Eilat

Eilat (אילת, aka Elat) is the only Israeli city on the Red Sea. Located at the southernmost tip of the country, with its "window on the Red Sea", Eilat is first and foremost a resort town devoted to sun, fun, diving, partying and desert-based activities. Some 320 km (200 miles) from the tensions of Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, Eilat's climate-induced relaxed atmosphere has always provided a convenient year-round escape for Israelis, and during the mild winter months also attracts thousands of European sun-seekers. Red Sea water temperatures range only between 20°C (68°F) in the winter to 26.2°C (80°F) in the summer, providing warmth in the winter, and much appreciated chilliness in the summer's heat.

Understand

 Climate Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
 
Daily highs (°C) 20.8 22.1 25.5 31.1 35.4 38.7 40.9 40.8 37.3 33 27.2 22.3
Nightly lows (°C) 9.6 10.6 13.6 17.8 21.5 24.2 25.9 26.2 24.5 21 15.5 11.2

Source: Israel Meteorological Service

Eilat (pop 85,000) is the southernmost town in Israel, isolated from the rest of the country by the Negev desert. Sprawled along 7 kilometers of Red Sea coastline, between the borders of Egypt and Jordan, it offers spectacular views of the Gulf of Eilat (Aqaba).

Originally a strategic military outpost, Eilat's first incarnation was as a port town, used to export potash and copper and import goods from Asia and Africa, such as oil and vehicles.

In the 1970s charter flights increased the flow of foreign tourists to Eilat. They were attracted by the coral reefs, breathtaking location, and the dry and sunny desert climate.

Orientation

A beach in Eilat
Eilat's "Tayelet" (promenade)

Today, the 2km (1.2 mi) North Beach area is full of hotels with opulent names like Herod's Palace and Queen of Sheba. The Tayelet promenade extends the length of the beach front and hosts numerous stalls, street artists, restaurants, and fashionable shops. The promenade has great views of the bay, and each evening is full of strolling tourists.

The southern or Coral Beach, which has coral reefs, is protected by the Israel Nature Reserve Authority. It has many public beaches and excellent scuba diving centers as well as several hotels and hostels.

Whereas the North Beach is within easy walking distance of the city center, Coral Beach is some 7km south of it, beyond comfortable walking distance. The Navy and commercial ports lie between the two main beach areas.

Sabbath and Kashrut

As in most of Israel, many businesses and transport companies do not operate on the Sabbath (Shabbat) which begins Friday afternoon and ends Saturday night; many places do not reopen/renew service until Sunday morning. The same holds true for major Jewish or national holidays, so plan your itinerary accordingly. [See Israel, Holidays for more information.]

Kashrut is the body of Jewish dietary laws which many Israelis and tourists observe, and which many restaurants and almost all hotels adhere to. Among other things Kashrut requires complete segregation of meat and dairy foods, dishes and utensils; select types of fish are kosher but most 'sea foods' are not; and all foods must be prepared under controlled and monitored conditions. Kosher restaurants and hotels display a valid, dated certificate issued by local rabbinical authorities. Kosher restaurants close for the Sabbath.

Get in

By plane

Eilat airport
Rabin (Arava) border crossing, with Jordan
Taba border crossing, with Egypt

Eilat Airport (ETH) is right in the middle of the city. Flights to Tel Aviv are frequent and take only 50 minutes, but expect to pay around NIS 250 for a one-way trip.

Ovda International Airport (VDA), also known as Uvda, 65 km (40 miles) and nearly a 50-min drive from town is another option for tourists arriving from Europe. The airport has no car rental facilities and only a limited number of taxis. It is possible to take Egged bus 282 for 42.50 NIS round trip or 25 NIS one-way price. Exact departure time for the bus available at the information counter of the Egged Bus Terminal in Eilat.

A cheaper way to get from Europe directly to Eilat is via the nearby Taba International Airport in Egypt. Charter flights to Taba are operated by several airlines, e.g. the German "Condor" (on Wednesdays from/to all major German airports). Taxis from Taba airport to the Israeli border station at the Hilton hotel run for max. 150 Egyptian pounds (40 min), from there a taxi to Eilat is around 25-30 NIS (10 min). Or take local bus 15 (6 NIS). Border crossing normally takes less than 30 min. On arrival at the airport insist on Egyptian "Sinai only" visa, otherwise you're charged 15 USD visa tax. Note that Egypt charges 75 LE tax when leaving Taba coming from Eilat.

By bus

All inter-city buses to and from Eilat arrive and leave from the Central Bus Station on HaTemarim Boulevard.

Egged buses from Tel Aviv (390/394) and Jerusalem (444) to Eilat operate on a regulars schedule, with express buses added during peak periods. The trip takes around 5-5:30 hours and costs NIS 82 one way or NIS 139 for a round-trip ticket (Feb 2014). It's advisable to buy tickets in advance as seating is assigned.

From the Taba, Egypt Border Crossing local Bus Number 16 goes to the Central Bus Station, costing NIS 4.90 (Feb 2014).

Check with the Egged Bus Company for additional routes, rates and updated schedules, or call *2800 from any phone in Israel.

By car or taxi

There are a couple of ways to drive from Tel Aviv to Eilat. One is via Mitzpe Ramon. Another nice alternative is from Tel Aviv to the Dead Sea via Arad, stay a couple of days there or just make a short stop and then continue to Eilat. It takes approx 5-5:30 hours from Tel Aviv, and a similar duration from Jerusalem.

Taxi from the Aqaba, Jordan border crossing is around NIS 35 (Feb 2014). A taxi from Aqaba to the Crossing is around JOD 5 (Dec 2011).

A taxi from Nuweiba, Egypt to the Taba Border Crossing takes 50 minutes and costs around EGP 110 (Dec 2011).

Border Crossings

There is no fee to enter Israel (US passport).

Get around

On foot

Central Eilat, that is the Promenade Area and City Center - Central Bus Station, Main Post Office, banks, etc. - are within easy walking distance, although during summer months the scorching temperatures make walking around unpleasant. Only the closest public beaches are a sweaty stroll from the center; dive sites require transportation.

By bus

Local bus services usually begin 7:00-08:00 AM and end 8:00-9PM. Ask the driver for exact times. All routes cost NIS 4.75 and a 'transfer' costs an additional NIS 1 (Dec. 2012).

Bus Numbers 1 and 2 do a complete circuit of the city, both passing through the City Center before their routes diverge. Both buses leave every 20 minutes from Tarshish st. nearby Dan Panorama and Ceaser Premier hotels at the North Beach area.

Bus Number 1 leaves every 20 minutes on the hour, passing through the City Center before following a clockwise route through most of the city's neighborhoods, returning to North Beach via City Center.
Bus Number 2 leaves every 20 minutes at 15 minutes past and to the hour, passing through the City Center before following a counter-clockwise route through most of the city's neighborhoods, returning to North Beach via City Center.
Bus Number 5 from Shachamon to the new industrial area leaves every 30 minutes on the hour. The bus passing through some of the city's neighborhoods, the City Center, the North Beach hotels, and terminates at the new industrial area near Big Eilat Shopping Center.
Bus Number 6 runs the Number 5 in reverse, leaving the new industrial area every 30 minutes on the hour.
Bus Number 15 to Coral Beach leaves every hour on the hour from Platform 7 at the Central Bus Station. It passes through the City Center and does a circuit of North Beach hotels as far as Kings City before turning south towards Coral Beach and its terminus at the Taba Border Crossing (to Egypt).
Bus Number 16 runs the Number 15 in reverse, leaving Taba between 30 and 40 minutes after the hour.

Night Buses Numbers 10 and 11 do a complete circuit of the city. Both buses leave every 1 hour from the new industrial area near Big Eilat Shopping Center. These buses are only operated on weekends including friday nights.

Bus Number 10 leaves every 1 hour on the hour, The bus does a counterclockwise route through most of the city's neighborhoods, The City Center, the North Beach hotels and returning to the new industrial area.
Bus Number 11 leaves every 1 hour on the hour, The bus does a clockwise route through the North Beach hotels, the City Center, most of the city's neighborhoods and returning to the new industrial area.

Check with the Egged Bus Company for additional routes, rates and updated schedules.

By taxi

Taxis prowl the streets day and night looking for fares. Insist on the meter, or agree on the fare in advance (Eilat's taxis are famously mercenary).

The meter rate goes up between 9PM and 6AM as well as Saturdays and holidays. Also, by law taxis may charge extra if ordered by phone, for a third passenger and for each piece of baggage/luggage transported.

See

Parrotfish among coral at Coral Beach

The main swimming area is the North beach and many major and minor hotels are situated there. The South or Coral Beach area is protected by the Israel Nature Reserve Authority, but recent years have seen a decline in the marine life and reef quality. Fortunately, since the removal of the controversial fish cages from the Gulf waters in 2008, a steady recovery of corals has been seen at all dive sites. While many divers head south to the Egyptian Sinai coast to Dahab or Sharm el-Sheikh, to experience better diving conditions, many divers still prefer Eilat, with far smaller crowds, interesting macro-life and easy, unpressured surface entries.

Do

IMAX eilat

The Negev desert surrounds Eilat and its scenic Eilat Mountains Nature Reserve has some of the most spectacular desert routes in Israel. Trails include ancient trading routes and the Great Rift Valley. Desert Hiking, 4x4 jeep tours and camel treks are major attractions in this area of the Negev desert.

Learn

The Ginsburg-Ingerman Overseas Student Program of the Ben-Gurion University of the Negev offers short-term academic programs at the Eilat campus. The programs focus on Hebrew language, Marine Biology and Gastronomy.

Buy

Eilat's Ice park mall

As an incentive there is no value-added tax in Eilat. Therefore many duty free shops line the boardwalk and culminate in a duty free shopping centres. Top brands can be found, and it is joked that the first thing an Israeli does on before leaving Eilat is to fill up their petrol tank to the brim.

Eat

The main promenade is packed with stylish tourist restaurants offering some of Israel's finest cuisine prepared by master chefs. The variety of restaurants understandably comes at a price, though not as expensive as many restaurants in Tel Aviv or Jerusalem.

As a rule prices are lower the further away from the tourist areas one goes. For those wishing to eat simply and well there are a number of options in addition to shopping the local supermarkets. There are several good restaurants on or near Eilat's main street, Shderot HaTmarim (The Dates Blvd.).

Drink

For a Holiday resort the expected assortment of Pubs and Bars exist on the Promenade and are also densely packed in the main square.

Sleep

Outdoors

Extreme but cheap. Possible at the North Beach, next to the Jordan border, and also at the South Beach—aka Coral Beach—preferably to the south of the bar called "Migdalor". Pros: stay close to the sea for free. Cons: temperatures can get extremely hot, even at night; have to search for water/shower/etc.

Important Note: When staying outdoors please keep all your garbage with you and there is an NIS 500 fine for lighting a bonfire – the beaches are protected by Israel Nature Authority.

Budget

Eilat Hotels and marina

Hosteling

The hillside around the Central Bus Station contains motels and small private hostels which usually have a room designated as a dorm. You can find some real gems hidden among them but be prepared to take some time checking them out.

Private rooms

If you reach Eilat and have a backpack you may be accosted by people offering their houses or parts of them for your accommodation. These are really a gamble, because you never know what to expect and people tend to exaggerate their descriptions. Usually, it would be a nice air-conditioned room with a double bed, shower, TV, sometimes WiFi and some kitchen stuff. Price per day: 100-200 NIS and higher, however negotiable, depending on how long you are staying and what standard you want. Start the negotiation as you see the apartment.

Mid range

Splurge

Eilat's North Beach is positively packed with luxury hotels, but in season rates can be as high as US$200 per night.

Stay safe

Eilat is relatively close to Egypt's Sinai Peninsula, which has become a terrorist hotbed in recent years: in 2007 a suicide bomber targeted an Eilat bakery, killing three employees, the first suicide bombing ever to take place in Eilat. In 2011 terrorists infiltrating Israel across the Sinai border attacking a civilian bus and car on Highway 12, killing 5 people.

To prevent terrorist infiltrations from Sinai Israel is building the Israel-Egypt barrier: a steel barrier backed by cameras, radar and motion detectors at the country's southern border. The fence, due to be completed by the end of 2012; has becoming increasingly important due to tensions following the 2011 Egyptian revolution. On January 13, 2013 Highway 10 was closed to civilian traffic for one year.

In a bizarre incident in late 2012, a US citizen working at the Leonardo Club Hotel in Eilat stole a firearm from a security guard and used it to killed another employee he had worked with. The gunman was shot dead by authorities. No guests or other employees were hurt.

Go next

Routes through Eilat

Egypt
Sinai, Taba
 S  N  Masada Tiberias



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