Israel’s popularity with European sun-seekers is on the rise. Ryanair, Easyjet, Wizz Air and Norwegian Airlines have all introduced routes to Tel Aviv Ben Gurion, Israel’s largest and busiest airport. With a strong possibility of spending some of your Israel holiday time visiting Tel Aviv, here are some tips and advice to help you make the most of this Mediterranean city.
TEL AVIV TRAVEL ESSENTIALS
Best places to stay in Tel Aviv: If you want the beach, stay near the beach. Tel Aviv is the second most populous city in Israel but is a surprisingly large city area-wise. Accommodation near the beach is more expensive but if your main goal in Tel Aviv is to visit the beach then the extra money will be worth it. I stayed in an Airbnb in a quiet side-street off Arlozorov Street and I highly recommend this area. The British Embassy is on the beach end of Arlozorov Street and makes for a good navigational marker.
Safety: Apart from a few dodgy-looking characters in the area around the Central Bus Station, I found Tel Aviv to be safe. The security presence in Tel Aviv city centre is no different to European cities that I would be familiar with. In actual fact, I found Tel Aviv to have quite a laid-back vibe.
Language: At the time of my visit, Hebrew and Arabic were the official languages but since my visit Hebrew became the only official language. Everyone I met spoke English.
Currency & Prices: Israel’s currency is the new Shekel. I found prices to be on par with Ireland (i.e. expensive) and in some cases exceeding prices in my own country. The most expensive product of all was sunscreen. For example, a specific brand which costs €25 in Ireland cost 160 shekels in Israel (i.e. €40) at the time of my visit!
Beaches: This was my favourite activity when visiting Tel Aviv. The city’s beaches are fantastic with soft, powder-like sand and excellent facilities. Many of these beaches have their own culture, for example, Metzitzim Beach in the north of the city is family-orientated, the beach immediately south is the religious beach, and the beach near the Hilton Hotel is Gay beach although everyone is welcome regardless of sexual orientation.
Weather: Glorious sunshine and 25°C heat greeted me when I visited in the first week of November. The sea was warm enough to swim in although lifeguards advised against due to currents.
Gay-Friendly: Tel Aviv is one of the world’s most gay-friendly cities. The rainbow flag flies prominently and the city’s Pride parade is one of the largest in the world.
TEL AVIV TRANSPORT
Bus Transport Hub: Tel Aviv has excellent bus connections to the rest of Israel although services do not run on Shabbat (Sabbath: Friday evening to Saturday evening). This makes Tel Aviv an excellent base for day trips to elsewhere. Egged is the largest bus company in Israel. The Central Bus Station in the south of Tel Aviv is a multi-storey structure in an area which appears a little run down. A direct bus (485) goes from Tel Aviv Ben Gurion Airport to Jerusalem Central Station, by-passing Tel Aviv city centre. It doesn’t run on Shabbat.
Train Connections: Tel Aviv has four train stations located in the east of the city. From north to south they are University Railway Station, Savidor, HaShalom, and HaHagana. The railway line runs parallel to the Ayalon Highway and in certain points the rail line is located in the central reservation part of the highway.
Getting to Ben Gurion Airport from Tel Aviv city centre: The easiest way is by train from any of the train stations mentioned above. Like all methods of transport in Israel passengers and luggage will be x-rayed prior to boarding the train. I couldn’t find any direct bus service to Ben Gurion airport from the city centre. I’ve published a separate post outlining my experiences with Ben Gurion Airport Security.
Free Bike Scheme: Tel-O-Fun is Tel Aviv and Jaffa’s (Yafo) bike-sharing rental scheme. Much easier to use than Paris’s velib system, this was my main mode of transport when visiting Tel Aviv.
DAY TRIPS FROM TEL AVIV
Day trip to Jaffa (Yafo): Jaffa is a port city located south of Tel Aviv and is one of the oldest inhabited areas in Israel. Compare and contrast Tel Aviv’s high-rise skyscrapers with Jaffa’s meandering cobbled streets. If you’re looking to purchase arts and crafts then look no further than Jaffa. It took me 30 minutes to cycle from Tel Aviv Marina to the Jaffa port area using a Tel-O-Fun bike on the sea promenade.
Tel Aviv versus Jerusalem: A one hour drive and several thousand years is the difference between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. Founded in 1906, Tel Aviv is a chilled-out party city with more tanned, toned abs per square inch than anywhere else I’ve travelled to. Must-see Jerusalem, on the other hand, is one of the oldest cities in the world, laden with historical, religious and political landmarks, and has the largest security presence I’ve ever seen in a city. Tel Aviv is worlds apart from Jerusalem so prepare for the contrast.
So what are your tips and advice for visiting Tel Aviv? Feel free to leave a comment below.