Sunday, September 21, 2008

Kabul Driving Part 2: Public Trasportation

Kabul's estimated population is 4 million and growing.  As fighting and famine continue throughout the country, the capital is a semi-stable alternative to find food, work and some semblance of normalcy (although often without power and running water).  With 4 million people to clog up the roads, how does anyone get around?

There may be some rhyme or reason to the transportation system here, but I don't get it.  I've seen bus stops with people waiting at them.  That's a good indicator that there is some system in place.  But none of the buses are numbered or have routes posted on them.  In fact, the buses in Afghanistan have little uniformity when it comes to condition, size, make, model, and painting.  Most of the buses were imported from Germany years ago and are painted with words like "Super Delux Bus" or "Germany Buses" or "Cool Ride" or our favorite "Love No War."  Each buses decor seems to be unique and it's almost like we collect the different buses saying things like, "Oh, I saw the 'Sultan' bus today.  Have you?"  Maybe we should take pictures of the buses and make trading cards out of them.  Added to my to do list.

But despite the lack of direction or route indication, one thing is certain, these buses are always crowded.  It's a sign of changing times that when we pass a bus we'll see a mixture of turbans and burqas occupying the seats.  Until recently, women had to ride in the back of the bus or get off the bus to give their seat to the men.

If a bus doesn't suit the commuter, there are several other options.  There are the smaller buses, actually Toyota Minivans, that also take you from point A to point B.  These minivans are unmarked and often don't have a door on them to make jumping in and out easier.  And people definitely just jump in and out without any sense of fear of the oncoming traffic racing toward them.  Again, I don't know if they have set routes or not.  And since they are unmarked, it's hard to know if they are open for business or private vehicles.  Our friends have a Toyota Minivan and have people trying to flag them down or run up and open the sliding door.  That's one of the many reasons why we always lock our doors while driving in Kabul.

And then there are little yellow Toyota Corolla taxis.  These come in the wagon and sedan models.  The streets are completely crowded with these cars and these cars are completely crowded with people.  Although taxis are extremely cheap here, most people seem to share the ride with others to make the price even cheaper.  Taxi rides can be a bit of the taking your life into your own hands situation again as often taxis are unregistered and unsafe.  We use a private company whenever we need a taxi.  It's more expensive, but well worth it.  And honestly, compared to US taxi prices, or even Mexico taxi prices, it's very reasonable.

Getting places in Kabul, whether privately or by taxi, is an adventure and can be haphazard.  It's a  very new thing for us to have to think about the to and from of going where we want to be.  Since I can't ride the bus alone as a Western lady or hire a taxi, I find that I am often at the mercy of other drivers to get places further than walking distance or at night.  So far this hasn't been a problem and is just another one of the fun adjustments that come with kicking it in Kabul.


anya* said...

hey julie- i tagged you in a meme. i thought your answers would be fun to read:)

Jacob and Carlee Loya said...

Heeyyy Western lady, heeeyyy. i like it.