Tel Aviv is the capital and the second largest city in Israel after Jerusalem. Its official name is Tel Aviv-Yafo, and reflects the fact that the city has absorbed the ancient port city of Yafo. It is also the most liberal city of Israel and one of the most gay friendly in the world.
I arrived at the Ben Gurion International Airport by plane from Frankfurt. The security at the airport, before entering the plane, was very, very tight, including a dedicated terminal/section of the airport just for the flights heading to Israel, which is somehow understandable given the situation that the country is right now.
This adventure started right after getting out of the plane, when trying to go through immigration. My other middle eastern passport stamps (mainly Iran’s) caught the eye of the officials and I was sent to a little room with other people. During this period I was questioned by different people, asking me what I did in Iran, what other middle countries I’ve visited and why, etc. This took around 1-2 hours, sometimes having to answer to the same questions over and over, but in the end everything was fine and they gave me the entry card to the country. Israel stopped stamping passports because of the Israel’s boycott by some Arab countries, and instead they now give an entry/exit card.
In order to get to my hostel I had to get the train to the Ha’Hagana train station, having to walk only ~3km to reach the hostel. This is the most I’ve ever paid for a room and it was probably one of the tiniest. Tel Aviv is one of the most expensive cities in the world, so I guess that it is expected that accommodation will be overpriced. However, the location is good (beware of weekends, there are bars nearby), the breakfast is okayish and bathrooms were always clean.
Tel Aviv doesn’t have a metro system, so you’ll have to rely on bus/taxi/walk in the city. Fortunately, if you’re staying anywhere near the Old Jaffa area, you’ll be in walking distance of everything worth seeing in Tel Aviv.
Like any big capital, Tel Aviv doesn’t offer nothing spectacular regarding touristy sights, however, it’s a perfect introduction to the country lifestyle. The city is known as the “Miami of the Middle East” and it’s easy to understand why. Huge coastline, not a very walkable city apart from the Old Jaffa, and a very cosmopolitan way of life. Besides all of that, the public shelters (bunkers) are all over the city, something that I’ve never seen before anywhere.
In total, I only spent 2 days in Tel Aviv, but I think that it’s more than enough to get a feel of the city and its lifestyle. If the weather is good, you can always spend a day at the beach, visiting malls, clubbing or just exploring some neighborhoods (don’t miss Neve Tzedek!). I chose to just head straight to Jerusalem to have more time to explore the city.
It’s very easy to get to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv, buses depart frequently and only take about ~1h. I got the bus near the central train station and got dropped off close the Jerusalem old city gate.
How to get there and away
- I flew from Porto to Tel Aviv with a layover in Frankfurt.
- Local bus to Jerusalem.
What to do/see
- Old Jaffa.
- Neve Tzedek.
- Eat delicious food.
Where to sleep
- Old Jaffa Hostel, 70€ for a double room with shared bathroom and breakfast.