Tel Aviv has been a big part of the Said family’s life over the years; we have holidayed here with friends, toured the city streets and museums, passed pleasantly lazy afternoons at the outdoor cafes, dined - and danced - somewhere different every night. This is one of our home away from home cities, and we’re always swapping Tel Aviv tips with friends around the world.
Every time I visit this vibrant city that never sleeps, it’s under different circumstances: meeting up with friends in 2005 to travel from Tel Aviv to the north and go biking along the northern border, attending a big social occasion in 2008 alone before travelling to Jordan; bringing the whole family to tour the the Negev Desert. But no matter why we’re there, Tel Aviv is always the first international port of call for Israel. Whether commuting between here and Jerusalem as our two city bases or coming into the country to see rural Israel, we always spend quality time visiting our old haunts or getting to know this city, one of our favourites, even better.
Please Note: My big travel tip for arrival in Tel Aviv is using the FASTRACK AUTOMATED KIOSK that allows smooth, swift passage through BEN GURION AIRPORT. All the “donkey work” is done in advance so your arrival is less time consuming. It’s a brilliant service - who wants to spend one more minute dealing with queues and red tape than they have to? Especially after a long flight (in our case from Australia!)
There are a lot of MEET AND ASSIST programs that send a VIP agent who helps you fast-track the immigration, check in and customs queues as well as providing luggage assistance and luxury transportation. I always use one of these services to whisk me through once I have entered the country - but I still have trouble going through passport control every time because of my Arabic-sounding surname. Like clockwork on arrival, they always want to know “Why are you visiting, why do you have this name?”
My Russian ancestors must have shortened our longer surname down to something that translated better when migrating to South Africa - it’s just a twist of fate, one that now arouses suspicions. But I have nothing to hide, so I just patiently wait for the security officers to check me out and roll with it.
The airport is outside Tel Aviv - without traffic it’s about a 35-minute drive to the HILTON HOTEL north of downtown - although the Tel Aviv/Jerusalem commuters can really cause congestion in peak hour.