Saving Money: When to Save and when Not to Save
Everybody wants to save money. On your trip to Israel don’t get fleeced, but also don’t be cheap on the things that will really take away from your experience. Here are 6 tips on ways to save money and 2 tips on where to avoid the less expensive option.
How to Save Money in Israel
Don’t negotiate with taxi drivers
Any time you get in a cab in Israel, just say ‘on the meter,’ or ‘moneh’ in Hebrew. Don’t negotiate a price. Negotiating this price is not smart, and it is often illegal for the cab driver. It’s very unlikely the driver will charge you less than he would get on the meter. Some cabbies have been known to charge tourists as much as three or four times the meter price!
There are great picnic spots all over Israel, including at almost every tourist site. Israelis love to hang out outdoors and the weather makes this pleasant for about 9 months a year! Also, you’ll save a bundle on the cost of a meal at a roadside restaurant and get to shop at a local grocery, another ‘real Israeli’ cultural experience.
Stay in a rental apartment instead of a hotel
It takes a bit more effort to set up, but a rental apartment can save you hundreds of dollars per night(!!!), especially if you are a large family. As well as various listings, there are now websites such as AirBNB dedicated to helping people find just this kind of accommodation.
Join with another family or group
Some of the biggest expenses in a tour, such as transportation and your guide’s fee can be easily split between more people, bringing the cost down. Guides usually charge by the day, not by the number of participants. Also, they will charge the same amount for transportation in their seven seater van whether only two or all seven seats are filled. Try finding friends or other tourists interested in sharing costs with you.
Come in low season
The difference in pricing for hotel rooms and airfare between high and low season can be as much as %100. Try coming in the period between late January and mid-March (or until a week before Pesach, whichever comes first). You can try this out by entering different dates into hotel booking sites and seeing what gives you the best price. We’re going to have a whole post on this soon, outlining the high and low seasons in more detail and will link to it here.
Don’t splurge on products you don’t want, or can get at home for less
There are some products for sale in Israel that are unique, such as hand-crafted works of art. Those are worth your time and money during your trip if you are so inclined. But most of the stuff for sale at tourist sites in Israel is ‘Made in China,’ factory produced Judaica, available for similar or better prices at your local Jewish bookstore in your home town, and if not then definitely online. Don’t waste money on mass produced menorahs, dreidels, etc. Even the Dead Sea beauty products are no cheaper, and are sometimes even more expensive at the ‘outlet store’ than at Wal-Mart. So unless you want a specific Dead Sea product that isn’t for sale in the US, best to buy it back home.
How Not to Save Money
Take a bus to Masada and meet a guide there
This sounds like a great idea at first, but you end up wasting a lot of time, doing less, and learning less. The bus will take much longer than a guide to get you to Masada and then you’ll be stuck there waiting for the return bus. You won’t have much mobility and ability to get to other great things in the neighborhood, such as a dip in the Dead Sea or a hike in the Ein Gedi oasis. Even if you do manage to hop from site to site by bus, you will waste so much time doing so that you won’t get to do as much. Also, you will miss out on having the guide with you for the drive. There’s lots of cool stuff to hear about on the way!
Rent a car in the morning when you want an early start
Renting a car can be a great way to save money. But if you do, don’t pick up the car on a morning when you want to get a lot done. Many of the rental agencies don’t open until 8:30 or 9AM, and they are not a model of efficiency. You are likely to have to wait in a long line with a bunch of irritated tourists before getting your car. Also, rental car companies in Israel often keep cars ‘off site,’ from their store-fronts in crowded areas of a city and only a few cars ‘on hand.’ That means they may not have the car you need ready immediately, even if you reserved ahead of time. So don’t count on getting on the road before 10AM.
Let us Help you Save Money
If you’re looking for ways to save money on your Israel trip, be in touch with us and we’ll help you plan a great trip according to your budget.