Smart new applications let you find your way around Israel and get photos, guides and audio information on what you’re seeing.
By Avigayil Kadesh
Israel’s licensed tour guides are hard to beat for personalized tours of Israel loaded with history and fun. But if you’re a do-it-yourselfer, or just want to try a day or two on your own, you have some excellent smartphone apps at your fingertips to help you get the most out of your Israel explorations.
The Israel App GPS Digital Travel Guide is the granddaddy of them all. Professional guides have contributed their expertise to the iOS and Android app.
Hailed as a tourism game-changer, the Israel App provides audio explanations and links to articles and photos of hundreds of popular tourist sites as well as lesser-known destinations. Choose from dozens of walking tours or let the app figure out where you’re standing based on GPS tracking. You can use it to get directions, search destinations and even link to portals to make hotel and rental car reservations.
Another exciting and function-filled app, only for iOS, is the Israel Tourism Guide. It offers users six different modules: attractions, map, POI (points of interest) search, translator and world clock. You’ll get information on major attractions, museums, beaches, restaurants, bars, hotels, landmarks and shopping destinations along with ratings, reviews, image galleries and daily updates. You can even use the POI search function as a GPS navigation tool from one place to another.
Seeing the cities
What’s a visit to Israel without a stop in Jerusalem, and especially its most holy sites in the Old City? Yet anybody who’s been there knows that it’s difficult to find one’s way through the warren of alleyways.
Here’s a free app from the Jerusalem Development Authority to come to your rescue. The Old City of Jerusalem Audio Walking Tour for the “independent tourist” offers 15 different GPS-navigated tours — five of them wheelchair accessible — complete with an audio transcript and interface in a choice of English, French, German, Hebrew, Italian, Russian, Chinese and Spanish. Available for iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch and Android devices, the app takes you to houses of worship, marketplaces, eateries, the Temple Mount compound, the Western Wall, the Garden Tomb and other popular locations in the cradle of the three monotheistic faiths.
Heading down to Masada? This World Heritage Site is Israel’s top paid tourist attraction due to its dramatic backstory from Roman times and its equally dramatic views of the Dead Sea area. Before you go, download the Masada Acoustiguide iPhone app from the Israeli company Espro Acoustiguide, maker of many of the audio guides you’ve already used at museums and tourist sites across the world.
If your destination is the Red Sea beach resort at Israel’s southern tip, the Eilat City GPS-powered multilingual app for iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch will give you location-based information on all of Eilat’s many tourist attractions, diving clubs, hotels, restaurants, pubs, bars and more.
In the “capital of the North,” the Tour Haifa application will inform you of the places of interest nearest to where you’re standing as you use the app. It lets you save your favorite destinations and provides useful information about opening hours and other details for tourist sites, as well as phone numbers of restaurants, cafés and pubs.
Walking tours of Haifa are popular, and you can get all the information you need from an app called Haifa Maps and Walks for iOS devices. Several self-guided walking tours with detailed route maps and navigation features will take you to six museums, the Bat Galim neighborhood, the Bahá’í World Center, nightlife, shopping, notable architecture and also the Ein Hod artists’ colony a short drive from the city.
Just for Tel Aviv
When you go to Israel’s second-largest city, Tel Aviv, you have a few smartphone apps to choose from.
VisiTLV Tel Aviv-Jaffa Official Guide is like The Israel App in its comprehensiveness, just focused on the combined seaside city of Tel Aviv and Jaffa. Available for iOS devices, the app made by the municipality offers images and descriptions of Tel Aviv-Jaffa’s must-see attractions, and also provides information on walking tours, restaurants, bars and hotels throughout the White City.
Chronus Imaging added Tel Aviv to its roster in the summer of 2013. The Chronus location-based, augmented-reality apps for Android and iPhone make you feel like you’re experiencing the tourist attractions in historical times. Thanks to a social plug-in, you can also use Chronus to upload your own photos and stories to create a travel log for your friends back home.
Travelers interested in Tel Aviv’s LGBT scene can download several new apps offering information on special events, LGBT bars, clubs and restaurants. Among them are Tel Aviv Gay Vibe for iOS and TLV Scene for Android devices. They’re geared to partiers over age 17.