The Best Guide To Renting A Car In Israel

Should you be renting a car in Israel? Is renting a car in Israel expensive? Is driving in Israel actually safe?

Israel is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the Middle East and a place I love through and through – I make no mystery of my love for it and those who know me also know that I go there regularly. Facing the Mediterranean Sea, Israel is blessed with nice weather, boasts many sacred religious sites, stunning landscapes, delicious food, diverse culture, and a fascinating history going back many centuries.

If you’re planning to travel to Israel, one of the things you’re likely wondering is how you’ll get around the country. Israel is very small so it’s easy to get from place to place via public transportation. It only takes about six hours to drive across the entire country! You may hear from locals that the public transit system is not great, but the reality is it actually works very well, for the most part.

However, renting a car may be a good idea to roam around the country, especially if you don’t want to join guided tours to get out of town, or if you want to explore off the beaten path places and – finally – if you want to explore at weekends, when public transport isn’t running (more about that in a bit).

If you are looking for information on renting a car in Israel, you are in good hands. I have done that multiple times and can share everything you need to know and also some useful tips for a better experience.

Already convinced you want to rent a car in Israel? Check out the prices here. Make sure to also read my post A Useful Guide To Driving In Israel.

Not sure where to go in Israel? Head over to my post The Best Places To Visit In Israel.

Should You Be Renting A Car In Israel?

You really don’t need a car in the city

If you are only planning on visiting cities during your trip to Israel, you really won’t need a car at all. You can easily get to Tel Aviv or Jerusalem from the airport by bus, train or taxi and if your flight lands at the weekend, when public transport doesn’t run, you can count on private shuttles to take you to your hotel.

I truly don’t recommend driving in the city. Traffic is crazy and finding a parking spot is a nightmare. In Jerusalem, you can get around by light rail and bus; and there are plenty of buses in Tel Aviv too, where city bikes and scooters are available for rent and bike lanes cut through the entire city.

If you plan on using public transport, make sure to get a Rav Kav as soon as you land. This is a top up card you can get at any kiosk (including at the airport) which you tap in whenever you use the bus or light rail, and in and out when you use the train.

Orthodox Shabbat in Jerusalem

Public transport doesn’t work on Shabbat

I know I said that public transport works well in Israel. Except on Shabbat. In fact, you’ll have trouble finding buses and taxis during Shabbat, which is from sunset on Friday to sunset on Saturday. You may have some luck catching a ride on a shared bus or taxi operated by Palestinians.

The other barrier is public transit only gets you so far and your freedom is limited in terms of where you can go. If you have specific places you want to visit and want more freedom, your best bet is to rent a car.

Having your own car gives you more flexibility

The main reason for renting a car is the freedom and flexibility it’ll provide you. With a rental car on hand, you’ll be able to go wherever you want on your schedule. You won’t have to fuss with bus schedules, search for and haggle with taxi drivers or wait for your transportation to arrive. These things take up a lot of time and that time is better used exploring the wonders of the country. You’ll get to see and do more because you won’t be limited to the places the buses go.

Renting a car also means you can spend as much time as you want at an attraction and take whatever route you want to get to the places you want to see.

Ein Gedi

You can pick your favorite route

The Dead Sea, Masada National Park, Sea of Galilee, Jaffa Port, Mar Saba Monastery, Caesarea National Park and Dolphin Reef Beach are just some of the amazing attractions around Israel. If you want to head out on an epic roadtripping adventure, there are many scenic routes to take including the drive from Tel Aviv to Haifa, Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, Haifa to Safed and the road around Lake Kinneret (which you may know as the Sea of Galilee).

Already convinced you want to rent a car in Israel? Check out the prices here.

Is Renting A Car In Israel Safe?

The first thing you will be wondering is whether renting a car in Israel – and in fact, driving in Israel – is safe at all. I know Israel often has a reputation for being an unsafe country, but contrary to what people think it’s actually probably the safest place you can ever visit.

Driving in Israel is safe. At least, if you know how to behave on the road and don’t let the crazy Israeli drivers scare you off. Of course, I am Italian and more accustomed than the average to a somehow aggressive style of driving, yet I promise you it is totally doable.

In general, road conditions in Israel are for the most part excellent, with multiple lane highways getting in and out of the larger cities and smaller roads leading you to more remote places. Over the last ten years, many upgrades have been done to the roads and highways around Israel and new and improved roads mean you can get from one place to another quickly.

Driving in Israel is on the right and overtaking should be done on the left (though locals don’t necessarily do that). Seatbelts must be worn at all times, both in the front seats and at the back.

Language barrier is hardly an issue when driving in Israel. Virtually everybody speaks excellent English, and while the official languages of the country are Hebrew and Arabic, you will see that road signs also come in English.

Finally, one thing you may want to do is downloading some useful apps. Most people in Europe use Google Maps to get around, but Israelis prefer Waze as it’s a bit more accurate and it allows to share traffic updates in real time.

Finally, let’s see what you should know before renting a car in Israel.

Already convinced you want to rent a car in Israel? Check out the prices here.

Allenby

The Cost Of Renting A Car In Israel

Renting a car in Israel is not super expensive – though it’s not cheap either – but you have to watch out for the hidden costs. Prices vary with the season and the pick up location, but in general you can expect to pay around $75 USD per day for a small car, including liability insurance, theft protection and collision damage waiver.

You may want to browse online to see which company offers the best deal, but you’ll soon realize that prices are more or less the same across the board. A good place to compare the prices of car rental is Discover Cars: it lets you check the prices of a multitude of companies, includes reviews and compares the renting conditions. They also have excellent customer service.

Gas is crazy expensive

These days, the price of gas is high everywhere, but in Israel, gas prices are among some of the highest in the world. At the time of writing, a liter of petrol is $2.15 USD (that’s €1.90 or ILS6.92 Israeli Shekels). That would be more than $8 USD per gallon. The government regulates prices and taxes make up most of the cost.

Toll roads

When driving around Israel, you will inevitably take toll roads. Much like in the rest of the world, what you pay on a toll road in Israel depends on how far you drive along. In some cases, the price also depends on the deal with the car rental company (if they have a transporter installed on the car it will be much cheaper) and on traffic – if you take the express lane on highway 1 between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv you may end up paying up to $20 USD (and that’s for a really short drive!).

What You Need To Know Before Renting A Car In Israel

You must book it in advance

To ensure that a car is available when you need it, it’s a good idea to try and book it before you arrive. This is particularly if you plan to travel during peak season – ie during Passover in April. Booking online through a third-party booking site or directly with the rental company is quick and easy.

Check out the prices of car rental in Israel here.

Sea of Galilee from Mount Arbel

Insurance needed when renting a car in Israel

Liability insurance is mandatory in Israel, and it’s recommended you have full coverage. Having an accident without full coverage can ruin your vacation pretty quickly when the thought of having to pay out of pocket for damage to your rental becomes a reality!

If you have your own car insurance, you might be covered. It’s best to ask your provider and if you’re not covered, maybe you can add coverage to your existing premium. Some credit cards also offer car insurance but going this way can be tricky. There’s lots of fine print so make sure to read it all and understand what is and isn’t included. Oftentimes, this type of insurance only offers partial coverage. For example, most credit cards don’t cover Collision Damage Waiver in Israel.

Check out the prices of car rental in Israel here.

You don’t necessarily want to pick up your car at the airport

When traveling to Israel, chances are you will be landing in Tel Aviv Ben Gurion International Airport – unless you are flying directly to Eilat.

While it’s common to rent a car from the airport upon landing at a destination and this may be what you’re used to doing, this is not necessary in Israel nor is it recommended. Renting from the airport can be a long and frustrating process. Waits of up to a few hours are not unheard of. You’ll also have to pay airport pick up and drop-off fees.

Furthermore, as I have explained before, you really don’t need a car in the city and in fact I don’t recommend it at all. This means you can hold off on renting until you’re ready to leave the city. The top car rental agencies, including Budget, Hertz, Best Car Rental and Shlomo Sixt, all have offices in the cities.

Check out the prices of car rental in Israel here.

trip to Israel

You need a valid driver’s license

The only documents you need to rent a car in Israel are a valid driver’s license from your home country and a passport. An international driver’s license is not required as long as your license is in English and has your photo.

Legal age for renting a car in Israel

You also have to be at least 21 years old to rent a car. Keep in mind that – much like in the rest of the world – drivers under the age of 25 will incur in a young driver surcharge. Another requirement is that you have held your driver’s license for at least one year.

Picking the right car

It’s always better to go small when renting a car. Smaller cars are cheaper to rent in general, they are more fuel-efficient and they are easier to park in cities.

Beware of hidden costs and scams

Unfortunately, hidden costs and scams are common in the car rental business and Israel is no exception. Becoming familiar with these scams will go a long way in preventing you from becoming a victim.

The most common scam is when the rental company tries to place blame on you for damage that was on the vehicle before you took it. The best way to avoid this scam is to always do a walk-around of the car before you leave the lot. Look for dents and scratches and take pictures of anything noteworthy with your phone so it records the date, and you have the proof that it wasn’t done by you. Do the same thing when you return the vehicle.

Many of the garages where you pick up rental cars are dark and that may be on purpose. It’s hard to see scratches and dents in the dark so make sure to do your check in a well-lit area outside the garage.

Another scam is the one where the company refuses to provide documentation to the driver’s insurance company for damage they did. This is likely because the company has no plans to fix the damage but wants to take the insurance money anyway. Their intention is to keep renting the car out with the damage so they can keep collecting. Don’t pay for it out of pocket. With a bit of effort, you should be able to dispute the charge due to their non-compliance.

This next scam is a little harder to avoid. The company rents out a car with mechanical issues. It could be a leaky tire, a bad tire rod end, or something else that could cause you a headache down the road. Make sure you understand what roadside assistance is available to you and if you hear any clunks or bangs or notice anything that seems off, take it back right away. If you need emergency repairs, make sure you’ll be reimbursed.

Other scams include being charged more than you thought you would have to because the company wasn’t honest about the total price and being charged for things you didn’t use. Make sure you read the fine print and ask lots of questions. Ask for the total price, what’s included and what’s not included so you know what you’ll be paying.

Can you go across the border with your car rental?

You can’t, so if you are planning a longer trip across the Middle East, keep in mind that you can’t take your rental outside the border and into the West Bank, Jordan, Egypt, Syria, or Lebanon – in fact, there is no land crossing (and no diplomatic relations) between Israel and Lebanon.

The best option if you want to head to Jordan or Palestine from Israel is to actually return the car and catch a shuttle that takes you to the border, and once you are across use local public transport or car rental services. Keep in mind that there are a lot of day trips running to the West Bank from both Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.

Further Readings

Are you planning a trip to Israel? These posts will be useful:

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Discover what you need to know before renting a car in Israel - via @clautavani

2 thoughts on “The Best Guide To Renting A Car In Israel”

  1. As an Israeli some notes:

    Car rental is good thing for a trip to nature reserves and archeological sites, which access to them is between complicated to impossible in public transport: Caesarea, Capernaum, Tabaha, Megiddo, Beit Guvrin .For example to get to the Dead Sea and Masada, is by no frequent bus from Jerusalem. which can waste a lot of time.

    On the other hand, avoid coming to Tel Aviv and Jerusalem by car. Use only to get out of them. Because these cities are with heavy traffic and it is impossible to find free parking in the tourist areas. Another thing to pay attention to all over the country, try to avoid parking where there is a sidewalk in blue and white. This means that it is paid parking when the main way to pay is through the local app called “Pango”.

    The road infrastructure is good and the roads are in Western European level. The Israeli driver is obedient to traffic laws, and not dangerous, but he can be unpredictable and impatient: drivers who don’t sign befor they turn is a common thing, and they often horn if somome delaying them. So dont be excited if israeli driver horn to you. The driving is on the right side and the signs in Israel are the same signs that are common in Europe, except for the stop sign which is in the same shape only with the shape of a hand instead of “stop” signage.

    There are two toll roads in Israel, Rout 6, and the tunnels that cross Haifa. Payment is electronic and not manual. The road that costs $ 20 mentioned is a fast lane at the entrance to Tel Aviv. A city I recommend not to enter by car.

    And last thing: areas in the West Bank that are under full Israeli control, like the road from Jerusalem to the Dead Sea, Herodium, and Israeli settlements, are no problem to drive. The problem is on entering Palestinian cities and towns in the West Bank. Entering them with Israeli license plates is prohibited and dangerous.

  2. Thank you so much for all the specifications and I 100% agree with you. I would never drive in Jerusalem!

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