Drivers... and minders

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Gift shop employee dealing with normal flow of tourists.

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It's useful to hire a full-time car and driver ($50 a day, about as much as many Iraqis earn in a year) because Baghdad's a big, sprawling city. 

If you're going to be driven around each day, it's better to be driven by someone you can rely on rather than taking your chance with the sad hucksters loitering in the hotel car park. My driver, who I found through other journalists, is honest, reliable and punctual.

You can hail cabs on the street but you'd need to negotiate the fares, carry thick wads of banknotes (you give 100 dinar notes to beggars so you need a pocketful of 250 dinar notes to make any serious purchase) and above all, know where you're going. I did find someone in a shop who said he could get me a map of Baghdad but he forgot to bring it from home the next day and I haven't been back.

The downside is that drivers are, of course, second-tier minders. They're under orders from the Information Ministry not to take journalists to anywhere except the shops and the UN headquarters without getting permission ('muwafaqa') from the Press Centre. I presume they have to report to the security services regularly as well. The work's so important to them to feed their families that they're not inclined to take risks however much they might sympathise with you.

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 UN HQ
 Arabic
 Iraqi drivers
 Press Centre
 Rasheed Hotel