Practical Travel Tips: Tel Aviv, Israel

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One of the best deals that we have taken advantage of since we started this site is the $179 Air Canada Boston – Tel Aviv, which we stumbled upon in September 2015. We used it to visit both Israel and Jordan. Jennifer of the blog, From Mississippi with Love, who wrote about Namibia and Victoria Falls, lived in Tel Aviv for a summer. Here are her practical tips.

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“I never thought that any place would compare to my three years in New York City… and then I spent a summer in Tel Aviv.”

I’ve never uttered truer words. I’m not sure when I fell in love with the city, but it must have been sometime between my first run through the city to the beach and my first juice from the fruit stands. And the best part about it all was how unexpected this surge of love came to be.

Tel Aviv Skyline from Jaffa – Photo: (c) 2016 – Jennifer Wong of From Mississippi with Love

Visa/Passport

As an American, you can obtain a visa on arrival to Ben Gurion. Nowadays, they will not stamp your passport; rather they will give you a small slip of paper that signifies your arrival, making it easier to travel to the UAE or elsewhere in the Middle East. However, do note that if you cross via land border to Jordan, they will mark exit and entry stamps in your passport – something to consider if you’re planning to go to the Middle East on the same passport!

Getting In

Most international flights will fly into Ben Gurion International Airport (TLV). Taking the taxi from the airport to the city can be quite pricey (~160 shekels / ~$45). However, you can also take the train for a much lower cost (~25 shekels / ~$6.75). The bus also operates though it’s more difficult to navigate the bus routes.

Safety

Tel Aviv is extremely safe. As a woman, I felt as safe traveling in Tel Aviv by myself at night as I did in New York at night, possible even safer. As mentioned below, I would not only try to find friends on a night out by myself but also go on nighttime runs along the beach. While you may want to be more conservatively dressed in the rest of the country, especially in religious areas around Jerusalem, there’s no need for that within the city of Tel Aviv.

Eat

The Mediterranean diet in Tel Aviv was something else. Growing up in Mississippi, I never understood the love of salads that San Francisco and New York were obsessed with. They seemed bland and meh — give me fried chicken and finger lickin’ ribs any day! However, my diet changed once I discovered the beauty of Israeli salads:  cucumbers (only place in the world I didn’t feel weird buying 3-4 cucumbers per day), the BEST tomatoes in the world, a little bit of red onion, maybe some red pepper, and avocado if you’re feeling sexy. Top it off with olive oil, salt, pepper, za’hatar, a squeeze of lemon juice, and voila! I would eat it day in and day out.

Israeli breakfast spreads were also out-of-this-world. An entire array and sampling of different salads, bread baskets, omelets, juice, coffee – it put New York brunch to the test! And the fish! Being right on the Mediterranean meant that they’ve had centuries in perfecting how to grill fish, poach fish, fry fish, pickle fish… and whatever else you do to make ceviche. My mouth waters thinking about how delicious and healthy I became while there.

Cafes and Coffee Shops

Lastly, the café and coffee culture was unreal. Open-door cafes that sprawled out onto the boulevards or streets cultivated a love of reading a book, doing some work, and people watching while sipping on a cappuccino. Weekends were spent in the sunshine, the ultimate definition of relaxation. At around 7pm, most cafes would have music (live or otherwise) and also add beer and wine to their menu.

My Happy Place

My favorite evenings were spent getting frozen yogurt, walking to the beach for sunset, and watching the pick-up soccer/volleyball games that are all the rage on the beach courts. Rated the #1 restaurant on TripAdvisor, Tamara Yogurt, on the corner of Ben Yehuda and Gordon, lives up to every bit of the hype. The sunsets on the beach in Tel Aviv probably spoiled me for life.

There’s never any shortage of things to do in Tel Aviv, from pop-up food festivals to impromptu boat trips out in the Mediterranean to beach sunsets. Tel Aviv beach (from Jaffa to Tel Aviv Port and further north towards Herzeliya) is always happening.

Going Out

Of the going out scenes in New York, London, Barcelona, Shanghai, Stockholm (and many others I’ve been to), Tel Aviv’s ranked among my favorite. Much less pretentiousness and much more fun. Dancing in clubs, on bars, on the street – dancing through life. The scene was chill – rarely did you have to dress a certain way to get into the bars and clubs; girl/guy ratios were forgotten; and be it Sunday or Friday, you were bound to find a good time! My favorite spot was always Kuli Alma.

Unlike other cities in Israel where you may have to dress more conservatively, Tel Aviv has no qualms with western dress codes.

Sunset over Tel Aviv beach. – Photo: (c) 2016 – Jennifer Wong of From Mississippi with Love

Working Out

The entire city is obsessed with working out. It probably has origins in their military requirements, but there are free “gym playgrounds” everywhere. Running here was done at all hours of the day and night, and it didn’t matter if you were just beginning to run or you were crushing half marathons on the reg. People all along the fitness spectrum were always pounding the pavement along the beach boardwalk. From doing morning runs at 5am to nighttime runs at 10pm, there’s no shortage of people with whom to run. Summer also makes for incredible eye candy as you’re cruising through the city.

I’m happy I took the chance on Tel Aviv. I may have come for the job (and love it, I did) but I’ll be returning for the city that stole my heart.

About the Author

Growing up in rural Mississippi, Jennifer always dreamed of exploring the world. Since those days, she’s developed irresistible wanderlust and called a number of places home: US (San Diego, San Francisco Bay Area, New York, Philadelphia), England, Malawi, Liberia, Israel, and most recently, Kenya. She’s in love with her sports teams (the New Orleans Saints and Manchester City), running (currently training for the Berlin marathon), and adrenaline sports (skydiving, cliff jumping, bungee jumping, sandboarding). One day, she hopes to utilize her love of cooking and sports by opening up her own Southern-style boozy brunch sports pub. Follow her on her blog, From Mississippi with Love or @jennnnnwong on instagram.

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