The Port of Eilat is situated on the Northern end of the Red Sea and it’s the Israeli southern gateway to the Far East. It handles both cargo and passenger ships. The port is very close to the city, about 10 min car ride to both the city centre and the Airport. The administrative building of the terminal is a modern, 1200 sqm facility. Transportation is easy, there are taxis waiting right outside the port and they shouldn’t cost more than 10 USD to the centre. The nearest beach is only 5 min from the cruise port.
The local currency in Eilat is Israeli new shekel (ILS) and exchanging money is no problem. Your best bet would be to exchange your home currency once you arrive at Eilat and post offices seem tot have the best rates, however be prepared for long queues. The next best would be the exchange bureaus near the central bus station. You can also exchange money at the bank offices, but make sure you familiarise yourself with the commission charges. And the last option is to use your debit card and withdraw cash from an ATM – there are plenty of them, private ones (that will charge you some shekels per transaction, separate from the bank fees) and bank ones. Make sure you notify your bank you would be abroad and that you aware of any fees for withdrawing cash in a different currency. Credit cards are widely accepted, you can use them at most restaurants, museums and hotels, but make sure you have cash for food stalls, markets, taxis and other small purchases. Some outlets also accept USD, but it will cost you more than paying in the local currency.
The opening hours in Eilat are 8.30 am to 12.30 pm Monday to Thursday for banks and post offices, some of them are also open 4pm – 6.30pm. The restaurants are open 8 am to 10pm, closed for Shabbat in Jewish areas, and are closed for Ramadan in Muslim areas. The shopping malls are open 10 am – 9.30pm Sunday to Thursday. Smaller shops are open 9 am to 6 pm Sunday to Thursday. Eilat is a duty-free zone, which makes everything 18% cheaper than the rest of Israel. The tourist sites are normally open 9 am to 6-8 pm all week, but to check with your local tour provider if you are planning a visit. During Shabbat – starting Friday afternoon and ending Saturday evening most businesses and shops are closed. Hotels work as normal, some will offer Shabbat meals and celebration. The big malls and supermarkets are closed, but there are limited number of shops that will be open in case you need essentials. Public transport is shut, but taxis do operate. Regarding museums and tourist sites, please do check with your tour provider, most of them seem to operate but there are exceptions.
Tipping in Eilat is expected as much as in any European country. 12% is the norm at bars and restaurants. Some establishments will have a service charge added to your bill, so make sure you check that before you leave a tip. Taxi drivers don’t expect tips, but make sure they are using the metre for driving in the cities. For inter-city trips there are normally fixed prices. Hotel housekeepers and bell boys would be happy with a few shekels, per bag or per day.
The local language is Hebrew, and English is widely understood. At most tourist sited the signs are in both Hebrew and English. You would have no issues of getting by.
The local time in Eilat is GMT + 3 and the international dialling code is 00 972 8.
Things To Do
Eilat is mostly popular with snorkelling and diving in the Red Sea. Here is the most northern spot where coral grows and with the reasonable prices of snorkelling equipment and the fact that you can see a variety of fish and corals a few metres from the beach, Eilat is a well-kept secret for anyone who loves marine life. The Coral Beach Nature Reserve is famous for close encounters with more than 100 types of coral and 650 species of fish. There are a few more relaxing beaches to choose from, all of them offering snorkelling and diving equipment and courses, glass-bottom boat rides, parasailing, etc. – Aqua Beach, Mosh Beach, Migdalor Beach, Dekel Beach, North Beach and Princess Beach. The Dolphin Reef is where you can swim with wild dolphins. At the Underwater Observatory Marine Park, you can observe the rich sea flora and fauna without getting wet! Don’t forget the Piece Terrace where you can see four countries – Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Egypt and Israel.
Other sites of interest include the Timna Park – a geological and archaeological wonder, a home to the first copper mines in the world, a place to admire amazing rocks, shaped into “mushrooms” by the work of nature. There is a lake in the park as well (yes, in the middle of the desert!) and activities for all kids and adults alike.
The International Birding and Research Centre Eilat is built on the major junction and stop over on the birds’ migration flyaway. Here is the only overland bridge between Europe, Asia and Africa and the last stop for the migratory birds before they cross the unwelcoming land of the Sahara dessert. During the migration seasons – March to May and September to November – between 500 million and 1 billion birds fly pass through the skies of Eilat. The main work of the Research centre is to maintain and improve the habitats of the birds, renew their food sources and to conduct research that will help safeguarding their flyway.
Other points of interest in Eilat include the Red Canyon, the Botanical Garden Eilat and the Camel Ranch.
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