Traveling to Israel on a Budget

For the budget conscious, Israel is a little country where you small budget can go a long way. Notwithstanding that the local currency, the New Israeli Shekel (NIS) or Shekel as it is called by all and sundry, has been a stellar performer on world markets, the CPI remains around the 1.5% mark meaning that inflation is relatively low and prices for consumer staples are already comparatively low compared to most other first world countries.

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Let’s start with the basics; unless you intend dining in top of the line restaurants, eating out in Israel is cheap. The street food is plentiful, clean, and incredibly tasty. Falafel in pita can be bought for NIS17 (around USD4.50) but if you shop around you can also find it for NIS5 (USD1.50). A turkey or chicken shwarma in pita can be found for NIS15 (USD3.25) or in lafa, a flat, round bread that is rolled up for NIS20 (USD5.50). Fruit and vegetables are cheap, fresh, and abundant as is water which is safe to drink from the tap.

Now that you are well fed and watered, it is time to cloth yourself. The local markets are great places to find real bargains. I strongly recommend the Rishon LeZion market on Tuesdays. It is a traveling market that rotates between Ramle/Lod and Jerusalem. The range of clothing is extensive with stock changing weekly. You can find real and fake designer bargains in clothing, toys, and anything else you can think of. How do they sell at such cheap prices? The colorful screams of the local traders may hold the answer when they extort the public. “Don’t stea! We’ve already done that for you.” I’m sure they’re only joking, but then again…

Israel keeps on breaking its own record for tourist numbers but unless you intend staying in five star accommodation you can find clean, compact, centrally located accommodation in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv for reasonable rates. Be prepared to bargain and if you are prepared to leave it to the last minute you could snare yourself a real bargain as vendors would rather receive something than have a room remain empty.

Getting around in Israel can be a chore. The public transport system is improving but is still not extensive and I never recommend hitching a ride although there are many who do so. The option of car rental in Jerusalem or in any other part of the country may be a viable option as there are many multinational and local car rental companies competing for your dollars.

Israel is a tourist haven not only for the wealry but also for the money conscious and there is good reason for this. Entrance to the vast majority of beaches is free, as re the showers located on the beach. The sunshine is also free as is the vibe. The best things in life really may be free but other necessities need not cost the earth – especially in Israel.