Travelling by public transport in Israel and Palestine

For information on how to get into Israel or Palestine by land from Egypt or Jordan – obviously by public transport – you can check out my blog posts about the Eilat border crossing here and the King Hussein Bridge border crossing here.

Public transport in Israel is very well developped. You can use Google maps or Moovit to check the bus schedule. One important thing you should know: you cannot buy tickets on the bus in cash. You either need the Rav-Kav card or the HopOn Rav-Pass app. I used the latter because I came to Israel through Palestine without any opportunity to buy and charge money on a Rav-Kav card. The app works really well though – you just need an Internet connection. Tip: Do not rely on the wifi on the buses – it seems to work only in cities. Not having purchased a sim card, that was my strategy initially, but I just ended up having to ask fellow passenger for a hotspot all the time. That was never a problem though because people are really nice in general. Also, try to avoid travelling on Shabbat. Public transport is much more limited between Friday night and Saturday night.

Getting from Jericho to the Dead Sea

Because of all the Israeli settlements, there are many Israeli buses running through the West Bank, connecting all the settlements. I took a public bus from the Almog junction south of Jericho to Ein Bokek where there is a free public beach at the Dead Sea that has toilets, showers and shade. Apparently there is also a beach in Kalya, but I haven’t been there.

Israeli bus network in the West Bank

When travelling through the West Bank on an Israeli bus you get to see all the fenced settlements on the way because the bus network seems to be designed to connect all the settlements. When I went to Jerusalem from Arad, I had the choice of either going through the West Bank with Israeli buses, changing in Hebron, or take a direct bus going around Palestine to Jerusalem. Because of some tension around Hebron due to the many Israeli settlements there, I opted for the latter option. I didn’t want to take the ‘settlement bus’.

Public transport in Israel is easy and reliable

Even if you have never travelled by public transport before, you will definitely not have any problems in Israel. The trains and buses are routinely late by a couple of minutes, but all in all it is really straight-forward. It’s best to buy a sim card so you can check schedules online at any time, but there is wifi in most train stations and city buses, so it’s not a must. Also, people are really friendly, you can really just ask anyone and they will help you.

How expensive is public transport in Israel?

Israel is an expensive country to travel (Palestine is a bit cheaper), but public transport is affordable. To give you some examples, the bus from the King Hussein Bridge Israeli border to the Jericho border cost 16 Israeli shekels (~4€), the bus from Jericho to Ein Bokek cost 16 Israeli shekels (~4€) as well, from Ein Bokek to Arad it was 12 Israeli shekels (~3€), the train from Jerusalem to Tel Aviv was 24 Israeli shekels (~6€), a bus ride in Tel Aviv cost 5,5 Israeli shekels (~1,4€) and the train from Tel Aviv to the airport was 9 Israeli shekels (~2,3€).

Travelling in Israel in late September

A last tip from someone who didn’t time their travels so well: keep in mind that in September and October it is holiday period in Israel. Many Jewish holidays fall into this period. Check out the exact dates online and plan accordingly. The holidays do have an impact on public transport availability as well as accommodation prices. I was in Jerusalem during Yom Kippur for example, and on that day (from around noon the previous day until after sunset on the actual day) everything shuts down in Israel. However, you can just walk to the Eastern side where almost all the shops were open and buses were running, so the shut down is really only in Israel, not in Palestine where people are Muslim.