Tourist Tip #234 / Sunset Bargains at the Markets

In Israel's open-air produce markets, the longer the afternoon's shadows, the bigger the markdown you're likely to find on fruits, veggies and possibly even flowers.

Not a few of the millions of tourists who ply Israel each year are backpackers, which is a euphemism for kids and adults traveling with high expectations and low budgets. Not for them rented cars or the chef restaurants that have become so plentiful in Israel: They're out for bargains, some of the best of which can be snagged in the late afternoon in Israel's many markets.

Israel's open-air fruit and vegetable markets tend to open early and to close early. Regular stores usually close at 7 P.M. or thereabouts, though groceries often stay open as late as 10 P.M. The open-air markets, however, wind down between 4 P.M. and 5 P.M., as daylight starts to wane.

That is the point at which many vendors will slash prices just to get the last of their produce to move before it goes bad.

You do stand warned that while market vendors have storage facilities - if there's produce they're hawking on the cheap, it's been out there all afternoon. Make sure you're getting good stuff, not peaches about to burst or tomatoes good only for sauce. You're well advised to pick the produce and put it in the plastic bag yourself.

In the markets, prices of all produce are marked. As the shadows grow long the vendors won't be changing their signs – if the peaches say 10 shekels a kilo, the sign stays. But they'll start yelling things like, "Afarsekim, hetzi mehir!" (peaches, half-off), or "Agvaniyot, hamisha shkalim shnai kilo!" ("tomatoes, five shekels for two kilos!")

If it's late afternoon, a fruit or veg vendor is bellowing and you don't understand Hebrew but suspect a bargain's to be had, just ask the price. The market vendors know enough English to drive home the point. And no, cookies don't drop in price as the sun sets. Flowers, however, just might.

Ofer Vaknin
Nir Keidar