Getting Around Israel on Public Transportation

Filed in Getting Around, Trip-planning by on 24/01/2013 0 Comments
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Getting Around Israel – Public Transportation

Israel has a great public transportation system and buses are currently the most popular way of getting around, both inside cities and towns, and for travelling around the country.  Although trains are popular, only some areas of the country have railroads  much to  the dismay of  many travelers.  This is expected to change  in the coming years with an ambitious plan to make it easy to access the entire country by train.

Boarding the train

train platform

(Photo: David King, CC BY 2.0)

In Israel, the train is the most comfortable way to travel especially with small children. It is possible to move around freely and and there are bathrooms. A big bonus for those traveling with children and trying to juggle all the child paraphernalia, strollers can be wheeled right on without the dreaded one hand collapse maneuver   And, if you’ve ever dealt with the meltdown from a suddenly woken child, not having to do so in order to collapse the stroller, will be a big priority.

There a train stop at the Jerusalem Zoo in Malchah and it is not complicated to get to the zoo a short walk away. Double check if your train is running though before setting out to the train station. Sometimes there are delays or cancellations. The number for Israel Railways is: *5770. You can speak in English. Bonus: Save by keeping your train ticket and presenting it when purchasing your zoo tickets.

Buses

It pays to know if there is an express bus. Buses between towns usually begin and end in a central bus station. Express buses have very few stops until they reach the town’s bus station of the town that is their destination. Here are some great insider tips for travelling by bus:

  • If you buy your tickets at a central bus station you can pay by credit card whereas paying on the bus can only be in cash
  • Buying a round trip ticket called “haloch hozer”, which gives a discount, is only available from the ticket counters in bus stations
  • With proper identification, a senior citizen pays half the price
  • Children over 5 years of age must pay
  • For information about schedules and fares you can phone the National Information Center for Public Transportation *8787 and speak in English
  • Important! Do not throw away the bus receipt, keep it handy, as sometimes inspectors board buses to check if everyone paid the bus fare

Tips on Travelling by Bus in Israel

bus on road

(Photo: David King, CC BY 2.0)

A word about traveling by bus in Israel.  It is a cultural thing.  There are rarely “lines” that North Americans for example may be used to, want, or expect.  If you love your personal space either position yourself to be at the front of the line or wait but know that if you do, you may not end up with a seat or in the worse case scenario,  a spot on the bus!

Be organized, have your money or pass ready in your hand as you board. Buses are busy in many places and you want to get on and off quickly.  Trust me, you do want this.

It is a good idea to get to a scheduled departure at least 15 minutes earlier. Sometimes the bus will arrive before it is scheduled to leave and occasionally a bus is delayed.

Wait, my luggage! Buses that run between towns have a storage compartment underneath that usually opens automatically for luggage, strollers, bicycles and large duffle bags. Before you get off the bus be sure to remind the driver that you have luggage in the baggage compartment. If only a few people have placed their baggage underneath, the bus driver will not open the compartment at every single stop. If you don’t tell him, he will not necessarily know that you need it opened. Don’t worry, he will understand if you say “luggage”.

Tip: When to Travel

Sunday mornings are the busiest days of the week and the buses and trains are crowded with students returning to their schools and soldiers returning to their army bases.

Tip: Rest Stops – Pick the Right Route

Bus trips of less than three hours usually do not make a rest stop. However, if your destination is not the last stop then the bus may make a stop.

For example:

  • Buses leave both Jerusalem and Tel Aviv and travel on Road 6 to Tiberias without making rest stops.
  • However, if you take the bus to Kiryat Shmona that also goes on Road 6 and stops in Tiberias the bus will make a 15 minute rest stop in Afula before traveling on to Tiberias and Kiryat Shmona.

Buses that go from Jerusalem to the Dead Sea do not make rest stops, but if you take the bus that leaves Tel Aviv for the Dead Sea that stops in Jerusalem and if you board this bus in Jerusalem it will make a 15 minute rest stop near Kibbbutz Kalya. The rest stop gives you a chance to stretch your legs, get something to eat or drink and to use the restrooms. Bring shekels, as some places charge to use the restrooms.

Security in the Bus Stations

bus interior

(Photo: Shlomit Or, CC BY-SA 2.0)

Some bus stations, especially indoor ones, have very high security. Entering the Jerusalem Central Bus Station is like boarding a plane by going through a metal detector and putting your bags through an x-ray machine. However, there are no full body scans either at the bus stations or at Ben Gurion International Airport and no one will frisk you.

Never leave your luggage unattended in the bus stations! It could be treated as an unidentified object, a sure fired way to have it disappear forever if security believes it is a threat.

Did You Know?

The Mehadrin buses, popular with the Torah observant public, are set up so women can get to their seats directly without having to walk in front of male passengers. Women can pay by sending a child to the front with the money or passing it forward through passengers to the bus driver who passes the receipt back the same way. 

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