Traveling in Israel as a group or as a lone explorer? You probably want the comforts of a five-star hotel stay, but without the hefty bill.
With an increased demand for better hostels, those formerly spartan, bunk bed-sleeping accommodations have been compelled to up their game in terms of comfort and competitive pricing.
The five Israeli hostels we’ve listed below are centrally located in Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and Haifa, and are not only less expensive than the average local hotel but also clean and hospitable.
They’re as appropriate for a business traveler or college student as they are for an adventurer or family. And the best part is they’re affordable; no platinum credit card needed to check in here.
1. Everything about The Post, Jerusalem’s newest hostel, references the hostel’s location in the city’s central post office, which is still operating a level below. The historic building itself is a grand fusion of European and traditional Jerusalem architecture, boasting three-tiered square windows and arched entries. Built between 1934 and 1938 in the era of the British Mandate, it is strategically located on Jaffa Street in downtown Jerusalem, just across from City Hall.
“For years, packages and envelopes came here from all over the world,” said Rafi Tsaltuk, one of the hostel’s four owners, pointing out the front desk constructed from packing boxes and envelopes. “Now people will come here and meet from all over the world.”
The Post’s rooms were artfully conceived to reflect places the four owners visited during their own travels through Europe. That European touch is present in all of the hostel’s 43 rooms — 32 private and 11 dorm-style (fitting 4, 8, 10 and 12 people) —which come equipped with individual bathrooms, lockers, charging stations and custom-made metal bed frames (the best bet for deterring bedbugs). Two of the rooms are extra wide to accommodate wheelchairs.
“The target audience is called ‘flashpackers’– like backpackers but urban style — always with a computer or iPad or iPhone,” Tsaltuk explained. “They need electricity and WiFi everywhere and want to be in the center of the cultural area, to taste and smell the local experience.”
The Post is also a great place for hanging out after long days of sightseeing; the bar serves cocktails, beers and wines from all over the world and there’s also the beanbag-filled “chill room,” a communal kitchen, Wednesday night movies, Monday pub crawls and even a Jerusalem trivia night.
The Post, $19-$29 per night for shared rooms; $91-$139 per night for private rooms, 23 Jaffa Street, Jerusalem.
2. A forerunner in budget accommodations, the layered labyrinth of 280 beds and 75 rooms at Jerusalem’s Abraham Hostel gets its name from the archetypal generous host of the Bible, Abraham. Located between Haneviim and Agrippas streets, Abraham Hostel tries to offer the same hospitality with its private or shared 4/6/8/10-room options, welcoming public spaces, and everything a traveler might need, from a 24-hour luggage room and washers and dryers, to phone lockers with built-in sockets, so devices can securely charge overnight.
The hostel is clearly doing something right, having being awarded TripAdvisor’s Certificate of Excellence for the last four years. Co-owner Yaron Burgin attributes the award-winning operations to a successful managerial team of five owners who are all backpackers. Burgin first met one of his partners, Maoz Inon, at Inon’s Nazareth hostel, Fauzi Azar Inn. When Inon, who is Jewish, first launched in the primarily Christian Arab city, people thought he was crazy for opening in a deserted tourist market. Now, Burgin says, there are 12 hostels in that area alone.
The hostel is just down the block from Jerusalem’s famed Mahane Yehuda market and downtown Ben Yehuda street scene, but staying indoors works here as well. The hostel has a rooftop bar, and a lounge area in the basement with a pool table, foosball table and a TV room with beanbag seating. Abraham Hostels offers tours to Petra, Egypt, The Dead Sea or West Bank for an extra fee, and guests can rent bikes through the hostel as well.
Abraham Hostel, $21-$25 for shared rooms; $68-$145 for private rooms, 67 Hanevi’im Street, Davidka Square, Jerusalem.
3. Nestled between several skyscrapers, the nondescript door to Tel Aviv’s Eclectic Hotel offers an entrance into a quirky but comfortable space. The central spiral staircase leads to spacious, apartment-sized rooms that come with all the necessities, including beds, private bathrooms and a kitchenette, and some unpredictable extras, like armoires made from submarine parts and travel trunks repurposed as coffee tables. No two rooms are identical in these spaces artfully designed by owner Doron Benvenisti, who scours the aisles of Jaffa’s local flea market to create unique bedroom masterpieces.
“I think the place corresponds harmoniously with the neighborhood,” said Benvenisti. “It’s economical, stylish and designed.”
There are a total of 12 rooms — two dorm-style, two deluxe, four studios and four suites — ranging in price with special deals for groups. There’s no reception desk, that’s something Benvenisti is planning to add in the coming months, so all reservations are made over the phone and guests receive their keys upon arrival.
Each room has its own balcony for early morning coffees or late night hangouts and only the private ones have TVs. Eclectic’s Sputnik Bar — named by digital magazine Savoteur as one of 2015’s best bars — has a galactic inspiration, boasting decor of rockets, comets and a fiberglass moon. It hosts a new DJ each night and a bar menu that changes daily, sometimes serving mini mushroom sandwiches or avocado spring rolls stuffed with cucumber and basil.
Eclectic Hotel, $25 for shared rooms; $90-$125 for private rooms, 122 Allenby Street, Tel Aviv.
4. In this city fueled equally by coffee-chugging entrepreneurs and free-spirited artists, Tel Aviv’s Little Tel-Aviv Hostel has found a way to make travelers feel at home with its clean, aesthetic design and warm, caring staff who know each guest by name.
“We knew we didn’t want to have a big hostel because we believe in personal service,” said Sara Hatav, the hostel’s manager.
With about 70 beds, Little Tel-Aviv Hostel acts as a microcosmic community, perfect for both backpackers and “people who used to be backpackers and now have families,” Hatav said.
The hostel’s steely exterior resembles a truncated version of the surrounding high-rises, but the interior looks like an art gallery, as the hostel’s hallways feature the works of a different artist every six months. The rooms are furnished with clean-lined metallic bed frames and pewter-tiled flooring to complement the orange, lime-green or pink pop of the tiled bathroom walls.
Private rooms have their own bathrooms while the dorm-style rooms share bathrooms across the hall. There’s a communal feeling as well, as guests can bring their own food and eat in the dining area, lounge area or at “Hostel 51,” the bar in the well-tended backyard garden. A guestbook perpetually rests on the coffee table in the lounge area and is filled by with tips from past guests on fun things to do in the area, and a list of local cafes and shops.
Little Tel-Aviv Hostel, $25-$31 for shared rooms; $85-$132 for private rooms, 51 Yehuda Ha’Levi Street, Tel Aviv.
5. Haifa’s Port Inn is a great place to lower one’s anchor for a while. Guests are invited to mark their countries of origin, placing red pushpins on a visitors’ map, which shows the hostel has hosted visitors from Madagascar, Sri Lanka, Japan, Portugal, Germany, Australia and the US.
The Port Inn is a family affair after co-owner Zeev Siles convinced his parents to open it with him in 1999, and the three are partners in the homey guesthouse. Zeev and his father, Rami, run the hostel’s operations while Zeev’s mother, Rachel, prepares the daily breakfasts of cheeses, fishes, pancakes, muffins, eggs and coffee, which guests can eat in the dining room or outside in a garden tended by mama Siles.
Located a 30-minute walk from the beach, the Port Inn is a short stroll from the city’s German Colony nightlife and the Turkish market down the street. A bed in one of the three dorms– male, female, or mixed housing—is remarkably inexpensive compared with the surrounding beach hotel options. The price changes depending on the season and travelers can usually snag the best deal during January or February.
Port Inn, $19-$23 for shared rooms; $73-$85 for private rooms, 34 Jaffa Road, Haifa.