Shopping in Tel Aviv
Tel Aviv shopping is hugely diverse. It ranges from traditional small backstreet workshops, such as skilled tailors, and tiny old-fashioned specialists like milliners and haberdashers to multi-storey modern malls and shopping streets where you can find the latest high-tech merchandise and the height of designer fashion.
Designer names such as Gucci, Prada, and Versace are concentrated on the huge circle of Hamedina Square, while Sheinkin Street is the 'trendiest' street, where many fashionable Tel Avivians buy their clothes and go to hang out. The Diamond Exchange in Ramat Gan is one of the world's principal marketplaces for diamonds and precious stones.
Visitors seeking a more unusual shopping experience should venture to one of Tel Aviv's daily markets. Shuk HaCarmel (Carmel Market) is a busy daily market extending along long, narrow HaCarmel Street and neighbouring lanes. Noisy with stallholders’ cries and a crush of shoppers, here you’ll find huge piles of fresh fruits, vegetables, olives, herbs, spices and meats for the lowest prices in the city. Jews from East European shtetls and the Jewish quarters of Arabia, sophisticated West European Jews, and raucous sabras (Jews born in Israel) are all pressed shoulder to shoulder. It’s especially hectic and colourful on Fridays, as people shop for Shabbat. A more sedate craft market can be found in parallel Nahalat Binyamin. Shuk Hapishpeshim, Jaffa's flea market, sells a fantastic assortment of second-hand items which it is hard to imagine anyone wanting - odd shoes, faulty electrical equipment, broken furniture and damaged jewellery! Yet among this eclectic collection, visitors may spot genuine antiques. Local gifts include hand-blown glass, ceramics, wood carvings and watercolour paintings.
There is something of a struggle going on at present in Tel Aviv between shopping streets and purpose-built malls. Both Dizengoff Centre, which crosses the street in overhead walkways above Dizengoff Square, and the huge Azrieli Center provide extensive indoor shopping, dining and a cinema complex.
Most shops open Sunday to Thursday 0900-1900 (some close 1300 and 1600). Markets are open Sunday to Thursday 0630-1900. Both shops and markets close early on Friday afternoons (often 1400) for Shabbat, opening again on Sunday.
Popular purchases include clothing, leather goods, souvenirs, artwork and paintings, fine silverware and jewellery, and Judaica and antiques. These are all easy to find on Ben Yehuda, Allenby and Dizengoff Streets.
Value Added Tax (VAT), at a current rate of 17%, is quoted in the price of all goods and services. Tourists buying most goods at shops listed by the Ministry of Tourism (they display a sticker in the window) may be entitled to claim the tax back, provided the purchases at any one store cost US$100 or more, payment was made in foreign currency, and the items are exported in their entirety. Shoppers must obtain a special 'Tax Refund Invoice' at the time of purchase. The shopkeeper should place the goods together with the special VAT refund invoice in a sealed and transparent nylon bag. Note that certain goods, including food, drink and tobacco, are not included in the scheme. The form must then be submitted at the airport or seaport on departure and the refund is generally issued after you have passed through passport control.