So I had travelled quite a lot of times by car with my family from Riyadh, Saudi Arabia to Manama, Bahrain over the years especially when there was no cinema in Riyadh yet.
Last week, my trip to Manama was different because first, I didnt go there with my family, and second, I did commute by bus and train from Saudi to Bahrain across borders which was a first experience for me.
I had always been curious about Saudi Arabia's public transport system so I asked my friends and travel buddies, Sarah and Leonor if they would like to try it out too and I was not surprised finding out that their eagerness and excitement were no less than mine.
We booked our transportation online as follows:
Thursday, 2nd May 2019 - Riyadh ETD:3:00pm to Manama ETA 11:00pm via SAPTCO VIP Bus - Fare:180SAR (one way);
Saturday, 4th May 2019 - Manama ETD 10:00am to Dammam ETA 12:54pm via SAPTCO Bus - Fare: 70SAR (one way)
Dammam ETD 3:42pm to Riyadh ETA 7:19pm via Saudi Railways Train - Fare: 136.50SAR (one way)
We booked our accommodation at Panorama Hotel - a nice hotel located in Juffair which was near many
places we wanted to go to. Ladies night (and day) it was!
And the main question is: How was the commute from one kingdom to another? My answer: Well, it was indeed very convenient and organized - really unexpected (in a good sense!)😉
The VIP Bus from Riyadh, the SAPTCO Transport Bus from Manama and the train from Dammam left on time, not even a minute late. All the units we've been to were clean and well kept. Even the toilet inside the VIP Bus was tidy and unexpectedly not smelly🤣
I thought that maybe we will be delayed at the border as that weekend trip coincided with the closing of most schools in Saudi, but I thought wrong.
While crossing from Saudi to Bahrain, we arrived at 8:10pm at Saudi Customs, went down the bus to go to the Immigration section. We were asked to leave our passports at the Immigration Counter (Saudi), and went back to the bus. We waited for almost 30 minutes then the bus driver handed our passports back to us. At 9:00pm, we went down the bus again and proceeded to the Bahrain Passport Control Department. The queu was short and it took us no more than 10 minutes to finish. Then we were asked to put our
bags on the xray area while
a Bahraini Custom Officer inspected whatnots inside the bus. All checks and scans were done in roughly 90 minutes. Our bus left the border 9:38pm. We reached Manama Bus Station at 10:05pm which was an hour earlier than our ETA.
We had quite a good time that weekend in Manama - strolling around the old city and traditional souq, bar-hopping, shopping, watching movie, going to spa and just relaxing.
Going around Manama was quick
and easy as there is a lot of options to move around - Careem, Uber or just ordinary metered taxis are plentiful
and affordable as Manama is a small city and places to visit are within easy reach.
We left the hotel at 9:00 am on Saturday to catch our 10 am bus. We were earlyat the stationso we left our bags at the SAPTCO office and did a quick shopping for Bahraini sweets and spices
in the nearby souq. The blue SAPTCO Transport Bus left Manama at exactly 10am and we reached the Bahrain border shortly. At 10:30am the driver asked us to go down for Bahrain Passport Control check. There were three Bahraini officers in the office and it took them only 5 minutes to check all the passengers' passports and ID's. We climbed up the bus and reached Saudi border shortly. We waited inside the bus as the driver told us there was no need to go down to the Saudi Passport Control Office. Soon after, at
11:00am a Saudi officer got into the bus and took our passports one by one.
At 11:27am the bus driver returned to the bus and handed our passports back to us.
we waited thru a short traffic and at 11:35am, the driver instructed us to put ourbags in the xray machine. All the passengers heeded while another officer checked inside the bus. We waited beside the xray machine as all the passengers already lined up their bags. Finally it seemed that there was no officer available to operate the xray machine and at 11:51am our driver asked everyone to pick up the bags and return to the bus. We left the border at 11:55am and reached Dammam Bus Station at 12:25pm-that's half an hour earlier than our ETA!
We took a cab to the train station and we reached there at 12:50pm. We were very early for our trip and the station was pretty crowded. We tried to re-book our train ticket to a trip earlier (there was a train leaving at 1:35pm but it was full so we decided to go to a nearby (Othaim) mall to eat our lunch and pass time. We went back to the train station at 3:00pm to check in. The train
left Dammam on time and we reached Riyadh station as expected.
Overall it was a good experience I could say. A short, hassle-free weekend getaway from Riyadh through easy transport back and forth. And of course, spending quality time with friends away from hustle and bustle in the city is always a happy retreat.
What makes me happy?
People. Everyone around me who believes and inspires me.
Life itself is a happy experience. The world is a happy place.
I had my own share of struggles, life was not easy for us back then but my Dad taught me how to believe in myself, work hard , be kind and to be strong. He inspired me to go out of my comfort zone. He used to tell me that the possibilities in life are endless and so I believed him.
l Iost him quite a few years ago but he has left me with so much inspiration to follow my dreams - to visit places I have only dreamt of or have seen in the movies when I was little and to do things I thought were only for the privileged few.
Wherever I go, I always remember my Dad, wishing he could see me from afar and somehow be proud of me as I have always been so proud of him. Life is short and I promised him that I would make the most of mine.
Travelling makes me happy and in all other things, I choose happiness. We all should- always..