Driving is a great way to get around the country.

Israel has a modern, well developed, well maintained and well signed road network that will take you anywhere.

Emergency numbers

There is no unified emergency call center in Israel but the intention is to establish one in the future.
For now there are separate numbers for the police, ambulance and fire department.
Police – 100
Ambulance – 101
Fire department - 102

The international emergency number 112 works in Israel and it will connect you to the police (similar to dialing 100).

License

A valid foreign license is required to drive in Israel, there is no need for an international license.
The driving age in Israel for a car is 16 years and 9 months and for a motorcycle (up to 125cc) 16 years.
New drivers (first 24 months) must place a sign on the rear windshield stating that he is a "new driver" (נהג חדש). The sign should be 12X20cm with a yellow background and black 40mm letters. The sign must be taken out when a regular driver drives the car.

New young drivers (under 24) must be accompanied by an experienced driver for the first 6 month, the first 3 month day or night and the last 3 month only during the night.
The experienced driver must be, at least, 24 y/o with a 5 year experience or 30 y/o with a 3 year experience. New drivers 24 or older are exempted.
New young drivers under 21 cannot take more than 2 passengers, unless an experienced driver is sitting in in the seat next to him.

Drink driving

In Israel, the alcohol limit for drivers is:
For new drivers, drivers under 24, an over 3,500kg commercial vehicle driver and public service vehicle driver:
10 milligrams of alcohol per 100 milliliters of blood, 50 micrograms per 100 milliliters of breath (this basically means, no alcohol as it comes to 0.01%).
The rest of the drivers:
50 milligrams of alcohol per 100 milliliters of blood, 240 micrograms per 100 milliliters of breath.

The police can ask you take a breathalyzer/blood/urine test if they suspects that you are under the influence. The penalty for refusal is incarceration of up to one year or a fine of up to 10,000 NIS (updates for July 2015).

General information and regulations

  • All passengers must wear seatbelts, in the front and the back.
  • Traffic drives on the right side.
  • U-turns are allowed, unless stated otherwise.
  • Horns are often used to indicate displease of someone’s speed or behavior.
  • Roundabouts are very common, give way to cars already in the circle.
  • There are no all-way stop signs.
  • Talking on a mobile phone without a hands-free system (not a headset) is forbidden.
  • Headlights must be turned on at all times on intercity highways from Nov 1st to Mar 31st 
  • A yellow reflective vest must be kept in the car at all times and must be worn when exiting the vehicle on the shoulder of the highway.

Road signs

A red octagon with a white hand is the STOP sign – The driver must yield to all inconflicting traffic after coming to a complete stop.
Road signs are in Hebrew, Arabic and English (Latin) and generally follow the European guidelines, with some variants. Direction signs are green, except for freeways when they are blue, white for local signs and brown for tourist destinations like landmarks, historical sites, nature reserves etc.
Road numbering uses 1 digit for national roads, 2 digits for intercity roads, 3 digits for regional roads and 4 digits for local road. The number sign is red for national and inter-city road, green for regional roads and black (brown before 2010) for local roads however a freeway number will be blue (it can be a national, inter-city or regional road).
White road marking are used to separate the lanes.
Yellow road markings are used to mark the edge of the road.
Orange road markings are used for works zones and temporary detours.

Speed limit

Unless stated differently by a traffic sign, speed limit for a passenger car is:
Residential zones –  50km/h
Inter-city without a physical separation median between opposing lanes –  80km/h
Inter-city with a physical separation median between opposing lanes –  90km/h
Freeway – 110km/h

Traffic lights

Red light means stop, no left or right turns are allowed when the light is red
Red and yellow
light means that the light is about to turn green.
Green light means go but only in the direction of the arrow above the traffic light. If there are no arrows the traffic light controls all possible directions.
Yellow light means that the light is about to turn red.
Flashing green light means that the light is about to turn yellow, appears only on roads where the speed limit is 60km/h or higher.
Flashing yellow light means that you can go but give way to pedestrian or incoming traffic (this happens when there is a malfunction with the traffic light).
A special traffic light with just one flashing yellow light means that you can go but give way to pedestrian crossing or incoming traffic. It can be found on a right turn with a green light when, after the turn, pedestrians also have a green
In some junctions a special right turn lane, separated by a triangle sidewalk or white road markings from the junction, will allow you to make a right turn even if the light is red It will also have the special traffic light with the single flashing yellow light which means that the right of way is of crossing pedestrians and incoming traffic.

Toll roads

Currently there are 3 toll roads in Israel

Highway 6 is an electronic-toll-highway with no toll booths. Cars are identified by their license plate or by an electronic device in the car called “paskal” and the bill is sent directly to the car owner. In case of a rented car the bill will be sent to the rental agency and they will charge the toll from the client that used the car at that time with an additional handling fee, so check the conditions in advance.
There are 3 sections on the freeway:
The main section, from Iron interchange to Sorek interchange, where the charge is done by segments (the distance between 2 interchanges is a segment) however there is a minimum charge for 3 segments, even if less segments are used and a maximum charge of 5 segments, even if more segments  are used.
The Northern section from Iron Interchange to Ein Tut interchange (which is one segment) is charged separately, regardless of the use of the main section.
The southern section from Sorek interchanges and onward is free of charge.

The Carmel Tunnels is a set of 4 tunnels (2 in each direction) with the Sha'anan interchange between each set of 2 tunnels. The charge is done by segments (each tunnel is a segment).
 There are toll booths in this highway.

The toll lane (known as the fast lane) is a 13km high occupancy toll lane on highway 1 starting from Ben Gurion interchange in the direction of Tel Aviv to the Ayalon highway (highway 20). The lane uses the congestion pricing system which means that the toll changes throughout the day according to real-time traffic congestion on the lane - more traffic means higher prices. the price is displayed on signs at the entrance to the lane. There are toll booths on this lane but they are not located at the entrance, to get to them you’ll need to get off the lane at the special car park (about 1km after the entrance) and go to the booths. If you do not go to the booth you will be charged electronically and the bill will be sent to the owner of the car.
You can also park the car there, for free, and take one of the 2 free shuttles into Tel Aviv. The shuttles work on weekdays from 6am to 23pm every 15 minutes (every 5 minutes during rush hour 6.30am-9.30am and 3.30pm to 7pm). If you leave the car park after midnight you’ll need to pay a fine.
The lane is also free for car with 4 occupants (sometimes 3 occupants, if specified on the signs) – you must go to the booths in the car park to verify this, otherwise you will be charged electronically and the bill will be sent to the owner of the car.

Parking

Parking on the street
Parking is permitted at the curb, free of charge, if there are no markings on the curbstones  or a no parking signs.
Other common no parking zones include
12m (about 40ft) before or on  road crossings (no distance is required after the crossing) or a stop line.
2m (about 6.5ft) near a fire hydrant
If the curbstones are alternately painted in red no parking or stopping is permitted
If the curbstones are alternately painted in red and yellow, or if the road is marked with a yellow box or zigzag lines no parking is allowed within  the marked zone.
Paid parking zones
If the curbstones are alternately painted in blue it is a paid parking zone.
Prices and hours can be different in each municipality and some zones are for residential with a specific zone permit during certain hours so always look for a parking sign specifying the allowed parking hours.
Paying for parking
There are several methods f paying for parking in the blue zones, depending on the municipality.
Parking meters – There is a meter near each parking space, payment is made with coins and credit card (not commonly used in Israel but you can find them in some municipalities like Jerusalem), after the payment the parking time will be displayed on the screen.
Multi-space meters – There is a meter covering a specific zone of several spaces, payment is made with coins and credit card, after the payment a ticket is issued with the details (date, time, duration etc.) , the ticket must be placed inside the car visible through the front windshield to the parking attendant .
In-Vehicle Parking Meter – a small plastic device with a small display called EasyPark , once you are parked you enter the municipality and zone codes and select the required parking tie (within the limits of the regulations, but you can “ore-order” more than one period that will be renewed automatically once the previous one expires), payment is made by toping up the card with money (available in multiple point of sales and, in newer models, through their website by connecting the device to the computer via USB). The card must be bought in advance for (as of 2015) 109NIS. - http://www.easypark.co.il/ (Hebrew only)
Pay-by-phone parking – Use the mobile phone to pay for the parking by informing the service provider on the name of the municipality and the start time, payment is done by credit card or, in some cases, with prepaid top up cards. It’s the easiest way to pay for parking but you will need to register (it’s free) and there are commissions so it’s more expensive the using the regular methods.
There are currently 2 companies that provide this service in Israel:
Pango+ - Can be used via their app (iOS and Android), by phone or via SMS. They also offer a similar service to pay in certain car parks. Free registration is required (through the app, by phone or on their website) and payment is made with a credit card.
http://en.pango.co.il/ (available in English)
Cellopark – Can be used via their app (iOS and Android) or by phone. They also offer a similar service to pay in certain car parks. Free registration is required (through the app, by phone or on their website) and payment is made with a credit card or with pre-paid cards.
https://www.cellopark.co.il/ (Hebrew only)

Important: in the past there were also paper parking coupons but they are no longer valid so do not be tempted if someone offers to sell them to you.

Car parks
The charge changes according to the location and time of day and the day of the week.
In many car parks payment is by the hour during the day, on working days, and a fixed price during the night or on weekends. By law hourly charge must be at intervals of 15 minutes from the second hour (the 1st hour has no intervals).
Prices must be displayed at the entrance to the car park.
Be aware that, due to security reasons, there will be security checks at the entrances to underground and closed car parks, which may include asking you to open the trunk (boot).

GPS

You can get one from the car rental company but today it is not necessary if you have a smartphone or a tablet.
The best navigation system for Israel is Waze as it is widely used thus gives the most accurate and up to date information on traffic, new roads, changes and detours, however it does require data connection so it might not suite everyone.
If no data connection is available there are plenty of free apps (especially for Android) that provide offline maps and navigation. The best app today is Here Maps (formerly Nokia Maps, and before that Ovi maps). You can download it for free, it is available for Android, iOS, Windows Phone devices and offers full offline voice turn by turn navigation, just remember to download the map in advance (free registration is  required to download maps, it is also possible to use your Facebook account).