We were a bit shocked to see Bethlehem as it is today, a city of 61,000 people. It is not the pastoral village with quaint inn that we imaged from our childhood. The new houses are all of stone, very bright together. The old house of the Church of the Nativity is 'under reconstruction'. Lineups for the crypt were hours long, but our alternative tour guide had us in through the back door in a few minutes. We also bought all our Christmas presents here (at the store run by the alternative tour company of many cousins) - appropriate to the place.
The entrance to Bethlehem from the highway is on the side of the highway going north only. To get to it you had to travel a mile beyond and do a U-turn on a side road. The way in to Bethlehem was not secured but the way out and back to Jerusalem was secured by a wall - three security gates and an airport equivalent security scanner. I think that some tours get special treatment. Our treatment was to become as the residents of Bethlehem are for a few moments.
See the Bethlehem component comments from Bishop Alan here and here.