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Suppose I'm about to visit Israel. I know that its public transport system uses this card called Rav Kav ("multi-line" in Hebrew). I also know that there are personal-identified and anonymous versions of these cards. Now, you might think it's just a convenience , but - as @chx mentions in his answer - it seems cash payments are being phased out on buses, so a visitor really must get him/herself one.

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My question: Where can I have an anonymous Rav-Kav card issued?

Note: I'm not asking about recharging/topping-up these cards - that's different.

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While Tourist Israel is not government, it's a pretty reliable site and their page has this important note:

As of January 2019, Israel made a change to remove cash from bus transportation and use the Rav-Kav card exclusively.

OK so we need that card! Almost everyone will enter Israel either at Ben Gurion or Ramon so let's see where we can get a card after landing...

The same Tourist Israel page mentions "For travelers looking to purchase anonymous Rav-Kavs, there are several designated locations around Tel Aviv including all of the Tel Aviv train stations, the Central Bus Station (level 6) and in the arrivals hall of Ben Gurion Airport. To purchase a Rav-Kav is 5 nis."

Ben Gurion Airport arrivals hall, that ain't a lot of help. This tripadvisor thread to the rescue:

Starting Monday 16/4/2018, Israel's Ministry of Transportation has opened a Public Transportation Information Center which also issues Rav Kavs, Israel's public transportation electronic card. The information center is intended mainly for tourists.

Opening Hours: Sun-Thu 07:00-23:00, Fri 07:00-15:00

Location: Ben Gurion int'l airport, Terminal 3

and links to the government page in Hebrew which has this photo:

Ben Gurion airport tourist information center

And we have a user reporting in the comments the machine next to it sells cards and that's likely open 24 hours.

Now, Egged itself obviously has a Rav Kav Card page which lists all their locations, including one for Ramon airport (notably Ben Gurion seems to be missing from their list but we covered that already):

Ramon Airport - in front of arrivals exit
Sunday to Thursday 7:30 - 22:30
Friday and holiday eves 8:00 - 16:00
Saturday/holyday - from the "going out" time and till 22

Personal note: thanks for the question, I would've never thought they stopped accepting cash and would've looked silly when I try to board the bus in Eilat in January, now I know and I will buy a card at Ramon when I land.

  • Actually, this is the best place to get it if you arrive in Israel by air. A shame that this booth is not open 24/7. +1 and accept. – einpoklum - reinstate Monica Sep 10 at 21:26
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    The ticket machine next to the public transport information center at Ben Gurion got me an anonymous Rav Kav last month and is probably open 24/7. – FDMS Sep 11 at 6:24
  • Hey this answer is well intentioned but it is also very wasteful because it would mean OP would have to stand in line in the airport and get their personally identifiable information collected by a third party which is entirely unnecessary. You can get these cards on every bus and that's the law. Otherwise it would have been very cruel :] They don't advertise this very well because they don't want people to use the anonymous cards since it slows down the bus but I have found citations in my answer below for all of this. – Benjamin Gruenbaum Sep 11 at 15:10
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You can get an anonymous Rav-Kav on every bus.

Israeli here, you can buy an anonymous Rav Kav on any bus when you board it. It costs 5 NIS. In fact it's the only pay with cash when boarding the bus.

This is what it looks like (sorry for the poor photo quality from my computer). The "Dan" in the center is the bus company whose driver I bought it from and you will notice the lack of photo.

My Rav Kav Card

Quoting the Israeli Ministry of Transportation:

Anonymous Rav-Kav

Available for purchase for NIS 5 at sales points including: bus drivers, central bus station, large train stations, info and service centers and at the light railway service center in Jerusalem.

  • Does not save travel information
  • Does not insure the rest of stored value in case of loss and or theft.
  • No reconstruction of tickets In case of expiration

Disributing Rav-Kavs is done by the transportation companies, quoting the largest one in central Israel hebrew source:

תשובה: כרטיס אנונימי הוא כרטיס שניתן לרכוש מנהג האוטובוס תמורת 5 ש"ח. בעל הכרטיס האנונימי אינו מבוטח ולכן במקרה של אובדן או תקלה בכרטיס לא ניתן יהיה לשחזר את המידע על הכרטיס. בעל הכרטיס יאלץ להנפיק כרטיס חדש.

Which is

An anonymous Rav-Kav is a ticket purchase-able from bus drivers for 5 NIS. The anonymous card holder is not ensured in the case the card is lost and card information cannot be retrieved.

And Egged (the other big one from Jerusalem) English Citation:

In contrast to the Personal Rav Kav Card, passenger's personal details are not required when applying for Anonymous Rav Kav Card. An Anonymous Card issued for a one-time payment of NIS 5.00 and may be purchased from the driver or at sales points.

Purchase the card from the bus driver or at one of the Al Ha-Kav issue stations for a one-time cost of NIS5.00

  • Gilles answer includes a link to an article stating that this stopped March 8 last year. Technically it says they can't be "reloaded" onboard, but then goes on to talk about drivers not handling cash which would imply you also can't buy a new one. Are you sure this is still an option? – Doc Sep 11 at 14:45
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    I literally did that last week when I forgot my card :] – Benjamin Gruenbaum Sep 11 at 15:02
  • The sources I can find are not official and paywalled like this one. I will look for better sources. – Benjamin Gruenbaum Sep 11 at 15:03
  • @Doc found citations for both Dan and Egged :] – Benjamin Gruenbaum Sep 11 at 15:08
  • @Doc found an official Israeli Ministry of Transportation resource. I will happily send them an official query (quite easy) if we need any clarification on that information like this is pretty accessible. Although this page is pretty clear. – Benjamin Gruenbaum Sep 11 at 15:25
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There is now a Rav Kav sales point at Ben Gurion airport, at terminal 3, in the arrivals hall, next to exit 2.

The Rav Kav website maintains a list of sales points with address and opening hours. I don't know how accurate or complete this information is.

You can also buy an anonymous Rav-Kav from a bus driver, with some initial stored value. (Note that since 2019, drivers will not recharge a Rav-Kav that you already have.) But beware that it's not guaranteed in practice that the driver will have spare Rav-Kav available.

As far as I know, you cannot buy a Rav Kav from a ticket machine at a train station (but you can recharge one), even an anonymous one. You need to visit a station with a service point during opening hours. The same applies to the Jerusalem light rail.

In Haifa, you can buy an anonymous Rav Kav from ticket vending machines located at many bus stops.

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    That last citation is incorrect - that article says you can't charge regular Rav Kav cards in busses (you have to use the app) but you absolutely can buy an anonymous Rav-Kav card on the bus I added a citation below. – Benjamin Gruenbaum Sep 11 at 15:14
  • @BenjaminGruenbaum Thanks. Can you confirm that it is possible now to buy a Rav-Kav on every bus? I found contradictory information in English (and it was my impression that the sources saying you could get a Rav-Kav on a bus were obsolete), I can't read Hebrew, and I haven't been to Israel since this change. Firsthand knowledge trumps citations. – Gilles 'SO- stop being evil' Sep 11 at 15:58
  • I can confirm that that's what the law said and that I paid for a Rav-Kav on a bus and that my wife has also done that. I cannot be 100% sure all bus drivers are familiar with the law or that the policy is enforced or that they will always have a card handy. This is also true only for busses, so for example on trains you are expected to get the ticket from the train station and in the Jerusalem light rail you cannot get a card from the driver because payment is automatic and you have to go to the stand in the central bus station (or any bus) and get it. – Benjamin Gruenbaum Sep 11 at 21:56
  • @BenjaminGruenbaum Thanks. So how does this work now (after the rule change — before you'd purchase both the card itself and an initial value from the driver)? If you buy a Rav-Kav on a bus, how can you use it to travel on that bus? – Gilles 'SO- stop being evil' Sep 12 at 8:30
  • you can purchase credit for the anonymous Rav-Kav you purchase on the bus but you cannot purchase balance for any other Rav-Kav or to top-up your purchased Rav-Kav after the initial charge. This is not because they can't charge your Rav-Kav (they can, they need to have the device anyway) - it is not allowed because it wastes everyone's time while they wait for you to charge your Rav-Kav and if everyone does it it takes a lot of time. This is why the regulations were changed in the first place :] – Benjamin Gruenbaum Sep 12 at 22:04
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You can buy a Rav-Kav at many central bus stations around the country, and the Tel-Aviv train stations. However, the opening hours for the train station Rav-Kav booths are annoyingly limited! (not sure about the bus station booths.)

  • This is actually because those stations are mostly for people getting their photo taken for permanent Rav-Kavs which offer discounts (for example - students get a 33% discount on busses) so their availability isn't actually for the case OP is referring to :] – Benjamin Gruenbaum Sep 11 at 15:16
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If you want to have everything prepared in advance, you can also head to Ebay and purchase a Rav Kav card in advance by having it shipped to your home address. Some sellers even offer pre-charged Rav Kav cards, so you won't even need to top them up on arrival.

This is obviously a more expensive option, as all resellers charge a fee for their services.

  • SIM cards too! I always get one before leaving, why I haven't thought of it, I can't imagine. – chx Sep 11 at 6:18
  • I would be very worried about this. It's about 1$ to buy on every bus in the country (except "service taxis" which don't sell Rav Kavs but take cash) and the card you are buying might not work and you will end up having to take a very lengthy trip to a service station to replace it (or buy a new one from the bus driver anyway). – Benjamin Gruenbaum Sep 11 at 15:15
  • @BenjaminGruenbaum sometimes people like the convenience of having everything prepared in advance, even if it costs more money :) Especially since there's a risk of bus drivers running out of cards and buses don't take credit cards. – JonathanReez Supports Monica Sep 11 at 22:44
  • I totally sympathise and this might be a good idea regardless. What I am saying is that I know of cases where Rav-Kavs stopped working. Come to think of it - if you do this and get one on eBay it is sufficient to use the Rav-Kav app on an Android phone with NFC and see that it reads the balance and that the balance is correct :] – Benjamin Gruenbaum Sep 12 at 22:01

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