Tips for Renting a Car in Israel

May 20th 2015

carIf you’re planning to opt for a private, guided group tour of Israel, you won’t need to worry about transportation, since your guide will take care of those arrangements. However, if you want to travel on Shabbat, when most public transportation in Israel doesn’t run, or if you decide to show yourself around a bit, renting a car can be extremely convenient and affordable. Here are some tips to keep in mind for renting a car in Israel.

While you might recognize the car makes (Mazda, Ford, Fiat, etc.) that are common in Israel, the specific models might not be familiar to you. Request a car by the features you’ll need, instead of relying on your knowledge of existing car model names.

If you’re planning to use an American credit card, check with your credit card company to make sure they will cover insurance on rental cars in Israel. Many do, but some won’t, in which case you probably want to opt for the rental company’s policy.

car 2Especially in Israel, where parking spaces are tight and dings can be common, it’s important to check the car you rent before you leave the lot, to make sure the rental agent notes all existing scratches and small dents. Some large rental agencies will give you a tablet to take pictures before you drive off. If you aren’t offered that, take pictures with your phone.

In Israel, your car rental agent might ask whether or not you’re going to be driving the car on Shabbat and Jewish holidays and will adjust your bill accordingly. Shabbat-observant renters only pay for insurance on Saturdays and are exempt from daily rates.

In case of an accident, first call the police by dialing 100, and then call your rental company.

When you’re driving in Israel, it’s important to know a few of the basic rules of the road and how they differ from what you’re familiar with. For example, don’t automatically assume that you can turn right on red. In most places, wazeit’s forbidden. And talking on a cell phone while driving is illegal, unless the car is equipped with a hands-free system. In addition, headlights are required, even during the day, if you’re driving in Israel between November and April.

Finally, the smartphone app Waze, which was developed by an Israeli company, is invaluable for helping you get around. Although installing it on your phone in Israel might cause the app to default to Hebrew, you can set up Waze announcements in English. To access that option, go to settings and then sound then voice language. There is also a setting, important in Israel, called “Keep within areas under Israeli authority.” To turn that option on, go to settings and then navigation. Unless you’re comfortable gauging distance in meters, you may want to set your until preference to mile instead of kilometer. To do that, go to setting, then general, then unit.

You’re ready to roll!