Israel may not be the first country that springs to mind when you think about destinations that are best suited to independent travel. That isn’t for any derogatory reason, but because at this point in time, Israel still remains somewhat off the beaten path as far as mainstream tourism goes.
Many solo travellers want to follow an established tourist trail and tread in the footsteps as many others before them. It is for those exact reasons that travel adventures such as backpacking in Southeast Asia, or interrailing through Europe remain so popular. It’s a shame though, as Israel is bursting at the seams with history and culture, in addition to all of the things that intrepid adventurers seek when travelling somewhere – friendly locals, sunbleached ruins, vibrant nightlife, and a sumptuous local cuisine.
10 Reasons Why Solo Travel in Israel is a Great Adventure
In case you need further convincing, some reasons as to why Israel makes a wonderful solo travel destination are shortlisted below.
#1 Israelis are Incredibly Friendly and Hospitable
Israelis may well be some of the friendliest people I have encountered on my travels. I grew up in the UK, not knowing a huge amount about Israel, its people, and its culture. When travelling in Tokyo, I met so many friendly, fun loving Israelis that I felt inspired to visit the country and hang out with them more.
When I touched down in Tel Aviv, I had something like a seven hour wait before I could check into my hotel because I arrived so early in the morning and the room wasn’t ready.
I went to wait in a quirky coffee shop in trendy Neve Tzedek. Honestly, I was so tired and bedraggled from my flight that I probably looked really crazy and homeless. However, a group of local students came over to chat to me, and share their recommendations for local spots. You’d never get that in London!
Most people have a good grasp of English, especially in Tel Aviv. If you ever found yourself lost or in need of help, you could easily just wander up to a local and they’d help you.
#2 Travelling Through Israel is Possible on a Backpacker Budget
I’m not going to deny that Israel is a fairly expensive country to travel in — especially if you are a budget traveller and you typically stick to “backpacker” destinations like Indonesia and Vietnam.
That isn’t to say that budget travel in Israel is impossible though — it’s just that you need to think a little outside the box to make your journey more affordable.
Backpacker hostels are available in some of the larger cities like Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, and Nazareth. If that’s not your scene, you can also consider Couchsurfing and staying on a local’s couch for cultural exchange. Food-wise, opt to cook for yourself (and maybe your Couchsurfing host) by shopping at local markets (“shuks”) and dusting off your best haggling skills. Israeli food is delicious, and while dining at restaurants can be on the pricier side, it is easy to replicate many of the recipes by yourself in your accommodation.
Once upon a time, hitchhiking (“tremping” in Hebrew slang) was incredibly popular in Israel. While today it may not be as mainstream as it once was, you’ll be sure to see travellers hitchhiking at the sides of roads in rural areas and outside of the major cities. I don’t doubt you’ll be able to catch a ride with a friendly local and share an incredible impromptu road trip experience that creates a story fit for a travel book!
#3 Israel Has an Emerging Backpacker Scene Away from Mainstream Tourism
As travel is becoming more accessible and popular, a steady increase of tourists are trickling into Israel. With that said, most of the people I met during my trip were those doing a birthright tour, or with some specific religious interest in the country. As I travelled around, I kept bumping into the same few travellers in different cities and hostels.
This is nice — you meet interesting people from an array of cultures and backgrounds but the various sites are not inundated with crowds. Even in “touristy” areas like old Jaffa, you are not at a risk of falling into tourist trap restaurants, or falling victim to scams in Israel because it hasn’t become a victim of overtourism.
#4 Tel Aviv May Well Be One of the Hippest Cities in the World.
If anyone tells you that there isn’t a lot to do in Tel Aviv, they clearly haven’t been looking in the right places. When I planned my solo trip to Israel, my original intention was to just spend a day or two in Tel Aviv. I actually ended up loving the city so much that I loitered there for about 10 days (then had to force myself to go out and see more of the country!)
What Tel Aviv lacks in sightseeing attractions, it more than makes up for in culture. The entire city just exudes a “fun” and youthful atmosphere. The various neighbourhoods and districts of Tel Aviv each have their own unique personalities. Admire street art in Florentin, hang out with hipsters at trendy coffee shops and boutique stores in Neve Tzedek, and party until the early hours of the morning at Rothschild boulevard.
The fun factor is ramped up at certain points throughout the year when celebrations take place. For example, “White Night” is not to be missed — an annual occurrence in July which sees bars across the city play host to all night parties and festivities. Equally interesting is Tel Aviv’s pride parade, which may well be one of the most vibrant of its kind in the world.
#5 Israel Boasts Excellent Transport Links
Its cheap and easy to travel within and between cities in Israel. The light rail runs between places like Tel Aviv, Haifa (for the Baha’i gardens), Akko, Nazareth, and Jerusalem. Alternatively, you can take the bus to get between cities, and some hostels/hotels with multiple branches have their own shuttle service which is typically fairly cheap to use.
Use the “Egged” website to check the relevant transport routes and schedules for getting around within cities. These even serve more remote places such as Masada (for incredible desert hiking and scenic waterfalls), the Dead Sea, and the Israel-Jordan border crossing.
Travellers to Israel should also be aware of “sheiruts” — shared taxis that run along a set route through cities, picking up different passengers along the way for just a few shekels.
#6 The Security Presence Is Reassuring, Not Intimidating
When I’ve spoken to other travellers, a few people have been intimidated by the concept of the additional security measures that Israel has in place across the country. That’s a shame, since these protocols are in place to guarantee your safety, rather than anything negative.
If anything, Israel’s heightened sense of security makes exploring the cities safer. I found it reassuring to see people conducting additional checks at transport stations and crowded hubs — as compared to incredibly crowded places in central London where a police officer is an incredibly rare sight. Not to mention, for the last few years, Europe has been living in something of an age of terror. Police are becoming more common even in places like Paris and Barcelona.
Rumors about the Israeli passport stamp have been known to deter travellers from visiting Israel. Receiving this stamp prevents the recipient from being allowed entry into a number of Middle Eastern nations (Lebanon, Iraq, etc). However, Israeli border control no longer stamp passports on arrival. Instead, they provide travellers with a blue slip of paper that acts as an entrance stamp.
#7 Israel is a Safe Destination for Solo Female Travellers
I travelled to Israel as a solo female traveller and had a wholly positive experience for all the reasons mentioned above. The people are friendly and Israel is a very liberal country. You won’t attract attention or receive questions of “why are you here alone?” Or “Don’t you have a husband?” (every solo female traveller’s most hated question!)
It’s customary for a lot of Israelis (male and female) to travel overseas on some kind of gap year after they finish their military service. As such, they can completely relate to your experience as a solo traveller.
#8 It Can be Tied in with a Wider Exploration of the Middle East
From Israel, you can cross the border into Egypt or Jordan. Jordan in particular makes a nice travel pairing, and many companies in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem run excursions between Israel and places like Petra and Wadi Rum.
#9 There Is Something for Every Kind of Traveller
Owing to all of the religious sites and links, Israel is something of a pilgrimage destination for many people. Thrill seekers will also love Israel though. The country may be small, but it boasts a great deal of opportunities for hiking, or engaging in adrenaline-fuelled activities like cliff jumping in Akko.Many different religions cohabitate within close proximity to each other in Israel — equalling a great deal of interesting sites for culture vultures and history buffs.
#10 Tours Are Available to Explore Points of Interest
If you find the idea of travelling alone empowering, yet you are a little intimidated at the prospect of not having others to share your time with, or managing the logistics of getting from A to B by yourself then you need not worry. There are a great deal of companies that offer day tours in Israel. In Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, you can participate in free (tip based) walking tours of the ancient sites – a great way to meet other travellers. You can also go on day trips to various attractions, thus taking the stress out of a lot of the planning for you.
Whether you have time to dedicate several weeks to your trip to Israel, or you just have a few days to spare on a weekend break in Tel Aviv, you will surely fall in love with this culturally rich country. From numerous European cities, its possible to grab a flight to Israel for as little as $20 per person! With that said, there is really no excuse not to give it a try!