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Car Rental in Israel: traveling the country of pilgrimage and beach life
Israel is the site of pilgrimage for believers in four of the world’s major religions, particularly for the religious significance of Jerusalem and Mount Carmel, among other sites. But Israel also has a major draw for lovers of metropolitan beach life, particularly in and around Tel Aviv. Make the most of your visit by exploring Israel at its fullest via rental car.
The shoulder seasons of April to May and September to October are the most comfortable times to visit Israel, though be aware of religious holidays’ influences on the tourist industry during these months!
Hebrew and Arabic are the official languages of Israel. English is widely spoken and most Israelis learn English in school. Many other European and Asian languages are also widely spoken due to the large immigrant and foreign working populations of Israel. Highways signs are typically tri-lingual, in Hebrew, Arabic, and English.
The currency is the Israeli shekel. Credit cards are accepted in most establishments and ATMs are widely available.
A relatively small country, you can drive from northern Haifa to Red Sea port Eilat in around five hours. Tel Aviv is located 70 km (44 mph) northwest of Jerusalem.
Automobile hire is available in over 30 locations throughout Israel, though you’re likely to find the most inexpensive and convenient options in four major destinations: Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, Haifa, and Eilat. Each of these cities has competitive car rental prices, though Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion Airport is the best location to book a car a few months in advance of your vacation.
Citizens from most countries in Europe, the Americas, and Oceania, as well as a number of African and East Asian countries can visit Israel visa-free for up to three months. If you’re planning on travelling on to a country with large Arab populations, be wary of receiving an Israeli border stamp directly in your passport. Citizens of other countries will have to apply for a visa before they arrive, so be sure to double-check visa regulations for your nationality before you depart.
Driving in Israel
The network of highways is quite good throughout Israel, and you can generally expect roads to be well maintained, making self-driving throughout the country a pleasure.
- Traffic proceeds on the right-hand side of the road in Israel.
- In cities: 50 km/h (31 mph)
- On undivided intercity highways: 80 km/h (50 mph)
- On divided intercity highways: 90 km/h (55 mph)
- Major freeways: 90 to 110 km/h (55 to 68 mph)
- To park on the street in cities, look for curbs that are marked grey, which typically indicates that these streets are free, or blue and white, indicating that the streets are open to visitors but require payment via machine or mobile phone.
- An international driver’s permit is recommended in addition to your valid driver’s license for renting and driving a car in Israel.
- Highway 6, the Carmel Tunnels, the fast lane from Ben-Gurion Airport to Tel-Aviv are the toll roads of Israel. Have cash on hand to pay tolls at tollbooths, with the exception of Highway 6, which is tolled electronically. You can expect those tolls to be added to your rental car fees.
- The minimum driving age in Israel is 17, though you will likely have to be at least 21 years old to rent a car and will face young-driver surcharges to the age of 25.
- Remember Shabbat (or “Sabbath” for English speakers) when making your travel plans, as most services in the country will be closed from sunset on Friday to sunset on Saturday.
- Rental insurance may not cover your car or journey if you cross the border into the Gaza Strip or West Bank. Be sure to discuss these potential travel plans with your rental company before you sign the contract.
Cheap Car Rental in Israel
Automobile hire in Israel typically starts at around $17 a day. Here are some of the best deals in Israel:
- Fiat Panda or similar (mini class) – $17/day
- Peugeot 107 or similar (economy class) – $19/day
- Hyundai I10 or similar (compact class) – $20/day
- Suzuki Swift or similar (intermediate class) – $21/day
- Mazda 3 or similar (standard class) – $27/day
Note that prices vary depending on the availability of each specific car and the season in which you rent. For the most accurate offers, use the search bar above.
Tips for Renting a Car Inexpensively in Israel
You can save around $5 a day if you extend your rental period to over a week.
Cal Auto International is routinely the cheapest rental brand throughout Israel and booking your car from Cal Auto in Tel Aviv is the most reliable and convenient option. Rentals from other companies, such as Hertz, start at a price typically $9 more expensive than Cal Auto per daily rental, though you may find it necessary to book a car at this higher price if you are finalizing your plans more than three months before your arrival date in order to ensure that a car will be available for you.