Download GPX file for this article

From Wikivoyage
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Lev HaMifratz train station, Haifa, looking towards Mount Carmel

Buses are the most common form of public transportation in Israel for Israelis and foreigners 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, you'll often have to add a local bus ride to your train trips.

Rav-Kav, a public transit smartcard, ties the whole system together. Buses must and trains can be paid by Rav-Kav. It is strongly advised that any traveler to Israel get a Rav-Kav, ideally when they arrive at Ben Gurion Airport or Ramon Airport. You can also use a supported mobile ticketing app to pay for your travels without a Rav-Kav card. You cannot use cash to pay for rides directly to drivers.

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 Egged and Dan used to be the dominant operators, but they have been replaced by other companies in an effort to increase competition.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, and the Jerusalem light rail system is operated by Cfir. 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]

Passengers at Jerusalem Central Bus station

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, many 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. As of Aug 2022, a single nationwide fare system reform has been introduced, valid for every transit operator in the country and dependent on aerial distance covered from boarding to alighting stop. There is no more mixup of over 190 different fares that were different from one operator to another on same distances on intercity rides. Train rides are slightly more expensive than buses.

See the English-language fare guide for updated information. There is a lot to read here;

  • Periodic passes are valid on any method of public transportation available with the appropriate pass, so you can freely interchange bus and Israel Railways if you have a pass that includes Israel Railways.
  • You can use this page for prices of periodic passes and their coverage distance.
  • For rail fares see the train tickets section on Rav-Kav Online, for timetables, see the Israel Railways website.
    • Be very careful when choosing fares from or to different stations of the same city. Depending on your origin station, the fare to destination differ per each station scale, not grouped per city as a whole, as it used to be before August 2022. For example, from Hadera West to Tel Aviv University it's the green fare (₪18), but to Tel Aviv Savidor Center it's the cyan fare (₪24) because that journey exceeds 40 kilometers.

Ticket validation can be done at validators in the bus. A loaded Rav-Kav, or a supported self-service mobile ticketing app, is required. If you're using Rav-Kav, it is better to validate from the validator directly: you don't need a terminal ticket booth if you already have a periodic pass or enough balance loaded. Ticket contracts can also be bought at ticket booths in terminals to be loaded on a Rav-Kav card. Exact change is not necessary: 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.

Fares are valid for both prepaid (Rav-Kav) and post-paid (mobile ticketing apps) methods of payment
Fare zone Distance Single journey Day pass Nationwide month pass Nationwide month pass bus+train Zone 1 month pass Zone 1 Eilat month pass
Bus* Bus Eilat Train Bus Bus Eilat Train
Yellow 0-15 km ₪5.5 ₪4.7 ₪9 ₪12.5 ₪10.68 ₪18 ₪225 ₪255 ₪99 ₪84.62
Green 16-40 km ₪12 ₪10.26 ₪18 ₪24 ₪20.51 ₪28
Cyan 40-75 km ₪16 ₪13.68 ₪24 ₪32 ₪37 ₪410
Blue 75-120 km ₪27 ₪42
Purple 120-225 km ₪27 ₪23.08 ₪48 ₪54 ₪74
Gray Over 225 km ₪80.10 ₪68.50 ₪74 ₪610
free
90-min transfer on journeys up to
15 km
unlimited travel
within distance level
unlimited travel
for entire month
  • * Includes bus, light rail, Metronit BRT, Technion cable car and the Carmelit

Postpaid: mobile ticketing apps[edit]

City buses in Tel Aviv

Since December 15, 2020, it has been possible to pay for your rides through mobile apps.

  • Rav-Pass (רב-פס), +972 775316747, . Support center is open on transit operation hours Su-Th 05:30-00:00. F and holidays eve from 5:30 until before start of Shabat or holiday. Sa or holiday from end of Shabat or holiday to 00:00. App run by HopOn.
  • Moovit. App run by Moovit via Pango.

The method goes as follows: you install an app, link a credit card and create your passenger profile. Israel citizens or long-term visa foreigners may as well apply for applicable discount profiles (same as with Rav-Kav below). Then, when boarding, select to pay-as-you-go for a ride. The method of doing so, varies:

  • For buses, scan the QR code in the bus, or for Metronit, you can either scan the QR code on the platform stop shed before boarding or the one in the bus, and confirm the route number, its direction, and boarding and alighting stops.
  • For Israel Railways, display a QR code generated in the app to the scanner on platform entry gates, then confirm exit when getting off at your destination and make sure to display another QR code to the exit gates (even if they are open for any reason); otherwise, you will be charged the fare for the longest possible ride. On Carmelit, an entry QR is enough as there are no exit gates.

You pay in shekels post-paid on a monthly basis for your rides done in the previous month if you used an Israeli credit card. You pay on an end-of-day charge basis if you used rides when a debit card or a foreign issued credit/debit card is linked to the passenger profile account.

Fixed one-way ride fares depend on aerial distance from ride start point to the alighting point per each ride. Free 90-minute transfers available in the entire country for yellow distance level only from the first ride start point. Please refer to the table above for fares. Day and month billing caps are available: if the total fare for the one way rides inside a distance level per each ride would exceed the day pass fare, only the day pass fare will be posted without subsequent charges for the day, and if the total one-way rides in a month would exceed the nationwide pass fare cap for a distance level, then the total will be converted to the nationwide month pass fare and no more charges will be posted for subsequent rides within the distance level.

Notes in regard to mobile ticketing:

  • Day is considered from 04:00:00 to 03:59:59 of the next day.
  • Month is considered from 04:00:00 of the 25th of month up to 03:59:59 on the 25th of the next month (month billing cycle reset).
  • 90-minutes yellow distance level transfers: from the moment of first ride start, on any transport method except Israel Railways.
  • Foreign credit card users do benefit from the month discounts, even though foreign cards are charged on a day basis. When the month cap is reached, no more charges will be posted for rides within the distance level.

Prepaid: Rav-Kav[edit]

Rav-Kav service counter and a transit information counter, both operated by Egged

Rav-Kav, . Rav-Kav (Q7296276) on Wikidata Rav-Kav on Wikipedia Rav-Kav is a card used for payment on all forms of public transport in Israel. It is the dominant form of payment, and you need to either use it or a supported mobile ticketing app in order to ride public transport in Israel. It can be charged with:

  • Israeli shekel-based stored value for single one-way rides;
  • prepaid discount deals for multiple rides on specific bus routes (phased out);
  • periodic passes that cover all transportation within a distance level in included zones.

The card offers an additional discount for registered youth, student, national insurance beneficiaries, disabled, senior citizen and others.

A Rav-Kav card

It may sometimes be possible to obtain an anonymous Rav-Kav when you board the bus and 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.). It is better to obtain one before boarding if you do not have one.

You can obtain Rav-Kav in Ben Gurion Airport, Terminal 3, Arrivals hall - at a service center post that is open Su-Th 08:00-18:00 (break 13:00-13:30), or at the service center post in the arrivals hall of Ramon Airport.

You can use the Rav-Kav Online app and a few others to charge your ticket contracts if you have an Android phone that have a supported NFC module. 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 does not work on 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. However, the cable car from HaMifratz Central Bus Station at the foot of Mount Carmel to the Technion, is classified as public transit, and thus, accept Rav-Kav and mobile ticketing apps.

Service taxis (sherut), which run on fixed routes like bus lines, do not accept the Rav-Kav, except service taxi lines 4, 2 and 5 in Tel Aviv, and a few others.

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). The card can be bought at Rav-Kav service centers, bus and train stations, stores that support recharging Rav-Kav, at Metronit ticket charge machines in Haifa, or in the ticket vending machine besides the Rav-Kav service point in Ben Gurion Airport.
Registered
Registered Rav-Kavs
includes the passenger's details and photo. Only registered Rav-Kav cards can be used to purchase extended special fare classes (like the month or 30-day pass), or to receive a youth, student, senior citizen or other 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 mailed (domestic only) 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 to the central transit databases. Only the last 6 actions are recorded on the card to allow 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). All three card types can hold up to eight different active contracts 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, or a few other 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 RavKavOnline or at HopOn. 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, 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.

You can recharge contracts at cashier's terminals at participating stores. Map is available here, here or here. Be wary of points labeled as "ATM only": see below.

You can recharge Rav-Kav at Casponet ATMs. The method is not recommended (at direct use) though, because the Casponet ATM often only offer to reload the contract types that already were on the card. It is often not what you may want to load, so it may create a false perception of which contract types there are. 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 to "renew" the ₪50 charge type that was on the card previously).

  • You can directly recharge in the ATM if you wish to try it: you insert your credit card, choose Rav-Kav button option, 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.
  • You can use the Casponet ATM indirectly (this 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 USB card reader to use the service directly). First reserve any desired contract at Rav-Kav Online website (mobile browsers also work), then insert the Rav-Kav card that you reserved a contract for, into the ATM and confirm the contract load.

It is no longer possible to recharge cards with bus drivers. 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.

Stored value[edit]

In a nutshell

To convert a loaded special profile stored value amount to a shekel value, and to find out if using available stored value will be cheaper than an available periodic pass or not, subtract the profile discount (33% or 50%) from the amount, and you get shekel value. This also works for evaluating a one-way fare amount, or a sum of all one-way fares of the transit that you plan to take for the day or month likewise, in the affected distance levels.

  • 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 discounted 33% balance = add 50% = 1.50 of discounted 33% profile balance
  • ₪1 to discounted 50% 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. The fixed amount is loaded to the card, and, if you are a special profile holder, 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 (0%) Standard Student (33%) Youth, National Insurance Beneficiary,
Disabled, Senior Citizen or Extended Student (50%)
₪30 30.00 45.00 60.00
₪50 50.00 75.00 100.00
₪100 100.00 150.00 200.00
₪150 150.00 225.00 300.00
₪200 200.00 300.00 400.00

Standard profile used to get a 20% discount by getting values of 37.5, 62.5, 125, 187.5 and 250 respectively, but that was cancelled on August 1, 2022. Existing stored value does not get converted over on any profile, so you get to keep the prior discount until you use your balance up. New reloads add up to the existing balance.

This stored value amount can then be used bit-by-bit to pay for one-way fares. If you are using stored value of a special profile, the fare is cheaper by the appropriate discount than a full-fare ticket of a standard profile passenger.

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, even when there is no longer a standard 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, its 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. Paying amounts such as ₪30.06 (that get 60.12 to discounted 50% profile balance) should be avoided, though. If the stored value balance amount (that is to be received and to be summarized with the existing balance, not the amount you pay, regardless of if you get a passenger profile discount or not) does result in a value that is not a multiple of 0.10, you will have issues using 90-minute transfers. So, if your balance does not end in xx.x0, you will pay twice on transfers on Egged, Carmelit and Superbus (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 multiples of 0.10.

You can combine reloads or load several times, such as load ₪50 then ₪30 to get 80 of standard profile balance or ₪30 twice to get 60. It's not possible, however, to have more than 999.90 of stored value credit 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 charge 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 is recommended that each passenger have their own Rav-Kav card. Most importantly, you cannot 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 choose the passenger amount on the middle door validator prior to validation and ensure the fare distance 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. To get transfers as a group, the entire validation has to be a group as one operation. On the next transport, you validate once for the entire 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 cannot start a group trip for several passengers on one card (double-use block). If you took an Egged city bus as a group first, you can transfer as a group to the light rail.
  • 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 special profile can use group travel.

90-minute transfers[edit]

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

One-way journeys for ₪5.50 in the yellow distance level have automatic free 90 minutes transfers for up to 15 kilometers from the validation on the first transport means except Israel Railways. Transfers are available for up to 15 kilometers everywhere. Travel on a higher distance level does not include any transfers.

Sometimes the buses perform their route while misconfigured. This may happen with Metropoline, Kavim and Afikim. A line that performs a long route may have the validators' and driver terminal's GPS be stuck on the wrong stop, which causes validations to be started from that stop and count your distance fare until the distance you selected, from that stuck stop. If the route goes across Zones 1 and Zone 2, you may be unable to use a Zone 1 month pass on that route, if the validator is stuck on a Zone 2 stop.

Metronit validation can be done on the platform ticketing machines, or on validators in the bus. Choose one method for validation, otherwise you will be double charged. If using the platform ticket machines, insert Rav-Kav 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 yellow distance level (₪5.50 up to 15 kilometers) 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 (or the flexible charge reload type of stored value). So, use the recharging point.

  • If you choose to reload any contract on the Rav-Kav via the Metronit platform charging point, be aware that since October 4, 2021, it does not accept recharges by cash, only credit/debit cards. Also, it is no longer possible to buy a one-ride no-transfer Metronit paper ticket from it.

Periodic passes[edit]

Periodic passes will let you ride for less 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. Distance coverage is counted per each ride separately. There are day passes that only either include bus, Metronit, Carmelit, light rail, Technion cable car, or all of them plus Israel Railways at a slightly higher price.

If you buy a day or month pass for the appropriate distance coverage level for the requested transport means, then that pass is valid for unlimited travel on those requested transport means until the furthest stop of the chosen distance level.

A "Zone 1" month pass is available for "rural" settlements for ₪99. You cannot use that one to travel in or into settlements considered in Zone 2. You must either use a single ride, a distance level day pass, or the nationwide pass without or with Israel Railways to cross zones.

On Rav-Kav Online you can choose a validity start day in advance as well. Advance selling times vary 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 03:59 the next day (i.e., for 28 hours). 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 validator will ask you which one of your passes to validate on.
  • A flexible 31 days pass is valid from midnight of the first chosen day, and for 31 days until 03:59 on the 32nd day. They cannot be loaded on anonymous cards.
  • A calendar 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. Calendar month passes are only sold between the 25th of the previous month until the 5th of the month of their validity. They are not valid until the 1st of the month for which they are purchased. They cannot be loaded on anonymous cards.
  • Israel Railways only sells the flexible 31 day pass type. Other transit operators usually stick to the calendar month pass in their own recharge points. The two types are interchangeable, so a calendar month pass of a distance level which includes trains is valid on trains, and a flexible pass loaded in the middle of a month from Israel Railways 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 calendar month passes if you load at the start of a 31-day 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 buy semester and annual passes for any chosen zones. There are two types of student passenger profiles:

  • Standard Student: is a student who did not buy 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 buy a semester or annual pass for any chosen distance levels, and is receiving 50% discount for all stored value rides done outside of the distance level of their pass's start point, and may use standard profile passes for areas not included in their obtained semester or annual passes.

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

Senior citizen over 75 years travel free on a special free usage profile freeride contract.

Multi-ride contracts[edit]

This contract type consists of pre-loaded trips for the chosen distance level only, to be used in a certain region on certain routes. The ones that included more than one ride are phased out as of January 2020. One-ride contracts are available for cases when you would not want to commit for a stored value load. Though all the routes are covered with stored value or periodic passes, therefore it is not recommended to commit on these multi-ride contracts.

You can load more than one one-ride contract, but they won't stack. They will occupy one of the eight contract records available on the card.

If you had unused rides on the one-ride contracts for Tel-Aviv or Jerusalem that were available before August 2022, you can still use them. However, in case you still have loaded unused rides on older cancelled multi-ride contracts of other routes 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, ticket fare codes 1, 3, 4, 6, 8, 10, 12, 21, 24, 26, 28, 50, 52;
  • Lines of Electra Afikim (Egged Transport) in the Judaea area, ticket fare codes 24, 51, 52, 53, 54, 55, 56, 57, 58, 61, 63.

Other details[edit]

When paying on a bus with the Rav-Kav on stored value, select the desired distance level on the validator and keep your paper receipt for the duration of the ride in case of inspection. Validators at the middle doors won't give you a paper receipt but display your ride on the screen. Inspection will scan the card.

Cases of misconfigured bus validations for the wrong distance level due to validator being stuck on the wrong stop, and cases of double charges in 90-minute transfers, may be sorted in the Rav-Kav service centers of the affected operator only.

Eilat[edit]

Egged buses lined up in Eilat

Buses to and from Eilat are better to be reserved in advance (at a ticket booth, by phone, internet, or the Egged mobile app). It may be possible to board just before departure without a reservation and pay the appropriate distance level 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.

To do so, you pick the seat reservation slip from the ticketing machine. The confirmation number is shown when you confirm the reservation in the app, so write it down. You board the bus and pay the fare using Rav-Kav stored value. All other buses are first come first served.

A Zone 1 Eilat month pass is available for ₪84.62 for distance level up to 40 kilometers.

Heavy rail[edit]

Israel Railways single one-way paper ticket from Petah Tikva Kiryat Arye to Tel Aviv haShalom

At each station there are ticket machines you can use to buy one-way rides for the distance level as paper tickets without discounts, or load them as ticket contracts to the Rav-Kav. Pass on the platform entry gates to start using the ticket. Be sure to validate on the exit gates at your destination, for the used ticket to be closed and no longer occupy one of the 8 slots of the card. You can use cash or credit cards to load one-way tickets, recharge the stored value balance, or get periodic pass contracts that include railways. It is no longer possible to get round-trip tickets, neither on paper tickets without Rav-Kav, nor as 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. This is recommended, as you won't get a special profile discount if you load a separate one-way contract. If you need to evaluate the fare beforehand, you may use Rav-Kav Online here - the fares are the same for stored value as well but use stored value units instead of shekels. 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. The stored value deduction occurs on the entry gates to the platforms.

Since March 4, 2021, it became possible to use stored value directly without prior pre-validation. You must make sure to have at least 30.00 balance units loaded (even if the fare to destination is below that) or enough balance to cover the fare to destination if it is higher. Entry without enough balance is considered ride without a ticket and is subject to a fine. There is no option to top-up for a fare fix while located inside the controlled area (after the platform entry gates), and if you use apps to top-up your balance while already inside, Rav-Kav will lose the entry-exit event chain and will not let you to exit at your destination, because the latest recorded event on the card in that case will be not an entry to the origin station, but a balance reload. You cannot use the direct stored value method if you have any additional active contract other than stored value loaded (including those that are not valid for entry to the origin station), and must use the pre-validation method above.

You cannot validate several passengers on a single Rav-Kav ticket contract when using Israel Railways. It is recommended to obtain a card for each passenger if you wish to use the railways as a group. Or you can use standard profile stored value towards issuing paper tickets for additional passengers, choose the option to "use towards paper ticket" on the stored value entry after getting the Rav-Kav contents on the ticket machine. Special profile holders cannot issue paper tickets using this option.

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, Rav-Pass/Bus Nearby 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. Rail fares are on Rav-Kav Online. A handy tool on the Israel Railways 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.

Israel Railways operates a fleet of relatively modern trains with a lot of multiple units manufactured by Bombardier and Siemens, which look like the same class of vehicles in use in continental Europe, including a red paint scheme reminiscent of Deutsche Bahn. Israel Railways also uses Danish IC3. In general, Israeli rail lines are built to continental European standards.

The 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. Since then, electrification has progressed on more and more lines. There are plans to eventually electrify the entire network with the possible exception of the old Jaffa Jerusalem line. Some sources may therefore be outdated, but Israel Railways 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 or missing. 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.

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. 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 are not supposed to get off at a stop that is designated as boarding only (such as a bus station boarding platform stop, which follow the alighting platform stop).

Many bus stops have real-time arrival info screens, although as of autumn 2021 they do not work correctly due to Ministry of Transport undergoing some extended maintenance on these systems. It's best to find real-time info in smartphone apps such as Rav-Pass/Bus Nearby, EfoBus and Moovit instead.

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 Shabbat 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, although as of autumn 2021 its website is undergoing maintenance and may not correctly display any routes other than Egged.
  • 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 Shabbat to 23:00. The official site of Israel's largest bus operator. Works great for its own routes but does not provide information about 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.
  • Bus Nearby (אוטובוס קרוב). 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 a smartphone app for tracking real-time arrival times for your stop, and for trip planning.
  • EfoBus (איפה בוס). 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 a smartphone app for tracking real-time arrival times for your stop, and for trip planning.
  • Moovit. Privately run public transportation app. Provides real-time bus arrival times for your stop, and trip planning, although schedules aren't always correct. 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 operate 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. The line serving Nahariyya to Ben Gurion Airport, and one line along the Southern Coastal Plain to Beer Sheva, do operate during the night. 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. 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. Trains do have accessible toilets.

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 non-foldable bikes aboard. 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 check before traveling.

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]

Gender-segregated bus stop in Beit Shemesh

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, passengers may self-segregate, with men sitting in the front of the bus and women in the back. When you get on a bus in Haredi areas, you may choose to follow the lead of the passengers who are already on it or insist on your legal right to sit where you please. It is illegal for any passenger to tell another passenger where they may sit; the bus driver is obligated to assist in these situations.

It is considered impolite to sit next to a stranger of the opposite sex if there are other seats available. If you do sit next to a Haredi member of the opposite sex, they may 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 operating, but it makes the routes slower. A disadvantage is that they often operate less frequently, so check the schedule first. They often operate at times other buses do not, especially early morning and 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 object, 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 the driver 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.

This travel topic about Public transit in Israel has guide status. It has good, detailed information covering the entire topic. Please contribute and help us make it a star!