Due to the small size of Palestine and restrictions placed by the Israeli occupation on freedom of movement in the Palestinian Territories, taxis are the only way to travel in Palestine. There are no public railways, metros, trams or buses in the Palestinian Territories of the West Bank and Gaza as there are in Israel.
Palestinian taxis are divisible into three main types. Firstly, as in most countries, private taxis travel both between and within cities, and to and from the particular locations of the passenger’s choice. Second are shared (yellow ‘service’ minivan taxis) which travel within cities and which will generally travel to and from a particular location of your choice. Both of these types of taxi can be hailed in the usual manner, by sticking an arm out by the side of the road, and informing the driver the place you want to go.
Thirdly, there are also shared (yellow ‘service’) taxis which travel between cities. These shared taxis arrive in and depart from main taxi stations only. Like shared taxis which travel only within cities, intercity taxis have no set schedule. This type of taxi tends to depart only when the taxi is full.
Shared (‘sherut’) and private (‘munit’) can be found in Israel as well as Palestine. However, whilst Palestinian taxis are not permitted access to Israel, Israeli taxis are able to travel freely between Israel and Palestine. Visually, the difference between the two is that the Palestinian taxi is yellow with a white number plate, while Israeli taxis are white with a yellow number plate.
Taxi serves in both Israel and Palestine do not function on a metre system, so it’s important to have an idea of the fair price for your trip. As a tourist, you’re likely to be assumed not to know the price of a ride, and might therefore by charged more. It’s important to be prepared to barter with the driver if you think your’e not getting a fair price.
Intercity shared taxis are the cheapest mode of transport in Palestine because they offer the least control over travel for passengers. Prices vary according to destination, as well as length of the journey. Ramallah to Hebron should cost around 27 NIS (6$) or from Ramallah to Nablus 18 NIS (4$). Hebron to Bethlehem should cost 9 NIS.
Private taxis on the other hand, are much more expensive than shared taxis. A private taxi to Bethlehem from Hebron should cost around 70NIS. A private taxi is a good option for a day trip to a particular area however, if sight seeing spots are far apart, and a car would be useful for the entire day. Private taxi drivers often offer this touring service, but bartering, again, is recommended.
Another benefit of private taxis is that many run after seven in the evening when most shared taxi services close. There are also still some private taxis on Fridays, which are a Muslim holy day, when shared taxis are hard to come by. Likewise in Israel, during Shabbat on Fridays and Saturdays, bus services and shared taxis are rare or inoperative.
When planning travel in Israel and Palestine, bear in mind that the majority of shops, cafes, restaurants and tourist spots are closed on Fridays in Palestine, and that the Shabbat affects the opening hours of some Israeli organisations and institutions.