There are many of us who dreams to travel to the Holy Land, Israel. But there are several reasons why people didn’t pursue their dream to see the Holy Land. For one, we think Israel is expensive. And it is quite true for Filipinos. In this blog, I’ll list down how much you would need to expect for your expenses and how we can fit it for our travel budget. I’ll also list down important reminders that you need to remember during your stay here.
One of the advantages of working in Israel are the opportunities to travel around the country on a smaller budget. As we may all know, airfare from the Philippines can take up a lot from our budget since it could range from $900-$1,200 for a roundtrip ticket depending on the airline and the frequency of stopovers. But if you are from a European country, a roundtrip airline ticket can be as low as $250-$500.
It may be wiser to book a packaged tour which usually includes an English speaking guide, hotel accomodation, entance fees and transportation since these are quite expensive here. The available packaged tours could range from $800-$1,800 for a 6-11days tour around the country with hotel accomodations at a 3-4 star hotels.
Available transportations are the buses, sherut (it’s a van that is used like a taxi which can accomodate up to 10passengers), trains and taxis. The transportation system is quite different here and there are places that only have a bus running every 45mins to 1 hour. If ever you missed your bus, you would need to wait for the next one which will be quite difficult for your DIY itinerary.
Public transpotations could also take a lot of your time on the road rather than on your destination. If you are in the city on an extra day, it would be best to know the name of your bus stop or Takana beforehand since once the bus has left the takana, they won’t stop for you to get off. You’ll have to wait for the next takana and it would be a little far. The buses and sheruts have numbers in the front and also have their assigned route so you should also need to know which number to take. Taxis would only accomodate 4 passengers and not more.
It is also very important to note that on Friday afternoon, public transportations like the buses and the trains are not available and will just start to operate again at 5pm on Saturday. This is because the Jews observes the Shabbat, which is a rest day for Israelis.
There are a lot to choose from for hotel accomodations in Israel. There are the high rise hotels, the cozy boutique hotels and the more affordable but still safe and good backpackers hostels.
Hotel and boutique hotel accomodations on a deluxe room good for 2-3persons ranges from $150-$220 per night. Backpacking hostels on the other hand can range from $80-$100 on a private room per night and $20-$50 on dorm rooms. There are also available transport to and from the airport at most hotels upon request. Wifi networks are also available at most hotels and even with hostels, at most times it is already included on the room packages. For those who are very active on social media, don’t worry because wifi networks here have a quite strong signal. Breakfast is also usually included. Most boutique hotels and hostels have rooftop gardens that serves as a common room to lounge and meet other travellers. And if you are staying in Tel Aviv, be sure to book near the beach and experience the Meditteranean sunset.
Usually, as I have seen in the different packaged tours, breakfast is available because it is already inclusive in the hotel accomodation but lunch and dinner are not. But do not fret because this means that you will be able to taste the different local dishes of the different regions.
The Israeli cuisine is made up of local dishes by people native to Israel and dishes brought to Israel by Jews from the Diaspora. This also means that Jewish fusion cuisine has developed throughout the years. Most cuisines here are Meditteranean and Middle Eastern. They usually have different side dishes and salads as appetizers before the main course. Not everyone eats rice although it is available on restaurants. Instead, they have chips (french fries), roasted potatoes or couscous. They use forks and knives as eating utensil.
It is also important to remember that Israel observes Kosher food law. This means that pork is a big NO especially on local restaurants. Dairy products are never mixed or eaten together with meat. And even though you are not Jewish, it is good courtesy to follow their rules.
Meals for lunch or dinner on fancy retaurants could cost about $20-$30 per meal, although local diners could cost less. But if you want to have a budget lunch, you can try the falafels, hummus and other local favorites that can be cheap at $7-10 but are delicious as well. On the otherhand, the key for a budgeted dinner would be by avoiding touristy spots. Try to find good diners where you can have a sumptous dinner for $10-$15. It is also usual in the reastaurants and diners to serve safe drinking water so its best not to order more drinks. Tips are usually 10% of the total cost. It is highly recommended to bring biscuits or anything to munch on during your trip since there’s not that much grocery stores on the travel sites, or if there are, they would probably cost more than the actual price.
For coffee lovers, Israel is a good news for you. Israelis love their coffees that much that many has their own coffee machines at home to make their favorite espresso and cappucino. This beverage is so mighty that you will see cute little coffee shops almost anywhere. They line the busy streets that you can smell the aroma from the sidewalk. And what’s more exciting is that they taste so good but are cheap at $1.50-$3 a cup.
If you’re one who loves to buy souveniers from your trips, I suggest you take your time to go to local markets or old cities to buy local souvenier items. It is relatively cheaper and most of the times are also the same ones that you will see on your tourist destinations. However, if you wanted to buy religious Christian items, they are available at the Christian Quarter in Jerusalem and in Bethlehem.
If you happen to come and travel in Israel in the months of December to early February and you have some extra cash, I suggest you go visit the big malls and splurge. Big brand names usually has year end sales and final sales about this time. Many items are on sale for 50-70%! Imagine a $30 dress being sold at just $8-$10. So spoil that inner fashionista in you.
As a I have said above, it is a great advantage for Filipino workers here in Israel to travel cheaper. It is common among OFWs here to go on day trips or overnight trips on our day offs. This is because there are actually several Filipino Non-profit Organizations here in Israel that provides day trips to different tourist sites in the country.
These tours usually costs about $25-$80 which includes the bus fare and entrance fees. Group day tours are led by guides who are also Filipino workers here. Each month, they prepare a set of tours which would consist of 4-6 tourist sites and has the duration of 9-11hrs. What’s good in going to these day trips in addition to your packaged trip, is that some of the the tourist sites included on the day trips are not usually available on the packaged trips.
So if you happen to travel here and have a free day that falls on a Friday-Sunday then take advantage of this day trips. Reservations are needed in advance to secure a slot on the trips.