A Quick Guide To Travelling By Bike in the Middle East

cycling jordan tyson maneringYou can cycle through the Middle East, with some advance planning: ie burka coverings for women going through Saudi Arabia, and special VISAs for Syria. Image via Tyson Manering while cycling through Jordan.

Bicycle touring enthusiasts interested in going on biking tours of the Middle East are now discovering that this sport is not just confined to North America, Europe and Asian countries like China and Japan. While it is true that Western countries have the most developed system of bike touring maps and travel info, Middle East countries also have cycling information that can enable either individuals or groups to undergo a unique and interesting travel experience. Eco-tourism at its finest. But is cycling the Middle East possible and safe?While previous Green Prophet articles have praised the best eco tourism in the Middle East , including how to be ecologically responsible while embarking on hiking treks, not enough attention has been given for those who have considered going on tours via pedal power in this region, which has much to offer to adventurous bike riders.

One of the foremost authorities on bike trekking in this part of the world is a guy named Stephen Lord, who recently  published a book entitled The Adventure Cycle-Touring Handbook in which he gives a number of tips on how to go to places that may not have an advanced infrastructure any may require building a modified terrain type of two-wheeler “from the ground up”.

The tour site Travelling Two gives a number of tips worth noting for traveling in these Middle East countries, including those for women bike riders. Advanced preparation beforehand is crucially important, especially in respect to having the proper equipment suitable for riding on rough “off the road” terrain.

Here are a few of their tips for Middle East bike touring which are worth noting:

*      For Western Travellers  – and this can apply to Israeli ones too in “allowed  countries” such as Egypt, Jordan, and Turkey –  a traveler will be get a chance  to meet the ordinary citizens of  the country first-hand, and will soon discover  that local people are much more friendly than what is officially said by their  government. After all, in the Middle East, the first general rule is kindness to visitors. You may very easily find yourself eating a feast with a local family.

*     For women travelers, especially those going to conservative countries,  conservative dress codes are important, although one does not have to overdo it. We’ve heard in Saudi Arabia cyclists should wear complete covering from head to toe and in most cases, women on the road should not travel alone – this goes for Turkey, Syria, Sinai, Egypt, and Jordan especially, and should be especially  cautious towards truckers. Dress codes are also important for men   too, especially in areas where even men wearing shorts can be considered as  wearing “un-Islamic dress.”

*     Getting visas for countries like Syria: Travelling Two Notes that those interested in visiting countries like Syria (those politically able to) need to get a VISA in advance, but that travelers from countries like Ireland and New Zealand (where no official Syrian diplomatic missions are located) can get a VISA at the border. An easy way if you are coming by land from Europe through Turkey is to get a VISA at Istanbul or Ankara.

Bike tourists considering a touring itinerary of Jordan will definitely want to include a bike tour of Petra and Wadi Rum, as well as a scenic ride along the Kings Highway to Aqaba on the Red Sea.

Naturally, those living in Israel have a problem touring most Middle Eastern countries, but there are plenty of bike touring possibilities within Israel itself to satisfy even the most seasoned two wheel trekker. Since Israel has a well established infrastructure for cycling enthusiasts, I’ll leave this topic for a future article in itself. It is considered very safe for women to travel in Israel alone, except for areas in the West Bank.

More Middle East Eco-Travel Articles:

7 Middle East Locations for the Eco-Minded Traveller

Siwa and Red Sea Become Eco-tourism Hot Spots in Sinai and Egypt

Jordan’s Feynan Eco Lodge Named One of the World’s Top 50 Eco Lodges

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2 thoughts on “A Quick Guide To Travelling By Bike in the Middle East”

  1. Sarah Irving says:

    Nice little article – it’s really important that HOW people travel is flagged up as part of ‘eco-tourism’ as well as what they do when they get there. One point I’d like to take issue with, though, at the very end of the article. I, and many European and American friends, have travelled as solo women in the West Bank throughout the last ten years and never encountered any problems except those arising directly from the conflict – ie the issue applies to men as well.

  2. Nick says:

    Great post! I was in Israel last year and the Dead sea is beautiful. I took a guided tour there and really liked the guide. I think his name was Zur, not sure.. i am sure i booked it on bein harim tours.

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