Aside from Jerusalem, another good place to base yourself in Israel is Tel Aviv, the nation’s largest metropolitan area. It’s only an hour away from Jerusalem so they’re both centrally located in the country, which makes the rest of Israel easily accessible from either place. It seems that a lot more people choose to base themselves in this city, and it’s not hard to see why. It’s the very definition of a modern city. It’s beautiful, there are lots of things to do, and it’s actually described as one of the most vibrant cities in the world.
From Jerusalem, one can easily get to Tel Aviv from the central bus station. One can either take the 405 or the 480 bus. There’s no need to purchase tickets in advance because there are buses leaving daily from 5:50 AM to 11:20 PM every 20-30 minutes (except on Shabbat when the intervals are longer and the last bus leaves at 3 PM). The 405 bus goes to the Tel Aviv Central Bus Station, while the 480 bus goes to the Arlozoroff Bus Terminal which is close to the Tel Aviv Train Station. A one way ticket to either bus station costs 16 Shekels. I took the 405 bus because it was closer to where I would be staying. It’s also closer to the more popular hostels in the city.
I left Jerusalem on a Thursday night because practically all the locals I’ve met in the city told me to leave before Shabbat unless I’m looking for some peace and quiet. It’s a religious city after all so everything is pretty dead for two days. In fact almost all the other places in Israel are pretty dead during the Shabbat— the notable exception is Tel Aviv, so they all told me to head there if I wanted a lively atmosphere. I realized I’d get bored in Jerusalem since I’ve already seen the attractions.
I’ve been told beforehand that everything is really expensive in Tel Aviv so I tried to look for a host on Couchsurfing. It wasn’t easy. For some reason, there are so many fake Couchsurfing profiles in Tel Aviv. I posted a public trip 2 weeks before my arrival and I got so many messages from people with no references. At first I replied to them. Their replies to my messages were similar: they were nudists and they asked me if I was okay with that. Then the next day their profiles would be deactivated. That was so weird. I got more than 30 invites, and I was thinking maybe it’s just one person sending me those messages. I’ve spoken with a number of travelers who were also using the app and this happened to them too. We’ve all been using the Couchsurfing app in many countries and we’ve only experienced this in Tel Aviv. Luckily I got an invite from a legit host. I also knew someone who had stayed with him a couple of months ago, and since my friend vouched for him I decided to stay with this guy.
On the first night we checked out a couple of bars and clubs. One of my friends told me that nothing beats Tel Aviv when it comes to nightlife. I wouldn’t say it is, but I’d say it’s quite up there. Israelis do know how to party. I especially loved Duplex club. They play different genres on each floor, and it’s been a long time since I’ve been to a club that played heavy metal music— the type of music I frequently listened to while growing up. heh. It’s best to pregame though, drinks at the bars and clubs are really expensive. At Duplex, we had to pay 40 Shekels (about 11 USD) for entry. Then a beer costs 30 shekels. Mixed drinks go for 70! For perspective, a six pack costs 30-40 Shekels in convenience stores and grocery stores.
The next day it was time to explore. Although there were noticeably less people out on the streets compared to the previous day, the streets were far from deserted. There were still many people walking around. We went to a local market to try some delicious street food and delicacies. Even during Shabbat, the city is bursting with activity. As far as I could tell, all the stores remained open.
When we went to the beach, I could say without a doubt that I love this city. I’m not into modern cities in general, but once I see that there’s a clean beach where I could swim on, I would immediately change my mind. Coastal cities are beautiful in general. But when you see that locals are swimming on the beaches, that only shows that the city has proper sanitation and waste disposal as top priorities.
Israel isn’t just a modern city with modern attractions. There are historical sites too. Perhaps the most popular one is Old Jaffa, judging from all the tourists roaming around the area when we went there.
I’d say anyone would find something to love in Tel Aviv, making it one of the must visit places in the country. There’s enough history and culture to satisfy travelers looking for those. For westerners who have been traveling for a couple of weeks in the region, Tel Aviv serves as a welcome respite. It’s liberal and modern— such a rarity in these parts, it’s practically a western city sticking out like a sore thumb in conservative territory. Every spot also seems to be teeming with life. It may be really expensive to stay in Tel Aviv, but I can see why a lot of travelers choose to base themselves here in spite of that fact.