Demystifying Jerusalem’s Public Transportation

How to get around Jerusalem during your next Israel Vacation

egged busIsrael is a small country. Combining that with a great bus system makes it really easy for citizens and tourists to get around. Simply board a bus (it’s a good idea to verify that you’re on the right one), and you can get anywhere in the country. Don’t worry about missing your stop – fellow passengers are usually very friendly and helpful (sometimes overwhelmingly so!), and you can also ask the driver to tell you when to get off. Many of the buses in Jerusalem stop at the Tachana HaMerkazit (Central Bus Station) or Binyanei HaUma (a convention center/concert hall), which are right across the street from each other. There is a tunnel below the street, which provides an interesting and easy way to get from one to the other.

tachane hamerkazitBus fares are very reasonable, and most bus stops are marked with a yellow metal “flag”. The Egged bus company operates most of the intra-city Jerusalem bus lines, and most buses in Israel are wheelchair friendly. Some buses and bus stations around Israel bear the inscription “You shall rise before the aged and show deference to the old” — a quote from Leviticus, which encourages courtesy among passengers. Be forewarned: the Middle Eastern mentality does include a little bit of shoving, so if there’s a large crowd waiting to get on the bus, don’t be afraid to assert yourself firmly (but politely) when others try to push ahead of you.

bus transferIn December of 2011, the transportation service opened the Jerusalem light rail, which offers a train route which connects numerous areas in Jerusalem. Many bus routes were rearranged to accommodate the train route; this makes it even easier to get around Jerusalem quickly.Taking the train can often shave a nice amount of time off your travel, as the trains don’t have to fight traffic. Esther Malka, Travel Coordinator at the GoInspire NY office, relates: “When I worked in the Jerusalem office (which is located in the Old City,) rather than wait for a bus at the Kotel which could take a half hour to show up, and then sitting in rush hour traffic, I would walk to a train stop nearby, and switch to a bus at Tachana HaMerkazit. It took me half the time to get home!”

Trains depart every 10 minutes, and more often during rush hour. Tickets must be purchased at the station before boarding the train, at which time you activate the ticket by dropping it into a machine right at the entrance/exit.

rav kavThe fare for a ride on a bus or the Jerusalem light rail currently cost 6.60 shekels (about $1.90 USD) within Jerusalem. Transfers are free within 90 minutes of payment, and passengers can transfer between buses, or between the light rail and the bus. This means that if you have a quick errand to do, you might be able to get back home without having to pay again. A smart card called a Rav Kav is available, which enables commuters to purchase ten rides at 5.50 shekels each. Each time you get on the bus or train, you swipe the Rav Kav card in the card reader and the appropriate fare is deducted from the balance.

When you’re waiting at a bus stop, extend your hand or finger (also the Israeli hitchhiking sign) to flag down the driver as the bus you’re waiting for approaches. (If the driver doesn’t realize that you’re waiting for his/her particular bus, he may drive by without stopping.) Warning: do not wave. Some drivers think that means you are signaling him to pass you by.

bus stopMost bus services stop running approximately a couple of hours before sunset on Friday, and resume shortly after sunset on Saturday. Occasionally, inspections are conducted on the bus, so don’t be alarmed. If a uniformed inspector approaches, just offer your card up for inspection and you will get it right back.

A final point: The Moovit app is very helpful in determining when the next bus is coming. And Google Maps is helpful for determining which bus you need.

Bon Voyage! (Or, as they say in Israel, Nesiya Tova!)

Of course, if you are participating in a GoInspire trip, you won’t have to worry about navigating the bus or rail system! We take care of all your transportation needs so you can travel in comfort and with ease. Click here for a list of our upcoming trips.

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4 Comments on Demystifying Jerusalem’s Public Transportation

  1. IsraelFan123 says:

    What does intra-city mean?

  2. Intra-city means within the city rather than between two cities – which is inter-city.
    I think Egged runs most inter-city buses too.

    • IsraelFan123 says:

      Cool! Thanks for the explanation…

      Do the inter-city buses cost more than the regular buses within Jerusalem?

      • Esther Malka Jundef says:

        Inter-city buses cost more, as they are traveling to a more distant destination.
        The fare depends on the city you are going to.

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