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Idiots guide to driving in Israel

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Old Friday 6th March 2020, 15:25   #1
wolfbirder
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Idiots guide to driving in Israel

Having been adversely affected and often confused by driving specifics of Israel, I thought I would try and write an idiots guide. Probably partly applies elsewhere too. True at February 2020, but of course things can change.

CAR HIRE - INITIAL PICK-UP

If you are at Tel Aviv International Airport, after you collect your baggage and clear customs take the escalator up to the 1st floor where the car hire companies are situated, on the left. There are small signs but it is not obvious.

FAMILIARISE

After signing all paperwork (I advise taking out their full Comp but its your choice) and being told where to get your car (either a pick up to off-site or if Hertz for eg on site and a 2 minute walk to car park), familiarise yourself - look at gears, mirrors, lights, petrol release handle, what side petrol cap is on etc. Ascertain if it is diesel, or unleaded (95 or 98 in Israel), Photograph any scratches. Take your time. Allow 20 minutes. This I would advise is really important. Obviously, ascertain if the car is manual or automatic and familiarise yourself with settings.

EXITING TEL AVIV AIRPORT

If your car is at the airport (Hertz for eg) you leave the car hire car park level, push the button at the first barrier and it gives you a ticket, go through that barrier, which you then insert at the next barrier a few hundred metres further on, which releases you. A strange system but it works well.

Then, if heading for Eilat (or the South), follow signs for Jerusalem 'until' you see signs for Route 6 'Be'er Sheva' (Beer Sheba). Then its fairly straightforward southward, but have a good street-map in case you cannot get internet or do not have SATNAV. Near Be'er Sheba, you can go onto Route 31 for 'Dead Sea' and 'Arad', then where that road (31) ends, join 90 all the way down to Eilat.

BUYING PETROL IN ISRAEL

Paying by cash is easiest – go in and say you want to 'fill up', they usually understand that, or do a hand signal to indicate to fill. Hand over the cash, and they give you back what you have not used. Make sure you count what you give them. I found that a few petrol stations 'only accept cash', but most will accept card payment.

If you want to pay with a foreign credit card there may be a 200-250 NIS limit which may not fill your tank. A full tank of an average car will be over 400 shekels, so in light of the 200-250 shekel limit at Israeli gas stations with a foreign credit card, I suggest keeping to the half a tank rule. Once you are under half a tank of gas, fill up. The 200-250 limit will cover this (unless you are driving a mini-van or larger vehicle or a vehicle that runs on Diesel fuel which is more expensive). Be wary on long journeys, try and keep you tank half-full.

If you try and use your credit card without asking the attendant, or if it is just a self-service station out of hours (pay at pump only), then it is complicated because there are different systems and all instructions are in Hebrew.

Basically, when you put your credit card in the pump, the pump asks for your ‘Teudat Zehut’. Only Israelis have this ID. You would have to get a bypass number from the attendant. Then sometimes it asks for your license plate (again in Hebrew), though there is a bypass for that part too.

But - self-serve petrol stations work slightly differently from each other. I have (with the help of others) put in my card, then put in 123456789, or 1111111, or 9999999 for my "ID" number and then my credit card PIN number, then fuelled. There is no rhyme or reason. So it is difficult if it is a self-service station only (generally out of hours). But it may be worth trying these codes if you are desperate for petrol and it is late, where there is no petrol attendant.

So it is easier to fill up in normal day-time hours, if you can do.

So the long and short of it is the easy way to do this is to go into the cashier, give them cash or your credit card and say you want a fill, they will release the pump so you can fill, then go back in and they will give you change and a receipt, or will then run your card and give you a receipt.

Just ask, someone will help you.

ALARM PIN CODE

All Israeli cars have a 4 digit security pin code followed by * which must be punched in each time you start. Take a mobile phone photograph of it when you collect the car, in case you forget. Once you have input the code plus *, 2 clear beeps follow if it is ok to now turn ignition and away you go. If there are 4 beeps the system is confused and your engine will not start.

This has happened to me when I have stop-started again and again when I have birded a reservoir via a perimeter road, or in the desert.

'If' you find you cannot restart don't panic. It will seem like the engine is dead. Take the ignition key out and leave it for a time period of 15 minutes (in some cars), for system to reset. There may be a symbol on your dashboard telling you it is resetting, and thus when it has reset, but I did not have one on my car so it was just guess work, but it always reset in around 15 minutes. Although this makes you anxious, you must leave everything alone and it does need time to reset.

DRIVING AUTOMATICS

If you have an automatic, get used to driving with just your right foot to operate both pedals, and place your left foot back towards your seat. Driving automatics for the first time comes as a culture shock, but fundamentally you only use your right foot to drive, to use the accelerator and break. Perhaps this is stating the obvious.

There are 4 modes...........Neutral, Park, Reverse, and Drive. When you stop, even momentarily to look at a bird, always stop in P mode. Habitually!!!

BEEPERS

Many hire cars in Israel are pre-set to have beeping sounds to alert you if you are swaying slightly across a lane. Although initially annoying, these actually help the birder whose eyes are often not where they should be! Of course you should keep your eyes on the road, but in effect its a bit like auto-pilot as it corrects you and ensures you stay central. That's NOT to say you should rely on them and take your hands off the wheel and eyes off the road. But tolerate them and get used to them. They may save your life. There are settings to turn them off if you really hate them, but as many of the roads wind through mountains, or are long and straight and monotonous, I advise people to be grateful for them.

SPEEDING

Beware, it is easy to se long straight roads such as Route 90 down to Eilat and go beyond the speed limit, but there are patrol cars that may catch you out.

That's really it. Hope it helps those who have not been before.
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Last edited by wolfbirder : Saturday 7th March 2020 at 07:22.
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Old Friday 6th March 2020, 16:24   #2
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There is a town in the North called Afula. It may have changed nowadays, but in the past it was incredibly difficult to drive thru.. if you followed the main road it would spit you out the way you came in, back towards Haifa. Suspect sat navs have solved that one, but incredibly frustrating.
The only solution i knew was to follow a car, and hope they were heading beyond the town
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Old Friday 6th March 2020, 17:40   #3
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Nice work Nick!

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Old Friday 6th March 2020, 18:31   #4
wolfbirder
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If anything it will help me next time I go back Chris (:-.

Pete, some of those Spanish towns remind me of that situation, like Mertola.
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Old Friday 6th March 2020, 18:33   #5
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Just in case: in any country, take photos of your car from every side, plus the boot and the steering wheel (ca 25 photos). This prevents the dishonest company or its representative from claiming some minute scratch which might be even invisible to you. I saved quite a lot of money this way over the years.

Also, considering the political situation it may be worth to wait until the political situation improves and you can easily visit Palestine - these archeological sites and 200 pairs of Pallid Scops Owls in a certain date palm plantation are tempting.
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Old Friday 6th March 2020, 18:36   #6
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Yes I gather there is some sensitivity further north in the west bank. But its ok at the northern end of the Dead Sea at present, but coronavirus may currently affect any plans.

Good advice about the car.
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Old Friday 6th March 2020, 19:41   #7
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Fascinating read . . . but makes me glad (a) I'm a non-driver, and (b) don't have any great desire to go to Israel
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Old Tuesday 7th April 2020, 14:27   #8
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Excellent advice. I normally go direct to Eilat in March/April for the spring migration and hiring a car there is slightly less problematic.
I use a GPS app on my phone when I'm there, either Google maps or Waze. The latter was written by a Israeli team and I find easier to use. One of them (I forget which) comes up in Hebrew which fortunately I understand but if it happens there is always the alternative. So very disappointed not to be going this year but with the world as it is it's a very small price to pay.
Keep well everyone.
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