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Rav-Kav is the Israeli public transportation card and if you’re planning on using public transportation on your trip to Israel then this post is going to be extremely helpful.

Rav-Kav in a nutshell

  • If you plan on using buses in Israel, you must have a loaded Rav-Kav! You can’t buy one from the bus driver
  • Each individual needs their own card. You can’t pay for two rides with one card
  • As a non-Israeli, you will need the anonymous Rav-Kav card
  • I recommend getting the Rav-Kav card at the airport
  • You can load either a day contract or stored value
  • Once you charge the card, you can’t get the money back

Where can you purchase a Rav-Kav?

There are loads of places where you can get a Rav-Kav card: bus stations, train stations, and shops like Super-Pharm (a chain of pharmacies) and AM:PM (a city-wide supermarket).
I would recommend getting one at the airport when you land. In the welcome hall, next to the exit, there’s a ticket counter called the ‘Public Transportation Information Center’. Here there will be someone who can sell you a Rav-Kav card. If the office is closed, there’s also a machine you can buy it from.
I recommend getting a Rav-Kav as soon as you can because while you can buy a paper ticket for the train, you can’t pay for a bus ride on the bus. A card costs 5 shekels, which is around a dollar and a half, and once you have it you will need to charge it.
Each individual person needs a card, so if you are a couple you will need two cards. Children under the age of five don’t need to pay for public transportation.

How do you charge your Rav-Kav?

As a non-Israeli tourist, you will need to purchase the anonymous Rav-Kav, which is the simple card without a photo and Israeli ID. This means you won’t be able to get a student or pensioner discount, but that’s not really a big deal as public transportation is so cheap.

Rav-Kav purchase

Stored value

You can also charge your card at all the places where you can buy a Rav-Kav. You can charge your card with two different kinds of tickets.
The card itself is useless if it hasn’t been charged, so let’s charge it now. There are three options. The simplest is ‘New single ride contract’, which is basically a card with one ride. It costs 10.5 shekels as the card costs 5 shekels and a single ride costs 5.5 shekels.

You also have the option of charging value onto the card and storing it for future rides. So you can choose to charge 30, 50, 100, 150 or 200 shekels onto the card. You should be aware that you can’t get your money back if you haven’t used it all up. So if you charged the card with 100 and used only 30, then you have lost 70. You can try to work out approximately how much you will use before charging the card.

Daily contract

If you’re planning on using public transportation a lot, for example, taking the light rail to the bus station and taking a bus to Masada and back, you can save money by buying a daily contract.
Another option on the ticket machine is a ‘New Daily Contract’. If you’re in Jerusalem and planning on using the light rail and the buses in Jerusalem more than twice a day, it is better value to buy a daily pass. A daily pass in the city costs 12.50.
There are two important things you need to know:
you have to validate the ticket on every ride you take
if you have 30 shekels of stored value, you can’t use that to buy a daily contract. A daily contract and stored value are two different things.

If you’re in Jerusalem and want to take the train to Tel Aviv, use the buses there, and then get back to Jerusalem, which daily ticket do you need?
There are different daily tickets depending on the distances you’re going to travel.
You can either go to the ticket office and ask or you can use the Rav-Kav app, which you can download and play with before you arrive.
You can load it either at the machine or via your phone. You need to hold your card next to your phone and then it tells you that it’s been successfully charged. If you’re next to the main station, you can also do it at the ticket office.

Validating your Rav-Kav

Whether you have bought a daily pass or are using stored value, you will need to validate your Rav-Kav when you get on the bus or the light rail. You can do that by holding your Rav-Kav close to the validation machine.