How to visit Tel Aviv, Israel, on a budget

Your friendly Guide to enjoying the white city

Tel Aviv, often referred to as “The White City,” is a vibrant metropolis on the Mediterranean coast of Israel. Known for its beautiful beaches, bustling nightlife, and rich history, Tel Aviv might seem like an expensive destination. However, with some savvy planning and insider tips, you can explore this dynamic city without breaking the bank. Here’s your friendly guide to visiting Tel Aviv on a budget.

1. Getting There: Affordable Flights and Transport

Finding Cheap Flights

  • Use Flight Comparison Websites: Utilize websites like Skyscanner, Kayak, and Google Flights to compare prices and find the best deals. Set up fare alerts to get notified of price drops.
  • Book in Advance: Typically, booking your flight 2-3 months in advance can help you snag the best deals. Flexibility with your travel dates can also yield cheaper options.
  • Consider Alternative Airports: Sometimes flying into nearby cities, like Haifa or even Eilat, and then taking a bus or train to Tel Aviv can be cheaper.

Transportation from the Airport

  • Public Transportation: The most cost-effective way to get from Ben Gurion Airport to Tel Aviv is by train. The train station is located in the airport terminal, and the ride to Tel Aviv’s central stations takes about 20 minutes.
  • Shared Shuttles and Buses: If you prefer door-to-door service, shared shuttles like Sherut taxis are a good option. They are more affordable than private taxis and still convenient.

2. Budget Accommodation: Comfortable and Affordable Stays

Hostels and Budget Hotels

  • Hostels: Tel Aviv has a range of hostels that offer dormitory beds and private rooms. Popular choices include Abraham Hostel, Florentine Backpackers Hostel, and The Spot Hostel.
  • Budget Hotels: Look for budget-friendly hotels such as Hotel Gilgal, Sea Net Hotel, or Galileo Hotel. They offer comfortable stays without the hefty price tag.
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Airbnb and Vacation Rentals

  • Airbnb: Renting a room or an entire apartment through Airbnb can be a cost-effective and comfortable option. It also gives you the advantage of having a kitchen to prepare your own meals.
  • Vacation Rentals: Websites like Booking.com and Vrbo offer a variety of vacation rentals that can cater to budget-conscious travelers.

3. Exploring the City: Free and Low-Cost Activities

Beach Time

Tel Aviv’s beaches are one of its biggest attractions, and they’re free to enjoy! Spend your days lounging on the sand, swimming in the Mediterranean, or joining a game of beach volleyball.

  • Gordon Beach: Popular among locals and tourists alike, it’s a great spot for sunbathing and people-watching.
  • Frishman Beach: Another favorite, with clean facilities and plenty of nearby cafes and restaurants.

Strolling Through Markets

  • Carmel Market: This bustling market is a feast for the senses. Wander through the stalls, sample fresh produce, and pick up affordable street food.
  • Jaffa Flea Market: Located in the historic port city of Jaffa, this market offers antiques, vintage items, and unique souvenirs. It’s a great place to practice your bargaining skills.

Free Walking Tours

Many companies offer free walking tours of Tel Aviv, which are a fantastic way to learn about the city’s history, architecture, and culture. While the tours are free, tips for the guides are appreciated.

  • White City Tour: Discover the UNESCO World Heritage-listed Bauhaus architecture of Tel Aviv.
  • Old Jaffa Tour: Explore the ancient port city of Jaffa, with its winding alleys and historic landmarks.

Parks and Green Spaces

  • Yarkon Park: Tel Aviv’s largest green space, perfect for picnics, jogging, or renting a bike. The park also has a botanical garden and water park.
  • Charles Clore Park: Located along the seafront, it’s an ideal spot for a leisurely stroll or a relaxing afternoon.
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4. Eating on a Budget: Delicious and Affordable Dining

Street Food and Markets

  • Falafel and Shawarma: These popular street foods are both delicious and inexpensive. Head to HaKosem or Falafel Gabai for some of the best in town.
  • Sabich: A pita stuffed with fried eggplant, hard-boiled eggs, and various toppings. Sabich Tchernichovsky is a well-known spot to try this tasty dish.

Affordable Restaurants and Cafes

  • Abu Hassan: Famous for its hummus, this humble eatery in Jaffa is a must-visit.
  • Shuk HaCarmel Food Stalls: The Carmel Market is not just for shopping; it’s also a great place to find affordable meals from a variety of cuisines.

Cooking Your Own Meals

If you’re staying in a place with kitchen facilities, consider buying fresh produce from local markets and cooking your own meals. This can significantly reduce your food expenses and give you a taste of local living.

5. Savvy Sightseeing: Getting the Most Out of Your Visit

Museums and Cultural Sites

  • Tel Aviv Museum of Art: Offers a diverse collection of contemporary and classic art. Admission is free on certain days and hours, so check their schedule.
  • Independence Hall: Learn about the founding of the State of Israel. Entry is inexpensive, and the museum offers fascinating historical insights.
  • Bauhaus Center: A small fee grants you access to exhibitions on Tel Aviv’s Bauhaus architecture. The center also offers guided tours.

Use Public Transportation

Tel Aviv’s public transportation system is efficient and budget-friendly. Buses and trains can get you around the city and beyond at a low cost.

  • Rav-Kav Card: Purchase a Rav-Kav card for discounted fares on buses and trains. You can load it with credit and use it across the city’s public transport network.
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Day Trips

  • Jaffa: Just a short walk or bus ride from central Tel Aviv, Jaffa is a beautiful ancient port city with historic sites, galleries, and the flea market.
  • Jerusalem: Easily accessible by bus or train, a day trip to Jerusalem is a must. Explore the Old City, Western Wall, and other significant religious and historical sites.