I just returned from my second trip to Israel and once again it was so hard to leave. Always when I leave this beautiful country I want to stay more. Ancient and modern, exciting and diverse, from snowy peaks, valleys and, lakes in the North, to the desert, craters, and oases in the South.
Full of history and beautiful architecture, sometimes it feels like you just traveled back in time.
Here you have some Israel travel tips, hope you find it useful.
Is Israel safe to visit
A lot of people ask me this question. The story of all the time conflict, danger, and army are sometimes the reason Israel is not a must-see destination of some people. Despite what you heard and read in the news or watch on the television, Israel is safe, actually very safe to visit The crime rate is much lower, compared to other western European countries.
I can say that the media sometimes shows a situation much more dramatic than it is. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not trying to convince you into any political views, this is just my insight, what I saw and how I felt while visiting.
I walked the streets at night, did wild camping next to the Dead Sea, traveled all around, and I never felt insecure in any way.
When to go
Israel has two seasons. Winter season is from late October to mid-March, it is cool to cold and it can be rainy. Summer season is from April to October, which is warm to hot and mostly without rain.
High season is in the summer months. I think that the best time to visit is May or September, you avoid extreme heat and lots of tourists, and the weather is still good for beach activities, hiking, swimming.
How to move around
Israel is a small country, which makes it move around easy and fast.
The main form of public transport are buses, which are affordable, modern and comfortable, it’s also the cheapest public transportation. Other options are trains, it connects major cities Tel Aviv, Haifa, Be’er Sheva and Jerusalem. The train also takes you to the airport. If traveling by bus or a train isn’t exactly your thing, you can take a sherut (shared taxi van), they run 24/7 all over Israel, they will pick and drop you off along their route. Taxi can also be handy, but also very expensive. Ask them to use the meter, that they don’t overcharge you.
Not a long time ago, you could buy the bus ticket from the driver, on the bus. Well now, this is not possible anymore, you have to buy a card and fill it up or buy it at the counter.
Public transport doesn’t run on Sabbath (Saturday).
What to eat
Food in Israel is very high quality, I love it, it’s delicious and healthy. A lot of options for vegans, vegetarian or for meat lovers.
My favorite Israeli breakfast and also probably one of the most popular egg dishes in Israel. It’s made out of eggs poached into a sauce of slowly cooked tomatoes, garlic, and peppers. If you eat it with a fresh baguette you have a winning combination.
It’s not possible to meet an Israeli that doesn’t know hummus. Hummus is spread which is made out of chickpeas, blended with tahini, garlic, salt, and lemon juice. If you go to a hummus place, they serve it with pita, cucumbers, and onions. Try it with onions, I was surprised.
Deep fried ball made out of chickpeas, onions, and spices. Usually served in pita bread with vegetables and tahini. Very popular among vegetarians and also non-vegetarians.
Made out of marinated meat usually from turkey, chicken, sometimes lamb slowly roasted on a vertical spin for hours. Thin slices of meat are cut from the surface and served, in a pita or laffa (Middle Eastern flatbread). Often served with tomatoes, onions, cucumbers, pickled vegetables and tahini sauce. Try it with amba (hot mango sauce), ask them to put it on the side.
Malawach is Jemeni Jewish flatbread, it reminded me of South Indian parotta. Layered puff pastry, made with flour, butter, salt, and water. It can be served with plenty of toppings, my favorite was with raw grated tomato sauce and egg omelet.
Also called Israeli sandwich, sabich is a snack, filled with slices of fried eggplants, hard-boiled egg, hummus, pickles, Israeli salad, and tahini served in pita bread. If you in Israel, you have to try it, it’s delicious!
Similar to Italian Panna Cotta, malabi is creamy milk-based pudding, served with rosewater syrup, coconut, and roasted peanuts.
Where to sleep
Hostels in Israel are a good choice, it’s clean and comfortable, prices are around 20€ per night.
Our pick of accommodation was Airbnb, it gives you some privacy and it’s affordable. Click HERE for 30€ off for your first Airbnb stay.
How much money I need
Israel is not a cheap destination, it’s actually a pretty expensive destination for travel. I was aware of that but in the end, it was still a shock for me, at least the first time. You can expect West European prices. The official currency in Israel is Israeli New Shekel (ILS): 1 EUR = 4,2 ILS
Here are some prices to get a better idea:
If you travel on a budget, Israel daily cost will be around 80-100 €
Shawarma in a pita: 7-9€
Beer in the shop: 2-4€
Beer in a club: 7-8€
1,5 l water bottle: 2€
Hummus plate: 5-7€
Dorm bed: 20-30€
Falafel: 3-4 €
What to see in Israel
Tel Aviv is the 2nd biggest and the most vibrant city in Israel, also known as the city that never sleeps. It’s the second biggest city in Israel, it has nightlife, delicious food, shopping, sandy beaches. Visit The Carmel Market (the Shuk Hacarmel), try some local food there, buy some local products or souvenirs.
One of the oldest cities in the world, it’s home of the holiest sites in Judaism, Islam, and Christianity. The Old City is a beautiful, historical center for all religions. Magical narrow streets, full of shops, where you can buy, food, sweets, souvenirs, jewelry. It really is a walk in the past.
The Dead Sea
Salt Lake, the lowest point on Earth, 430 m below the sea level, surrounded by beautiful Negev desert. It is located in the Jordan Rift Valley, bordered by Israel to the East and Jordan to the West. It’s known to have health and healing benefits cause of its salty water and lots of minerals, that’s also the reason it’s really floatable. I had much fun, it’s not possible not to float there, I tried different methods. Because of the salty waters, no fish or living organism can survive, that’s why it’s called The Dead Sea. You have a free camping site right outside the hotel area, we camped there for one night.
Israel hides one of the most interesting monuments in human history, a 450-meter high rocky fortress Masada.
An ancient mountaintop fortress in the South of Israel, overlooking the Dead Sea, with a very sad story.
After the beginning of the great Jewish rebellion against the Romans in the 7th century when many of the original inhabitants of these places were enslaved and expelled from their homes, a group of Jewish rebels led by Elazar Jairy took the fort and offered a home to many of the families that were abandoned. Soon the Romans discovered them, and tried to conquer the fortress, they couldn’t succeed so they started to build a ramp to the top of Masada. Once build the Jewish rebels had only two possibilities: to surrender and be enslaved or to die of honor. They decided to commit mass suicide because the Jewish religion forbids suicide, they decided to kill each other, about 960 people in total.
Now, Masada is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the most popular tourist attractions in Israel.
You have two options to reach the top, with a cable car, or you can walk to the top via the Snake Path as we did, it was a long walk. It is hot, bring lots of water. The view leaves you speechless
A true desert oasis, one of the biggest in Israel, it’s situated next to the Dead Sea. En Bokek is a beautiful trek up the canyon with wildlife everywhere, look up points, three waterfalls to explore up the trail and natural swimming pools. It’s a must see, don’t forget your swimming suit, it’s allowed to swim in the natural pools.
Tel Aviv beaches
Israel has 194 km of Mediterranean coastline, and 13 km of belongs to Tel Aviv. You can find 18 beaches in Tel Aviv, with clubs, restaurants, and pubs. The cyclist, dog walkers, joggers stroll the promenade, I don’t wonder why it was rated by National Geographic on top 10 beach cities in the world.
The third largest city in Israel, Haifa is a town on the northwest of Israel. It’s home of the beautiful Bahai Gardens, probably the most visited touristic spots in Haifa. Built as a shrine to the Bahai faith and comprises a staircase of 19 terraces extending up the northern slope of the city’s Mount Carmel. Since 2008 it’s under Unesco World Heritage Sites. Haifa is a mixed Jewish-Arab city, both Jews and Arabs are living together.
Mizpe Ramon is a small town inside the Negev desert, with a beautiful view on the Ramon Crater.
Israel’s grand canyon, the Ramon crater, the largest erosion crater in the world. The Mizpe Ramon Visitors Center is located on the edge of the Ramon Crater and is a gateway to the surrounding nature reserves, you get all the information about the trek in the reserve there. There are many strange rock formations in odd colors to be seen, as well as desert animals. We spend two nights in Mizpe Ramon, it’s the ultimate exit point to the desert. For accommodation in Mizpe Ramon I would recommend Airbnb for a private apartment we paid 50€ per night. It’s a good way to save some money and still have privacy and comfort.
Located at the southern-most tip of the country, is a popular destination for local and foreign tourist. The city’s beaches, coral reef, nightlife and desert landscapes are just some of the things you can do and see there.
Cross border and visit Egypt
If Eilat is too expensive for you, you can head over the border, to Sinai, Egypt. It’s what we did. From Eilat, you can take a taxi or a bus (cheaper) to the Taba border. There you cross the border on foot, you show your passport, if you don’t stay longer than a week or so, you don’t need any visa, but you need to pay some fee for exit Israel. At the border, you exchange the money, and you have shared taxi outside the border, you tell them you want to go to Sinai. It’s easy, beautiful, cultural and cheaper. You can find accommodation all over the Sinai shore, we were staying at an authentic Bedouin beach camp. We had a very simple private hut on the beach with breakfast, shared toilet and shower, for around 10 € per person. Bedouin camps are not the only accommodation option, you can find also fancy hotels, guest houses or family-run hotels.
The Golan Heights are Israel’s mountainous northern region. Although internationally recognized as Syrian territory, the Golan Heights have been under jurisdiction Israel since 1967 when the region was captured during the Six Day War. The Golan is a paradise for nature lovers, with plenty of outdoor activities, nature reserves, and hiking trails. Here you can see some of Israel’s most beautiful landscapes, so no wonder it has become a popular place for vacation, especially between Israelis. The only ski resort in Israel is in the Golan.
Saving tips for Israel
Here I have some Israel saving tips for you, which will save you some money for sure.
Buy 6 pack of water
If you want to save money, you can save some if you buy 6 pack of 1,5l water, it comes much cheaper, it will cost you less than 4 €.
Local is always cheaper
Street food in Israel is good quality and it’s really tasty, so it’s a good way to save as well. Eat where locals do and avoid tourist places.
Campsites can be found all around Israel, they are in many national parks and nature reserves, we camped in Ein Gedi, next to the Dead Sea.
Hitchhiking is very common in Israel. Hitchhiking is often done by pointing to the ground with the pointing finger far from the body, instead of raising a thumb. If you raise a thumb, people might not understand.
Couchsurfing is easy and in Israel. It’s great cause you to save money but even greater cause you to meet the locals and their lifestyle.
Traveling off-season will for sure save you some money and you will have a more authentic experience. Flights, accommodation, food, everything is cheaper. What I also love is that it’s much fewer tourists, which is great if you don’t like bumping to other people on every tourist attraction.
Join a free walking tour
You can join free walking tours to save some money. Jerusalem and Tel Aviv offer walking tours around the city. Just be aware that in the end is not totally free, it’s recommendable to leave some tip.