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Israel is Expensive for Vagabond Travelers

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 [...]

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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:

I am the founder and editor of Vagabond Journey. I’ve been traveling the world since 1999, through 91 countries. I am the author of the book, Ghost Cities of China and have written for The Guardian, Forbes, Bloomberg, The Diplomat, the South China Morning Post, and other publications. has written 3722 posts on Vagabond Journey. Contact the author.

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VBJ is currently in: New York City

9 comments… add one

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  • Kim Jong-Il July 21, 2010, 3:54 am

    Are you seriously complaining about spending $40/night in a hotel? What are you, on crack?! It’s hard to find a half-decent place to stay in Canada for under $100, but you’re complaining about a good place for $40?!

    I think you should take your head out of the Chinese cheapo rooms and look for more proper ones before you make those remarks.

    Link Reply
    • Wade | Vagabond Journey.com July 21, 2010, 3:22 pm

      This is why I don’t travel in Canada. Good hotel rooms can be had the world over for 10 USD a night. If I wanted to take a one week vacation, then 40 USD a night would not be a bad price to spend. But I travel 365 days a year and have been doing so for 11 years. The reason why I can travel is because I know that 40 USD per night is too much for me to regularly pay.

      This is a website about perpetually traveling around to world and making money as you go. It is my impression that you may have found yourself on a website that does not match your perspective on tourism. There are thousands of websites out there telling you that 40 USD is a cheap price to pay for accommodation, go find them — they seem to be what you are looking for.

      Link Reply
      • nico November 11, 2010, 10:18 am

        Even a dormitorybed with the salvation army in Amsterdam will cost you 10 euro. Compared to western europa life in Israel is 20% cheaper. And you can’t have it all.

      • Wade | Vagabond Journey.com November 11, 2010, 10:58 am

        Hello Nico,

        Comparing the cost of traveling somewhere with one of the most expensive places in the world is just another proclamation of how expensive it is. The fact that traveling in Israel can even be compared to Amsterdam means that it is very costly on a global scale. Though, it is my impression, I was in one of the most expensive regions of the country.

      • Jeff R December 19, 2010, 3:16 pm

        This is just not true. The costs are way more in Tel Aviv than in Western Europe. I travel to Western Europe all the time and was absolutely shell shocked how expensive Tel Aviv is. I am a budget traveler as well. I was in Madrid earlier this year and stayed at a very nice Hostal in Sol (center of it all), clean private room, free Wifi etc. for 25 EUR/night ($32). Now, in Tel Aviv the cheapest private room I could find was $55/night (200 shekels). The food is also MUCH more expensive here in Israel than in Spain.

      • Wade | Vagabond Journey.com December 19, 2010, 7:04 pm

        I agree firmly with Jeff. Israel is one of the most expensive countries that I have ever traveled through. Israel is way more expensive than Europe.

  • mostcurious October 5, 2011, 4:59 am

    I have recently come back from Israel and can tell you it is a very expensive place for a holiday. More expensive than Hong Kong or London. For example food, here you will pay twice as much for a McDonalds Big Mac meal, and accommodation is insanely higher than any place I have ever visited.

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    • Wade Shepard October 5, 2011, 10:11 pm

      Yeah man, I found EVERYTHING expensive there. Perhaps this is why so many Israelis are traveling in Latin America and Southeast Asia haha.

      Link Reply
  • stern May 30, 2015, 9:56 am

    Heh, I was thinking of commenting about couchsurfing when I reached the part of the article when you already mentioned it.

    I traveled in Israel in 2011 and my money ran dry very, very fast. I remember even trying to some clothes at Tel Aviv, briefly before leaving, and the store didn’t accept my bank card.
    A simple water bottle in Jerusalem was 3 times the price where I live. A trip from Haifa to Tzfat costed more than a interstate travel where I live (covering some distances bigger than Israel from tip to tip).
    While the price of food surprised me, I can’t find any other place with traditional greek, arab, jewish and russian cuisine at the same time, so cheap, I had so spend all my days eating only falafel. Falafel for lunch, breakfast and dinner, the poor mans version of One Thousand Nights.

    I can only think of backpacking in Israel in the conditions you mentioned: couchsurfing, hiking, riding a bike.

    I know this question is 6 years late, but I must find anyway:
    Have you visited the west bank cities (both arab and settlers)? Do places like Ariel or Hebron have cheap and good restaurants? I imagine that palestinian towns in specific must have some very traditional yet cheap places to eat.

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