Israel is a country that fascinates many. The history (both ancient and modern), the religious significance for Christians, Jews, and Muslims, and even the current conflict attract many curious visitors from around the world. But, just how much does it cost to go to Israel? Well, it’s not exactly a cheap destination but there are a few tips and tricks to make it more budget friendly which I’ll be sharing throughout this article.
For the purpose of this article, I have recommended a 7 day, 6-night itinerary to showcase the highlights of Israel. The focus is on the main religious and historical sites that are so important to the country since that is what most people come to Israel for. That being said, you may want to add on a couple of days or even a week at the end to spend in one of the Red Sea resort of Eilat, in which you will need to increase the provided budget estimate. Also note that some people will add time to their holiday and visit Jordan which is within driving distance of Israel.
These estimates are made on a per person basis, so if you are travelling as a couple be sure to double them (except for hotels).
|Attractions||$500 (includes guides)|
|Food and drink||$350|
The above estimate is in American Dollars, so please use xe.com to find out the average costs in your home country.
If you’re Canadian, you may want to consider applying for one of the best travel credit cards in Canada to help offset your costs by collecting points. For example, the American Express Gold Rewards Card gives you a signup bonus of up to 30,000 American Express Membership Rewards points which have a minimum value of $300 (potentially more if you transfer your points to Aeroplan or Marriott Bonvoy). There’s also the Scotiabank Passport Visa Infinite card that has no foreign transaction fees and it comes with airport lounge access.
Most international flights will fly into Ben Gurion Airport which is listed as in Tel Aviv but is actually a pretty equal distance between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. There are several east coast cities that offer direct flights including Toronto, Montreal, New York, and Miami. The average roundtrip cost is about $800 for these cities. Those flying from the west coast can expect to pay a couple hundred more. As with all flights, you’re more likely to find better deals by booking in advance and avoiding travelling during the holidays and peak tourist season.
Insider tip: Entering Israel is pretty easy, but security measures when leaving Israel can be pretty intense. Make sure to allow yourself the full recommended 3 hours at the airport and expect to be questioned and have your luggage searched.
There is a wide variety of accommodation options throughout Israel; hotels, hostels, guest houses and even some resorts. Prices differ across the spectrum however for the purpose of this article I have used the average price of a mid-range hotel as for my estimate which comes to X per day.
As I will mention later on in this article, many of Israel’s cities (most notably Jerusalem and Tel Aviv) are quite large so I do recommend choosing a more central location to stay. The nightly cost may be a little higher however, that will balance out as it will save on travel time and public transit costs.
For suggestions in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, I recommend the following:
Insider tip: Not all of Israel’s hostels are geared towards gap year students and backpackers. Abraham hostels are open for guests of all ages and have a great selection of private rooms as well making it a smart choice for budget-conscious travellers of all ages.
If you have the right credit card, you can save a fair amount of money on hotels. Americans should strongly consider the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant American Express Card since you can earn up to 125,000 bonus Marriott Bonvoy points. Plus, get complimentary Platinum Elite status with your Card for the 2021 status year (apply by Jan. 13, 2021).
Canadians should consider the BMO World Elite Mastercard since it typically has a sign up bonus worth more than $200 and the annual fee is normally waived for the first year. There’s also the Marriott Bonvoy American Express which gives you 51,000 Marriott Bonvoy when using a referral link. That’s enough points for up to five free nights at some hotels which could easily have a value of over $650.
When it comes to local transportation, Israel (and Palestine) can be a bit tricky for tourists.
Main cities, such as Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, and Bethlehem, are relatively easy to get to by public transit, but overall Israel is not the easiest country to get around. Public transit is definitely lacking between smaller cities as well as major attractions meaning that most visitors rely either on tours for day trips or choose to rent a car.
As for in the cities themselves, you’ll find yourself relying on buses and trams in both Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. Both cities are quite large and while you can explore areas by foot, don’t think you can walk around the entire time. Bus rides cost about $1.50 USD per ride and taxis can be flagged down in the streets.
Another thing to note while travelling around the area is that you may come across two different kinds of buses to go to certain places. One bus will be for Israelis while the other will be for Palestinians. As tourists, you can use either, however, the Palestinian buses tend to be cheaper.
Israel has plenty to see and do, especially for those who are interested in history. From Jaffa just outside of Tel Aviv to the Old City in Jerusalem, the Baha’i Shrine and Gardens in Haifa, and the biblical city of Bethlehem in Palestine, you’ll have no problem keeping busy during your visit.
Due to the nature of the highlights (historical, biblical, and even regarding the conflict) I highly recommend you take guided tours. Not only does this take care of transportation, which can be tricky, but it also gives you a better, closer, and more in-depth experience. There is so much to see and learn that, on your own, you will likely miss most of it.
Food and drink
One of the best parts of visiting Israel is getting to try the food and drink which most people end up really enjoying. Hummus and fresh pita, shawarmas, fresh pomegranate juices, falafel, and baklava are all popular things to try. However, while some of these may be considered cheap street foods in other countries, food and drink in Israel (like everything else) are probably more expensive than what you might think. That being said, these types of street food dishes are still more affordable than what you can expect to pay in restaurants
With that in mind, here’s a rough guide as to what you can expect to pay for daily meals (including drinks).
- Breakfast – $10
- Lunch – $15
- Dinner – $25
Which comes to $50 per day.
When it comes to drinking and going out, Israel has a pretty good nightlife scene, especially in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. Tel Aviv is known for its cool clubs and bars while one of the highlights of Jerusalem is the small breweries in the Mahane Yehuda Market. You can expect to pay around $8 for a beer at a bar.
Something you will need to keep in mind is that this area is divided into Israel and Palestine and there are rules about who can visit where which often applies to guides as well. This is another reason why it is best to pre-arrange your tours ahead of time to ensure you are going with a trusted company.
When it comes to random spending, you’re probably just looking at some snacks and drinks and a couple of small souvenirs. Israel has some great markets that are worth browsing (especially in Old Town Jerusalem) but isn’t necessarily a shopping mecca. If you are buying at a market, make sure to barter with the vendors if there are no prices indicated on the items you are interested in.
So how much does it cost to go to Israel? Well, for 7 days and 6 nights I estimate your costs to be around $2,725 USD. Israel isn’t necessarily a budget-friendly destination but with so much to see and discover, it is absolutely worth a visit. Keep in mind as well that this guide is tailored to mid-range travel so there is definitely space to save and reduce costs using some of the tips and advice above. If you want some more inspiration, check out my other how much guides to Hawaii, Southeast Asia, Jordan, Dubai and Egypt.