Transportation - Get In
Israel's main entry point for the international traveller, Ben Gurion International Airport, is next to the highway linking Tel Aviv and Jerusalem (Highway 1). Travel from the airport to the center of Jerusalem takes 40–50 minutes, or more if there is traffic.
- By shuttle - The 'Nesher' shared taxi service (+972 2 623 1231 - Hebrew and English) is a 10-seat minibus that runs approximately hourly services to/from the airport, 24/7. Fare is around ₪70 one way per person. From the airport, the shuttle waits on the curb outside the Terminal 3 arrival hall - follow signage to the Jerusalem shuttle. The shuttle departs when full, and will take you to the address of your choice in Jerusalem (note: they have been known to refuse to enter some East Jerusalem neighborhoods, so check with your hotel, or be prepared to take a local taxi to/from a hotel where they do pick up). Going to the airport, you must reserve your seat in advance by phone. Be on time for the pickup — they don't wait. You will be dropped at Terminal 3 in the airport. Drivers have been known to shortchange you, so check the price before boarding, and check your change when it is handed back to you. If you can't afford a private taxi, Nesher is probably the best way to get between the airport and Jerusalem, though you will hate them for their rude customer service, and for taking you from address to address in Jerusalem until your address is reached. Occasionally competitors to Nesher open and fail. A real alternative to Nesher will probably have to wait for the new Jerusalem train line to open.
- By taxi - A private taxi to/from Jerusalem will cost around ₪150-200 (tourist map in Jerusalem quotes official flat price ₪197; however this is hard to reach, we were asked for about ₪300 to get to the airport, and finally paid ₪250). The driver may choose to take road 443, which goes through the West Bank on the way to Jerusalem, in which case you go through an army check-point along the way. If you are a group of three people, the taxi is price-competitive with Nesher. If you are two people, it is more expensive than Nesher, but worth it for the convenience.
- By bus - There is no direct bus between Jerusalem and the airport terminal. Take shuttle bus #5 to "Tzomet El Al" (El Al road junction), then bus #947 to Jerusalem's central bus station. To get to the airport, reverse this. In either case, tell the first bus driver your final destination, to get a cheaper combined ticket. You may ask the driver to announce where to change buses. One ticket for the whole way cost around ₪22, as of March 2016. Check the schedules of buses #5 and #947 before attempting this.
- By train - The train does not run from Jerusalem to the airport yet. There is a train line under construction, due to open in 2018. Currently, you can take the train to Tel Aviv and transfer there to a slow Jerusalem train (schedule).
Atarot Airport, in northern Jerusalem close to Ramallah, was upgraded to take international flights, but given the security situation, it became impractical to operate. The airport has been closed since 2001 and is slated to be demolished with a new neighborhood built in its place. Some maps and signs still point to the closed airport.
Jerusalem is connected to the Israel Railway network, but the service, which follows the route of the 1892 Jaffa-Jerusalem line, is noted for its scenery rather than speed. Use the train if you have plenty of time and want to see nice mountain scenery, but not if you are in a hurry.
From Tel Aviv, take the Jerusalem route, with stops at Lod (where you can make connections to Beer Sheva, Ashkelon and Rishon LeZion), Ramla,Bet Shemesh, and arrive at Jerusalem's Malkha train station, which is inconveniently located in the south of the city. The old train station in the city center is currently out of service. A few trains also stop at the Jerusalem Biblical Zoo station, but it is within walking distance from Malkha station.
Journey time from Tel Aviv Merkaz/Savidor station to Malkha station is about 1.5 hr. There's one train per hour 05.54-19.54 on weekdays, 05.25-14.25 (15.25 in summer) on Friday, 20.10 (22.10 in summer) on Saturday. Trains from Malkha depart on weekdays 05.44-21.41 (the last one only as far as Lod), on Friday 06.00-13.56 (14.56 in summer), on Saturday at 19.47 (21.47 in summer).
From the train station there are several buses to destinations in and around Jerusalem. To downtown take bus #77 or #18, and ask for "MerKaz Ha-ir". To the central bus station, #5 is the fastest, though the #6 and #32 are alternatives. Taxis are also available.
A faster rail link (connecting Jerusalem to Tel Aviv in half an hour and Ben Gurion Airport in 20 minutes) is under construction and is scheduled to open in 2018. Its terminus will be an underground station next to the central bus station.
Bus services to Jerusalem from Ben Gurion International Airport and most Israeli cities are frequent, cheap, and efficient. Egged is almost the only operator of intercity buses to and from Jerusalem, as well as the entire urban network. To check on these services look at its website or dial *2800 from any phone.
Most intercity buses arrive at the so-called Central Bus Station (CBS) at the western edge of Jaffa Street, the city's main road. There is a light rail stop just outside the CBS, and many city buses stop there too.
Two Egged bus routes connect Tel Aviv to the Jerusalem CBS. Route 405 leaves the Tel Aviv CBS about every 20 minutes from 5:50AM-midnight. Route 480 leaves the Arlozorov station (the central train station) about every 10 minutes from 5:50AM-0:10AM. Each route takes about an hour and costs about 18 NIS.
From the CBS it is a long but enjoyable walk (or short light rail ride) along Jaffa Road to the centre of West Jerusalem and further on to the Old City. Intercity buses arrive and depart inside the station building, and city buses outside of it (both in front of the building, and on Shazar Blvd. one block to the south). When exiting the CBS, turn left to walk towards the city, or turn right to find the city buses. (Finding your way when you leave the CBS for the first time can be a confusing experience, since there are almost no city maps around. There should be maps of the area within each bus shelter outside the station.) Note that buses do not run on Shabbat—from half an hour before sunset on Friday till after sunset on Saturday. Hours vary by the time of year. In December (winter solstice) Shabbat starts as early as 3:55PM and ends at 5:15, while in June (summer solstice) Shabbat starts as late as 7:10 and ends at 8:30.
By shared taxi
On the Sabbath, and very late at night, your only option is a sherut (shared taxi). These depart from Tel Aviv's Central Bus Station and Ben Gurion Airport, and charge a small surcharge on top of the normal bus fare. As of mid-2012 a sherut costs 23 NIS (28 NIS at night, 33 NIS at Shabbat) and drops you off downtown, not far from Zion Square.
Shared taxis are also the best option if travelling from Jerusalem to Palestinian cities, especially Ramallah and Bethlehem. The main bus station (On Sultan Suleiman street, next to the Rockfeler Museum) serves the surrounding Palestinian towns and villages, including Abu-Dis (Line 36), and Bethlehem (Line 124), those buses are colored mostly in blue strips. Another bus terminal, on Nablus road (Straight on from the Damascus gate) serves Ramallah, other main Palestinian cities. There is a shared taxi direct to/from the Allenby bridge (The border crossing with Jordan), for 38 NIS plus 4 NIS (Dec 2011) per luggage (picking up from Al-Souq Al-Tijaree "The commercial souq" not far away from the main bus station).
All Palestinian shared taxis are very cheap, 5.00 NIS for the surrounding villages, 5.50 NIS for Abu-Dis and 6.50 NIS for Ramallah.
There are no Israeli sherut lines within Jerusalem (unlike most Israeli cities). But there are sherut lines to Tel Aviv and Beit Shemesh as well as the airport.
Transportation - Get Around
Cabs are plentiful in the city of gold. You can probably flag one down quickly by walking to the nearest busy street. Just in case this doesn't work, it is good to have the number of a cab company ready, or to install the Gett smartphone app.
Be warned as the drivers may try to rip you off by "taking the scenic route" or charging a fixed price instead of on the meter. Insist that the driver turns on the meter (moneh) and you should have no problems. If the driver will not activate the meter, get out and take a different one. If you have the meter on, cabs are relatively cheap.
Note that a private taxi is called "moneet" in Hebrew, and "taxi" by Arabs. Both differ from the shared taxi ("sherut" or "servees"), which runs fixed routes for many people like a bus.
Driving a car in Jerusalem is not recommended. In the central areas (roughly between the Central Bus Station and the Old City), the main streets are mostly reserved for public transportation, and the streets cars can go on are narrow and very confusing to navigate. Elsewhere in the city, it is easy to drive, but still hard to find parking. If you can't rely on public transportation, taxis are probably a better option than cars.
If you insist on visiting the Old City by car, park in the Karta garage in Mamilla, close to Jaffa Gate. Only Old City residents are allowed to drive into the Old City.
By light rail
The Jerusalem Light Rail line opened in 2011. It links the north-eastern neighborhoods to the south-western neighborhoods, runs along the western side of the Old City, and passes through the city center. Additional lines are planned to be constructed later.
The light rail runs past many areas of interest to tourists. Listed from east to west:
- the Old City (Damascus Gate and City Hall stations)
- the West Jerusalem city center - King George and Ben Yehuda streets (Jaffa Center station)
- the Mahaneh Yehuda market (Mahane Yehuda station)
- the Central Bus Station (Central Station)
- Mount Herzl and Yad Vashem (Mount Herzl station)
The ticket price is around 6 NIS. When you get on, tap your card against the reader. The fare inspectors are very unfriendly if they catch you not having paid correctly, even accidentally!
The light rail runs from about 05:30 to midnight. Its frequency is every 6 minutes during the day and less often at night. Like buses, it does not run on the Sabbath.
Buses are the main form of public transportation in areas not served by the light rail. Jewish and Arab bus companies run separate bus networks in Jerusalem, serving Jewish and Arab neighborhoods respectively, although there is some overlap.
The Arab bus network, in East Jerusalem, is run by Al-Safariat Al-Mowahadda ("The united traveling service"). It mainly consists of lines running radially to Arab neighborhoods from two bus stations near Damascus Gate.
The Jewish bus network is run by Egged bus company. It serves everywhere in West Jerusalem, as well as the Old City and Jewish neighborhoods in East Jerusalem. It is more useful for tourists, and also easier to get information about. Unlike Arab buses, its fare is integrated with the light rail (one ticket will get you unlimited rides on bus and light rail for 90 minutes after your first boarding). Also unlike Arab buses, Jewish buses do not operate on the Sabbath.
The official map of Egged routes is available here. This map is not kept up to date when routes change, but as of 2016, the changes from this map are very minor. Most routes run every 15-20 minutes or better. City buses have a fixed fare of about 6 NIS, paid upon boarding. Keep your receipt as proof of payment in case of inspection.
It is possible to pay the fare in cash, and the driver gives change. However, it is highly recommended to use the the "Rav Kav" smart card for payment instead. Free transfers to other lines are available only when using the Rav Kav.
While Jerusalem is built in a mountainous area, the central areas of the city are rather flat and very walkable. Due to the altitude, the humidity level of Jerusalem is much lower than most cities in Israel, making walking quite pleasant. The Old City has to be toured by foot, not only because it is more impressive this way, but also because its narrow lanes and alleyways are mostly inaccessible to cars.
In recent years, a number of bike paths have opened in Jerusalem. However, the rights of cyclists are not always respected: you will frequently find bike paths blocked, and drivers will expect cyclists to give right of way, though they will not intentionally harm you if you force the right of way.
Bike rentals are available at the Abraham Hostel (67 Hanevi'im, Davidka square), as well as at Bilu Bikes (7 Bilu), among other places. The city does not provide bike sharing.
Bike Jerusalem. This 3-5 hour guided tour covers most of Jerusalem's historical neighborhoods, including many places that most visitors never get to see. The tour includes The Knesset, The Valley of the Cross, Rehavia and Talbia, The German Colony, Mishkanit Shananim, Jaffa Gate the Russian Compound and Nachlaot. The ride goes through side streets, short cuts and alleys. Despite the hills around Jerusalem, the ride in the city is not as hard as people tend to think, and the ride can be modified to suit families and inexperienced riders. The Jerusalem Night ride includes a ride through the empty streets of the Old City.
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