Getting Around the Arab World
By: Katie Teague/Arab America Contributing Writer
Unlike the United States, the Arab World is not abundant in methods of transportation. Each country presents its own unique ways of getting around. For tourists, it is important to know which of them will be the most effective. To help with that task, here is a list of the best forms of transport for six popular destinations in the Arab World.
Cairo is one of the biggest tourist attractions in Egypt and is full of historical and cultural legacy. The people can move around it quickly as it has a vast network of roads and other transport routes. The best ways of transportation in Egypt are trains, metro, river buses, private conveyances, and buses that travel for long distances throughout most of the cities.
The first metro line was constructed from Helwan, south of Cairo to El Marg, north of the town. The people can also get around through buses and micro-buses. There is also private transportation, such as taxis, Uber, and Careem (www.careem.com). A river bus is accessible to move through the Nile River, a north-flowing river in Africa. Also, a new method of transportation, to save time, is by taking a Nile taxi.
Driving in the big cities of Egypt is treacherous and not recommended for visitors.
Taxis, buses, and minibusses are the three primary ways of transport used in Beirut, Lebanon. One cheap way of using transportation is by buses that are recognized by their white and red colors. The people can also share taxis and are available in all cities throughout the country. They can also reach Lebanon by ferry from Cyprus through The Port of Tripoli (Lebanon).
Again, driving in Beirut, the capital of Lebanon is treacherous and not recommended for visitors.
When heading to this North-African country, you are guaranteed to have the easiest time getting from place to place by public transportation. Driving the streets of Morocco is not like driving in the Western world, given the high rate of accidents and aggression behind the wheel. Instead, skip the stress and travel by bus or taxi. It’s the cheapest and most reliable way to get around.
Should you need to move from city to city, trains are going to be your best option. They are run by the Office National des Chemins de Fer (ONCF) and operate between cities such as Fez, Marrakesh, Casablanca, Rabat, and Meknes. For more information on Morocco’s train services, see ONCF’s website:
Jordan has a number of options when it comes to transportation. For those interested in biking around town, Bike Rush provides bicycles for you to explore. Most trips cost around 25 Jordanian Dinars, allowing you to visit places like the Dead Sea, Madaba, and Mount Nebo.
If traveling by bus, you have two options. The most popular is the public minibus, which can get you wherever you need to go around town. To use this form of transport, buy your tickets on the bus itself, and be prepared to wait a while since the buses only leave when full. The second option is the tourist bus, and it is recommended that you buy tickets a day in advance. See the following website for information on Jordan’s premier tourist bus service:
Driving a car is comparatively less stressful than elsewhere in the Arab World; however, public transportation is still recommended. Taxis will be your safest and most cost-effective bet. They can even be chartered for day trips and take you wherever you need to go.
Unfortunately, public transportation is minimal in Oman. While there are buses and taxis which offer reasonable services, they are not as simple or efficient as getting your own vehicle or hiring a private driver. For taxis, you’ll be looking for white and orange cars, and must set the price before travel. For micros, you’ll need to flag down the minivans colored white and orange and ask around until you find the one headed in the desired direction.
Renting a car is ideal, especially since rates are cheap. However, as with the rest of the Middle East, use extra caution when driving on the roads.
Travel between Emirates is best done using taxis. All of them are metered but negotiate a price ahead of time for longer trips. In terms of bus transportation, services are limited, though they can be ideal when you move between Dubai and Abu Dhabi. Water taxis and transport are also options between certain locations.
This small Arab nation has limited forms of transportation. Your only options are going to be traveling by boat, bus, private car, or taxi. For water travel, Qalat Bu Mahir ferry brings people from the Bahrain National Museum to the fort, while, two other services take passengers to the Al Dar Islands and the Hawar Islands.
The public bus system in Bahrain is both cheap and safe, with buses running from 6 am to 9 pm and arriving every 10 to 15 minutes. For taxis, be sure to stand your ground when deciding on prices for travel or asking drivers to use their meters. Ultimately, it may be more effective to hire a car or rent one yourself, since driving is relatively easy.
Like Bahrain, Kuwait is a small country with few options for transport. Kuwait Public Transport Company Ferries offer trips to Failaka Island from Kuwait City. Otherwise, travel by taxi around Kuwait city, or use the Dubai-based ride-hailing service Careem (www.careem.com) for an alternative. Getting around by bus will not be ideal when traveling to tourist destinations since the public bus system is designated for residents more than visitors.
All in all, your best bet when getting around the Arab world is going to be a taxi. Because the region is so reliant on this service for work, there is no Uber or similar service, though there are car hire companies in select countries. Driving a car yourself is risky given the lack of safety or patience on the road but is still an option for the brave. Regardless of how you decide to move from place to place in the Middle East, be sure to plan ahead to ensure safe and efficient travels.