You arrive in Jerusalem; you have a ton of sites you’ve waited your whole life to see–now, how do you get there?
As one of the most ancient cities in the world, you might guess that Jerusalem’s roads were not built for cars or buses.
Even the British, who ruled here between 1917-1947 and rebuilt much of central Jerusalem, managed to build only a few central avenues before they gave up and left the country to its own devices.
For the past decade, life in Jerusalem has been totally disrupted by construction of the first line of a light rail system that is now years overdue and millions of shekel over budget. If you’re planning a trip any time after May 2011, you may actually see the thing in operation, until then, all you’ll be seeing are the torn-up downtown streets and a couple of forlorn passenger stations dotted throughout the city.
So how can a visitor make the best use of Jerusalem’s existing public transportation? At the moment, buses are the only mode of public transportation at your disposal. They’re efficient, criss-cross the city and are run by the Egged Cooperative . They service all the western parts of the city + a number of eastern Jerusalem neighborhoods.
The Central Bus Station close to the western entrance to Jerusalem is the hub of the system and has a good multi-lingual information desk inside the mall-like facility.
Buses serving predominantly Arab parts of the city run out of the older East Jerusalem Bus Station across the street from Damascus Gate, near the Rockefeller Museum. While it’s common to see Arabs on Egged buses, it’s rare for Jewish Israelis or tourists to use the Arab bus service.
Remember that Egged buses do not run on the Sabbath–from dusk on Friday to sundown on Saturday evening, or on Jewish holydays. Taxis are the way to get around on those days.
Most Egged drivers will speak enough English to answer your basic questions, and there will invariably be passengers who will be happy to give you advice on where to get off; tell you where to get the best felafel; comment on your fancy shoes or your snazzy backpack and ask whether you know their relatives in whatever city you come from.
Finding a Route:
Due to the construction of the light rail system, bus stops and routes are in flux, so there is no official Egged bus map. Check out Oren’s page for an unofficial but up to date Jerusalem bus route map.
How To Ride the Bus:
- Bus stops are clearly marked with the route number and the final destination.
- You don’t have to flag down a bus, they will stop at every bus stop where people are waiting.
- Pay the driver when you get on.
- Change is given.
- Don’t forget to take your ticket from the machine next to the driver.
- Inspectors do come around–don’t throw away your ticket until you reach your destination.
- Hold on tight if you’re standing–Jerusalem bus drivers are renowned for their speediness.
- Press the button on the pole next to your seat to signal the driver that you want the next stop. You’ll hear the bell and see the Hebrew stop sign at the front of the bus light up.
- Regular fare for adults is 6.20NIS. (around $1.80) You can travel one stop or to the end of the line for the same fare.
- If you’ll be taking another bus within 75 minutes, ask for a “ma’avar“, which is a transfer ticket that costs only slight more than a single fare. Show both tickets when you board the second bus.
- Best deal for tourists is a “kartisiya“, a multi-use punch card that will save you 20% on the regular fare. Purchase the kartisiya from the driver-exact change not necessary. There’s no expiration date, so if you go to Tel Aviv for a few days and come back to Jerusalem, you can still use your kartisiya until you’ve used up all 10 rides.
- Seniors, disabled and those under 18 pay half fare on one-time tickets and punch-cards.
- Unless you’re elderly or physically challenged, don’t sit in the seats right behind the driver. They’re designated for those who can’t make their way to the regular seats.
- It’s OK to use your cellphone for short calls if you can keep your voice down.
- Unless the bus is almost empty (a rarity at any time of the day or night) try not to use the adjacent seat for your backpack or shopping bag.
- On certain routes to and from the Western Wall (#1 and 2) don’t be surprised to see ultra-Orthodox men and women sitting separately–generally women and their kids sit toward the rear of the bus.
- On any bus route, don’t sit down next to an ultra-Orthodox member of the opposite sex.
- If you notice a suspicious package or bag, one that does not appear to have an owner, don’t be shy about notifying the driver. Bus bombs are thankfully a thing of the past, but Israelis are still super-conscious of such things.
- Call Egged information from any phone–dial *2800, press 3 for English-speaking info.