Welcome to Tel Aviv, Israel!
On January 13th, we received a call from a friend who decided to head to Israel with her boyfriend for his business trip. She booked her tickets and asked if we were interested in coming. We were definitely interested, but weren’t sure how it would affect our finances. So, it was time to start searching for plane tickets! After a few hours, we came across kiwi.com on Kayak and noticed that they were roughly $650 from San Francisco to Tel Aviv. Not bad! In a previous post, I talked about how kiwi.com was more expensive than booking with the actual airline. After using kiwi.com as the itinerary, we booked directly with the airlines. On Tuesday, our final cost was $530/person with a nice day layover in Dublin, Ireland.
Kiwi.com offers the guarantee that if you miss your connecting flight, then they will make arrangements to put you on another flight at no cost. For an extra $120, I didn’t think it was worth it. In fact, we called our Chase Reserve to confirm these connecting flights and they would reimburse us for the Trip Delay (purchasing a new flight for missed flight) and Trip Cancellation (missing the original flight). This is why we decided to take matters into our own hands.
Time to Leave!
Given 3 days to pack, make arrangements for our dog, and mentally prepare for a long flight, we were quite rushed. Each day, we set aside a few hours to take care of cleaning, packing, and planning. Finally on Saturday, we took the train into San Francisco and boarded Wow Airlines. Personally, I like Wow. Couples tend to sit next to each other without having to pick seats prior, because the flight tends to look like this below.
Also, Wow does a good job of letting you know upfront that it comes with absolutely nothing! That’s right, you bring your own water, food, and entertainment. Make sure you pre-download all your Netflix shows and podcasts. Don’t worry about running out of juice. Wow does come with plugs to charge your phone. Lastly, Wow has a lot more room than most flights these days. My husband is 6ft tall and he will tell you when there’s enough room or not.
Dublin, Ireland at 9:30 AM
We landed in Dublin at 9:30 AM local time. Most people recommend taking the AirLink 747 or 700, but it’s 7 Euros. I’m not a big fan of paying that much for a bus ride. So, I recommend taking the local Bus 41 for 3.30 Euros. The only problem with Bus 41 is that it doesn’t run super early in the morning, so you’re stuck with the AirLink. Dublin is surprisingly cheap during the winter as I’m sure you can assume why. So our hotel was only 52 Euros for the night in the heart of the city center, Cassidy Hotel. Not the most spectacular accommodations, but it’s clean and in the perfect location. We spent the day wandering around and took the Guinness Storehouse tour. Quick tip: pre-buy your tickets online for 17 Euros. If you purchase at Guinness, it will cost you 25 Euros. You can easily spend 3+ hours there.
By 4 PM, we were tired and needed to get up for a 6 AM flight. So time for a quick dinner and off to bed.
Tel Aviv at 4 PM
So this is where kiwi.com or Chase Reserve put us through the test. Our flight out of Dublin was 6:30 AM and landed 15 minutes early into Milan at 9:45 AM. Our next leg to Tel Aviv was at 11:10 AM. Luckily, Milan is a tiny airport and everything is in 1 terminal. The issue: Apparently, we didn’t have our visa checked. At the top of your boarding pass, there is a yellow strip and it says visa check. This means, go to the check-in desk and ensure your visa is valid.
Dublin didn’t really care, but Milan did. Uh-oh. Instead of going through a flight connection, Milan forced us to exit, go to the check-in desk, pass through security, and cross passport control. AGAIN! So boys and girls, make sure you go to check your visa before heading in. Luckily, it was fairly quick and we made it to the gate with 10 minutes to spare. Talk about close call!
Finally 4 hours later, we made it to Tel Aviv, Israel!
Since we were following our friend’s boyfriend, we didn’t stay in the downtown area or even Tel Aviv-Yafo. We ended up in the district call Hertzliya of Tel Aviv. The hotel was along the Mediterranean beach, which was absolutely gorgeous and pretty pricey. Next time, I would definitely hit up an Airbnb as they were closed to $100 a night.
To get to Hertzliya, take the train and here’s the map. It’s super convenient and very comfortable. We talked to a few locals and they gave us some awesome food recommendations.
To get to Herzliya from the airport, it was roughly 22 shekels or $6.50. The exchange rate was $1 to 3.4 shekels (January 2018).
3 Days Tel Aviv and 1 Day Jerusalem
Most people end up in Jerusalem and visit Tel Aviv for a day, we pretty much did the exact opposite. There isn’t that much to see in Tel Aviv, but it is the “Miami of the Middle East.” The city was very beautiful and safe. I’m not going to go into that much detail, but we basically followed the chart below as our foodie tour. We also spent a day wandering the old city, Jaffa, which is the highlight of Tel Aviv. Also, highly recommended is the Imperial Craft Cocktail Bar, which is also part of the list of The World’s 50 Best Bars.
Finally, we took a 1 half-day tour of Jerusalem, mainly congregated in the old city walls visiting the major sites such as the Western Wall, all the quarters, and the Christian church. The other half of the tour was at the Dead Sea, which is about 30-45 minutes east of Jerusalem. The experience of floating around in the Dead Sea is something I’ll never forget. While floating around, you can also enjoy scenery of the towns on the shore of Jordan. Finally on the way back to Tel Aviv, we were able to see the wall that separates Israel and Palestine, a reminder that political turmoil still exist. The total cost of the tour was $131 a person.
Saturday was our flight back home, but it is also Shabbat. This means nothing is open and neither is the train station. We ended up leaving Tel Aviv early and spent $45 on a taxi ride. Plan your trip accordingly and don’t expect to do much or take train on Shabbat.
Total Cost Per Person
Flights were $530 (Wow Air: San Francisco Dublin $169, Ryanair: Dublin to Milan $40, Ryanair: Milan to Tel Aviv $35, Ryanair: Tel Aviv to Rome $56, Ryanair: Rome to Barcelona $28, and finally Norwegian: Barcelona to Oakland $200 – All these layovers did suck, but it wasn’t as bad as you think.)
Dublin Hotel was $63
Public Transportation for all location about $100
Tel Aviv Hotel was $250
Guinness Storehouse Tour was $20
Food altogether was about $100
Jerusalem/Dead Sea Tour was $131
Total is $1,194 for a 1 day in Dublin, 3 days in Tel Aviv, and 1 day in Jerusalem/Dead Sea
Obviously this is expensive for backpackers, but remember, we do work a normal 9-5 job with much less time to spare. This means that we’ll pay more for certain things like transportation and hotel over hostel because we do have less time to waste.
How is $2K not breaking the bank?
My husband and I know we love to travel and are dedicated to it. We squirrel away $800 a month of our paychecks to a traveling savings account. When we’re ready to buy plane tickets, book hotel, and pay for excursions/tours, this bucket has sufficient amount of funds to take care of us.
So when we did all the calculations, the $2K didn’t make much of a dent in our account. Basically, we save for spontaneous trips like this and this is what we live for!
Bottom Line: Spontaneous trips can only happen when you’ve been consistently saving for something. We’ve been stocking the $800 a month a way for over a year now. Savings combined with our Chase Reserve Ultimate Rewards, we are able to take any trip at any time.