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Israel is Expensive for Vagabond Travelers

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Israel is Expensive

I only nipped off a tip of the southern point of Israel — and this was a mighty touristy tip at that — but I must say that this is among the most expensive countries that I have ever traveled through.

I am talking USA or Western Europe expensive.

Upon paying over $10 to ride in a taxi a few kilometers from the border to the center of Eilat, the money spending ball began rolling down a big, steep hill.
Wade from Vagabond Journey.com
in Eilat, Israel- May, 2009
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The search for a room only uncovered dingy rat holes for prices that extended over $40 a night for a double room. Similarly crappy dormitories demanded no less of a fee.

I have no qualm about nesting down in rat holes, but not for $40.

Dejected, Chaya and I continued looking. We considered just sleeping outside in the desert — the weather was warm and the sun was shining. Though we both knew that the weather in deserts can be finicky: hot days can easily turn into cold nights. We made mental checklists of our provisions. We looked down at Number Three in Chaya’s belly, and figured that we would at least expend all of our accommodation options prior to committing to a night of bush camping.

Sunset Hotel in Eilat, Israel.

We eventually came upon the Sunset Hotel. They, initially, also said that they wanted a million dollars for a room. I was talking to the owner, who was cool looking darker skinned man who wore sunglasses and slouched back into his couch seat with a comfortable sort of ease.

He spoke with the cool authority of a mafia boss. Perhaps he was.

His hands spoke his words and he cocked his head back a little after completing each statement. This guy had his cool pinned down.

I told him that a million dollars was too much for us to pay. He looked at our travel worn clothes and dirty rucksacks, at Chaya’s bulbous belly.

He then looked at me cooly from out of the bottoms of his sunglasses as he asked me how much I wanted to pay for a room.

I told him 100 sheckles a night ($25), and he laughed at me a little and said that I could not find a room in Eilat for this measly amount of money (he also said that he owned all of the hotels on the street and, therefore, knew he was correct).

He probably was correct, as we had visited around 10 hotels before walking into his.

He again asked me how much I was willing to pay. I said two hundred sheckles for two nights. The moment then came to a dead stop, as he just starred at me cooly from out of the bottoms of his dark, black sunglasses. We began walking away.

“Come back,” he demanded.

We did.

“Ok,” he said, “200 sheckles for two nights. Drop the key off here when you leave.”

He then barked orders in Hebrew for his daughter to show us a room. It was an apartment. It was immaculate — TV, microwave, refrigerator, king sized bed, clean bathroom, hot showers — pure luxury.

This room for this price was clearly an act of hospitality.

$25 for a double room is cheap in Eilat, Israel — the youth hostel wanted twice this much — but it is not a vagabond’s fare. Chaya and I got lucky, and we knew it.

We then went off to test the water’s of how expensive everything else would be. I left the hotel with a good chunk of money in my pocket — more than enough to last out the day, or so I thought.

I thought wrong. 40 sheckles ($10) was not even enough money for me to buy a lighter and a lunch at McDonald’s. We eventually found a fast food restaurant and ate away the rest of my money in falafel sandwiches.

At noon, our expenses in Israel were up to $46.

By the end of the day, this amount was over $55.

It then became clear that, without a tent, without a bicycle, without Couchsurfing, Israel is an expensive country to travel in.

To top everything off on this day of money spending splendor, I bought Chaya a $2.50 slushy from a quicky mart. It was the best tasting slushy that either of us ever had.

Israeli people walking on the Eilat boardwalk.

Cost of travel in Eilat, Israel
Kebab sandwich at fast food restaurant- $8
Falafel sandwich at fast food restaurant- $5
Milk – $3
Cheese – $4
Instant dried noodles (ramen) – $2
Taxi from Jordan border – $10
Taxi to Egyptian border – $5 to $8

I understand that it may not seem very romantic to continuously write about money when traveling, but money is the nuts and bolts of travel. Earning and cleverly spending money is part of the reality of traveling, and the reality of this occupation is far more romantic than the fanciful fairy tales. I write about money because it is a part of the great traveling game — a great world wide trial of wits to come up with and keep enough money to get around the globe.

I would much rather read a tale that explored the depths of the traveling life, than one that takes it for granted that I have never ending pockets by the act of omission.

All vagabond tales begin, end, and are ever woven with discussions of money — how to get money, how to save money, how to spend as little money as possible.

This is the sort of tale that I like to read. So I speak now that when traveling in Israel, ride out an alternative plan for survival that does not rely on public transport and public housing. To do otherwise will leave you in the same boat that I was in during my two and a half day stay in the southern reaches of the country — and this boat is not cheap to float in.

Beach in Eilat, Israel.

Israel is Expensive

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Filed under: Budget Travel, Israel, Middle East

About the Author:

Wade Shepard is the founder and editor of Vagabond Journey. He has been traveling the world since 1999, through 80 countries. He is the author of the book, Ghost Cities of China, and contributes to Forbes, The Diplomat, the South China Morning Post, and other publications. has written 3133 posts on Vagabond Journey. Contact the author.

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Wade Shepard is currently in: Zhushan Village, Kinmen, TaiwanMap