Tel Aviv Travel Tips for First Time Visitors

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If you are planning to visit Tel Aviv for the first time, there are some travel tips that will make your trip go more smoothly and help you avoid some common mistakes.

UPDATED:  January 2019

As a local Tel Avivian, I’ve hosted many guests and guided many more around the city.

I took note of the most frequently asked questions of first timers and made this guide – a collection of Tel Aviv travel tips – to answer them.

This is not a guide about things to do in Tel Aviv, but advice on how to make your holiday go smoothly, save money, stay safe and make the most out of your visit to Tel Aviv.

How to get to Tel Aviv

Tel Aviv is located by the Mediterranean sea and the easiest way to reach it is by plane. The nearest airport, called Ben Gurion International Airport (TLV) is in a nearby city.

Flights to Tel Aviv

Most major national airlines and quite a few low-cost airlines fly to Tel Aviv.

Some low-cost airlines that fly to Tel Aviv include EasyJet, Ryanair, Wizzair and WOW.

To fly to Tel Aviv form London, you can choose between British Airways (Heathrow), EasyJet (Luton, Gatwick, Stansted), El Al (Luton and Heathrow), WizzAir (Luton).

To fly to Tel Aviv from New York City, go with Delta (JFK), El Al (JFK and Newark) or United (Newark).

These might change from time to time, so it’s always a good idea to check current availability on SkyScanner.

When you search for flights to Tel Aviv, you may find some cheap flights to Ovda Airport.

This is in the south of Israel and it will take you a few hours to get to Tel Aviv from Ovda. I wouldn’t recommend it, unless you’re planning to travel around the south of Israel before going to Tel Aviv.

The gate pass

When you enter Israel, passport control will issue you with a small piece of paper – the gate pass. It replaces the stamp in your passport.

It has some of your details and a bar code to scan as you leave towards the baggage claim area.

Keep it with you until you leave the country.

How to get to Tel Aviv from the airport

Ben Gurion International Airport is about 15-20 minutes away from Tel Aviv by train and a bit longer by car if there’s heavy traffic.

To take the train to Tel Aviv from the airport, follow the signs to the train station at the same level as the arrivals hall. Buy your ticket at the station and keep it with you.

It’s a quick and comfortable ride to Tel Aviv and the trains are quite frequent. Check train timetables here.

A taxi from the airport to Tel Aviv is a convenient option, though much more expensive. The ride should take about 25 minutes to the centre of Tel Aviv, though it might take a bit longer, depending on traffic.

Don’t worry too much about illegal taxi touts; the taxis at Ben Gurion Airport are supervised.

You can hail a taxi using the Gett app, where you’ll see the price on the screen right away.

Use my code GTFJFTA to get a discount on Gett taxi rides.

Gett taxi app - Super useful in Israel

It’s a good idea to download this app, as it will be super useful for you whenever you want to get around Tel Aviv by taxi.

Tel Aviv and Jaffa – which is which?

If you’re about to visit Tel Aviv and have done some reading about it already, you’d have seen Tel Aviv and Jaffa (in Hebrew: Yafo) mentioned together in travel guides. On the map you might see the name “Tel Aviv – Yafo”.

Tel Aviv and Jaffa officially belong to the same municipality. However, they are quite different.

Jaffa is just south of Tel Aviv and many tourists visit it in the same way they would visit the Old Town in a typical European city.

As you travel around Jaffa and Tel Aviv you will notice that the population in Jaffa is mixed – Muslims, Christians and Jews live there together, while Tel Aviv is mostly Jewish.

Jaffa is an ancient city, whereas Tel Aviv is just over 100 years old.

In the beginning of the 20th century, when the Arab city of Jaffa could no longer sustain a large population, some of its Jewish residents decided to build some new neighbourhoods nearby. These later developed into the modern city of Tel Aviv.

Tel Aviv map

How long to spend in Tel Aviv

Because Tel Aviv isn’t a huge city, it’s quite easy to decide how many days to spend in Tel Aviv.

You can enjoy Tel Aviv fully in three days or so. If you’re on a very short visit, even two days will suffice.

However, if you have time, I think you can benefit from visiting Tel Aviv for longer. It will give you a chance to experience local life and get to know the people and culture beyond the tourist highlights.

The Ultimate Tel Aviv Guide suggests a 5-day itinerary in Tel Aviv that covers all the highlights plus some extras.

Another travel tip: When you’re planning how long to spend in Tel Aviv, remember that Israel is a small country, so you can use Tel Aviv as a perfect base for day trips.

For example, you can visit beautiful places in the north of Israel and return to Tel Aviv on the same day, including places like Caesarea, Haifa and Acre. Check out this 10 hour day trip that covers all of them.

You can even visit the Dead Sea on a day trip from Tel Aviv.  You can easily combine it with a visit to Jerusalem or to Masada.

When to visit Tel Aviv?

Tel Aviv is a warm city all year round. Spring (March – April) and fall (October – November) are ideal times to visit. You can expect sunshine every day, and the weather is neither too hot nor too cold.

Summer is long in Tel Aviv, it starts around May and ends around October. It’s a very hot and extremely humid summer, so I recommend you visit in summer only if you enjoy sweating a lot!

That said, you can literally spend your entire vacation on the beach 😉

Tel Aviv beach
Tel Aviv’s beaches

You can also visit Tel Aviv during its very short winter (December-February), as it hardly ever gets very cold. Winter days are usually quite sunny.

If you visit Tel Aviv in December, consider that Christmas isn’t a holiday celebrated by most Israelis. Jaffa has a larger Christian population than Tel Aviv, so Christmas is more present there.

If you want to visit Tel Aviv in January or February, remember these are the winter months. While days may be sunny, temperatures do drop after sunset, and it does rain sometimes, but not frequently.

If you’re from a country that has freezing winters, Tel Aviv can be a very nice escape.

Where to stay in Tel Aviv

If it’s your first visit to Tel Aviv,  the best travel tip I can give you is to stay in the city centre.

Tel Aviv is a very walkable city, so staying in the central area means you can walk anywhere you like easily, see the sights, enjoy the cafes and the markets and never get stuck in traffic 😉

And one more tip – the central bus station in Tel Aviv isn’t central at all…  in fact it’s the one area of the city that you really want to avoid, especially if it’s your first visit. More about that below in the section on Tel Aviv safety tips.

Great Hotels in Central Tel Aviv

Here are some of the best central hotels in the city:

The Rothschild 71

Located in Tel Aviv’s most famous boulevard, this beautiful hotel is right in the centre of the city.

The Rothschild 71 Hotel in Tel Aviv
The Rothschild 71 Hotel in Tel Aviv

It’s a very stylish, modern hotel, with helpful staff available 24/7.  Find and book a room at The Rothchild 71.

White Villa Tel Aviv

This gorgeous hotel is very close to Tel Aviv’s iconic Dizengoff Square, at the very centre of the city.

White Villa Hotel in Tel Aviv
White Villa Hotel in Tel Aviv

This hotel will give you a unique experience of staying at a restored 1940’s Tel Avivian villa, overlooking a lively boulevard.  Book a room at While Villa Tel Aviv

Poli House

This is a popular hotel with a very sleek design and an outdoor pool.

Poli House Hotel
Poli House Hotel

Its location is very convenient. You’ll be staying right next to two of Tel Aviv’s most famous attractions – the Carmel Market and the Arts & Crafts Fair.  Find a room at Poli House.

Stay by the seafront in Tel Aviv

Many first time visitors to Tel Aviv also like to stay by the beach and there are plenty of beachfront hotel with a nice view of the Mediterranean.

Tel Aviv’s promenade is famous for its hotels. Several of them are not so central, so it’s a good idea to check the map before you book.

Some of the top hotels by the beach, that are also central, include the beautifully designed Prima Hotel, the highly rated Renoma Hotel and the 1950s-themed Embassy Hotel.

Tel Aviv Vacation Rentals

Airbnb is extremely popular in Tel Aviv and there are many vacation rentals available.

TIP! If it’s going to be your first Airbnb booking, you do not have to pay full price! Every first booking is reduced, if you sign up through an existing user – here’s my link that will give you that discount. It’s currently $42 or £34 or €38 off your first booking.

The best way to find an Airbnb in Tel Aviv at a good location is to search the map on the Airbnb search results screen. Click “Show Map” at the top of the page and you’ll be able to see where the properties are located and their prices.

How to get around Tel Aviv?

Walking in Tel Aviv

Tel Aviv is a wonderfully walkable city, being quite small and flat. You can walk just about everywhere and take the time to look around.

That’s one of my favourite things about the city and one of the Tel Aviv tips I’m always happy to share.

Cycling in Tel Aviv

If you don’t feel like walking, you can also rent a city bike called Tel-O-Fun. You’ll see the green bike stations all over the city and you can rent them on a daily or weekly basis.

Watch this video for info on how to use the city bikes:

Taxis in Tel Aviv

Gett is the most popular and convenient app to use if you need a taxi in Tel Aviv.

It will detect your location and find taxis nearby. The app has an English language interface and it lets you pay by credit card.

You can use my code GTFJFTA to get a discount on Gett. It’s 20 shekels off each of your first 5 rides, so 100 shekels off in total.

Uber’s legal situation isn’t clear in Tel Aviv, so don’t expect to be able to use it, but Gett works in a similar way.

You can also find a random taxi on the street and ask the driver to turn on the meter (in Hebrew: “Mo-neh”, pronounced like the last name of the artist Claude Monet). They have to turn it on if you ask.

One thing to consider is that there’s heavy traffic in the city during the day and the evening, so going by car may not be the best way to get around.

If you visit Tel Aviv on a budget, beware that taxis are expensive, so my tips for you would be to use the discount code above or just walk or cycle instead.

Buses in Tel Aviv

The public transport system in Tel Aviv, frankly speaking, isn’t the best way to get around the city.

While the light rail is still under construction, buses get stuck in traffic and run late way too often.

From my own experience, it’s easier and faster to cycle than to take the bus.

A quicker and more frequent alternative to buses are the minivans called “Sheroot”.

They operate around the city with similar routes to some buses. Typically, you can stop them anywhere along the route to get on or off.

What languages can you use in Tel Aviv?

The official language in Israel is Hebrew. Arabic has a special status and English is very commonly used.

Street signs are usually in Hebrew, Arabic and English.

Tel Aviv street sign - Rothschild Blvd
Tel Aviv street sign in three languages – Hebrew, Arabic and English

English is widely spoken in Tel Aviv. You can easily get by in English when you go shopping, talk to a bus driver or order at cafes and restaurants.

In the rare occasion that the person you speak to can’t communicate in English, there will be someone else nearby who can. This makes things very convenient for visitors.

What’s less convenient though is that the Hebrew alphabet is different from the Latin one and so there will be certain things you won’t be able to read.

For example, if a restaurant doesn’t have a menu in English, you won’t be able to just guess what’s on it (as I often do in many European countries with some basic knowledge of Roman languages…).

Google translate scanner screenshot - translate Hebrew texts
The Google Translate app can help you decipher Hebrew texts!

TIP! One way around it is to use Google translate scanner on your phone. Set the app to translate from Hebrew into English and then press the camera icon and point it at the text. It will scan the text and show you the translation on the screen.

What currency to use in Tel Aviv

The Israeli Shekel is the official currency. Cash and credit cards are the common methods of payment. Payment apps are slowly being introduced, but are not commonly used yet.

I suggest you always have some cash on you.

You can check the conversion rate simply by Googling the phrase 1 ILS to USD or any other currency you want to convert to.

There are five notes: 20, 50, 100 and 200 shekels. The coins are 1, 2, 5 and 10 shekels, as well as 10 and 50 Agorot (cents). 

Israeli banknotes
Israeli banknotes (Source: Bank of Israel)

Tel Aviv is a pretty expensive city. You can expect to pay at least Western European prices (and sometimes more) on anything from restaurants to taxis to alcohol. To help you enjoy your holiday, I wrote a guide with my insider tips on how to save money in Tel Aviv.

The Israeli weekend is tricky – Here’s what you need to know

This is probably one of the most important Tel Aviv tips in this guide. Though Tel Aviv is a secular city, the Shabbat (Sabbath, Saturday) is observed in Israel and it will affect your visit.

The Jewish weekend starts on Friday afternoon and ends on Saturday evening after sunset. Sunday is a normal working day in Tel Aviv.

I’ve seen many visitors get confused by this and you really should take this into account when you plan your trip, so as to avoid some very common mistakes.

The most important thing to remember is that there are no buses and trains during the weekend.

Don’t plan any independent day trips and if you can, avoid booking a flight to or from Tel Aviv on Friday or Saturday.

While there is a very fast and convenient train service to and from the airport, it stops working quite early on Friday afternoon and resumes quite late on Saturday night.  You’ll have to pay about 10 times more for a taxi…

It’s a good idea to check with your hotel to see if they offer a shuttle service to and from the airport.

Getting around the city during the weekend is easier though, as you can walk, rent a city bike or use the Sheroot minivans that run 7 days a week. 

Their service is limited compared to the normal bus service, but they are very helpful at weekends. Taxis are always available, including during weekends.

Restaurants and shops usually close on Friday afternoon, though some stay open, especially in busy nightlife areas of the city.

The markets and supermarkets are also closed, but there are some smaller shops and kiosks that are open throughout the weekend.

Carmel Market Tel Aviv
The Market in Tel Aviv closes early on Friday afternoon

TIP! Buy delicious fruit and veg at the market on Friday in the early afternoon. You will also get the best prices just before the market closes for the weekend.

Some businesses might re-open on Saturday night, but typically they only open again on Sunday morning.

Generally, Friday night is the biggest night for going out to parties and bars. The city is full of people and very lively.

Jewish Holidays can be tricky too

This Tel Aviv tip is closely related to the previous one: Research your dates before you book your trip and check for Jewish holidays.

There are a lot of religious holidays in Israel and they may disrupt public transport and opening hours in a similar way to Shabbat.

Usually shops and restaurants will close down early on the eve of the holiday and re-open the next evening.

There may be exceptions, but do check in advance.

Is Tel Aviv safe?

Tel Aviv is generally quite safe, if you put aside the general risk of life in the Middle East.

Do check news reports and official warnings before you travel, as the political situation can only be described as unpredictable.

Tel Aviv safety tips

Tel Aviv has pretty low crime rates and it doesn’t have any typical tourist scams.

Pickpockets do target tourists, mostly on the beach, so keep an eye on your belongings.

There are no official “no-go” areas in Tel Aviv, but I strongly recommend you avoid the central bus station area, especially after dark.

There are other bus terminals in Tel Aviv that you can use instead. Also, some parts of Jaffa are considered dodgy, as you go south, i.e. away from Tel Aviv and into Jaffa.

Gentrification might change all that very soon, but for now I’d say these are the places to avoid.

Beware of the electric bicycles

Of all the cities I’ve been to around the world, I’ve never seen so many electric bicycles and electric scooters in one place.

They are ridiculously popular and under-regulated in Tel Aviv and have become a serious risk.

You will come across them anywhere you go, usually when they’ll be coming at you (or worse, behind you) at great speed.

electric bicycle
E-bikes are everywhere in Tel Aviv, beware! (Source: Jim.henderson , CC0, Link)

They ride on pavements too, there’s no escape and nowhere is safe. The only advice I can give is to move out of their way, as they are not going to stop for you.

Security checks in Tel Aviv

When you enter any public place, like a supermarket, a theatre, a shopping centre, the central bus station etc., you will have to stop for a security check.

Normally the guard will look into your bag and ask you if you’re carrying any weapons.

These checks are usually very quick and not particularly intrusive.

However, if you’re in a hurry, remember that at times they can take a bit longer. When you use public transport, I recommend arriving at stations a bit early, so you don’t miss your bus or train.

Sometimes there might be a line for the security check and in some places your bags may even be x-rayed (at many large train stations, for example).

This may not be a surprise, considering the political situation in the region, and given that these checks are becoming more common in more parts of the world. Still, it is something that a first time visitor should be prepared for.

Is Tel Aviv safe for solo female travellers?

As a woman travelling on your own, you can feel safe when you visit Tel Aviv, with two exceptions:

Avoid the central bus station area like the plague. In particular, refrain from going into the neighbourhood called Neve Shaanan.

I would suggest you avoid it even during daytime, not just at night. Mark it on your map with a big red X.

Apart from the junkies and the homeless, this area is where men go looking for prostitutes, and they will treat any woman as potential prey… It’s not where you want to hang out on your vacation.

The second issue for solo female travellers in Israel is street harassment.

You can expect sexual harassment on the street and on the beach from Israeli men.

These are almost always verbal. It’s an ingrained cultural thing, unfortunately, which is changing very slowly.

Other than that, Tel Aviv is safe. You can go out late at night and there’ll still be lots of people on the streets and crime rates are generally low.

Extra Tip: Israelis speak very loudly

One of the first things you’ll see, or rather hear, is Israelis shouting at each other.

I’ve had to explain this quite a few times to puzzled visitors I’ve hosted: they’re not fighting, they are having a perfectly ordinary conversation.

It’s just part of the Israeli culture, which is pretty informal in many ways.

If someone approaches you and seems to be shouting at you, remember that for them talking loudly is a normal thing.

The Ultimate Tel Aviv Guide

The Ultimate Tel Aviv Guide was written by two savvy Tel Avivian travel bloggers.

It’s detailed and comprehensive and after reading it in full, I can recommend it to anyone who’s visiting the city (whether it’s your first time or not).

The PDF guide includes very useful info about the city, an interactive map, a 5-day itinerary (with a responsive version for your phone, so you don’t have to use the PDF) and discount coupons for tours (food tours, bike and segway tours and more), plus discounts and freebies at bars, cafes and restaurants.

When you use those discount coupons, the guide will quickly pay for itself.

My readers now get a special discount on the Ultimate guide to Tel Aviv. Use code TLV10 to claim yours 🙂

More discounts to use on your trip in Tel Aviv:

Taxis: Get a discount on 5 taxi rides

Airbnb: Get a discount on your first booking

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Hope this guide has been helpful for you if your’e going to Israel for the first time and visiting Tel Aviv! Feel free to ask questions in the comments below.

I can  plan your Tel Aviv itinerary for you! Click for details

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Tel Aviv – Tips for First Time Visitors

19 Replies to “Tel Aviv Travel Tips for First Time Visitors”

  1. thanks!! very useful article. I’m about to start planning a trip to Tel Aviv for next March. not sure yet which is the best area to stay. I read Neve Tzedek is a cool neighborhood.

  2. Thanks for the tips. Very very useful. We already booked our flight before I read this. My husband and I are going to be in Tel Aviv from a Thursday to a Sunday. What fun places or attractions can we go to during the day on Friday and Saturday.
    Thanks

  3. Thank you for your tips – very handy. My husband and I are thinking of spending 4 days in late April beginning of May and I understand we should best avoid coming in on Friday or Saturday. So perhaps we will make it Sunday to Thursday or Friday morning then. Do you have connections to personal tour guides that we could book for a day to take us through areas of our interests? And is there a market or road/square where fabrics are sold – i am all into fabrics for sewing clothes. Thanks!!

    1. Glad you found it useful 🙂
      Sunday to Thursday is a good idea, everything will be open and you will be able to make the most of your time.
      For fabrics, you want to go to Nahalat Binyamin street, it’s right in the city centre and full of fabric shops. If you go on Tuesday or Friday, you can also enjoy the art & craft fair taking place on the same street.
      While I don’t have connections to personal tour guides at the moment, I would recommend checking Viator, as they list just about every kind of tour: https://fave.co/2BaiHuj

  4. Israel is still on my bucket list, even though I was in the region several times. This will thus come extremely handy. Love your tips regarding the transportation and language. Saving this for later, thanks! 🙂

  5. Hi Tal, nice to read your article! We were on a trip around Israel this summer, including Tel Aviv. And we have very nice memories from Tel Aviv- we were in AirBnB in Holon district and we had no problem to go by bus from Holon to Jaffa and the nearby beach. We only regret that we couldn’t understand how to use the bicycles, but we will know for the next time! 🙂

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