The metropolis of Tel Aviv-Jaffa has developed into an extremely popular travel destination in recent years. The city enables a combination of beach and city trips. Due to the many clubs and bars, Tel Aviv is also a party hotspot. But if you expect some kind of cheap shooter, you are completely wrong here. The metropolis is not a bargain, but the price level is very high.
Tel Aviv not only represents modern coexistence, but in this city the coexistence of Jews and Muslims functions largely without any problems. But that also makes the metropolis unique, because some districts are Arab and others Jewish. The city is modern and cosmopolitan. Due to the fact that there are some high-rise buildings directly opposite the waterfront, there is even a bit of a Miami feeling.
If you ignore the travel restrictions that currently exist due to the corona pandemic, getting there is very easy and often very cheap. Israel and the European Union signed an OpenSkies agreement some time ago, which meant that low-cost airlines added Tel Aviv Ben Gurion Airport to their route network and massively increased the number of destinations. It is not uncommon to be spoiled for choice between two, three, four or even more airlines. The price level for the tickets is therefore very cheap, although it should be remembered that hotels, food and restaurants in Israel are considerably more expensive compared to the level in Austria and Germany. A “cheap weekend trip” for less than 100 euros (flight, hotel, transfers) is simply not feasible. Israel does not even want to address this target group. It is very clear that quality is more of a priority and is also successful: Last year there were more tourists than ever in the country. The vast majority landed at Tel Aviv-Ben Gurion Airport. Eilat got a smaller piece of the cake on the Red Sea.
As already mentioned, the Mediterranean metropolis enables unique city trips, because depending on the traveler’s mood, you can chill out on the beach, visit mosques and synagogues, take in the city’s impressive architecture, celebrate in the clubs and bars shop in traditional markets or do lots and lots of activities.
There are many travel guides and websites that deal intensively with the many possibilities that Tel Aviv has to offer. Therefore, this text concentrates on a few practical tips and is only intended to give you advice on how you can save your travel budget a little.
Bank cards: the magnetic stripe must work
Public transport is very well developed and extremely frequented. Fares are low and can be pressed again with the Rav-Kav-Card (available from machines and counters at Ben Gurion Airport). It is a prepaid card onto which travel credit is loaded. If this is used up, it can be reloaded at ATMs, for example. You save a lot compared to cash tickets. An important note on this: Debit and credit cards of the Visa and Mastercard brands are accepted almost everywhere in Tel Aviv. With Maestro and Vpay, however, you have very bad cards, as these are sometimes not even accepted at ATMs. But there are also technical reasons for this, because NFC or chip are the absolute exception in Israel, because payments are made with the magnetic strip and the payment is confirmed with a signature.
Tip: Before traveling to Israel, clarify the functionality of the magnetic stripe with your bank. This is often temporarily deactivated, as it is only needed in Europe in rare exceptional cases, for example in the on-board bistro of Deutsche Bahn AG.
With the bus from the airport to the beach
Go for a swim in the sea after landing? Yes why not? No problem at all, as there is a bus line that will take you to the beach quickly. It is line 445 and thus a normal bus. Tickets can be bought with the Rav-Kav-Card or with cash directly from the driver. At 9,30 NIS, it is also by far the cheapest way to get from Ben Gurion Airport to Tel Aviv.
Tip: You don't have to buy a Rav Kav Card for every fellow traveler. One is enough. Simply tell the bus driver how many people there are, put on the card and the driver will print out three tickets for you.
Sheruts: Inexpensive alternative to taxis
If you don't want to go straight to the beach, you can also use the train services. However, this is more expensive than the buses and there is no time saving. Sheruts are very popular with the locals. These are minibuses that also run on the bus routes at night and on the Sabbath. These are a little more expensive, but always cheaper than a taxi.
Tip: In Tel Aviv it is customary to get into the Sherut and then hand the fare to the front. The driver will then give the change back to you exactly. You can also ask for special stops, these will usually be made for you.
Public transport has a break on the Sabbath
Public transportation in Tel Aviv is completely safe and modern. But: The Sabbath is - apart from the Sheruts - a day of rest. No train or bus runs and that can be very tedious for tourists and if you don't want to use the sheruts, you quickly have to rely on taxis or travel apps like Uber. The prices for this are not extremely expensive, but they turn into money very quickly. If you want to save, you should simply walk a few ways within the city. That already has the advantage that you get great impressions and impressions. But if you have to go from the airport to the city or vice versa, it is of course not an alternative. Apart from the rental car and the sheruts, there is only a taxi (or comparable chauffeur services) on the Sabbath. You should definitely take this into account when planning your trip:
Tip: Avoid landings or takeoffs between Friday afternoon and Saturday evening. Public transport ceases on Fridays in the afternoon and only resumes on Saturday after sunset. Incidentally, Sundays are normal working days in Israel. Also clarify with your hotel whether you can check in or out at all during the Sabbath. In many houses this is not possible.
Cheap umbrellas and loungers on the beach
By the way, a bit of something unique awaits you at the stands in Tel Aviv, because renting loungers and parasols is incredibly cheap. Depending on the exchange rate, an umbrella and a lounger only cost between around 3,70 and 4,10 euros per day. A real bargain. To do this, a ticket must be bought at the machine. This can usually only be paid for with a credit card. You can then turn to the staff with the receipt and choose your preferred seat depending on the capacity. The employees bring the lounger and the umbrella.
Tip: The magnetic stripe on your debit or credit card should work reliably. Otherwise it can get complicated. It is better to pack your snacks and drinks yourself, because the beach restaurants and the mini markets at the stalls are significantly more expensive than the supermarkets.
Get to Tel Aviv Airport on time
Tel Aviv Ben Gurion Airport is considered the safest airport in the world because the measures that are being taken are extensive. Some of these are clearly visible and others, on the other hand, do not even notice normal passengers. In any case, before every departure from Israeli airports, there is a short conversation with an official (“interviewer”). There are a lot of rumors and downright horror tales circulating on the Internet, but the survey is absolutely harmless. If you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear. The interviewer only asks a few questions about the itinerary and includes a few trick questions. There may be questions about luggage, hand luggage and stamps in the passport. The officer carries out a security classification and, depending on the assessment, the person and baggage checks are then more extensive. Incidentally, beverage bottles are not prohibited. You can officially take these with you into the security area in Israel.
Tip: Arrive at Ben Gurion Airport at least three hours before departure, as the waiting times for the interviews can be longer. An extensive check can also take a little longer. Questions are often asked about passport stamps from the Arab world and Turkey. Answer this plausibly and conclusively. It can also be helpful if you have proof of your stay in Israel with you. For example, your hotel bill. This can be useful if you have any doubts. But don't be afraid of the extensive security checks, because the officers are very friendly and will be happy to explain every single step to you. In the security area you can be impressed by the duty-free offer, because in Israel there is everything: from flat screen TVs to vacuum cleaners and washing machines to computers.
More tips for traveling to Tel Aviv:
- The Rav Kav Card is valid on all public transport throughout Israel. This does not apply to Sheruts and private special lines. The card can be topped up at ATMs. Alternatively at ticket counters and in shops that are marked with a special logo.
- The bus network in Tel Aviv is reliable and safe. With cash tickets, you have to buy a new ticket even when you change trains. Changes are possible with the Rav Kav Card.
- If possible, get drinks and snacks in the large supermarkets that are available nationwide. The gastronomy is expensive.
- Avoid traveling on the Sabbath. This starts on Friday afternoon and ends on Saturday evening.
- Respect the local culture. The locals are hospitable and usually very helpful. Don't be afraid to ask the lifeguard on the beach for the bus route, for example. Most of the time they try to help you.
- Keep in mind that your bank may impose foreign currency fees on withdrawals and payments. You must ask your bank whether this is the case. Inquire about the magnetic stripe on your card.
- Tips are common. The amount should be reasonable, as it can happen that a tip that is too high is not accepted.
- In Tel Aviv Ben Gurion, all flights arrive at Terminal 3. Departures are from Terminals 1 and 3. As these are not in the immediate vicinity, you should first find out where you are departing from with your airline or on the airport's homepage.
- Israel is not a member of the EU. Therefore, the roaming regulation does not apply. Very high extra costs can be incurred for phone calls, SMS and data. Check with your provider before you start your journey. There are many free WiFi networks on site. An alternative would be local prepaid cards, which are available at Ben Gurion Airport, for example.