This guide was written prior to the October 2023 escalation of hostilities between Israel and Palestinian militant groups. The ongoing conflict has markedly affected the safety and advisability of travel to the region. Please consult with relevant authorities and exercise extreme caution when considering travel to Israel and the surrounding areas.
Public transport in Israel is efficient, consisting of buses, trains and taxis, but getting around is quite expensive when compared to Western European prices. Due to Israel's small size, travelling around the country is relatively quick and easy.
Public transport in Israel
Israel has a comprehensive public transport system, and expats will find that cars are quite unnecessary in the major cities. Buses, trains and taxis are available and can be used to travel countrywide.
Using public transport is also easier than ever with the Rav Kav payment system. Paper tickets and cash are no longer used; instead, a Rav Kav card can be purchased and topped up for use on all forms of transport. They can be topped up on the Rav Kav app or at machines in stations. Several apps, such as the Moovit App, can be used to pay for tickets. Some tickets can only be purchased with a physical Rav Kav card, such as multi-day passes.
Buses are the primary form of public transport in Israel and can be used for both local and intercity travel. Buses in Israel are safe and air-conditioned, and run frequent and reliable services. Expats should note that bus services are minimal on Shabbat and Jewish holidays.
Egged is the largest bus company in Israel, and it runs most of the main routes throughout the country. The quickest way to travel between cities is by bus. There are frequent buses between Jerusalem, Haifa and Tel Aviv.
Arab-run bus companies provide bus services in Nazareth, East Jerusalem and the West Bank, although the vehicles are usually older and less comfortable.
The national train operator in Israel is Israel Railways. Trains are inexpensive and run from Tel Aviv to most other large cities. There are also services to Ben Gurion Airport in Tel Aviv. Israel has four main railway lines: Tel Aviv to Haifa and Nahariya, Tel Aviv to Ben Gurion Airport, Tel Aviv to Be'er Sheva and Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. The coastal lines are faster and more frequent than the Be'er Sheva and Jerusalem lines.
Jerusalem has a light rail system that runs for a distance of eight miles (13km) through the city. Tel Aviv's light rail system is under development, with the Red Line completed in 2023 and the Purple and Green Lines still under construction.
Haifa has a subway system called Carmelit, which is the world's smallest subway system, with four cars (as two two-car trains), six stations and a 1.1-mile (1.8km) single tunnel.
Sheruts are shared taxis that run along bus routes and stop at designated stops. These yellow minivans are not engaged privately and only leave their stop once they are full. Sheruts are an excellent way to travel between Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and Haifa. Fares are similar to bus fares, but they are faster than buses and run seven days a week, although fares are slightly higher on Shabbat.
- The National Public Transport Authority is the official source for comprehensive information on public transportation in Israel.
- Expats looking to understand the Rav Kav travel card system can visit the Rav Kav Online website.
- The Tel Aviv-Yafo Municipality provides valuable insights for details on public transportation within Tel Aviv.
Taxis in Israel
Israel's large cities have taxi services, which can even be used for intercity travel. Taxis within cities have meters, and intercity taxis charge standard fees that are set by the Ministry of Transportation.
Taxis in Israel can be hailed off the street, ordered via telephone or booked with ride-hailing apps such as Gett and Uber. Many expats prefer using these apps as they allow for automatic card billing and greater control over their route.
- For a comprehensive guide on using taxis and ride-hailing apps in Israel, the Tourist Israel website is a valuable resource.
- For those looking to understand the regulations and standards for taxis, the National Public Transport Authority provides official guidelines.
Air travel in Israel
There are several domestic airlines in Israel that provide flights between Israel's major cities. Israel's major airports are Ben Gurion International Airport in Tel Aviv, Teyman Airport in Be'er Sheva and Haifa Airport in Haifa.
- The Israel Airports Authority provides comprehensive details on air travel and airports in Israel.
- For those interested in the major airline of Israel, El Al Israel Airlines offers insights into flight schedules, destinations, and services.
Driving in Israel
Expats living in one of Israel's main cities, such as Jerusalem, Tel Aviv or Haifa, will find it unnecessary to own a car. Traffic congestion is a constant problem, parking is difficult, and Israeli driving tends to be aggressive. With comprehensive transport options available, it's easy to get around these cities using public transport exclusively.
Israel has a comprehensive road network, and the highways between Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and Haifa are well-maintained. There are clear road signs in most places, which are generally in Hebrew but with some in English as well. Driving in Israel is on the right side of the road.
Israel's intercity roads are marked by numbers. Even-numbered routes run north to south, whereas odd-numbered roads run east to west.
Expats can legally drive in Israel using their foreign driving licence for up to one year. After one year, they will need to apply for an Israeli driving licence.
An Israeli driving licence can be applied for at the Bureau of Motor Vehicles (Misrad HaRishui). Expats do not have to take a driving test if they have had a valid driving licence for at least five years.
►For a breakdown of expenses, read Cost of Living in Israel
►Read Keeping in Touch in Israel for information about staying connected
What do expats say about getting around in Israel?
"The bus network is generally pretty good in the main cities, although a car is necessary if you want to visit the desert, Dead Sea, north etc." Check out what British expat Abi has to say about everyday expat life in Israel in her interview.
Are you an expat living in Israel?
Expat Arrivals is looking for locals to contribute to this guide, and answer forum questions from others planning their move to Israel. Please contact us if you'd like to contribute.
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