May 1st 2015
Israelis are statistically far less likely to own cars than Americans are. As a result, taxis and other forms of public transportation are used by a much higher percentage of the locals here. Obviously, tourists are also a major market for taxi services in Israel. Here’s what you should expect from the experience of taking a cab while visiting.
To flag a taxi on the street in New York City, you generally raise your right arm. And if you have a newspaper rolled up in your right hand, all the better. It’s a little different in Israel, where the local custom is to reach outwards and point down, towards the curb or street. Aim for a 45 degree angle if you really want to look like a local.
If you know the phone number of a local cab company and can speak Hebrew, you can always order a cab. In addition, all of the major hotels have taxi stations at their front steps. In the Jerusalem and Tel Aviv areas, you can also order a cab by using a smartphone app like GetTaxi. The GetTaxi app was developed in Israel for use in English, Hebrew and Russian. It allows users to track the taxi’s arrival, so you don’t have to wait outside. GetTaxi allows users to rate drivers and see previous driver ratings, receive a receipt by email, book in advance and pay with a credit card.
If you find a driver you like, ask for his or her business card so you can call when you know you’ll need another ride.
While many passengers prefer to use the meter, others swear by fixed rates for the best value. In some smaller locales, there is a flat rate between destinations within the city. Fixed rates can give you peace of mind, but they can sometimes be higher than metered charges.
In general, taxi drivers in Israel are not tipped, since fare structures include additional rates for extra passengers, suitcases, ordering a cab from far away and the like. However, if your driver offers you especially exceptional service, such as helping you with your luggage or getting you to your destination on time, despite obstacles, a symbolic gratuity of 5 to 20 NIS is appropriate.
Many taxi drivers, especially those in Jerusalem, Haifa and the Tel Aviv area, speak some English. You should feel free to ask for temperature adjustments if necessary. Finally, Israeli taxi drivers love to schmooze, so if you can communicate with yours, you’ll likely have an interesting story to recount when you return home.