Transportation – rav kav, cartisiyot
Learning to navigate a public transportation system in a new place and a new language can be quite a challenge. Don’t be discouraged if in your first few months in the country, you get on the wrong bus, or get off the train at the wrong station. Before a trip to an unfamiliar place, be sure to check bus/train times a day in advance, and consult friends who have travelled there before for advice. Don’t be afraid to ask the driver/train staff for help or directions, in English or Hebrew.
There are three main types of public transportation in Israel: Bus, train, and monit sherut (shared taxi). The train is the fastest way to Tel Aviv, and there are three train stations in Haifa: Hof HaKarmel, Bat Galim, and Merkaz HaShmona, and also Lev Hamifratz, which is not considered Haifa by the train system. There are two central bus stations (תחנות מרכזיות) in Haifa: Hof HaKarmel and Lev HaMifratz. There are local buses in Haifa, and for an inter-city bus to points south, travel from Hof HaKarmel, and to points north and east (and Jerusalem), travel from Lev Hamifratz. Moniyot sherut run from Hadar to Tel Aviv, Carmiel, Akko and Naharia, even on Shabbat, but usually cost more than the bus and train, and much more on Shabbat.
On the bus and train, you can get discounts by purchasing cartisiyot (multiple-ride tickets). On the train, a cartisiya is 12 tickets, on city buses it’s 10, and inter-city buses 5. For medium to long range trips, you can also buy round trip tickets (הלוך חזור) on the bus or train. On the train, the cartisiya comes in 12 separate tickets, so you can distribute them between members of your kvutsa without consequence.
In Haifa, you are entitled to a free ride within the city if you are travelling to or from a point outside of the city. This means that you should buy your long-distance ticket when you get on the city bus on the way to hof hakarmel or lev hamifratz, and when you buy your ticket in another city on your way to Haifa, make sure to ask for a kartis hemsech ironi (כרטיס המשך עירוני). This also applies to cartisiyot and round-trip tickets.
On the bus, in order to purchase a cartisiya, you need a rav-kav card. A rav-kav card is a personal magnetic card with your picture on the back that holds virtual cartisiyot. You can get a rav-kav at hof hakarmel, lev hamifratz, a little booth in hadar at the corner of Hanevi’im and Hassan Shukri, or at big bus stations in other cities.
There are several problems with the rav-kav that you need to be vigilant about:
- Drivers don’t always know how to use it. Be sure to tell the driver clearly what ticket you want to purchase and put on your rav-kav, or what cartisiya he should be charging your ride to. Look at the screen as he does this to try to make sure he does the right thing.
- When you purchase a cartisiya, you get a print-out (save the print-out in case you have problems later, or of course if you get travel reimbursements), but when you just use a ride, you do not. This makes it hard to keep track of how many rides you have left on your cartisiya. You can look at the screen as the driver takes a ride from your cartisiya to try to discover this, and you can also ask the driver for a print-out of the contents of your rav-kav.
- A rav-kav only holds 8 cartisiyot at a time.
- If a mistake happens, go to your nearest rav-kav booth.
- The train has recently begun using rav-kav as well, but as of February 2013, it is unreliable and a hassle. Avoid using it.
You can find bus and train information on the following websites:
- http://2800.noal.co.il/ (Dror Israel website, searches all public transportation timetables, meant for use on cell phones)
- www.rail.co.il (Israel Railways)
- www.egged.co.il (Haifa city buses, and buses between Haifa and many other places)
- www.bus.co.il (one-stop-website for all public transportation timetables)
- www.tranzmate.co.il (one-stop-website for all public transportation timetables)
- www.omniexp.co.il (buses between Haifa and Afula)
- www.gb-tours.com (buses between Haifa and Nazareth-Migdal Ha’emek)
- http://www.kavim-t.co.il/home/ (local buses in Tel Aviv and Afula)
- http://www.dan.co.il/ (local buses in Tel Aviv)