One of the most crowded cities in Israel, there are many ways of getting around Tel Aviv, however, some less pleasant than others. Now, while I’d never dispute that especially if you are driving your own car—there are some hidden advantages to every type of transport in and around the city.
As someone who drives, been driven around, taken the bus, cycled and walked pretty much everywhere in Tel Aviv, I’m going to give you the cold hard facts about getting from point A to B in Tel Aviv without having a nervous breakdown.
The best part about taking a cab in Tel Aviv is that you do not have to concern yourself with traffic rules, one way roads, temporary road closures or hidden roads signs – that is your driver’s job. The characteristic cab ride includes a lengthy conversation with a very typical Israeli that covers politics, religion and your own country of origin in broken English as you sail to your next destination (at varying speeds).
The cabs are invariably in very good condition and you can pre-book a female cab driver if you prefer. The popular app GetTaxi was developed in Israel and is widely used to order a cab from any location; however I highly recommend asking the concierge at Sea Executive Suites to order a taxi for you.
By doing so, you avoid being thoroughly ripped off, as well as the intrinsic worry surrounding entering any stranger’s car in any major city. The cab drivers ordered by the hotel are all legitimate and the price can be predetermined on the phone, which removes any unpleasant surprise at the end of your ride.
If you are renting a car in Tel Aviv, you are truly a brave individual. First rule, use WAZE navigation app. It will never steer you in the wrong way and will always get you to your destination on time. For those of you who prefer winging it, here are a few basic guidelines:
Avoid the bus and taxi lanes – throughout the daytime hours and through many of the main streets of Tel Aviv there are lanes prohibited for private cars. This makes driving a little inconvenient as huge diversions need to be taken at almost every junction. If you venture into the wrong lane and the police don’t catch you, you will be beeped and bullied until you leave, so it is better to know where and when you can drive down a certain street.
- Traffic jams are known in Hebrew as “pakukim,”and they are everywhere. Whilst people wait impatiently in their cars and cabs, they beep, curse and try to edge their way illegally through the traffic. Although it’s frustrating watching cars trying to edge around you on the right and left hand side simultaneously, it is somewhat expected on the road and something you just have to get used to.
- As a foreign driver you need a valid international license, and don’t talk on your cell phone—the police are sticklers for that.
- The worst part about driving your own car in Tel Aviv is parking. It’s a nightmare. You can only park on a blue and white line or a paid car park – all other colors are likely to get you towed. There are also two types of “blue and white” parking areas—one for residents and one for non-residents. Before you park in any of these, ask someone in English if as a tourist you can park there because those signs are in Hebrew. Then use one of the following apps to pay for parking:
- Cell-o-Park: payment via mobile phone. Call *6452
Pango: payment via mobile phone. Call*4500
If you are staying at the Sea Executive Suites, there are many private parking lots near the hotel. In the rare and surreal case that you find a free parking place outside of the Sea Executive Suites, look around you cautiously, park there and never move your car again—you just hit the jackpot.
Bus and Monit Sherut
There are buses that crisscross the city and get just about anywhere. The buses are cheap and full of interesting people. The sights, smells and curiosities of Tel Aviv will provide you with a variety of stories to tell your friends when you get back home, both good and bad. The bus drivers are, in general, aggressive, but who can’t blame them, maneuvering through the Tel Aviv traffic all day long. Take it all with a pinch of salt and if you need assistance, there is always someone on the bus who will willingly assist you.
If you are staying in Israel for an extended period of time, a “ravkav” is the card that you need to add a monthly pass which has recently been extended to the trains, is truly worth the investment. You can walk into any train station and ask how to obtain this—it’s relatively simple and can be done on the same day. Sometimes you can get them on the bus, just ask the driver.
The monit sherut is the faster, smaller, slightly more dangerous version of a bus. You can’t use a ravkav on these as they are privately owned and either they are paid by how fast they reach their final destination or they are running from someone. These drivers are in my opinion, the craziest out there and they drive a minivan the same way a normal 22 year old would ride a motorbike. With between 10-12 passengers in every van it might be worth saying a little prayer before your driver takes off. Probably the best travel experience you will have in the city.
Yes, yes and yes!
Tel Aviv is an easy city to move around in, basically built in a similar grid to Manhattan or Glasgow. It’s simple, cheap and sunny enough most of the time to put on a good pair of shoes and walk to where you want to be. You may also burn off some lunchtime calories.
Recently Green bikes have poped up all over the city. You are able to rent these by the hour and are able to park them whereever you see a green bike station. More and more of Tel Aviv is becoming bicycle friendly and bicycle is quickly a favorite cheap/free transport alternative. Have a look at their website for more information and rates.