- Introduction to Israel
- American Airlines LAX Flagship Lounge
- Chicago O’Hare American Airlines Flagship Lounge
- American Airlines ORD-LHR 777 Business Class
- American Airlines Arrivals Lounge at London Heathrow
- Sheraton Tel Aviv Hotel Review
- Intercontinental Bethlehem (Jacir Palace) Hotel Review
- Le Meridien Dead Sea Hotel Review
- Park Plaza Orchid Tel Aviv Hotel Review
- Is Israel Safe for Tourists?
- The Sights and Sounds of Bethlehem
- The Sights and Sounds of Jerusalem
- The Sights and Sounds of Masada
- The Sights and Sounds of the Dead Sea
- The Sights and Sounds of the Negev Desert
- The Sights and Sounds of Tel Aviv
- Scam City: Israel Edition
- The Various Eats in Israel
- Tel Aviv Airport Dan Lounge
- Paris CDG American Airlines Admiral’s Club Lounge
I booked the Intercontinental Bethlehem Jacir Palace on priorityclub.com for a low rate of $88+tax which included breakfast for two. I’ve never seen an Intercontinental in the world for such a low price anywhere!
So I booked a hotel in Bethlehem, now how do I get into Palestine with my rental car with Israeli license plates?
I looked up on so many forums such as Flyertalk, Tripadvisor, Fodors, and Frommers on how to get into Bethlehem. Many of the responses were to park your Israeli rental car in Jerusalem and take an Israeli taxi or an Egged bus to Rachel’s Crossing aka Gilo 300 separation wall border. Then you have to show your passport and walk through the border. I found this YouTube video on the prison-like fortified border crossing:
The forums suggested that after I crossed the border on foot, I would then take a Palestinian taxi to the hotel in Bethlehem. To me, this was mind boggling because it was not cost effective. It would also be time consuming and problematic in terms of luggage as well.
The Israeli rental car agreement states that you are not to drive into areas controlled by the Palestinian Authority which includes Bethlehem, Jericho, Hebron, and everything in green on the map below. This is because the Israeli SLI supplementary car insurance is not covered in Palestinian Authority controlled areas in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.
There was no real clear answer on how the Palestinian army at the border would handle such situations if a tourist would try to drive into Bethlehem with Israeli license plates. On the previously mentioned forums, there were a few posts about how they would refuse entry to Israeli rental cars. In all honesty, there were no real clear cut answers so I figured I would try to drive my Israeli rental car into Bethlehem and take the no insurance risk since I have a clean driving record and haven’t gotten into an car accident in 10 years. If I got refused entry at the border, I would just call to cancel the Intercontinental Bethlehem and book a hotel in Jerusalem. I was able to take this risk since I booked a refundable rate with a same day 6pm cancellation.
I reached Rachel’s crossing with my Israeli rental car with Israeli plates to the border and the Palestinian guards just waved us through without checking our passports. Angelina from Just Another Points Traveler and I were totally shocked since I thought they were going to give us a lot of hassle at the separation wall border. I was in a sigh of relief because I was full of anxiety thinking about this whole ordeal in the weeks prior to this trip.
After crossing the border, we were even laughing at how easy it was to cross into an area controlled by the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank. Lesson learned, don’t believe everything you read in the forums. Life is all about taking risks and next time, I definitely need to try and enter the Gaza Strip.
I really didn’t want to split this review into two separate blog posts because part of this hotel review is the “Getting there” part. Since the Intercontinental Bethlehem was very close to Rachel’s Crossing, we had no trouble finding the hotel which was only an 8 minute drive from the border.
The hotel has free secured and gated parking behind the hotel. The only downside about that is if you have a lot of luggage, you will need to drag it up the hill to the front entrance of the hotel which is a short walk. The facade of the hotel was definitely as advertised, a grand palace hence the name Intercontinental Bethlehem Jacir Palace.
We were simply stunned at the beautiful architecture of the lobby and the interior courtyards of the Intercontinental Bethlehem.
We approached the front desk and asked about potential suite upgrades since I was a Priority Club Platinum guest. I know it’s not a published benefit, but it never hurts to ask! The front desk agent scanned a copy of my passport and Priority Club Platinum card and advised us that our room was not ready. We held our luggage with the bellman and ventured out into Bethlehem.
Upon arriving back at the beautiful palace hotel, the front desk agent was pleased to inform us that we were given a junior suite. The junior suite had a king sized bed with a living room sofa, small dining table, and a 80’s style CRT tube TV which I haven’t seen at a hotel in many years!
The bathroom was not too large and not too small but had more than enough standard Intercontinental branded toiletries.
The dining table also had a welcome plate of fruits, assorted cookies, various juices, and soft drinks.
The room was quite lovely despite the 80’s tube TV and also boasted views of hilly Bethlehem and the parking lot.
Breakfast was being served in the main restaurant and consisted of hot and cold buffet items.
I was really hungry that morning so I had a little bit of everything since I fell in love with Mediterranean food. I absolutely love hummus and pita bread.
We had a fantastic stay at the Intercontinental Jacir Palace and it’s the only five star hotel in Bethlehem. There is another Intercontinental hotel in Jericho, but that review will have to wait when I return back to Israel in the near future. The staff was very kind and gracious from the get-go offering assistance in every way possible. The only thing we noticed was that the hotel was pretty much empty so I inquired the front desk agent during checkout. The agent said that it was a slow season and that we were the only ones that stayed at the hotel aside from a Korean and Australian tour group. Because Bethlehem is heavily visited by organized tour bus companies, it hardly gets visitors like us. If you visit Israel, I would highly recommend a stop in Bethlehem and it’s definitely up to you if you want to drive your Israeli rental car to the hotel.