Middle East FAQ thread
Replies: 54 - Last Post: Mar 28, 2013 6:21 AM Last Post By: Shuffaluff
Oct 19, 2007 1:23 PM
45Can I get a visa for Pakistan in Tehran?
This is not (or is no longer) the relatively painless two day procedure listed in the LP. It's a week-long rigmarole that seems designed expressly to punish you for not getting your visa before you left home.
IT TAKES FOUR BUSINESS DAYS. But there's a catch. The visa office is currently only open Monday to Wednesday, 9 to 10:30 (let's call these "business days" - though I'd like to work a 3-day business week!). Four into three won't go, so the process as outlined below will take you EIGHT days, unless you can slip in a shortcut somewhere along the way.
Day 1 you front up and apply. They take your forms and interview you and, if you pass muster, they give you a couple of phone numbers, telling you to call them the next business day after 11. Note that they'll probably ask for a cover letter explaining why you need the visa - you can look a little more professional if you have one ready. These guys are all about presentation - if you front up in clean, neat shirt and trousers and with everything you need, you will get better, more courteous service (but you'll still need to wait).
Day 2 you call and they tell you your visa has been approved and you should come in the next business day to pay and to drop off your Passport.
Day 3 you pay 886,000 rials (about US$95) into the Melli Bank and surrender your Passport. They will tell you to come back the next business day.
Day 4 you pick up your Passport with visa.
My experience didn't follow this exactly. At Day 3 (Wednesday) I bucked up when told to come back the next business day - which would be Monday. The guy overplayed his hand, giving me a sanctimonious little lecture about "then you should have applied in your own country, where it would have taken only one day". I quickly pointed out that I left my own country more than six months ago - that any visa I bought before leaving would have expired. Then, while he was on the back foot, I played my trump card - my Iranian visa was due to expire on Monday!
I give the bureaucratic pants-down this: faced with such logic, he capitulated and told me to come back at 4 PM. I've known chair-warmers who would've shrugged it off as my problem and simply left me to stew. If the whole rigmarole wasn't such an unecessary pain in the arse, if the need for fast action wasn't solely due to the ridiculous time taken by their red tape, this capitulation would have entirely redeemed the man in my eyes.
So it took me three days.
But all in all it still took me 9 days in Tehran to get that visa. The extra days are because I rested the day I arrived then stopped in at the NZ embassy and bought a Letter of Introduction (350,000 rials) the next, only showing up at the Pakistan Embassy after 10:30 on Wednesday. So I had to wait until Monday to apply. Bad planning on my part.
Added by george5 (April 2009):
Many embassies in Tehran have stopped issuing letters of recommendation to travellers wanting to travel to Pakistan overland, due to the high threat of abductions in the Baluchistan area. If you are planning on getting your Pakistani visa in Tehran, check with your own embassy first to see if they still issue letters of reccomendation.
Edited by: Irene_Adler
Feb 16, 2010 4:57 PM
46Visas for Iran
For those interested in securing a visa for Iran, you may want to take a look at this thread which was a sticky thread on the Iran sub-branch of Thorn Tree for some time. It provides details of traveller experiences from July 2009 to early 2010 (and beyond), and remains a valuable resource.
Oct 16, 2010 5:56 PM
Nov 12, 2010 11:28 AM
48Full Egyptian visa at Nuweiba port.
It is now possible to get a full visa (a visa which is valid to travel the whole of Egypt and not only the Sinai area) upon arrival. This is off course much easier then going to the Egyptian consulate and wait there for two and a half hour.
At the consulate nobody told me that this is possible. If for whatever reason you still want to arrange your visa in Aqaba, you need one passport photo and 12 JD. You can pay in dinars.
Nov 22, 2010 9:50 PM
49Where can I go with an Israeli Immigration stamp?
for a start have a look at
for a list of Israeli Missions around the world.
However please note this is not a full list of the states and countries Israel have diplomatic relationship with.
Feb 4, 2012 1:30 PM
50Why can't I find a sensible bus route between A and B in Israel?
Egged is only one bus company in Israel. For decades it had a monopoly throughout the country, which is why it's likely you have heard of it. However, in the last few years many routes have been taken over by other companies, so you won't find these on the Egged website.
You don't need to take three buses to get from Haifa to Nazareth, a distance of about 40 km. There are buses between Tel Aviv and Netanya. Just two examples that don't appear on the Egged website, because they are not operated by Egged.
This site covers almost all public transport in Israel, Egged as well as other companies, and also Israel Railways, and in many cases it will give you various options if there is no direct bus or train between A and B. If you don't get any result on your first try, use "include connections".
Feb 20, 2012 10:24 PM
51I have just landed in Israel. How do I get to my destination?
Welcome to Israel. You have just landed at Ben-Gurion International Airport, located between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem (43 km/26 miles from Jerusalem, 15km/9 miles from Tel Aviv). The most efficient mode of transport to get to where you want to go depends on your destination.
First a little about the public transport infrastructure in Israel. There are basically 4 modes of transport in the country: Private taxis, service taxis (called "sheruts" in Hebrew, "serveece" in Arabic - both meaning 'service'), buses and trains.
A private taxi will take you from anywhere to anywhere else, just like in any other country. And they are the most expensive option, of course. Therefore this FAQ will not relate to them, except where one has no choice.
Buses and bus service are excellent throughout the country, and in most cases is the preferred mode of public transport. Unfortunately, this is not the case at the airport, which has no direct bus service of any kind to anywhere you'd want to go.
That leaves you a choice between sheruts and trains.
Please note that the Israel Rail English web site - with schedules - is at:
The site also has versions in Hebrew, Arabic and Russian.
Let's look at the options for the major destinations.
This is the easiest one. There is only one recommended option for any time of year and for any hour of the day or night: "Nesher" sheruts. They run 24/7 - including Shabbat (Friday sundown until after dark on Saturday), and holidays. For about NIS 60 per person (currently ~US $16) including luggage, they'll take you to any destination you want within Jerusalem. These are 10-seater minibuses which go when they are full - and they usually fill up quickly, so chances are you won't have to wait very long to get moving. The time of your journey depends on the order the passengers are let off - about 45 minutes if you are the first one, up to 1.5 hours if you are the last one off. Their stand is just outside the Arrivals hall. A very dependable company which has been serving airport passengers for about 60 years.
On the rare occasions when it takes a long time to fill up, the passengers who are already sitting in the minibus waiting to leave will agree to pay a bit extra to enable a quicker departure. This is normal practice.
Just for the record:
(1) There are no direct trains to Jerusalem from the airport. One may only go via Tel Aviv - a huge detour. Also, the train station in Jerusalem is in the middle of nowhere - far away from any average tourist's destination. A new direct line from the airport is currently being built which would would make travel time to Jerusalem about half an hour, but it isn't scheduled to be in operation for several years.
(2) It is somewhat cheaper to go by bus, but it’s extremely inconvenient. It would be a minimum of two buses – a local bus from the airport to a road junction in the middle of nowhere, and then another bus that will drop you at the Jerusalem central bus station. And then, unless your accommodation is within walking distance of the bus station, you’ll need to take yet another bus or the light rail. With your luggage. Definitely not worth it just to save a few shekels. And of course that is only during the hours that public transport is running, whereas Nesher goes 24/7
Here things get a little more complicated. There are no sheruts from the airport to Tel Aviv - only the train. The train to Tel Aviv runs 24/6, that is, it does not run on Shabbat (in this case, Friday afternoon until after dark on Saturday). Also, it does not run on Jewish religious holidays - the same ones on which buses do not run. During the night hours (from about 11pm to 5am) it runs only once an hour and then only to one (of 4) Tel Aviv stations ("Tel Aviv Merkaz", beside the Arlosoroff bus terminal). During 'regular' hours, you get off at the station closest to your final destination and take either a bus or private taxi to it.
When the train does not run (Shabbat and religious holidays) your only option is a private taxi. They too are just outside the Arrivals hall. Go to the dispatcher at the official stand and you will be charged the official, government-approved rate (listed for all destinations in the country). Ignore any 'touts' on the way out of the terminal, offering transport.
For Haifa, you have a choice of either the train or a sherut.
The trains to Haifa run 24/6 (it's the same train which stops in Tel Aviv - see above - and continues from Haifa north to Nahariya). There are a few stations in the Haifa area. Get off at the station closest to your final destination and take either a bus or private taxi to it. Here too, like in Tel Aviv, the trains during the night hours (about 11pm to 5am) do not stop at all the stations along the route up the coast to Nahariya.
The sheruts to Haifa run on the same principles as the sheruts to Jerusalem (see above). However the company here is called Amal. They too have their stand right next to the Jerusalem sheruts. They do not fill up as quickly as the Jerusalem ones, but they are committed to leaving within about 1.5 hours at the most.
The general rule of thumb is: Take the train for all destinations along the coast, while for all other destinations, take the train to Tel Aviv "Haganah" station (the first stop after the airport station), walk 5 minutes to the Central Bus Station (come out of Haganah station and turn left) and take the appropriate bus to your final destination. For specifics, it is recommended to post a question on the forum.
(posted with Shuffaluff's assistance)
Sep 21, 2012 7:30 AM
52When exactly is the Passover holiday in Israel (March - April 2013)?
I advise all planning to visit Israel in March-April 2013 to please take note of the following:
Everything is closed and there is almost no public transportation, other than private taxis and service taxis ("sheruts"), on the following days - in addition to the regular Sabbath shutdown from sunset Friday till dark Saturday:
1. From sunset Monday, March 25th till dark (evening) Tuesday, March 26th.
2. From sunset Sunday, March 31st till dark (evening) Monday, April 1st.
Also, from Wednesday, March 27th till Sunday, March 31st inclusive, all government offices are closed and almost all businesses (including banks and supermarkets) work only about half a day. Public transportation is as usual, although schedules may be adjusted to accommodate holiday travelers.
Please note that the Nesher "sheruts" to and from the airport, as well as intercity "sheruts", continue to run as usual.
In the non-Jewish areas of the country, public transportation and most retail outlets are working as usual throughout the holiday.
Due to the dietary restrictions of the holiday, many kosher restaurants just close for the holiday period (March 25th to April 1st inclusive), rather than adapt their kitchens to its requirements. Also, no bread, baked goods, pasta or beer/whiskey will be available at kosher places (including most supermarkets). Most Israeli wines and brandies are available. However, most non-kosher restaurants stay open as usual - in the Tel Aviv area in particular. Of course, it's 'business as usual' in the non-Jewish areas of the country.
Mar 28, 2013 3:35 AM
53The Holiday Season in Israel: September, 2013
I advise all planning to visit Israel in September 2013 to please take note of the following:
Everything is closed and almost no public transportation, other than private taxis and service taxis ("sheruts"), on the following days - in addition to the regular Sabbath shutdown from sunset Friday till dark Saturday:
1. From sunset Wednesday, September 4th till dark (evening) Saturday, September 7th (Rosh Hashana + Shabbat).
2. From sunset Wednesday, September 18th till dark (evening) Thursday, September 19th (Succot).
3. From sunset Wednesday, September 25th till dark (evening) Thursday, September 26th (Simchat Torah).
Also, from Friday, September 20th till Wednesday, September 25th inclusive, all government offices are closed and almost all businesses (including banks and supermarkets) work only about half a day. Public transportation is as usual, although schedules may be adjusted to accommodate holiday travelers.
The holiday of Yom Kippur falls on Saturday this year (September 14th), so it's the regular Shabbat shutdown, except that public transportation stops a little earlier on Friday than on a regular Shabbat.
Please note that the Nesher "sheruts" to and from the airport, as well as intercity "sheruts", continue to run as usual, except during the Yom Kippur holiday (the airport is closed anyways with no incoming or outgoing flights, so it is irrelevant).
Public transportation and most retail outlets are working as usual in the non-Jewish areas of the country.
Mar 28, 2013 6:21 AM
54To add to post 53 (and since there are no PMs I can't ask a1 to edit...): Yom Kippur will NOT be the regular Shabbat shutdown. Yes, it's a Saturday, but things that are normally open and functioning on Saturdays do not work Yom Kippur. From sundown on Friday September 13 until after dark on Saturday September 14, absolutely everything - except in non-Jewish areas - will come to a complete standstill. Nothing moves on the roads except emergency vehicles (no taxis), and all places of business, restaurants, museums and tourist sites - everything that charges an admission fee - will be closed.
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