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 Be prepared for road maps to be incorrect/out of date.
- 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. This is open Sunday-Thursday from 06:30–20:00 and Friday-Saturday from 08:00–20:00, except for Yom Kippur and the Moslem New Year (Id il Hajira). Taxi from Eilat centre to the border is ₪35 (Feb 2014). The fee to exit Israel is ₪101 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, 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.
After crossing the border, take a taxi from the taxi mafia (see below) for JOD11, 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/oasis. Best to have a map and even GPS. If you get bothered by the taxi mafia just keep walking, don't talk. The other way around is more easy, 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 JOD5, it is fine. But some people paid JOD13, which is way too much. In any case, if you feel you have been bothered, complain with the Ministry of Tourism & Antiquities.
By boat from Egypt
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.
By bus or car
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. Fare is currently JOD7 each way. Amman to Aqaba is about 350 km using the Desert Highway. It will take about 4 h to travel this distance at a reasonable speed. Do remember that service/fuel stops are not very frequent on this road.
- 1 King Hussein International Airport (AQJ IATA) (9 km (5.6 mi) north of Aqaba, about 20 min to drive.). 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.
There are also a number of seasonal and charter flights to points in Europe and the Middle East
Given the relatively painless (for the area at least) border crossing process and the closeness of Eilat, it is also feasible to fly into Ovda Airport (VDA IATA), which is served by the likes of Ryanair. Eilat also has another airport much closer to downtown, which basically only sees domestic flights within Israel.
Minibus rental with driver from Petra costs JOD45 and it takes about 2 h 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.
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).
Most points of interest can be reach on foot, and it is really the best way to see the place and experience Aqaba.
- 1 Aqaba Castle (قلعة العقبة) (at the southern end of the city beach, behind the flagpole and museum). Under reconstruction as of December 2016.. Originally dating to the 14'th 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 nearby Aqaba Archäologisches Museum is also worth a visit. JOD3.
- 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. free.
- 4 Fourth century Roman 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 fifth tallest freestanding flagpole sits at a height of 130 metres high. It also carries the flag of the Arab Revolt, at least it did before.
- 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 (JOD1) might want to take their kids. JOD7.
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.
- 2 Zara Spa, Mövenpick Resort & Spa Tala Bay Aqaba, South Beach Road - Tala Bay Area, ☎ , fax: , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. 09-21:00. As well as a sauna, steam room and a hydro pool with skylight, Zara Spa Tala Bay offers the latest in spa facilities. Included is an "ice fountain" designed to stimulate circulation and tighten the skin. A variety of fragrances and coloured lighting effects are available for showers and also supposedly designed to increase blood circulation. A hair salon, a nail studio and a shop with a variety of beauty care products are also on premises.
Have a look at an online map south of Aqaba, many dive centers can be found there. Diving in Jordan is very expensive considering the low prices of other goods and services in this country, even compared to other countries. Two simple shore dives will set you back JOD50 - same for all dive centers and not negotiable. A boat tour including 2 dives is approximately twice of that.
- 3 Arab Divers Village (Hotel and Dive Center in Aqaba), South Beach Road (South Of Aqaba), ☎ , e-mail: email@example.com. 24/7. JOD35 for introduction dive, JOD50 for 2 dives.
- 4 Ahlan Aqaba Scuba Diving Center, Al Nahda St., Hotel area in the heart of the city (The road behind the Mövenpick Hotel), ☎ , fax: , e-mail: 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!).
- 5 Red Sea Dive Center, South Beach Road (South Of Aqaba), ☎ , fax: , e-mail: email@example.com. 24. JOD40 for introduction dive, JOD50 for 2 dives.
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.
- 1 Arabic Moon Restaurant (Right in the northern corner of Raghadan street). Delicious falafel and hummus. JOD1-2 per dish.
- 2 Syrian Palace Rest(aurant), Raghadan St, Hayl al madina, Al Awsat (At the right side of Al Shuala Hotel when you are looking to the hotel), fax: .
- 3 The Royal Yacht Club. One of the finest places to eat is situated next to the water in an upmarket neighbourhood. They serve exquisite fare (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 the 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.
- 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. JOD20.
- 2 Beach Hotel. JOD12/20 sgl/dbl.
- 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). JOD15/25 sgl/dbl.
- 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. JOD20/25 sgl/dbl.
- 5 Ahla Talla Hotel, K. Hussein St. / Corniche St., ☎ , . Looks very decent. JOD20 sgl/dbl.
- 6 Amira Hotel (Behind ALI Baba Restaurant), ☎ . Only doubles available here. JOD25 dbl.
- 7 Al-Safa Tourist Hotel, Al-Tuniseah St., ☎ . Looks fine from the outside. JOD20/25 sgl/dbl.
- 8 Nairoukh Hotel. JOD10/15/20 sgl/dbl/trpl.
- 9 J Plaza Hotel, ☎ , . JOD25 sgl/dbl, sgl may be bargained down to JOD20.
- Dune Village (12km east of Aqaba's centre), ☎ . Offers singles\double\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. JOD7.5-17 pp.
The quality of the following budget hotels is not confirmed. Leave a description or delete them if not relevant/passable.
- 10 Hospitality Palace Hotel, Ar-Razi St., ☎ . JOD20 single.
- 11 Sea View Hotel, Kuwait St., ☎ . JOD25 triple.
- 13 Golden Rose Hotel, Al Reem Street, ☎ , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Looks very decent, clean and modern. JOD25/30 sgl/dbl.
- 14 Arab Divers Village (11km from Aqaba city centre along South Beach), ☎ , fax: . TVs in rooms, free Wi-Fi, pools for paddling, full diving equipment available including PADI courses. Extremely relaxed, loads of chill out spaces including roof of Village, Bedouin tent type cushioned areas, loungers by pool, seconds from the beach and chilled atmosphere. Extremely good value for money, but expect basic room provisions. Shisha pipes available but no alcohol, although they are happy for you to drink on site. Really quiet, great escape from bustle of Aqaba city itself. Shipwreck to dive at and corals. Ideal for single travellers, as there is good communal space to meet others. It is a drive out of town, but with really decent food and the beach a stone's throw away, it's a haven. JOD30 triples and full range of other prices also, includes breakfast. Camping available.
- 15 Mövenpick Resort & Spa Tala Bay Aqaba, South Beach Road - Tala Bay Area, ☎ , fax: , e-mail: email@example.com. Check-in: 15:00, check-out: 12:00. New property on the southern shores of the Red Sea. 302 rooms, including 145 family rooms, various suites and two Grand Suites all share a modern design and light-coloured furnishings. All rooms have air-conditioning, TV, coffee and tea making facilities, direct dial phone/voice-mail, wireless LAN throughout the resort as well as hairdryer, 24-hour room service, in-room safe box. Superior rooms and suites allow for added comfort. Non-smoking rooms and rooms for the physically challenged are also available upon request. A special benefit is the free minibar, available in all rooms. In addition, Casalingo, an Italian restaurant, is on premises and open 18:30-23:30 every day. It has a contemporary Mediterranean decoration, with a live cooking counter and wood-fired pizza oven. Casalingo serves authentic Italian dishes, seasonal specialities and pizza, plus a selection of fine wines. Guests can enjoy their dinner on the terrace or in the air- conditioned restaurant. From JOD99.
- 16 Mövenpick Resort & Residence Aqaba, King Hussein Street, P. Box 678 (Centre of Aqaba, overlooking the Red Sea), ☎ , e-mail: 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 JOD88.
- 17 Radisson Blu Tala Bay, South Beach (Head South from Aqaba), ☎ . New luxury hotel south of Aqaba. Has very nice swimming pools, restaurants and beach. All the services to be expected at a 4/5* hotel.
Aqaba border taxi Mafia
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: JOD11 (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 get told that sharing a taxi is not allowed (three men were forced to take three separate taxis in Dec 2011). Also as of October 2014, there is a sign listing fixed prices to various destinations (JOD8 to the airport, JOD11 to Aqaba, JOD55 to Petra, etc). Once you get in to Aqaba, however, taxis to Petra are JOD35, 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 JOD8-10 (JOD6-8 if you're lucky, Feb 2014).
The taxi company, just outside the customs gate, belongs to a problematic man running this border taxi service, which has been linked to the "Mafia". Also, if he sees you call your hotel or any other car to come and pick you up, it 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 to 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.
Riding back to the border from city center can be a problem when you pick up people on 2 different (but very close hotels). Should they have to wait, they'll try to switch on the taximeter and ask for JOD25-30 instead of the JOD10 initially arranged. Don't get intimidated, the driver will call the problematic man and try to pressure you. Insist on the initial pricing and when it gets hot, offer JOD2 on top of the 10 to quiet things and get rid of the taxi mafia.
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 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 h 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. If you leave Aqaba through this border, you also have to pay an exit tax of JOD10. Though, people have exited Jordan without paying the fee. Basically, after having received the exit stamp in the passport there is another counter collecting fees, both for paying the exit fee and also if you have used the Jordan Pass for a stay of less than 4 days. There is a white page with big writing in English stating something like it. Just walking by without looking at it, might save you some money.
However, getting to the border might be a problem if you are traveling on a shoestring. Please read the Get in part at the beginning of the Aqaba article regarding the Jordan taxi border mafia and how to potentially get around it.
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 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.