When people ask me if they should rent a car in Israel, I tell them that if they plan to only visit the main cities then there’s no need to rent a car. Public transportation is great in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and other cities in Israel. If you plan to venture outside of the cities, visit national parks, fascinating archeological sites and smaller towns, you might want to rent a car for the days outside of the main cities. So, whether you want to rent a car for the whole trip or just for the days outside of the cities, I’ve made this post for you so you can know all you need to know about parking in Israel.

Before I begin, I just want to confess that I barely drive, so this post is mainly based on my experience as someone who accompanies others that do drive and park. I’ve parked a lot of times with others. If you’ve parked in Israel as a tourist and have some enlightenment which I haven’t mentioned, feel free to let me know through the comments so I can update the post.

Some Words About Renting a Car in Israel:

Although this post is mainly about parking in Israel, I want to also mention some important points about renting a car in Israel:

  • In most companies, you must be over 24 years old. Drivers must be over 18 and holding an international driver’s license.
  • It is very 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 to the traffic laws 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 (unless you’re driving on the toll road #60, where you can drive more). Also, DO NOT turn right on a red light and do not hold your phone while driving. All these can lead you to getting 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, take photos of it from all sides in order to show the supplier if any doubts arise regarding damages done to the car. If you see anything damaged before starting your trip, please tell the supplier so that they will be aware of it and not blame you for it later.
  • If you rent a car in Israel and want to drive it into the Palestinian territories, which include Bethlehem, Jericho and Ramallah, take into account that your car will probably not be insured in those areas. I recommend to avoid entering those areas with a rented car.
  • Rental companies I can recommend are Shlomo SIxt and Eldan.

So now… About parking:

Sidewalk Markings:

If you don’t want to spend too much money on parking, the best option is to park along sidewalks or in dirt parking lots (which don’t have a sign saying they are paid parking lots). The sidewalks in Israel are marked in various colors, each meaning something else:

  • Free parking – No sidewalk markings – Usually when there is no sidewalk marking then the parking is free, though I do recommend looking around to see if there are any signs saying that the parking is actually paid during some hours of the day. For example, I have come across some places where there were no markings, but there was a sign saying that you need to pay between 8AM to 7PM.
  • Paid parking – Blue and white markings – When you see blue and white markings on the sidewalk, you will definitely need to pay for that spot. It costs about 6 ILS to park on the street. Take a look at the sign that is located near the parking area and it will tell you if you need to pay in the evening too (usually it’s free in the evening). More about the paying process – later in this post.
  • Prohibited parking – Red and white markings – If you want to avoid getting a traffic ticket and a large fine, DO NOT park next to a sidewalk which is marked with red and white stripes.
  • Reserved for public transportation – Red and yellow marking – This marking is also a place where you SHOULD NOT park, since it is designated for buses or other public transportation.

No matter where you park – it’s very important to look around, see the sidewalk markings and also read the signs nearby. The signs tell you for how long you can park, at what hours do you need to pay and if the parking spaces are only for city residents.

One of the parking signs. This ones says you can park for up to 2 hours and have to pay only between 8AM to 7PM on Sunday-Thursday and between 8AM to 1PM on Friday
One of the parking signs. This ones says you can park for up to 2 hours and have to pay only between 8AM to 7PM on Sunday-Thursday and between 8AM to 1PM on Friday

I guess this also exists in other places around the world, but just to make it clear – DO NOT park on a place marked for the disabled. This parking place is usually marked on the road itself accompanied with a sign bearing the icon of a disabled.

Paying with Parking Apps:

Israel is slowly-slowly removing all the parking vending machines from its streets, so it’s better you get to know the various parking apps which exist in the Israeli market. 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 and then 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 ID number and 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 so you won’t have problems when parking.

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 prepay on the parking.

When you want to park, you just 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 just need to disable the mode. And when you return the rented car, you can just remove the car from the list of cars 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 pay with the payment apps, then you should look for free parking places or make your way to the paid parking lots, where you can easily pay in cash.

Here are some of the top paid parking lots in Jerusalem:

  • Karta Parking Lot (חניון קרתא) – Located below Jaffa Gate, inside the Mamilla Mall on 1 Yitzhak Kariv Street. This parking lot is 24/7, but you can enter the parking lot only between the hours of 6:30Am to 10PM. It is very close to the Old City as well as the New City. The hourly rate is about 10 ILS and the all-day rate is about 60 ILS.
  • Kikar Safra Parking Lot (חניון כיכר ספרא) – Located below the Safra Plaza, where the City Hall is located, on 7 Shivtei Yisrael. On Sunday to Thursday it is open 24/7, but on Friday it closed an hour before Shabbat and reopens only after Shabbat ends. The hourly rate is about 14 ILS.

About Tel Aviv, I really DO NOT recommend renting a car there. Parking is SO VERY limited and even the paid parking lots are full at times. 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 spots in Jerusalem:

  • The Gan HaPa’amon Parking Lot – Right next to Gan HaPa’amon (גן הפעמון) and behind the First Station compound there’s a large parking lot split to two parts. The one on the right side is paid parking, while on the left side you’ll find a big dirt parking lot which is free. It’s near Mishkenot Sheananim neighborhood and a short 10-minutes’ walk from the Old City.
  • “Park and Drive” Parking Lots (חניוני חנה וסע) – There are two main “Park and Drive” parking lots in Jerusalem, which offer you 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 to choose from. These parking lots are located at the Mount Herzl Station and at the Ammunition Hill Station.

If you know of any others – leave a comment or send me the location to lior@backpackisrael.com.

Another place which 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, so if you’re not coming during a major event, then I suppose you will find places to park here. 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 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.

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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