of Jerusalem, a mere 20 minutes’ drive away for a complete immersion in biblical landmarks. Another complement is Jericho, the fascinating ancient city that can be reached in one hour by car.
And Hebron, where the Tombs of the Patriarchs stands, makes for another interesting two-center tour, less than 30 minutes away from Bethlehem.
For those who wish to explore Bethlehem and the West Bank more in-depth, the best option is to book a privat tour with a local Palestinian tour guide which will enable you to tailor your itinerary and delve into the region’s complexities at your own pace.
Need to know about Bethlehem
Security: Safety in Bethlehem is not at issue as there hasn’t been any major incident for almost two decades. Visiting with a tour guide will enhance your sense of security.
Best time to go: A year-round destination attracting over one million visitors a year, Bethlehem is at its busiest during the Christmas and Easter holidays. If you plan to visit during Christmas, we recommend you book ahead a special tour for a memorable experience.
Shopping: Some tourists will find it annoying but there’s almost always a moment in the tour where guests will be brought to local shops and restaurants. There’s absolutely no obligation to purchase and it’s all done in good Middle Eastern spirit. Shall you decide to buy anything, don’t hesitate to haggle, to keep up with the local customs.
Money: Shekels, dollars and euros are accepted almost everywhere. Expect to pay $15-25 (60-95 LIS) per person for a decent meal in Bethlehem — an opportunity to sample the local Palestinian food and wine. Of course you have also cheaper food options – like a good local Falafel $5-7 (18-25 LIS).
Words: Sonia Esther Soltani