Posted by: sean | March 19, 2009

Scooter service in Beirut

When traveling in central Africa, one quickly gets used to taking moto-taxis. In Rwanda, they’re a nice compromise between regular taxis and buses, cheaper than the former and much quicker than the latter. In Kampala and Goma, it’s common to see entire families on a single motorcycle, none of them wearing a helmet, whereas in Rwanda, there are strictly enforced rules that state that there can only be a single passenger and both the driver and passenger have to wear a helmet. (This is one of the disadvantages to wheeling around Kigali: eternal helmet hair.) Scooter and motorcycle taxis also seem to be common in southeast Asia, and I’d imagine India as well.

I’ve always wondered, then, why we don’t have them in the Middle East. The roads aren’t mcuh worse here than in Rwanda, and they’re a good sight better than in the eastern-part of the DRC (I’ve never been to Kinshasa). Depsite that, though, there aren’t any moto-taxis in Beirut.

So imagine my surprise this morning when I was waiting for a cab to work and was stopped by a guy on a scooter who asked, “where you going?” I told him where I was headed, and he told me, “hop on,” so I did. But as I was getting on, he looked at me and said, “2,000 lira, akeed!” I agreed to pay the price of a service cab and got to work in record time due to our ability to weave through traffic (sometimes disconcertingly the wrong way on a one-way road).

So here’s an idea: why not institute a moto-taxi registration so that all the shabab with bikes could actually do soemthing with their time and make a couple of bucks while they’re at it? This would probably meet with disapproval by many of the service drivers, but I think that there are enough peopel who don’t want to take a motorcycle that the cab business would survive all right. Plus, some of these guys need to retire anyway, and it would certainly be nice to see fewer cars on Beirut’s congested streets. So who’s with me?



  1. Funny idea. Definitely welcome in theory. In practice though, I don’t know how safe I would feel riding on one of these things of death, especially “waving through traffic the wrong way on a one way road”, or any way on any road for that matter.

    Sorry… But i’d rather leave a few minutes earlier and catch a cab, after all, how hard is it to account for a half hour lost in traffic? Much easier than spending a few months in the hospital with a broken back/neck/skull/limb/whatever…

    My 2 cents. cheers :)

  2. I’m with you. There’s this Vespa I’m dying to get, but I’m dead scared I might be run over.

  3. Plan A: Do you know of a good place to get reasonably priced Italian Vespas or cheap Indian ones? I’ve been dying to get one but can’t seem to find many for sale…

  4. sheesh… is it really this difficult to find a scooter in beirut? i am looking for this guy called Nabel Sheik Moussa… he sells vespas somewhere in west beirut. if anybody knows anything, please post

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