Should you rent a car when traveling in Israel? If you only plan to visit the main cities, there’s no need to rent a car. There’s good public transportation in the tourist areas of Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, and other central cities. Also, parking could be a headache in those places. If you plan to venture outside the big cities and visit national parks, archeological sites, and smaller towns, a car might come in handy on those specific days. Whether you plan to rent a car for the entire trip or only for a few days, it’s important to know about parking. In this post, I’ll try to cover everything and parking in Israel.
Before I begin, I want to confess that I barely drive. So this post is mainly based on my experience as someone who accompanies others who drive and park. I’ve parked a lot of times with others. If you’ve done parking in Israel as a tourist and have some important information I haven’t mentioned, feel free to let me know through the comments. I’ll be happy to update the post.
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Post last updated: 12 July 2022.
Some words about renting a car in Israel
Although this post is mainly about parking in Israel, I want to mention some points about renting a car in Israel:
- In most companies, you must be over 24 years old to rent a car. Drivers must be over 18 and hold an international driver’s license.
- It is highly recommended to reserve a rental car before arriving in Israel, especially if you plan to arrive during one of the Jewish holidays.
- Make sure to obey the traffic rules while driving your rented car. Do not drive over 50 kilometers per hour in urban areas, and do not drive over 90 kilometers per hour in rural areas. If there is a speed limit sign that says otherwise, obey it. On Toll Road #6, you can drive up to 120 kilometers per hour. Also, DO NOT turn right at a red light. In Israel, a red light means you cannot drive at all. And finally, do not hold your phone while driving. All these can lead you to get a fine.
- When renting the car, make sure to read all the Terms, including the kilometer coverage. If you drive more than the mileage quoted, you will need to pay extra.
- Before you start driving the rented car, make sure to take footage of it from all sides. If any doubts arise regarding damage to the car, you can show the supplier how it looked before you took it. Anyway, if you see anything damaged before starting your trip, please tell the supplier so that they will be aware and not blame you later.
- Most Israeli rental companies do not allow entrance to the Palestinian territories. This includes Bethlehem, Jericho, Ramallah, and other Palestinian cities. So if you plan to go there, ask the rental company if you can do it with its car. I recommend avoiding entering those areas with a rented car. Instead, join a guided tour or use public transportation.
- The rental companies I can recommend are Shlomo Sixt and Eldan.
So now… about parking:
There are many paid parking lots in Israel, but if you want to save money, try parking along sidewalks or within dirt parking lots. Of course, make sure there’s no sign saying you need to pay. The sidewalks in Israel are marked in various colors. Each color has a different meaning:
- Free parking – No sidewalk markings: Usually, when there is no sidewalk marking, the parking is free. Though, I do recommend looking if there are any signs around. If there are, see if they say that the parking requires payment during selected hours of the day. For example, there are places with no markings, but a sign says you need to pay from 8 AM to 7 PM.
- Paid parking – Blue and white markings: When there are blue and white markings on the sidewalk, you will need to pay for that spot. It costs about 6 ILS to park on the street. Check the sign located near the parking area. It will tell you if you need to pay in the evening, too. Parking is usually free in the evening but never count on it. Read further to learn about the payment process.
- Prohibited parking – Red and white markings: DO NOT park next to a sidewalk marked in red and white stripes. It is forbidden and will likely end with a traffic ticket and a hefty fine.
- Reserved for public transportation – Red and yellow marking: This marking is also a place where you cannot park. It is where buses, taxis, and other forms of public transportation need to stop. If you park here, it will interfere with public order and end with a fine.
No matter where you park, make sure to look around, see the sidewalk markings and read the signs nearby. Signs can tell you the parking duration, at what hours you need to pay, and if the parking spaces are only for city residents.
Here is one of the parking signs:
This one says you can park for up to 2 hours. You also need to pay only between 8 AM to 7 PM on Sunday-Thursday and between 8 AM to 1 PM on Friday:
I guess this also exists in other places around the world, but only to make it clear – DO NOT park in a space marked for the disabled. On the parking space, there will be an icon of a man in a wheelchair.
Paying with parking apps
Israel is slowly-slowly removing all the parking vending machines from its streets. So you should know the various parking apps in Israel. The people I drive with usually use Pango, but I’ve looked at their app and it seems less friendly to tourists. Another great app is Cell-O-Park. When you first open the app, you can switch to your language using the globe icon at the top. Then, you will need to Sign Up. You can put in an international phone number and then will need to fill in your details – Full name, email address, car plate number. You might also be asked for an Israeli ID number. Since you don’t have one, you can try filling in your passport number or this number #00000018 instead. I recommend signing up for the app before you need to park. This way, you won’t have problems when parking.
Update from a commenter: You need to have an Israeli SIM card for the apps to work on your phone. According to the commenter, neither of the apps works with an American SIM card.
After filling in your details, you should get a code to your phone, which you will need to write down in the app for confirmation. Then you will need to fill in your credit card payment details. According to what I’ve heard, if you will enter a tourist credit card then Cell-O-Park will deduct a small prepayment from your credit card. Then you will only be charged a service fee every time you pay for the parking.
When you want to park, you need to open the app, enable GPS, choose the city you’re parking in, make sure the app recognizes your location, and then slide your finger on the screen to activate the parking mode. When you finish parking, you need to disable the mode. And when you return the rented car, you can simply remove the car from the list in the app.
If you’re having problems with the app, don’t hesitate to ask anyone on the street to help you out. We’re usually friendly.
Here’s a short video about how to use Cell-O-Park (in Australia, but it’s more or less the same):
Parking in paid parking lots
If you don’t want to use the parking apps, you can search for free parking places or make your way to the paid parking lots, where you can pay in cash.
Here are some of the best paid parking lots in Jerusalem:
- Karta Parking Lot (חניון קרתא) – Located below Jaffa Gate, inside the Mamilla Mall on 1 Yitzhak Kariv Street. You can park your car here 24/7 but can only enter from 6:30 AM to 10 PM. It is very close to the Old City and the modern city center. The hourly rate is about 6 ILS, and the all-day rate is about 48 ILS.
- Kikar Safra Parking Lot (חניון כיכר ספרא) – Located below the Safra Plaza, next to the City Hall, on 7 Shivtei Yisrael. From Sunday to Thursday, it is open 24 hours a day. On Friday, it closes an hour before Shabbat and reopens only after Shabbat ends. (Read more about Shabbat in Jerusalem here). The hourly rate is about 14 ILS.
About Tel Aviv, I really DO NOT recommend renting a car there. Parking is VERY scarce. Sometimes, even the paid parking lots are full. Also, if you do find a paid parking lot, it will most probably cost you LOTS of money.
Free parking lots
Here are some places I know usually have free parking places in Jerusalem:
- “Park and Drive” Parking Lots (חניוני חנה וסע) – There are two main “Park and Drive” parking lots in Jerusalem, which offer free parking as long as you use the light rail train. So, you’ll have to pay for the train ticket, which is around 6 ILS, but at least you won’t have to pay extra for the parking and will have plenty of parking space. You’ll find these parking lots at Mount Herzl Station and Ammunition Hill Station.
If you know of any other free parking places in Israel – leave a comment or send me the location to [email protected].
Another place that is problematic regarding parking is Nazareth. Especially on weekends, this city is full of people and has limited parking. Here are some of the free parking spots I know of in Nazareth:
- The BIG Fashion Mall Parking Lot – The mall is located at the entrance to the city and has hundreds of parking lots. If you’re not coming during a major event, I suppose you will find places to park there. Though, I don’t think you can park there overnight (correct me if I’m wrong). It’s a short 10 minutes walk away from the old city center.
- Street parking along Tawfiq Ziad Street – When I come to Nazareth once in a while, I sometimes find free parking spaces on Tawfiq Ziad Street, which is the street leading to the Church of the Annunciation.
- Parking lot next to Derech Ariel Sharon – I’ve been to Nazareth on extremely busy days, and then I found parking here. There’s a large parking lot next to Derech Ariel Sharon, opposite a commercial area. The BIG Fashion complex is on the other side of the street.
When you park in national parks, it is also free of charge.
Wishing you lots of free and easy parking in Israel!
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