Our Haifa guide continues. If you missed the first part, you’ll find it here!
Where to stay
If you’ve followed the blog for a while, you know that we prefer to stay in apartments than hotels when visiting a new city because we want to blend in as much as possible with locals and their lifestyles. When trying to find an apartment in Haifa we realized that majority of them would be in very new skyscrapers that, yes had a gorgeous view, but was still far from what we wanted. Then we found Eli’s apartment. The location seemed perfect already from the map, but once there we realized what a strategic position that apartment has.
Being 5 minutes walk from Haifa’s main train station, the apartment has also good bus connection to all directions. Also, it’s situated in Wadi Nisnas, the Arab quarters, meaning that all the shops are open when everything else is closed in the rest of the city, meaning Sabbath and other Jewish holidays. Being the Arabs in this area Christians, you wouldn’t need to worry about nightly prayers and such.
The area is filled with restaurants, both local and international cuisine, cafeterias, bakeries and shops. For any need or whim you might have, the solution is a few minutes walk away.
Another big plus of the apartment’s location is that it’s on flat land. This might seem like a small thing, but after a day of walking uphill, the last thing you want is having to climb a road to reach your apartment!
The apartment does not have a washing machine, but there’s laundry nearby. Something worth mentioning about the apartment is the fact that it doesn’t have big windows and the view is a small and old backyard. For us this didn’t matter because we would spend our days in open air, visiting neighboring cities and sightseeing, so the only thing we wanted to do once back in our apartment was rest and relax. Plus, the apartment has very good lighting and the interior design is so beautiful. And did I mention the hot tub next to the bed?
Practical things to remember in Israel
On Sabbath, nothing will work. Shops and restaurants will be closed, trains and buses won’t work. So prepare in advance with groceries and transportation. To be specific Shabbat goes from Friday sundown to Saturday sundown. Haifa is an easy holiday destination in Israel because, having such a big Arab community that doesn’t follow the Jewish Sabbath, shops and restaurants will be open in the Wadi Nisnas area.
Also, if this is your first visit in Israel, or anywhere in the Middle-East for that matter, you might be alarmed of the scrutinizing security checks at the airport (but even in other places like shopping malls) and the constant visibility of armed soldiers everywhere. When getting in or out of the country, you might be asked about the purpose of your visit, your acquaintances in Israel, travel plans, family background etc. At times the officials may even ask you to show your phone or laptop and passwords for email and social media for practically any reason. If you have stamps in your passport from Arab countries, you can expect trouble at the border.
If you are planning to travel in the Palestinian territories, they might ask you a few extra questions. Most important is to be cooperative and not get provoked. Answer all the questions honestly and openly. After all, the numerous security checks are for the benefit of everybody. You’ll realize this once you are in the country; you can feel safe and there is very little criminality.
If you are used to traveling in Europe, or basically anywhere else, you’ll probably find Israel to be relatively expensive place. Coming from northern Europe though, like Finland, the price levels are the same, except public transportation is considerably cheaper.
How to move around in Haifa
To arrive to Haifa we took a train directly from the Tel Aviv Ben Gurion airport, Terminal 2 and brought us all the way to the main train station Carmel-Hashmona.
Haifa has a very good transportation system. Buses run all over town and even further destinations, like Akko and Caesarea. That is, except for Sabbath, but even then the line Metronit will work, although with a much more limited schedule.
What we recommend you is to make a Rav Cav, the Israeli bus card that works all over the country. From this website you can find all the offices where you can get one.
All you have to do is to go in one of the offices with your passport and they’ll take a picture of you and print it on the card, along with you name written in Hebrew. Once you have the card, you need to either purchase a monthly ticket, that varies in price depending on the area you choose, or put some money in the card. We recommend the latter option, because in this way you’ll also able to visit nearby city by bus or use the train. You can put money in the card directly by asking to the bus driver (for normal lines) or from the machines situated in all of the Metronit bus stops.