Eilat. Say the word and it conjures up thoughts of tropical heat and lambent sun, year-round snorkeling amid the multicolored fish and coral of the Red Sea, hiking to summits of granite mountains that overlook four countries at one time, lazing on a sandy beach or by the hotel pool in mid-winter, Goldstar in hand.
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Yet getting to this dreamy place in southern Israel isn't simple. The five-hour drive from Tel Aviv makes it fiscally impractical to take a taxi. Flying can be expensive and just getting to the airport takes plenty of time. Israel Railways is planning a train to Eilat, but that is still years away.
Renting a car is an option, but some people don't fancy the notion of driving for hours while on vacation. If that's the case, Egged may be just the ticket. Israel's biggest intercity bus company offers frequent and reliable service to Eilat from the central bus stations in Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, Haifa and Be'er Sheva. In Eilat, the bus station is a ten-minute walk from the Red Sea. Let the vacation begin!
Make your life easier, and purchase seats ahead of time (between 1 and 14 days) by calling Egged at *2800 (from abroad 972-3-6948888). Another option is to commandeer a Hebrew-speaker and buy tickets online. You will save 15 percent by ordering a round-trip ticket. Upon arrival at the bus station, ask for the Eilat boarding platform and swipe your credit card through the nearby ticket machine. It will print out your tickets, complete with seat assignments.
The buses regularly make a 20-30 minute stop en route. Free Wi-Fi is standard.