Nuweiba means, “bubbling springs” in Arabic. The 7-km-long stretched settlement developed from a barren isolated place with no infrastructure into a promising and attractive tourist destination. Nuweiba was recently discovered by tourist investors establishing hotels along the coastline connecting it with Taba in the north and Dahab in the south.
The city is divided into three parts. From southward you'll find the port, the city, and Tarabin, the Beduin camp and beach strip where most backpackers stay. Nuweiba city lacks a center, but has a small strip of cheap restaurants, an internet cafe, and some souvenir shops. Along the beach in the city some resorts and more upscale camps are located.
To the north, between Tarabin and Taba, you'll find even more basic camps than you'll get in Tarabin. All these camps were struck hard by the lack of Israeli tourism after the Taba/Ras Shaitan bombings in 2004 and the later Sharm and Dahab bombs. The places that used to rely on Israeli visitors can seem almost dead and you have a high chance of solitude by the beach in this area.
Nuweiba is part of the Sinai coastal zone where most visitors don't need a visa. You will need one to travel on to Cairo and beyond. See Egypt#Get_in for details.
Ferries sail from Nuweiba and from Taba to Aqaba in Jordan, bypassing Eilat in Israel and the tedious extra border procedures and fees. See Jordan#Get_in for visa rules, but for most visitor nationalities you get a single-entry visa on arrival in Aqaba for US$100, valid for two months. See above for the re-entry into Egypt; if you do need a visa, you may be able to start the procedure on the boat.
The ferry, operated by ABMaritime, sails daily from Nuweiba at 1PM, reaching Aqaba at 4PM. It sails from Aqaba at 11PM to reach Nuweiba at 1AM. A single foot-passenger fare is US$70 and a return is US$100. Vehicles are also carried and this makes for a slow process of document-checking, loading and unloading: factor in an extra hour before you can get ashore.
1 Nuweiba Port is in the south part of town. The street to the pier has the bus station, banks and similar amenities for travellers.
See Taba Heights for the faster boat to Aqaba; this is only for foot-passengers and sails 3 or 4 days a week.
The same company also sails between Sharm-el-Sheikh and Hurghada. See Ferries in The Red Sea for other sea routes.
Buses are operated by East Delta coaches. This is basically a shabby bus that goes to many places including Cairo, Dahab and Sharm el Sheikh. The prices are very cheap (about 50p) but the buses are really not that good. They are ok if you are going to sleep a lot of the way. It is not just a bus for tourists it is also a local bus service so ladies be sure to cover up to a certain amount.
The bus trip from Cairo to Nuweiba takes at least 7 hours. Don't believe the information about 5 hours - it's 670 km, two stops for toilets and tea, several stops for taking up and dropping passengers and at least two military checkpoints at the coastline where they check the passports and visas. So don't forget to bring it with you, identity cards will bring you into a short police interview (the bus will wait for you fortunately).
Tickets form Cairo should be booked in advance, the central bus terminal is called Turgoman and is near the Ramsis Railwaystation. Unfortunately you can only book one-way.
Tickets from Nuweiba are sold at the East Delta Company bus terminal. No reservation is possible. If you stay at a camp between Nuweiba and Taba, you can simply wait by the roadside and wink the driver to stop. You will then be able to purchase your ticket during the short stop in Taba.
By bus to St. Catherine: as of the end of October 2011, there is a regular, twice weekly, minibus service to and from St. Catherine. The Bedouin Bus runs on Wednesday and Sunday and costs LE 50 each way. Check the website for details on pick-up and drop-off points in Nuweiba and St. Catherine.
The majority of travellers arrive by ferry or bus to the port. If you are coming from Taba/Cairo you could ask the bus driver to let you off by the hospital. From the port you'll have to find a taxi to the city or Tarabin. It should not be more than LE 5-10, but as taxis are often scarce, prices will be inflated. Negotiate hard.
Between the city and Tarabin distances are coverable by foot. If you're let off by the hospital it's a twenty-minute walk to the beginning of Tarabin.
There are only a few ways that you can get around in Nuweiba. One is the blue and white taxis. Although you can get just white taxis, stick only to the blue and white and also try and make a mental note of the drivers taxi license, which should be on clear display, and his taxi number, which should be on the drivers side of the taxi. If the driver is good and charges a good price then try and take his number as taxis can sometimes be hard to come by in a small place such as Nuweiba.
The sunrise in the east, rising over the Hijaz mountain range of Saudi Arabia and the Aqaba Gulf is probably the most spectacular sight in this area. Otherwise, the area is low on historic sights, but offers plenty of interesting mountain landscapes. Trekking with camels can be organised from the beach in Tarabin, otherwise, an early morning walk northwards to Red Rock (small red mountain clips by the sea) is possible (about 1 hr).
The city of Nuweiba is new and built in concrete. The Bedouin village in Tarabin holds little of interest except seeing how settled Bedouins live in modern Egypt. Apart from this, you might enjoy ship-spotting from the beach.
- Castle Zaman, 25 km Taba-Nuweiba Rd (10 minutes from Taba Heights), ☏ . From noon. East of the Sinai Peninsula, overlooking the Gulf of Aqaba, this impressive monument commands a dramatic mountainous view of four countries. The exact site signifies a landmark on the ancient road connecting St. Catherine's Monastery with Jerusalem. Castle Zaman offers an exquisite and generous cuisine. Meat and seafood are roasted to perfection with an assortment of fresh vegetables, spices, dates and figs slowly prepared in earth pots. Preparation takes 1-3½ hours, time gladly spent by the pool, exploring the underground treasure room, or sipping fresh cocktails by the bar. (Not child friendly, Wi-Fi available.)
Apart from hanging out at the beach, Nuweiba offers diving and snorkeling from the camps and hotels. There is a small reef south of Tarabin, otherwise better snorkeling and diving is found at Ras Shaitan (Devils Head), a short car ride north of Tarabin. Other great scuba diving sites just a short drive from Nuweiba include South Cove a few kilometers to the north.
Short or longer camel treks can be arranged from the Bedouins at Tarabin. You can just ride along the beach or go into the mountain interior. A fair price would be LE 25 per hour.
Most of the camps and hotels also organize treks to the Colored Canyon and a smaller Canyon trek closer to Nuweiba. If you are in a group the price should be about LE 50-100 per person, maybe LE 400-500 for a 4WD to the Colored Canyon. This is considerably much cheaper than Dahab and Sharm.
Reserve at least a few days before you arrive if you want to spend a day at Castle Zaman. On a hill just north of town, it serves as an oasis for trekkers and campers in the area. You can spend a relaxing day on a bean bag seeing an amazing view of the gulf and 4 countries. Some of the features are a sauna, a good bar with cocktails, lunch/dinner, and a swimming pool that blends nicely in the nature of the area.
There is a cluster of small shops along Tarabin beach selling souvenirs and artifacts. Items of special interest are handmade Bedouin rugs and silver, which are cheaper here than in the tourist shops in the larger cities.
The camps and hotels runs their own restaurants, and mostly serve the standard travellers diet of pasta, pizza, pancakes and some kebab and burger varieties. Fresh fish from the Red Sea are also served in most of these places.
- Dr. Shishkebab. A kebab restaurant with a large menu offering small dishes and meat. It is a welcome alternative to the camping diet.
- Little Prince Coffee Shop, near the central telephone, ☏ . Owner Fuad of Little Prince Coffee Shop has delicious ice cream in many flavours, including mandarin, lemon, mango, vanilla, chocolate, guava, strawberry and pistachio. A nice place to drink Turkish coffee, tea, natural fresh juice, sahlab and karkade. On a quiet terrace, you can smoke shisha, listen to music from so many countries. A large choice of books is available in different languages.
Nuweiba is a bad place for discos and bars, but you'll find beer and Egyptian wine and liquors at a licensed store by the port. Otherwise, the resorts and some of the camps have alcohol.
Travelers can choose from the resorts and upscale camps in Nuweiba Port, City and Tarabin or the more basic camps at the "hippie beaches" north of Nuweiba. Some cheap, dirty hotels are located by the port.
The places at the Tarabin beach strip all offer more or less the same concept: relaxed atmosphere, huts and beach access. Most camps are within a range of 500 m of each other. If you're tight on budget start comparing and bargaining, it's worth the hassle.
- Petra Camp, LE 20-60 per person, is on Tarabine's beach, on the edge of the Red sea, at the foot of Sinai mountains. In a Bedouin-style camp, Petra is arguably the nicest camp you'll find around (well known for its restaurant). You also won't have any surprise as all prices are available at the desk and on the website (which is appreciable). Petra has a very tasty and beautiful restaurant run by Shabaan, built with wood recycled from a Cairo antique theatre (designed by the owner, a famous architect in Cairo). Petra camp offers rooms with two simple beds with and without AC. Mahmoud Sokar, the manager, also organizes trips in the area (Mount Catherine, the Colored Canyon). You can rent snorkeling material to discover the rich corals of the Red Sea right in front of the Camp. Contacts: Mahmoud Sokar +20 69-35-00-086, +20 10-47-22-001
- Blue Bus [dead link], LE 30 per hut (1 or 2 persons, without breakfast). Blue Bus has excellent fresh food (take the fish), its cheap and the toilets/showers are clean. Contact the owners at firstname.lastname@example.org, or +20 10-98-838584
New Soft Beach, ☏ (Kamal Al-Deep), (Christina Lehmkühler), . New Soft beach is run by Kammal and Christina from Germany. It has its own strip of beach, hammocks and small huts by the beach for relaxing in the shade. Has a painfully slow Wi-Fi, so use the local internet cafe. LE 60-80 per person, breakfast included.
- Elsibaay Village (50 w/continental breakfast), ☏ , ✉ email@example.com. The hotel has comfortable beds, private baths, ceiling fans, an attached internet cafe, and excellent food for the price. The management are also very nice people, with a pet pelican and fin-less para-sail board, which is free of charge to take out. The seating area is comfortable and management allows you to hook up mp3 devices with speakers. They also staged impromptu Egyptian drumming sessions at night with their friends. A great place to stay if you want to relax and not people watch, but if you're there for the tourist social scene, then perhaps other places would be better. LE 40 per 2-person room.
- Nakhil Inn, ☏ , , fax: , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. At the northern end of the beach, this is the only resort along the Tarabin strip. Seems pretty empty these days. Has its own diving center and several packages are on offer on their website. US$60 per night for double room with breakfast.
- Ali Salam Atwa, ☏ . Cheap grass huts on the water about half-way along the beach. Nice areas to lounge around. The two men running the place are deaf, but understanding the sign language isn't much more difficult than understanding Arabic; perhaps easier, and a lot more fun! LE 10 EGP per person. Blankets might be LE 5 more, but is negotiable.
The camps and resorts in the city are all located along the beach.
- [dead link] Habiba Beach Lodge, ☏ , (Hotline), fax: , ✉ email@example.com. If you want camp life, but with more comfort than Tarabin, this popular place offers bungalows and rooms with A/C. Single/double/triple LE 250/400/550 room only.
- Swisscare Nuweiba Resort Hotel. With 48 suites on the beach in a central location between the port area and the town.
- Nuweiba Village Resort. A standard four-star hotel, at the city center with a 1500 m overlooking the sandy beach of Nuweiba. 130 rooms well furnished.
- [dead link] Nuweiba Coral Hilton Resort. A charming, calming resort with friendly staff and a private beach area. easy acsses to the port and the city.
North of Nuweiba
- Sawa Camp, 20 km north of Nuweiba, ☏ . Backed by the starkly beautiful red-tinged cliffs of the Sinai and occupying a prime piece of white-sand beach along the Red Sea’s shore, laidback Sawa Camp is the perfect antidote to modern life. The huts here sit directly on the beach. All come with a shady porch and hammock and have electricity available from 8AM-2PM and again from 4PM-midnight. The bathrooms are communal and are kept super-clean with hot water supplied by solar-power. The large and shady restaurant area is a great place to hang out and serves up an extensive menu of local and international dishes with lots of fresh seafood options and nearly all of the ingredients sourced locally. There is excellent snorkelling (equipment provided) just off the beach and a whole host of activities (diving and desert-trips, etc.) can be arranged onsite.
- [dead link] Harby's Place, Wadi Mahash (20 KM north of Nuweiba, 40 KM south of Taba). Beach hut ecolodge. Restaurant serves local organic vegetables and seafood. Bedouin owned and managed. From €10.
- [formerly dead link] Barracuda camp, Taba-Road (5 KM north of Nuweiba, 60 KM south of Taba), ☏ . Beach hut ecolodge. Restaurant serves local organic vegetables and seafood. Bedouin-owned and managed, very friendly and helpful staff, laidback atmosphere and a nice coral reef for snorkeling starting 20 m from the beach. Simple huts, electricity from 6PM-1AM, basic but clean toilets and showers. LE 50 per person per night.
- [dead link] Bakraj 3, 5 km north of Nuweiba (big yellow teapot marks the entrance of the campsite), ☏ . Beach huts. LE 20 per person per night.
- Al Tarek, Beer Sweer (10 km north of Nuweiba), ☏ . In Al Tarek Camp you find roomy huts, fresh food, and cold drinks. From LE 40 per person per night.
- Bedouin Star, Ras shetan (10 km north of Nuweiba, 50 km south of Taba), ☏ . Full of flowers and palmtrees, very clean and great hospitality. They have different rooms, Deluxe bungalow with private bathroom but also other rooms with shared bathroom.
- Others along this strip are Aquarium camp, Good Life, Diana Beach, Sabah and Baraka camps.
Drugs, particularly marijuana, are widely available in Nuweiba and famously cheap. This does not make them legal, so consider very carefully if you want to risk at best large fines and at worst lengthy prison terms in Egypt's notoriously squalid prisons before indulging.
Women travellers are pretty safe in Nuweiba. As a matter of courtesy to the local customs, even though you will see quite a few girls with short skirts and tight t-shirts, please respect the fact that Egypt is a conservative country, and dress appropriately in the city (at the beach a bikini is no problem).
- Dahab is a relaxing backpacker place, but with good infrastructure for diving and other activities.
- Taba Heights is a purpose built (meaning "semi-built") resort with golf and water sports.
- Taba has a duty-free casino strip, then the border crossing to Eilat in Israel.
- Eilat is a grubby construction site, move swiftly on to the Dead Sea or Jerusalem.
- Aqaba in Jordan has good diving, and is within an hour's drive of Petra.