Taba, in the eastern Sinai peninsula of Egypt, marks the location of the southern border crossing between Egypt and Israel, servicing travellers coming into Egypt and the Sinai via Eilat. The town has grown up around the border crossing and offers basic amenities for travellers - greatly enhanced by the Taba Heights development about 20 minutes ride further south. Taba is a centre for Red Sea diving.
Most foreigners need an Egyptian visa to travel into Cairo. Unlike arriving in Cairo by air (where a visa can be purchased upon arrival), you need to arrange your visa in advance (at an Embassy or Consulate), before you get to Taba. If you don't have the proper visa, you'll be evicted from the bus at one of the checkpoints after you have paid your tourist tax at the first checkpoint. For entering Egypt, most nationalities can receive a free Sinai permit allowing 14 days within Sinai itself. You must have an advance visa if you wish to proceed out of the Sinai. Whether you have a visa or not, you'll be charged 75EGP (at Mar 2011) as "Sinai tax", collected at a checkpoint 1 km from the border.
The 2 Taba bus station is on the left hand side of the main road about one kilometre from the border. Look for the East Delta sign with a big gravel patch in front of it. There may be buses parked there to make finding it easier.
There are several daily buses from Cairo with prices from 60EGP, all leave from Tugormen bus station. Journey time varies greatly depending on the security situation, expect several inspections at police checkpoints. The trip takes at least 7 hours. Also it likely only stops once for a bathroom break. It is not advisable to discuss further travel plans, as in going to Israel, aloud or with other travelers as this may elicit unwanted attention. Notice that when the bus arrives at Taba, the bus conductor will demand an extra 5 EGP to take you to the border itself from the bus station. Avoid the rip-off and walk those 600m by foot.
From Eilat, local Egged bus #15 connects the city centre with the border crossing, from the it's possible to cross the border by foot. When crossing the border, there are 150 meters between the Egyptian terminal and Israeli checkpoint. Touts may offer you the use of carts to carry your bags, but will charge (approx. 2EGP)for this service. There is no charge on the Israeli side for carts.
On the Egyptian side, long-distance taxis await at the traffic circle. These are usually shared taxis, and they have the reputation of ripping off tourists. Except the usual haggling, pretending to go take the bus (from the bus station, further down the road on the left side) usually gets them to agree to a sensible price (30EGP to Dahab and 20EGP to Nuweiba). On the 1km walk to the bus station, you'll be offered taxi services many times.
The border crossing facilities are nicely landscaped on the Egyptian side. The crossing doesn't see a lot of traffic—seemingly more staff than travelers—so if all your paperwork is in order you'll probably wisk right through. The first thing you'll see in Egypt is the ritzy Hilton casino-hotel.
The border zone at Taba is an artificial bubble extending for one kilometer and consisting of little more than two giant resort hotels, the Hilton and the Movenpick, and a small village supporting them. Beyond one kilometer, there is a checkpoint where foreigners are required to pay a travel tax of about 70 EGP, so if you are waiting for the bus, you are effectively trapped in the border zone until the bus comes. (The tax will be collected from you on the bus.)
Across the street from the bus station is a building marked "Taba Museum", but there is no indication on the outside if and when it is ever open.
About two blocks behind the bus station is a rocky beach on the Red Sea, where you can look through the fence at the somewhat nicer beach at the Movenpick resort. Crystal clear water, but any sand is probably trucked in by the resorts.
- Castle Zaman, 25km Taba-Nuweiba Rd, Taba, Red Sea and Sinai, South Sinai, Egypt, ☎ . open 12PM. 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 1-3.5 hours, time gladly spent by the pool, exploring the underground treasure room, or sipping fresh coctails by the bar. (Not child friendly, WiFi available)
In the vicinity of the bus station and the Museum, there are a couple of tiny grocery stores. If you are smart about haggling, you'll get cheaper prices than in Israel.
- Castle Zaman, 25 km Nuweiba - Taba Road (10 minutes from Taba Heights). Dramatic mountainous views of four countries. Specializes in food slowly roasted in earthen pots; the process takes 1-3 hours, which you can kill by the pool, exploring the underground treasure room, getting a massage, or sipping fresh cocktails by the bar. Not child friendly.
While Taba itself is the domain of luxury resorts, Bir Sweir, located just some 30 km south of Taba on the way to Nuweiba, offers lots of small beach camps. All have a restaurant section, and bamboo straw huts, where the Stars shine though at night. The camps are directly on the beach, with possibility to simply sleep on the beach, beside the sea. Figure on US$20/day including food and drinks.
- Aquarium camp
- The Good Life
- Al Tarek
- Diana Beach Camp
- Sabah Camp
- 1 Hiltan Taba Resort, ☎ . Completely unmissable at 11 storey's height, a stark contrast from the rest of the desert Taba landscape. Includes a diving centre and a very popular casino. From $90.
Both the Banque du Caire and Banque Misr have currency exchange booths within the Egyptian checkpoint (sometimes irregular opening hours, go along ASAP if you need to change money). Money and cheques can also be exchanged at the Taba Hilton Hotel.
- Dahab, Sinai's backpacker mecca
- Eilat, across the Israeli border to the north
- Ras Abu Galum, nature reserve north of Dahab