My first hour in Israel was actually a true Tel Aviv tour by night. Although it sounds like a touristic route, it was only a wrong bus that led to this adventure. From the airport, we took the train, and immediately after I’ve left the train station I saw the local bus arriving. I desperately ran to catch it and my friends had to follow me closely. It didn’t cross my mind to check the destination once I stepped in the bus. We bought the tickets and then I realized our destination was the other way around!
The driver was so nice, I couldn’t believe it! Firstly, he ragged and told us that we should have been more careful. Then, he made a plan to help, although the ticket was not so expensive (6 NIS, approx. 1.5 EUR). He drove to the end of the line and it felt like it was the outside of the city. At the final stop, he stepped out and discussed with the next driver, the one who had to start the same bus route vice versa, so we wouldn’t have to pay the ticket again.
It was great to see so much of this city outside of the touristic areas. There was no chance for us to get to some neighborhoods, to see the street food shops aligned and full of people, busy and noisy streets, where cars thread the way through motorcycles and bicycles.
Another great experience that I didn’t expect is the local eating habit. I choose Airbnb accommodation in most of my trips as one can experience living like a local for a few days. Although typical for the Jewish, we learned about the kosher kitchen while staying in an Israeli home. We panicked a bit when we read the rules because we didn’t want to mess up things. Briefly said, kosher means you separate the meat, milk and parev products and the dishes. We had to take care in what bowls we ate, how to wash the dishes and where to place the clean cutlery. More about it here.
Practical information to consider before you go:
I went there in early December and we enjoyed 23-26 degree (Celsius) during the day. It’s a good weather to soak in the sun and take a bath in the Mediterranean sea. The only disadvantage is that you have sun only until 4 or 5 pm.
Personally, I’d avoid summer because it’s too hot. Consider autumn, winter, and spring for Tel Aviv, as temperatures don’t go lower than 13, 14 degrees here.
Most of the citizens traveling for fun need just a passport. You are not required to get a visa as a tourist, thus you will get a visit permit before leaving the airport. Check details here.
Tel Aviv is expensive. This is something everyone who went there told us and that I’ve read on the blogs. However, I suppose that British or North European fellows will not have a money issue.
Shekel or NIS – New Israeli Shekel – is the local currency.
Drinks, alcohol, in particular, are pretty expensive, so don’t get drunk there if you need money for next day. The beer was 13 to 16 NIS in supermarkets, water about 5 NIS and a one-course meal about 50 NIS.
1 NIS = 0.24 EUR
Sunsets (not midnight) mark the end of a day
As European, this is a cultural difference, because we consider the day to end at the midnight. You may want to remember that on Fridays shops close early, at the sunset, and on Saturdays, most markets are closed. Saturday for the Jewish is the feast day, as Sunday is for Christians. This was quite clear to me: the parks were full, the beach was packed with people, and everyone was out and about.
Nevertheless, the city is dynamic even after sunset. You will notice both locals and tourists in the streets, going somewhere, or hanging out in the pubs with friends.
I could say that food is very good, but I suppose it depends on what you consider tasteful or not. Meat has a different taste, which I personally don’t like, but my boyfriend can argue this.
Best hummus is not in the city center, nor in Old Jaffa, but close to it. It’s called Abu Hasan and it has the fastest service ever. They only serve hummus, 3 types of it with pittas, onion, salt and green pepper pasta. I can assure you this is not a tourist trap, this is by far the best hummus I’ve had! Prices are convenient, I don’t remember exactly, but each bowl was under 20 shekel.
Another authentic place to eat is the Carmel Market. You can grab a tasteful fruit or local sweet, like baklava or halva. If you are sensitive when it comes to food hygiene, you may not consider the restaurants and bakeries nearby.
In the city, you’ll see some hip restaurants and cafes or bakeries. The only disadvantage is that you cannot book seats and you have to stand in line to wait for a table.
Safety and Security
I’d say the city is pretty safe, but it’s best to check the official travel recommendations. Before leaving to Israel we acknowledged that’s a low probability to face security risks in some areas. And we were warned not to go anywhere close to the Sinai Peninsula or Egypt. It was not the case.
If you are faint-hearted, buckle up, you will most probably see soldiers serving and walking with their big black weapons. This is routine most of the times, so don’t worry.
It’s mostly cafe shops, streets food, art galleries or museums, guys!
You have plenty of options, and even some walking tours available for tourists. Even more, I’ve seen many shows and concerts advertised and Israeli seem pretty partygoers.
Stay tuned, soon I’ll be sharing my list of things to do during a city break.