Middle East FAQ thread
Replies: 54 - Last Post: Mar 28, 2013 6:21 AM Last Post By: Shuffaluff
Oct 11, 2005 3:39 PM
30Are there budget airlines servicing the Middle East?
Air Arabia based in shajrah, UAE http://www.airarabia.com/
Jazeera Airways based in Kuwait http://www.jazeeraairways.com/
Added by george5:
New ME budget airlines :
* Sama (Saudi Arabia) http://www.flysama.com
* Bahrain Air (Bahrain) http://www.bahrainair.net/
Added by rebeccabauarschi:
NAS (in Saudi) NAS
Edited by: katija
Jan 8, 2006 11:57 AM
31Are there charter flights to Turkey?
One of the more common questions is how much does it cost to get to Turkey?
For those who want a couple of weeks by the sea, charter flights can offer some good deals, sometimes for under £100 return, and from UK regional airports.
Airlines to check are:
Some such as Britannia even allow you to book transfers.
Edited by: katija
Jan 22, 2006 5:10 PM
32What should/can I do in Tel Aviv?
While Tel-Aviv doesn't have any real attractions or "must-sees" it is nevertheless a very lively city, with some interesting neighborhoods, and great nightlife. Any city buff would surely find plenty of things to do! So, here is some info about the city. you can use this website to locate adresses - but remember that there may be more than one way to write a name of a street in Roman letters.
Places to visit during the daytime:
The seafront - perhaps the greatest asset of Tel-Aviv. The best stretch, in my opinion, is around the area where Allenby, Trumpeldor, and Bograshov streets reach the sea.
Markets - the most interesting one is the Carmel Market (runs down south from the intersection of Allenby and King George St.) It has a smal area of stalls selling clothes, souvenirs etc, but mainly focuses on fresh products - especially fruits and vegetables. Nearby, at the cobbled street of Nahalat Binyamin, there is an interesting artists market held every Tuesday and Friday. Also nearby, but less interesting in my opinion is the Bezalel Market for clothes. Another interesting market is the Levinsky Market (Levinsky St., between Ha'aliya and Herzel St.), which focuses mainly on spices and other dry foods. Finally, try the Flea Market in Yafo (Jaffa). Don't forget to bargain hard!
Neighborhoods - the more interesting ones are in south Tel-Aviv. Neve-Tzedek was the first one to be built outside of Yafo, and is a great place to wonder around the small lanes and "sophisticated" shops. Don't miss Shabazi St. and Suzan-Delal Centre(Yehieli St. 5), where you can also watch ballet and modern dance performances during the evenings. Just outside the neighborhood, towards Yafo, is the Beit-Immanuel church(intersection of Beer Hofman and Aerbuch St.), which was built in the 19th century. And ofcourse, there is Yafo itself - visit the clock square, the flea market and the old city. In Central Tel-Aviv, right by the Carmel Market is Kerem Hateymanim which is another interesting neighborhood. Finally, some (with me among them) might argue that Florentin has a certain charm. You can find out for yourself.
Boulevards - the most interesting one is Rotshild Avenue, which is at the heart of Tel-Aviv, and boasts some intersting early 20th century architecture, and some great cafes and restaurants. You can also check out Chen Avenue (runs south of Rabin Square) and Ben-Zion Avenue (runs east from King George St.). All 3 avenues meet at Habima Square, where the national theatre is located.
Shopping Malls - Dizengoff Centre is right at the heart of Tel-Aviv (intersection of Dizengoff and King George St.), while Kenyon Azrieli is 20 minutes walk, or a short bus ride, right next to Hashalom train station. Other interesting places for shopping include Dizengoff St. for designer clothes, especially at the north end of the street; Shenkin St. for clothes and shoes; and King george St. with the adjacent Bezalel Market, and the 2 small alleys - Simta Almonit and Simta Plonit.
Museums - You can try the Tel-Aviv Museum (Shaul Hamelech St.) or the Diaspora Museum (on the campus grounds of Tel-Aviv University)
Other interesting areas - Visit Bialik St. for some more interesting early 20th century buildings. Go to Hayarkon Park, which is situated around Hayarkon River (even though it's more like a small stream) - the area where the river meets the sea is particularly nice. Go to Rabin Square (Ibn Gevirol St.) where there is also a memorial to late prime minister Yitzhak Rabin. And finally, if you are looking for a more bizarre experience, go to the old central bus station (Neve Sha'anan St.) - this is the closest thing Tel-Aviv has to slums, and there are many working immigrants from The Philippines, Romania, China etc living here. In its own special and bizarre way, it's actually an interesting place to wonder around on Saturday afternoon.
Tel-Aviv is also a great city for nightlife. Here are some reccomendation:
Cafes - can be found practically everywhere, with some making surprisingly good coffee. Most of them also sell pastries and small meals. Shenkin St., Bograshov St., and Ibn Gevirol St. have a high concentration of cafes in particular. In the shopping malls you would find outlets of Israeli coffee chains. My personal favourite cafe is Bacho (intersection of King George and Shlomo Hamelech streets.)
Pubs and Nightclubs - again, these could be found anywhere in Tel-Aviv. There is a large concentration in Allenby and Nahalat Binyamin St. in Central Tel-Aviv, while nearby at Lilinblum St. some more upscale pubs can be found. Another hangout area is in the old Tel-Aviv port ("+Namal Tel-Aviv+"), at the north end of Dizengoff St. A fvopurite pub of mine is Haminzar (Hilel Hazaken St. Just off Allenby St.)
Restaurants - fancy restaurants from every type of cuisine can be found in Tel-Aviv, and in some you can sample great food. However, in my opinion, outside the lunch business menu, most don't offer great value for the money (though some would disagree with me). There are many good restaurants in Ha'Arbaa St. right across the Cinematheque.
Cultural Centres - At Habima Square, the national theatre Habima is located, though I doubt they put up any shows in English. You can watch operas at the opera house (on the corner of Shaul Hamelech and Lenardo Da-Vinci St.) If you want to watch artistic movies, go to the Cinematheque (Shprinzak St. 2). And finally, you can watch ballet and modern dance performances at the above mentioned Suzan-Delal Centre.
Movie theatres - can be find in all the big shopping malls - Dizengoff Centre, Kenyon Azrieli, and +Migdal Ha'opera+(Hayarkon St.). Another big complex is Rav-Hen, just off Dizengoff Square. Finall, the biggest complex in Tel-Aviv - 21 screens - would be Cinema City, close but outside of Tel-Aviv proper, towards the northern suburb of Ramat-Hasharon.
Edited by: Irene_Adler
Edited by: katija
Jan 27, 2006 11:14 AM
33How do I get to Tel Aviv?
It is very easy to reach Tel-Aviv by public transportation. Remember that from Friday afternoon till Saturday evening, buses and trains don't operate, which leaves you with a choice of expensive taxis or shared sheroot (service) taxis. Therefore, on the weekends, it's better to reach or leave Tel-Aviv on Friday morning.
From Ben-Gurion Airport - the best way to approach Tel-Aviv is by train. Trains run from about 4:00AM till about 11:30PM. Upon arrival, the first train station in Tel-Aviv proper is Hahagana, followed by Hashalom, Merkaz and University. The train ride takes less than 15 minutes. The other option is to take a taxi.
From Jerusalem - line #405 is the direct bus that connects the central bus station in Tel-Aviv, to that in Jerusalem. Line #480 runs from the central train station in Tel-Aviv and is less used by visitors. the ride takes about an hour. Both lines are operated by Egged bus company
From Akko/Haifa - there are frequent trains running throughout the day, starting at about 5:00AM until about 21:30PM. The ride takes about an hour and 15 minutes from Haifa, 30 minutes longer from Akko. There are also buses on these routes.
From Eilat - There are buses throughout the day, from about 5:00AM till 5:00PM, leaving every 90 minutes from the central bus station. There is also one night bus. The line is operated by Egged, and the ride takes about 5 hours.
Edited by: katija
Apr 20, 2006 10:57 AM
34How do I get from the UAE to Iran via ferry?
I made the crossing from Dubai to Bandar Lengeh in mid-March. The Oasis Freight company office in Dubai doesn't issue tickets, but (although the ship was full) they found me a ticket and sent me to Sharaf Travel (04-272 5026 ask for Syed) to pick it up (it's in the Hyatt area, with a big "Eritrean Airlines" sign, and next door to a money changer). Overall very helpful people.
Here's the information they gave me:
(keep in mind you need to pay 20dhs exit tax)
Dubai - Bandar Lengeh (fast fery)
Wednesdays and Saturdays; sails 11:30am, arrives 4pm.
(also Monday ships May - August)
Fare (1st/2nd): 215/205 dhs
They told me to be at the port at 8:30, but there's a long queue of people carrying loads of goods to be sold in Iran, and by the time I actually went to customs it was 10 or so. They weigh/store your bag seperately, which means you have to wait for it to be unloaded and find it in Bandar Lengeh. I don't think there's any real difference between 1st/2nd class. I was sitting in the 2nd class area, and they fed me snacks, anti-seasickness pills, and a good meal of chicken and rice, followed by apples. Nice, comfortable ship. Having said that, I've heard it costs about the same to fly.
Sharjah - Bandar Abbas (Ro-Ro, Cargo/Passenger ferry)
Sundays and Tuesdays; sails 9pm, arrives 7am
Fare: 150 dhs
Keep in mind that apparently the ships shut down for 10-15 days or so before or around Norooz.
The folks are very helpful when contacted face-to-face, but don't seem to reply to emails, and the webpages are hopeless.
Edited by: Irene_Adler
May 28, 2006 11:11 AM
35Can I get a Syrian visa at the border?
This question is becomming more popular than the one about the Israeli stamp!
The answer to the question is, if you have a Syrian Embassy in your home Country then you must apply for your visa there.
Daily Star Article 2005
Syrian Ministry of Tourism
I am already travelling, can I get a Syrian visa at the Cairo, Jordanian etc, etc Embassy?
The short answer to this question is NO. The above information still applies. That being said many poster's on TT have managed to accomplish it. It should be noted that just because other's have gotten away with it (other poster's have not been sucessful although there are more sucess post's) it DOES NOT CHANGE THE FACT that this is against the official policy as stated above, and there is every chance that you will be refused.
If anyone has any further useful information to add to this thread please feel free to do so!
Jun 24, 2006 5:47 PM
36Can I get a transit visa in Saudi Arabia?
The Saudi Embassy in Sanaa appears to be granting transit visas to non-Muslims and even people who don't "have to" travel through KSA. The following is a detailed rundown of my lightning visit to Saudi Arabia June 19-22 from Yemen (to which everyone should go, as it's the pearl of the peninsula IMHO) on a three-day transit visa to Jordan. I flew to Jeddah, but drove out via the Jordanian border at Halat Ammar three days later despite the fact that my visa stated I was to travel by air. Details follow.
I also recommend this thread, at ##3, 5 and 7, which along with some PMs is what got me started.
I should say I am a single, forty-year-old male lawyer (they ask on the forms) who cleans up well for embassies, tricky border crossings, and other dealings with officials. Younger people and, in particular, women and unmarried or unrelated couples may well have no luck.
Also, the itinerary below involves fancy hotels and "complete" taxi hire--not the way I got around in Yemen, but for three days it was a blast. The long and short is that the same trip can be done rather more cheaply than I did it.
Ever since I first read about it I've wanted to go to Madain Saleh, the second city of the Nabatean Empire. (The capital was the more famous Petra in Jordan.) However, the conventional wisdom is that it is virtually impossible for a non-Muslim to get to KSA unless there is business to be transacted, or unless a local jumps through a very arduous series of hoops to get the person a visitor's visa. Transit visas were given to truckers and to Gulf nation nationals and residents who needed to get a car to the other side for some reason, and then only sparingly and only with proof. However, the thread I linked to above indicated that the Saudi Embassy in Sanaa might be a little more willing to relent (or perhaps that the policy is changing slowly). As I was planning to go to Sanaa anyway, I figured I'd give it a shot, and it paid off.
2. Before Arriving in Sanaa
Before I left the US I got a Jordanian visa. Jordan visas are ordinarily given out at the airport to US citizens, but the Saudis like to see that you have a visa for the next country (i.e., get a visa for whatever country on the other side of KSA you want to end up in--Egypt, Jordan, etc., though they may grant shorter visas depending on where you're going). I also had a Turkish Airlines ticket from Istanbul to Sanaa, but with a return from Amman to Istanbul. If I'd not gotten the visa I would've just flown Air Arabia or something to Amman (they never asked for my air information, but be warned as they may ask you for your onward travel plans and proofs). I also had spare passport photos, copies of my passport and the Jordanian visa, etc. with me.
3. The Visa Process at the Saudi Embassy in Sanaa
Once in Sanaa, I went to the Saudi Embassy and was waylaid across the street by multiple visa touts offering to help me with forms (one is in English and Arabic, the other in Arabic). I was happy to have the help as my Arabic does not extend beyond the basic opening conversational gambits. But they then told me to come back in two days for my visa, "no problem"--this without me having presented myself at the Embassy in person. I began to suspect that I knew more than they did about the difficulty of getting the Saudi visa in my case, but as I had plenty of time I let them go ahead (and the cost for all their help was about US$2.50). Sure enough, when I checked in after a trip to Ma'rib they told me the Saudi Embassy personnel said I needed to go there myself, which I did the next morning. So by all means use these touts (and pay them) for filling out the forms, but walk the passport and forms in yourself. The embassy opens between 8 and 8:30 Saturday to Wednesday, and they will help you while you stand in line.
I strongly suggest you wear whatever your best is (a long-sleeved, white button-down shirt seemed to work for me) and take a friend along to translate if you do not speak Arabic.
Once you have been searched they sit you in a pleasant, shaded area outdoors with large numbers of Yemenis. They tend to call "special cases" last, so you are in for a wait of a couple-three hours. Eventually you will be motioned to a window to turn over your documents. I had requested a one-week visa to travel by bus from Sanaa to Amman. I was told that this was impossible, and that I must fly to Jeddah. This contradicted everything I knew about the transit visa, but who was I to argue? I was also told the maximum would be 3 or 4 days. Bonoboboy's entry at #5 in the link above indicated that my visa still might be good for a week no matter what they said, so I said fine (again, who was I to argue?).
There is no fee at all for a transit visa.
I was given a receipt and told to come back at 1PM in two days. When I did (and after sitting for another couple of hours), I had a very cool-looking visa in my passport, with a tiny copy of my own photo and everything. It said in English "Validity: 1W" but this means it must be used within a week. Elsewhere, in Arabic, it makes clear that three days is the limit. It also stated clearly that this was a visa for air travel. Hold that thought.
I had gone to Saudi Airlines and gotten a one-way ticket to Jeddah (airport code JED) once I had the receipt (i.e., before getting the actual visa). The Embassy never asked to see an onward ticket to Jordan, nor did the airline ask that I buy one, but they may wise up. Yemenia also flies to Jeddah, but Saudi worked better for my schedule. There must be one or two flights daily between the two airlines. The Jeddah ticket cost about US$150. Once I had my visa in-hand I also bought a one-way flight to al-Wajh (code: EJH), north of Jeddah along the coast and the closest fly-in point to Madain Saleh. That ticket cost about US$55. On Orbitz I got a room at the excellent Red Sea Palace hotel (right in the old part of town) for US$80. The usual internet sites have plenty of options for Jeddah, and Travelocity (and for all I know others) will give you flight times and ballpark costs between Saudi cities, though it's much, much cheaper to buy the tickets at the office. The LP guide has budget lodging options. The office is located on az-Zubayd Street, on the left as you are leaving the center and maybe 300 meters past the Spacetel headquarters building (which is on the right)--every cabbie knows Spacetel, but they don't know where the Saudi Airlines office is.
As we began our descent a recorded voice announced in US English: "We are just crossing the Ihram Mikat; concerned passengers must express their ihram and start Talbiyah." A couple of passengers went and changed into their two-piece garb, but one poor old fellow was half undressed and standing sheepishly in the aisle when the plane landed. I realized this was likely to be as close to Mecca as I would ever get in my life. We landed at Jeddah after 23:00, and I very much hoped that that last hour of June 19 would not count as "Day 1" of my 3-day visa (I was prepared to argue the point but never had to). There is an arrival form to fill out--it's in the same room as the passport control, but they make you search for it (it's behind a pillar near the center of the hall). There was no help for the many semiliterate arrivees from Sanaa trying to figure out their Umrah forms, and I certainly wasn't much help beyond at least getting them the right document. The passport control area is well-run, with lots of officers on hand even near midnight--quite a contrast to JFK in New York, where one often gets the feeling they don't want one.
I got a fancy cab to the hotel for SR60 (about US$16--prices below are in US$, and the current rate is SR3.75 = US$1), checked in and enjoyed the A/C (no A/C for my stay in Yemen) for a few hours before waking at 05:00 for a lightning tour of the old city. My flight to al-Wajh was to leave at 13:35, and as Madain Saleh was my main destination I was more than willing not to see much of Jeddah. (Divers should note--thanks Wanderinwilco--that there is supposed to be some spectacular diving right off the coast at Jeddah.)
The old market area (Souq al-Alawi) has some pleasant old terraced houses but will probably not impress anyone as the most amazing city in a region that prides itself on interesting architecture, old and new (and after having spent some time in Sanaa, Hajjara, Shibam and the like in Yemen, I was underwhelmed--other than the fact that I was in Saudi Arabia at all, which still tickles me). The people were friendlier than I had imagined--don't know why, but I'd had the (misguided) impression that Saudi Arabia was the exception that proved the rule that Arabs are friendly, hospitable to a fault, humorous, etc. Anyway, after some looking around I headed back to the airport (another US$16--a cab from the street would have cost perhaps $12).
There are ATMs everywhere, many of which accept foreign credit and debit cards.
6. Jeddah to al-Ula
I was concerned about being able to fly out of Jeddah to another Saudi town--if my visa indicated that it was "by air," it probably wouldn't matter that my visa application had specified entry by air, exit by land to Jordan. But I got to the airport and was surprised to find--self check-in! So all you need to do is input the code on your ticket and the machine spits out a boarding pass. No need to show your passport, visa, etc. to anyone, even when getting on the plane.
After an hour on the spotless new plane we landed in al-Wajh. The Red Sea coast below was stunning, with islands, great-looking beaches, and almost no settlements--so if you're not too into ruins, there are some pretty pristine beaches in that area to frolic on (in a demure, culturally sensitive and respectful manner--if only I'd had the time). For anyone interested in spending some time around al-Wajh, there is a rental car agency (Alrhile Rent-a-Car (05) 07846079 or (05) 03583931), but there are no buses to al-Ula as both towns are too small to call for such luxuries. But there are indeed shared taxis, so I got a free ride to the taxi stand from the rental car guy.
I paid SR250 (about US$65) to hire a whole cab to take me to the Madain Saleh Hotel and Resort in al-Ula. If you are willing to wait until a car fills up the cost shouldn't be more than US$8-13 per person. The 240KM trip, on a new road, takes between 2 and 3 hours depending on your driver's degree of leadfoot. If you're driving yourself you'll pass Abu Gazaz and Bida within the first 100KM, and it would be very difficult to get lost as the road is well signed. There is an old fort most of the way to al-Ula on the left, but I'll be damned if I saw it because by the time the driver pointed it out we had blown past it. The drive starts out with unattractively lumpy desert which soon turns into pretty lovely hilly formations.
7. Al-Ula and Madain Saleh
Checked in at about 18:00 at the Madain Saleh Hotel and Resort (this was toward the end of Day 1). They informed me that I was the first foreigner/non-resident ever to make it there on my own. The hotel is highly recommended in the LP Saudi Arabia and Arabian Peninsula guides, and the staff are attentive and helpful. It really is a treat, and if you can get yourself there and away under your own power it's dirt cheap for four- or five-star accommodation. I had been offered pickup at al-Ula and dropoff at Halat Ammar (Jordan border) plus room, board and tours for about US$1,000, but once I'd cut out the pickup and dropoff I paid the hotel only about one-third of that price--the room is US$48 per night (single or double), an excellent four-course dinner is US$17 (there is a la carte also, and clearly if you want to save money you can get perfectly good grilled stuff, etc. in town) and breakfast $9. I don't eat lunch when traveling but I think it was US$15. They will get you the permit on a couple of days' notice for US$27 (they did it for me in one day--email passport photo and visa page to Manager Ashgar Baig Younas at firstname.lastname@example.org). A car and driver for a day's touring of the jawdropping Madain Saleh costs US$160--obviously, the biggest cost consideration. Note that the hotel requires a bank transfer if you are getting a pickup, but will take cash if you arrive on your own (SR, or US$ but they take US$ at a rate of only SR3.50 rather than 3.75).
There is cheap email in town. Water costs about $US0.25 for .6 liters, and gasoline/petrol costs $0.16 for a liter, so water (for touristic purposes anyway) is about two-and-a-half times more expensive than gas. You and your driver will need lots of water.
The site is huge (nothing like Petra, but it takes a day to see the main sights), and the surrounding landscape is breathtaking, like something out of southern Utah (parts of Bryce Canyon and Zion Park come to mind). Al-Ula itself sits in a steep wadi, so it's great for early-morning or late-afternoon picture-taking just like Madain Saleh itself, and there are various subsidiary sights in the area.
My guide, Badr, was born at Madain Saleh before the government kicked the people off the land there, and he knows his stuff (though he is also prone to place emphasis on the Quranic accounts and even the local stories of how the place came to be--this house belonged to a Dutchman, that to an Egyptian, etc.--such claims are unanswerable, of course). Anyway, the tombs (or houses as my guide would have it) are not as impressively carved as many of those at Petra, but are generally in a much better state of preservation, and the landscape is awesome. I will have photos up on my website eventually.
8. Al-Ula to the Border
Unfortunately for me, I found that the sole bus headed toward Tabuk (airport code TUU and another option for flying into or out of the area, though it's 500KM from al-Ula rather than 240KM) near the border on Thursday was to leave at 08:00. Usually the buses leave at 16:00 but not Thursdays, so I had to leave Madain Saleh after only a day and two nights. (By the way, Saudi bus line SAPTCO has schedules from the larger cities such as Tabuk and Medina, though you may have trouble catching a bus from Medina unless you meet it out in one of the oasis towns it stops at on the way north--buses from Jeddah to al-Ula are a no-go for non-Muslims as they stop in Medina; the SAPTCO website for intercity buses is here).
The bus to Tabuk cost about US$19, and left after 08:30. The LP guide indicates this is a 5-hour trip, but with stops and a rare patch of bad road north of Taima (about halfway in terms of time and distance and worth seeing for those with more time, I hear) it was about 6.5 hours for the 500KM journey. At Tabuk there would have been a bus at 19:00 across the border to Ma'an (3 hours) and Amman (6 hours), but by then I had decided I might as well try to reach Petra in time to stay the night there. I again hired a taxi right at the bus station for US$50 (a ripoff but I was in a hurry and they knew it) to get me to Halat Ammar on the border about 100KM away--we arrived in about 45 minutes.
At the border I waited while the local drivers had their Thursday afternoon naps. There is a post office at the border so I dropped my cards in the box there (US$0.80 in stamps for US or Europe). There are also a bank, a restaurant (run by a Pashtun from Afghanistan) and several well-stocked markets right before the border post. Eventually I found a Jordanian driver willing to take me across to Ma'an for yet another US$50 (again, I could've waited until the cab filled up and gotten away with paying less, or taken the bus from Tabuk in the first place). Border formalities were very straightforward--I always assume border guards are not going to give you too much trouble leaving a country as opposed to coming in, and that was the case here. We made the 150KM or so to Ma'an in about two hours counting the border time, and I then paid a final US$10 to Petra, arriving by 20:00.
I took the bus to Tabuk to save a little dough. A cab would've cost about US$175 to Tabuk, and I already knew I would be cabbing it part of the way. The desert road is pretty uninteresting from al-Ula all the way to Ma'an. Another option if you're well-fixed or have a car is to head back to al-Wajh and drive up the Red Sea coast to the (less used) border post near Aqaba, or do a real loop and head up the coast a ways and then back inland to the desert road close to the border (about 60KM north of Tabuk)--the LP guide says the wadi you go through crossing back from the coast is comparable to Wadi Rum in Jordan, though I'd venture to say it's less touristed.
So there it is. If you want a Saudi transit visa you have a fair chance IMHO of getting it in Sanaa (based on my experience and the thread I linked to at the top of this post). They never asked to see my onward ticket or any Jeddah-related flight information--just the Jordan visa. It's free, so all it costs to try is a few hours of your time. Madain Saleh is indescribable, and entirely tourist-free. The staff at the hotel there are starved for company, so just go! You can do it much more cheaply than I did (or more expensively, of course). I flew into Jeddah, but for all I know they will give you a visa for Dammam or Riyadh also. From there, as there is self-check-in for domestic flights, you can probably fly wherever you want. Good buses and shared taxis abound, and the people are very friendly at least where I was. I may try it all again myself before too long.
Hope this has been helpful. Feel free to PM me with any questions about my extremely brief but nevertheless intense experience with KSA.
Edited by: Irene_Adler
Edited by: Zabba
Sep 18, 2006 2:41 PM
37How do I get to/from Sabiha Gökcen Airport (Istanbul) to/from Sultanahmet/Taksim?
* take tramway to last stop at Kabatas
* transfer to funikuler and go up to Taksim
* take the metro direction 4. Levent and get off at Levent stop
* take 'Plazalar' exit
* continue to walk in the same direction as you walked up the stairs towards 4.levent
* walk for about 500m to the pick up point in front of the 'Yapi Kredi Plaza'
Note : there are at this moment no signs for the pick up point, the bus leaves about once an hour on the hour (see schedule on door in Heas office in Taksim, which is accross the street from the Havas office in Taksim).
Note : technically speaking the 'Yapi Kredi Plaza' is in the 4.Levent. Don't however take the metro to the 4.Levent stop. That station has exits on the other side of a freeway and even though you can get from there to the 'Yapi Kredi Plaza' the route is both longer and much more confusing.
Note : German Wings and Corendon have their own shuttle arrangement. Check on their websites for further information.
Note : At the end of the workday there will be hundreds of servicebuses picking up people from pretty much the same spot.
Added by soylentyellow:
Havas buses have been running between the city of Istanbul and Sabiha Gökçen airport since it has been opened. Now city buses (IETT buses, cheaper, more local kind of service) have finally arrived at SAW.
Even though they may not be as convenient as the Havas buses, they might be cheaper or get you into a different part of town quicker, or may be you just like the sound of it. All times are for workdays only (weekends + holidays = less service) and are FROM Sabiha Gökçen. Other direction: don’t know, may be someone else knows.
*Line 16 S
From S. Gökçen to Kartal and Koziyataği (must be gigantic shopping mall/Carrefour right beside a highway interchange relatively close to Kadiköy on the Asian side). There are buses between Koziyataği and Beşiktaş (close to Taksim).
First bus leaves SAW 5:30, 6:35, then one bus every 60-90 min, last bus at 21:00
*Line E S
From S. Gökçen to 4 Levent Metro (a five minute metro ride away from Taksim)
6.15, 6:30, 6:50, 7:10, 15:30, 16:15, 17:00, 17:45 only
All of the above cost 2 Express Tickets (whatever that means)
*line E 10
From S. Gökçen to Pendik Köprüsü (bridge), to Bostanci Köprüsü, to Kadiköy
First 6:00, then every 80 minutes, last 20:35
Added by maenad:
Havas buses leave both the large and the small terminal at Sabiha Gokcen airport and go to several places all over the city. You can definitely get the Havas to Levent, Taksim, and Bostanci. The system is in a state of flux so whatever your plans are, be SURE to ask again when you arrive.
The larger, more regular Havas buses leave from the main terminal. If you are going somewhere unusual, you may be waved over to the small terminal.
The most regular SG Havas bus leaves from the Yapikredi plaza, which is between the Levent and the 4 Levent metro stations. It's a fairly new stop and two taxi drivers I asked didn't know the stop - a third did. If traffic is light when you are travelling it will only take half an hour to get to the airport, but don't count on this!
The nearest "main" section of Istanbul to SG is Pendik.
Edited by: Irene_Adler
Nov 1, 2006 3:50 AM
38Is there somewhere cheap to stay in Kuwait?
Was in Kuwait October 2006.
1. Hotel Bahrain was the cheapest and is in in the Al Qibla area of Kuwait city (downtown) by the gold souk just off Ali Al Salem Street. They charge 10KD per night for a very clean room without bathroom. Bathroom is on landing, was clean and was constantly cleaned. Staff very helpful.
2. Maha House Hotel costs 15KD with very nice staff but rather shabby and run-down and not so clean. It is in Bneid Al Gar, 5 mins walk from a nice beach, just off the first ring road and route 30. See LP.
3. Spring Hotel in Salmiya, not far from beaches, shopping and restaurants. Difficult to find. Driving from Kuwait City towards Salmiya on Gulf Road you turn right at the first traffic lights after Marina Mall. After turning right you will hit another traffic light where you turn left and go down Salem Mubarak Street . It's about the 3rd block on your right, occupying the same building as Texas chicken. Roms are 21KD but if you press for a single it costs 15KD. Clean and well kept though soul-less and empty.
4. Second Home Hotel is near the Maha House and is well-run and well-kept. Singles at 21KD. See LP.
5. Youth Hostels. I could not get through to them and the one in Helwali seemed to be closed when I passed it.
Edited by: Irene_Adler
Nov 22, 2006 6:28 PM
Mar 30, 2007 5:59 PM
40Will I be safe?
What constitutes "safe" anyway?
Do you mean:
Risks and their assessment for most Middle Eastern countries (sans Iraq, including Iran) in descending order (highest risk on top, lowest on bottom, IMHO)
But more importantly the medical care after the traffic accident is better in Europe or the USA.
(Ever heard of anyone getting robbed at gunpoint and/or shot in the Middle East? This ain't South America or the US. But it is also a result of the not so free press mind you)
However, unlike the USA or the UK or Germany, no country (other than Iraq) is currently actively (actively as in openly) involved in an ongoing war. (and yeah, I heard of Hezbollah, but that's covert and things are quiet now)
No kidnappings except in Iraq, where it is a thriving business and where there's a car bomb a day (or more).
Edited by: Irene_Adler
Jun 27, 2007 5:05 AM
41Does a ferry run between Turkey and Syria?
The Mersin, Turkey to Lattakia, Syria ferry has returned this summer.
From 28 June it runs twice a week, departing Mersin at 9 AM on Mondays and Thursdays and returning from Latakia on the same day in the afternoon (probably 2 PM). Tickets cost $65 one-way and $130 return. Link
Edited by: Irene_Adler
Aug 2, 2007 9:31 AM
42Can I get my Iranian visa in Istanbul?
Just got a 30 day single entry Iranian visa and thought I'd post the experience.
49, male,New Zealander. No pre-approval number, I just fronted up at the Consulate here in Istanbul.
- Completed application
- Photocopy of same
- Photocopy of front page of Passport and of Turkish visa and/or entry stamp.
- Two passport photos.
They took all this and told me to come back in ten days. No receipt, no reference number.
I came back ten days later. They gave me a slip of paper and told me to pay €60 at the bank across the street.
When I came back they took the bank receipt and my Passport and asked me when I wanted to leave Istanbul. I smiled and told them "as soon as I have my visa". They smiled and told me to come back before they closed at 11:30. Note: today is Friday and the Consular section is closed on weekends.
I came back as instructed and received back my newly visa'd Passport.
Edited by: Irene_Adler
Aug 27, 2007 9:51 AM
43What is the cost of living in Dubai?
Obviously it depends as different people have very different levels of "lifestyle"... but to give an idea (and this is from personal experience, I'm sure some will say cheaper/more expensive):
All prices in UAE Dirhams per year
Studio apartment new or nearly new, with pool, gym, etc in one of the new developments (Palm, Greens, JBR) 85-90K
Furnished room in a share house in Dubai, ok area (Jumeirah, Barsha, Bur Dubai) 35-60K
3 bedroom older villa in Mirdiff 150K-200K
2 bedrrom villa in the Springs 140K-165K
Obviously depending on how many people, and if it's shared or single occupancy, and also age of the property (i.e. older airconditioning units eat power!). When budgeting for a new arrival, remember there's a lot of security deposits etc that need to be paid up front. The "Housing Fee" is 5% of the annual rental also needs to be paid. As a guide, 2 people, living in a 2 bedroom apartment, with aircon running 24/7 and normal other usage of water/power would pay around 25K
Long term lease 1.6L new Pegout 307 (or similar) for 2 years including servicing, rego & insurance 19K
2 taxi trips a day for 320 days a year (average trip about 15km) 13K
Buy a new Toyota Rav 4, 5 door, around 100K, with a 5 year loan, 9% interest, plus rego, insurance & servicing 30K
Petrol for average driving (e.g around town, to & from work) for a 1.6L car 4K
Average shop from Spinneys/Choitroms of fruit, veg, meat, milk, bread, pasta, cleaning products, toiletries etc for two people for one week, 500 dirhams = 26K
24 x Dinner out for 2 people, with 2 courses, a bottle of wine & water, at one of the 5 star hotel casual dining restaurants 10-12K
1 case of Tiger beer per week from MMI or A&E 6-7K
2 bottles of Jacobs Creek wine per week from MMI or A&E 7-8K
Mobile phone - 25 minute local/mobile call per week + 10 text messages a week with a pre-paid plan 2K
1 person, 2 hours at Ski Dubai every 2 months 1K
School fees for one child of Primary school age, British/American/International private school 30-50K
So using all of that:
If you're a couple, living in a studio apartment, leasing one car and using taxi's for your other transport, you're looking at needing around 200K between you both
If you’re a single, taking a room in a shared house, using taxi’s, you need about 90-100K
If you’re a family of 2 parents and 2 primary school aged kids, living in a 3 bedroom villa, with one owned car, and one leased car, you’ll be needing around 400K
Remember, most salaries are quoted in monthly figures. Many companies offer allowances such as accommodation, transport or school fees. I haven’t included any medical insurance or costs as this varies and is generally bloody expensive for private treatment. I wouldn’t recommend taking a job that doesn’t include medical insurance of some sort.
Hope that helps!
Edited by: Irene_Adler
Oct 19, 2007 12:57 PM
44How do I get my visa extended in Esfahan?
Note that the office for visa extensions in Esfahan has MOVED from the location listed in the LP. It is now located in Roodaki Avenue, off Vahid Avenue. The Roodaki/Vahid intersection is about 1 km south along Vahid from the nearest river bridge, which is the motor bridge you can see a couple of hundred metres west of Marnan Bridge. There's a mosque with an odd cone-shaped dome on the south-west corner of the intersection. The Passports/visa office is on the north side of the street about 300 metres west of the mosque. It's well signed, in English, above the entrance.
I'm a Kiwi. This is my experience (yours may differ):
On arrival they ask for your mobile phone and camera (if you have either). These are placed in lockers and you are given the key.
You then go into the yard and immediately circle round to the back of the guard room, where there is a visa window (hereafter "Desk A") labelled something like "Visa extension & passport reception" - I forget the exact wording. You explain what you want. Desk A tells you to go see Mr X, on the 1st floor.
Mr X is a uniformed officer who looks you over, looks your Passport over, and decides whether you qualify for an extension. If so he tells you to go back to Desk A and ask for the forms and the information you need in order to pay the bank.
Desk A won't have the forms but he will give you a tatty pink piece of paper with a list of instructions telling you the things you need to collect in order to get your extension. It includes the bank account number. He will direct you to a port-a-shed in the far corner of the yard to get the forms.
At the port-a-shed you tell the man what you need. He asks you for 6,000 rials and gives you a pink folder with two identical blank application forms in it. The folder has a place on the back for you to write your name and father's name.
Just across the road, the south side of the street is lined with places that will photocopy your Passport - the information page and current visa page are what is required, and the validity page if your passport doesn't put all this information on one page or on facing pages - for about 1000 rials.
Desk A will give the impression that the Melli Bank branch is also just across the road. In fact it is some distance. You need to go back to the mosque (remember the mosque?) and turn right (south), walk south until you reach a big junction and follow the road around to the right (west), past the Bank Sepah branch, to the Melli Bank about 50 metres further on. I used the teller nearest the door. I gave him the pink slip, 100,000 rials, and my Passport. He didn't seem surprised, and in a couple of minutes he gave me back the pink slip, my Passport, and a receipt.
On the way back I stopped in a shady spot and filled out the forms and added the required two Passport style photos. Under "reason for renewal" I greasily entered "I need time to see more of your beautiful country". For my address I listed my hotel.
Back at Desk A the man collated everything, stapled it together, gave it all back (I had been worried about this as everyone else was leaving their application and Passport with him and being given a reference number for later) and told me to go see Mrs Y on the 1st floor. Mrs Y was in the room labelled with the same sign as Desk A. (Mr X was in the room to the right of this room, through an office manned by uniformed guards.)
Mrs Y took my application and told me to wait outside - it would take about half an hour.
She also noticed I was carrying my copy of the LP Iran. They are obviously aware that the info in it is out of date, as she specifically asked to see the Esfahan listing with the old address. My guidebook then got taken away for a private consultation between Mrs Y and someone more senior in the depths of the building. I wasn't invited along.
... And in less than half an hour I got my Passport back with a one month extension (which is what I'd asked for). I also got my guidebook back, although it's now prone to give itself airs and to namedrop shamelessly, so I've had to slap it about a few times to remind it who's who.
It's somewhat short of the painless experience that it may been four years ago when the LP was researched, but after the recent protracted nightmare of my Pakistan visa application in Tehran, it was smooth, quick and hassle-free.
I'd like to add a big thank-you to Hamid, the stranger who dropped everything to drive a confused Kiwi from the old address to the new address (including finding out the new address), then refused payment (three times), telling me I was his guest. May his shadow never grow less!
Edited by: Irene_Adler
(4 star Hotel)
From US$232.32 per night
(3 star Hotel)
From US$64.90 per night
(3 star Hotel)
From US$123.03 per night