Published on : Thursday, July 12, 2018
Israel witnessed a record of more than 2 million tourists in the first half this year, and the figure was boosted by increased number of flights and cheaper airfares. But upon arrival, visitors face the same traffic as Israelis do and have to cope with a public transportation system that isn’t congenial at all.
Visitors have to cope with an absence of English-language instructions and the inability to buy tickets in advance. In addition, many of Israel’s historic sites and national parks are only accessible by car and car rentals can often be difficult and expensive. There is no public transportation at all on Shabbat, and this surprises the tourists.
The inconveniences can seem minor, but for a visitor to Israel, they can make or break the trip.
For instance, the Transportation Ministry doesn’t allow bus companies to sell tickets in advance online, which makes it impossible for visitors to arrange an itinerary beforehand.
The website for Rav-Card, which Israelis use for usually weekly and monthly passes, is in Hebrew only and demands personal details, like an identification card number, that tourists don’t have. Riders can buy a Rav-Card from a bus driver but not the weekly- or monthly-pass version, which is much cheaper.
The Transport Ministry official website of travel times and prices is in Hebrew. This leaves the tourists with the option of getting assistance from a helpline that the ministry operates.
Israel offers limited public transportation to historic and religious sites. Even the Western Wall in Jerusalem is only served by two bus lines and they run through ultra-orthodox neighborhoods. Other parts of the city have no direct lines. The same problem is the Biblical Zoo, which is one of the city’s five-top tourist destinations.
But perhaps the most serious problem is the absence of any public transportation at all from Friday afternoon until sundown Saturday. This leaves many tourists stranded at their hotels or finding themselves reaching out to taxi drivers.