Israel Travel Tips A Guide to Getting Around Israel
Revised and Updated - January 2024
Tips For Visiting Israel
- Israel is a captivating destination that offers a variety of enriching experiences for its visitors. From the ancient walls of Jerusalem to the vibrant beaches of Tel Aviv, Israel boasts a mosaic of unique sights, sounds, and flavors. I believe that for first-time visitors to Israel it is crucial to understand the nuances of transportation dynamics in order to ensure efficient travel planning and enjoy a stress-free vacation.
- I have decided to put together a comprehensive list of Israel travel tips, based on my personal experience of many years, with a primary focus on navigating Israel. From booking reliable transportation services to using local taxi apps, this guide aims to provide valuable insights and essential tips for visiting Israel. Understanding local customs and practices is crucial for planning a great trip itinerary and I am sure that this guide will help ensure you make the most of your time in this lovely country.
Table of Contents
- Tips For Visiting Israel
- Weekends in Israel
- Public Transportation in Israel
- Trains in Israel
- Smart Itinerary Planning
- How to Visit Bethlehem
- Traveling from Jordan to Israel
- Taxi Sizes in Israel
- Taxi Apps in Israel
- Shared Taxis in Israel ("Sherut")
- Traveling to Remote Areas in Israel
- Hitchhiking in Israel
Weekends in Israel
- In Israel the first day of the workweek is Sunday. This means that work days are Sunday through Thursday and weekend is Friday to Saturday. If you ask your taxi driver to turn on the meter, keep in mind that beginning on Thursday’s night at 21:01 the night and weekend fares come into effect and apply throughout the weekend until Sunday morning at 6:00. The same principle is true for Jewish holidays when the higher fares apply from 16:00 on holiday eves until the morning of the day after the holiday at 6:00.
- Public transportation in Israel does not operate during Jewish holidays and weekends (from Friday afternoon till Sunday morning). This includes buses, trains, light rails and the like, both in cities and between cities. If your flight lands on a Friday night for example, be aware of the fact that taxis are going to be your only means of transportation for leaving the airport. In that case it is also highly advisable to book your airport transfer in advance with a reputable and reliable taxi operator.
Public Transportation in Israel
- The Rav-Kav card is an essential travel card for public transportation in Israel. Serving as a unified smart card, it allows seamless access to buses, trains, light rails and even select shared taxis (Sheruts). Travelers can conveniently transfer between different means of transportation within a 90 minutes time limit, eliminating the need for separate tickets, and ensuring a smooth travel experience. It is widely accepted by all major operators, making it a must-have for anyone planning to rely on public transportation during their stay in Israel.
- Rav-Kav card can be purchased in the arrivals area at Ben Gurion Airport. It can later be recharged at service stations and designated kiosks in various locations across Israel, through the official Rav-Kav online website or even from your smartphone by using the Rav-Kav online app. Acquiring a Rav-Kav card at Ben Gurion Airport can be a convenient and efficient way to start your trip in Israel. More information can be found on the official Rav-Kav website.
Trains in Israel
- Israel has a well-connected and efficient train system, offering a convenient mode of transportation for travelers. The Israel Railways network seamlessly links major cities, allowing visitors to explore the country with ease, all while remaining budget-friendly. The Rav-Kav card facilitates easy transitions between trains, buses, and light rails, enhancing the overall travel experience.
- While the train journeys in Israel offer modern comfort and stunning views, it is important to note a couple of potential downsides. In many cities, train stations are located a considerable distance from the city center or areas of interest, requiring an additional leg of the journey by bus or taxi. Additionally, trains do not operate on weekends and Jewish holidays, a fact that limits transportation plans on those specific days.
- The train system in Israel is a reliable and convenient option for travelers who wish to reach major destinations such as Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Haifa, and Be’er Sheva, and explore the country’s rich cultural blend, historical significance, and diverse landscapes with flexibility and ease. For the most up-to-date information on train routes, frequencies, fares, and time tables, visit the official Israel Railways website when planning your trip.
Smart Itinerary Planning
- Israel is a relatively small country. This makes points of interest seem close to each other on the map with relatively short driving distances between them. However, when planning your day trip itinerary it is essential to take into account other time-consuming factors such as traffic and road congestion, parking, stops along the way and so on. Namely, in order to put things into perspective, if you wish to go on a day excursion from Haifa port all the way to The Dead Sea with a stop in Jerusalem on the way back just because the map makes it look possible then forget it. A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush. From Haifa port it makes more sense to go on a day trip to sites like Haifa, Nazareth, Akko and The Sea of Galilee whereas Ashdod port is a better starting point for a day trip to Jerusalem and The Dead Sea.
How to Visit Bethlehem
- Those of you who wish to visit Bethlehem should be noted that Israeli taxis are not allowed to enter the territories of The Palestinian Authority. As a result, you can only take a taxi (or a bus) from Jerusalem to the crossing point (also called checkpoint 300). After crossing to the Palestinian side on foot (passport is not required) you can find a local Palestinian taxi to take you to the Church of Nativity which is located about 10 minutes away by car. Another possibility is to find a Palestinian taxi (yellow vehicles with green license plates) in eastern Jerusalem whose driver is authorized to cross the checkpoint with his vehicle and hire him for the drive to Bethlehem and back.
Traveling from Jordan to Israel
- If you visit Jordan first and then want to cross the border to Israel, you should plan ahead. Jordanian taxis are not allowed to operate in Israel and similarly Israeli taxis are not allowed to operate in Jordan. Therefore, arriving from Amman you should arrange for a local taxi to bring you to any of the three border crossings and then have another taxi booked on the Israeli side to take you to your next destination in Israel. Make sure to check in advance the operating hours of each border crossing, and be patient as they can get quite busy and have long lines.
Taxi Sizes in Israel
- The most common taxi vehicle in Israel is an average sized sedan that can accommodate either 3 passengers, each traveling with a large suitcase, or 4 passengers each traveling with a carry-on. Larger taxis exist of course but they are far less common and sometimes quite hard to find. As a result, families and groups traveling with a lot of luggage or even individuals with multiple suitcases are advised to book their transportation in advance with a reputable taxi operator. In order to provide you with the most suitable taxi vehicle make sure you mention the number of passengers and the expected pieces of luggage with their exact sizes.
Taxi Apps in Israel
- As of 2024 neither Uber nor Lyft operate in Israel. However, ordering a taxi is possible through local apps like Gett or Yango that work in a similar way. In most major cities these apps will easily find a nearby available taxi for you and present the price clearly on the screen to leave no room for misunderstandings or rip-off attempts. While payment can be done either in cash or by card, tipping the driver is not expected so you may keep it only for those exceptionally helpful and courteous drivers. When catching a taxi on the street or at the airport you may negotiate the price for the ride with the driver before hitting the road. Otherwise you can simply ask the driver to use the meter (Moneh in Hebrew) and save the hassle.
- Sherut, the Hebrew term for service, represents a shared taxi system operating withing and between major cities in Israel, with 10-seater minivans that follow specific bus routes. The cost of a sherut is comparable to that of a bus, but it lacks designated stops. Instead, you can signal one by raising your hand, prompting the driver to pull over for your convenience. Passengers handle fare transactions by passing money to the person in front of them until it reaches the driver, and change is returned in a similar manner. To disembark, simply inform the driver, who will pull over to let you off. Unlike other forms of transportation in Israel, sheruts in major cities do operate on weekends.
- In Tel Aviv, sheruts align with bus routes #4 and #5, traversing the city’s main streets. For intercity travel from Tel Aviv, popular routes include Jerusalem, Netanya, Haifa, Rishon Le Zion, Ashdod, and Rehovot. Sheruts also connect major cities like Haifa or Beer-Sheva with nearby towns.
- While sheruts offer a more economical alternative to regular taxis and are generally faster than buses, it’s worth considering the limited space within the minivans, especially if you’re carrying a substantial amount of luggage as these minivans are usually cramped.
Traveling to Remote Areas in Israel
- In urban centers throughout Israel, taxis are easily accessible, providing convenient transportation options. However, in less frequented and remote areas, the availability of taxis may be limited or even non-existent. To address potential challenges, especially when exploring destinations like The Dead Sea, it is highly recommended to book a taxi with a driver for the entire day. This approach ensures a stress-free experience, eliminating concerns about finding transportation back, particularly in areas where local taxis are scarce. This advice holds true for other remote locations, such as the Golan Heights and Mitzpe Ramon in the Negev Desert, where prearranging transportation can enhance your exploration of these unique and less-traveled regions.
Hitchhiking in Israel
- Hitchhiking used to be a relatively common practice in Israel in the past. Especially in rural areas and around less densely populated regions you could see people hitchhiking along the side of the road, and drivers often picked them up. However, In recent years, concerns about safety and changes in societal norms have led to a decline in the popularity of hitchhiking. Among other factors discouraging hitchhiking in Israel are the improvement of Israel’s transportation infrastructure (e.g. new railway lines, better network of buses) and the development of more secure and reliable forms of transportation, such as bike lanes and ridesharing services. All in all, while it may still occur in some areas or among certain individuals, it is no longer as common or widely accepted as it once was.
About The Author
Moshe Barak is a highly knowledgeable and reputable private taxi service operator in Israel, renowned for his professional approach, friendly attitude, and attention to details.
With over 20 years of experience and a long list of satisfied customers he is the trusted choice by many international travelers seeking reliable transportation with a personal touch during their trip to Israel.