Israel’s bus network is the country’s most extensive and popular transport infrastructure system. There are two main bus operators, Egged, who is the largest, (and the second largest in the world), run an incredible range of routes across the country (intercity) as well as being the main bus provider in Jerusalem and Haifa. Dan, operates most buses in the Tel Aviv area as well as some intercity routes. Other cities and routes are operated by smaller operators (see below)
The three largest cities (as below) have extensive bus networks. Other cities have networks operated by smaller, often local operators.
- Buses in Jerusalem – operated by Egged
- Buses in Tel Aviv – operated by Dan
- Buses in Haifa – operated by Egged
As of January 2019, a new ticketing system has been put into place for all bus and train transportation known as the Rav-Kav card. This change was made for a multitude of reasons, one major focus is on the safety of the passengers, and on efficiency. Previously, passengers could pay cash directly to the driver to purchase tickets, which is no longer the case with the Rav Kav card. Read more about the Rav-Kav card here.
Buses between Cities
Intercity bus lines in Israel are mostly operated by Egged who have over 1,000 routes these run between the largest cities, smallest villages and stop at most major junctions on the road network. There is no nationwide fare system, so you can find significant differences between journeys of similar length, however, fares are generally relatively cheap, with the most expensive journey, between Haifa and Eilat, costing 70NIS one way.
Intercity bus lines are classified into 3 categories: ‘Regular’ (me’asef), ‘Express’ (express), and ‘Direct’ (yashir).
- Me’asef (meaning collect) 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 routes 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.
General information about travelling by bus in Israel
In general, journeys with connection require separate ticket for each segment. Transfer tickets are available only in few places (usually when a journey that used to be direct changes and requires connection). Reservation is available only for buses to/from Eilat, and can be done at a ticket booth, by phone or internet or text message.
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.
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.
Most companies provide information by phone and internet and Egged and Dan both have very comprehensive English language websites:
- Egged: Dial *2800 from any phone, or send an SMS message to *2800. Call center hours: Weekdays 6.30-21.00, Friday 7.30-15.00, Saturday from end of Shabbat to 23.00. There is service in English, Hebrew and Russian. www.egged.co.il
- Dan: Dial 03-6394444 (Bezek), *3456 (Cellcom/Orange) or *4444 (Pelephone). Call center hours: Weekdays 7.00-21.00, Friday 7.00-13.00, Saturday 18.00-22.00. Computer service available 24/7. Languages: Hebrew, English, Russian and Spanish. www.dan.co.il/english
Bus routes 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. 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.