Saturday, October 15, 2022

[TEL AVIV] Beaching in the City

As I get older, I start grouping cities I visit into two categories: 1) Sightseeing; and 2) Chilling. Since this Israel trip’s itinerary is packed with religious and cultural excursions, Tel Aviv fell under category 2 by default. I booked one of the hotels across the main avenue facing the city’s Mediterranean coastline. In effect, every glance out the window is tantamount to sightseeing, what with the beach right there in front of you. That’s just Tel Aviv for you, you don’t just run out of beaches.

Israel is the only country in the Middle East that grants Philippine passport holders three months of visa-free entry. Despite the privilege, the inaccessibility of the country makes it a difficult destination as far as air connections are concerned. That is beginning to change. PAL announced they will be exploring a direct route soon, while the Arab neighbors of Israel are now slowly opening up to it. The cheapest flight is via Wizz Air from Abu Dhabi. The rest are rather expensive, unless you are flying with an LCC from Europe.

I decided on Ethiopian Airlines because they offer the cheapest fare via Manila and/or Bangkok. Luckily, my bid to be upgraded to business class was accepted last minute, so everything worked out for me in the end. Your default gateway to the country is via Tel Aviv’s busy Ben Gurion airport. Upon arrival, you scan your passport on one of the machines to get your entry card, which you then present to the immigration officer along with your passport. Lines can be very long and the questions never-ending. Luckily, it wasn’t the case for me.

Public transport in Israel is ruled by the almighty Rav-Kav. It has its own dispenser at the airport and you can get a card for NIS5 (~PhP85). You can load it via contactless credit card on the same dispenser/loading station or just download the official app. As long as your smartphone is NFC-enabled, you can check your consumption and load the card by merely putting it under your phone while the app is open. The minimum fare on the bus is NIS5.50 (~PhP90). This card is accepted on buses, trains, and trams. NO CASH! Your only other option is a QR code thingy which seems exclusive to locals.

Travel to neighboring cities can easily be done via trains and buses. The farthest you can go to is Eilat, which is around 5 hours by bus to the south. When in doubt, Google Maps is your friend. It will show you the different bus/train/tram combos to get to your destination. It’s worth noting that Israel is expensive, by the way. A normal meal ranges between NIS60-90 (~PhP1,000 – 1,500) and we’re not talking about American-sized portions here, but rather typical fast-food meals that you can get in Manila for less than half the price.

As for Tel Aviv, I no longer bothered to get to know the city because the main objective here was to find a beachfront hotel where I can work in peace and without issues. After logging out at 5 PM, that’s when I start my beach stroll. I did this for three afternoons and I never ran out of beaches to go to, from Charles Clore Beach across the street all the way to Metzitzim Beach just directly north of the Hilton. That is thanks to Israel’s long Mediterranean coast line from Haifa in the north to Ashkelon in the south.

Saying that the beach is part of Tel Aviv life is an understatement. It is actually integral and bears witness to the everyday realities in this city. You have beach gyms there, restaurants. Locals and tourists alike loiter there to meet friends or to play with their dogs. If you have a bottomless bank account and you fancy living in a city with a Mediterranean coastline, then Tel Aviv is one of the strongest contenders for your relocation plans. It’s all about the beach, baby.

[TEL AVIV] Beaching in the City

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