Between the bustling streets and sprawling nature of the city, the prospect of getting around in Tel Aviv and Jaffa can be daunting at first, but a bit of familiarity with the various modes of transportation will go along way in ensuring that you have pleasant experience.
The city has a flat terrain, so cycling and walking are definitely possibilities, but the most common modes of transportation are still car, bus, taxi and shared-taxi. When it comes to getting to and from the airport, however the train is the most popular choice.
Keep reading for more information about getting around in Tel Aviv, traveling to or from Tel Aviv to other cities in Israel and getting to and from Tel Aviv to Ben Gurion Airport, as well as important information sources.
In the city
Tel Aviv buses run frequently and to just about any location in the city. Each ride costs about 7 NIS, but if you are in Tel Aviv for an extended stay, then it could be beneficial to purchase a Rav Kav card (10 NIS) that allows you to buy ride packages.
The most important buses are numbers 4 and 5. Number 4 runs from the central bus station along the central street of Allenby and Ben Yehuda Street parallel to the beach. The number 5 runs through the center of the city past Dizengoff Street to the Alozorov terminal (Savidor central train station). Number 18 is the major route from the CBS to the southern parts of the city and Jaffa.
The largest operator in the city is the Dan bus company, but Metropolin and Kavim cover some routes as well.
Regardless of where you stop first in Tel Aviv, you will no doubt notice the high-volume of yellow mini-buses dropping people off and picking them up. This is the 24-hour shared-taxi service known in Israel as the “sherut,” which runs along the major 4 and 5 bus routes.
For tourists and locals alike who are in a hurry, the sherut is often the preferred mode of transportation because it is quicker than the bus, picks up and drops off anywhere along the route and costs less (6-7 NIS) than the bus or a regular taxi. It also runs on Saturday (Shabbat), when there is no public transportation.
However, if you are traveling in a group, it’s best to just get a bus or regular taxi. Because the vans only have room for ten and operate on a first-come, first-served basis, they rarely have room to pick up more than 2-3 people at a time.
Tel Aviv’s flat terrain makes cycling a popular way to get around.
For tourists that don’t have their own bikes, the Tel Aviv municipality’s Tel-O-Fun bike-rental system is a boon for those who like to remain active and environmentally friendly during their travels.
You can buy daily (17-23 NIS) or weekly (70 NIS) subscriptions, which cover any rental less than 30 minutes (extra usage rates apply thereafter). Rental times are calculated according to the time between when a bike is checked out from one station and checked in to the next.
Tel-O-Fun can be a cost-effective option for those who are planning to visit multiple sites in a day. Current data is tough to come by, but as of October 2011, there were 125 active stations around the city and more than a thousand available bikes.
Even if you do rent a car, it is not practical to use it for most inner-city travel due to heavy traffic and parking costs. However, a car can be useful when traveling to neighboring Tel Aviv communities, such as Herzliya, Netanya and others, which you can reach via the Ayalon highway or Highway 2
This is where a car certainly comes in handy. Even during rush hour a car will be more convenient and comfortable than any other options. Highway 2 is the scenic coastal road that leads to Haifa and the rest of northern Israel. Highway 1 leads to Jerusalem, and Highway 4 leads to southern Israel. Highway 6 (via Highway 1) also runs north and south, but is a toll road.
Intercity buses to almost anywhere in Israel leave from the New Central Bus Station in South Tel Aviv and the Savidor Central train station in northern Tel Aviv.
There are sherut shared-taxis to most communities in the Tel Aviv Metropolitan Area as well as to the major Israeli cities of Jerusalem, Haifa and Beersheba. While they are more expensive, they generally get through traffic faster than buses and are not as packed as buses can be during rush hour. However, they only leave when they have 10 people, so at certain hours, you may be stuck waiting for more passengers.
Train services operated by Israel Railways connect Tel Aviv to Haifa, Jerusalem and Beersheva as well as other cities in between. There is also a direct line from Tel Aviv to Ben Gurion Airport that takes less than 20 minutes from any station.
Tel Aviv has four train stations, all situated along the Ayalon Highway. Tel Aviv HaHagana is closest to the New Central Bus Station in South Tel Aviv. You can find bus routes to most of the city nearby, and inner-city shared-taxis leave from the parking lot outside.
To access the city center, get off at Savidor central train station or Hashalom (next to the shopping mall). Savidor is also the location of the Alozorov bus terminal, where you can find lines to anywhere in the city.
The Tel Aviv University station is located in the northern Tel Aviv neighborhood of Ramat Aviv and, you guessed it, offers convenient access to Tel Aviv University, which also happens to be the home of the Diaspora Museum.
This is by far the most cost-effective and convenient way to get to and from Ben Gurion Airport from Tel Aviv. Trains leave every half hour from 6 am to 12 am, and every hour from 12 am to 6 am. A one-way fare is 15 NIS.
The only inconvenient aspect of the train is that it does not run from late Friday afternoon to Saturday evening due to Shabbat.
Taxis are great because they are always available, but they can be costly. Cab fare to the airport starts at around 100 NIS during the day, but it rises significantly at nighttime and Shabbat.
Hadar-Lod is the registered taxi company for travel from Ben Gurion Airport. Taxi stands are at Terminal 3 at the ground level of the multi level road. The price of a taxi from Ben Gurion to Tel Aviv is around 160 shekels.
Always be prepared for the fact that public transportation stops Friday afternoon (the time depends on when Shabbat starts) and does not resume until about two hours after sunset Saturday night. Taxis and sheruts are also more expensive during this time.
Roads and public transportation are more crowded during rush hour which is usually from 7 am to 9 am and 5 pm to 7 pm. If you’re traveling to or from Tel Aviv from other cities, you should also keep in mind that Friday afternoons, Saturday evenings and Sunday mornings, as well as the eve of and morning after festivals, are some of the busiest times for traveling.
Important Websites and Phone Numbers
Dan Bus Company
Egged Bus Company
Tel-O-Fun Bicycle Rental
Phone: 03-577-4000; 077-232-4000 (customer service)