As a general rule of thumb, make certain that your tour guide is officially licensed by the Ministry of Tourism. The licensing process is an extremely rigorous one, so those who get one tend are guaranteed to be well-versed in Israeli history. Also, on any guided tour that includes holy places, you must dress modestly. This means no shorts (men or women), no sleeveless shirts or blouses, and women should have a head covering handy.
Bus Tours-The red, double-decker Jerusalem Circular Line Egged bus no. 99 (tel. *2800; www.egged.co.il) offers a 2-hour tour that passes the most-visited sights in the city, from the Mount of Olives to Yad VaShem, making it useful, especially for visitors with disabilities. The bus leaves from in front of Safra Square at 10am, Sunday to Friday; there are no Saturday buses. A single tour ticket is NIS 60; all-day excursion NIS 80; discounts for children. There are earphone cassettes at each seat with channels for route descriptions in English and seven other languages. It is always wise to check with the Egged website for the latest information on bus no. 99’s timetable and route and about bookings.
Guided Walking Tours-Free, and usually quite interesting, walking tours of the Old City are offered by an outfit called Sandeman’s New Jerusalem Tours (www.newjerusalemtours.com). They leave from in front of the Tourist Information Office at Jaffa Gate (tel. 02/628-0382) daily at 9am, noon and 2:30 every day (except Fridays for the 2:30) tour. Since the guides are relying entirely on tips for the payment, they do their best to present their information in a compelling fashion. The 2-hour tour covers all four Old City quarters. The Jaffa Gate office also rents recorded, self-guided walking tours for the Old City for approximately NIS 60 per day.
For a more in-depth tour, various commercial concerns run programs that emphasize the city’s history and archaeology. Most of these are 3-hour excursions in small groups with other visitors—but remember, you’d need a long, very full day to really get an idea of all the city’s quarters and traditions. Archaeological Seminars Ltd., 34 Habad St. in the Jewish Quarter (tel. 02/586-2011; www.archesem.com), will guide you through the Jewish Quarter, Temple Mount, the Temple Mount excavations, the City of David (Ophel), or the Christian and Muslim quarters of the Old City. Tours run Sunday to Thursday and begin at NIS 200 plus VAT for a private half-day itinerary. For information on schedules, various itineraries, and the chance to “Dig for a Day” at an archaeological site, phone or stop at the office.
Zion Walking Tours (tel. 02/627-7588), another recommended firm, will show you the historical and archaeological highlights of the Old City or the Mount of Olives. Half-day tours depart from the Tower of David and run from approximately $35 per person. Walking Tours Ltd. (tel. 02/652-2568) also offers 3- to 4-hour itineraries for around the same price.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.