Is Israel on your Bucket List? It should be! If you're wondering whether a trip to the Holy Land is within your budget or not, this post is for you.
Let me give you a quick general estimate for a couple traveling from the US to Israel for one week.
- Return flights : $2000
- 3 days of car rental (including insurance and gas): $250
- 3 days using public transportation within cities: $30
- Accommodation for 7 nights with an average of $80 per night: $560
- Daily meals at $70 a day: $490
- Additional sightseeing expenses at $70 a day: $490
Which comes to a total of $3820 for two people or just under $2,000 per person.
I'll be sharing lots of tips in this post that can help you bring costs down - quite significantly. What's the shoestring budget for a couple traveling from Chicago to Israel off-season?
- Return flights : $800 (yes, for two people - return)
- 3 days of car rental (including insurance and gas): $180
- 3 days using public transportation within cities: $30
- Accommodation for 7 nights with an average of $50 per night: $350
- Daily meals at $40 a day: $280
- Additional sightseeing expenses at $50 a day: $350
A total of $1990 for two people - or just under $1,000 per person!
How? Read on to find out.
What's the cost of a flight to Israel?
Clearly, that depends on where you come from. The cost of flying to Israel is different if you start your journey in Greece or in Australia.
Since I constantly check flight prices to pretty much anywhere in the world from here, I have a good estimate for flight costs. As you'll see, there's quite a range of prices - I'll show you how to lower your costs in a minute.
Price range for return trips to/from Israel
The following is a price range for return flights - i.e. including the cost of a flight to Israel and back to the same destination.
- Flights from/to Europe - $80-$400
- Flights from/to the USA and Canada - $400-$2,000
- Flights from/to Australia - $800-$2,000
- Flights from/to the far east - $400-$2000
- Flights from/to South America and Africa -- $1000-$2000
How to find cheap flights to Israel
There are three ways in which you can lower the cost of your flight to Israel.
Budgeting Tip #1
The high season here is in July and August. IMO, definitely not the best time of year to visit this country. It's too hot to enjoy hiking and most outdoors activities.
Places like Eilat and the Dead Sea are scorching hot. Tel Aviv is humid and stuffy. Jerusalem is bearable on most days - but not much more. You'll want to spend your time either indoors or at the beach. Not a horrible way to spend your vacation in Israel but there's so much more you'll be missing out on.
Coming on any other time of the year would mean not only better weather conditions but also cheaper flights.
Budgeting Tip #2
Look for low-cost flights.
Israel has an "open sky" policy which means we have lots of international low-cost airlines flying through Ben Gurion Airport. This has significantly reduced the cost of flights.
If you don't mind coming with a small trolley-type suitcase and not reserving specific seats, you can find flights from Europe to Israel for as low as $20. That's not a typo. The cheapest I've seen was a return flight from Budapest for $25. Yes, return.
There are now cheap flights from the US as well, through Europe. The Icelandic airline WOW has flights that go as low as $400 for a return flight from Chicago to Israel.
Budgeting Tip #3
Try fare hacking.
Since there are now several low-cost routes between Europe and the US, and quite a few low-cost routes between Europe and Israel, you can get creative and combine two flights. I've done this before successfully and as an added bonus, combined short trips to Amsterdam, London and Rome to our US trips.
How much does a hotel stay in Israel cost?
Once you have your flights, you're probably wondering about the cost of accommodation in the Holy Land. Well, I have bad news and good news.
The bad news is that some hotels here can be way too expensive than similar hotels in Europe or the US.
The good news is that you don't have to use them. There are plenty of super affordable options. I'll share some budget tips in a minute, but first a general estimate.
A room for one night in a hotel in Tel Aviv, Jerusalem or Eilat is going to cost you anything between $150 and $400.
How to find cheap places to stay while in Israel
Here are my tried and tested tips.
Budgeting Tip #4
This is true everywhere in the world, pretty much. The earlier you make your reservations, you'll get a wider selection of hotels. The good cheap ones are taken fast. If you read my post about the cost of visiting Alaska, you'll see there how I saved hundreds of dollars just by making our reservations super early. You can do the same with your trip to Israel.
I always make my reservations through Booking.com (affiliate link) and I do my best to go with fully-refundable reservations that can be canceled as close to the date as possible. That way I can keep checking and if I find a better deal, I switch to that.
Budgeting Tip #5
Visit out of season
Same as with the flights, coming between September and June you'll find cheaper accommodation options almost everywhere. Just keep an eye for both Jewish and Christian holidays as prices may go up during these times.
Budgeting Tip #6
Consider a vacation rental
There are a lot of Airbnb options to choose from in Israel. If you're coming with a family, an apartment via Airbnb might be the best option for you. Pay attention to the cancellation options here too, to make sure you stay flexible. If you don't have an account with Airbnb yet, use my link here to sign up and you'll get $40 off your first booking! There are also quite a lot of apartments and other vacation rentals available through Booking.com, so I would check those out as well.
Budgeting Tip #7
Try hostels and campgrounds
There are many quality hostels catering to young - or young at heart - travelers. Using these can really bring down your accommodation costs. Most - if not all - are also listed in Booking.com, allowing you to easily compare prices.
Cost of transportation
Once in Israel, you need to move around from one place to another.
Most visitors rely on public transportation. Fortunately, that's a relatively cheap option. The cost of a single bus ride within one of the big cities - Tel Aviv, Jerusalem or Haifa - will cost you around 6 shekels or $1.5. Taking the bus from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem is going to cost you just 16 shekels - approximately $4. If you're staying in Jerusalem and want to visit the Dead Sea, you'll have to pay 37.5 shekels (about $9).
Renting a car
If you come to see more than Jerusalem or Tel Aviv - and you should! - consider renting a car. I wrote a whole post about why you should rent a car while traveling in Israel. That post includes an analysis of the cost too, but for our needs here -
Renting a small vehicle off-season is going to cost you around $35 a day. If you opt for a large car during high-season, expect to pay $50-$60 per day. The price includes insurance.
The price of gas fluctuates in Israel just like it does in any other country. You should expect to pay roughly the same amount as you would in Europe, or double what you're used to paying in the US. The good news? Israel is a small country, and driving distances are relatively short.
Budgeting Tip #8
Renting a car could make financial sense for some people, on some days. For example, a family of four that wants to get from Tel Aviv to the Dead Sea will have to pay over $50 for bus tickets in one direction. Renting a car would be a little bit cheaper and so much faster. The total of the bus trip - including waiting times - would be over three hours. Closer to an hour and a half to two hours by car.
How much should you budget for daily spending while traveling in Israel?
Now that we've covered flights, transportation and accommodation, we need to talk about the daily costs that you're likely to have while traveling in Israel. I'm talking about food, activities and just general shopping.
How much should you pay for food while traveling in Israel?
Naturally, the answer depends on your style of traveling and preferences in food. There are plenty of restaurants to choose from just about anywhere but not all of them are cheap. Here are some typical options -
The traditional Israeli breakfast has eggs, cheese, bread and a large portion of salad - as well as coffee and juice. At least. Some places offer so much more on top of that. Sitting down for a breakfast at 10AM means you'll be able to skip lunch.
- A typical Israeli breakfast in Aroma - a popular local chain - would cost you around 40 shekels or $10.
- A more fancy breakfast in a cafe or restaurant will cost 50-80 shekels.
Full lunch or dinner
In most restaurants, sitting down for a meal that includes a main course, side dishes and a drink is going to cost you anything between 80 and 150 shekels per person. Or more, if you visit a gourmet restaurant.
Budgeting Tip #9
A meal in a Middle Eastern restaurant could easily mean way too much food and a very high bill - even when there's no way for you to finish up all of that food. Here's why -
As soon as you're seated by the table at a typical Arab or Middle Eastern restaurant in Israel, your waiter will usually start bringing small plates with a selection of salads and other side dishes. It's going to look like this -
Delicious stuff. For real. The problem is you usually get these before you ever see the menu. And I have been to many places where they don't even give you a menu with prices unless you ask for one very clearly. Sometimes, the waiter will take your order for main courses and then bring out the "salads". Now, even though you never explicitly ordered these plates, you will be charged for them. Israelis know that and expect that. If you're not used to it, it could come as a surprise.
Usually, this set of "salads" or "entrees" will cost you 35-50 shekels per person. That's for anyone seated by the table, regardless of whether or not they actually eat from these.
So, what's my tip here?
Either very clearly refuse the salads as they start coming out or factor them into your meal and budget. If you're in for a delicious vegetarian meal, the salads may be enough for you. Slowly sampling them all with fresh pita bread and some hummus can be a perfect meal that will only cost $15-$20 per person. Just don't end up ordering main courses for lots more money - when you won't be able to finish everything and will end up with a huge bill.
And then there's the felafel
If you want to save time and money, you can always pick a felafel. Fresh and delicious, a felafel can cost anything between 10 and 30 shekels ($2.5-$7), depending on the location. Budgeting Tip #10
Shopping in the supermarket
What we like to do while traveling is just go to a local supermarket or grocery store and get simple, wholesome and affordable food. If you do that in Israel, a fresh ciabatta bread or similar will cost you about 4-6 shekels per piece (approx. $1). Our delicious cottage cheese (try it - it's really good!) will cost about the same. Fresh fruit and vegetables will cost anything between 4 to 20 shekels per one kilogram which is roughly $0.5-$3 per pound.
Activities and things to do
There's a gamut of prices for activities, of course. Here are some examples -
- A guided walking tour of Jerusalem or Tel Aviv - Anything from free (tip-based) by Sandeman to several hundreds of shekels per person.
- Visiting a national park - 14-28 shekels ($4-$7) per person depending on the park
- Entry to the Museum of Israel in Jerusalem - 54 shekels ($14) for an adult
- Kayaking or rafting on the Jordan River - 93 shekels ($24) per person
Budgeting Tip #11
There's plenty you can do in Israel for free! There are so many things to see just walking the streets or hiking outdoors. Going to the beach - either in the Sea of Galilee, the beaches of the Mediterranean or the Dead Sea - can be free of charge if you go to the right beaches. Or just wandering in the streets of the Old City of Jerusalem - including visiting the many churches and other sites. You could easily create a magical itinerary with very few expenses on excursions and sightseeing. (Note to self: I should probably create a blog post around that!)
So there you go, you have all of my tips now and hopefully they can help you cut on the cost of your trip to Israel. If you have any questions or feedback - please do let me know by leaving a comment below - thank you!
And in case you want to pin this post on Pinterest, here are a few images -