She'll be shelling out shekels by the seashore in Israel

By Carol Sottili
Sunday, May 9, 2010

Who: Sara Young, 30, of Seattle and her boyfriend, Dan Bichanich, 31, of Madison, Wis., both civilian Army employees stationed in Stuttgart, Germany.

Where: Israel

Why: To explore the country's beaches, history and nightlife.

When: Anytime August-November for 10-15 days

Budget: $1,000 to $1,500, excluding airfare

"Israel has been at the top of my travel to-do list for many years. I've traveled to dozens of other countries. This year, I am determined to make this long-dreamed-of trip come to fruition. I would be very interested in driving the country from one end to the other."

Israel is home to long stretches of sea beaches; a vibrant club and bar scene, especially in Tel Aviv; and history that goes back thousands of years. The country is also rather small and fairly easy to navigate, so Sara Young and her boyfriend, Dan Bichanich, should be able to satisfy their interest in beaches, history and night life and cover lots of territory in less than two weeks.

But the couple's budget, after paying for a car and lodging, leaves very little for food and sightseeing. Even hostels, or at least clean, well-regarded hostels, aren't cheap, and entrance fees are the norm. The only good news is food, which is relatively inexpensive at open-air markets and via street vendors. To stick to $1,500, the only way to make it work is to keep the trip to 10 days. And another day or two may have to be sacrificed if Young and Bichanich want to visit lots of sites and eat a couple of decent meals.

October is a good month to go. The weather is still nice, prices are lower than in the summer high season, and the holidays of September, when many places close for extended periods, are over. (Tip: Whenever planning a trip to Israel, remember that many establishments, and even public transportation in many cities, shut down for the Sabbath from Friday afternoon until Saturday evening).

Days 1-2. The couple's trip will most likely begin in Tel Aviv, where most flights land.

For most tourists, renting a car wouldn't make sense, especially in the larger cities, as Israel has a comprehensive train (http://www.rail.co.il/en) and bus system (http://www.egged.co.il/Eng). But parking is free at Eden House (http://www.edenhousetlv.com), a hostel in Tel Aviv's Kerem Hatemanim neighborhood, so it's easier to just pick up a car at the airport, park it and then use buses to get around the city. Eldan (http://www.eldan.co.il/en), Israel's largest car rental company, has economy cars for about $265 for a nine-night itinerary.

Eden House is a five-minute walk from the beach and has private rooms for $80 a night. It's close to Carmel Market, the city's largest outdoor market, and to bars and clubs on Allenby, Dizengoff and Lilienblum streets. Tel Aviv wakes up at about 11 p.m., and the nightclub scene ranges from wild dance parties to wine bars. Check out Abraxas on Lilienblum Street or Barzilay Club on Harechev Street.

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