Transportation Within the West Bank: Most of the international volunteers and students at the Excellence Center enjoy their time in Hebron. However, they also enjoy spending weekends and vacations exploring Palestine. From Nablus and Jenin to Jerusalem and Ramallah, Palestine has numerous cities filled with sights and sounds perfect for the curious traveler. However, like any other country, Palestine requires an understanding of the transportation system before one can access its treasures. Here we’ll try to give potential students and volunteers a better understanding of how they can travel between, and within, cities in the West Bank.
Within the West Bank, the primary transportation method is the taxi. Trains and buses, which some volunteers use in their home countries are not widely available for Palestinians within the West Bank. Within Hebron, and for short trips to nearby villages, a yellow taxi can be hailed at most major streets. Unlike many other places, in Hebron taxis do not use meters, drivers know the standard fare for routine trips and for some trips a fare can be negotiated from the outset. Talk to a trusted local before taking a taxi to find out what your fare should be. In general, the longest trip you’ll have to take across Hebron shouldn’t cost more than 5 NIS per person, or a little over $1.25 US. Taxis generally stop to pick up as many people as possible travelling along the same route, so that the driver can make as much money as possible. Because of this, don’t be surprised if your taxi stops before you reach your destination to pick up or drop off a passenger.
For longer trips, a traveler needs to take a van taxi, called a “service” in the West Bank. A regular taxi can be pre-arranged for some trips, but it will be far more expensive. To find a service in Hebron, one just needs to go to the service station on al-Adi Street. The station is filled with vans with drivers standing around, one of whom will be happy to direct you to the one that will take you to your destination. The services do not leave or arrive on a set schedule, drivers simply wait until they fill with passengers and then leave. Don’t worry however, as usually there are plenty of services and passengers.
Fares between cities vary based on destination, again consult local friend for an estimate, but the fare should be the same for everyone on board, Palestinian and foreigner. At some point during the trip before the van reaches its destination everyone will simply hand the fare up to driver. The fare for a ride from Hebron to Bethlehem, the closest city, is 9 NIS, or roughly $2.50 US, and takes roughly 30 to 45 minutes. To Ramallah, the fare goes up to roughly 25 NIS, or $7.00 US, and takes 2 hours.
While ‘buses’ in the formal sense are rare for Palestinians, the one exception is the bus to Jerusalem. While a service can be taken from Jerusalem to Hebron and vice versa, a cheaper option is to take a service to Bethlehem and then a bus the short distance to Jerusalem. From the service station in Bethlehem, the bus passes through the Israeli checkpoint where Palestinians must exit for a brief inspection. Foreigners can usually stay on the bus, but a soldier will board to inspect their passports and visas. The bus then moves forward, dropping passengers off at Damascus Gate, outside of Jerusalem’s Old City.
Traveling around a new country can be intimidating, but in a short adjustment period, and with these brief tips, newcomers can master Palestine’s transportation system and use it to explore their new home away from home.