Public transport in Israel is efficient and affordable, consisting of buses, trains and taxis. Due to Israel's small size, it’s relatively quick and easy to get around the country.
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, but instead a Rav Kav card can be purchased and topped up to use on all forms of transport. They can be topped up on the Rav Kav app or at machines in stations. There are also a number of apps that can used to pay for tickets, such as the Moovit App. That said, 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 affordable, safe and air-conditioned, and run frequent and reliable services. Expats should note that buses services are incredibly limited 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. There are four main railway lines in Israel: 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 tend to be faster and more frequent than the lines to Be’er Sheva and Jerusalem.
The only problem expats might face when using the train system in Israel is that all signs and announcements are in Hebrew, with no route maps on the trains. It might be useful for expats to learn a few Hebrew phrases before travelling by train.
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 still being constructed, but is expected to be complete by 2022.
Haifa has a subway system called Carmelit, which is one of the world's shortest subway systems.
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 a good 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.
Taxis in Israel
All of 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 as well as a greater control over their route.
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.
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 and affordable 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 roads 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 driver's licence can be applied for at the Bureau of Motor Vehicles (Misrad HaRishui). Expats do not have to take a driving test on the condition that they have had a valid driving licence for at least five years.