In addition to Biblical ruins, Crusader fortresses, and cosmopolitan cities, you can enjoy hiking trails up north or starry nights in the desert down south.
Highs & Lows
The vibrant street life!
Israeli driving is chaotic and aggressive!
I’ve been living in Israel for the past 15 years (on and off) and I’m still finding hidden gems! I decided to live in Israel consistently for the past year and lived in both Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. Before moving to Tel Aviv, I worked in a travelers hostel for the past year in Jerusalem (so I have many travel tips for tourists!)
Travel within Israel is easily accessible. Public transportation is one of the things Israel has done better than any other country I’ve traveled to. Buses are frequent and comfortable. The easiest form of payment for public transport would be to simply download the app ‘HopOn,’ plug in your credit card details, and scan the QR code when getting on a bus/train. An alternative method of payment is to purchase a RavKav, a green card, and to fill that up with money (which can be purchased and filled at many grocery stores or hostels.)
Tel Aviv is a vibrant city, filled with ex-pats, and has an amazing nightlife. I recommend first going to the historic part of the city, Jaffa. Jaffa has narrow cobblestone streets and is full of art galleries and restaurants, and scenic views of the ocean. I also recommend visiting ‘HaTachana,’ which translates into ‘The Train Station’ on Saturday, when the city is off work and everyone is out. My favorite thing about HaTachana is that every Saturday morning they have public Israeli folk dance that anyone can join.
I’ve been living on the beach for the past year and am still just as in love with it. There’s so much to do on the beach, and there is never a time when locals aren’t playing volleyball or beach tennis.
I recommend going to ‘Under the Tree’ for a cheap but delicious meal, and I really love Vietnamese food at 'Ca Phe Hanoi' for a more expensive meal. Lastly, if you want good cocktails, I recommend Spicehaus or 223.
Jerusalem is considered to be one of the holiest cities in the world for many Jews, Christians, and Muslims. I recommend visiting the holy sites, including the Western Wall, the Dome of the Rock, and the Al Aqsa Mosque.
Going to the market can be fun (albeit slightly chaotic and crowded, especially on Friday mornings), go to the Mahne Yehuda market-- but be sure to haggle because as a tourist you will be quoted the most expensive price.
Visiting Jerusalem is a very interesting experience since it's the home of many different religions. The other day I was sitting on the bus next to an Israeli soldier and a woman in a hijab, and across from an ultra-Orthodox Jew.
There are a few important things to note before traveling to Jerusalem- try to avoid traveling on Friday and Saturday since this is a Jewish holiday and public transport, and most stores (including grocery stores) close down.
Q & A
What would you have changed?
I have had a few negative experiences in Jerusalem since it is quite a religious city. For example, I have gotten yelled at by the ultra-Orthodox because of the clothes I was wearing or because I sat next to an ultra-Orthodox man on the bus.
Best Sabich place ( which is an Israeli sandwich of pita or laffa bread stuffed with fried eggplants, hard boiled eggs, chopped salad, parsley, amba and tahini sauce) in Jerusalem is called Aricha, next to Mahne Yehuda.
Tips you would give a friend?
Keep the paper visa/slip you receive at the airport safely since you will be asked to show this at hostels to avoid paying VAT.
Sunblock and summer clothes in Tel Aviv!
It's very easy to get by with little to no Hebrew in Tel Aviv! Although you can count on meeting many Israelis, many speak English quite well and there are many English speaking ex-pats that live in the city.
When booking hostels, it is almost always cheaper to book directly with the hostel rather than booking through a travel agency.