Practical tips to travel in Tel Aviv
Part of any cultural experience, in any city, is shopping. The goal is not necessarily buying something, but the sheer enjoyment of walking through the streets and browsing in various shops. Each store or cafe offers something unique. Tel Aviv is an interesting place to window shop, as it unveils its multicultural shopping experience.
If you love bustling streets with a variety of shops, Allenby Street will be your first choice. Located in the center of Tel Aviv, Allenby is famous for its lower priced clothing shops, furniture shops, bakeries with fresh baked pastries, bookstores with a great variety of second hand books in English, Hebrew, and Russian, as well as multiple newspaper kiosks. If the New Central Bus Station is behind you, then you are headed towards Tel Aviv’s seashore, as Allenby ends at the beach promenade, where you can relax in one of the beachside cafes.
However, if you are up for more shopping, then take a right to the famous Bohemian Shenkin street, inhabited by Bohemian youth: artists, designers, and art/theatre students. Here you will also find unique stores, such as “Haozen Hashlishit” (Third Ear), a video and audio store, where you can buy or rent unique films, concerts and shows of any genre you can think of. Adjacent to Shenkin, on King George Street, you will find yet more lower priced clothing shops, with items being offered at half and even a quarter off market price. Speaking of market, if you wish to be a part of a genuine Israeli market experience, across King George is HaKarmel Street, which is famous for its Shuk HaKarmel (HaKarmel Market). This is a typical Israeli market with all the hustle and bustle. Here you will hear the traders shouting in Hebrew: “Hamesh shekel kilo” (five shekels per kilo), “Shnei kilo be eser shekel” (two kilo’s for ten shekels) and the like. Shuk HaKarmel offers you everything from fruit and vegetables, meat and pastries to inexpensive clothing, accessories and souvenirs.
Tel Aviv remains a safe city to visit. The usual warnings to be alert for bomb threats also pertain to Tel Aviv. You should be aware of suspicious packages in public places (but don’t panic) and suspicious people around you; if in doubt, report it! The local police are generally very friendly and many law enforcement officers can speak understandable English. Also, beware of pickpockets, as in any big city. Be cautious mostly in HaKarmel Market, Nachlat Binyamin Market, the Central Bus Stations, the beach promenade, all of Jaffa and the flea market area. Nevertheless, regular crime rates are much lower in Tel Aviv (and in all of Israel) than in most other cities of similar size.
Security checkpoints are a necessary annoyance when entering shopping malls, markets, the central bus station, most hotels, cafes and restaurants. You are frequently requested to let the guards look into your bag – this is a fairly common procedure. It is best not to find it offensive or intrusive. Checks shouldn’t take more than 20 seconds and end with a smile and a green light. It is also advisable to carry some sort of identification on you at all times.
You will notice firearms being carried in public by both servicemen and civilians. Most locals don’t think of it as unusual given the number of security checkpoints in commercial areas, the presence of military facilities and decent police patrolling.
As buses are the best (some might say “the only”) way to tour the city, you don’t need to think twice before using them. Despite their reputation as “terrorism targets”, the city buses remain a very safe way to travel. The buses are safe at all times of the day and night, as well as cheap, frequent, and reliable. You can always approach the driver with any relevant question and the passengers are usually eager to assist tourists as well.
Although street crime is rare in Tel Aviv, it is best to avoid walking alone at night through parks or southern neighborhoods. The areas in southern Tel Aviv are a bit more rugged. If you must travel in this area at night, make sure to take a companion. When going for a swim in the Mediterranean, stick to the patrolled beaches with lifeguards, marked with flags and signs. Every year people drown off the Tel Aviv coast when strong currents get them into difficulties. Also, at the beginning of the summer, keep an eye out for jellyfish (called meduza in Hebrew, the plural is medusot). Remember that during the winter months, though the weather may allow for bathing, the lifeguard service is inactive (official bathing season begins on April 18th and ends in late October).
Be mindful that Tel Aviv has a hot climate, so be sure to drink a lot of water and use sunscreen.