Israel is expensive. Startlingly expensive. Has prices that will make you want to cry more than chopping an onion. I was quite naive when I booked my trip to Israel and although I had heard people mention that it was a little on the pricier side, I massively underestimated by how much. I would say that Israel prices even exceed London prices which I know is not what fellow budget savvy travellers want to hear but there are ways to reduce the cost of your budget which I’ve summarised below.
How to Travel Israel on a Budget
If you haven’t heard of couchsurfing yet,
where have you been then it’s definitely time to download the app. The concept of couchsurfing is simply that you stay with locals for free. Couchsurfing provides a great opportunity to make international friends while you travel and Jerusalem and Tel Aviv in particular both have a very active couchsurfing community.
Accommodation in Israel is expensive – even hostel beds can set you back over £20/$25 a night so opting to couchsurf alleviates a lot of your expense. Not to mention, Israelis are incredibly friendly and fun!
Other Accommodation Options
If couchsurfing isn’t your thing, I completely get that. Israel has recently started opening up to international travellers in a big way so there are a fair few hostels dotted around – it’s just that they may be a little more expensive compared to what you are used to!
I stayed at the Abraham Hostels in Tel Aviv and in Jerusalem (there’s also one in Nazareth which is a converted mansion!) and I have to say that it was one of the most fun hostels I’ve ever stayed at! The hostels are huge, hold events daily and it’s like a whole community of travellers. A bit like the community in Leonardo DiCaprio’s “The Beach” just without the Lord of the Flies-esque behaviour. It is also worth noting that the Abraham hostels offer a volunteer program where you can spend 6+ weeks working at the hostel in exchange for accommodation so if you are travelling long term, this could be something to consider.
When I’m browsing hostels and hotels, I also always make sure that I pick ones that include breakfast too so that I don’t have that extra expense. That way, I can stuff myself silly in the morning and I probably won’t eat again until the evening (so what if I’ve given up luxuries like eating in exchange for travel. Who needs food anyway?)
If you’ve travelled in the Middle East before, you’re probably rejoicing over the super tasty, flavourful foods you’re going to eat for cheap when you return and visit Israel right? Well stop that right now!
Eating out at a restaurant in Tel Aviv or Jerusalem will set you back anywhere between 40-60 shekels (basic restaurant) and having a simple sandwich at a cafe or coffee shop can be anywhere between 25 and 40 shekels. Fast food and street food isn’t cheap either in Israel and will cost you around the same price. I did however find that there are some falafel places where you can get a falafel pita for just 17 shekels (circa £3.60/ $5). I was actually eating all the time at this one place in Tel Aviv which caused the guy to ask “Are you vegetarian? All you eat is falafel pita!” (No sir just poor)
I bought my food mostly from shuks (local food markets) and supermarkets. Typically, I’d buy a huge pot of hummus and eat that every day with pita bread and some cheap fruits and veggies (living the life!).
Alcohol prices in Israel are expensive. Most bars in Tel Aviv were charging around £8/$11 for a pint of beer. £8 A PINT! I actually don’t drink alcohol so this didn’t really affect me too much, but if you are partial to a tipple or two, be prepared to fork over a lot of your budget on alcohol. Of course, it’s much cheaper to buy alcohol from local supermarkets, especially if you are willing to experiment with the questionable “budget” brands.
One thing that makes up for the prices when you arrive in Israel is that getting to the country isn’t all that expensive. Several budget airlines fly into Ben Gurion airport and I found a pretty sweet deal through Kiwi that flew from London to Tel Aviv via Sofia for just £45!
(Side note: If you haven’t heard of or used Kiwi for flights yet then I definitely suggest that you get involved! The search engine pulls together all of the cheapest possible flight routes and I use it religiously now. Take a peep at my guide to booking cheap flights with Kiwi.com)
Go Off the Beaten Track
Israel is pretty expensive as a whole, but you will find slightly lower prices once you escape the major cities. In Northern Israel and in smaller towns and settlements, I found prices to be slightly lower. If you decide to travel to Palestine (you should!), you will find that prices are substantially cheaper than in the major cities. In the West Bank, you can get a sandwich or a falafel pita for 10 shekels for example, as opposed to the 20 + you would typically pay in the major Israel cities. (Obviously there is a lot more to Palestine than just cheap sandwiches!)
Tours can be costly and as a rule of thumb, I only ever really use them if I am visiting an area that is difficult to get to as a solo traveller. I personally prefer the independence to wander around by myself and I would assure you that Israel is a pretty safe and liberal country for travelling alone.
That said, sometimes it’s nice to pop along to a tour and to meet new people or hear more details about the local history. New Sandeman’s Tours offer free walking tours of Jerusalem’s Old City and Jaffa that depart daily. It should be noted that you are expected to tip on these tours but the amount is at your discretion. For organised day trips, Abraham Tours have an excellent reputation and I loved their Masada sunrise tour. A trip of this kind can cost you anywhere between £50-£150 pounds, or $70 – $200.
Transportation in Israel can also be pricey. You need to be aware that “shabbat” aka Israel’s Jewish holy day has a major impact on transportation and business schedules. From Friday to around midday on Saturday, public transportation stops running therefore it is important to take this into consideration when planning your itinerary and your journeys around Israel!
Getting To/From the Airport
From Ben Gurion International to Tel Aviv Central Railway station, the cheapest and easiest way to get into the city (and vice versa back to the airport) is via an affordable train service that costs 13 shekels (aka £2.80 or $3.80) for a one way ride. Bus number 485 runs from Ben Gurion to Jerusalem and costs around £3.50/$4.50 each way. There are other options to getting to and from each city but here I have highlighted the cheapest.
When I’m in a city, I personally choose to walk everywhere so that I can save on costs, stay fit, and discover hidden gems along the way. In Tel Aviv there are also tons of bicycle rental places dotted around.
Cabs are quite expensive in Israel. Taking one from one side of Tel Aviv or Jerusalem to the other can set you back between $20-$30 so I would really advise that you try not to use this option unless you really find yourself lost and in a mess.
Israel also has “sheruts” which are essentially shared taxis. The drivers follow a set route around cities or between them. Once you flag the driver down he will stop for you provided there is room in the car. Sheruts do run between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv but they operate on a very limited schedule and so it is sometimes more convenient to get a bus or take the light rail.
Trains & Buses
Trains and buses in Israel are modern, clean and efficient and some of them even have wifi installed. You can check the latest train prices, routes and schedules here and the details of the buses here.
Abraham Hostels have a hop-on, hop-off bus that runs around Israel as well as a shuttle that runs several times a day between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. From Jerusalem to Tel Aviv and vice versa, it’s 25 shekels or £5.30/$7. The hop on hop off bus stops at various cities and town around Israel. Notably, it includes Caeserea, Acre, Beit She’an (Jordan River Crossing), Safed, Tiberius and Nazareth. Since it can be quite awkward to get to some of these places independently (especially the Jordan crossing), this is a pretty useful transport link to know about.
If you couchsurf, walk everywhere, only participate in free tours and activities and eat a mixture of cheap street food/falafel takeaways and self prepared supermarket dishes, you can definitely manage to travel to Israel on less than $20 a day.
If you don’t want to couchsurf and you would prefer to stay in a hostel, opt for one with a breakfast included to save a little extra. You can still manage to make your trip cheap and affordable and can travel Israel for less than $40 a day.
Useful Resources & Related Articles
Find the Cheapest Possible Flights to Israel – Click Here
Check the Latest Currency Conversions – Click Here
A Perfect One Week Israel Itinerary
How To Cross the Israel-Jordan Border Without Headaches
Discovering Old City Jerusalem
Yes it’s Perfectly Safe To Travel To Israel Right Now
Israel’s Culture: Important Insights Before You Travel
Ask a Local: Things to Do in the West Bank, Palestine
I also stumbled across this pretty handy website that details the cost of living in various countries and cities around the globe and breaks down the costs in Israel – Click Here.
Have you attempted to travel Israel on a Budget? Alternatively, have you travelled to other destinations which were much more expensive than what you were expecting? Let me know in the comments below!
Pin it For Later!