When planning a trip, it’s important to know how to get around each city in the itinerary. So, I’ve decided to create this post about getting around in Jerusalem to make your trip planning easier. As someone who lives in the city and rarely uses a car, I can tell you that getting around Jerusalem is quite easy, but it could take a long time due to traffic. So sometimes, especially if you’re located in the city center, it’s best to walk or use the light train. Here is all you need to know about how to get around in Jerusalem.
A general orientation of the city
Let’s start by understanding more about the structure of Jerusalem and where all the top city destinations are located. Jerusalem is about 125 square kilometers in size, but most of the tourist attractions and points of interest are located within the city center. Most hotels and hostels are also located in the city center or Old City area, so you’ll be fine walking around or taking the light train if you’re a bit farther away. Check out where to stay in Jerusalem.
As you can see below, I’ve attached a Google Map showing Jerusalem and circled some of the main areas, just so you’ll better understand where things are located.
So, based on the map, here’s what you can find in each area:
- The green area – That’s the city center, where most tourists stay while in Jerusalem. It’s where you can find the Machane Yehuda Market, the Ultra-Orthodox neighborhoods, Nachlaot neighborhood, Mishkenot Sha’ananim, and also a few museums. It’s the best place for shopping and is full of restaurants that operate until late.
- The yellow area – That’s the area of the Old City, the Mount of Olives, the City of David, and Mount Zion. As you can see, it’s right next to the city center. The City Hall is where the city center meets the Old City, and so, if you want to get there by light-rail train, you can take the train to “City Hall” station and then walk from there to Jaffa Gate. Inside the Old City, you can only walk or rent a golf cart.
- The purple area – That’s the area of the Israel Museum, the Israel National Library, the Knesset (the Israeli Parliament), and the Israeli Supreme Court of Justice. It is about a 30-minute walk from the Machane Yehuda Market in the city center, but if you prefer public transportation, you can take line number 66 from Agripas Road to the Israel Museum, which will take you about 15 minutes if there’s no traffic.
- The blue area – That’s the area of the Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum and the Mount Herzl Cemetery. It is easily accessible by the light-rail train. Its last stop is “Mount Herzl.” The ride takes about 15 minutes from the city center, and if you want to get to Yad Vashem, you’ll need to walk an additional 10 minutes from there.
- The red area – That’s Ein Karem, a beautiful neighborhood with many Christian sites connected to John the Baptist. It’s also a lovely artists’ neighborhood. If you’re in the blue area, you can walk down to Ein Karem by hiking down the wadi, which takes about 30 minutes. But there’s also bus number 28, which leaves from the station on the road going down to Ein Karem, right next to the Mount Herzl light-rail station.
- The brown area – That’s the zoo and aquarium area. It’s mainly for families who like animals, and it’s more challenging to get to. In rush hour, it can take more than an hour to get there by public transportation, so in this case, I’d recommend taking a taxi, which will shorten your ride.
Of course, there are many more areas in Jerusalem, but those are the main areas tourists usually visit.
Should you drive in Jerusalem?
So before I dive into the public transportation in Jerusalem, let’s talk about driving in the city. Personally, I hate driving in Jerusalem. There’s usually a lot of traffic, the roads are not always clear, and it’s really hard to find parking. So, if your hotel doesn’t have an organized parking lot, I’d recommend skipping the driving in Jerusalem. If you’re going to visit the highlights of Jerusalem – the Old City, Mount of Olives, City of David, and maybe Yad Vashem or the Israel Museum – you should be okay with no car.
If you plan to go from Jerusalem to the Dead Sea one day and want to get there by car, you can rent a car and return it at the end of the day.
If you do choose to drive in Jerusalem, here are some important things to consider:
- We drive on the right-hand side of the road. The driver sits on the left side of the car. That’s something to note for all parts of Israel.
- It’s hard to find free parking. If you see gray curbs and there’s no sign talking about parking limitations, it’s most likely a free parking space. But that’s rare. In most cases, you’ll need to pay for parking. Read more about parking in Israel here.
- The drivers in Jerusalem can be crazy. People like to honk and cut into your lane, so be careful! Also, I’ve seen people driving through a junction when there was a red light, so… Keep alert.
- Some lanes are intended only for public transportation. Those lanes are marked by a yellow line. Don’t get on those lanes because you will definitely get a fine!
- Some roads are closed on Shabbat (from Friday eve to Saturday eve). Usually, the streets that will be closed are located in the ultra-Orthodox area of Jerusalem. That’s the area to the north of Jaffa Road in the city center. In any case, it’s not advised to drive through the ultra-Orthodox neighborhoods on Shabbat.
Public transportation in Jerusalem
So, how do you get around Jerusalem using public transportation? There are four forms of transportation in the city. I recommend reading my full guide to public transportation in Israel to understand more about how to buy tickets and get around in general.
The light train
This is the easiest way to get around, especially if you want to get to the main attractions. In Hebrew, we call it “Ha-Ra-keh-vet Ha-Ka-lah.” Currently, there is only one light train line that connects Pisgat Ze’ev, which is a residential neighborhood in north Jerusalem, to Mount Herzl in the west. It can get pretty packed in the rush hours, but it does pass by the traffic, which can save precious time.
Note that it does not operate on Shabbat. Learn more about public transportation on Shabbat in Israel.
Here are the stations that are most relevant for tourists:
- Mount Herzl – This is where you should get off if you want to go to Yad Vashem, the Mount Herzl Cemetery, or Ein Karem.
- Central Station – When you arrive in Jerusalem, you will probably get on the light-rail train from this station. When you leave Jerusalem, you might also return to this station to get on a bus or a train to your next destination.
- Mahane Yehuda – This is where you should get off if you want to go to the Machane Yehuda Market, Nachlaot, or the Ultra-organic neighborhoods.
- Ha-Davidka – This is one of the most central stations on the light-rail line. It’s next to the Machane Yehuda Market and everything around Jaffa Road.
- Jaffa Center – This is also a central station located in the heart of the city center area.
- City Hall – This is where you should get off if you want to go to the Old City or the Mamilla Mall. It is close to Jaffa Gate and the New Gate.
- Damascus Gate – This is where you should get off if you want to go to the Old City or the Garden Tomb. It is close to Damascus Gate.
- Ammunition Hill – This is where you should get off if you want to visit Ammunition Hill, the museum that talks about the Six-Day War.
How do you pay for the light train?
The ride costs 5.5 ILS. There are two ways to pay for your ticket:
- By using the Rav-Kav card – You can get an anonymous Rav-Kav card via the machine at the light train station – for 5 ILS – and load it with the amount of money you need or a daily or weekly pass. You must validate your Rav-Kav card every time you enter the train. There’s a card scanner at the entrance of each train car. You just need to place the card on the scanner, wait for the beep, and that’s it.
- By using a public transport payment application – I use this option because it calculates your expenses throughout each month and automatically charges you according to the number of rides and distances you rode, which means you don’t need to buy a daily plan or monthly plan in advance. Two popular payment apps include Moovit and Rav-Pass (HopOn). You need to create the ticket in the app before boarding the train. And it requires an internet connection.
There are frequent inspector checks on the light train, so make sure to pay to avoid an uncomfortable situation and a fine.
View this video which tells how to use the machines at the station (the video is in Hebrew, but there are English subtitles):
The next option is to take the bus. It’s a bit more complicated than taking the light train because you need to know from which side of the road you need to catch the bus. But you can figure out the right direction by looking at navigation apps like Google Maps and Moovit and understanding where the line is going.
The main company that operates in Jerusalem is Egged, with the green buses, but there are also other companies. Note that they do not operate on Shabbat, from Friday eve to Saturday eve. There are Arab company buses that do operate on Shabbat, but they don’t work with the Rav Kav and only go to East Jerusalem.
If you’re coming to visit the main tourist attractions in Jerusalem, you don’t have to use the bus at all because most attractions are accessible by the light train or by foot. But here are some places that might require a bus ride:
- The Israel Museum – It’s pretty far from the light train, so you might prefer taking a bus. From the city center, you can take bus number 66, which has a station at the Davidka Square and on Agripas Road.
- Mishkenot Sha’ananim – This was the first Jewish neighborhood outside the Old City walls, and today, it’s a lovely place with a historical windmill and a view of the Old City walls. It’s also quite far from the light train, so you can catch bus 74, 75, 18 or 78. All of them will take you to Mishkenot Sha’ananim. Get off at “Keren HaYesod/Shalom Alekhem.”
- The Western Wall – If you only want to go to the Western Wall and don’t want to walk through the Old City, you can get on bus number 1 from the city center. It takes you straight to the Western Wall.
How to pay for the bus?
The bus inside Jerusalem costs 5.5 ILS per ride. To use the bus, you will need to have a Rav Kav card or use a public transport payment app like Moovit or Rav-Pass (HopOn). You can get on the bus from any door and pay by placing your Rav Kav card on the scanner or by scanning the QR code with your payment app.
If you want to get around Jerusalem with much more ease, you can get a taxi. But remember that taxi drivers aren’t always decent, and when they see tourists, some will always try to rip you off. So, to try and avoid this, I recommend using Gett (on Android or iOS). This app connects you to nearby taxi drivers, and usually, those taxi drivers are decent, but I’ve also had some bad experiences with some. According to the company rules, they are supposed to put on the meter, but some of them cancel the ride before they arrive to you and then tell you that they have “accidentally” canceled the ride and give you a price, which is much higher than it should be.
In general, most rides inside Jerusalem, even when there’s traffic, should cost no more than 60 ILS. So, if the driver asks for more than that, start being suspicious. Always ask if they are putting a meter before you enter the taxi, and if they don’t want to, make sure you know the price before you start the ride.
Taxis DO work on Shabbat.
Finally, there’s also the option of renting a bike. JeruFun has rental bikes all over the city. You will need to download the app (for Android or iOS) and fill in some details, and then you can unlock a bike and use it throughout the day. If you want to use an e-bike, you’ll need to scan your ID. The fee for unlocking a bike is 4 ILS, and then you need to pay an extra 0.2 ILS for every minute on a regular bike or 0.6 ILS for every minute on an electric bike.
While biking could be fun, Jerusalem is very hilly. Therefore, it’s a bit challenging cycling around it on a regular bike. I once had a bike and eventually gave up and sold it because I couldn’t deal with the hills. An e-bike could solve this problem.
If you’re wondering how to get around in Jerusalem, I hope I’ve helped you figure out the answer. Most attractions are in the city center and the Old City of Jerusalem, so you can walk around or use the light train. But there are also buses, taxis, and even rental bikes! So, you have plenty of ways to move around.
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