Bandar Abbas to Dubai by Ferry
From Bandar Abbas, we were planning to take a ferry to Dubai. As well as the story of our crossing, this post also contains some practical information for other travellers wishing to do the same.||
We visited a travel agency in Bandar Abbas to buy our ferry tickets. There are a couple of agencies on the main street that sell these tickets – we used Bala Parvaz Travel Agency, which is opposite Ghods Hotel.
At time of writing, the tickets cost US $100 each. We had to show our passports and make our payment in Iranian Rials.
As of December 2010, the ferries run every Monday and Wednesday evening at 8pm. However, the ferry schedules are notoriously changeable. We had emailed the guys from www.irantravelingcenter.com in advance to find out the latest schedule and found them quite helpful.
On the day of our ferry crossing, we cycled to the ferry terminal in the afternoon. It is the Bahona Port, which is about 7km west of the city center, near the big roundabout where the main road turns north. Do not take any photos of the terminal! It is considered a government area and the officials can get touchy about it.
We had been told to arrive by 5pm but got there a bit earlier. We were told to lean our bicycles on a counter, and then waited in the sitting area. Around 5pm, everyone queued up to get their boarding cards from a little desk. Make sure you have a spare photocopy of your passport to hand. If you don’t have one, you will have to take a taxi back into town, as there are no photocopying facilities at the terminal.
Once we had our boarding cards, we waited around for a few more hours. People started checking in their luggage, but we were told to wait until everyone else was done. Meanwhile, we were befriended by a “fellow traveller” who spoke good English. Shortly afterwards, he turned up again with some immigration officials who started firing aggressive questions at us, while he translated. He seemed to be quite chummy with them, and we did notice a few other “fellow travellers” loitering around who actually never went on the ferry in the end… The questions we were asked were designed to provoke, but we kept our cool and eventually they disappeared with our passports for a while, before they left to pick on another foreign traveller.
The French father of a family travelling on our ferry was taken away for questioning, which lasted about an hour. The officials asked him about his itinerary, his views on politics and religion, the people he had met while in Iran and what they had talked about etc. They also checked his laptop and went through his photos to verify his story.
Finally we were allowed to go through. The baggage handlers did not seem to be used to people with bicycles. After considering for a while what to do with us, they waved us on, so that we could wheel the bikes on to the ferry ourselves. This suited us fine. Several other cyclists we know had told us that the baggage handlers had asked them for a special fee (read “bribe”) to load their bicycles on to the ferry. One group was asked to pay $50 per bike, and another one to pay $25 per bike. If you are asked, keep refusing, make a fuss and you will probably get away without paying. We had been well prepared: When we bought our tickets, we got the travel agent to call the manager of the terminal to make sure bikes were included in our ticket price. The travel agent also gave us the name and mobile phone number of the manager in case of any trouble. Of course, when you are this well prepared, nothing ever happens!
After the passport check, we had to separate and go into little rooms for our baggage to be checked. As Freddie entered the women’s room, there were two ladies who seemed to be quite surprised to see a bicycle and didn’t really know what to do with it. One lady poked Freddie’s handlebar bag with her finger and then just waved her through.
Guy had no such luck. Ín the men’s room, all of his panniers were thoroughly searched. The purpose of every item was questioned, and they even went through his bag with dirty laundry, much to Guy’s delight! While everyone else was boarding the ferry, Guy’s bike was still being searched until he was finally cleared for travel. We wheeled our bikes on the ferry and made ourselves at home. The ferry was quite empty, so most people had a whole bench to themselves, which was great for sleeping.
We were lucky as the ferry left with only 2 hours delay, whereas we had heard from others that 4-5 hours delay are not uncommon. We got a free dinner, and breakfast the next morning. The whole journey took about 11 hours. The ferry is still considered Iranian territory, so Freddie had to keep her head scarf on until we entered the UAE.
On arrival at the port, some of our bags were checked for undesirables, and we were eventually given a free 30 day visa. The port is actually located in Sharjah, not in Dubai. There is a highway from Sharjah into Dubai, but it is very dangerous to cycle. The traffic moves super fast, hard shoulder is infrequent, they don’t expect cyclists and you sometimes have to cross up to 4 lanes of merging traffic. Therefore we decided not to cycle into Dubai. As the taxis were too small to take our bikes, we went out of the port building to a roundabout and flagged down some pickups to ask if they would take us into Dubai. It took a while, but eventually we found someone who was willing to take us for a fair price, around AED 120.
Arriving in Dubai after the ordeal of clearing Iranian immigration and customs, we felt relief, and Freddie was finally head scarf free after 7 weeks in Iran, hoooraaaay!