Purchase a map of Israel (and recommended strongly a map of Jerusalem) before your trip and familiarize yourself with where you will be going. Also obtain an International Drivers Permit recognized in Israel although I was told it is not needed if you have a U.S. or Canadian drivers license – it is best to have and easy to get in any case.
It is easier to reserve a car before you go because sometimes, especially around Passover and the Fall Jewish holidays, it is hard to find a car to rent. There are many car rental agencies in Israel including those you may be familiar with: Budget, Avis, Hertz as well as many Israeli car agencies. It is a little more expensive to pick up / return the car at the Ben Gurion Airport but it is most convenient and is much less hassle especially if it’s your first trip to Israel. You can reserve a car online so you will be sure to have one when you are there.
After you clear customs and enter the main terminal, you can go to the lower level to pick up your car. Do not be confused – there are car rental agencies on the main and upper levels but that is to reserve cars.
I strongly recommend the higher insurance. Fender benders are common in Israel and it is much less hassle to get the full coverage. Once you pick up your car, go out of the car terminal and follow the signs to your destination – Likely either Jerusalem or Tel Aviv. The car signs are in English as well as Hebrew (and arabic) so it should be okay. The first overseas trip I took was to Israel – by myself – and I had no problem renting a car and driving.
- Have a plan where you are heading. Shoulders along the roads are rare, there are very few places to pull over, and traffic is heavy nearly everywhere.
- Traffic drives in the right lane and driver is on the left side – just like the U.S.
- Gas is very expensive in Israel so plan your trip accordingly. I paid $6.00 a gallon in 2007 (before the gas prices skyrocketed)
- There is a LOT of honking of car horns in Israel – for no apparent reason – EVERYONE honks – but there is no road rage that I ever saw even in heavy traffic
- You will not be allowed to drive into the palestinian controlled areas – rental cars not allowed to enter.