One of Europe’s most hedonistic cities is also conveniently easy to visit on a European city break. Located on the far end of the Mediterranean coast, Tel Aviv has it all: beaches with plenty of adventure sports, 24-hour nightlife, an amazing culinary scene and a café culture that makes it easy to meet locals. With hot summers and mild winters, Tel Aviv also makes for a great holiday at any time of year, though the beaches are best during the shoulder seasons of Spring and Autumn—when there are fewer tourists and the temperatures aren’t quite as hot as in the summer.
Though Tel Aviv has plenty to offer for those with loose budgets, it’s also surprisingly easy to get the most of visiting Tel Aviv with tighter purse strings. Last month I managed to visit Tel Aviv with a strict budget of 69€/day including my accommodation—that’s less than $75/day! And while I splurged a bit on some things (like a really cool street art tour and a long night out at a gay club), I mostly managed to stay within my budget. All-in, with one of the many cheap flights from Europe to Tel Aviv, there’s plenty to see and do on a budget. And not just for backpackers—you can still enjoy a luxury Tel Aviv experience with a pretty modest travel budget. It’s just a matter of knowing what to do and where to spend your money.
How to Visit Tel Aviv on a Budget
Avoid the trendy design hotels and stay with a local
Accommodation in Tel Aviv is notoriously not cheap, however there’s a trick to get a decent place to stay at a reasonable price. Ignore the many boutique hotels (as beautiful as they are) and opt for a holiday apartment rental instead. Airbnb has a wide selection of accommodation choices in Tel Aviv. Look for less central neighborhoods (though still convenient) such as Florentin. You’ll save a lot of money by staying close to the beach, just not too close. Most apartments in Florentin will only be a 15-20 minute walk to either central Tel Aviv or the beach.
Tel Aviv’s best tourist attraction is FREE
Sure, Tel Aviv has some great tourist attractions, museums and galleries, but for those visiting in the warmer months (which is an amazing 8 months of the year), there’s something better: the beach. Tel Aviv has some of the world’s best beaches (and beach parties!). The beaches closer to central Tel Aviv, near Allenby Street, will be touristy—but who really cares? The water’s just as good, the sand just as soft and the people-watching still pretty sexy. Head to the beaches further north, though, for the chance to meet more locals. Gordon and Frishman beaches are popular with many twenty-somethings, while Hilton Beach is a popular gay and lesbian beach. To save some money, bring your own towel and avoid the lounge chairs on the beaches. Those belong to the many beach bars and you’ll have to pay to use them or order food & drinks. Better to pack your own lunch which is easy to do by stocking up at a local convenience store like AM:PM or one of the food markets.
Rent a bike to get around
Tel Aviv has a number of great bike paths—the beach boardwalk runs the entire length of Tel Aviv, making it easy to get all the way from Jaffa in the south to the Tel Aviv port in the north. The Tel Aviv municipality even runs their own city bike program, called Tel-o-Fun, making it easy to rent bikes by the day, week or month. For a day, you can pay just 17 shekels and you can use the bike an unlimited number of times in 30-minute spurts. Renting a bike is easy at any of the rental portals, plus there’s a great app called Telobike which shows you pick-up and drop-off points using your geo-location, as well as specifying how many bikes are parked at each location.
Use Tel Aviv travel apps
As one of the world’s leading tech startup hubs, it’s no surprise Tel Aviv is the birthplace of a number of great apps. The free Telobike app makes it easy to find and rent one of Tel Aviv’s city bikes—probably the cheapest way to get around the city in good weather. The free DIY Tel Aviv app, founded by its namesake blog, features a regularly updated event directory, including a specific category for free events in Tel Aviv. It’s probably going to be your best resource to find cool, local, alternative events.
Make the most of your nights out
While Tel Aviv’s nightlife might be legendary, it’s also not the cheapest. But since it’s something that you should really experience, it’s just one of those things worth splurging on. Luckily, there are a number of easy hacks to get the most out of Tel Aviv nightlife. First things first, local beers can be bought in small corner shops and both grocery and convenience stores. Many shops offer them at a discount as well, sometimes you can even buy three beers for the cost of two. Drink at your hotel or holiday apartment, or better yet—the beach—and you’ll definitely save some money. Second, most Tel Aviv bars offer drink specials. Usually, you can buy a shot of vodka or arak for cheap when you buy a beer at a bar. Maybe not the wisest choice to avoid a hangover, but you do what you gotta do. For Tel Aviv clubs, sometimes you can buy your entrance ticket in advance, usually online, and get reduced entry (added bonus: you might get to skip the queue).
Also, Tel Aviv has a new trend and it’s called “bracelet bars.” Basically, you can go to one of these bars and buy a bracelet—which then gives you unlimited drinking for the entire night. There might be limitations on what drinks you get with what bracelet, but basically it’s an all-access pass to a night of drunken debauchery. If you want something a bit more subdued, you’ll find many Tel Aviv bars offering happy hours with great drink deals—sometimes lasting four to six hours and in the evening, no matter the day of the week.
And if none of that works, just flash your smile at the bar and hope for the best.
Eat the street food
As one of the top cities in the Middle East, Tel Aviv has a thriving scene of street food. Middle Eastern cuisine seems almost like it was made to be eaten in the streets, at sidewalk tables, shared among strangers. In Tel Aviv, this is easy—because while Tel Aviv has some truly spectacular fine-dining restaurants, you’ll find just as many high-quality restaurants on the sidewalk. Falafel, sabich and hummus are all relatively easy to find, and are going to be some of the most affordable food you’ll find in the city. Pretty much any place where there’s a queue running out into the street is going to be good, especially if most of the people in the queue are local Tel Avivians.
Tel Aviv is also home to a huge number of bakeries where you’ll find countless bureka (small savory pastries). Food is a big part of the Tel Aviv culture, and you’ll find it’s a force for good, bringing together communities you might not expect. The city’s most famous hummus restaurant, Abu Hasan in Jaffa, is crowded every day with a diverse mix of Israelis, Palestinians and tourists—plus the people eating at this fast-paced restaurant are often always happy to chat with their neighbors.
Shop at the markets
On the edge of Asia and Europe, Tel Aviv has some of the best qualities from both. Markets are a part of daily life in Tel Aviv. Fresh tomatoes, cucumbers, eggplants and other fruit & vegetables are regularly bought in the local food market, the Shuk Ha’Carmel, in central Tel Aviv. It’s convenient no matter where you’re staying in the city and the vendors are always friendly. You might think it’s a tourist trap, but it’s actually just a great market, crowded with as many tourists as locals. Craft and flea markets are also quite popular throughout Tel Aviv and are a great place to bargain for Tel Aviv souvenirs. The best is the art and craft market in the city center every Saturday. The Jaffa Flea Market, though, is open every day (and night) and has a mix of shops, cafés, restaurants and bars.
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