How to Travel from Jerusalem to Bethlehem by Bus in 2023

Nativity square bethlehem

How do you travel from Jerusalem to Bethlehem independently on a budget? And how do you get back again? Is it possible to do this journey by local transport, and if so, what do you need to know before you go?

Before we traveled to Bethlehem, we found it very difficult to get accurate, up-to-date, and relevant information about public transport. As a family, we left the backpack adventure and explore on a low budget, and we found Israel particularly expensive for travel, so we felt that it was very important to do this journey, not only to keep our own budget down but also to fill in some gaps online and help other people to do this journey cheaply. We also want to publish this article to warn you of some very important things if you plan to travel from Jerusalem to Bethlehem independently. This is not a journey that you want to mess up, as mistakes could get very complicated and difficult in this region.

They’re not trying to scare you off traveling from Jerusalem to Bethlehem independently; it’s smooth and possible. You just need to make sure you’re well-prepared, and to do that, we would encourage you to read this article very carefully. We have tried to tell you everything you need to know, including prices, locations, maps, specific challenges, and tips to help you prepare as well as possible and ensure a smooth and enjoyable journey.

Following this guide could save you a lot of money because going by bus is much cheaper than taking a tour or going by taxi, especially in Israel. It is very important to be aware of several things before you go, so please read this guide carefully and make sure that you are fully prepared for your journey.

ALSO, we don’t miss our full and in depth guide to The church of the Nativity

Staying for a few days? Check out our amazing 3 day Jerusalem Itinerary

Summary: Jerusalem to Bethlehem

Summary Rough Price
BusTake 231 from HaNevi’im Terminal. Cheap, flexible, convenient, fun and independent. There is a 20 minute walk at the end of the bus journey. Spend as long as you like at the Nativity square. No bartering needed. The local bus doesn’t go to the Shepherds Field. 5.5NIS per person one way
TaxiTake a taxi from anywhere around Jerusalem. There are plenty of drivers around the Damascus gate. Negotiate a deal with a local driver. You may need to pay more if you want to visit the Shepherd’s Field as well as Bethlehem. £15 – £20 ($18 – $25) one way or £20 – £30 ($25 – $36) two ways
TourTake a tour. This may include several other sights of interest such as the dead sea or the Shepherds Field (which is a longer distance from Bethlehem). Don’t miss this epic Bethlehem tour on Klook.£50 – £100 (or $60 – $120)

Map Jerusalem to Bethlehem

The journey from Jerusalem to Bethlehem is around 10km – 15km depending on the specific route:

Is it worth visiting Bethlehem?

Nativity square bethlehem

YES! If you’re planning to visit Jerusalem and you are interested in history and culture, we highly recommend a visit to Bethlehem. We really enjoyed our own journey to Bethlehem, and as a Christian family, we found this to be a very significant and meaningful experience.

manger bethlehem church of nativity

Not only is the history fascinating, but this is also a unique opportunity to connect with the local culture. We absolutely loved learning about the history of this fascinating area, and it was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for us to visit the birthplace of Christ.

Things to Prepare Before Your Journey from Jerusalem to Bethlehem

The church of the Nativity

If you are planning to travel from Jerusalem to Bethlehem, it is very important that you are well-prepared and bring everything you need. Here is an idea of some things that you may wish to bring with you on this journey:

  • Long trousers and shoulders covered (scarf is fine) – you cannot enter the church of the Nativity with knees or shoulders on display. This applies to men and women. 
  • All passports, visas, and travel documents for you and your group
  • Plenty of water and snacks
  • Sufficient money for your journey and an additional bank card
  • A day bag to store your belongings safely
  • A phone with mobile data and/or offline maps available

You can buy drinks and food in the area. There are bakeries selling bread and cakes. There are also small cafes serving local rice dishes and shawarma close to the church of the Nativity. You can also find a few small coffee shops and ice cream shops around too. Prices are fairly reasonable, slightly cheaper than Jerusalem old city.  

Is it safe to travel from Jerusalem to Bethlehem?

israel palestine checkpoint

As ever, it is not possible to ensure that any travel experience is completely safe. Any foreign travel comes with innate risks, and it’s important to assess and evaluate the risks yourself and make your own decisions before you travel. We also recommend that you keep a close eye on current affairs in the area and keep an eye on your consulate website for the latest updates on security and safety issues if you’re planning to travel around Israel. If you’re from the UK, you will find plenty of up-to-date, relevant, and accurate information on the FCO website

bethlehem coffee shop

Now that the official disclaimer is out of the way, we would love to share our own experience. We found the journey from Jerusalem to Bethlehem to be very smooth, peaceful, any without problems. We found the Palestinian locals in Bethlehem were very welcoming and friendly and were happy to see us traveling in the area. On the journey from Jerusalem to Bethlehem, the bus was not stopped. However, on the way back, there is a stop at the security checkpoint, and they do look at your passports. We found the security staff to be friendly and welcoming.

To summarize, it is always important to be aware and to be savvy and follow safe travel guidelines. Keep an eye on your consulate website for up-to-date information. Also, don’t panic. Bethlehem is a popular tourist destination, and many people visit without any problems whatsoever. One more thing, we do recommend being careful with your valuables, especially in crowded areas.

Different Ways to Travel from Jerusalem to Bethlehem

We’re now going to share three ways to travel from Jerusalem to Bethlehem to help you plan and make a decision for your own trip. We will then share plenty of detail about doing this journey by local bus.

1 Take a Tour 

One of the most expensive ways to travel from Jerusalem to Bethlehem is to take a tour. This is also a convenient and enjoyable way to visit Bethlehem. So if you are not traveling on a tight budget, you might want to consider this option. Tours are likely to cost £40 – £80 ($50 – $100) and include two-way transport and a guide.

2 Use a Taxi 

Local taxi jerusalem

Another way to travel from Jerusalem to Bethlehem is to use a local taxi. Depending on your bartering skills, this can potentially be cheaper than booking onto a tour. However, some taxis can be quite expensive, especially for tourists visiting an attraction like Bethlehem. A taxi is likely to cost around £15 – £20 ($18 – $25) one way or £20 – £30 ($25 – $36) two ways (if you ask your driver to wait). These are only rough guide prices. It does, of course, depend on the specific driver and on your bartering skills. Many taxi drivers will only be willing to go for very high prices £50 – £100 ($60 – $120), so you will need to ask around and barter for a fair price. If you’re planning to go by taxi check out our top tips on bartering.

3 Take a Local Bus 

231 bus from Jerusalem to Bethlehem

The cheapest way to travel from Jerusalem to Bethlehem is to take a local bus. This is also a fun and enjoyable way to connect with the culture. In this article, we are going to focus on how you do the journey by bus and how to avoid making mistakes and avoid scams. Local buses have air conditioning. They cost 5.5NIS per person each way (around £1 or $1.20).

Advantages of Traveling by Bus

Local bus israel

We highly recommend that you travel from Jerusalem to Bethlehem by local bus. The idea may seem a little unnerving at first, but in this article, I hope we can put your nerves at ease and show you how to do the journey step by step.

  • Buses are the cheapest form of transport by a long way, so you save serious money going by bus.
  • Traveling by bus is a great way to enjoy the scenery, connect with locals, and experience a culture.
  • Traveling by bus allows you freedom, autonomy, and independence. You can go at your own pace, and you don’t need to worry about slowing anyone down or being rushed.
  • Going by bus means that you don’t need to negotiate; there’s a simple fixed price, no stress.
  • Local buses run regularly throughout the day, which allows you to plan your trip in a flexible way that best suits your travel needs.

The main barrier to getting the bus for most people is a lack of confidence and knowledge. In this article, we are hoping to equip you with the knowledge and confidence so that you can take your own independent trip from Jerusalem to Bethlehem and save big bucks.

On your way home you may be interested in seeing Hezekiyah’s water tunnel. This is one of our TOP PICK activities in Jerusalem for families.

How to Travel from Jerusalem to Bethlehem by Local Bus

Here is a step-by-step guide on how to travel from Jerusalem to Bethlehem by local bus:

1 Go to the HaNevi’im Terminal at Damascus Gate

The first step is to get to the correct bus terminal in Jerusalem. The journey starts from the HaNevi’im Terminal, which is next to the Damascus Gate on the northwest side of the Jerusalem Old City. When you arrive at this bus terminal, you may be accosted by local taxi drivers.

HaNevi’im Terminal

Be aware that taxi drivers may tell you that there are no buses or they may tell you that you are not allowed to do the journey by bus. Local taxi drivers may also encourage you to take a bus that only takes you to the Israel-Palestine border and not all the way to Bethlehem. It is important to be confident and keep moving and don’t get drawn in; you really can take local buses from HaNevi’im Terminal all the way to Bethlehem. You’re looking for bus number 231. 

2 Find the Bus to Bethlehem

HaNevi’im Terminal stand C bus to bethlehem

The best bus to travel from Jerusalem to Bethlehem is bus number 231, which can be found at Stand C. If there’s no bus waiting here when you arrive, we would encourage you to wait patiently until the bus turns up; there should be buses every 20 to 30 minutes.

231 bus from Jerusalem to Bethlehem

Once a bus arrives, you can get on the bus and pay the driver; the fare is a standard 5.5NIS (roughly £1 or $1.20). Although the writing is in Hebrew, you can still read the bus numbers. Most people (including bus drivers) also tend to speak a bit of English – so it is easy to confirm that you are in the right place.

3 Stay on the Bus All the Way to Bethlehem

bus from Jerusalem to Bethlehem

Once you’re on the right bus and you have paid the driver, you can sit back and enjoy the journey. The bus route goes around the west side of the Jerusalem Old City and heads into Palestine. When you are traveling from Jerusalem to Bethlehem, the bus does not stop at the Palestinian border, and there are no security checks or passport checks.

bus tickets from Jerusalem to Bethlehem

This is a reasonably fast and smooth journey; much of the journey is spent on the main highway. However, the last section of the journey passes through some very beautiful Palestinian villages before you reach Bethlehem. The journey takes around 45 minutes. 

4 Walk to Nativity Square

And finally, once you have made it to Bethlehem, there is a short walk to get to Nativity Square. This walk is around 1.28km and likely to take around 20 minutes. It is actually a very beautiful walk through Bethlehem Town. Start by walking up the hill past small food shops and local shops. When you reach the top of the hill, the road levels out, and keep following it without turning off.

walk to the church of nativity bethlehem

You will reach a set of steps; walk down the steps and keep going straight until you reach Nativity Square. Once you reach Nativity Square, you will see the Church of Nativity and plenty of small shops and cafes in the area. If you don’t wish to walk from the bus stop to Nativity Square, you could also take a local taxi, which should be reasonably cheap at this point, costing only around 5 – 10NIS (£1 – £2 or $1.20 – $2.50).

birthplace of jesus

TOP TIP: The walk from the bus stop to the church of the Nativity is pretty exposed and can be very hot during the day (especially in the summer months from June – August). We recommend bringing sun protection. Sun hats, sun cream and umbrellas. Walk in the shade where possible. 

How to Get Back from Bethlehem to Jerusalem by Local Bus

bus back to jerusalem

The return journey from Bethlehem back to Jerusalem by bus is relatively simple. To summarize it crudely, you just repeat the outbound steps in reverse. Bus 231 waits at the same location that you were dropped off. When you get back to this location, if you cannot see the bus, just wait a bit longer, and one should come. When the bus comes, just hop back on the bus, pay the driver the same fare (5.5NIS), and then you can ride the bus back to Jerusalem.

israel palestine checkpoint

There is, however, one complexity of the return journey. When you reach the highway, there is a security checkpoint, and the bus will stop. Passengers are generally asked to get off the bus, taking passports with them, and the security forces will want to check your passport. This is why it is very important to make sure that you bring your passport on this journey, including any other relevant travel documents such as visas. 

We found the security staff to be friendly and helpful. Once everyone’s passports have been checked, you will be allowed to jump back on the bus and continue the journey all the way back to the Jerusalem Old Town. It really is that simple.

So, there you have it, a detailed guide on how to travel from Jerusalem to Bethlehem by local bus and back again. We hope this information helps you plan your journey and have a smooth and enjoyable experience.