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Travel Challenge: Is it possible to visit Tel Aviv on a budget?

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I am so stoked about returning to Tel Aviv tomorrow! I’ve already mentioned it briefly in my monthly round-up last week, but I wanted to share some more details about the trip, and last but not least: I’d love your input, if you’ve been to Tel Aviv!tel aviv beach view

What makes Tel Aviv such an awesome destination?

You might remember that when I visited Tel Aviv for the first time last year, I completely (and unexpectedly!) fell for the city. I loved the vibrant coffee shop scene, the nightlife, the beaches right in the city, the old port town of Jaffa on the southern end of the city, and how people were enjoying life there. I spent my days strolling through El Carmel market, running along the promenade, watching the sunset with hundreds of people on the beach every night before checking out some of the many fancy bars. I searched (and found) the street art I’d heard so much about, and I ate my way around town, or through all of Israel to be precise, because Tel Aviv has some of the best food I’ve had anywhere in the world – I am still talking about the delicious dishes I had there all the time, and just the thought of all the good food I’ll eat when I get back to Tel Aviv makes my mouth water. dani in akkoI dove into the gay scene, and one of the things I loved most about Tel Aviv was how gay-friendly and tolerant the city is, especially considering this is the Middle East. Not a single country or city in the region is accepting or tolerating gay culture, but in Tel Aviv, it is celebrated openly and the city was recently voted best gay city in the world, ahead of New York even!

By the time I had to leave the city, I was ready to move to Tel Aviv. There was only one downside to this amazing city: it was expensive.tel aviv carmel market israel

Why is Tel Aviv so expensive?

One of the first things I noticed during my visit was how pricey everything in Tel Aviv was. I had just come from New York, where prices for most things are through the roof, but I hadn’t expected Tel Aviv to be on par with prices in New York. A small bottle of beer in a bar or restaurant for example was usually 30 or 32 Shekels – that’s 7.75 – 8.25 US Dollars! That’s even more expensive than New York, and this article revealed that Tel Aviv is in fact the third expensive city for beer in the world, only Hong Kong and Geneva charge more for beer.jaffa israelPrices for food span a wider range – similar to New York, I was able to find falafel sandwiches at little street stalls for about US$3, but I also paid ILS55 (US$14.19) for a simple Israeli breakfast and a coffee in a coffee shop in Tel Aviv. Which might be okay for someone coming from New York, but for someone from Berlin, a city filled with cheap breakfast places, this would be downright expensive. Even the famous Dr. Shakshuka, who started out as a small hole-in-the-wall shakshuka place, now charges upwards of ILS40 (US$10.30) for this simple egg dish. jaffa flea market israelBut it’s not only food and going out: living costs in Tel Aviv have increased dramatically over the past few years. The city jumped from #32 to #18 in the ranking of the world’s most expensive cities last year, indicating just how much pricier everyday life has become. So it’s not a surprise that young Israelis flock to Berlin in droves to take advantage of the 79 Cent beers in the supermarkets and cheap rents, but is it possible for someone from Berlin to visit Tel Aviv on a small budget – and still have a good time?tel aviv jetski

The challenge: Tel Aviv on $77 per day

So when I was challenged to find out if it was possible to visit Tel Aviv on a shoestring, I didn’t have to think twice: I’ll be returning to Tel Aviv with a tight budget this week and will find out what a daily budget of 69 Euros – or 77 US Dollars – gets a visitor in Tel Aviv these days. Of course it is possible to visit Tel Aviv with even less money than that if you only eat at home and couchsurf, but I want to know if I can visit Tel Aviv on a small budget without limiting myself to doing only free stuff. I still want a comfortable place to stay (which is already included in the daily budget), be able to go out and have a good time, eat out instead of cooking for myself.tel aviv twilight

I need your help!

Right now, I am researching cheap places to eat, drink and other free things to do, and could use your input. If you have been to Tel Aviv and have any tips for me – cheap eats, happy hour deals, etc -, please share them in the comments below! If you happen to track your spending like I do, I’d love to hear how much you spent on average per day during your stay in Tel Aviv. After my trip, I will put together a Tel Aviv On A Shoestring post for you, in which I’ll share my favorite inexpensive places to eat and go out and cool things to do on a budget. I will also try to keep my budget even lower – will it maybe even be possible to have a good time in Tel Aviv for 50 Dollars a day?jaffa from banana beach

For more information on Tel Aviv and Israel, check out GoIsrael.

To follow my trip to Tel Aviv in real time on Snapchat – add me with my username mariposa2711.

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10 Comments

  1. The great thing about Tel Aviv is that it is very cheap to eat there. I eat a lot of street food when I am there just because it’s so good. I also travel everywhere on foot, by bus, or bike rental.

    These are some of my favorite places for food:

    -Aboulafia, of course. I love the pockets stuffed with cheese and olives.
    -Oved’s for their famous eggplant sandwich. I have heard the one in Givatayim is better than the one in Tel Aviv, but TA is much more convenient.
    -Moroccan soup places in the shuk. I am not sure if they have a vegetarian option, but you should check. The address is Yehya Kapah St 22, or thereabouts. It is just two small restaurants and all they sell is soup.
    -Bakeries at the end of the the shuk near the old bus station (Daniel Street).
    -Chain cafes. I would never eat at a Starbucks, but cafes in Israel are different. The chains, like Cafe Cafe, actually have good, fresh food.
    -Suzana on Shabazi St.
    -Dr. Shakshuka
    -Try bourekas. There are lots of stands throughout the city. They are vegetarian dough pockets.
    -If you are making yourself breakfasts, buy spreadable cheese – it’s amazing. And eat a lot of yogurt.

    I have spent a lot of time just walking around Tel Aviv and exploring. Here are some free/cheap things to do:

    -Visit these neighborhoods: Old Jaffa (Yafo), Neve Tzedek, area around Rabin Square, Sheinkin Street, Rothschild Street (just walk up and down; you might find queer stuff here). I can spend hours just walking around these neighborhoods.
    -Visit Shuk HaCarmel, which you already know, but I visit every time I am there and always discover something new. There is also Shuk HaPishpashim (fleas) in old Yafo.
    -Walk down the tayelet (boardwalk) and watch the sunset – I’m sure you’ve done it – it never gets old. We often get a drink at Honey Beach and watch the sunset.
    -The new trend in Israel is to remake cool, old spaces into malls. They are worth visiting, even though they fill them with fancy boutiques and expensive restaurants. Visit: HaTachana (the train station), which is at the end of Shabazi; Sarona, built by the German Templars (I haven’t been, but really want to take a tour); the Old Port.
    -Bauhaus Center tours. I have never been, but if you are interested in Tel Aviv architecture, it is worth checking out.

  2. I’m SO excited that you are returning to Tel Aviv!! One of my dreams is to visit Israel (i.e. the Holy Land as we call them) without a tour group. You’ve shown that it can be done and honestly, I can’t wait until I can do that myself as well. I find it surprising that it’s so expensive though – definitely didn’t see that coming!

    1. Pauline – I hope you’ll make it to Israel one day… it’s one of the most fascinating countries I’ve been to! I was surprised about how pricey it was too, but I’ll be sharing my shoestring tips for Tel Aviv shortly 🙂

  3. I booked my next travel destination–to Bali!–last week. And then I saw you were in Tel Aviv.

    Damit! I might have tried to meet you there if only I was paying attention. Anyway, hope you’re having a wonderful time! I’m back in NY at the end of November. When will I see you there again?

    xx

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