Israel's buzzing metropolis of Tel Aviv has been trending for a while now – proving many travelers aren't put off by the city's high cost of visiting. But the Israeli hub isn't just for deep-pocketed tourists. We've sussed out a few ways to enjoy this beach town on a budget...
Recently opened in June, the AL Boutique Hotel is a tiny, 11-room boutique hotel housed in a historic building from the 1930s (its previous function was a philosophy school). Each room is elegantly furnished with light wood paneling, glass-topped nightstands and crushed leather armchairs; even better, the Wi-Fi is free. Breakfast is included in the rate (from $230/night), and guests have access to a wine bar, cafe, and Garden Patio.
Spend an afternoon gathering edible souvenirs at the bustling Levinski Market, one of the city's most popular shuks, or open-air markets. Spread across five blocks on Levinski, the area serves two purposes: grocery store and social hub. You can leave the credit card in your wallet, as many of the family-owned spice kiosks, bakeries, and tiny coffee shops are cash-only. Not that you'll be spending a fortune anyway: a single slab of Turkish halvah typically goes for just 4 shekels (about $1.10).
When it comes to cheap eats, nowhere offers a better value for your money than the neighborhood of Kerem HaTemaneim, which sits adjacent to Carmel Market, another popular shuk. The Kerem offers authentic Yemenite and Moroccan restaurants known for making some of the best hummus in the city – at Erez Restaurant, for example, you'll feast on grilled meat skewers served with typical Yemenite side dishes for around $5–$7.
It's easy for travelers to get around the city via sherut (small shuttle taxis) that service the major boulevards, though if you really want to blend in with the locals, just hop on a bike. Tel Aviv's Tel-o-Fun bike share program, launched in 2011 and modeled after similar ventures in Paris and Amsterdam, offers daily rentals for as low as $5.60 ($3.90 on weekdays) with over 125 stations spread throughout the city.
Consistently topping lists as one of the world's best beach cities, Tel Aviv's eight mile-long white sandy coastline is not only beautiful to look at – it's also totally free. Some of the main beaches can get pretty touristy, so for a more intimate experience, make a day trip to Apollonia Beach, located 15 minutes north of Tel Aviv, in Herzliya. Here, you'll swim under soaring cliffs that hold 13th century ruins, including a crusader-era fortress.
Meeting locals is never hard to do in Tel Aviv, though a particularly effective way of breaking down the cultural barriers is to take part in a drum circle at the Dolphinarium (south of Geula Street). Held every Friday at sunset, the group welcomes folks of any age, religion, ethnicity, and race to join in a wild evening of impromptu music and dance as the Sabbath descends over the city.