Mohammed Rasooldeen, Arab News
Published — Sunday 25 July 2004
Last Update 25 July 2004 3:00 am
RIYADH, 25 July 2004 — With the onset of summer, a large number of Saudis and expatriates seek more economical means of traveling around the country or visiting neighboring countries.
The Saudi Public Transport Company (SAPTCO), with its fleet of 2,741 modern buses of different capacities and sizes, is able to run 579 daily scheduled trips, connecting 362 cities, towns and villages Kingdomwide as well as offer international destinations.
Most of the SAPTCO coaches deployed for the road journey are fully equipped to ensure a comfortable travel for the passengers. They operate daily from Riyadh to Bahrain, Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Egypt, Jordan, Syria and Turkey.
“The road journey has become popular among the budget-conscious passengers who wish to go out of the Kingdom for their holiday during the summer,” said a SAPTCO spokesman.
Trips to Egypt operate everyday from Riyadh (via Qassim), Jeddah, Dammam and Khamis Mushayt (via Taif), with additional trips from Madinah and Makkah on selected days. Fares on this service include ferry transit between Dhuba and Port Safaga, and onward bus transit in Egypt.
A number of other destinations are served in Egypt apart from the capital, including Alexandria, Aswan, Ismailia, Suez and Asyut. Within Saudi Arabia, trips call at many intermediate points such as Hafr Al-Batin, Arar, Abha, Bisha and Yanbu.
“This round-trip only cost SR250 and saved me a lot of money since I am traveling with three of my children,” said a schoolteacher on her way to Dubai. Another Dubai-bound passenger said he has more money for shopping in Dubai by traveling this way.
In addition to the fare levied by the company, a passenger has to pay a surcharge of SR2 for his luggage at the time of his check-in and SR10 for every piece of baggage to the coach conductor.
The main SAPTCO terminal located in the south of the capital looks like an airport with arrival and departure lounges. It has other facilities such as a shopping arcade, waiting halls for men and women, restaurants and toilet facilities.
SAPTCO was established in 1979 with a fully paid-up capital of SR1,000 million to provide public transport services. SAPTCO operates around the clock with terminals in the Kingdom’s major cities and through an extensive network of local and international agents.
SAPTCO also plays an important role in providing transport services during Haj and Umrah period. The total number of pilgrims transported by SAPTCO during Haj 2003 reached about 4.1 million pilgrims compared with 3.9 million pilgrims during Haj 2002.
It has VIP services between Riyadh and Alkhobar in Eastern Province and also between Makkah and Madinah in the Western Province and to Bahrain. The total number of VIP passengers reached more than 33,000 in 2003.
Children between two and 12, and disabled persons travel at half price. Also, one authorized companion for each disabled passenger is allowed to travel at half fare. Students are entitled to a “free return” on production of student identification. It is a round-trip ticket for the price of a single, a 50 percent saving.