Monday, March 06, 2006

Riding the Bus in Beirut

Last weekend, I took my first bus rides in Beirut with Jeff. The first time was on Saturday, we rode the bus from near Karakan el Druze to the ABC shopping mall in Ashrafieh to catch "Cheaper By the Dozen 2".

The bus service in Beirut runs on a fleet of Mitsubishi Rosa min-bus. Similar to Hong Kong,
passengers can get up and get off anywhere along the designated route. We both agreed that the bus is another good way to see Beirut because it moves much slower than cars. Also, they usually go through the residential parts of the city so we can observe the scenes of daily social life outside the bus window. It is also an extremely cheap form of travel, costing only 500 Lebananese Liras (about SGD$0.50) regardless of distance.

Bus travel in Beirut should be understood in context with travelling by taxi. Actually taxis are the most convenient and quite inexpensive way to travel in Beirut for obvious reasons. Usually, they charge between 1,000 - 5,000 L.L but in case of foreigners, they sometimes overcharge. All expats I know had been exploited by taxi drivers including non-Lebanese Arabs, even though they speak the same language! Moreover, a lot of time is wasted on the wait for the
willing cab to take me to my destination for the right price. Therefore, travelling by bus is sometimes more convenient, economical and hassle-free - if there is time to kill.

That's right, the buses can be incredibly slow at times! The driver will deliberately slow down the bus at certain parts of the route so that more passengers can be let in to fill up the seats. In addition, the bus service is not widely accessible in Beirut and concentrates mainly in local residential areas. Unfortunately, to my best knowledge, there are no bus service operating near the vicinity of my apartment yet.

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