Getting Around Jerusalem
The best ways to get around Jerusalem are on foot or by taxi. Many of the city's top attractions are within walking distance of one another inside or just beyond the Old City walls. When you're looking to expand your stomping grounds, taxis are extremely convenient (albeit a little pricey). The transportation company, Egged, provides public bus service within the city and many points around the country. Egged also services Ben Gurion International Airport (TLV), about 38 miles northwest of Jerusalem on the outskirts of Tel Aviv. However, the bus system isn't intuitive for foreign visitors. Travelers usually will have better luck with the new light rail system, which opened in 2011.
|On Foot||If you're planning to spend the majority of your time in or around the Old City, your feet are all you need to get around. This part of the city is extremely compact and walkable. Also, depending on how far you intend to go, walking may suffice in East and West Jerusalem as well. If not, taxis are easy to hail.|
Egged offers extensive bus service throughout Jerusalem and to nearby destinations such as Ben Gurion Airport, Tel Aviv, and the Dead Sea. Single rides cost roughly 5.30 ILS ($1.40 USD) and can be purchased on the bus and at the Central Bus Station on Yafo Street in West Jerusalem. Three additional bus companies—Dan, Metropoline, and Kavim—operate buses that run through the city and to other parts of Israel. For the best bargain, invest in a Rav Kav card (also available at the Central Bus Station). These rechargeable cards are valid on all four bus lines, as well as the light rail system. Note: You will be purchasing an "anonymous" Rav Kav card, without a photo, with an issuing fee of 5 ILS (about $1.32 USD). You can then add money as needed. Day passes are also available.
In August, 2011, the city welcomed Jerusalem Light Rail Transit (JLRT), a project that had been in the works since the mid-1990s. Currently, the light rail system only features one line, which traverses West Jerusalem. The line starts at Mount Herzl in the west and ends at Heil Ha-Avir, a northeast suburb. While it circumvents the Old City, the light rails stops at key places such as the Central Bus Station and Damascus Gate. Trains operate Sunday through Thursday from 5:30 a.m. to around midnight. On Friday, trains operate between 5:30 a.m. until around 4 p.m., and Saturday trains run between 7 a.m. and midnight. However, bear in mind that schedules are not always consistent. Single rides cost 6.60 ILS (about $1.75 USD), and tickets can be purchased at all light rail stations. If you plan on frequenting the JLRT, consider investing in a Rav Kav card. You can purchase this rechargeable card at the Central Bus Station for 5 ILS (roughly $1.32 USD), and you will need to add money to cover your travels.
Taxis may be more expensive than public transportation, but they're more convenient. You can hail a taxi right from the street. Taxis look like regular cars with a light on the roof. All taxis are required to charge by the meter, although you may have to insist that the meter be turned on if you get a stubborn driver. At night and on the weekends (during the Sabbath), taxi fares are generally 25 percent higher than usual. Tipping isn't common or expected, but if you were very happy with the service, five percent will suffice.
If you're planning on taking a taxi from Ben Gurion Airport, you can save money by using a Sherut, or shared taxi. These shuttle-like minivans generally seat between seven and 12 passengers. You do not need to reserve your spot in advance; the airport features several pick-up areas separated by destination within the city. Rides to and from the airport range from 37.00 ILS to 59.00 ILS ($10 to $16 USD) depending on where in Jerusalem you are going to or coming from.
|Car||We do not recommend renting a car in Jerusalem. Although the streets are fairly easy to navigate, traffic is common, and Israeli drivers tend to be aggressive. Plus, you can access any part of the city (as well as areas outside of the city) by taxi, Sherut, or bus. If you do decide to rent your own wheels, you'll find several rental agencies at Ben Gurion Airport. In order to drive in Israel, you will need a valid international driver's license. You can apply for one here.|
Entry & Exit Requirements
The Israeli government does not require your passport to be valid for at least six months after your arrival, but many airlines do. You will also need to show a return or onward ticket and sufficient proof of funds to enter the country. Expect heightened security screenings at the airport; the Israeli government has been known to deny travelers entry based on background checks. The government will also deny entry to anyone looking to travel to the West Bank or Gaza. You can learn more by visiting the U.S. State Department website.