Israel — Transportation
Israel Taxis and Car Rental
Taxis are common in all Israeli cities and towns and come in two varieties – shared and exclusive. All journeys should be metered, although it’s not uncommon to have to remind your driver to turn the meter on. Pre-arranged fares are possible, but are invariably in the driver’s favor and the service itself isn’t exactly cheap, especially for trips from the airport to downtown Tel Aviv. Tipping is not expected and fares will be rounded down to the lowest shekel rather than up. The Hadar-Lod Taxi Company (+972-3-971-11-3) has the airport concession, and posts discount rates on a regular basis to lessen the blow for new arrivals. For other journeys, Israel Taxi Group (+972-5-263-5976) is a good choice.
Self-drive in Israel is easy to arrange, either on arrival at the airport or in the cities and larger towns. A foreign driver’s license with at least a year’s validity is required and Israelis drive on the right. Touring by car is an easy way to get around this small country, but Israeli drivers are infamous for their impatient road rage making it often more stressful than convenient for visitors. Even so, it’s by far the best and most economic way to see everything on your agenda. Five major roads, numbered directionally 1 through 5, run through all the regions, and are in good condition. Drivers should note that using a cell phone while driving is highly illegal, as is driving with even a miniscule amount of alcohol in your blood.
Israel Trains and Buses
It’s possible to travel by train on selected routes in Israel, although fares can be double that of buses and lines often confusing. It should also be remembered that by Friday sundown all public transport shuts down for the Sabbath and opens up again on Sunday. Regular train services run between Haifa and Tel Aviv and the high speed connection from Ben Gurion Airport to Tel Aviv and on to Jerusalem was recently added. An intercity line runs from Nahariya through Haifa, Tel Aviv and Ben Gurion Airport to Beersheba, and Tel Aviv has a useful suburban network.
For regular tourists, buses are the most-used form of public transportation and are comfortable, reliable, fast, and inexpensive. If you’re traveling long distances, the downside is that it’s tricky to plan a logical itinerary due to a lack of passenger information and coordination between the 10 or so bus companies is difficult due to inaccurate or unavailable timetables. Within the major Israeli cities, however, the bus services are comprehensive and relatively easy to use and tickets can be purchased from drivers. Daily passes can save money, and the new Rav-Kav chip and pin card can be charged and refilled for a 20 percent discount on fares.