How to Travel Israel on a Budget

By Petal Mashraki | Published on 5/15/2023

We won’t lie to you: Israel isn’t exactly a cheap tourist destination and, for this reason, some people might leave it out of their travel bucket list. But that's just because they don't know how wonderful this destination is, and that the tips we're about to show you will significantly drop travel expenses when taking a vacation in Israel.  

How to Travel Israel on a Budget

 A tourist looking at the Wailing Wall

Travel to Israel Off-Season

Many destinations are cheaper off-season, but also dull and dormant. Not Israel: this small country is open and lively year-round. Making a visit here in the height of the summer (July-August) means expensive airfares and more costly accommodation.  The religious holidays of Passover (in the spring) and the Jewish New Year also have a reputation for being busy times and at Christmas and Easter, Jerusalem is chock-a-block with Christian pilgrims (many visitors see the city with a Christian Tour Package)

The good thing about Israel, however, is that the weather is dry and sunny for much of the year, which means if you arrive in March or November you’re likely to encounter lots of sunny days with warm days and cool evenings. And if you’re looking for a low-cost flight, check out airlines going to Eilat - Israel's resort city - In the south of the country. It is a good place to soak up the winter sun and if you're up for an adventure - make a quick trip across the border with Jordan; many visitors like to take Petra tours from Eilat.

Factor in some Beach Time

The beaches in Israel are truly fantastic, and we are not exaggerating: Clear blue waters and white sand mean that you can spend days just lazing around - and at a cost of zero. Whether you want to enjoy the endless spots in Tel Aviv, take a trip to Caesarea and Acre (where you’ll find Roman aqueducts and much more), or head far north to peaceful, serene, and often empty stretches of beach, it’s a great way to enjoy yourself.

How to Travel Israel on a Budget- Jump in, the water's greatJump in, the water's great! 

Feel like renting an umbrella and chair or lying on a towel by the water? Well, all you need to do is pack a picnic and plenty of sun cream, and you’re good to go.  Many of the beaches even have free workout stations, and there are always family-friendly activities and parks with swings and slides around.  

Finally, if you really want to have fun, pick up a matkot set - it’s Israel’s national game, played with two small paddles and a ball, and everyone should try it at least once!

Budget Transportation in Israel

You absolutely don’t need to rent a car to visit many parts of Israel - the country has a very well-developed infrastructure and public transport is reliable, efficient, and pretty cheap. In Jerusalem, you can use the light railway and Tel Aviv is flat, so ideal for walking, taking a bike or an electric scooter. Whether you want to buy a Rav Kav card (and load up credit) or pay with your smartphone or credit card, buying a ticket is hassle-free.

How to Travel Israel on a Budget- Rush hour in Tel Aviv, Israel

Rush hour in Tel Aviv, Israel

Egged buses run all over the country, and you can book tickets online or just show up at the station and pay the driver when you board the bus. Traveling from Tel Aviv to Eilat, for instance, is a breeze - buses leave every 2 hours and cost around 80 NIS ($22) for the five-hour journey.

On the Jewish Shabbat (late Friday afternoon to Saturday evening) there’s no public transport so plan ahead - although you can use private yellow sheruts to travel between some of the major cities.  

Shop at Supermarkets and Local Food Markets

Eating out in Israel can be a costly business - restaurants can come with a hefty price tag and alcohol is taxed highly.  So visit some local Israeli supermarkets and pick a few things up - not only is it much cheaper than going out to eat, this lets you make breakfast, lunch, and dinners when you feel like it, as well as being able to pack snacks and bottled water for when you’re out and about.

How to Travel Israel on a Budget- Street food in Jerusalem

Street food in Jerusalem

You can also do what locals do and head to the city markets - we’d recommend the Carmel Market in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem’s Mahane Yehuda Market.

Here, you can pick up amazing fruits, vegetables, cheeses, hummus, olive oils, nuts, and spices and get creative - the Mediterranean diet is famed for being healthy and delicious so here’s your chance to improve your culinary skills.

Hike In National Parks

Taking a trip to one of Israel’s amazing national parks is a great way to enjoy yourself and is relatively cheap. There’s a flat fee at the entrance which is around 30 NIS ($8) but then you have access for the entire day. Some of them even have camping sites, complete with good facilities, where you can spend a night for not too many shekels!

How to Travel Israel on a Budget- The Banias Waterfall up north is just gorgeous! The Banias Waterfall up north is just gorgeous! 

From the lush Banias waterfalls and the picturesque Hula Valley (perfect for bird lovers) to the Herodian fortress of Masada and the magnificent archaeological park at Beit Shean, you can enjoy glorious treks, wonderful views and spot all kinds of flora and fauna - and it’s a super-cheap day out.

Free Attractions in Israel

Food lovers are in for a treat: the quality of produce in Israel is fantastic. Even better, Israelis love their street food - and for not too much money, you can try some of it - whether you want to ‘grab and go’ or sit outside some of these places on benches whilst you devour your lunch.

Israeli street food is delicious, often very healthy, and a great way to see how locals live.  Falafel (the country’s favorite snack) and hummus bars are always popular but you can also be adventurous and try things like sabich (an Iraqi-styled pita, with all vegetarian fillings), shawarma (always adored by carnivores) and malabi, a delicate milk pudding flavored with rose water. Great food on the cheap.

Explore Free Attractions In Israel

There are endless attractions in Israel that won’t cost you a red cent to visit including, of course, the most famous holy sites in Jerusalem such as the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the Western (Wailing) Wall, and the Dome of the Rock. Jerusalem’s Old City is a place you can wander for days, just getting lost in narrow alleyways and sitting with a black coffee in the famous Bazaar, watching the world go by.

How to Travel Israel on a Budget- Church of the Holy SepulchreChurch of the Holy Sepulchre

Jaffa, one of the world’s oldest ports, is another fine place to spend time - begin at the port and watch fishermen reel in their catches before wandering past the Franciscan Church and the ‘Gates of Faith’ statue. Then head to the famous Shuk haPishpeshim - the Jaffa Flea Market - where all kinds of antiques, vintage and second-hand clothes, and jewelry are on offer.

And if you’re in the north of Israel, don’t miss the mystical city of Safed, full of charming cobbled streets and art galleries, as well as time at the Sea of Galilee, where you can explore historic sites, sit at the shore and gaze at the water, or even visit the baptismal site of Yardenit, to watch pilgrims from around the world be baptized in the Jordan River.

How to Travel Israel on a Budget- View of Haifa from Carmel Mountain

View of Haifa from Carmel Mountain

Finally, if you feel like taking an organized day trip in Israel, where everything is arranged for you, don’t think it will break the bank - it’s not much more expensive than doing it on your own steam. Take a look at the tours we offer and feel free to reach out to us by email or phone and read more about us on our blog.