Israel Middle East Tips & Tricks

Israel on a budget | Tips for a cheaper but deeper trip

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Even though I was thinking about my experience in Israel while writing this article, I realized that everything you are about to read can be applied to many destinations. There are many things that you should (or shouldn’t!) do to make a trip low in budget, and I am telling you from experience, my fellow travelers, that you don’t have to sacrifice anything, except, of course, some of your comforts. Your trip, however, will reward you and I bet on that. If you want to know how to make your trip to Israel cheaper but deeper, keep on reading!

Israel on a budget | Tips for a cheaper but deeper trip

AIRPLANE TICKETS

Obviously, the price of the airfare depends on a lot of things. If you want to know how to score the cheapest tickets available, read here. Personally, I made this trip with a direct flight from Cyprus (Larnaca) to Tel Aviv with Aegean Airlines. It was the cheapest option and the ticket cost around 100€ (round trip) while the trip lasted 55 minutes.

If you intend to begin your trip from Cyprus, I should inform you that there are now several airlines flying to and from Israel, making our life a little bit more easier and, at the same time, saving us some money. Some of these airlines are El Al, Tus Airways, Cobalt and Aegean.

Israel on a budget | Tips for a cheaper but deeper trip

TRANSPORTATION

So, here we are in Israel! But how are we going to move around in the city and from town to town? In this case, there are more than one low-cost options! The obvious thing would be to advice you to use public transportation and indeed, this is the cheapest method. But if you are traveling with a friend, and you have a sharp eye (and mind), but you are also a bit …crazy, you should definitely  try hitchhiking. During the ten days that I spent in Israel I used buses, trains, sheruts (read here what a sherut is), bicycle and I hitchhiked as well. Everything super cheap! For more information about your transportation, click here.

Israel on a budget | Tips for a cheaper but deeper trip

In the city of Tel Aviv the best way to get around is by bike. Cheap and fun at the same time, the city’s green bicycles will become your best friend! You will need to make a registration with your credit card and pay an amount which depends on the days you will rent it. I rented it for 24 hours and paid 17 ILS (about 4€) and in order to avoid paying more, I chose to change my bicycle every 30 minutes. Let me explain this a bit more! After the payment of the registration fee, you have to pay a small fee depending on the time of use. An hour, for example, costs 6 ILS, 1,5 hour costs 12 ILS and so on. But half an hour, it’s totally free! So if you change your bicycle in one of the 150 stations that are scattered in the city, every 30 minutes, you will not have to pay anything more than the registration fee. Brilliant? Learn more about the eco-friendly bicycles here!

Now, what can I say about taxis? I only had one experience and that was quite dramatic. It was expensive and the driver was incredibly rude. Not to mention his driving skills! It was like the bad guys were after us in a Fast&Furious movie! Fortunately we had a young guy from Eritrea with us who negotiated the price and also paid for our taxi. What a gentleman! I was almost crying from the terror when I got off. Surely I cannot condemn all taxis from only one experience. The only certain thing is that it is not low cost, so if you can avoid it, do it!

Israel on a budget | Tips for a cheaper but deeper trip

ACCOMMODATION

Accommodation would probably be the biggest expense of your trip.  So, where are you going to stay? Here, too, the solutions are more than one. For start, and if you are comfortable of course, I would advise you to try couchsurfing or other similar sites for free accommodation. Israelis are very hospitable and always willing to offer their help. I met incredible people during my trip and I made friendships that I am sure that will last a lifetime. One way to be a part of all this, is to stay, completely free, in the house of a local in the towns you will be visiting. If you want to learn how couchsurfing works, visit this page.

Even though I am a huge fan of homestays and couchsurfing, in this trip I chose to stay in hostels and in one hotel. I was very lucky since the hostels that accommodated me in three different cities were, without exaggeration, the best that I have been in my life, each for different reasons of course. So, if you go to Tel Aviv, to Jerusalem or to Mitzpe Ramon put the following hostels in you list for possible places to stay.

Israel on a budget | Tips for a cheaper but deeper trip

Tel Aviv – The beachfront Hotel

Even though it is a hotel, the hostel vibe is totally there! Young people, friendly staff and an incredible roof top bar, ideal for an early drink before you go out strolling around in the bars and clubs of cosmopolitan Tel Aviv. Patricia and I stayed in one of the ground floor rooms, with two single beds and one little balcony right on the street in front of the beach. In other words, we were staying just a few steps away from dreamy sunsets and all the important places of the city.

Right in front of the hotel, there is a station of the green rental bicycles of telofun, something that proved, in the end, to be incredibly convenient! We were in the mood of seeing Jaffa, the picturesque part of the city? Then all we had to do is to follow the road next to the beach and get there in just 30 minutes with the bike. Even at night, when we went out for drinks in one of the best bars in town the Kuli Alma, we rode our bicycles and got to our destination very easily. The Beachfront Hotel has probably the best imaginable location in the best price. It’s certainly worth staying here, at least for one night.

The Beachfront Hotel

Herbert Samuel Street 78

63431, Tel Aviv

Phone : 03-7265230  ,  03-7440347

Fax: 03-5365014

telavivbeachfront@gmail.com

Israel on a budget | Tips for a cheaper but deeper trip

Jerusalem – The Post Hostel

Post Hostel is a hip hostel, in the Central Post Office building, in the heart of the city, in Jaffa Street. Here, you just fall in love with the design, the rooms, the staff, the city but also with the FANTASTIC breakfast buffet which is offered. The best I have ever tasted in a hostel! Jerusalem was the first city I visited in Israel and the Post Hostel the place where I spent my first night. I was so impressed that, after my visit in Tel Aviv, I returned and spent another night in this hostel. This is the kind of love we are talking about!

If you choose it, you should know that you will not need another transportation in the city – just your feet. It is located, literally very close to everything, and the old city of Jerusalem just five minutes away. You can stay in your own room or reduce the cost by choosing a dorm room that can accommodate from two to 12 people. It has a kitchen which I used several times, as well as some really stylish common areas. I hope you are lucky enough to come across one of the theme music soirees in the hostel’s lounge, that gather locals and foreigners from all over town. An amazing way to make new acquaintances, and in the same time have fun dancing and singing!

If all this is not enough, then I should tell you that the best guide in town, Yael, visits the hostel every morning and you can ask her whatever you want about your tours in the city. She will provide maps and will tell you where to go, how to go and what to see. Her help is invaluable!

The Post Hostel

23 Jaffa Street

Jerusalem

T: +972-25813222

F: +972-2-5813223

office@theposthostel.com

Israel on a budget | Tips for a cheaper but deeper trip

Mitzpe Ramon – The Green Backpackers

This hostel felt so homey! I am sure you have heard the expression “home away from home”. Green Backpackers is exactly that. The adorable owner Lee and her husband will make you feel like a member of their family and you are going to feel like you never left your house. It is located on the edge of Ramon crater in the small town of Mitzpe Ramon. You will go there to admire the natural beauty of the landscape, and of course to hike in the dozens of trails that exist there. Hiking in the desert was probably one of the best experiences of my life!

Try to extend your stay for at least three nights, one of which should be Friday. This way you will have the opportunity to enjoy a family Shabbat dinner with the owners and the other hostel guests.

Accommodation in dorms with shared bathroom and lounge is the only option available. A pleasant surprise are the various crafts made of recycled materials by the owners, that are now used as a décor, shelves or storage spaces. I loved the wall shelves from old used videotapes!

The Green Backpackers

NahalSirpad St 2, Mitzpe Ramon 80600, Israel

Tel: 08-6532319 | greenbmr@gmail.com

Note that if you plan on staying in the country for a longer time, then you could contact hostels or even kibbutz for voluntary work. You can stay there completely for free, in exchange for some work. Sweet deal, right?

Israel on a budget | Tips for a cheaper but deeper trip

FOOD

You don’t have to take your lunch or your dinner in a gourmet restaurant every single day. Your best choices are eateries that offer quality local food. Local is always cheaper! Ask the locals and they will pinpoint the best places to satisfy your hunger, cheaply. If your budget is even more limited, then take advantage of the communal kitchen in the hostels and prepare your own meals! In Post Hostel, Patricia and I wore our aprons (ok maybe we didn’t really wore them) and devoted about an hour everyday in the preparation of exquisite, delicious pasta. It is known indeed that I could live only on pasta for the rest of my life.

Israel on a budget | Tips for a cheaper but deeper trip

I have another option for you. Ask if the hostel has any coupon which you can use to eat with less money in a restaurant nearby. Discount coupons are often offered, which you can use to have a cheap meal, like the one we had in Tel Aviv. The Beachfront Hotel gives, if you ask at the reception, a coupon of 7€ (if I remember correctly it was about 30-35 ILS) with which you can go to the restaurant next door and eat breakfast, any time of the day. You can choose between two dishes, one of which includes the infamous and oh-so-yummy shakshuka! The incredible thing is that the portion was so big that we both ate with one 7€ coupon. That means it cost €3.50 each, for a delicious meal and a juice of our choice. Doesn’t get cheaper than that!

Visit the local markets and buy fruits and snacks that you can eat any time of the day, breakfast, lunch or dinner. You can make it for one or two meals, with only a pack of traditional bread pies, humus and other dips and spreads. Totally doable!

Israel on a budget | Tips for a cheaper but deeper trip

TOURS 

Having only 10 days to spend here in Israel, I figured that the only way I could do it and to exploit my time wisely, is by participating in some organized tours. This is something I do in most of my trips. When my time is limited but I want to visit certain places or do some organized activities (camping, rafting, hiking, food tours) I use organised tours. So, I chose Tourist Israel for most of my tours, since they offer infinite choices of daily excursions. Below, I list the tours in which I participated, mainly to prove to you that organized doesn’t necessarily mean expensive.

Israel on a budget | Tips for a cheaper but deeper trip

Masada Sunrise, Ein Gedi & Dead Sea Tour

The best tour for sunrise lovers! In this excursion, that starts around 3.00 am, we had the chance to enjoy the sunrise over the Jordanian Moab Mountains and the Judean Desert, from the top of this ancient Herodian desert fortress located about an hour from Jerusalem. Next stop was Ein Gedi, an oasis with  waterfalls and refreshing water, which was exactly what we needed after climbing Masada. We saved the best for last! The Dead Sea, one of the most famous places in the country is a must see for every visitor. We floated in the sea and even covered ourselves with therapeutic mud. Don’t try to put your head underwater if you don’t want your eyes to burn for the rest of the day.

Masada Sunrise, EinGedi& Dead Sea Tour – Prices begin from: 60€

Israel on a budget | Tips for a cheaper but deeper trip

Jerusalem and Bethlehem Tour – 1 day

This is a full-day guided tour to two of the most important cities of Israel, Jerusalem and Bethlehem. Jerusalem is a city that will blow your mind so if you don’t know much about history and religion, you should definitely take part in this tour.  I would advise you to do what I did. The best way to “understand” this city, is to take the tour on the first day, but on the second day you should take some time to explore the city at your own pace. If you are following me on Snapchat (username: @diarywings) you must have seen me going back to Jerusalem a few days after the tour, to see more of the city on my own. You can read some of my posts about Jerusalem (here) and Bethlehem (here) from my previous visit in 2015. I guarantee that this full day tour will give you incredible emotions, so don’t miss it!

Jerusalem and Bethlehem Tour – 1 day – Prices begin from: 90€

If you want to get information for more tours and activities such as sandboarding in the desert or 4X4 safaris click here.

Israel on a budget | Tips for a cheaper but deeper trip

Free walking tours

Some of the big cities of Israel like Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, offer free walking tours to their visitors. So, if you don’t want to spend money on organized tours,  this is the next best solution. Make an online research or ask the hostel  to inform you about all the free walking tours and activities available at the city you are at the time and take part in one that interests you. Remember that sometimes, especially in high season, there are a lot of people participating and sometimes the tour is fast paced. Oh, and don’t forget to tip your guide at the end of the tour. I guessed this is not completely free after all!

Take some notes…

  • Choose couchsurfing or a hostel for cheaper or free accommodation.
  • Participate in free walking tours whenever possible, but don’t forget to tip the guide at the end of the tour.
  • Don’t hesitate to spend money in two or three organized tours. After all, you didn’t travel all this way to skip the places you always dreamed about visiting!
  • Have your meals where the locals eat avoiding the touristic places.
  • Use public transportation and try to hitchhike when this option is possible. But always be careful. If something looks fishy then it probably is.
  • In Jerusalem take a guided tour first so you can understand all about the history of this amazing city and then devote some time the next day to wander alone in the streets inside and outside the walls of the old town.
  • Visit local markets and buy fruit and snacks for quick meals.
  • Ask the reception to tell you if they have any deal with local restaurants and try to take advantage of their offers. If necessary, cook your own meal in the common kitchen.
  • For your transportation in the city use your feet or rent a bicycle whenever possible.

Travel safe my friends! xoxo

Israel on a budget | Tips for a cheaper but deeper trip

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