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Car rentals in Israel – are they worth it?

Visiting Israel and you need to decide if it’s worth hiring a car? This article will give you the information you need to make a decision.

Israel is a small country, but, even so, getting about using public transport can be confusing and take time. So, is it worthwhile considering hiring a car while you’re here? Well, the answer to that depends, to a large extent, on what you plan on doing during your stay.

Car Hire Companies

The good news is that Israel has quite a few car hire companies to choose from. Many of the internationally known companies, such as Hertz, Aviv and Budget, are here and there are also many Israeli car hire companies as well. There are car hire counters at Israel’s international airport, Ben Gurion, and at all the ports as well as in all major cities and other popular tourist destinations. Most companies are open 6 days a week (Sunday through Friday) and all have emergency numbers.

There are a wide range of cars to choose from, from small budget models to people carriers and even high end luxury models. Most hire cars are automatic transmission rather than manual and all include air conditioning.

As for prices – because there is a lot of completion, prices are reasonable and you can get some really good deals so it’s worthwhile “going the rounds” to get the best possible price.

But do you need a hire car?

OK, we’ve established that for such a small country, there are many car hire firms to choose from. But, even if the price is right – do you need a hire car?

Let’s look at two different situations.

You are coming to Israel for a vacation or on business but your plans include staying in one location, for example, Tel Aviv or maybe Jerusalem. All Israeli cities have excellent public transport systems (no subways as yet) and fleets of taxis just waiting to take you to your destination. Many of them, and especially the larger ones, suffer, just like New York, London and Paris, from traffic congestion and lack of parking facilities. Add to this street signs in Hebrew and a maze of unfamiliar streets, then it is quite conceivable that it could be easier, cheaper, and faster, to use public transport – even taxis.

But if your travel plans include touring parts of the country, then a hire car could be an excellent and worthwhile alternative to public transport.

Israel has an excellent bus service that covers almost the entire country. Inter-city bus services are regular and relatively cheap. Trains run between most major cities and almost 24 hours a day. So why get a hired car?

Even though public transport is good, it will limit your possibilities and eat up a lot of your valuable vacation time. Not only will you spend many hours traveling on a route that will often be longer than a direct car ride, you’ll also “waste” time changing and waiting for the next bus. Another thing to take into consideration is luggage. Many busses have storage space for luggage but dragging them from your hotel to the bus station…? As for trains, they only cover a small portion of the country so, at some stage, even if you take the train, you’ll need to use a bus.

Did I mention the kids? Kids get impatient on any long ride. But at least if you are in a car, you can stop for a break. If you’re on a bus or a train – you’re stuck with no easy solution.

OK – so why not go by taxi. Excellent, door to door service, can go from anywhere to anywhere – but it will cost you an arm and a leg! Taxi fares in the city are regulated, inter-city journeys are another story. Even if you’re going one way, the driver can demand that you pay for a two way trip.

So, yes, if you’re traveling around the country then getting a hire car could be the best solution. It’s convenient, gives you total control over where you go and when you get there and saves you a whole lot of hassle – especially if you use a navigation program like Waze or a GPS to plot the route for you.

Car Hire Tips

  • Israel has strict laws about using a cell phone when driving – if you don’t have a hands free device, then DON’T!
  • By law, children up to certain age must have a child safety seat. Most hire companies can provide these for an extra fee.
  • Everybody in the car must use a safety belt – even on short journeys.
  • Most hire companies will also rent you a GPS if you don’t have one.

Driving tips

  • Israelis love to use their horns especially at traffic lights – don’t let it bother you.
  • There is no “turn right at a stop light”.
  • For some reason, many Israeli drivers don’t indicate before turning, so be aware and drive carefully.
  • Route 6 – the trans-Israel Highway is a toll road. But the toll is collected after you’re journey and mailed in the post to the cars registered owner. So if you use Route 6 with a hire car, you may get an extra charge a couple of weeks after returning the vehicle.
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