When I travel abroad one of my favorite parts of the trip is to plan it. I plan what I want to see, where I want to go, where to stay, and how much money to bring for food so that I won’t have too many surprises when I arrive. There are other people who just pack a backpack, buy a flight ticket and… go. But, if you’re like me – here is your ultimate checklist for planning your trip to Israel on a budget:
10 – Get travel insurance
11 – Pack for your trip
Check if you need a visa to Israel.
Most countries have visa exemption agreements with Israel, but there are still some who don’t have such agreements. So, it is mandatory to check if you need a visa before you come to Israel. You can check it in this list by the Israeli MFA. If you do not need a visa, you should contact the nearest Israeli embassy to you and check what you need to do in order to get the visa. If you don’t need a visa, you can continue on to the next step.
Find time to come to Israel.
Are you time limited? Can you only come to Israel when you have a vacation from work? The minimum number of days that I would recommend for a trip in Israel is 5 days, not including the arrival and departure day. Open your calendar and see where you can fit at least 5 days. If you really want to see the most of Israel, I would recommend at least 8-10 days.
In general, Israel is a year-round destination. Even in winter, temperatures rarely drop below 5-10 degrees Celsius. But if you’re coming for a specific activity, you might want to think about what season you want to visit Israel.
For hiking – Spring (February-May) and Autumn (October-November) are generally the best seasons, since temperature is mild. Spring is better if you want to see everything blossom.
For beach time – Summer (June-August) is definitely the best for the beach! It’s super hot and the water is cool.
Check if your dates fall on a Jewish holiday or on Shabbat.
After you’ve found time to come, Google “Jewish calendar” and check if your dates fall on any of the Jewish holidays. On some of the holidays, including Rosh Hashana, Yom Kippur, and Shavuot, there is no public transportation or it is very limited, so you should be aware of that when planning your trip, especially if the holiday falls on your arrival or departure date. Still, you will probably be able to get to or from the airport, but you will need to take a taxi or a shared taxi, which is more costly than a train or bus. The same goes for Shabbat (Friday eve to Saturday eve) – there’s no public transportation and some attractions, stores and restaurants are closed.
So if your dates do fall on a holiday or on Shabbat, circle those dates in your calendar and remember to try not to set any public transportation-related activities on those dates.
More about this – There’s No Public Transportation on Shabbat.
Book your flight/ Check Border Crossing by Land.
There are two international airports in Israel – Ben Gurion and Ramon. Ben Gurion Airport is located about 20 km from Tel Aviv, while Ramon is located about 20 km from Eilat. There are international flights to Ben Gurion all year long. To Ramon, low-cost flights arrive only in the winter. For more information about them, read my post – Entering Israel By Air – All You Need to Know.
Many have written before me about how to find cheap flights, so I’ll just sum it up in a few points:
- Make sure your searches are cookie-free, so you can get better deals. Many sites keep track of our searches using cookies and change the prices they show us accordingly. Switch your internet to private browsing mode and you will probably get better results.
- Compare flights through a number of search engines.
- Try to be flexible. If you can be flexible with your arrival or departure date, you might be able to save a bit on the flight.
Those are the key points. For a full guide to buying cheap flights, you can check out the Thrifty Nomads wonderful guide.
Here are some useful search engine sites for booking a flight on a budget:
- Momondo – Although most people use SkyScanner, Momondo sometimes gets you better prices.
- Hopper – Predicts when flight prices will go down and alerts you about it.
What if you’re not going to fly into Israel?
Check border crossing by land. If you plan to enter Israel from Jordan (which by the way, may be more economic for you if you planned to visit Jordan anyway and fly to Amman), there are three border crossings into Israel. I highly recommend the Yitzhak Rabin/ Arava Border Crossing near Eilat. It isn’t too busy and is easy to pass through. If you’re travelling in Jordan, you can continue from Petra to the Yitzhak Rabin Border, spend a day or two in Eilat and then continue north to the rest of Israel. You can either take a taxi from the border to Eilat, which shouldn’t cost more than 60 ILS, or walk to the main road and catch a bus to the central station.
Since I don’t have much experience regarding the land border crossings, I highly recommend you read more about it in the full guide by Against the Compass. It seems like he knows what he’s talking about.
Read a bit about Israel and get inspired.
Now that you’ve booked your flight and are sure you are on your way to Israel – it’s time to start reading about your upcoming destination, if you haven’t done it already! You can either buy one of the many travel books available in the market or get inspired from my blog posts. Here are some categories which might interest you in my blog:
And here are my recommended places to visit and how many days I recommend staying in each place:
The highlights (especially for first-timers):
- Jerusalem – At least 2 days.
- Tel Aviv – 1-3 days.
- Dead Sea area – 1 day.
- Akko (Acre) – 1-2 days.
- Haifa – 1 day.
- Eilat and the area – 1-3 days.
- Nazareth and Sea of Galilee area – especially for Christians – 2-4 days.
- Safed – 1 day with overnight stay, since it’s super far from other places.
- Golan Heights – for nature lovers and those who rent a car – 2-3 days.
Open a map of Israel and plan your route.
It’s easy to choose a lot of places you want to visit, but you should make sure they all fit well into your timetable and route. That’s why you need to open a map of Israel and check how everything works out for you. I like to use Google Maps. Put in the names of the places you want to visit and see how they can be connected to one another. Google Maps also has an option to show you public transportation routes, so if you don’t plan to rent a car, use this option.
This is also the perfect time to think if you want to rent a car or use public transportation while travelling in Israel. My tip – If you only plan to visit the main cities, Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, you don’t need a car. You can even get along with public transportation to Eilat. But if you want to go to Northern Israel, I would recommend renting a car, as there is a lot to see there, but the public transportation is a bit complex and it can take a long time to get from one point to the other.
If you decide to use public transportation, don’t forget to get a Rav Kav – the public transportation card – when you arrive in Israel.
Book your hostels or search for other budget stay options.
Now that you know exactly where you want to go on your trip to Israel, it’s time to search for budget stay options.
If you’re going on the hostel option, check out the ILH Hostels network and my recommended hostels. Try to contact the hostel directly to get a better price and also check if you can book with a no-cancellation option, which is a bit risky, but is usually much cheaper.
Another popular stay option in Israel is Couchsurfing. I myself have hosted about 10 different Couchsurfers in Israel. On Couchsurfing, the host lets you stay at their house for free, which is very helpful. You can help out with the house choirs in return, or whatever you find appropriate. There are over 26 thousand Israelis on Couchsurfing. Of course, before you come to stay at someone’s place, please make sure to read their references and see that they look like good people.
And lastly, you can check out camping sites in Israel, especially if you’re coming in the spring or summer, when the weather is usually good. I’ve written a post about Camping Sites in and Around Eilat. In Israel you cannot camp anywhere you want. There are designated areas for camping. For camping sites outside of Eilat, you can check out the Israel Nature and Parks Authority campgrounds.
Add activities to your trip.
After you’ve finished with your accommodation options, you can go on and search for activities to add to your trip. Of course, you can choose to not add any activities at all and just explore Israel on your own. But if you want to go to Masada, for example, and don’t want to rent a car – the easiest way to get there is by an organized day tour. So… you might want to check about different activities which might be interesting and ALSO make your trip easier.
The leading budget tour operators in Israel are:
- Abraham Tours – they have some interesting tours, such as Hebron Dual Narrative Tour and Gaza Border Reality Tour. They also have some budget packages to Northern Israel and Jordan.
- SANDEMANs Tours – Their flagship tour is their Jerusalem “Free” Tour, which is actually tip-based so expect to be asked to pay about 50 ILS. It’s usually good, so 50 ILS is worth it. They operate walking tours only in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv.
Besides them, there are also some other guides, which do different tours in Israel. I highly recommend Aaron Gertz’s graffiti tours in Tel Aviv and Avital Levin’s D-TLV Pub Crawl. And if you’re staying somewhere during Shabbat, I recommend you try to join some Shabbat dinner at a local’s house. Two companies that I know can make it happen are Shabbat of a Lifetime and EatWith.
And I’m also a certified tour guide in Israel, so if you want a private walking tour, you can contact me.
Calculate the expected expenses.
You can find a detailed break-down of expenses in my post – Israel: All You Need to Know Before You Go. In Israel you can pay for most things with a credit card, but it is advised to bring some cash for the small amount of places which do not accept credit cards.
Get travel insurance.
It’s important to get travel insurance before you travel to anywhere in the world!
Pack for your trip.
I usually pack about two days before my trip. It isn’t good, because then you can forget something you wanted to take with you. You’re lucky that in Israel it isn’t hard to get whatever you might forget at home, but it might be a bit expensive. So… I recommend to not be like me and pack at least a week before your trip.
Make sure you have all your travel documents, enough clothes, that are appropriate for the forecasted weather, and anything else you might need. Oh, and don’t forget a charger for your electrical devices, if you’re bringing any (I suppose you’ll be bringing your phone). The power plugs and sockets in Israel are of type H (type C also works). The standard voltage is 230 V and the standard frequency is 50 Hz – like in European countries.
More things you might want to bring for your trip to Israel:
- Sunscreen and hat, especially in the summer.
- Swimsuit for the beach.
- Shirts with a sleeve and long pants for the holy places.
Have a wonderful trip to Israel!
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