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. This has improved the infrastructure and facilities. Be prepared for road maps to be incorrect or out of date.
When entering Jordan in Aqaba you may be entitled to a free visa. Further details you can find in the Jordan article.
The Desert Highway terminates in Aqaba. The 1 bus station is about 300 m east of the mosque. There are frequent buses to Amman and other points along the highway. The fare is 10 JD each way to/from Amman with well-known transport companies (e.g. Jett).
Amman to Aqaba is about 350 km using the Desert Highway. It will take about 4 hr to travel this distance at a reasonable speed. Service/fuel stops are not very frequent on this road.
There is a customs checkpoint at the border of the Aqaba Special Economic Zone. Officers will probably check the trunk of your car, but the checks are usually quick for private cars and taxis.
Minibus rental with driver from Petra costs 45 JD and it takes about 2 hr to get from Petra to Aqaba.
Coming from the Israeli border, 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. From Aqaba city, taxi prices are lower than from the border.
Also see the note on the Aqaba border taxi Mafia below.
- 2 King Hussein International Airport (AQJ IATA) (9 km (5.6 mi) north of Aqaba, about 20 min to drive).
Royal Jordanian operates twice daily between Amman and Aqaba, one in the morning and one in the evening. Duration of the flight is approximately one hour and costs around 50 JD + tax one-way. If there are two or more of you, it may be cheaper to take a taxi, especially once you factor in getting to and from the airport at each end.
Easyjet flies twice weekly from London, Milan, Geneva and Berlin during the winter months, whilst Ryanair operates twice weekly from Cologne, Athens, Milan and Rome, also on a winter schedule. Turkish Airlines flies year-round to Istanbul Airport. Various smaller European airlines operate seasonal holiday charter flights as well.
Note there is no public transport to and from the airport. To get a taxi that is cheaper than at the airport you can walk to the Jordan Valley Highway. That's how the locals do it. At the police checkpoint of the airport you may have to show your passport and answer where you are walking to.
Also you could hitchhike from the Jordan Valley Highway to Aqaba. Depending on the driver it may be for free or cost 1-2 JD. Agree on the price before you enter the car.
Most larger hotels and dive operators can arrange airport transfers and hire-cars. Taxis in the airport are available for a fixed price. There is a big sign that shows you the prices.
An Israeli company offers a so-called "Aqaba airport shuttle" service through its website, which appears to be a scam, according to numerous online reviews on a number of different websites.
Given the relatively painless (for the area at least) border crossing process and the closeness of Eilat, it is also feasible to fly into Ramon Airport ETM IATA, which is served by the likes of Ryanair. The former Ovda and Eilat city airports have both closed. To cross the border, you need to pay the Israeli departure tax.
From other countries
- See also: Jordan#Get in for details on getting in from other countries and the associated visa requirements.
If you are coming from Eilat, Israel, you will cross through the Yitzhak Rabin Terminal. It is open Sunday-Thursday from 06:30–20:00 and Friday-Saturday from 08:00–20:00, except for Yom Kippur and the Muslim New Year. Taxi from Eilat centre to the border is ₪35 (Feb 2014). The fee to exit Israel is ₪102 plus a processing fee of ₪5 – you can pay with credit card.
If you are planning to come to Aqaba directly from northern Israel (e.g. from Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, or Be'er Sheva) by catching an Egged bus to Eilat, or from Eilat by hopping on any intercity bus going up north, or on any of the buses going to Ramon airport, you should ask the driver to let you off at "Rabin Border Crossing / Road 90 junction", which is the second last stop before the bus station in Eilat, and then walk east to the border checkpoint (less than 1 km on auto route 109).
After crossing the border, take a taxi from the taxi cartel (see below) for 11 JD, or just walk out. If the bird observatory to the right is open, walk straight through until the road with the fence and continue through the treatment plant further on another deserted road until you reach the housing area. From here, taxis are very cheap. If the bird observatory is closed, go through the sandy desert area to the right after it around the treatment plant until the road north of the new golf course, resort and oasis. It is best to have a map or GPS. If you get bothered by the taxi mafia, just keep walking, don't talk. The other way around is easier: either you walk through the treatment plant or cross through the sandy desert area straight north just before the treatment plant. If you get a taxi from the city for 5 JD, it is fine. 13 JD is way too much. In any case, if you feel you have been bothered, complain to the Ministry of Tourism & Antiquities[dead link].
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 timetable and current prices.
Taxis are easily available in the city. A ride within town should cost no more than 2 JD. A ride outside town (to a beach near by or to any border crossings) costs around 5 JD. 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, 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.
App-based taxies, such as the regional Careem or Uber, are not available within the city. You will have to use the local taxis.
Local minibuses connect residential areas with downtown. The fare is 17 piasters (0.17 JD) regardless of the length of the journey. Passengers can get on and off at any point of the route.
The central bus station is in front of the police station in King Talal street, less than 10 min walk from city centre (Ayla Square, Al-Hussein Bin Ali Mosque).
Most points of interest can be reached on foot, and that is really the best way to see the place and experience Aqaba.
As of December 2018, the staff at the information center near the castle claims that there is no place to use Jordan Pass in Aqaba, even though two museums are listed on the official website of Jordan Pass.
- 1 Aqaba Castle (قلعة العقبة) (at the southern end of the city beach, behind the flagpole and museum). under reconstruction as of December 2018. It dates to the 14th century, although the present structure was built by the Mamluke sultan Qansawh el-Ghawri (1501-1516) and has been revised many times since then. The archaeological museum which used to be here no longer exists. 3 JD or free with Jordan Pass.
- 2 Aqaba Heritage Museum (at the southern end of the city). A simple museum on local history and people.
- 3 Ayla (next to the Mövenpick resort). The old city that was established when Islam came to the area in 622 AD. 1 JD.
- 4 Aqaba Church (Behind the JETT bus station, which is just west of the Mövenpick Resort & Residences). The oldest purpose-built Christian church in history. A posted sign (viewed in the right angle) gives a little bit of information on the church and its age.
- 5 Aqaba Flagpole (at the southern end of the city beach). The sixth tallest freestanding flagpole sits at a height of 130 metres high. It carries the flag of the Arab Revolt.
- 6 Sheik Zayed Mosque. This mosque in the east beyond the highway gives a great overview of the area and Aqaba.
- 7 Marine Science Center Aquarium (5 km south of Aqaba). Small aquarium with a few local and exotic fish. Very small aquarium with limited information, not worth the high price for foreigners, but Jordanians (1 JD) might want to take their kids. 7 JD.
Except the sea and diving, Aqaba doesn't have a lot of things to offer. The following can be of interest but are easily done in one day.
- Aqaba Castle
- Aqaba museum
- Fourth century Roman church
There is a public beach between the city and the fort, although it can be very dirty. There are several public beaches south of Aqaba, which also can be dirty. Beaches generally have eating and showering facilities and sometimes watersports.
- 1 Mount Um al Nusaylah (try hiking up near Domina Aquamarina III Hotel, 1 km east of the bus station). Hike this mountain for a great view of the Aqaba area, Eilat on the other side of the Red Sea and the valley behind the mount.
Have a look at an online map south of Aqaba, such as in the Tala Bay article; many dive centers can be found there, and diving is extremely popular. A two-dive single-day package typically costs around 50 JD, but booking multi-dive packages in advance can save a lot. Almost all dives are shore based. A small number of sites are better accessed by boat, though the journey is never more than 45 min and is typically in the 20-min range. Though dive packages tend to be more expensive than nearby Egypt, the quality of operators is much more consistent, and the fact virtually all dives are done as shore dives save both money and time with day-boats. Diving here is also good for beginners, as there are no tides, and currents and swells this far up the gulf of Aqaba are minimal, which also means diving any given site is all but guaranteed, regardless of what the weather is up to.
- 2 Ahlan Aqaba Scuba Diving Center, Al Nahda St., Hotel area in the heart of the city (The road behind the Mövenpick Hotel), ☏ , fax: , firstname.lastname@example.org. 24/7. Adventurous diving trips in the Red Sea area. Highly committed to the conservation of the local reef. Perform weekly surveys of the rubbish on particular dive sites for the PADI Dive Against Debris project. Snorkeling, try dives, fun dives for certified divers, shore and boat dives and beginners courses through to Dive masters. Digital Underwater Photography (which only 4% of instructors can teach!)
All ATMs charge a relatively high fee for withdrawing money. In Jordan you can withdraw money from your credit card in various currency exchange places. A reliable and low-priced currency exchange service is Alawneh Exchange in the city center. They charge a low percentage fee for withdrawing money from your credit card. Many locals use that agency. You need to show your passport.
Aqaba is a tax-free zone so prices for expensive consumer items tend to be lower than elsewhere in Jordan. Hence, the high number of shops specialized in nuts and sweets, catering for Jordanian tourists.
Beware however should you depart by plane from Aqaba: the Aqaba airport security check mafia will confiscate many types of goods on departure. See the note on the Aqaba airport security check mafia below.
In the centre of the city you can find very good hummus, falafel and shawarma (lamb meat in pita bread) places in many local restaurants. Prices start from 0.20 JD for stuffed pies (fatayer), 0.50 JD for a falafel sandwich, 1 JD for ful, baba ganous or hummus and pita, 1.50 JD for pizza-like snacks and 1.50 JD for a shawarma dish. Walk around to find the hole-in-the-wall eateries.
For local seafood, head to the Al-Afran street (locally known as the "fishmarket" or "Souq As-Samak"), which is located near the citadel and the beach area. The street is lined up with dozens of local fish shops ("masmakeh" in Arabic) that sell all kinds of seafood, and the majoity of customers are locals. In most shops, you can select your preference from the fresh catch of the day and specify how you want it to be cooked (e.g. grilled or deep-fried). You can also select standard meals from a fixed menu, such as sayadieh. Prices will vary according to the selected fish, but usually range from 5 to 10 JD per person. As of 2022, there's a new fishmarket building under construction just south of the citadel, to which some of the shops may relocate in the future.
More fancy seafood restaurants are located around downtown (especially to the North). Some of those are local branches of eateries that also exist in other Jordanian cities, especailly Amman.
All these are in the city center:
- 1 Arabic Moon Restaurant, Raghadan street (In the northern corner of Raghadan street). Delicious falafel and hummus. Well set-up for foreigners with menus in English and Russian; staff speak some English. 1-2 JD per dish (Oct 2021).
- 2 Farah Way, 8 Amir Muhammed Street. Known for Shawerma and unique snacks with mixed Middle Eastern/international flavours. Don't miss out the lemon chicken sandwich, which comes with refreshing fresh lime peels. 2-4 JD per sandwich/meal.
- 3 Tatbileh, Al-Sa'adeh Street (just north of the Aqaba Park and downtown area). A Jordanian fastfood chain (used to have a few branches in Amman, but they are now closed). Offers plenty of snacks, and is especially known for its Quesadilla and lemon chicken sandwiches. 2-4 JD per sandwich/meal.
- 4 Abu Rebhi. Very humble and very locally-popular sandwich shop, especially known for its chicken liver and beef sandwiches. Most menu items cost 0.5 JD.
- 5 Al Mohandes Cafeteria, At-Tabari St..
- 6 Al-Muhandes, At-Tabari St..
- 7 Khubza & Seneya, Al-Nahda street (just north of the Aqaba Park and downtown area). Arabic and Western meals presented in hot pottery plates and pans (similar to Tajine). Very popular among locals and tourists alike. Suitable for both breakfast and lunch meals. 3-5 JD per dish.
- 8 Abu Baker for Fish, Al-Afran Street (locally-known as the Fishmarket street). Most famous traditional fish shop in the fishmarket area. They offer both a choice from the catch of the day and a menu with fixed prices and standard meals (e.g. sayadieh). 5-10 JD per dish.
- 9 Stacoza (Just north of the citadel, and a minute's walk from the beach.). Popular choice for a menu-based fish restauarnt. Presents various local and international seafood dishes, including a speciality seafood Tajine. 5-10 JD per dish.
- 10 Syrian Palace Restaurant, Raghadan St, Hayl al madina, Al Awsat (right side of Al Shuala Hotel when you are looking to the hotel), fax: .
- 11 Captain's Restaurant. Although moderately-priced in Western standards, it's a prestigious restaurant in the area and also frequented by locals. Choices include a standard menu for a discount price (sayadieh, calamari, shrimp and side salads) or choices of the restaurant's specilties. One recommendation is the Captain's Salmon, a brilliant dish of a quality fillet stuffed with spinach. 10-15 JD per dish (plus a 17% tax/service fee).
- 12 The Royal Yacht Club, King Hussein Street, ☏ , email@example.com. One of the finest places to eat, mostly seafood fresh from the sea, for prices that are reasonable by Western standards. Service is fast and courteous. They are closed all afternoon and reopen for dinner, thus unavailable for a mid-afternoon snack after coming from the beach.
You can ask for fresh fruit juices in most restaurants, and they are a treat! Many also serve lemon juice with fresh mint in it, which is very delicious.
Not many restaurants outside of the resorts serve alcohol (Ali Baba does and they charge a lot for it) but there are many wine shops, e.g. along An-Nahdah Street, selling alcohol much cheaper than elsewhere in Jordan.
A good, cheap variety of different teas (0.5 dinars) such as Karak tea and ginger tea can be had in long park area immediately east of the Ayla Circle. It's a nice, lively place to relax beneath the trees that is very popular with locals. They also sell very cheap shisha for 2 dinars each (updated January 2023)
- 1 Dweik Hotel 1 (between Zahran St. and Raghadan St.). Small rooms, but bathrooms are in good condition. Some rooms have TV, with access to satellite channels, but you do have to get the front desk to tune the satellite for you. 20 JD.
- 2 Beach Hotel. 12/20 JD single/double.
- 3 Amer hotel, Raghadan Street, Hayl al madina, Al Awsat (just east of the mosque), ☏ , . Clean, satellite tv, no breakfast, no internet, fan/ac, bathroom, very very noisy (near mosque, shops, restaurants, some strange phone calls). 15/25 JD single/double.
- 4 Amer Hotel 2 (Former Belal Hotel) (Behind ALI Baba Restaurant), ☏ . Same owner as Amer 1, but the interior seems to be a little newer and nicer. Sat, tel, fridge, bathroom, WiFi. 20/25 JD single/double.
- 5 Ahla Talla Hotel, K. Hussein St. / Corniche St., ☏ , . Looks very decent. 20 JD single/double.
- 6 Amira Hotel (behind Ali Baba Restaurant), ☏ . Only doubles available here. 25 JD double.
- 7 Al-Safa Tourist Hotel, Al-Tuniseah St., ☏ . Looks fine from the outside. 20/25 JD single/double.
- 8 Nairoukh Hotel. 10/15/20 JD single/double/triple.
- 9 J Plaza Hotel, ☏ , . 25 JD single/double, single may be bargained down to 20 JD.
- Dune Village (12km east of Aqaba's centre), ☏ . Offers singles, double, and shared rooms with breakfast included. The places also offers scuba diving equipment and guided dives. The place organizes transportation for guests to/from airport and border crossings. 7.5-17 JD pp.
The quality of the following budget hotels is not confirmed. Leave a description or delete them if not relevant or passable.
- 10 Hospitality Palace Hotel, Ar-Razi St., ☏ . 20 JD single.
- 11 Sea View Hotel, Kuwait St., ☏ . 25 JD triple.
- 12 Al-Naher Al-Khaled Hotel, Ar-Razi St., ☏ , , , firstname.lastname@example.org. 20/27 JD single/double.
- 13 Golden Rose Hotel, Al Reem Street, ☏ , email@example.com. Looks very decent, clean and modern. 25/30 JD single/double.
- 14 Mövenpick Resort & Residence Aqaba, King Hussein Street, P. Box 678 (Centre of Aqaba, overlooking the Red Sea), ☏ , firstname.lastname@example.org. Check-in: 15:00, check-out: 12:00. High-quality resort hotel, featuring a mix of European and Arabesque designs. All 296 rooms, suites and apartments include self-controlled air conditioning and heating, satellite TV, direct-dial phone with voice mail, public Wi-Fi throughout the resort, coffee and tea-making facilities, hairdryer, complimentary minibar, and a safe. Suites include additional amenities and a balcony or terrace from which you can enjoy remarkable views of the country's world-renowned archaeological sites, the Gulf of Aqaba and neighbouring countries. Guests staying at the residence also enjoy access to all facilities of the resort without limitations. Connecting rooms, non-smoking rooms, and rooms for the physically challenged are also available on request. In addition, the Red Sea Grill is on premises, open 19:00-23:59 during the summer months. It specialises in seafood, including grilled fresh fish and shellfish dishes combined with an Afro-Arab cooking twist, with a magnificent panoramic view of the Gulf of Aqaba from the terrace on the hotel's private beach. From 88 JD.
Aqaba border taxi cartel
Taxis at the border from Eilat belong to one company, which has a monopoly, and is therefore much more expensive than a typical Jordanian taxi: 11 JD (Feb 2014) for a 15-minute ride to the Aqaba bus station. This is no matter how many people go in the car, be insistent if you are told that sharing a taxi is not allowed. Also as of October 2014, there is a sign listing fixed prices to various destinations (8 JD to the airport, 11 JD to Aqaba, 55 JD to Petra, etc.) Once you get in to Aqaba, however, taxis to Petra are 35 JD, and the Wadi Musa taxi drivers will offer the same price back. Going the other way from Aqaba city centre to the border can be done for 8-10 JD (6-8 JD if you're lucky, Feb 2014).
The taxi company, just outside the customs gate, might stop other drivers and have them turn back to Aqaba. To try to avoid this, call your hotel or private car while still in the customs area.
You can try walking the 500 m to the main road (east), but the military personnel may have you brought back. Or you take a turn right directly after the border and follow the small sideroads to Aqaba—check OpenStreetMap or Google Maps for the situation.
You can ride right past if you have a bicycle, but you'll have to cross the border by foot. Even though bicycles are vehicles in the eyes of the road laws, they will force you to dismount and pass the border as if you were a pedestrian.
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. 5 JD to the airport is about as low as they'll go - 10 JD to Aqaba 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 cartel back down, but there are no guarantees.
Riding back to the border from city center can be a problem. Should they have to wait, they'll try to switch on the taximeter and ask for 25-30 JD instead of the arranged 10 JD. Don't get intimidated, insist on the agreed pricing and perhaps offer 2 JD on top of the 10 to quiet things.
Aqaba Airport security check
Beware of the security check scams, which have been reported as of late 2019: excuses will be made to confiscate locally-purchased luxuries for resale on the black market. Among items that seem to be systematically seized are purchases of Dead Sea beauty products, honey, molasses, and alcohol. Nothing including any sort of liquid can be considered safe, even in signed-in bags.
Astute negotiation will help save some items, but beware of fake helpers: the scam clearly does not implicate everyone in the airport but your allies will probably not be those who will insistently offer to "help" you.
In any case keep calm and avoid escalating the situation. Innocently destroying the commercial value of confiscated goods might be an option, and perhaps open the packaging of any products to show that they could not possibly be dangerous. This could probably also be done in advance of your flight (defacing the labels for instance). Please do your bit and also report any incident to the Jordan Tourism Board. It is so sad to see the good vibes of this pleasant destination squandered by a few corrupt elements only minutes before leaving the country!
It can difficult to get mini-bus on Friday which is prayers' day, and on Friday and Saturday when there is no school. Try to check it with tourist information, bus station, police and your hotel.
Many 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. However, some require more than one day, especially Petra and Wadi Rum. 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). Alternatively, there are a lot of tour companies around town who would happily arrange excursions, in particular to Wadi Rum.
- Wadi Rum — barren, isolated and beautiful, granite cliffs contrasting with desert sand, 50 km north of Aqaba. A trip here is only really complete with an overnight stay at one of the numerous camps.
- Petra — Jordan's top attraction, 2.5 hr north of Aqaba. An ancient city carved out of sandstone and one of the new 7 Wonders of the World. Can be done in a day if you are good on foot, but most people spend two days.
- Dana Nature Reserve — Stay in a local village within the Nature Reserve, and enjoy unforgettable hiking in an offshoot of the Great Rift.
- Kerak — site of a once-mighty Crusader castle.
- Madaba — known as the 'City of Mosaics' for its Byzantine and Umayyad mosaics, especially a large Byzantine-era mosaic map of Palestine and the Nile delta at St. George Church.
- Dead Sea — The lowest point on earth and the most saline sea, letting you float on top.
To Israel (Eilat)
The Israeli border at Arava (for Eilat) is only a short hop away. As of June 2022, the 10 JD exit tax is only charged to those who have stayed in the country for two nights or less (evidenced by the entry date on the visa stamp), even with the free ASEZA visa. Those that have stayed longer are not charged any tax. Note: if one does not have ASEZA visa, you have to pay the full visa fee as well if you stayed less than 4 days—see Jordan#Visa.
After security, the counters are consolidated into 1-3 desks depending on the number of people passing through that day. If the exit tax/visa fee is applicable, one must pay it in cash to the border officer receive the exit stamp. Without this stamp you will not be allowed through the final check, and into no-man's land.
Getting to the border is not as expensive or thrilling as getting from the border (see #Stay safe). Any green taxi in the city will be willing to take you there. The price they offer first is 7 JD or 10 JD, you can haggle it down to 5 JD if you haggling skills are good. Or you just walk from the edge of the city.
The border itself is rather quiet, which is surprising for an Israeli border. Just follow the signs. The crossing can take anywhere from half an hour to two hours depending on the size of the queue and how thoroughly the authorities are conducting screening that day.
To Saudi Arabia
The Saudi Arabian checkpoint is visible on a clear day, but visitors without a visa can only look.
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
- The fast ferry is not operating
- There is a slow ferry departing Aqaba at 13:00
- There is a slow ferry departing Aqaba at 01:00
This will change based on seasonal loadings. The approximate cost for foreigners is US$65 + 5 JD 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.