Are you planning a visit to Israel, one of the easiest ways of getting around as a family is to hire a car.
If you are planning a road trip across Israel, let us tell you that it has a quick and quiet highway, with excellent roads in and around Tel Aviv, Eilat, and Nazareth for driving. Plus, it is a small country, and it takes hardly six hours to drive across it!
Therefore, for all road trip enthusiasts, we have put together a complete guide on hiring a car in Israel and some valuable tips for driving on Israeli roads.
How to Hire a Car in Israel?
When it comes to travelling across Israel, the best option is to hire a car. Why? Because it gives you the flexibility to go wherever you want according to your time and convenience. However, we suggest hiring a car in Jerusalem or Tel Aviv because all the major car rental companies have offices in these two cities.
In Jerusalem, you will find rental companies on King David Street, while in Tel Aviv, you can rent a car from the offices near Gordon and Frishman beaches.
Once you have decided which company to rent a car from, it’s time for the documentation. If you have your local driver’s license with you in English, you won’t need an International Driver’s Permit; however, if your driver’s license is in some other language, you will need an IDP along with the local driver’s license.
But just to be safe and avoid any inconvenience, we suggest always carrying your International Driver’s Permit with you.
Tips for Driving in Israel
Now that you’re all set to start your road trip, let us take you through some of the driving rules in Israel. If you road trip frequently, you’ll observe that most rules are the same worldwide; however, it’s always good to know them.
1. Legal Age for Car Rental
The legal age for renting a car in Israel is 21 years. Plus, you must be a driver’s license holder for at least a year to be eligible to rent a car in Israel.
2. Driving Side
Driving in Israel is on the right side of the road (the steering wheel is on the left). Therefore, if you’re coming from somewhere where they drive on the left, you’ll have to either take a short driving lesson or stay vigilant while driving, as a change of side can get a bit tricky for newcomers!
3. Traffic Conditions and Alternatives
If you’re road-tripping across Isreal, chances are you’ll be taking Highway 1, connecting Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. Highway 1 sees the most traffic all week till Saturday; therefore, plan your trip accordingly at a different time. Or you could take an alternative route via Highways 2, 4, and 6. While the roads are in excellent condition, you might experience heavy winds while driving.
4. Road Signs
The road signs on the highways and main roads in Israel are in multiple languages, including Arabic and English. However, the road signs in the city, especially in small streets and parking lots, are in Hebrew. So, either learn a little Hebrew, or get help from a local to translate road signs for you, as you will get fined if you don’t follow them!
5. Parking Rules
You may find it a bit unique, but many areas in Israel have colour-coded parking. This means that parking spaces have colours on them that indicate different meanings. For instance, if you see a red and white sign in a parking space, you can’t park there. However, a blue and white sign means you can park for a fee.
And if you find a parking space with no sign, you can park there for free. If you wrongly park a car, you can get fined by the hour, so be very vigilant about the parking rules in Israel.
Finding a parking space in Israel can be quite challenging. You can expect to spend $20 solely on parking in the city! Therefore, parking apps like Cello Park and Citypark can be lifesavers if you want to save up!
6. Gas Stations
One thing that really needs improvement in Israel is the availability of gas stations! You won’t find them that frequently while travelling across the country. For instance, there are only a few gas stations in Jerusalem, while Tel Aviv has a handful. You might come across gas stations on the highway, but only near populated areas. So the trick to travelling safely across Israel is to get your tank filled whenever you come across a gas station.
Coming to the signs at gas stations in Israel, they are entirely in Hebrew! You might need help understanding them; therefore, always ask an attendant to fill the gas for you.
The navigation in some areas of Israel can be confusing, and you may need help finding your way; however, driving on the highway is easier compared to the central city. Whether driving in the city or on the highway, we suggest installing a GPS app on your smartphone to avoid any inconvenience. Apps like iOnRoad and TourPal are great for this purpose.
8. Speed Limits
The speed limits in Israel vary from road to road. For instance, 60 to 75 mph (100 to 120 km/h) is the standard speed limit; however, if you’re driving in an urban area, you must observe a speed limit of 31 mph (50 km/h). Similarly, for non-urban areas, the speed limit is 50 mph (80 km/h).
If you fail to observe speed limits, you will get fined. And if you flee Israel without paying for the ticket, you’ll get the ticket in your home country with additional administrative fees.
9. Traffic Lights
Traffic lights indicate the same thing worldwide; red means stop, and green means go. However, the yellow light indicates that the signal is changing from red to green or vice versa. In Israel, a flashing green light is a signal for a changing traffic light. So, the next time you see the green signal light flashing, wait for it to change before moving.
10. Additional Road Rules
The other road rules in Israel are almost the same as any other country; however, it’s always good to know to be safe.
- Wear a seatbelt at all times while driving.
- Don’t use cell phones while driving unless they have hands-free.
- From November through March, you should always keep your headlights on when driving on the highway.
- You cannot turn right at a red light.
Now that you know the various rules for driving in Israel, let’s take you through some alternatives to self-driving.
Alternatives to Self-Driving in Israel
If you’re visiting Israel and don’t want to self-drive across the country, here are some alternate options:
1. Local Bus
Almost all the big cities of Israel have local bus routes connecting hotels and major tourist attractions. However, you need a Rav Kav card, a reloadable card required to travel in local buses. You can pick it up from the airport and get it refilled from kiosks around the city.
2. Shuttle Service
Another alternative to self-driving in Israel is taking a shuttle service. You will get a free ride from the airport to the train station and on to the Old City in a shuttle. The shuttle service costs the same as a taxi; however, it offers car seats to passengers with babies.
Getting a taxi to travel around the city is also a good idea. For one, the local drivers know their way around the city, and secondly, you can visit sites and attractions on your own terms.
Israel has a bike-sharing service called Tel-o-Fun. They have more than 200 bike stands all over Tel Aviv, and as long as you intend to get around the city only, you can rent a bike. The cost of renting a bike for 3 days is around $13; however, you can also pay by the hour, and the first 30 minutes of renting a bike are free!
Pro Tip: If you’re visiting Israel over the weekend, you won’t find any public transport due to Shabbath. Therefore, renting a car is the best option for a weekend visit, while on weekdays you can avail of public transport options to get around the city.
Driving Distance from Tel Aviv
If you are staying in Tel Aviv, here are the driving distances from the city to nearby popular destinations:
|Destination from Tel Aviv||Distance|
|Jerusalem||70.9 km (1 hour 15 minutes)|
|Dead Sea||100 km (2 hours 30 minutes)|
|Red Sea||1349 km (18 hours)|
|Eilat||343.1 km (4 hours)|
|Nazareth||104.6 km (1 hour 24 minutes)|
|Bethelem||71.1 km (1 hour 15 minutes)|
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