Eilat, the Miami meets Vegas meets Middle East summer destination filled to the brim with Israelis and tourists alike, comes with a price: the price. While the tanning is on point, the pools are glamorous, and the VAT-free deals are alluring, a trip down South can do a lot of damage to your wallet.
However, although Eilat can be a seriously expensive place to visit, if you're crafty, there are ways to save a shekel here and there. As I have just returned from a weekend getaway to the sunshine city, I wanted to share my experiences in mastering the art of 'combina' so you, too, can enjoy a mini vacation and still make this month's rent.
Whether you're an Eilat virgin or a veteran vacationer, these money-saving tips are sure to help you out:
Bus, DON'T fly. While a 5-hour bus ride may seem impossibly long for a short weekend stopover, a return ticket from Tel Aviv can cost as little as NIS 112, while the flight between cities can be triple the price. On that note...
Take the overnight bus. It leaves at 23:55, and saves you the extra night of hotel fare. Don't fret arriving at 6:00 am; your hotel will surely let you store your luggage until check in.
Go in the off-season...especially March. January and February are slightly too cold, April brings in waves of Israeli families on Passover break, while May-August are unbearable in terms of both heat and crowdedness. But March is the perfect time of year to enjoy quieter pools and beaches, but warm enough water to dip in the Red Sea without having to part it.
DON'T buy snorkeling gear. Most beachside shops will offer you overpriced masks and flippers that you'll use once and have to chuck because they won't fit in your carry-on...Instead, head to the Isrotel Yam Suf, just across from the Aqua Sport beach. Tell the desk you are a guest staying at the hotel, and they will provide you with free snorkeling gear for a couple of hours at a time.
DON'T pay for entry at the Coral Beach Nature Reserve. Yes, your best chance at spotting a barracuda is awaiting you behind the fenced off Coral Beach, but it does not have to come at a NIS 35 per entry cost. Set up camp at the FREE Aqua Sport beach just down the road, throw on those masks and swim across to the coral reefs for crystal clear views of Dori (not Ellen DeGeneres, but a close second) and schools of other vibrant fish. Just make sure to save energy for the swim back as the current can be strong.
Day drink. Most hotels have little shops inside of them that sell snacks and six packs of Goldstar. Skip the bars and clubs in Eilat that hike up their prices for only a decent to good time. Get your drank on in broad daylight by the pool...plus it will inevitably lead to a great late afternoon nap.
AVOID the amusement park rides at all costs! They may look exhilarating, terrifying, adrenaline pumping, but the oversized rides with ridiculous titles like "The Booster" are not worth NIS 60, no matter how you try to justify it. Live vicariously through others as their overpriced ride is projected on the big screen on the promenade.
Finally, go with easy-going friends. Eilat should be about no-stress relaxation, and surrounding yourself with positive energy will decrease your desire to spend money you don't have to escape the moment.
If you follow these eight rules, you'll have a blast and save shekels fast...and perhaps, another Eilat trip will be possible sooner rather than later.