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Welcome to the city that never sleeps, a city so enjoyable that everyone wants to join the party. Due to high demand in recent years, accompanied with a major economic boost across Israel (now referred to as “Startup Nation”) - Tel Aviv is not the low-cost adventure of an exotic destination, but rather a bustling metropolis equivalent to Paris, Rome, London and New York. Global shifts and developments made the Israeli shekel one of the strongest currencies in the world, causing your visit to Tel Aviv to be less affordable. So, how do people get by in this town? And more importantly - how will you? Here are 10 tips to save money on your visit to Tel Aviv.
Imagine wandering the streets of Tel Aviv without a wallet. That’s how the locals do it, thanks to an app called Colu. It’s an electronic wallet for Shekels - the Israeli currency. Amazingly, when you top up your balance, Colu gives you 10% extra. You can pay via Colu in many local business in Tel Aviv, so some refer to it as the “Tel Aviv Shekel”. Colu is available on the App Store or you can get it on Google Play. When you first open the app, you’ll receive 25 Shekels, that you can use freely, so it’s worth giving it a try. You can use this link to download Colu, or - to show your support of this content, let me send you an invitation to Colu. That way they’ll know who sent you, and also give me 25 Shekels. Click here to send me an automatic whatsapp message, saying that you want to receive the invitation and... Voila! Accept the invitation, and I’ll thank you for your support of this site and my goal of making Tel Aviv more hospitable and enjoyable for all.
2) Free Walking Tours
The official name of the city is actually Tel Aviv - Jaffa, because it was created as a combination of two cities. Jaffa is so old, it is mentioned in the Bible as the port city that the prophet Jonah went through while escaping the word of God. In contrast, Tel Aviv was established on a fine spring day in April 1909. Millenia apart, Tel Aviv and Jaffa both hold captivating stories, but it is not easy to uncover them. That’s the reason I guide custom tours in Tel Aviv. Also, I recommend the free tours conducted by expert guides. You can join a free tour of Jaffa, departing every day from the Jaffa Clock Tower at 11am and 2pm. All you need to to do is register online via this link. You can also join free tours of Tel Aviv - a tour of the Tel Aviv Port departs 11am on Thursdays, a tour of Sarona departs 11am on Fridays, and a tour of Rothschild Boulevard departs 11am on Saturdays. Get more details via this link. All tours mentioned here are conducted in English.
3) The Beach
With less than 60 days of rain and an almost-tropical climate, Tel Aviv is the ultimate beach city. Not only will you find a beautiful 14km stretch of yellow sands, but also unique atmosphere in every part of it. There’s a beach for dogs, for sea sports, for religious people as well as for LGBTQ people. Tel Aviv’s coastline is as attractive as it is versatile. Here you’ll absorb the liberal spirit of the city, laying your eyes on people from all walks of life. Until recently, this experience would come with a hefty price tag, because sellers would take advantage of the laziness that bathers would indulge in, asking unreasonable prices for the bare necessities. Nowadays, beach-goers need not fear being scammed, thanks to the newly published fixed price list. Though it contains only the essentials, the fixed price list is a great way to reduce expenses while relaxing and schmoozing on the beach. It is published and enforced by the city to offer you an affordable experience. Pitta bread with hummus or salad costs only 12 Shekels, a bottle of mineral water - 7 Shekels, and you’ll have to say goodbye to only 5 Shekels to get a popsicle. Also, do not hesitate to ask for a tanning bed, a beach chair or a parasol. They will be provided at your request, so look for the beach attendants wearing orange T-shirts with the city logo. Renting a tanning bed costs 12 Shekels, while a beach chair or a parasol cost only 6 Shekels. Some beaches are equipped with automatic machine that you can use with a credit card. The machine prints out a receipt to be shown to the beach attendant, who will provide whatever was paid for. More information about the Tel Aviv coastline and the fixed price list is available via this link. Always listen to the lifeguards’ instructions and don’t forget to bring sunscreen, a bathing towel, sunglasses and a cap.
Tel Aviv is also known as “the smallest Big City in the world”. The size of the entire metropolitan area is considered laughable on a global comparison, and the city center is no more than 1 square mile. Don’t forget to bring your walking shoes, because wherever your point A is, point B is probably within walking distance. Walking is good for you health, it’s a great way to see the city, and the price is free, but opting out of walking is a good tactic when you want to conserve your energy, especially when it’s extremely hot. In that case, you can try the local bus system. The most popular bus routes are numbered 4 (Ben-Yehuda st. and Allenby st.) and 5 (Dizengoff st. and Rothschild Boulevard). If you know you’re going to use the bus system more than few times, consider buying a Rav-Kav - it’s an electronic card you can use to pay for bus rides after charging it with cash. The benefit of using the Rav-Kav card is that for every 50 Shekels you add to your balance, you get 12.5 Shekels extra. Another benefit is that when you validate a ride using the Rav-Kav card, you can switch busses within a 90-minutes time frame. Ask the bus driver to issue you a new Rav-Kav card (it costs only 5 Shekels) when you first embark a bus and you’ll be able to charge it with cash on bus rides and at local kiosks. Another way to get around the city is by taking a taxi. The best times to take a taxi is after 10AM and before 3PM, or in the evening hours - these hours are less busy, so you won’t find yourself sitting in traffic, watching the meter run. Unlike the rest of the world, Uber is not very popular in Israel, so consider using what the locals are using. It’s an app called Gett that orders you a taxi. If you’re not familiar with it, give it a shot. When you sign up, you’ll get a nice amount of free money for you first taxi rides, and if you’ll use this link, they’ll know you came from here, and I’ll thank you for your support of this site and my goal of making Tel Aviv more hospitable and enjoyable for all.
Whether you’re an art lover or a history buff, Tel Aviv boasts a variety of great museums. Admission is inexpensive and sometimes even completely free. If you’re a student planning to go to several museums, consider issuing an international student card to get discounts on admission. More information about issuing an international student card is available via this link. Though Tel Aviv is famously young, it still holds a big piece of Israeli history. The Israeli Declaration of Independence was read out in 16 Rothschild Boulevard, which used to be the address of the first mayor of Tel Aviv, Meir Dizengoff. Back in 1948, when Israel got its independence from Britain, this building functioned as the Tel Aviv Museum of Art. This venue was chosen for practical reasons, mostly because it had a big hall to host all the important people who led the struggle for Jewish independence, but it’s also nice to think of a country being born in an art museum. Today, 16 Rothschild Boulevard is called the Hall of Independence - a museum depicting the remarkable events of the day that Israel became an independent state. You can visit the Hall of Independence for only 24 Shekels (18 if you’re a student) and see where it all began. You can also walk the Independence Trail - a short trail connecting several important landmarks, with the Hall of Independence at its center. Further information is available on the museum’s website. Those of you who are interested in military history will surely find Tel Aviv interesting. Each and every paramilitary organization that predated the Israeli Defense Forces has a dedicated museum somewhere in the city. If you want to focus on only one of them, choose the Palmach Museum. Though it’s a bit further away from the city center, it’s worth a visit, since it offers a rather unique experience. Instead of looking at an exhibition of old artifacts, you’re invited to relive the experiences of Palmach volunteers - the young men and women who took up arms to protect the Jewish population in the Land of Israel and later on to fight in the War of Independence. Admittance is only 30 Shekels (20 if you’re a student), but you do need to book in advance. Plus, many bus lines can easily take you from anywhere in Tel Aviv to the Palmach museum. That way instead of paying for a taxi ride, you’ll only pay the bus fare (5.9 Shekels). More information about the Palmach Museum is available on the museum’s website. For the art lovers, the obvious choice is the Tel Aviv Museum of Art. The permanent exhibition is overwhelming, with exemplary work of each and every important artist you’ve heard about from Claude Monet and his fellow impressionists to Pablo Picasso’s cubism and Salvador Dalí’s surrealism. The newer section of the museum is a magnificent piece of architecture. It was built to house the changing exhibitions (most of them are of international importance) and the Israeli Art section, showcasing the century long evolution of the local art form. A visit to the Tel Aviv Museum of Art will cost you 50 Shekels (40 if you’re a student). More information is available on the museum’s website. Another way to learn about Israeli art is to visit the Nahum Gutman Museum of Art. This museum provides a more intimate experience, offering a close up look at one important Israeli artist. In the beginning of the 20th century, the young artist Nahum Gutman developed a new style, that became very influential in the local art scene. His style of painting is colorful and lit, and is characterized sometimes as naive. The museum itself is small, hence the intimacy that is felt by visitors. Entrance fee is 24 Shekels per adult (12 if you’re a student). More information is available on the museum’s website. Note that mentioned above are only few of the museums located in Tel Aviv.
6) Low-cost Chains
When looking for the essentials, you’ll have no problem finding a supermarket or a pharmacy. But if you’re willing to look a little further or to plan in advance, you can actually save quite a bit of money. Shops in Tel Aviv are known to be somewhat expensive. Young people actually took to the streets in the summer of 2011, crying out against the high cost of living in Israel (especially in Tel Aviv and particularly concerning housing prices). Since then, prices have only increased, but some entrepreneurs seized the opportunity and opened up new low-cost chains, that sell products for a fixed price. The pioneer in this field is Cofix - a chain of coffee shops, selling a cup o’Joe for only 5 Shekels. When the first branch of Cofix opened its doors, people queued up to buy coffee in an act considered by many as a protest against the other coffee chains in Tel Aviv, that sold coffee for prices that were twofold, even threefold. Later on, Cofix expanded its business and opened branches labeled SuperCofix. These branches sell not only coffee, but a line of products for only 5 Shekels. If you walk into a SuperCofix, you’d be able to buy everything you need to prepare a full meal, or just grab a snack on the go for the lowest prices available in the whole city. Another chain that followed is called GoodPharm, specializing in hygiene products for a fixed price of only 10 Shekels. If you’re in an Airbnb apartment, in need to buy shampoo, soap, toothpaste or whatever, this is a good place to go to, since most products come in a small package. That way, you won’t be buying a big shampoo bottle, that is going to be left behind anyway. Here are links for more information on GoodPharm and on Cofix and SuperCofix.
7) Free Internet Access
Most accomodations in Tel Aviv, as well as coffee places and restaurants, offer free internet access. But for the in-between time, when you’re wandering the streets (as well you should), you need a solution. Knowledge is power and you shouldn’t miss out on it. Smartphone in hand is the method to save time and energy when visiting an unfamiliar place. The most expensive way to stay connected to the internet when abroad is to buy an internet package from your regular telecommunications service provider. If you want to save up big and you don’t mind disconnecting your usual number for the duration of your visit, you can buy a local SIM card with a pay-as-you-go plan. Whether you do any of the above or none at all, you can count on the municipal WiFi system to provide you internet access with a basic speed. Public squares and main streets in Tel Aviv are spotted with antennas that allow anyone to login, after agreeing to the terms of service (that’s ok, nobody ever reads the terms of service). More information about accessing the municipal public internet is available via this ink. You can start out by checking if you can completely rely on wireless internet connections. If you don’t succeed, you can still buy a local SIM card for a reasonable price at a local kiosk or a mobile phone store. All service providers that operate in Israel have a sales booth at the entrance floor of Dizengoff Center shopping mall located smack in the middle of the city, so if you go there, you’ll know you’re buying from a reliable source.
Even though it’s not a popular choice for the sophisticated bohemians, the Aroma chain is a reliable option to for a tourist on a budget. It offers sandwiches and salads, as well as coffee and pastry for affordable prices. Branches are scattered throughout the city, so there should be no problem finding one close to you at any given moment. Aroma has a sitting menu and a take away menu, so you can shave few more Shekels off of your food budget by ordering to go (look for a public bench or a nearby park before placing your order). Another way to make Aroma work for you is to download their app. Don’t worry about cellular connection, since all branches are equipped with wireless internet that you can access as you place your order. When you download the app, you automatically receive a coupon for a free coffee. The way you use the app is by charging you balance with a credit card. For every 99 Shekels you add to your balance you get 110 Shekels. Actually, the best way to use the app is if you order something 5 minutes before you get inside an Aroma branch. That way you won’t have to wait in line, and if you have only few days to get to know Tel Aviv, your time is valuable. The Aroma app has an English interface and it’s suitable for iOS devices as well as Android.
9) Abraham Hostel
There are three major categories in a traveller’s expense budget - flights, lodging and food. Even if you can get on a cheap flight to Tel Aviv, and even if you’re planning to fast during your stay, we’re still dealing with the lodging category. Hypothetically, you can grab a sleeping bag and go sleep on the beach or in a park under the night sky. Come to think of it, maybe it’s not that terrible an idea. Another cool idea is to couchsurf. There’s a big community of hosts in Tel Aviv, eager to let you use their couch for a few nights. This option comes with a huge bonus, namely that couchsurfing hosts give you inside tips and can show you around town. Check out the Tel Aviv couchsurfing community via this link. If you have friends or family in the Tel Aviv metropolitan area, explore the possibility of staying with them. Even if you’re not ideally located, the money you’ll save is worth the hassle of staying even an hour drive away from the city center. The traditional options of hotels and short-term apartment rentals are extremely expensive. There are many Airbnb apartments in Tel Aviv and their prices are considered much more cost effective. If you want a roof over your head and don’t have somewhere to crash, consider Abraham Hostel - it’s not a traditional hostel, but rather a Kibbutz-like experience. You can get a clean bed in a well-lit room, shared with other travellers like you for a fair price. The hostel also has private rooms and family rooms, so you can surely find something that fits your needs. Moreover, the common dining hall functions as an eating area as well as a work space for young people in the high-tech sector, adding to the hipness of the place. Highly motivated backpackers who are willing to volunteer some of their time can apply to get free lodging at the hostel, upon devoting few hours a day to manual labour. Abraham Hostel has a lot to offer, including transportation solutions, entertaining events and guided tours in different parts of Israel, so check their website via this link.
10) Eating out
Foodies find Tel Aviv tremendously enjoyable. The global positioning that the city secured in recent years made it into a melting pot of different cuisines, some more obvious and some more exotic. You’ll have no trouble finding an Italian restaurant next to a French bistro right in front of an Irish pub near an American burger joint. Sea food enthusiasts, vegetarians and vegans, as well as excited carnivores - everyone can find a top notch favorite spot in the local culinary scene. Unfortunately, eating at a restaurant in Tel Aviv is not easy on the pocket. In order to try local food for reasonable prices, look for falafel or hummus. Located on the main streets of the city center (Dizengoff st., King George st. and Allenby st.), the falafel stands will not make you go bankrupt. Ordering a falafel comes with a lot of responsibility, because of the many decisions you need to make - the size of the pitta bread, the selection of added ingredients and the amount of spicy sauce - the untrained visitor might find it a little dazzling. My suggestion for first-timers is to take “half a meal” (that is a semicircle of pitta bread) with falafel and tahini. You can find it for as little as 7 Shekels on King George st., but even twice this price is still an affordable lunch. Unlike the falafel, that one usually eats standing up in the middle of the street (few can bear the wait between receiving it and eating it), hummus requires the seriousness of sitting at a table. Most places serving hummus as their speciality are located in Kerem HaTeimanim neighbourhood, off Allenby st., but if you find a falafel stand, you’d know for sure that not far away resides a hummus place. Be advised that after eating a bowl of hummus, you’ll be engulfed by an irresistible need to sleep. One way to circumnavigate this problem is to share a bowl of hummus between two people, and another way is to go easy on the pitta bread. An exquisite bowl of hummus will cost you between 25-35 Shekels. A great way of filling your stomach as well as getting to know Tel Aviv is to use an app called Bitemojo. It will take you on a personalized tour between restaurants, cafés and bistros. This is a cool way to eat out and if you enter the promo code TLVXP, Bitemojo will know you came from here and you’ll get 10% discount. Try it via this link. One more thing that is unique to Tel Aviv is the abundance of fruit trees. You might not notice it at first, but you can actually pick fruits off trees as you walk along the streets, making it the ultimate eating out experience. Several local activists joined forces to help you find nearby fruit trees, with the help of an online open-access map. Try it via this link. Anyway, I’m sure you won’t stay hungry.