Tel Aviv was voted “Most expensive city in the world” in 2021. While part of that is to do with the insulting wages many Israelis are forced to live on, it’s also based on the high prices of everything from accommodation to food, and alcoholic drinks. As of Dec 2022, only NYC and Singapore are considered more expensive to live in.
If you’re planning on visiting Tel Aviv, you’ll need to budget carefully, and use some of the tips below for saving money while you visit. But first, let’s look at what makes Tel Aviv so pricy.
- 1 How expensive is Tel Aviv accommodation?
- 2 How much does food cost in Tel Aviv?
- 3 How much does alcohol cost in Tel Aviv?
- 4 How much does a coffee cost in Tel Aviv?
- 5 How much should you tip in Tel Aviv?
- 6 How much does it cost to get around Tel Aviv?
- 7 What should your daily budget be when visiting Tel Aviv?
- 8 What can you do in Tel Aviv for free?
How expensive is Tel Aviv accommodation?
Accommodation is likely to be your biggest expense in Tel Aviv. There’s no nice way of saying it – get ready to get shafted one way or another. In Tel Aviv you get either very expensive hotels or “cheap” hostels that are often not that nice. Even the so-called cheap hostels are not really that cheap anymore. Midrange hotels are not very common, and if you can find one, you’ll be grossly underwhelmed. Most midrange hotels prefer to do a quick redesign, stick “boutique” in front of their name, and raise their prices, though.
The Truth About Tel Aviv Hotels
Hotels are generally overpriced for what you get, either in terms of quality, or size of the room, or both. Boutique hotels , for example, will usually have quite small rooms, as space is at a premium. You’ll get a beautiful room in a good location for a lot of money, but won’t have much space to move. Rates vary by season, but expect to pay over $100 per night for the cheapest “nice” room. Boutique hotel chains can charge $400 or more. If you’re not rich enough to pay for an expensive hotel, here are your options below.
Most hostels in Tel Aviv are not that great. If you’re finicky, you’ll want to avoid many of them. Check reviews thoroughly before booking. Dorm beds can still cost $30-50 a night.
Some hostels do actually offer private rooms, ranging from a tiny space with thin walls and a door that closes but no private bathroom to cheap hotel grade rooms with attached facilities. Prices vary, but are generally much cheaper than a hotel room.
It’s also worth noting that some hostels are often happy to let you stay for free (and sometimes feed you) as a volunteer, in return for doing work around the place. This is more often the case in the quiet season and can involve anything from reception / cooking to DIY, decorating the hostel, etc..
It’s worth emailing a few hostels that look nice and asking before your visit, but you can also visit them in person once you’re already in Tel Aviv and charm them with your presence.
Tel Aviv now has several pod hotels, where the rates are similar to a hostel bed, as well as some caravan hotels, which are mostly attached to larger hostels. I think they’re a much nicer, more private option than a regular hostel bed.
Airbnb / Private Rentals
Private holiday rentals are huge in Tel Aviv and predate Airbnb by many years. You don’t actually have to use Airbnb to find a place, but most private companies and individuals now use it to advertise, so you may as well. Some also use booking.com. These sites do offer some level of assurance that you won’t get ripped off by a total cowboy (or at least that you’re likely to get your money back if you do get ripped off). Airbnb places are often much better value than a hotel, but they are all over the place, so make sure you read up about the location and check the map. Also check the reviews before you book. Many places are not as well maintained as the pictures may imply. There’s more specific information about accommodation in Tel Aviv and how to save in the dedicated accommodation guide.
How much does food cost in Tel Aviv?
Tel Aviv has some of the nicest food in the world, but very few things are cheap. High rents and energy prices are the main reason that prices are so high, even though many ingredients are produced locally. There’s more to it, though, as you’ll see in the “self catering” section of this article.
If you are vegan / vegetarian, and not very hungry, eating out at a reasonably nice restaurant will cost you 150NIS – 250NIS per person including a glass or two of beer or wine. Drink any alcoholic drink apart from beer or a glass of wine and the cost will go up even higher (a mixed drink or cocktail can cost 50-60NIS or more). Order a meat or seafood dish at a nice restaurant and you may well have to double these numbers. Some mains cost 80-100NIS.
Savvy Israelis visit expensive restaurants for lunch, when there are so-called “business deals”. These offer a slightly smaller menu than the dinner menu, though the restaurant’s most popular dishes are usually represented. The usual deal is that you can your starter (and sometimes a drink) included in the price of your chosen main. This is a good way to enjoy expensive food for less.
Café food is usually cheaper, but not always. Cafés in the centre or Old North part of town have very high rents and Arnona (business rates / city tax) and that’s reflected in their prices. Still, it’s worth considering, as many cafés offer an excellent choice of restaurant-grade food.
Portion sizes everywhere apart from gourmet restaurants tend to be big. Not quite American sized, but larger than European size. Israelis will always complain when the size of the portion drops below that.
For self-catering, you can do your shopping in one of the cheaper supermarket chains (like Victory or Shufersal), or the Carmel market. Convenience store chains like AM:PM and Tiv Taam that are open on Saturday are more expensive, though more common. Aim for closing time at the market to get good deals on food, especially on Fridays.
Always shop around and compare prices, as a foreigner, you’re likely to be offered a higher price when asked. if you’re into dumpster diving, you’ll find plenty of choice after the market shuts. Many stallholders just leave unsold stuff on the stall, where people can come and pick it up.
Tel Aviv also has a wide selection of cheap, filling street food you can opt for instead of eating out at a restaurant. 20NIS is about the average price of falafel or similar, with some places even selling it for under 10NIS. A very filling hummus dish (sometimes with a free refill) is also around 20NIS. Check out the street food guide for more information about what’s available.
The bad news? Many fast food / street food places are Kosher, so will be shut on Friday evenings all the way through to Saturday evening. Fast food places that are only open in the day, won’t be open again till Sunday. This makes the cheap street food options more limited on the weekend, although you will still find open minimarkets, pizza places, etc. if you’re avoiding cafés and restaurants at all cost. In Jaffa you will find open bakeries too.
How much does alcohol cost in Tel Aviv?
For alcohol – your cheapest deals will be local beers and “chasers” (a single shot) in bars, and sometimes cheap, bad cava. If you are friendly with bar staff and waiters, you may well get some chasers for free. Happy hours are common, often early in the night before the place comes to life. These offer some good deals.
How much does a beer cost in Tel Aviv?
Expect to pay 20-30+ NIS for a bottle of beer, depending on where you are. Cafés (which are open late and are often indistinguishable from a bar) are sometimes cheaper than actual bars, but not always.
Prices are similar for beer on tap, though watch out for this:
When ordering beer at the bar, it’s worth checking the menu to see the difference in price between half a litre (Hetsi – about the size of a pint) and a third of a litre (shlish), which is obviously significantly smaller. Often the difference is only a few shekels, meaning you’ll be getting screwed for almost the price of a whole drink if you order two thirds instead of a half. You’re not likely to get told this by staff.
The cheapest places to buy alcohol in town (shops) are HaAliya St. and Jaffa. Also look around the Carmel market as there are some cheap Russian stores selling cheap booze. Cava, Lambrusco, and prosecco are the cheapest drinks you can get, apart from beer. Arak (sort of like a rougher version ouzo) is still the cheapest local spirit, although it’s now no longer actually cheap.
For more information about drinking alcohol in Tel Aviv, check out the FAQ.
How much does a coffee cost in Tel Aviv?
If you’re planning on spending lots of time in a coffee shop or a café with your laptop and are wondering about minimum spend, a good cup of coffee in a hipster place can set you back 12-15NIS, but you’ll normally be left alone with your thoughts (and laptop) for a while. Some cheaper cafés offer a coffee and pastry deal (or coffee and mini sandwich) that can cost as little as 15NIS. This is often a limited deal available earlier in the day.
How much should you tip in Tel Aviv?
Service is usually not included. Expect to pay at least 12% on top of everything – meals, a coffee, a drink at a bar, etc.. Israeli boomers will often tip 10%, while younger Israelis try to tip closer to 15%. If you can afford to, don’t be a boomer.
This is specifically for food and drink places. You don’t need to tip everywhere like in America, but nobody will refuse your money. If you’re at a bar and you tip your bar person well at the beginning of the night, you might get some free chasers later on. Bar staff expect to be tipped if you’re sat at the bar rather than a table, and also if you’re picking up the drink from the bar yourself.
How much does it cost to get around Tel Aviv?
Walking and cycling around Tel Aviv is relatively easy, so if at all possible, do it whenever you can. The city is mostly flat, so bring your walking shoes and a bottle of water and go for a walk.
Some hotels offer free bikes, while some hostels rent them cheaply. You can also make use of the municipal public bike system if you have a credit card and a smartphone, but their regular pushbikes have basically been left to die since the pandemic, so make for an awful riding experience. Their electric bikes, and the various electric scooter apps are better, but the law requires you to have a driving license to be able to ride any of those.
Buses and shared taxis are reasonably priced. Shared taxis cost the same as a bus and you can now use Rav Kav, the city’s travel pass, on them on weekdays. On weekends they are cash only, because god said so.
For private taxis, always use the meter. Taxi journeys are not actually too expensive inside Tel Aviv, as it’s small. The exception is when there’s a lot of traffic or when the drivers offer you a “deal” to avoid using the meter. Both Uber and Gett are active in Tel Aviv and use licensed taxis. They have to use the meter when driving you, so are less likely to try and screw you.
Tipping is not required in taxis, but is always appreciated.
For information about finding cheap flights to Tel Aviv you can look here.
What should your daily budget be when visiting Tel Aviv?
Your daily budget while in Tel Aviv will depend on what you want to do. If you only eat hummus and falafel all day (or buy some cheap ingredients in the market), walk everywhere, and crash on someone’s sofa, you can probably get by on less than 100NIS a day. Would you want to come all the way to Tel Aviv and then spend your entire time eating 7NIS falafel and homemade salad and stews? Well, I know people who do, at least for some chunks of their time.
A hostel bed will cost upwards of $30, while privates can cost at least $80 (prices do go down a bit in the low season, but not by much). Airbnb rooms can vary, but are often a good deal. Entire flats obviously cost more.
A single course café meal (including a coffee or another hot or soft drink) can be anything between 70-80NIS per person in a nice café in the centre. Cafés in south Tel Aviv are generally cheaper (unless you’re near the beach) – so maybe around 60NIS. Restaurants, as mentioned above, will cost more, unless you aim for cheap market or worker style restaurants.
What can you do in Tel Aviv for free?
One of the advantages of Tel Aviv is that the weather is nice most of the year, so you can just hang out outside and it won’t cost you anything at all.
You can enjoy all of the city’s beaches for free (though camping on the beach is not allowed) or hang out in the city’s pleasant parks and open spaces. Try Habima Square, Rabin Square (when they finish digging it up for the Light Rail) , or Rothschild Blvd. where you can sit and use the city-wide free WI-FI, too (it’s available in many parts of the city). The Yarkon park by the river is nice for a picnic. Some areas there (and in the seaside Charles Clore park) are popular with families having BBQs.
Many events are free to attend, including gallery openings, parties, and even music gigs. Some are only free until a certain cut-off point, so it’s good to turn up early. There are often free or cheap yoga, chi gong, juggling or acrobatics meet-ups and classes, too, both indoors and outdoors. You can basically find something free to do every day of the week. You can check out the DIY Tel Aviv event calendar for some free (and cheap) events.