Transport and Driving in Israel
Public transport in Israel is efficient and affordable, consisting of buses, trains and taxis. Expats will find that due to its small size, it’s relatively quick and easy to get around Israel.
Public transport in Israel
Israel has a comprehensive public transport system and expats will find that they do not need a car in the major cities. Buses, trains and taxis are available and can be used to travel countrywide.
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 can purchase tickets at bus stations or from the driver when boarding. Expats should note that buses do not usually run on the Sabbath or on 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 and 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 uncomfortable.
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.
Haifa has a subway system called Carmelit, which is one of the world's shortest subway systems.
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 or ordered via telephone.
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. Sherut fares are similar to bus fares, but they are faster and safer than buses and run seven days a week.
App-based rideshare services such as Gett are active in Israel. Many expats prefer using rideshare apps as they allow for automatic credit 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.
Speed limits in Israel are set at around 30 miles (50km) per hour in cities and around 55 miles (90km) per hour on highways unless otherwise stated. Expats should drive cautiously, especially in mountainous areas where roads can be narrow and winding.
New arrivals can legally drive in Israel using their foreign driving licence for up to one year after their arrival in Israel. After one year, they will need to apply for an Israeli driving licence.
An Israeli driver's licence can be applied for at the branches of 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.