How to Get from Jerusalem to Eilat
The great thing about traveling in Israel is that it’s a pretty small country, which means that whether you’ve got a few days or a couple of weeks at your disposal, you can still see a great deal. For many tourists, an ideal trip for them in Israel means combining relaxation with culture, beaches with mountains, sea with deserts, and the old with the new.
Eilat at night, Israel. Photo credit: © Oksana Mats
Well, you don’t get much older than the city of Jerusalem and you don't get much newer than the Red Sea resort town of Eilat! Jerusalem - holy to three major world religions, a city steeped in history and spirituality, a city renowned for its golden Dome of the Rock, ancient stone walls, and tiny, narrow alleyways...a city like no other.
You can get lost in Jerusalem, and we don’t mean just in the backstreets of the Old City, but lost in yourself. With its religious landmarks (the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the Al-Aqsa Mosque, and the Western Wall), its endless museums (of which Yad Vashem and the Israel Museum are must-visits), and its charming neighborhoods (the German Colony, Ein Kerem, Nachlaot near the thriving Mahane Yehuda Market) Jerusalem is fascinating, charming, and sometimes a little ‘intense.’
Eilat, on the other hand, is anything but overwhelming. It’s the quintessential ‘fun’ city in Israel, with its sandy beaches, warm Red Sea waters, and endless leisure activities to keep you amused. Whether you want to snorkel or dive, sun yourself on Coral Beach, pet dolphins, rent a jet ski, or even take a day trip to Petra, the ancient Nabataean city in Jordan, and just two hours drive from Eilat.
And at night, you’ll never be short of places to eat, drink and make merry. Israel’s most southern city really is the perfect place to kick back after a few long days in the capital. Let’s look at the different modes of transportation from Jerusalem to Eilat, and find out which one is best for you.
Incense shop in the Old City of Jerusalem, Israel. Photo by Christian Burri on Unsplash
1. How to Get from Jerusalem to Eilat by Bus from the Central Bus Station, Jaffa Road
Traveling from Jerusalem to Eilat by bus is a good option - it’s not expensive (public transport is subsidized in Israel), buses run regularly and the journey is pretty comfortable. You’ll always recognize the national bus service in Israel because their fleet has a distinctive green and white logo - they’re called Egged. The distance between Jerusalem and Eilat is 318 km (197 miles) and, without traffic, the journey takes just over four hours.
There is a direct bus 444 from Jerusalem to Eilat - and it leaves from the third floor of the Jerusalem Central Bus Station. There are four buses a day and the bus makes several stops en route, at which you can get out and stretch your legs, take a bathroom break and get a cup of coffee. Tickets cost 82 NIS one way (approx. 25 USD).
In terms of availability, you can definitely show up and just hope for the best - either buy a ticket from the counter in the station (all representatives will speak a certain level of English) or simply pay the bus driver in cash when you board. You can also use a Rav Kav card (a green public transport card easily purchased across Israel, onto which you can load credit).
However, if you want to be assured of a seat (and the route certainly does get busy just before Jewish holidays and in the summer) you can also order your ticket online, via the Egged website, or by calling customer service on +972 3 694 8888 or *2800.
Jerusalem Biblical Zoo, Israel. Photo credit: © Dmitry MishinSomething else - in case you can’t get a seat for the direct journey, it’s also reasonably convenient to take a bus from Jerusalem to Beer Sheva (Israel’s gateway city to the Negev desert) and from there change buses. It’s the same bus station, so you won’t have to make a big journey, and it’s full of cafes and bakeries, as well as shops and places to grab a falafel - arguably Israel’s favorite snack.
Egged bus 470 leaves from Jerusalem to Beer Sheva at least once an hour and takes an hour and 32 minutes. Once you’ve arrived at your destination, you can pick up one of many buses running south - the 397 is direct and takes approximately 3 hours 30 minutes. The cost of the journey this way may be a few shekels more, but nothing significant, and it will give you the chance to see some breathtaking scenery between Mitzpe Ramon in the Negev Hills.
Our tip: nearly all of the buses stop at Yotvata in the Arava desert, which is a kibbutz famous in Israel for its fabulous dairy products. There you can try one of their Italian ice creams (for those that prefer non-dairy, they also sell sorbets). They have a restaurant where you can buy lunch and also a shop, which sells olive oil and local Majool dates (a fantastic gift to take home to friends and family).
Finally, if you want to break up your journey between Jerusalem and Eilat with some fun, then you can always take a bus to the Dead Sea and Masada - the 486 bus to Ein Gedi is ideal in this respect - and then continue on, a few hours later, or the following day (there are endless accommodation options in the Dead Sea, ranging from camping and kibbutz guest houses to fancy hotels on the edges of the sea itself).
A Hotel Swimming Pool Area, Eilat, Israel. Photo credit: © Oksana Mats
Egged Buses Schedule
The Israeli workweek begins on Sunday and runs until Thursday (or in some cases Friday morning). In terms of reaching the Jerusalem Central Bus Station, it is located in the heart of the city, not far from the Mahane Yehuda market, on the Jaffa Road, next door to the Yitzhak Navon central railway station.
It can most easily be reached by the Light Railway or different local buses. Inside the terminal are many stores and cafes, so you can begin your journey armed with water and snacks. Take the escalator up to the departure floor (clearly marked in English) and look for the electronic boards or ask a member of staff to direct you.
On Fridays, the last bus from Jerusalem heading south will leave no later than 1-2 pm, since Shabbat (the Jewish sabbath) arrives at dusk and does not end until 25 hours later. It’s important to note that between Friday afternoon and Saturday evening, no public buses run in Israel, which means you will not be able to travel. So if you are planning on heading south on Friday, do check the timetable carefully and - just to be on the safe side - give customer service a call to confirm your departure times.
All buses to Eilat arrive at the same bus station, which is in the city’s downtown area and from there it is a short walk or taxi ride to many of the hotels and the beach. If you are traveling on the border with Jordan and then continuing to Petra you can either take a private bus or the hourly bus that runs close by (you will have to walk the last 20 minutes, which could be tough in the summer months).
Jet skiing in Eilat, Israel. Photo by Shalev Cohen on Unsplash
2. How to Get from Jerusalem to Eilat by Plane from Ben Gurion Airport
If you aren’t a fan of long car journeys, you could consider this option, although bear in mind that you will have to first travel from Jerusalem to Ben Gurion Airport (which takes about 45 by bus or taxi). There are no direct flights from Jerusalem to Eilat. Internal flights from Ben Gurion Airport (Tel Aviv) to Ramon Airport in Eilat take just under an hour and are operated by Arkia and Israir, around every 2 hours.
A flight will cost you around 350 NIS (110 USD) one way and it’s definitely recommended if you’ve just arrived in Israel after an exhausting long-haul flight. All flights from Ben Gurion airport arrive now in the new Ramon Airport, which is a 15-20 minutes drive from downtown Eilat and can be reached either by taxi (around 100 NIS / 32 USD) or public bus (4.50 NIS / 1.5 USD).
3. How to Get from Jerusalem to Eilat by Taxi
This is a costly option and if you are going to travel by taxi, we’d recommend booking one in advance (Israel’s Gett Taxi is a very popular app) or asking advice from your hotel concierge. A taxi from Jerusalem to Eilat and from Eilat to Jerusalem could run into the hundreds of dollars - as much as 1500 NIS (approximately 464 USD).
Eilat coast, Israel. Photo by Josh Appel on Unsplash
4. How to Get from Jerusalem to Eilat with a Private Transfer
Without a doubt, the fastest and most convenient way to travel from Jerusalem to Eilat is to book a private transfer. This really is a ‘door to door service’ and gives you complete autonomy over when and where you want to be collected and dropped off. Make sure to use a trustworthy tour operator, who will be able to recommend an honest and reliable driver.
The good thing about the private transfer option is that once you’ve agreed on the price quoted, and paid with your credit card, you don’t have to worry about another thing - the company will take care of every detail. And you can choose the itinerary - so if you want to break up the journey in the Dead Sea, Mitzpe Ramon or one of the kibbutzim in the Arava - where you can take tours - the choice is yours.
Don’t be afraid to ask questions of your tour operator either and let them know about your specific needs beforehand. Here at Bein Harim, we’re always happy to help - contact us night or day and we’ll get back to you fast, with a competitive quote.
5. Petra tour & Leisure Day in Eilat
This is an ideal way to combine time in Eilat with a trip to the astonishing ‘lost city’ of the Nabateans - Petra. Start your Eilat-Petra vacation with a free day on the Red Sea, snorkeling, sunning yourself, hanging out with the dolphins at the Dolphin Reef, or enjoying a movie at the IMAX theatre.
The next day, join your group, cross the border early in the morning and drive down to Wadi Musa, where you’ll explore Petra. With its red-colored rocks, astounding Treasury and Monastery, and rock architecture, it’s hard to be disappointed at this contemporary Wonder of the World. On the way back to Eilat, as long as there’s time, you’ll be given a quick peek at Aqaba too.
Marina in Eilat, Israel. Photo by Shalev Cohen on Unsplash
6. How to Get from Jerusalem to Eilat with a Rental Car
Renting a car in Israel is quite easy and not that expensive if you feel like making the journey and being in the driving seat yourself. Jerusalem has quite a number of rental car businesses that will be happy to help you - they include Hertz, Shlomo Sixt, Avis, Budget Eldan, and Tamar. Car rental in Israel can be as cheap as 260 NIS (80 USD) a day so if there are 2 or more of you, it’s not a particularly costly option, particularly when you consider how much freedom it gives you - you can go at your own pace and really act spontaneously.
You’ll need nothing more than your international driver’s license and a credit card to start the ball rolling and, if all goes well, you should be driving away within the hour. Alternatively, shop around online beforehand because there are some really good deals to be had if you do your homework. Many cars can be reserved online beforehand with nothing more than a few clicks.
It is a 4-5-hours drive from Jerusalem to Eilat, using Route 90, depending on how fast you drive, and whether you make a stop along the way). As we’ve said above, there’s plenty to see along the way - the Dead Sea (the perfect place to have a float and slather yourself in black mud, Mitzpe Ramon (with its breathtaking views of the Ramon Crater and alpaca farm for the kids, and Timna Park (a wonderful place to take a hike) are all highly recommended by us.
One thing we would say is that from Mitzpe Ramon to Eilat and the Red Sea, the road can be quite narrow and it does wind around for a while, so drive carefully. We’d actually recommend making this journey in the day if you haven't done it before - making it night could leave you sick or nervous (there are long stretches in the dark). Besides, if you travel in the day, you get to take in the astonishing desert scenery and watch the landscape change color as the day progresses.
We hope this article gives you all of the information you need to make planning your vacation in Israel a little bit easier but should you have any questions, just reach out to us any time - we’re at +972 3 542 2000 and firstname.lastname@example.org - so don’t hesitate to get in touch.
Coral Beach, Eilat, Israel. Photo credit: © Doron Nissim. Published with permission of the Israel Nature and Parks Authority