You can cross from Jordan or Egypt through the Sinai peninsula. If you’ve passed through Syria recently expect a grilling, particularly at the Allenby Bridge. And, of course, once you have an Israeli stamp in your passport (or even an entry stamp on the other country’s corresponding border post) you can’t get in to Libya, Iran, Syria, Saudi Arabia, the U.A.E, Oman, Pakistan and maybe Indonesia…
The ferry from Greece doesn’t exist any more. We’ve heard you might be able to take a boat to Cyprus and from there to mainland Europe.
Travelling Around Israel
The bus network is extensive in Israel and, indeed, the entire country depends on it. With almost all Israelis between 18-21 conscripted into the army, they rely upon the buses to get them home at the weekends. You just have to get used to seeing soldiers with guns everywhere, slouching in their seats with exhaustion.
Most young Israelis speak pretty good English so you can always ask if you’re not sure which bus to catch.
Palestinian suicide bombers have made buses in Israel a favourite target since the first Intifada began and many Israelis are too scared to board them. You’re far more likely to get run over by a bus than you are to be exploded on one but when it does happen it’s a horrific blow to the national psyche. There’s really nothing you can do about it and the best answer to terrorism is just to get on with life as usual. (unless, of course, you’re inclined to wonder why people might be so desperate as to take their lives in the name of a cause. But this is Israel – no one wonders anything, they make up their minds by the age of 8.)
The Sherootim – Mini buses
In addition to the buses there are also white vans like mini buses that cover all the main routes in the country. If you catch one from a central station then you’ll have to wait for it to fill up before it departs. Then, rather than gathering all the money before he departs, the driver will attempt to receive all the fares while he drives along, passing the change back though the passengers in the front seats. A furious argument generally follows about who paid what and who didn’t get all their changes. Thus the Israelis pass an enjoyable journey at the top of their voices and the miles pass in no time.
Trains cover part of the country, especially anywhere near Tel Aviv in a north or south direction. Trains in Israel are a little more expensive than the buses but a lot more peaceful.
Israel used to be a paradise for hitchhikers back before the Palestinian Intifada began. The socialistic roots of the country favoured sharing of resources and helping another Israeli along was all part of the cultural ethos.
Now people are a lot more afraid in general and this is bad new for hitchhikers who have to wait quite a while now before getting any rides. If you look even a little Arabic your chances of getting a lift are pretty low and, in any case, you should endeavour to look as normal and safe as possible.
It’s easier to hitchhike on small roads between villages where there is still a lot more trust. The technique in Israel is to point your finger down at the road like a gun when you ask for a lift.
More tips on hitchhiking inisrael Local Transport
Buses and Sherootim
The mini buses are usually a bit faster at nipping through the city streets than the buses but they both cost the same. The buses are incredibly noisy and without them many of Israel’s cities would be peaceful and pleasant places to live.