My general recommendation is that in 2017, renting a car is an unnecessary expense. Gas is very expensive, and it can cost well over $75 USD to fill the tank of even an economy class car. You also probably won’t be driving to most of the sites you’ll be visiting. Yes, you can drive to the Dead Sea, Masada and within Jerusalem, along with most other locations within Israel, but what’s the point? Although I’m not a big fan of tour groups, group travel in this case and in this country is one of the best ways to get to far, or at least farther flung locales in Israel, and your driver will have a much better familiarity with checkpoints and security than you ever will.
Really, your major hassle is just getting clear of the airport, and while this will be a somewhat harrowing experience, I do recommend a shared taxi service. A cooperative service called Nesher Tours is yor go-to source for this, and you can get all the information you need about airport arrivals and departures oat this website.
If you’re a budget traveler, a shared taxi/shuttle service is exactly what you’re looking for. Unlike private car services which, be warned, can and do run upwards of $150 USD on the low end, and that’s for a one-way trip. the rates for a shared ride through Nesher Tours start at 62 NIS (New Israeli Shekels) as of this writing. That converts to roughly $18 USD. That rate got me from the airport outside Tel Aviv to my hotel in West Jerusalem. You do need to know that the van will not leave the airport until all the seats are filled, so you should budget that amount of time into your plans, but it was a small price to pay for the considerable price savings, and once I got to Jerusalem, I found the combination of the mass transit system and the presence of Uber an easy way to get around. Be warned, I said this is a jarring way to dive into the country, and I mean it. Nesheret drivers and the staffers at the airport are, shall we say, a little rough around the edges, and if you’re accustomed to American hospitality, you will get a quick introduction to the Israeli manner of dealing with chaos (seriously, follow the rules, don’t argue and be a mensch). You can’t reserve a seat going outbound from the airport, so check their website for their normal operating hours going outbound), but you can reserve a seat going inbound to the airport.
By the way, you may notice that many hotels on travel sites will say there’s an airport shuttle. Be warned, there is almost always a huge surcharge for this, that $150 USD and up price I mentioned above), or they’re referring to a shared taxi service like the one I mentioned here. Contact the hotel directly for a clarification, and don’t assume it’s a free shuttle.
Next in the Israel Travel Tips Series: getting money.