Ok, first off, it is not that complicated. The hardest part was to get all the right information. The internet was not very helpful, the bus company websites tell you only half the story. So I asked around some time till I figured it out.
Part one: Just taking the bus.
There is one little problem if you, like me, are not fluent in reading Hebrew
The plans and destinations written in Hebrew are of little help. Luckily, the text on the sign is in English on the other side!
So, first find your connection on Google maps. Then check the bus stop sign and get into a bus with the right number.
To get in, make sure the driver notices you. Sometimes, especially when the bus can not stop at the actual bus stop because of cars or buses blocking it, they might drive right by you. Don’t be shy, yell and wave, a well placed “Hey!” or “Rega Rega!” can go a long way in Israel.
As there are at least two bus companies and the line runs may change for whatever reason, so when unsure ask the driver by announcing your final destination. Even if he does not speak English, you will most likely get confirmation or told to take another bus. Do not worry, as the buses are confusing, asking is not uncommon.
If you are lucky, the stops are announced audibly. Note that they usually say the street and a crossing one. When in doubt, consult Google maps again in order to find out when to get off. Or just ask the driver, he/she or someone else will tell you when to get off.
In between, you can enjoy the sound of Tel Aviv traffic.
There is a lot of honking involved, and I keep wondering if the bus drivers are stunt drivers who missed or rather found their calling. 😉
And again, when in doubt, just ask the someone around you. Most people in Tel Aviv are beyond friendly.
One time, when I just missed the bus, some guy in a passing car just yelled at me – to get in. He took me to the next bus stop, whilst overtaking the bus and driving in front of it to make sure I catch it.
Part two: Saving money
Ok, if you take the bus often and want to save some money, you have to get a ‘rav kav’ card first. To do so, take your passport with you and go to a major train or bus station, like HaShalom.
Beware that your luggage will be checked when entering a train station.
Then go to the Dan counter marked with green symbols and ask for the card. They will take your picture, print it and put it on a fresh card.
This card is still empty, so you have to charge it with the bus driver. You can ask for ‘hofshi hodshi’ which is a monthly ticket. For 246 NIS you can go basically anywhere in the greater Tel Aviv area.
So, enjoy the Tel Aviv bus experience!