Aqaba

Aqaba city view

Aqaba (العقبة al-ʿAqabah) is Jordan's only port city, located on the Gulf of Aqaba in the extreme south of the country.

Understand

Aqaba is Jordan's window on the Red Sea. Historically the same city as Eilat on the Israeli side of the border, plans for a shared international airport and other forms of cooperation have cooled down in the past few years during a period of political tension. Aqaba has seen a lot of development in the last few years. This has improved the infrastructure and facilities. Be prepared for road maps to be incorrect/out of date.

Get in

By boat

Ferries run regularly from Aqaba across to Nuweiba on Egypt's Sinai peninsula, bypassing Israel and the sometimes complicated border arrangements. Generally there is no visa fee for entering Jordan through Aqaba since it is a part of the free trade zone. The line to Nuweiba is operated by ABMaritime, see their website for the 'official' timetable and current prices.

There is more information about the boat crossing in the itinerary Ferries in The Red Sea

By bus or car

The Desert Highway terminates in Aqaba. There are frequent buses to Amman and other points along the highway. Fare is currently JOD7 each way.

Amman to Aqaba is about 350 km using the Desert Highway. It will take about 4 hours to travel this distance at a reasonable speed. Do remember that service/fuel stops are not very frequent on this road.

The Israeli border at Arava (for Eilat) is only a short hop away. The Saudi Arabian checkpoint is also visible on a clear day, but visitors without a visa can only look.

If you are planning to come to Aqaba directly from northern Israel (e.g. from Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, Be'er Sheva, etc.) by catching an Egged bus to Eilat, you should ask the driver to let you off at the "Eilot stop to Jordan", which is the last stop before the Egged station in Eilat, and then walk the <1 km to the border checkpoint.

By air

Royal Jordanian operates 2 daily flights between Amman and Aqaba, one in the morning and one in the evening. These are the only domestic commercial flights in the country. Duration of the flight is approximately one hour and costs JOD37 + tax one-way.

The King Hussein International Airport is located north of Aqaba, about a 20-minute drive.

By taxi

Minibus rental with driver from Petra costs JOD45 and it takes about 2 hours to get from Petra to Aqaba.

If you are coming from Eilat, Israel, you will cross through the Yitzhak Rabin Terminal. This is open Sunday-Thursday from 06:30 to 20:00 and Friday-Saturday from 08:00 to 20:00, except for Yom Kippur and the Moslem New Year. Taxi from Eilat centre to the border is NIS35 (Feb 2014). The fee to exit is NIS105 (Feb 2014), you can pay with credit card. For citizens of most countries (including USA), you can get a one-month Jordanian visa at the border, but some countries' citizens are subject to other requirements, so check in advance. If you leave Aqaba through this border, you also have to pay an exit tax of JOD10 (Feb 2014).

Taxis at the border belong to one company, which has a monopoly, and is therefore much more expensive than a typical Jordanian taxi: JOD11 (Feb 2014) for a 15-minute ride to the Aqaba bus station. Going the other way from Aqaba city centre to the border can be done for JOD8-10 (JOD6-8 if you're lucky, Feb 2014). If you are on a budget, you will probably want to take the border taxi into town and switch to another taxi to continue on, especially if your hotel is in the South Beach resort area.

Border Taxi Mafia

There is a problematic man running the taxi service, which has been likened to the "Mafia", just outside the customs gate. As soon as you see him, he will let you know that sharing a taxi is not allowed (three men were forced to take three separate taxis in December 2011). If you want to share a taxi, you must form your group before exiting the customs area and insist that you are all part of the same group.

Also, if he sees you call your hotel or any other car to come and pick you up, they may be stopped and forced to go back to Aqaba. The man has said, "we will close their hotel" and "we will take their driving license". To try and avoid this, call your hotel or private car while still in the customs area, before being seen by the taxi man.

For those trying to walk the 500m to the main road, the taxi Mafia has connections with the military personnel and may have you brought back. One does not simply walk into Aqaba.

It is possible to bargain them down, but you will need to be persistent and enlist the help of the border police to mediate. Don't try and set the price too low. JOD5 to the airport is about as low as they'll go - JOD10 to Aqaba itself is most likely. Stay polite, but be firm and explain to the border police that it is not a good first impression for tourists to have and that you will write to the Ministry of Tourism. This threat normally sees the 'Taxi Mafia' back down, but there are no guarantees.

Get around

By taxi

Taxis are easily available in the city. A ride within town should cost no more than JOD2. A ride outside town (to a beach near by or to any border crossings) costs around JOD5. However, if your hotel calls you a taxi, you may end up paying double for it as they receive a kickback (this is especially true if you are staying on the South Beach).

While taxis are yellow all around Jordan, early 2008 Aqaba taxis have been painted green and blue: the logo colours of Aqaba Special Economic Zone (ASEZ).

When negotiating the price of a taxi, make sure to determine whether the final cost is the total or "per-person" price, as you may otherwise receive a surprise at the end of the ride.

By local buses

Local minibuses connect residential areas with downtown. The fare is 17 Piasters (170 Fils or JOD0.17) regardless of the length of the journey. Passengers can get on and off at any point of the route.

The central bus station is located in front of the Police station in King Talal street, less than 10min walk from city centre (Ayla Square, Al-Hussein Bin Ali Mosque).

See

Do

Except the sea and diving, Aqaba doesn't have a lot of things to offer. The following could be of interest but could easily be done in one day.

To get money, there are many ATMs on Al-Hammamat Al-Tunisyaa street in the city centre.

Spa

Scuba diving

Eat

In the centre of the city one can find very good hummus, falafel and shawarma (lamb meat in pita bread) places in many local restaurants. Prices start from JOD1.5 for a shawarma dish.

Drink

You can ask for fresh fruit juices in most restaurants, and they are a treat! Many also serve the lemon juice with fresh mint in it, which is very delicious.

Sleep

Budget


Splurge

Go next

Please note, it could be difficult to get mini-bus on Friday which is prayers' day and both Friday/Saturday when there is no school. Try to check it with police, bus station and your hotel.

Day trips

Most destinations that are not north of Amman can be reached on a day trip. You can set up your own flexible day trips by hiring a taxi for the day. Make sure when you set up the trip that you have agreed on the destinations to be included in the trip (or you may need to discuss your price while on the road and do not have other options that your current driver).

Aqaba is relatively close to both Wadi Rum and Petra. Public buses go to both. Alternatively, there are a lot of tour companies around town who would happily arrange excursions, in particular to Wadi Rum. Petra will take 2.5 hours by car.

To Egypt (Nuweiba)

Ferries to Egypt are operated by AB Maritime. The schedule changes rapidly with cancellations common, so its recommended to check it when you arrive in Aqaba. As of November 20, 2011

This will change based on seasonal loadings. The approximate cost for foreigners is USD65 + JOD5 departure fee.

Pay the departure fee on the ground floor of the terminal building, then take the coupon upstairs for immigration purposes. After copious amounts of stamping, you can go and wait outside.

It is also recommended that you ring the AB Maritime ferry office to confirm the departure time for that day. Delays of several hours are common and sometimes known in advance.

This article is issued from Wikivoyage - version of the Monday, March 28, 2016. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.