For many visitors to Israel, Tel Aviv will be the first place they stop. Ben Gurion airport apart from being a place to be grilled by custom officers, is generally the gateway to Israel from Europe or other continents.
I arrived from chilly Germany and Poland where it was just below freezing and was greeted with mid 20 temperatures. I'd been spending a bit too much time teaching English and writing reviews on dooyoo, meaning a distinct lack in exercise so I was looking forward to doing lots of walking. Having arrived just before dusk, I didn't get to see too much on the first evening - just the Dizengoff Centre (a large shopping centre), Dizengoff Square (once the pride of Tel Aviv but now slightly run down) and the immediate area.
I had a shoarma some time in the evening, there were positives and negatives about this - the price at 25 shekels (4.50 GBP) was far from cheap, the size was rather small with the pita the size of a small cupped hand but the choice of ingredients was really substantial - a choice of chicken or beef meat, lots of different types of sauces, various salads, vegetables, pickles and hummus like substances. The taste was great. However, I was on a very tight budget and with beer ranging between 25 and 40 shekels (4.50 and 7.25) in a pub, pubbing it was out of my league! A beer in the shop was even quite pricey at around 8 shekels (1.50) - Gold Star is a decent sup and whilst Maccabee is drinkable, it's not particularly enjoyable.
Tel Aviv is a rather relaxed coastal town which I would split into 3 parts, a business zone where the Stock Exchange is, a central area with a lot of restaurants and shops as well as lots of little leafy residential streets just off them and finally the sea front which trails from the old city of Yaffo, up past the soaring high-rise apartment blocks and hotels and finally onwards past the port.
Tel Aviv is not particularly large, with a population of about 300,000 and most of the sights rather centrally - it's definitely walkable. If you should choose to take a bus, a ticket is 5.5 shekels for a single ride regardless of distance. Bus drivers are fairly grumpy and always in a hurry and buses are modern with over zealous air conditioning units.
The city is incredibly modern, being just 90 years old (from 2009) - you can't expect to see many old buildings!
Places to Visit:
Neve Tsedek - an area set up by Jewish wanting a better life outside of the then overpopulated Yaffo set up this village in 1887, it's now an expensive part of Tel Aviv on the city limits with some very classy looking houses. A stroll around this area is relaxing and quiet.
White City - Nearby is "The White City" an area of Tel Aviv which was built by Bauhaus students after the Bauhaus school was closed and the German Jewish students emigrated to what was then Palestine in the mid-30s during the uprise of the Nazis in Germany. The Bauhaus buildings are a bit neglected these days and many have actually been destroyed, I actually found the run down versions quite charming but some are nothing but ruins. One of the problems is that the Israeli law states that they must be built with exactly the same materials and using the same methods that were used then - which simply is not possible or far too expensive.
Florentin is an energetic place with cafes, restaurants and clubs lively well in to the middle of the night, narrow loud alley ways with lots of little art studios is what typifies this area.
Hacarmel Market is the Yemenite Quarter of Tel Aviv established by immigrants in 1903, it's got a nice little market albeit not so impressive if you've witnessed something like Khan-el-Khallili in Cairo.
Drum Beach - down on the sea front, a place where drummers can be seen rocking out in the evenings. Some really talented musicians down there with full drum kits. This is located close to Yaffo.
Apart from that strolling around Tel Aviv's streets or walking up the coastline or perhaps just chilling out on the beachfront is the thing to do. Also make sure you pay a visit to Yaffa, which I'll be reviewing seperately.
Perhaps Tel Aviv's best quality is that it's pretty chilled out and unlike religious Jerusalem, no one seems to judge anyone else and you could wear a bag on your head and dance to YMCA with pom-pom's and no one would care. Overall, I recommend going to Tel Aviv but I preferred Galilee and the Dead Sea. Swimming is banned on quite a few of the beaches due to "strong currents", surprising since it's the Med.. but whatever!
I flew in to Tel Aviv from Berlin for a mere 27.99 euros - at the time about 22 quid. There were cheap connections last year from Manchester to Tel Aviv but at the moment the cheapest flights are from Germany with budget airline Tuifly, from Latvia with Air Baltic and from Belgium with Jet Air Fly, all of which are easily reachable by cheap flights from the UK. The prices go up and down and it's worth signing up to those airlines newsletters to keep an eye out for their special promotions.
Tel Aviv is well connected to Haifa and Jerusalem by train, comfortable buses travel around the rest of the country and there's also an international connection to Amman in Jordan. Hitchhiking is a bugger out of Tel Aviv because the city is surrounded by highways, though I think I spotted a possible place at the entrance of the highway near the main bus station.
Places to Stay
I used Couchsurfing.com when I was in Israel and the accomodation is quite on the dear side with even a hostel being as much as 15 to 20 pounds a night and with the majority having reputations as flea pits. It may be cheaper to get a package deal if you are not intending to use a hospitality website.