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Public transit in Israel

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Buses are the most common form of public transportation for Israelis and foreign visitors alike. They are generally frequent and modern, but often slow.

Since the late 1990s, trains have changed from a niche element of public transit to a popular network covering most major cities - ridership increased more than tenfold from 1996 to 2016 and keeps rising. However, as many train stations are located awkwardly in highway medians out of town, unfortunately you'll often have to add a local bus ride to your train trips - Israel Railways offers combined tickets for this which aren't necessarily even more expensive than just the train ticket.

Rav-Kav, a public transit smartcard, ties the whole system together. Buses must and trains can be paid by Rav-Kav, and it is strongly advised for any traveler to Israel to get a Rav-Kav. Ideally already at Ben Gurion Airport or Ramon Airport.

Operators[edit]

Every bus route in Israel is operated by a single bus company. "Egged" and "Dan" used to be the dominant operators, but they have been replaced by other companies in an effort to increase competition. In order to find the route you need and which company operates it, see the #Understand section below. Trains are operated by Israel Railways whereas the Jerusalem light rail system is operated by Citypass. While buses cover most of the country, the rail network ends at Beer Sheva and Dimona. If you wish to go to Eilat without flying, you'll have to take a bus.

The quality of service of the newer bus companies varies from very good to poor, not only between companies but also between regions and routes of the same company.

Bus operators include:

Israeli buses with several types of coloring

Stations[edit]

Major cities have Central Bus Stations (תחנה מרכזית, "takhana merkazit"), which are the terminals where most intercity routes begin and end. Most of these stations have been rebuilt as air-conditioned malls. Generally, a lot of city bus routes run on the street just outside the central bus station. Sometimes these stations are in a city's downtown, but often they are on the edge of a city, next to a main road to minimize travel time.

While the Ottoman and British colonial authorities built some train lines, most train stations date to the 1990s or later and they are often located out of town in highway medians. Train stations are usually served by local buses which will get you to your final destination.

Fares and tickets[edit]

Fares are relatively low by Western standards. A single urban bus ride costs ₪5.90 in most metropolitan areas, but could be as little as ₪2.30 in smaller cities. Intercity fares vary approximately based on distance. Trips between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv cost ₪16 one way. The most expensive journey is between Haifa/Tel Aviv/Jerusalem and Eilat, costing ₪70 one-way.

Train rides are usually slightly more expensive than buses. For example, a ride from Haifa to Dimona with local buses on both ends costs - ₪5.90 in Haifa for the bus, then ₪57.00 for the train (very limited service on the Dimona line that you will have to transfer to) and another ₪2.30 for the Dimona bus. You better just load up an "Entire country" day pass for ₪60 on your Rav-Kav to cover such a route, although if travelling this route one-way using stored value balance (not cash), it will be cheaper than the pass.

Local buses are most often always cheaper (up to twice) than intercity buses (like Egged), even though they stop more often and thus take longer. So it is a good idea to rely on them for trips around the area, e.g. Golan Heights. Travelers on a shoestring might even consider taking several local buses in a row, to enjoy the landscape and save money (better with an appropriate day pass on the Rav-Kav).

See the English-language fare guide for updated information about bus fares in Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, Haifa, Be'er Sheva, and their suburbs. There is a lot to read here;

  • You can start with the maps of what is consider an urban ride in each area. This zoning apply to periodic passes usage only. Periodic passes are valid on any method of public transportation available within the areas covered in the appropriate pass, so you can, for example, freely interchange bus and Israel Railways if you have a pass that cover your route.
  • You can also check out a comprehensive fare guide at Egged's website on this page for one-way single-ride cash or stored value balance trips. These fare codes cover only Egged service. Other companies' single-ride fares may be checked on their websites.
  • You can use this page for prices of periodic passes and their coverage for each metropolitan area. It is better to use online maps: transit planning apps such as efoBus have them included.
  • For rail fares and timetables, see the Israel Railways website.

Tickets can be bought from drivers on the bus (but not in Beer Sheva, Jerusalem and Zone 1 of the Tel Aviv metropolitan area). For intercity buses, they can be bought at ticket booths in terminals. If you're using Rav-Kav, you better do your stored value ticketing from the driver directly, you don't need a terminal ticket booth if you already have a pass or balance loaded. Exact change is not necessary - drivers or cashiers will give change for notes up to 10 times the fare. Payment by credit card is accepted at ticket booths for fares over ₪22.

Rav-Kav[edit]

Rav-Kav reader machine on the Jerusalem Light Rail, with the Rav-Kav logo

Rav-Kav, . The only form of payment for bus rides is the Rav-Kav card. You must use a Rav-Kav in order to ride buses in Israel. Rav-Kav is a card used for payment on all forms of public transport in Israel. It can be "charged" with Israeli shekel-based stored value for random rides, or prepaid discount deals for multiple rides on specific bus routes (phased out), or with periodic passes that cover all transportation within included zones. The card offers some additional discount for registered youth, student, national insurance beneficiaries, disabled, senior citizen and others. It may be possible to obtain an anonymous Rav-Kav when you board the bus then use it to pay for your ride, though it may be prone to problems (language difficulties, drivers that don't have an available card inventory, etc.). You can obtain Rav-Kav in Ben Gurion Airport, Terminal 3, Arrivals hall - at a service center post that is open Su-Th 24 hr, F 07:00-14:00, Sa from 22:00, or at the service center post in the arrivals hall of Ramon Airport. You can use the Rav-Kav Online app to charge your ticket contracts if you have an Android phone that supports NFC (iPhones are supported since iOS 13). You can't get a refund for loaded stored value or for any other contract after the contract was validated, so don't load more than you need or are comfortable to lose. Rav-Kav (Q7296276) on Wikidata Rav-Kav on Wikipedia

Rav-Kav does not work on service of East Jerusalem operators and service going to the West Bank of those operators. It is also not valid for any internal routes in the Palestinian Authority or Gaza Strip, or for any transit that is not considered public transit by Ministry of Transport. For example, the Haifa Bat Galim - Stella Maris cable car is a Ministry of Tourism venue.

Service taxis (sherut), which run on fixed routes like bus lines, do not accept the Rav-Kav yet, except service taxi lines 4, 2 and 5 in Tel Aviv, that are, as of August 2019, the only service taxis that do accept Rav-Kav.

There are three types of cards:

Anonymous
an anonymous card that can be charged with stored value credit (of the Standard profile below only) or with some special fare products (like a multi-ride book of tickets, or a day or week pass). This card can be purchased for ₪5 from any bus driver during the ride, and the appropriate contract then added to it (except in Beer Sheva, Jerusalem and Zone 1 of the Tel Aviv metropolitan area, where you get the card for ₪10.90 that include a 1 trip contract, after using which you have to find a recharging point). The card can also be bought at Rav-Kav service centers, bus and train stations or at Metronit ticket charge machines in Haifa.
Registered
includes the passenger's details and photo. Only registered Rav-Kav cards can be used to purchase special fare classes (like the month or 30-day pass), or to receive a youth, student or senior citizen discount special profile. A registered card is insured for loss or theft. The passenger's usage history will be recorded and saved. This card type can be obtained only at Rav-Kav service centers during business hours or may also be issued and posted (no international deliveries) from the Rav-Kav Online website, though you need to wait until Israel Post deliver it. You must show ID (Israeli and foreign passports are accepted, as are Israeli ID cards and driving licenses). Although the service centers' clerks might refuse to issue a personal card to a foreigner due to lack of training, you can insist and ask them to issue it against a foreign passport. It works, though the clerks may be left surprised that it worked. Issuance of special profiles for additional discounts is available for foreigners that are staying in Israel on a long-term visa (e.g. transfer students), otherwise even children and elders will only get standard profile.
Half-registered or Semi-anonymous
Same as Registered, but doesn't record the passenger's usage history. Only the current ride is recorded, temporarily, to allow for fare inspection. This type of card offers the same discounts of the Registered card but is not insured for loss or theft.

Card validity is eight years after issuance. If your card is near expiration, you can get fresh eight years of validity with transfer of your balances to a new card (but not for Anonymous) at any Rav-Kav service center. You can also extend the validity for another six months (and afterwards again unlimited, so basically no expiration if you remember to do it in time every six months) in the Rav-Kav Online app (Anonymous can also be extended that way). However if your card is starting to glitch up on reading, it's best to have it reissued at the service center.

Payment methods[edit]

The card can be recharged with pay-as-you-go "stored value" credit (Hebrew: erekh tzavur) and/or with other special fare cards (each one called a "contract", Hebrew: hozeh) like a daily, weekly or monthly pass or a multi-ride ticket (multi-ride have been phased out as of January 2020, some continue to exist in a one-ride version, and two others). All three card types can hold up to eight contract types simultaneously.

If your Android smartphone has an NFC module, you can check the content of your Rav-Kav, purchase and load contracts using credit/debit cards, as well as check your ride history (last six events are recorded on the card), using the Rav-Kav Online or HopOn apps. Check at your smartphone's app store. iPhones can be used for this purpose with the Rav-Kav Online app only if you run iOS 13 or later.

It is also possible to obtain a USB card reader in Rav-Kav service centers for ₪10 and recharge the card yourself using credit/debit cards at HopOn (for Tel-Aviv and Beer Sheva metropolitan areas tickets), at RavKavOnline (for most other tickets). Other USB contact and USB NFC contactless card readers do also work, so if you already have one for an eID, for example, you may use that also. For USB NFC just ensure that the reader works with Type B ISO 14443 contactless cards (13.56 MHz). For USB contact, any smartcard reader for ISO 7816 chip cards will work.

At the Israel Railways website it is also possible to order ticket contracts "remotely": you still have to actually load the card with your purchased contracts at the ticket machine (select language, place the card and verify) of your origin train station. There's a gap between databases update: you must wait about 30 minutes between your purchase and the loading attempt to the card, otherwise the ticket machine won't find your transaction.

It is also possible to recharge contracts at cashier's terminals at participating stores. Map is available here or here, however be wary of points labeled as ATM only or Tel-o-fun, see below.

It is also possible to recharge Rav-Kav at Casponet ATMs and Tel-o-fun bicycle rental stations. These methods aren't recommended (at direct use) though, because the Casponet ATM often only offer to reload the contract types that already were on the card and offer several types of other contracts valid in the area. It is often not what you may want to load so it may create a false perception of which contract types do exist. For example it does not offer inter-regional pass contracts, and for stored value it may only offer to recharge the same recharge amount type that was on the card previously (you used up your ₪50 charge, wish to only recharge for ₪30, but the ATM often will offer you the ₪50 charge type that was on the card previously).

  • The way to directly recharge in the ATM if you wish to try it, it follows: you insert your credit card, choose Rav-Kav button, take out the credit card, insert the Rav-Kav in its place (Rav-Kav with contact chip only), then select one of the offered contracts to load and confirm. You don't need to re-insert your credit card back.
  • It is also possible to use the Casponet ATM indirectly (and is the recommended way, should you choose to use it) by using the contract reservation feature of Rav-Kav Online (if you neither have a NFC module in your phone, nor a card reader to use the service directly). First reserve any desired contract at Rav-Kav Online website (mobile browsers also work, no databases update time gaps such as with Israel Railways), then just insert the Rav-Kav card that you reserved a contract for, into the ATM and confirm the contract load.
  • Tel-o-fun rental stations can not be directly used to recharge Rav-Kav, instead you have to first order the wished contract as a "remote load" (similarly to Israel Railways above or Rav-Kav Online contract reservation) at the HopOn website (no database update gaps either), then redeem the reservation by inserting your Rav-Kav to the bicycle rental station and confirming the load.

It is no longer possible to recharge cards with bus drivers in Beer Sheva, Jerusalem, and the central zone of Tel Aviv metropolitan area. You have to find a recharging point, a shop with Rav-Kav recharge cashier terminal, or use the mobile app or website with card reader, or other methods noted above. Soon, no bus drivers in the country will recharge cards.

Stored value[edit]

In a nutshell

To convert stored value amount (or one-way fare amount (or a sum of all one-way fares of the transit that you plan to take for the day, week or month likewise, in the affected zones), which always deduct from your active profile balance) to a shekel value, and thus to find out if using stored value will be cheaper than an available periodic pass or not, subtract the profile discount (20%, 33% or 50%) from the amount, and you get shekel value.

  • 1.00 of standard profile balance (-20%) = ₪0.8
  • 1.00 of discounted 33% profile (-33%) = ₪0.67
  • 1.00 of discounted 50% profile (-50%) = ₪0.5

To convert a shekel value to stored value amount, add the profile discount to it in reverse

  • ₪1 to standard profile balance = add 25% = 1.25 of standard profile balance
  • ₪1 to discounted 33% balance = add 50% = 1.50 of discounted 33% profile balance
  • ₪1 to standard profile balance = add 100% = 2.00 of discounted 50% profile balance

Almost everywhere, the simplest way to use the card is to add credit to your stored value balance. At transit operators' recharge points it's only possible to add fixed amounts of ₪30, ₪50, ₪100, ₪150 and ₪200 which are loaded to the card with the appropriate additions to the available stored value balance to grant the appropriate discounts for one-way fares as follows:

Amount you pay Stored value amount you get per profile
Standard profile (20%) National Insurance Beneficiary, Disabled or Standard Student (33%) Youth, Senior Citizen or Extended Student (50%)
₪30 37.50 45.00 60.00
₪50 62.50 75.00 100.00
₪100 125.00 150.00 200.00
₪150 187.50 225.00 300.00
₪200 250.00 300.00 400.00

This stored value amount can then be used bit by bit to pay for one-way fares, so if using stored value, the fare is actually cheaper by the appropriate discount than a full-fare ticket for full price by cash without Rav-Kav.

You can not use the stored value balance to purchase other ticket types for it, because you already received the discount when charging it, no double discounts. Remember that stored value is not a shekel amount, but a value representation of passenger profile discount. Occasional wrong use of the shekel ₪ symbol in reference to stored value balance at validation receipts, recharging points and applications, is an ongoing problem, that often causes the passenger to forget that the profile discount was already given at (re)load time.

Using Rav-Kav Online app, website with card reader, or a recharge point at a supported store cashier, you may also load a flexible amount (from ₪30 to ₪300 per transaction) to your stored value balance, but paying amounts such as ₪31 (that get you 38.75 to standard profile balance) are to be avoided: if the stored value balance amount (that is to be received and to be summarized with the existing balance, not the amount you pay) does result in a value that is not a multiple of 0.10, you will have issues using 90-minute transfers (see below), so if your balance does not end in xx.x0, you will pay twice on transfers on e.g. Egged, Carmelit and Dan North (Metronit) on each validation. If you have a personal card with special discount profiles (for foreigners that usually apply to transfer students), and at any point in time used stored value conversion as a result of expiring profiles, you should fix up your balance with a flexible amount load, for it to be correct (multiples of 0.10).

You can combine reloads or load several times, such as load ₪50 then ₪30 to get 37.50+62.50=100.00 of standard profile balance or ₪30 twice to get 75.00, but be aware that it's not possible to have more than 999.90 of stored value credit (actually 999.99 but note the warning about fractions above) across all profiles on the card (including locked balance on expired profiles, that need to be converted up) at any given time simultaneously. If after several charges your overall balance would exceed the maximum value, that attempt won't succeed.

Stored value payments are accepted everywhere.

You usually won't be using the same stored value for group travel of several passengers. It's recommended that each passenger will have a separate Rav-Kav of his own. Most importantly, you can not group travel on one card on Israel Railways. But if you still insist on other transport means, it works as follows:

  • On buses you should be asking the driver to ticket you as a group prior to tapping the card on the terminal. If boarding on a middle door validator, choose passenger amount prior to validation and ensure the fare code that you are about to get charged. Several separate one-passenger validations in a row won't grant 90-minute transfers for any ride that isn't the last one recorded, where available. To get transfers as a group, the entire validation has to be a group as one operation. On the next transport means that is eligible for transfers, you validate once for the entire group.
    • On Dan buses in Tel-Aviv metropolitan area, you can not choose passenger amount in advance at most older middle door validators. Validate once for yourself, then tap again, passenger selection will show up, enter pasengers excluding yourself, confirm and tap card. The first validation loses right for transfers, so it's best to board via the driver as a group.
  • If you are using a periodic pass, you validate it on yourself. The other passengers use your stored value for a one-way ride.
  • On the Jerusalem light rail, you can not start a group trip for several passengers on one card (double-use block). If you took an Egged city bus first, you can transfer as a group to the light rail, but you must explicitly tell the driver that you need the right ticket validation type (fare code 2, not 62, and specify amount of passengers) which allows transfer to the light rail, or choose it (fare code 2, not 62, and passengers) yourself, if boarding on a middle door validator, prior to validation. (This is a code overlap issue, the bus can validate you both a trip that can, and also one that can not be used to transfer to the light rail, and these two tickets share the same fare price, so beware and ask the correct ticket, otherwise a double charge will likely occur, and a light rail fine if you are a group, as it will start a new one-person ride, not the group transfer (validate once, and only if the bus ride was ticketed as a group ride vs. separate validations) ).
  • Group travel works only for anonymous cards, half-registered or personal cards with the Standard profile, or said cards with Youth profile. Youth must use group travel only with passengers who are also eligible to youth profile. They must not use their 50% discounted stored value balance towards grouping with an adult. No other profile can use group travel.

90-minute transfers[edit]

Most metropolitan areas (Haifa, Jerusalem, Beer Sheva, and the entire Tel Aviv area) have automatic free transfers within the area (when using the Rav-Kav travel card only). Transfers are valid for 90 minutes. 90-min transfers only work within this separate zoning, which is different than the zoning used for periodic passes. Travel outside these zones on stored value are distance-dependent and do not include any transfers. Notes for 90-min transfers when using stored value balance for one-way rides:

  • Jerusalem: the fare is 5.90, fare code 62 (on buses) or code 2 (light rail, or choose when transferring to it from the bus)
  • Beer Sheva: the fare is 4.00
  • Tel Aviv metropolitan area:
    • Within the borders of Zone 1 of Tel Aviv metropolitan area (zone 2100) the fare is 5.90, fare code 42.
    • Within the borders of the eastern Rosh-ha-Ayin area (zone 2220), the fare is 5.90, fare code 41.
    • Within the borders of the northern Sharon area (zone 2210), the fare is 5.90, fare code 43.
    • To keep your right for 90-min transfer when crossing these zones in any combination, you should in the first bus ask the driver to charge you 9.30 on fare code 44 (or, if boarding any middle door with a validator, tap the "Code 44" button on the validator prior to validation), otherwise you will be paying 5.90 twice for each zone separately.
      • Sometimes the buses perform their route while misconfigured. This may happen with Metropoline, Kavim and Afikim. A line that perform a cross-zone route, such as Metropoline line 561, may have the validators' and driver terminal's GPS be stuck in the wrong zone, which causes only that zone's code be available along with code 44, and in case of travel on a periodic pass, only the passes that include the stuck zone can be validated.
        • If, for example, the 561 bus, while already in Tel Aviv, thinks that it is still in Kfar-Saba, then only code 43 and 44 will be available. Periodic passes will only work if it's code 142 and others, that include zone 2.1. A central zone only pass (141) won't work, and the stored value will be charged for either code 44, which is usually default on cross zone lines, or for code 43 for an internal northern zone ride. This will also cause problems, if there will be an inspection, as about everyone in bus have the wrong zone validated. Should you transfer in Tel Aviv with code 43 validation, you will be doublecharged unless the second bus is also "stuck" in the northern zone. The same may happen if you are on an internal ride in northern zones, but the bus is "stuck" in a code 42 zone. All this wrong zone config can also happen on a line whose route is inside a zone in its entirety, so board by driver and thoroughly check the validation receipt, as only the last operation of the entire terminal (and not per card) can be cancelled by driver for a fare fix.
  • Haifa: there are four transfers-enabled fares in the area: code 1 for 5.00 of balance, code 2 for 5.90, code 4 for 9.10 and code 6 for 12.50. Either shekels or stored value balance, but only balance will grant you transfers (or you may just use the periodic passes, that may get you cheaper travel at times).
    • Metronit ticketing is done on the platform ticketing machines, not on the bus. Insert card to the recharging point into the correct (green) slot, select the Choose contract for validation option, then the contract to be used, and take out the card on the beep, then board the Metronit. The smallest validation poles on the platform will only validate for the current zone, and will only work if you have only either the periodic pass, or stored value loaded on the card, and won't work if you have (or had) more than one contract loaded. So use the recharging point.
    • To keep your right for 90-min transfer when crossing these zones in any combination, use the following table (and if on Egged city buses, tell fare code or destination to driver prior to validation), otherwise you will risk getting fined by inspectors (especially on the Metronit, so choose the right ticket when validating stored value in the recharging point) if found with the improper ticket for your journey (paid lower fare but you was catched on long ride), or will be paying more than you should when you transfer:
Zone Greater Haifa (51) HaMifrats
Bus Station (56)
HaCarmel
Bus Station (57)
Krayot (52) Atlit (55) Rechasim (54) Yokneam-Ilit -
Kiryat Tiv'on (53)
Nesher (58) Tirat HaCarmel
Greater Haifa (51) 5.90
code 2
HaMifrats
Bus Station (56)
5.90
code 2
-
HaCarmel
Bus Station (57)
5.90
code 2
5.90
code 2
-
Krayot (52) 9.10
code 4
5.00
code 1
9.10
code 4
5.00
code 1
Atlit (55) 9.10
code 4
9.10
code 4
9.10
code 4
12.50
code 6
5.00
code 1
Rechasim (54) 9.10
code 4
9.10
code 4
9.10
code 4
9.10
code 4
12.50
code 6
2.30
code 61 *
Yokneam-Ilit -
Kiryat Tiv'on (53)
12.50
code 6
12.50
code 6
12.50
code 6
12.50
code 6
12.50
code 6
9.10
code 4
5.00
code 1
Nesher (58) 5.90
code 2
5.90
code 2
5.90
code 2
9.10
code 4
9.10
code 4
9.10
code 4
12.50
code 6
5.00
code 1
Tirat HaCarmel 5.90
code 2
5.90
code 2
5.90
code 2
9.10
code 4
9.10
code 4
9.10
code 4
12.50
code 6
5.90
code 2
5.00
code 1

* - No transfer, but 5.00 code 1 with transfers also valid.

Periodic passes[edit]

Periodic passes exist that will get your ride cheaper at times, such as if you need round-trip intercity travel, or wish to visit several cities in a day, or hopping on seeing half a country in a day.

If you buy a day, week, month or a 30 days pass for the appropriate metropolitan area transport zones, the pass is valid for unlimited travel on both bus and train (and other means such as the Metronit, Carmelit and light rail) within the included zones. For example, in Tel Aviv if you get a periodic pass that covers both Zone 1 and Zone 2 (Gush-Dan Extended, predefined code 142), you can use it for unlimited travel on buses and between all train stations that are included in those zones as long as your day or week or month pass is valid. See zone maps here.

On Rav-Kav Online you can choose a day in advance as well. Advance selling times varies for each contract type, variants and chosen issuing operator though, most offer you one week into the future, but some may be stocked for up to three weeks.

Notes:

  • A day pass is valid from midnight of the chosen day until 04:00 the next day. Any night lines are considered service for the previous day, yet if you have two day passes for two days straight and travel at night in-between, they will overlap and won't automatically work: the driver will ask you which one of your passes to validate on.
  • A week pass is valid from midnight of the first chosen day, and for 7 days until 04:00 on the eighth day.
  • A flexible 30 days pass is valid from midnight of the first chosen day, and for 30 days until 04:00 on the 31st day. Can not be loaded on anonymous cards.
  • A calendrical month pass is valid from midnight on the first day of the month until 23:59:59 of the last day of the month, no overnight service. Calendrical passes are only being sold in the time-frame between 25th of the previous month (but are not valid for the remainder of that month, as they are for the next month) until 5th into the month of their validity. Can not be loaded on anonymous cards.
  • Israel Railways only sells the flexible 30 day pass type, other transit operators usually stick to the calendrical one in their own recharge points. Both types are interchangeable, so a calendrical pass is valid on trains, likewise a flexible pass loaded in the middle of a month is valid on buses. Both types are available on Rav-Kav Online, HopOn and at cashier's terminals in stores, so specify which type you need.
  • Consider using the calendrical passes if you load at the start of a 31-days month, as the prices are the same. However, a flexible 30 days pass loaded on February 1 will be valid until early morning of March 3rd (or 2nd in a leap year).

Student passenger profile holders also may opt to semester and annual passes for any chosen zones. There are two types of student passenger profiles:

  • Standard Student: is a student who did not opt for a semester or annual pass, and is receiving 33% discount for all stored value rides. May use standard profile passes.
  • Extended Student: is a student who did opt for a semester or annual pass for any chosen zones, and is receiving 50% discount for all stored value rides done outside of the zones of their pass, and may use standard profile passes for areas not included in their obtained semester or annual passes.

Senior citizen passenger profile holders get all standard profile passes for half of their price.

Multi-ride contracts[edit]

This contract type consist of pre-loaded trips for the chosen fare code only, to be used in a certain region on certain routes. Almost all of these are phased out as of January 2020, and are available as one-ride contracts for some areas for when you may not want to commit for a stored value load (in Tel Aviv or Jerusalem metropolitan areas only, so the choice is limited), a Beitar-Ilit routes contract, and a Jerusalem outskirts contract for areas where the ride costs 5.00 (code 1). Though all the routes are covered with stored value or periodic passes, therefore it is not recommended to commit on these multi-ride contracts.

In case you still have loaded unused rides on the cancelled multi-ride contracts as follows, you must make your way to the corresponding operator's Rav-Kav service center in order to merge the loaded rides' value into stored value balance, or get a cash refund.

  • Lines of Afikim in the Samaria area (Zone 3.4 of Tel Aviv metropolitan area, or area 134, ticket fare codes 1, 3, 4, 6, 8, 10, 12, 21, 24, 26, 28, 50, 52;
  • Lines of Egged Taavura in the Judaea area (Zones 2.1, 2.2, 2.3 of Jerusalem metropolitan area, or areas 621, 622, 623, ticket fare codes 24, 51, 52, 53, 54, 55, 56, 57, 58, 61, 63.

Should you still choose to use any of the few remaining legacy multi-ride contracts (Beitar-Ilit and Jerusalem code 1), inquire the ticket price for one ride from Bus.gov.il for your chosen lines, and multiply by the amount of included rides to find out which multi-ride contract fare code you need. Using an appropriate periodic pass might sometimes get you cheaper though, and just sticking to stored value may save you unnecessary hassle.

Eilat[edit]

Buses to and from Eilat are better to be be reserved in advance (at a ticket booth, by phone, internet, or the Egged mobile app), although it may be possible to board just before departure without a reservation and pay the fare if there are still free seats in the bus and no one is coming with a reservation. Only the mobile app reservation method will let you reserve a seat to Eilat using Rav-Kav, without paying for a full-fare paper non-discounted ticket (you pick the reservation-only slip from the ticketing machine (the confirmation number is shown when you confirm the reservation in the app, so write it down), then board the bus and pay the fare using Rav-Kav stored value, which is cheaper because you got the profile discount when you recharged the stored value - a 70.00 fare to standard profile stored value balance actually costs you ₪56). All other buses are first come first served. Intercity buses will refuse to pick up passengers if they are completely full (no more than 10 standing passengers), so be wary if you are planning interchanges at limited service junctions in the middle of nowhere. Also be wary of waiting at the correct stops: buses will refuse to board you, even if they stopped to alight a passenger - if the specific stop that you are trying to wait on, is designated as alighting only for that line. If you are already on the bus, be aware that you can not (formally, but it is hard to enforce that) alight on a stop, if the stop is designated as boarding only (such as a bus station boarding platforms stop, which follow the alighting platform stop).

Heavy rail[edit]

For intercity rail, on each station there are ticket machines you can use to buy either individual rides one-way as paper tickets without discounts (it is no longer possible to get round-trip tickets, neither on paper tickets without Rav-Kav, nor as contracts), or load them as ticket contracts to the Rav-Kav, which you then validate on the turnstiles (be sure to validate on the exit turnstiles at your destination, for the used ticket to no longer occupy one of the 8 slots of the card). You can use cash or credit cards to load one-way tickets, books of 6 or 12 trips between chosen stations, recharge the stored value balance, or get periodic pass contracts.

Using the staffed ticket booth, you may also load periodic passes for advance use up to one week, so it is an option if you plan to be on a hurry on the chosen day. Or if you use the Rav-Kav Online app or website, you can choose a day in advance there as well.

Stored value balance that is already on the card can also be used to pay for one-way trips (and even recommended, as you won't get the profile discount if you load a separate one-way contract). To use the stored value for your ride, select the lower button on the ticket machine screen "Validate trip using stored value" (or "Use stored value for the ride" on newer machines' interface) then select your destination, while noting the price of your fare. It is also possible to cancel that pre-validation, if you decide to not travel or chose the wrong station, by putting the card on the ticket machine again - actual stored value deduction occurs on the entry turnstiles to the platforms.

You can not validate several passengers on a single Rav-Kav when using Israel Railways due to its requirement to chain card event types on the card - log entry and exit at destination, or (for stored value), pre-validation, entry and exit. Obtain a card for each passenger if you wish to use the railways.

Other details[edit]

After paying on a bus with the Rav-Kav, keep your paper receipt for the duration of the ride, in case of inspection. Validators at the middle doors of some lines (Lines 1, 189 and some others in Tel Aviv area, some lines in Jerusalem, Haifa, and every line of Beer Sheva) won't give you a paper receipt, but just display your ride on the screen. Inspection will scan the card.

Cases of misconfigured bus validations for the wrong zone, wrong fare code validations and cases of double charges in 90-minute transfers, may be sorted in the Rav-Kav service center of the affected operator only.

Understand[edit]

A subway style map of Israeli rail services

The best way to find out routes and schedules is to use apps or websites that combine information about all bus and railway companies, such as Google Maps, efoBus and Moovit.

The level of passenger information provided by the companies varies. Each company is responsible for information on its services, and does not provide other companies' routes or times. (For this reason, the Ministry of Transport has established a unified information center.) Fellow passengers are usually very friendly and helpful (sometimes overwhelmingly so), so you can ask them.

The Israel Railways website offers schedules and fares. You can buy tickets valid only on trains, recharge stored value, and get periodic passes valid both on the train and any transit type in the included zones (Rav-Kav required). A handy tool on the website is the "crowding index" which shows how crowded the train is likely to be at specific intermediate stops based on data of the last two weeks.

Both ridership and network size of Israel Railways have grown tremendously since the 1990s and there's been hardly a year since without a major new route or network improvement coming online. One that made international news was the 2018 opening of Israel's first electric rail line to Jerusalem via Ben Gurion Airport. Some sources may therefore be outdated, but when in doubt Israel Railways obviously keeps their own website up to date.

At stations and stops[edit]

Concrete-made bus stop, with the "yellow flag" sign

In many central stations you can find electronic information boards, which provide info on destinations, platforms and times of departures within the next hour. These boards usually have a column for English names, but are ordered by Hebrew alphabet. In big terminals it might take a few minutes until you get the info you need.

In central stations you will find staffed information booths. There may be separate booths for the separate bus companies that serve a station.

Bus stops in cities and on the roads are marked by a yellow metal "flag". The route numbers that stop there are marked on the flag, generally accompanied by the destinations. These signs are usually in Hebrew and English, but on opposite sides of the sign. Sometimes, though, the English version is incomplete. All bus stops have their ID number (5 digits) written at the top of the yellow sign, to identify your location with phone hotlines and some smartphone apps. You may also find route maps posted on the wall of the stop shed. If you need help reading this information, don't be shy to ask other passengers.

Be wary of waiting at the correct stops: buses will refuse to board you, even if they stopped to alight a passenger - if the specific stop that you are trying to wait on, is designated as alighting only for that line. If you are already on the bus, be aware that you can not (formally, but it is hard to enforce that) alight on a stop, if the stop is designated as boarding only (such as a bus station boarding platforms stop, which follow the alighting platform stop).

Many bus stops have real-time arrival info screens. Real-time info can also be found in apps such as Moovit and EfoBus.

By Internet and smartphone[edit]

Most companies provide information on the Internet, but like other aspects of their service, the quality varies greatly.

  • Google Maps provide trip planning.
  • Ministry of Transportation ("Call-Kav", Bus.gov.il), +972 8 6831610 (or *8787). Call center hours: Sa-Th 07:00-23:00, Friday 08:00-15:00, Saturday 30 minutes after end of Shabat to 23:00. You can send an SMS message (Hebrew-only) to 8787. This service is run by the Israeli Ministry of Transport, and provides information for all bus and train routes in the country. This is the most useful and authoritative information center.
  • Bus.co.il. This privately run site is intuitive and can be used in English. However, its information is unofficial and its schedule information might be less reliable than the official sites. Its call center has a premium-rate number (1-900, ₪2 per min.)
  • Egged, +972 3 694-8888 (or *2800 in Israel). Call Center: Su-Th 06:30-21:00, F 07:30-15:00, Sa from end of Shabat to 23:00. The official site of Israel's largest bus operator. Works great for its own routes, but is useless for other companies' routes. Hebrew and English. Egged (Q145848) on Wikidata Egged (company) on Wikipedia
  • Jerusalem transportation planner. Provides comprehensive information and trip planning for Jerusalem alone. This is an official site and is reliable. Hebrew and English.
  • EfoBus. Privately run website with online information for the arrival of buses to stations. Can be used with the 5-digit station code, that is on every station's "Yellow Flag", and may also be used as an app for tracking real-time arrival times for your stop, and for trip planning.
  • Moovit. Privately run public transportation app. Probably the best smartphone app. Provides real-time bus arrival times for your stop, and trip planning. Moovit (Q16336073) on Wikidata Moovit on Wikipedia
  • Use the call centers of each bus company, listed in the beginning of this article.

Night buses and trains[edit]

Kavey Layla (Night routes). These are night bus services centered on the large metropolitan areas, with lines extending even to Tiberias and Arad. Routes are aimed at young people seeking entertainment, who might otherwise drive drunk or not be able to go out at all. Night buses are typically operated by the regular bus operator in each region, but have distinct numbers and routes. Operating days and times vary by route, but routes typically only run on weekends (Thursday to Sunday nights), and some routes only run during summer or school breaks. The official website for this service contains information in Hebrew. Information in English can be found at each bus company's website or in transit planning apps. Night bus lines in Israel (Q12410983) on Wikidata Night bus lines in Israel on Wikipedia

Most trains stop operating at night, however, the line serving Nahariyya to Ben Gurion Airport, as well as one line along the Southern Coastal Plain to Beer Sheva operate during the night as well. Night routes are less frequent than day routes and skip some stations.

Amenities[edit]

Due to the relatively short bus journeys, there are no toilets on buses in Israel. It's advised to use the toilet prior to taking the bus. Toilets are available in all central bus stations. Routes that take longer than about 3 hours, such as Tel Aviv to Tiberias or Kiryat Shmona, make a 10-minute rest stop in the middle of the route, where toilets are available. There are two stops on routes to Eilat.

Intercity buses have a baggage compartment underneath where you can store your bags while traveling. You can also store a bicycle there. City buses do not have a baggage compartment, and it is forbidden to bring bikes aboard (other than folding bikes). Trains take bicycles free of charge (outside rush hour), and there are numbers at the doors indicating how many bikes will fit on each carriage. Israel Railways plans to forbid carrying bikes aboard altogether, so be wary of local formalities.

The bus driver will often have the radio playing, even late at night. Many drivers object to cell phone conversations being held behind their seats.

Haredi-oriented lines[edit]

Often, separate bus routes serve centers of Israel's Haredi (ultra-Orthodox Jews) population. This community is relatively poor, but well-organized, so they use public transportation at very high rates and get extra routes customized to meet their needs.

On these routes, certain rabbis attempted to introduce strict gender separation, with men sitting in the front of the bus and women in the back, with the routes referred to as mehadrin lines. The Egged bus company initially supported this step as a business model that catered to the Haredi market. But in 2011, the Israeli Supreme Court ruled that this arrangement is discriminatory and illegal. After this ruling, there were attempts to have lines where men and women voluntarily chose to sit in the front and back, sometimes backed by vigilante harassment or attacks on those who sat elsewhere. However, as of 2016 this seems to have failed, with both sexes sitting throughout the bus even on overwhelmingly Haredi lines. Harassment is much rarer and seems to turn into a media event whenever it happens. To be absolutely sure, when you get on a bus in Haredi areas, follow the lead of the passengers who are already on it.

It is still considered polite not to sit next to a stranger of the opposite sex if there are other available seats. If you do sit next to a Haredi member of the opposite sex, they may get up and move to a different seat or else stand.

An advantage of intercity Haredi routes is that they typically make many stops in each city's Haredi neighborhoods, rather than just the central bus station. (This often saves a local bus ride at the end of trip, especially useful very late at night when local buses have stopped running. But it makes the routes slower.) A disadvantage is that they often run less frequently, so check the schedule first. They often run at times other buses do not, especially late at night.

Haredi-oriented routes can often be identified by their terminus - for example, most intercity Haredi routes in Jerusalem begin and end their route at Har Hotzvim/Atirot Mada rather than the Central Bus Station.

Stay safe[edit]

City buses and bus stops were frequently the targets of suicide bombers in the 1990s and early 2000s. Though this hasn't happened in many years now, it is still a risk one should be aware of. If you see anyone acting suspiciously, or discover an unattended parcel, immediately notify the driver, a soldier, or a police officer. If you can, avoid standing in large crowds of people in order to further minimize any risk.

Buses that travel into the West Bank are often armored to protect against shooting or rock-throwing attacks.

If you're waiting at a bus stop with multiple routes, stick out a hand/finger (also the Israeli hitchhiking sign) to flag down the driver as the bus approaches. If he or she doesn't realize you're waiting for that particular bus, you may get passed by completely. Do not wave, some drivers think that means you don't want that particular bus. If there's a large crowd to get on the bus, don't be afraid to assert yourself firmly (but not impolitely) when people try to push ahead of you.

If you want the driver to tell you your stop, it is best to be clear about it. If you just tell the driver where you want to go, he may ask you at the following stop why you didn't get off. Also, he might forget, so it is often better to ask the passengers.

While Israeli manners may be rougher than in some other countries, they are also more likely to actually help you, with several people debating the best route for you.

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