May 20, 2009

Jordan to Egypt: Ferry versus Overland Travel
Umm Sayhun, Jordan

Sinai Peninsula, showing the Red Sea (lower left) with the Gulf of Aqaba (running east, toward the upper right) as viewed from Low Earth Orbit. Cairo's located in the top center, not far from the Nile's green delta.

Comparing the absurd costs of traveling to Nuewiba, Egypt from Aquaba, Jordan via Eilat (Israel) or a Gulf of Aqaba ferry.

Prior to 2008 the path was pretty much no-brainer for most travelers heading from Jordan to the beaches of the Sinai Peninsula (Egypt). A ferry service (with a notoriously delay-prone departure/arrival schedule) ushered passengers across the Gulf of Aqaba in an enclosed hydrofoil ("fast ferry") for US$36/adult.

Unfortunately, last year marked a dramatic doubling in ticket price for the transport, launching the cost of a one-way journey up to steep $70 per adult—reportedly without any noticeable improvement in service.

Arab Bridge (AB) Maritime 2009 Ticket Prices

The mid-day trip from Aqaba to Nuewiba is touted as just an hour in duration, but the reality is that it's a minimum of two hours spent inside the port's immigration building (waiting) and at least four hours (of waiting and travel) on the ship before disembarking in Egypt.

Supposedly there's also a slightly cheaper "slow boat" that also makes this passage, 'departing' around midnight from Aqaba… but is known to commonly take at least 10-13 hours for the journey (or upwards of three days with mechanical difficulties).

Sticker Shock and Exploring Alternatives

But as a family of three making this journey (two adults and a 16-month-old), the thought of plopping down a sizable $140 for a simple ferry trip isn't a pleasant one.

Alas, there are few alternative route options.

The path from Wadi Musa to Aqaba to Nuewiba by ferry

The most obvious of course is to cross back into the southern tip of Israel via Eilat and hook around the gulf—and on paper, this looks like an excellent alternative. Unfortunately, there are some costs that make this route impractical, even with the nasty new price of the ferry in place:

  1. Israel charges an excessive departure tax of $25 per person at this crossing (encountered as we entered Jordan), even if you're just in transit.
  2. Egypt won't issue you a proper tourist visa on arrival at Taba (the only thing they'll give you is a special Sinai permit). Instead you'll have to visit their embassy in Eilat and apply for one there, plus cough up passport photos for the paperwork. If you fail to get your visa at the embassy you'll likely be turned away at the border, forced to reenter Israel and pay the Israeli departure tax for a second time.
  3. Egypt charges every foreigner passing into the Sinai Peninsula via Taba a special 75EGP ($13.30) tax, regardless the type of visa/permit you're traveling on.
  4. If there are excessive delays anywhere along the way you're stuck in Israel where you'll be lucky to obtain a hotel room for anything less than $35/night.
  5. And of course let's not forget all the annoying dealings you'll have to endure with some pretty conniving taxi/minibus drivers.

The Financials for a Family of Three

The following is the cost breakdown for us to relocate tomorrow from life with Petra's Bedouin to the Egyptian beach town of Nuewiba. I've started the prices at the Jordanian border and at AB Maritime's departure port, as the transport costs are about the same to reach these points from Wadi Musa.

$206 to Nuewiba Overland via Eilat:

  • Jordanian exit tax — $21 ($7/passport)
  • Taxi from the border with Jordan to Egyptian embassy in Eilat — $10
  • Tourist visa for Egypt at embassy — $45 ($15/passport) + photos needed
  • Taxi to the border with Egypt — $8
  • Israeli exit tax — $75 ($25/passport)
  • Egypt's mandatory Siani tax for foreigners — $40 (75EGP/passport)
  • Shared taxi to Nuweiba — $7+

$206 to Nuewiba by Sea:

  • Jordanian exit tax — $21 ($7/passport)
  • Ferry — $140 ($70/adult)
  • Tourist visa for Egypt on arrival — $45 ($15/passport), no photos needed

Yes, oddly enough both of these total up to the same amount. But factoring in that we'll be toting along a toddler during all this, it's pretty obvious that even with the increased ticket prices for the ferry we're better off saving the guaranteed headache of overland travel and just forking out the $140 for passage by sea.



Craig |

September 3rd, 2010

SINAI ONLY without visa:

If one is staying for less than 15 nights in the east part of Sinai, i.e. from Sharm el Sheikh to Taba, including Dahab, St Catherine, Nuweiba, (and nearby White, Bridge or Coloured Canyons), one does NOT need a visa. Upon entry at Sharm el Sheikh, Taba Border, Taba Airport or Nuweiba Port, one fills out the disembarkation form and writes on the back the words "SINAI ONLY". This unique feature is a throwback from the Camp David peace treaty.

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