Coined throughout history as the Holy Land, Israel is probably one of the first countries that children would learn in Sunday school. Besides the stories and rich culture, it offers a unique middle east experience and sites. It is home to 8.6 million people of which 80% are Jews. It is also strategically located by the Mediterranean Sea, making it abundant with resources it needs. In the modern age, it has been called the “Startup Nation” because of its vibrant tech startup community. It also has one of the most well-equipped and advanced militaries. Young people are treated with the excitement in Tel Aviv while the young at heart can relax at the Dead Sea.
In August 2016, I was invited here for a media trip by Vibe Israel. There is something different about the energy in Israel — something relatable; something real. After deep thinking and creative nights in Tel Aviv, I decided to stay. I lived in Tel Aviv for one full year and this Israel travel budget guide is the fruit of that stay! Hope you enjoy!
So here’s a report of my Israel travel budget from 90 days of backpacking the country. Note that the rates below are based on my travels and are rough estimates. All prices in this post are in US dollars (U$D).
How much does it cost to travel Israel?
Having lived in Israel for a year, I find Israel a really expensive country. For example, Gouda cheese costs $5 USD per kg in the Netherlands while in Israel, it costs $17 USD. An explanation from Haaretz, a trusted news website in Israel states:
To the 18 shekels, the basic price, the importer adds three shekels for kashrut certification, which includes sending a respectable delegation of rabbis abroad. To that, we have to add two shekels for shipping, two shekels for port and storage expenses, and a customs charge of 5.6 shekels per kilogram – so that the price comes to 30.6 shekels. To that, we add the importer’s profit, 25 percent, which raises the price to 38 shekels. The marketing chain adds its own 35 percent profit, bringing the price up to 51 shekels, on which the government imposes a value-added tax that brings the price to a sky-high 60 shekels per kilogram.
The currency in Israel is called the New Israeli shekel (NIS). $1 USD = 3.62 NIS. With this price, you will be able to buy a dozen of eggs (large), 1 liter of whole fat milk, 1 kg of tomatoes, and 1 kg of potatoes. It is very important to know what you can buy for a dollar in Israel so you can compare it to your home country. This way, you have a better idea of how much should your travel budget be to travel to Israel.
Accommodation costs in Israel
Accommodations in Israel are not that cheap. In Tel Aviv, you can get a decent dorm in a hostel from $15 – $25 USD. Mid-range hotels start from $80 USD for 2 pax. If you want luxury accommodation, I think $150 – $650 USD for 2 pax is reasonable. Most of them are all-inclusive anyway.
Below are my favorite budget hotels in Israel with corresponding estimated prices:
- Florentin Backpackers Hostel (Tel Aviv): a bed in a 6-bed mixed dormitory starts at $25 USD. They also have private rooms from $64 USD per night for 2 pax
- Abraham Hostel (Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, and Nazareth): a bed in a 6-bed mixed dormitory starts at $25 USD per night
- Dead Sea Adventure Hostel (Arad): a single bed in a 10-bed mixed dormitory room starts at $35 USD per night
- Fauzi Azar Inn (Nazareth): a single bed in a mixed dormitory room costs $34 USD per night
- Port Inn Hotel (Haifa): a bed in 9-bed mixed dormitory room costs $28 USD per night
- Golan Heights Hostel (Golan Heights): a bed in an 8-bed dormitory room costs $30 USD per night
Airbnb in Israel
Airbnb is also popular especially in big cities like Tel Aviv. Airbnb homes in Israel are very well-designed — it will definitely make you feel like you’re home! Estimated Airbnb cost starts at $80 – $100 USD for 2 people. If you click the link in this paragraph, you can get $40 USD off in your first Airbnb booking. This discount is only applicable to those who are new to Airbnb or have recently signed up for an account. Let me know if you need help!
Housing costs (Tel Aviv only)
I lived in Tel Aviv for a whole year and have moved to three different apartments. Same as everywhere in the world, housing costs in Tel Aviv depend on the area. Mind you, they are pretty small yet very expensive! I was able to find a huge apartment with 2-bedrooms in Jaffa (south of Tel Aviv) for cheap but this is not the city center. Cheap finds like this are very rare in Tel Aviv.
Monthly rent for 85 m2 furnished accommodation in a business district starts at $2,272 USD. In lesser touristic areas, you can get an apartment of the same size for $1,790 USD. A month of utilities including heating, electricity, gas, etc costs $200 USD for 2 people. Furnished studio apartments (around 45 m2) in a non-touristic area starts at $1,575 USD. My old studio apartment which is in a good area but was less than 100 sqm costs $800 USD. Apartment sharing is very common in Tel Aviv. You can get a house and share it with 2 other people, depending on how many rooms an apartment has.
Food costs in Israel
Although the history of where Israeli food came from is a very long argument, most of what they have are from their Arab neighbors which they re-invented the Israeli way. Israeli food is known to be one of the best in the Middle East so even if they are expensive, make sure to try as much food as you can!
A basic lunchtime menu in the business district starts at $16 USD. Combo meals in fast food restaurants like McDonald’s start at $14 USD. Not only that Israel is home to amazing food but it is also proud of their Israeli wines. If you buy a bottle of wine in a supermarket, a good red starts at $14 USD. Mid-range restaurant dining starts at $80 USD for 2 pax. This may include appetizers, main course, wine, and dessert. For beer drinkers, you can get a bottle of beer in a downtown pub for $8 USD. If you buy it in the supermarket, it costs $3 USD. Coffee drinkers can enjoy a cappuccino in a cool cafe for $4 USD.
Transportation costs in Israel
Israel is a small country so getting from point A to point B is not difficult. You can always go to another city with a bus – they’re comfortable and cheap. If you want a faster journey, take the inter-city trains. Please take note that transportation services do not operate every Shabbat – from Friday sundown to Saturday sundown. Below are estimated rates for inter-city bus travel in Argentina:
- Tel Aviv to Jerusalem: $9 USD (less than 1h ride)
- Tel Aviv to Haifa: $12 USD (1h 12m ride)
- Tel Aviv to Golan Heights: $25 USD (4h ride)
- Tel Aviv to Eilat: $39 USD (4h 30m ride)
Israel has inter-city trains which can take you all the way to Haifa. Prices are quite similar to the bus tariffs. A liter of gasoline in Tel Aviv costs $1.80 USD. If you plan to take the taxi as your mode of transport, the basic tariff for every 8 km is $18 USD. Monthly ticket for public transport costs $61 USD.
Israel travel budget summary
In summary, below is a table of my estimated daily expenses in Israel. Please note that I sometimes changed my type of travels: budget, mid-range, and luxury. I also rented an apartment which is not included in the costs below. Note that this is an estimate and that the numbers are based on my travels in Israel.
Given the facts and the numbers, it’s totally up to you how much your daily budget in Israel will be.