guide to israel public transit

According to a recent survey, most of the tourists visiting Israel do so independently (i.e. without a tour group). They almost never use public transit because they don't know how to. Most tourists say that they don't like to take taxis everywhere, but they feel they have no choice. This page was created to help make public transit more accessible and less of an enigma to visitors, and save money that is better spent on hummous than on taxis.

1. Background Information
In Israel, public transit is serviced mainly by buses. We have about 16 bus companies that operate more than 3,000 bus routes with the routes being serviced over 80,000 trips per day (2.5 milion passengers per day). We have a rapidly developing train system that reaches all the coastal cities and some other destinations. We have one light rail line in Jerusalem and 3 Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) lines in Haifa. There is also a shared cab service called "Sherut Taxis", that operate alongside some of our busiest bus routes and... that's it.
2. Getting the Information
By phone:
When you reach Israel, you need to know only one telephone number: *8787.
This is the national public transit information line called "CALL-KAV" ("kav" means bus-line in hebrew). It has information on all the bus companies, Israel Railways, the Jerusalem light-rail and Haifa BRT. Unfortunately, it doesn't have information on the Sherut Taxis. The call center is available in Hebrew, English, Arabic and Russian and costs the same as a regular phone call. 
Internet and Apps
There is no official website that supports English yet. the private bus.co.il is the only one supports english and it's good and accurate. egged, the biggest bus company has also site in english. but only for her lines. same goes for israel railways
Google Transit works perfectly in Israel, and maps are in English. You can find it on the website or on the google maps app. It's a great source for reliable information.
The cellular application "moovit" supports English as well as many other languages (Francais, Deutsch, Italiano, Portoguese, Espanol, Russian and more...). Unfortunately, the Israeli maps are only available in Hebrew... and because of that the search is limited.
I don't like the trip-planner function of any of them, but it's better than nothing.
Another great source of information I found is on the "frommers" website. Information is available on every major city. Here are some examples: (Tel-Aviv) (Haifa) (Eilat)

last but not list, here is a great frequnet bus network map of the tel aviv metropolin.
People in Israel love to help and most of them know English. If they don't know the answer they will ask others for you. Many of the bus drivers and train employees know basic English, so don't hesitate to ask.
Internet Forums
One forum that is very useful is the public transit forum on the Tapuz website. Mention you are a tourist and they will be glad to help. Don't open a new thread,  one of the the first threads is always the navigation help thread (you'll recognize it by the date on the title) enter your question there with as many details as you can (addresses, times, etc.). A warm response is guaranteed.
 navigation thread
navigation thread in tapuz public transit forum. see the stars and the date. ask in english with as much details as possible.
information center at the airport 
at the arrival hall, on the right you will find it. this is also the place to purchase your smart card and ask your questions, starting with...
3. Getting to/from the Airport
We have only one big international airport called "Ben Gurion" (NATBAG in short form), about 20 minutes from Tel-Aviv and 30 minutes from Jerusalem.
There is a tourist information center in the baggage claim lobby, and they are extremely helpful. and there is a public transportation information center at the arrival hall on the right.
By Train
There is a train station at the airport, located one floor down from Arrivals. Just follow the signs. This particular train will bring you to jerusalem, Tel-Aviv and all the coastal cities north of Tel-Aviv (I mention here only cities that have tourist attractions, namely Haifa and Akko).

In jerusalem the train stops at H'uma (aka Navon) transportation hub, near the light rail station, many bus routes and a lot of taxis. some hotels are in walking distance from the train station. 
In tel aviv The train stops at the central business district of Tel-Aviv, far from most hotels and the beaches. You'll need to take a cab from "Tel-Aviv Merkaz" station (the central station) to your hotel. Since the airport is relatively close to Tel-Aviv, I recommend you take a taxi from the airport directly to the hotel. The price won't be significantly higher. If you are travelling to Haifa or Akko, the train is your best option.
By Bus

busses leave from the seconed floor, between the arrivals (floor 0) and the deaprtures (floor 3).
bus no' 485, to to jerusalem city center  operated by "Afikim", every hour by the hour 24/6 (service doesn't work between friday 15:00 to saturday 19:00) cost 16 nis.
bus no' 445 to tel aviv city center and shores operated by "Kavim"", every hour by the hour 24/6  (service doesn't work between friday 15:00 to saturday 19:00) cost 16 nis.

the other bus service from the airport is not for tourist destinations and is not frequent enough to count on anyway.

By Shared Taxi (Sherut)
you can reach Jerusalem by shared taxi (Sherut) The company operating the service is called NESHER (English) (Francais).
The price (07.05.14) is 41 shekels to the center of the city or 69 shekels to an exact address.
You can also use shared taxis to reach Haifa (AMAL taxis, +972-4-8662324) or Tel-Aviv (HADAR-LOD taxis, +972-3-9711103)
By Regular Taxi
Yes, taxis are expensive, and yes from the airport and as a tourist they are even more expensive, but with all your luggage it's often the easiest way to start your trip. This is especially the case if you need to go somewhere within the Greater Tel-Aviv Metropolitan Area and you don't have nothing on you except address.
To reach the supervised taxi stand, exit the doors, turn left and follow the signs. You should, of course, still use the information on this page to spare you the taxi on your other trips. Print the fares table to ensure that the drivers don’t charge you extra. They are allowed to charge 3 NIS more for luggage (per suitcase). You should also know for future rides that ordering a taxi by phone comes with a 3 NIS surcharge.
we don't have uber in israel.
 NEW Eilat Airport - (Ramon airport)
The new Eilat Airport is located about 20 minutes north to the city. This small and friendly airport has a very cheap (4.20 NIS) bus service to the city bus terminal (number 30) and to the hotels  at the north and soute bitches (Number 50),  the taxis from the airport are more expansive (85 Nis) but after you get to the city  the taxis are not expensive because of the short distances, so I recommend you to take the bus to/from the airport and use taxis or internal busses inside the city. from the internal busses I mention bus lines 15 (to Almog bitch,  the underwater observatory and Taba bordercross to sinai and line 16 that will take you back fron there to the city. They all operate also on saturday.
4. Some Useful Information
a. In Israel, buses go almost everywhere, they connect all the main cities and the fares are fair (not very cheap, not very expensive). The biggest bus company is EGGED, responsible for about 40% of the bus service in the country, including most of the intercity service and most of the urban service in Jerusalem and Haifa. 
b. The bus routes are not tourist friendly. They will take you to the center of the city, but not necessarily to the site you want to visit (unless, of course, it's in the center of the city). Bus service is great inside and between Jerusalem, Tel-Aviv, Nazareth, Akko and Haifa, but it will be more challenging to get to sites like Caesarea, Megiddo, Masada, Capernaum etc. A combination of public transit and hiking can be ideal if that’s your cup of tea. At the very least, such destinations are likely to require a more in-depth inquiry.
c. There is no bus and train service on Saturdays (except inside Haifa and Eilat). The only service that operates on Saturdays is the SHERUT (shared taxis) and you'll need to ask around to find out where to catch them. maybe this facebook page will ne a good start.
"Saturday" in jewish terms is from the sunset of friday to the sunset of saturday. the public service stops about 2 hours before sunset in friday and resumes at saurday night. the specific hour changes with the seasons.
d. Many soldiers use public transit on Sunday mornings and Thursday afternoons. Try to avoid those times for intercity bus service as it’s simply too crowded.
e. Tel-Aviv’s central bus station is an especially good place to avoid (its design is not at all intuitive). Fortunately, you can find an answer to most of your inter-city needs at the "Arlozorov-Terminal" next to the central train station. From Arlozorov the 480 bus to Jerusalem is the best and cheapest way to travel between Tel-Aviv and Jerusalem.
other destinations with great bus frequency  from arlozerov are Netanya, Hadera, Afula, Tiberias, QIryat shmona, Modi'in, Beit Shemesh, Ashdod, Be'er-sheva and all the destinations inside tel aviv metropolitan area.
5. How to Pay?

In jerusalem and Tel-aviv you can't pay to the driver in cash. you'll need a smartcard called RAVKAV. you can purchase it from the public transportaion information desk at the arrivals hall on the right. and they will help you charge properly (according your plans).
you can even purchase from them
a Ravkav card that allows entry to some of israeli natural parks. you can also aquire an anonimus rav-kav from any bus driver (5 Nis) and charge it with money for your first trip.

Inside all the train stations there are cashiers and you can pay them in cash or by credit card. Only on the light rail in Jerusalem and on the BRT in Haifa (called "MATRONIT") will you need to use the automated cashier (cash or credit). The machines support English.
You can then put credit directly on the card that will give you 20% discount. The “rav-kav” can be used on all bus and train operators in israel  regardless of the company that sold you the card.  Inside those 3 big metropolitan areas The "Rav-kav" card also allows you to transfer between all means of public transit for 90 minutes without having to pay again. (only in the big metropolines of Tel-aviv, Jerusalem, and Haifa)
the ravkav works with all the public transit operators except Sherut taxis
In the Sherut you pay the driver in cash. On weekdays the cost is very similar to a ride on the bus. On Saturdays it costs more, but is still cheaper than regular taxis.

6. Special Public Transit Tourism
a. The existing old railway between Jerusalem and Tel-Aviv is a very beautiful line. It takes 90 minutes, but only reaches the southern edges of Jerusalem (near the Malha Mall). While it can't be recommended as a means of transit,  it merits being called an attraction in its own right. To take advantage of the view, make sure you take this route during the day.
b. Egged offers special public transit to Eilat that is cheaper than flying. This is the only bus service that requires buying tickets in advance over the phone (online the service is available only in Hebrew).
c. The Old City of Akko is within walking distance from the train station. This is highly recommended. Don't miss the Akko bazaar. you can also take bus no' 3 from the train station to the old city.
d. If you enjoy desert relaxation you can take the train or bus to Beer Sheba, and from there take the no. 60 bus to the remote town of Mitzpe-Ramon. The entire town is within walking distance of the bus stop and from the Makhtesh Ramon promenade. Another great desert resort is "Ein Gedi”. You can reach it on bus 444, the same bus that travels from Jerusalem to Eilat (just remember that for this bus you need to buy tickets in advance).
e. The beaches of Tel-Aviv are famous and you'll probably stay in a hotel near them. If you plan on taking a day-trip from Jerusalem, there are many buses (from Arlozorov and from the central bus terminal, like line 10) that come close to the beaches on Ben-Yehuda St. 
 Old Jaffa is also well-serviced by public transit especially if you are catching a bus from the beaches of southern Tel-Aviv or from the Port of Tel-Aviv in the north. Walking along the beaches between the Port of Tel-Aviv and the Port of Jaffa is not to be missed (takes about 3 hours).
f. The Western Wall (Kotel): Don't bother taking a bus directly to the Western Wall. The buses go around Jerusalem’s Old City and are often stuck in traffic. Instead, get off the light rail or bus near the walls of the Old City and walk by foot through the Old City. You can enter from Jaffa Gate (near the Mamilla Mall) and walk through the tourist market in the Christian Quarter on your way to the Kotel. Alternatively, enter via Damascus Gate and walk through the real market in the Muslim Quarter. Both are great.

read more
lonely planet
the man in seat 61 - israel train travel guide

*special thanx to Tanhum Yoreh for correcting my english
  I owe you hummous


  1. אנונימימרץ 01, 2015

    Very helpful oversight, thanks a lot!

  2. Denver Broncos player Justin Forsett. ESPN football commentator and former NFL linebacker Kirk Morrison was also set to join. דילים זולים לחול