Until earlier this month, it had been 20 years since I had traveled to Israel. I have been a few times since I have some friends and family there. One summer, I volunteered teaching English at a summer camp in Acco and made friends that I still keep in touch with.
A few months ago I found out my Israeli cousin was going to be getting married in December. Kind of on a whim, my parents and I decided to go. It started out as a conversation as, “Wouldn’t it be nice if we went.” and before we knew it, we were actually making travel plans.
Both my dad and I could only take off a week from work and I didn’t want to spend a lot of money. So, we figured out a way to go on a quick trip to Israel on a budget.
Keep reading to see how I was able to save money getting to and from Israel, on transportation, and on accommodations.
Tips for Israel Travel on a Budget
How to Get Cheap Flights to Israel
I hate to break it to you, but there’s not a super cheap way to get Israel, but I do have some tips to save you some money.
Fly to Europe First, Then Israel
If you are not on a tight time constraint, I recommend searching for cheap flights to Europe. Then, there are some budget airlines that fly from Europe to Israel. The issue with this plan, is that you will most likely need to spend at least one night in a European city. If you want to use this method, I suggest using Google Flights to create a search from your city to various cities in Europe. Then, there are airlines such as Ryan air that fly to Tel Aviv from many of the big European cities.
Search for Flights from Big U.S. and Canadian Cities
Another option to save money on your flight to Israel is to search for round trip tickets from cities such as Chicago, Washington D.C, New York, and Toronto. Then, look for flight options from your city to these big cities.
Set Up Flight Alerts
This is the option we used for our tickets to Israel. Using Google Flights, I set up flight alerts from Austin to Tel Aviv with a range of different dates and durations. Google will also give you advice about when is a good time to purchase. We ended up getting a decent price on a United flight that stopped in Dulles on the way there and Newark on the way back.
How to Get Around Israel
On this trip, we only went to Haifa and Tel Aviv. If you didn’t know this already, there is no public transportation on Shabbat (Friday evenings to Saturday evenings). Even so, there are ways to get around Israel on Shabbat.
How to get around Israel on Shabbat
If you are flying in or out of Ben Gurion airport on Shabbat you have a few options on ways to get to and from the airport. Busses and trains do not run during this time, but you can still take taxis and Sheruts. From outside the aiport, you can hail a cab or you can also use one of the apps such as Gett (like Uber) to call a taxi. This is your most expensive option.
As a cheaper option, there are Sheruts (shared taxis). We took one from the airport to Haifa for 110 shekels each. It dropped us off right at our rental house. For comparison, the cost of a taxi from Ben Gurion airport to Haifa ranges from 558 to 621 shekels.
How to travel around Israel on days other than Shabbat
I highly recommend walking as much as you can. You get to see and experience so much more when you get around a city on foot.
If walking is not an option, the cheapest methods of transportation are buses and trains. We took a train from Haifa to Tel Aviv for 27 shekels per person. To get the train schedule and fares, go to Israel Railways Journey Planner.
Other transportation options include hailing a taxi on the street, calling a taxi with an app, or renting a car.
Keep in mind, when you rent a car, there could be other expenses involved such as parking fees and gas. Not to mention, I would not want to drive in some parts of Tel Aviv. It somewhat reminded me of New York with honking horns and pedestrians everywhere.
We used the Gett app a few times to get to our family’s houses outside of the city in the suburbs. A 15-20 minute ride was about 55-70 shekels total for all four of us.
To get an estimate of how much taxi fare will be, use TaxiFareFinder.
Budget-Friendly Accommodation’s in Israel
If you are traveling on a budget, but still want nice accommodations, I recommend renting a house or apartment through AirBnB, HomeAway, or TripAdvisor. Not only can you stay in some fun neighborhoods with easy access to restaurants and public transportation, but you can also save money by using the kitchen and eating meals at home.
In Haifa was stayed at Zolo house, a block from the beach and were able to walk (a long walk) to the Bahai Gardens and stroll along the popular Sderot Ben Gurion area with shops and restaurants.
In Tel Aviv, we stayed at 29 Zammenhoff near Dizengoff square and within (long) walking distance to the Carmel Market, Florentin district, and even Jaffa.
Saving Money on Food in Israel
In order to save money on food, we tended to eat a small breakfast in the apartments with foods we bought from the grocery store. Then we would eat two meals out per day. Often we shared a few meals between us, not just to save money, but to also try different kinds of foods.
If you want to save even more money, I suggest trying to eat more meals at home and eat out maybe just one meal per day. Since we were only there a week, our plan worked for our budget, but if was staying much longer, I would have eaten more meals at home.
How to Save Money on Currency Exchange
Usually, the currency exchange places in the airport are the most expensive. If you can, exchange some money beforehand at your local bank.
To get the best deal on currency exchange, you should exchange before your trip at either your bank or credit union. You might even be able to order currency online and pick up at your local branch.
To save money on currency exchange in Israel, use your bank’s ATMs (or ATMs within your bank’s network), if possible. If not, be sure to factor in any fees your bank and the ATM machine might charge for the exchange.
It’s easy to use your credit card for purchases as these are automatically converted but often have some associated fees as well. Before you travel, make sure you find out about the currency exchange fees for your credit cards.
When I lived in Spain years ago, I used to go into the bank and use the teller to get cash. I avoided ATM fees this way. I’m not sure if banks will still let you do that, but it’s worth a try.
Products that Help Me Save Money and Save Organized While I Travel
So, there you have some tips to help you travel to Israel on a budget. My advice would be to not travel to or from Israel on Shabbat since it makes transportation a little more expensive. If you have any questions about budget travel to Israel let me know. Enjoy your trip!