Me and my girlfriend have stayed in Leonardo Basel Tel Aviv for a week from 6 to 11 of June 2012.
A few words about booking first. I have booked a room in April for June through the hotel site using early bird discount (at least a month before arrival) and got a pretty decent price rounded to average of 150$ a day. For pure comparison purpose I checked prices in May for June, it turned out that they have doubled (245$) and on certain days almost tripled (355$). So be sure to book in advance.
The hotel it self is situated on Hayarkon street which is the second line from the sea - the beach is across the road.
To get there from Ben Gurion airport you should first take a train to Tel Aviv Savidor station which costs 15 sheqel (hereinafter nis, 1 nis ~ 0.26$) for an adult ticket, keep the ticket fro the whole trip as it is required for both entrance and exit from a station. The train station is located near Tel Aviv 2000 bus terminal more often called Arlozorov bus terminal as it is situated on Arlozorov street. Tel Aviv Diamond exchange and another Leonardo Hotel (City Tower) are nearby.
From there you should walk past the bus terminal to Arlozorov street (you don't need to cross it) and find yourself on a bus stop. Be prepared that most writings are in hebrew only, that unfortunately includes bus routes, but not street names. There fore all the buses I used were checked by trial and error method =)
As Arlozorov street goes all the way to the sea shore and crosses Hayarkon street at this point you may opt to walk by foot to Hayarkon junction and then go left on Hayarkon until you find the hotel, which is quite easy to spot. However it is a good 40 minute walk by foot, maybe even more depending on your speed.
Please note that the direction you should be going is to the sea and Hayarkon, any local will gladly help you with that if you get disoriented but look through the map of Tel Aviv beforehand just in case.
If you would like to go by bus then you can use number 61 (probably number 161 will do also, it should pass a solid piece of Arlozorov street before it makes a turn but I haven't checked.). The bus ticket costs 6.60 nis for an adult. You should exit on Dizengoff street, the stop is called Dizengoff - Gordon (stops are announced). The bus may stop before or after crossing, it solely depends on the driver for some reason.
As soon as you find Gordon street which crosses Dizengoff go right (it will be up the hill), first you will cross Ben Yehuda street and then you will get to Hayarkon. The hotel will be a few blocks to the right, altogether it is as 10 minute walk.
If you somehow miss Gordon street, do not worry - any street going right and uphill will eventually get you to Hayrkon. Just keep walking until you see the sea shore.
I cannot comment on taxi price form airport to the hotel as I have not used it myself, but people around internet claim it will be around 80$.
By the way there is a supermarket near Ben Yehuda - Gordon crossing and a lot of good bars, cafes and restaurants along Ben Yehuda street, Dizengoff on the other hand is mostly shops with some smaller supermarkets and cafes.
Now that we are finally there it is time to say a few words about the hotel itself. We had a nice room on the 6 floor. It was a bit small and aged but not beyond my level of acceptance, there are newer and bigger rooms however, so you might want to see the room before you take it.
We had a large bed, flat tv with most international channels, a safe free of charge, air condition and a computerized minibar. The last one we have not used but the hotel brochure said that you cannot put your own products in there and anything you take will be automatically charged even if you put it back. For additional 10$ a day a fridge is available, haven't used though.
Air condition worked well, so the room was always cool if we wanted it to be so. I should point out that the bathroom had no ventilation beside a small window. It is not a negative feature in itself, but to keep the room cool you should either close that window (not recommended as the bathroom will stay wet constantly) or leave it open but close the door to the bathroom.
Cleaning was very good and a few times a manager came in to ask if it is ok. Our room attendant also kept a good supply of toiletries so we always had enough soap, shampoo, shower gel and other stuff.
The only negative thing I can say about the room is that it had poor sound isolation - we could hear anything and everything happening in the corridor or neighboring rooms but as I sleep with noise as good as without, it was not a problem for me but might be a serious issue for some travelers though.
We had bed and breakfast and didn't eat lunch or dinner at the hotel. Breakfast was everything you might expect from a 4 star hotel. However, people that like to eat ham or bacon on breakfast might be be disappointed as pork is not served. It was not at all a problem for me as I enjoyed every other dish (especially Shukshuka, the spelling might wrong, but you won't miss it).
In my opinion you should be prepared to the absence of certain dishes consisting of not kosher products (e.g. pork) if you are going to Israel. Consult Kashrut for other possible not kosher food.
It also important to know about Shabat. Shabat (Saturday) is a special day when observant Jew must follow certain rules. On Shabat one elevator in the hotel will work only in certain hours and the breakfast will be a bit different. Also most shops, bars, restaurants etc will be closed at least till 17 pm or even further. It's more like a Sunday.
Do not choose Shabat as check in day because your check in may be delayed. Shabat starts around 17 pm on Friday and ends around the same time on Saturday.
A little off topic. Only several hotels in Tel Aviv are in the first line: (in order of appearance) Sheraton, Orchid, Crowne Plaza, Marina and HIlton, there is another similar building among them which I believe is a residential block.
Now back to Leonardo Basel. The location is very good as you can enjoy the beach and promenade for a much better value than in a first line Hotel.
The beaches in Tel Aviv are sandy, the entrance is mostly free. There is at least one beach with an entrance fee but it is located a bit away from the tourist attraction areas, so you are unlikely to get there. All the other things on the beach (umbrella, chair etc.) are yours for an extra fee. Please note that there is also a beach which on certain days is for men or women only.
A beach is usually divided into areas for sunbathing where swimming is allowed (there is a lifeguard tower and sea is deeper) and areas for games where swimming is not allowed (there is no lifeguard tower and sea is not deep deep at all for hundreds of meters). There are no other major differences between those areas. Every beach has some places that provide shade for those who prefer it to direct sunshine.
I would strongly recommend not to leave you room in sunny time without some uv-protection cream/spray, a bottle of water and a cap/hat/bandana. It may not seem hot but the sun is very active and you would not want to get a sunburn. When I was a kid I got a third degree burn from sunbathing too much and I take protection very seriously since then.
The hotel provides an outdoor swimming pool with sunbathing areas if you do not wish to go to the beach. Free bicycle rent for hotel clients is available. Car parking costs 40 nis a day.
I would also like to inform you that if you are not an Israel citizen you will have 0 % VAT rate for the hotel and ceratain services received in the hotel. Official information can be found here: http://ozar.mof.gov.il/customs/eng/tourinfo.htm. Booking through hotel site does not include VAT by default.
Also regardless of what the hotel brochure says about exemption from VAT for meals if only payed in foreign currency, you may pay in any currency including sheqel and still have 0 % VAT rate. Official comments on this issue can be found here: http://ozar.mof.gov.il/customs/eng/faq.htm (see 16.07.00 section).
That's all about the hotel itself, to summarize Leonardo Basel is a rather good deal and meets the standards you would expect from a hotel of such level.
A few more tips for Tel Aviv travelers that wish to explore Israel.
Arlozorov terminal (you can get there by bus 61 from Dizengoff street) provides routes for multiple destinations. We have traveled to Jerusalem and to Ein Gedi Spa (Dead Sea Spa) via bus.
The bus to Jerusalem is number 480 and goes every 10 minutes, so you will not miss it. One way trip costs 16 nis, round trip goes with discount and costs around 30 nis, the trip is about 1 hour long depending on traffic conditions. The bus arrives to the Central Station of Jerusalem from where it is convenient to take a tram to the Old City (Damascus Gate station) or a bus (Jaffa Gate stop). Buses go back to Tel Aviv every 10 minutes from the 3 floor of the Central Station.
The bus to the dead sea is number 421 and goes every day from Arlozorov terminal (of course beside Shabat) at 8.40 am. It's final destination is Ein Bokek (most dead sea hotels are situated there). The trip takes around 3 hours. The price of a one way ticket is 47 nis, round trip is 80 nis.
We did not go to Ein Bokek, instead we got out on the Ein Gedi Spa stop because it has dead sea spa facilities and the trip takes only 2 hours. The bus back to Tel Aviv may come from 14 pm to Ein Gedi Spa stop, real time depends on traffic, ours arrived at 14.30 pm, but I strongly recommend to be on the stop from 14 pm as It is the only bus to Tel Aviv. Bus 486 to Jerusalem passes this stop also.
All the information about buses is available at the carrier website www.egged.co.il. All the buses have air condition and free wi-fi.
Ein Gedi spa offers you dead sea beach, dead sea mud, sulfur water shower/bath, an outside pool, a restaurant and minor spa facilities.It also has a rather highly priced cosmetic shop (pass it and buy dead sea products in Ben Gurion airport duty free on your way back).
Entrance ticket is 119 nis, we took silver package for 150 nis (entrance, locker, towel, souvenir bag of mud, a soft/hot drink voucher and lunch are included). There are packages for 325 nis and 499 nis with more options included.
The Ein Gedi spa is something, be sure to try it or any other dead sea facility. "Swim" in the dead sea, cover yourself with mud, take a sulfur water shower (be sure to remove your jewelry beforehand), take a regular shower and you will be born anew.
Last but not least, if you like shopping I would advise you to leave money for the duty free shops in the Ben Gurion airport. The biggest duty free I have ever seen so far.
All in all Israel is a great experience!
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- Also Known As:
- Basel Tel Aviv