The Taglit-Birthright trip is great. It’s a taste of what Israel has to offer.
But that’s the thing – it’s just a taste.
Your ten days are spent flying around the country on a bus full of sexually charged 20-somethings, waking up at sunrise and almost never sleeping or sleeping well, and running from one activity to the next. It’s a really specific experience in which you are told what to do and when to do it; you have absolutely no say in what happens to you during those ten days.
That’s why you should definitely extend your stay in Israel after the Birthright trip. Or, heck, extend your stay and go somewhere else nearby (might I recommend Turkey?).
(And no, I’m not being paid to say this. It’s just that important to me that people don’t turn down an amazing travel opportunity!)
You will have the chance to explore the country at your own pace and in your own way – and you might actually get to sleep at night!
If you are saying to yourself,
“I can’t extend my trip, I have to get home and go back to work”
Look: if you don’t travel very often, this is an incredible opportunity. You are being given a free ticket to another continent. I can tell you as someone who does travel often, a free ticket to another continent is not something one comes upon every day. Or really ever.
Take advantage of this moment and get out of your comfort zone. Ask for time off. Use your vacation or sick days. You absolutely 100% won’t regret it.
What I did after Birthright
I stayed in Tel Aviv Couchsurfing, staying with friends of friends, and hostels for about a week. Then I volunteered in a hostel in the desert (in a town called Mitzpe Ramon) in exchange for accommodation and a food stipend for three weeks. My co-volunteer and I checked in guests, cleaned the hostel, and provided tips about the town and hiking in the area.
After my work exchange, I traveled in Turkey for two weeks, which was absolutely epic as well.
How to extend your stay after Birthright
Okay, now for your adventure. Here’s what you need to do to make this happen:
Firstly, to extend your stay and keep your return flight, you will have to contact your Trip Organizer after they assign you your flights. There will be a fee for changing your flight, the amount of which will be determined by whichever airline you’re flying with.
(Yes, there’s a fee, but it’s still nowhere near the cost of a roundtrip ticket to Israel. I actually forfeited my return flight completely so I think in the end I wasn’t charged a flight change fee but of course I had to buy my own one-way ticket home eventually!)
As far as what to do during your extra time, it depends on how much time you have and what you’re into.
If you only have a few days, you can choose to do a short-term pre-arranged trip extension. Here are a few that came up after a quick Google search:
- Volunteering, hiking, and community building in the mystical city of Tzfat with Livnot (and at quite the price – a one week stay is $195 and two weeks is $300)
- Alternative tours with Green Olives – explore and understand more about the Palestinian territories and maybe pick some olives
You could also just spend a few days backpacking solo or with a Birthright friend, staying in hostels, meeting other travelers, etc.
If you have a longer period of time, you could also go the pre-arranged route. Ideas:
- Teach English
- Stay on a Kibbutz
- Learn Hebrew by taking Ulpan classes
I personally like to have full control over my experiences, so I booked things myself for Israel. I used a work exchange website called HelpX to find my work exchange in the hostel. I communicated directly with the hostel owner about the work agreement beforehand, including a Skype call. You can contact the hostel I worked in, the Green Backpackers hostel, directly about volunteering with them or look for other work exchange opportunities.
For general info on ways to travel long-term check out this post.
There are so many ways to extend your trip. You can stay just a few days after the Birthright tour ends, up to a few months, or even forever!
Either way, definitely take the extra time and give yourself the opportunity to explore Israel on your own terms. You will develop a perspective on Israel outside of the one you are shown through Birthright. And it will probably be a whole lot of fun!