Jerusalem is a big city, and as such, it holds great potential for visitors to get lost among its many roads, hillsides, streets and alleys. If fact, even the locals often get confused, as construction is constantly changing the face of the city, leaving thousands of drivers to hopelessly wait for the green lights of salvation. Speaking of salvation, the Jerusalem municipality has big plans for public transport in the future. This includes a network of light rail lines that could potentially reduce 20% of cars on the road. On the ground, there is only one light rail line, which connects a network of buses to the outer parts of the city. There are also a few night buses that go from the city center to the neighborhoods.
But knowing all that still doesn’t get you anywhere, so in this article I’ll be going over some basic things you need to know about getting around in Jerusalem.
First thing’s First: Get Yourself a Rav-Kav
If you’re planning to be moving around by public transport, be sure to get yourself a Rav-Kav, an electronic top-up card that allows you to pay for your bus and rail rides. The card itself costs about 10 shekels, and is available at any central bus station in the country. Seemingly, the price of a single ride is no different than if you didn’t have Rav Kav, but in fact, it has quite a few benefits:
- Each ride you take with Rav-Kav gives you an extra ride with no charge, which you can use within 90 minutes. This is useful if you need to change buses on your way or if you’re going somewhere briefly and plan to go back shortly afterwards.
- Rav-Kav lets you buy a day-pass, week-pass and monthly-pass, which cannot be purchased without it.
- When topping up your card with 10 rides or more, you get a 25% discount.
- The downside us the although good to use in the entire country, different cities have different transport providers, which charge different rates. So for example, if you top up your card in Jerusalem, where the main provider is egged, and then go to Tel Aviv, where the main provider is Dan, you will need to pay again. The rides you paid for will remain valid on the card, but you will not be able to get a refund if you didn’t use your credit.
There are many public transportation apps out there, and frankly, most of them suck. Moovit is different because A- it actually gives you the information you requested rather than some random result and B- it supports 11 languages, including English, french, spanish, dutch, portuguese, italian and more. The language of the app is automatically defined by your phone’s interface. Moovit will provide info such as when and where to catch the bus, train or taxi, and how long it should take you. Given that your time in Jerusalem is limited, using Moovit will help make the most out of your visit.
Know Jerusalem’s Rush Hours
Roads in Jerusalem can be very busy on weekdays, so much so that you can spend up to two hours just getting from one side of the city to another. However, the city has a certain rhythm to it, and taking it into account will make your life a lot easier when moving around Jerusalem.
If you can, try to avoid bus trips between 7-9am and between 3-6pm on weekdays. Friday is also very busy up until noon, especially down-town and around the market. If you get on a bus at any other time, you will most likely have room to sit and enjoy a quick and pleasant ride. Other than that, Jerusalem is pretty easy going, and can actually be quite amusing to watch from a bus window.
Get Familiar with the Jerusalem Light Rail Route
Ever since its opening, the Jerusalem light rail has cleared out many of the buses which used to go down town, leaving the city center a lot more pleasant to walk around in. Its also made it much easier to move around between neighborhoods, serving as a central conjunction channel for citizens and visitors. In other words, if you can get around the light rail, you can get anywhere in the city. The following map will help you get a general idea of how to get to places by combining the light rail and a bus: save it in your pocket for a rainy day (or for when your battery runs out!).
Get a Taxi
Out of all other options, taxi is probably the easist and quickest way to get to places. The drivers know the city like the palm of their hands, and can get you anywhere via the public transport routes, which are relatively free of traffic. There are however several things to bare in mind when taking a taxi in Jerusalem. The most importnat thing is to understand the way taxis work.
When you step into a cab, you have 2 options: Either you agree on a price in advance, or you ask the driver to start the counter, AKA Mone. The Mone will charge on a per minute basis, so you will only know the final price when you get to your destination. The price per minute depends on the time of the day, with the rate going up on nights and weekends. Some drivers may take advantage of the fact you do not know the way, and take you through a longer route. Others may charge more in advance, just because they can. If you want to be on the safe side, best thing to do is order your taxi via the GetT app, which provides a certain warranty for these type of incidents by allowing you to pay with your credit card. Another good tactic is to be friendly with the driver- from my own personal experience, it works like magic!
Don’t Be Shy- Ask a Local!
If there’s one thing Jerusalemites absolutely love is to show off their city to visitors. So if all else fails and you end up getting lost, find someone to help you. Finding an English speaker is not a problem, and you’d be surprised by how willing people would be to help you.
Have a pleasant ride!