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Bus travel in Israel

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Buses are the most common form of public transportation for Israelis and travellers alike. There are several bus companies in Israel, including:

The bus transport system is undergoing changes in recent years, as Egged and Dan were phased out of many of their former routes to be replaced by other companies. In general, the new companies offer cheaper fares than the two old companies, which were the only operators for most of the country's history. The quality of service of the new companies varries from very good to poor, not only between companies but also between regions of the same company (for example, Connex' service in Ashdod region is considered very good, but its service in Modi'in gets low marks).

Fares and tickets

Fares are considerably lower than most Western European and North American countries. A single urban ride cost 5.80NIS in Tel Aviv and 6.20NIS in Jerusalem and Haifa, but could be as low as 2.50NIS in smaller cities. Intercity fares don't follow a nationwide fare system, so you can find significant differences between journeys of similar length. The most expensive journey is between Haifa and Eilat, that cost 70NIS one way.

Tickets can be bought from drivers on the bus or at ticket booths in terminals. Exact fare is not necessary, and drivers or cashiers would give change from notes up to 10 times of the fare (so you can use 50NIS note for in-city rides worth 5.20 to 5.60NIS, 100NIS notes for fares over 10NIS, 200NIS notes for fares over 20NIS). Payment by credit card is accepted at ticket booths for fares over 22NIS.

In general, journeys with connection require separate ticket for each segment. Transfer tickets (Kartis Hemshekh or Kartis Ma'avar) are available only in few places (usually when a journey that used to be direct changes and requires connection). One-hour transfer ticket is available on Jerusalem and Haifa urban network, and few other cities.

Multi-ride tickets, giving reduction of 15-20%, are available in the form of two-ride (or return) tickets and so-called Kartisiya for 5 to 20 journeys with the same fare on the same company. These multi-ride tickets can be used by several passengers. Daily pass (Hofshi Yomi) is available in some cities, including Tel Aviv, and there is a wide range of monthly passes (Hofshi Hodshi) designed for commuters. Recently, Egged and Dan introduced a new ticket for students of unlimited travel for the entire semester or academic year.

Reservation is available only for buses to/from Eilat, and can be done at a ticket booth, by phone or internet or text message.

Recently a new smart card, called Rav-Kav [1] (Hebrew: רב-קו), was introduced. Its aim is to integrate the payment system for all the companies in the country thus simplifying the use of public transport and to replace all existing paper tickets.

The card can be charged with pay as you go credit and with special fare cards (called contracts) like a daily or monthly pass or a multi-ride ticket. Once implemented, apart for a regular single fare, no paper cards will be sold (Dan will stop selling paper multi-ride cards and daily/monthly passes on March 1st 2010).

It can be obtained at service points throughout the country (most central bus stations and terminals will have one) and usually it will be issued free of charge (provided you charge it with credit). The card can be charged at any service point or by the bus driver, there is a 20% discount for each charge (by adding 25% to the amount of money that was charged).

For now, the card must be charged separately for each company so a service point or a driver of one company cannot charge the card for another company. In case of a card problem you must contact the company that issued the card.

There are 2 types of cards:
Unregistered: An anonymous card that can be charged with money or with some special fare products (like a regular multi-ride).
Registered: Includes the passenger's details and photo. This type is obligatory for some special fare cards, like the daily and monthly pass or for receiving a youth, student or senior citizen discount. A registered card is insured for loss or theft. The passenger's usage history will be recorded and saved for statistical purposes.

Current problems (06 February 2010):
- Due to the lack of a central clearing system the card must be charged separately for each company. According to the Ministry of Transport the system will be operative within a year.
- The card does not provide free transfers between different lines.
- Only 8, of the 12 companies, are currently using the card. During 2010 all companies, including Egged, are expected to implement it.
- Israel Railways is set to implement the card only in 2011.

Information

The level of passenger information provided by the companies is quite poor, especially for those who do not understand Hebrew fluently. Unfortunately, if your Hebrew reading skills aren't up to scratch, it can be quite difficult to get information on bus routes, departure times and fares. Each company is responsible for information on its service, and won't help you if the service you're looking for is operated by another company.

At stations and stops

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 are arranged by Hebrew alphabet, and in big terminals it might take a few minutes until you get the info you need.

Information booths are operated by several companies in some terminals. For example, at Tel Aviv Central bus station you'll find information booths of Egged, Dan and Metropoline only.

Bus stops in cities and on the roads are marked by a yellow metal "flag". The list of route no. that stop there are marked on the flag, generally accompanied by the destinations. If you see it in Hebrew only, check the other side and you might find the English version there. (Sometimes, though, the English version is incomplete.) You may also find route maps posted on the wall of the stop shed. If you need help reading this info or just clueless, don't be shy to ask other passengers.

By phone and internet

Most companies provide information by phone and internet (on their website), but like other aspects of their service the quality varies greatly. Some companies have recently introduced real-time phone information service. Look out for this at the top or bottom of the flag at bus stops.

There's a website [2] that provides schedules and line maps for all means of public transportation (including trains). It also enables to look for a combined route by address. However, the schedules are often outdated. After identifying your route, go to the web site of the bus company you'll travel on, and get exact times from there.

The Israeli Ministry of Transportation has launched a site which provides information for all bus routes in the country:[3]. This is the most useful and authoritative site for Hebrew speakers. Unfortunately, it's not available in English.

A good place to start when looking for a route is Egged's website [4] (available in English), as it is Israel's largest public transportation company.

Info phone service

Routes

A list of bus lines found below shows some of Israel's bus lines. It is intended to be a source of information that may be hard to find on official company websites.

Currently, this section deals mainly with Egged lines; it will expand to include lines of other bus companies as well.

Intercity bus lines are classified to 3 categories: 'Regular' (me'asef), 'Express' (express), and 'Direct' (yashir). The word me'asef means collect in Hebrew. Me'asef bus collects passengers at many stops along its route, which makes it a slow journey. If you travel between major cities you better avoid these buses. Express bus usually travels on long-distance route and might travel at certain sections (or even the entire route) along the same stretch as me'asef bus, but stops at fewer stations. Express bus normally doesn't pick up passengers for short journeys on which a me'asef bus line is available. Direct lines are either pure non-stop routes, or might have few stops in the cities of departure and arrival. There's no supplement for faster buses, and in some cases they might even be cheaper than slower buses serving the same terminals.

Most intercity lines originate or end in a central bus station or terminal (CBS/CBT). The modern central bus stations built in the last 2 decades often combine bus terminal and shopping center in one building. CBS of this type include those of Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, Haifa Hof HaCarmel, Rishon LeZion, Ashdod and Rehovot.

Bus lines are designated by a number, that consist of 1 to 3 digits. Urban and suburban lines usually have 1 or 2 digits, while intercity lines normally have 3 digits. There are exceptions, like intercity lines with 2 digits (those might have a preceding 0 to make it 3 digits), or suburban lines with 3 digits (the 1st digit may be 1 or 2, but not higher). The last digit of intercity lines often suggests its category. The fastest routes usually have digit 0 or 5, while the digits 1 and 3 are associated with slow lines. Digits 2, 4, 6 and 9 are usually express lines.

For example: There are no less than 7 lines connecting Tel Aviv and Beer Sheva. 2 lines are direct: 370 from Tel Aviv CBS and 380 from Tel Aviv 2000 Terminal. 369 and 369א are both express lines, terminating at CBS and 2000 terminal respectively. Lines 351, 353 and 371 are regular lines, going in different routes (351 via Rehovot and Sderot, 353 via Yavne and Sderot, and 371 via Rehovot and Kiryat Gat), and should be avoided unless your destination isn't served by a faster line. 369 and 371 travel the same route between Gedera junction and Kama junction, but the former has fewer stops, except in late evening when 371 is not operating, and 369 becomes a regular bus south of Kiryat Mal'akhi (stops north of Kiryat Mal'akhi are served by 301 Tel Aviv-Ashkelon line).

Night buses

There is night bus service in the Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and Haifa metropolitan areas. Night buses are operated by the regular bus operators, but have distinct numbers and routes. The official night bus website contains information in Hebrew. Information in English can be found at the Egged and Dan official websites, and in the Israel night bus & rail group on Facebook.

Mehadrin lines

Ultra-Orthodox, Haredi, or mehadrin routes serve centers of Israel's ultra-Orthodox population, which has strict rules limiting contact between men and women. Anyone can take these routes, but you are expected to observe certain rules of conduct. Men and women are segregated, usually men sit in the front half of the bus and women sit in the back half, and go in and out through the back door. If you want to sit mixed, do it in the middle. Women especially should dress conservatively (no bare legs or shoulders, and definitely not bare belly).

If you find this arrangement discriminative and offensive, well, many Israelis agree with you. But it still exists because there is a population that wants it, and despite occasional court cases, it has not been permanently shut down yet.

Advantages of these routes are that they go to each city's main religious neighborhoods, not just the central bus station. (This often saves a local bus ride at the end on trip, especially useful very late at night when local buses have stopped running.) Also, they are cheaper than regular buses (due to generally being fuller). A disadvantage is that they often run very infrequently, so check the schedule first.

The routes can usually be identified by their endpoints: Har Chotzvim/Atirot Mada in Jerusalem, and Bnei Brak in the Tel Aviv area, rather than the normal central bus stations.

Amenities

There are no toilets on buses in Israel, and no "frills" at all. If you are desperate for a bathroom break you can ask the driver and he might let you go at the side of the road (particularly when the next stop is a long way away). Long-distance routes, such as Tel Aviv to Tiberias or Kiryat Shmona in the Galilee, make a stop of up to 10 minutes at designated places. There are two stops on routes to Eilat.

Notes

Without being unduly alarmist, intra-city buses and bus stops have unfortunately been the targets of suicide bombers in the 1990s and early 2000s. If you see anyone acting suspiciously, or discover an unattended parcel, notify the driver, a soldier or police officer immediately. If you can, avoid standing in large crowds of people in order to further minimise any risk. For the last few years, however, the number of suicide attacks on buses has steadily declined, and the last suicide attack on a bus was 2 years ago.


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 he or she 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.

Internal

Jerusalem

Intercity

Note: This listing is incomplete or outdated. It contains several Egged routes and some routes operated by other companies, but lacks many others. If possible, contact the bus operator (for Egged routes visit http://mslworld.egged.co.il/ or call *2800). Note: buses that travel into the West Bank are often armored to be bullet proof.

From/To Jerusalem

Note: Most buses which leave from Jerusalem Har Chotzvim are (ultra-orthodox buses).

From/To Tel Aviv

Other

Notes



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A list of contributors is available at the original article on Wikitravel. Additional modifications may have been made by users at TRAVEL.COM [5].

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