Majority of the Western students in the hawzah, whether single or married do not have cars or motorbikes. Even if you can afford one, it is probably not the first thing that will be on your mind when you arrive in Qum. Therefore you will be forced to travel a lot via the different modes of transportation available here.
The most common way of travelling is probably by a taxi. There are two to three different types of taxis. The first is a normal taxi that are a common sight all over Qum, if not Iran. These can usually be pulled over just by a hand signal and you can tell the driver where you have to go. Unlike Pakistan, where you usually ask the cost of the ride before you get in, it seems to work the other way here. You generally just get in the taxi as there seems to be an expectation of what needs to be paid for the distance that you will be travelling. Once you arrive, you ask the driver how much it is and you pay the amount. If you are new and don’t speak Farsi, be careful of being charged higher by the drivers. Ask a few friends about the rough costs that should be charged for specific routes and make sure the driver doesn’t charge an insanely higher amount than what was quoted to you.
The second type of taxis are a bit more special. You can call up the offices of these taxi services, and wait a few minutes before a taxi will be sent to where ever you are. These taxis generally come with an installed meter and there is no chance of you getting ripped off either. However, because of the premium service, the prices will be just a tad bit higher.
The third type isn’t really a taxi, but people refer to them as shared-taxis. These are often times just cars driven by normal ordinary people who are willing to pick and drop you on a route that they will be taking. Consider it paid car-pooling. For example if you want to go on a street named Zambilabad, whose starting point is on Boulevard Amin, then you can catch a shared taxi of an individual who may be going all the way down on Boulevard Amin and can therefore drop you on the side of the road where Zambilabad starts. The cost of these shared-taxis is usually not that much either – they are probably the cheapest to take, but they won’t necessarily drop you to your exact point of destination.
There is a bus transit system available in Qum and bus stops can be seen all across the city at regular intervals. The cost of the bus is very little (I believe it is around 250 tomans) and you can utilize them if they are something that can take you to your destination.
In certain areas and designated locations, there are shuttles running from the area to the different schools that students have to go to. For example, there are shuttle busses that may run from the hawzah housing complex to the hawzahs, or from certain designated areas to the female hawzahs. These are for students and as far as I know, there is no cost associated to them.
One of the other ways of transportation around the city is by foot. Get used to walking a lot, especially if you live relatively close to your school. When I first started classes, I was doing a 35 to 40 minute walk in the mornings (would generally leave my house at 6:30 AM to get to school by 7:10 AM). Now I live a bit closer and can leave around 6:50 AM as it is just a 15 to 20 minute walk. I personally loved the walk even though it could become tiring at times and it can be really cold that early in the morning; but since I’ve had almost no sports and exercise for the last 2 years, this was something that I really needed. Plus you will end up paying a lot per month if you rely heavily on taxis for transportation without even realizing it.
Crossing streets here is an art that you will need to quickly learn. It may not be an odd sight for people coming from countries like Pakistan or India, but for a Western student, crossing streets here will really test their physical senses. Always look both ways when crossing the street – I know this is basic, but it is extremely crucial here. Often times you have motorbikes coming against the traffic flow and they are dangerous to say the least. Also, there is no such thing as pedestrian rights, though cars do tend to slow down a bit if they see you trying to cross from far. Don’t expect traffic signals and pedestrian crossing lights (and even when they do exist, don’t expect them to be followed) which will allow you to cross major intersections without a worry. But don’t worry too much; this is all part of life, culture and adventure here so as long as you are cautious, it will not be an issue.
These are really the primary means of transportation around the city. If you are married and are intending on living here for a long time and can afford a car or a motorbike, it may be a good investment to make. If you don’t have a big family, then a motorbike may be better choice since you will be able to squeeze past most traffic and ride your motorbike through narrow alleys and streets, as well as escape a lot of the heavy Qum traffic at times.