Tidbits of Arabic News translated into English

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Tips on bus-riding in Amman

The first thing you want to do is be safe. So in terms of buses, unless you know any better, maybe you should only get on the official city buses. These are big and look like normal buses. You pay half a dinar to get on, and ride for as long as you like. Often times, you won't actually be able to go to your final destination without first going to the main bus station, which I think is called Raghadan, and transferring. But maybe you don't want to do that, because Raghadan is out in the middle of no where.

It is hard to get the hang of the buses, because I looked online and couldn't find a website with bus schedules. But, you just pay attention to the buses you see driving on the streets you often travel. Memorize the bus numbers. And then one day, when you're waiting for a taxi and the taxis doesn't come but the big bus is lumbering towards you, just get on and see where it takes you! (Probably best not to do this until you have been in Amman for a while and can recognize streets and landmarks.) At the very least, the bus will take you somewhere that has more taxis!

Probably the bus driver will mostly speak just Arabic, so just kind of wing it if you don't know any. And even an Arabic-speaking bus driver will understand if you make a big noise that says you want to get off. That, however, is only something you should do if you haven't seen the buzzers you're supposed to press to signal an exit.

Then there's small private buses that really just look like vans. These are usually full of people, women and men, so I don't think they can be very dangerous. Nevertheless, they reminded me that "private bus" on which a university student in India was raped two years ago. Also, I think they have less oversight, and the driver has leave to drive as crazily as he would like.

One time I was waiting for a taxi, couldn't find one, and along came a bus in the distance. I just happened to be close to the bus stop, so I skipped on ahead and was in the correct spot by the time the bus arrived. When it did, I saw that the bus was packed! No fussing about "Passengers Must Stand Behind the Yellow Line." Instead, there were girls actually sitting on the steps you climb up on. It was so crowded that the men ahead of me in the bus stop line passed the driver their half dinar fare, and then walked along the bus to the second door and got on there. So I copied them: I passed my fare to the girls sitting comfy on the steps, who passed it to the driver. The girls told me: come on up! (in Arabic.) So I did just that: I walked along the bus to the second door, and made to get on, when I noticed the second door was all young men, looking at me in amusement. So then I figured it out: I ran back to the first bus door, and squeezed in somehow amongst all the girls, and off we went.

So when buses get really full, and people are standing in the aisles, they segregate them: girls in front, guys in back. Of course, the bus driver himself is male, so that messes it up, but oh well. The girls were sitting everywhere: on the steps, on the ledge beside the bus driver, on a little bit of shelf sticking out between the legs of the properly seated girls. And when all those places were taken, the rest of us had to stand. I think the bus was full because it was coming from the university, and the girls were all holding books on physics, thermodynamics, French conversation, and lots of other lovely stuff.

And although there was no "Passengers Must Stand Behind the Yellow Line" sign, there was at least a "No Smoking" sign.

So, in case anyone needs to know, here are the bus routes I figured out:

Bus 427: Goes from Bayader (Sina'a Street in particular) to Abdoun to the Fifth Circle and on to the City Center and Raghadan Central Bus Station. However, NOTE! I never figured out if you want to go the opposite way, if the bus takes the exact same route. Not sure if it passes Fifth Circle on the way to Bayader.

Bus 252: Goes from Jordan University on "University Street" (on Google Maps this is called Queen Rania Street) towards Sports City; it goes around the Sports City Circle, and then turns onto the road which on Google Maps is called something like "Nasser Ben Jameel" and which has a Safeway on it. At the point where this road is renamed "Arar Street", the bus will take a right onto "Kindi Street" and then swing onto Fifth Circle. After that, it goes to a place called the "Wahh-dat". I don't know what that is. But, if you want to go the opposite direction, then the bus takes the exact same route from Kindi Street, onto the Safeway Street, onto the Sports City Circle, and onto University Street.

Bus 426: I just road this bus for a short clip: from Fifth Circle to Third Circle. If you are trying to get to First Circle, it's not much longer walking from where the bus drops you at Third Circle. The bus itself after Third Circle takes a turn and goes towards the City Center.

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