More results...

Generic selectors
Exact matches only
Search in title
Search in content
Post Type Selectors

More results...

Generic selectors
Exact matches only
Search in title
Search in content
Post Type Selectors

Traveling Jerusalem on a Student Budget

Hi, my name is Frank Gerrard and I’m a college student at the University of Georgia. Go Bulldogs!

I recently took a vacation to travel around the Mediterranean, and I’d like to tell you about my favorite and most memorable stop along the way: Jerusalem, baby!! A special place where I thought I was going in for a strictly spiritual experience, but came out with something else: an experience of the mind, body and soul.

Photo credit: Chen Galili.

First off, I must say that by the time I arrived, I was short on cash but pretty easily figured out how I can get away with the experience of a lifetime on a budget. I had pre-ordered a CityPass tourist card – it was a couple clicks on their website and I was set. While waiting for my luggage, I hopped over to the ‘Smile’ stand and picked up my pre-ordered Jerusalem CityPass card, and I can tell you that this little piece of plastic made my travel so much easier.

Grabbed my bags and jumped on the 10:00am speed train to Jerusalem which is also included with the CityPass. Within 25 minutes I had arrived. After some confusion as where to go, a really nice dude with dreadlocks and wearing a Kippa helped me find my way to the right light-rail. I got on the light-rail, and a very nice young lady showed me how to simply tap my CityPass card against the ticket machine for my free ride and 12 minutes later arrived at my hostel. It was awesome – the first time I landed in a foreign country and arrived to my destination without having to spend a dime.

I had arrived at one of the coolest hostels ever – Abraham Hostel – checked in, got the tour and my keys and was all set to go exploring. Another reason why travelling as a student helps: the hostel had a special discount for students. So, don’t forget that student I.D.

I took the light rail two stops. The first thing I saw was this colorful info truck – very helpful by the way – they have free wi-fi and the team there guided me on how to access the #ITravelJerusalem website which offers even more discounts. A five-minute walk and the ancient walls of the Old City appeared before me like they were painted by the heavens. WOW! What a site.

I walked the Old City through all its quarters, which is a great way to stay in shape especially after chowing down on the assortment of cheap baked goods I found throughout the Old City’s markets. After hours of a mesmerizing walk through the city I started to feel my feet, and out of nowhere a colorful train popped out. I handed the conductor my CityPass and had a delightful rest while still taking in all the Old City offers.

After a long day filled with spirit and history, I went back to the hostel and was surprised to find a party in the lobby. It was a Monday night, which meant the famous Abraham Hostel pub crawl, so of course I joined! We bounced from pub to pub, dancing, and drinking. It was an awesome way to see the Jerusalem night life while also making some new friends along the way.

After a fun night of partying, I awoke pretty early excited for another day of experiences. Looking through all the different benefits of the CityPass I chose the free Segway tour. The tour was unique, I mean where else can you use a futuristic device to ride around a 4000-year-old city? After the tour, I heard my stomach literally say to me “more food”. That’s when I decided to check out the bustling Mahane Yehuda market (‘The Shuk’). Walking through the shouting vendors and colorful spices and vegetables, it was impossible to get through without tasting all the free samples offered. As I slowly filled up, I arrived at a vendor and had a feeling like this occasion had been written in the stars many years before I was born. The soft pita filled with golden potatoes, the mixture of eggplant and egg topped with creamy Tahini felt like a divine touch and all this for $3. Please, when in Jerusalem do yourselves a favor and go eat at the market, doubling your experience for half the price.

Evening hit, so I went back to the Old City for the Night Spectacular at Tower of David for what turned out to be, a mesmerizing experience of visual and sound. Again, the whole experience was included with the CityPass card and being in the holy city I could actually thank G-d for this!

After spending two days touring the city, I decided it was time to venture out to Jerusalem’s surroundings. Hearing that Jerusalem runs on hummus, I decided to check out one of the most famous places – Abu Ghosh – a local Arab village where the hummus flows like wine in the streets. A table set for me with various Middle Eastern delights, salads, falafel and in the middle the creamy plate of hummus. Once my appetite was satisfied, I went for a hike in the hills and valleys surrounding the city. With no park fees, just pick a trail and wander through the picturesque landscape.

After another fulfilling day, I made it back to the hostel and before vegging out in front of my phone a couple of the other guests invited me to join them on an evening graffiti tour with local artists. Like the night before, we ended up at a local bar which fortunately for me is turning into a recurring motive on my trip. A perfect experience to close out day three.

I awoke to the intoxicating aroma of baked goods from the Mahane Yehuda market (somehow the hostel is strategically located downwind of the market). After a filling breakfast at the market (cost=$3), a group of us from the hostel took an organized trip to the enchanting Ein Karem, one of Jerusalem’s most picturesque neighborhoods and a must on your vacation to-do list. A few hours later we got back to the city and went straight for falafel.

As the sun set over Jerusalem, we decided to take advantage of the BiteMojo app, also part of the CityPass. The app took us on a guided culinary and alcohol tour of the market but at night, when the real Jerusalem comes to life. We tasted some local beers and were treated to endless shots of Arak, a local alcohol. The best was the date-infused Arak: a couple of shots and I was singing!

For my last day, I decided to take it easy with a hearty breakfast at the hostel, then wandered around the city center picking up some gifts for friends back home. I found myself sitting at one of the many squares enjoying a street performer play guitar. I asked him where I should eat. He told me that I can’t leave Jerusalem without trying “Tmol Shilshom”, a Jerusalem establishment, a “hole in the wall” café that serves a mean shakshuka. Make a mental note not to miss out.

Go to Jerusalem and let yourself wander and wonder. Most tourists go for the spiritual experience, however the people are those who give the city its color. Enjoy the museums and culture during the day but make sure you experience the unique night life and most importantly – the food. Of all the cities I’ve traveled through, it’s Jerusalem that offers an unexpected and surprising experience at a bargain price, especially for a poor student like me.

Scroll to Top