When travelling from Egypt to Jordan you basically have 4 options:
– Fly – most expensive, minimal hassle
– Bus through Israel – cheap, can run into problems with Israeli customs, small possibility for delays, stupid entry/exit fees even if you are in transit
– Ferry from Nuweiba to Aqaba – to most common route, high chance of delay
– Ferry from Taba to Aqaba – you can only buy a ticket from a tour guide and you need to convince them to sell you a one way ticket even though you are obliged to return through this route within 7 days, not sure how they’d actually police that.
I opted for the Nuweiba-Aqaba ferry. Every blog i’d every read of this ferry was negative, they all told of a ridiculous wait, never actually knowing when the ferry was leaving, nor how long it was going to take.
Here’s an account of my experience:
Arrived in Nuweiba at 10am after checking AB Maritime’s (boat owner) website which stated the fast ferry left the port at 5pm (this was the only bus available if you’re wondering why i was so early) and that I had to be there 2 hours prior for customs. I sat with Mary (a Pom who I climbed Mt Sinai with the day before) in a coffee shop to kill time, Mary was getting the bus to Israel at 3pm for the second week of her Easter pilgrim. After speaking to the shop owner i was informed that i was late and i should get the ticket office ASAP. I legged it to the office and bought ticket for $75 US (inc departure fee) for the slow ferry apparently the fast one wasn’t running. It was now 11pm and the ferry was leaving at 2pm. The man in the ticket booth assured me I should go the dock ASAP.
Arriving at the dock I found 5 other westerners; an 45 year old aussie who looked about 30, a 70 year old pom who had been travelling for 10 years straight spending half his $60/day pension, 2 Greek blokes and a French-Canadian lad with a guitar. Every time any of us any of the cops when the ferry was leaving we were told a different story and as time when by so did the departure time; apparently it was too windy for the ferry to run. Cutting to the chase, we spent 22hrs in the ferry terminal (couldn’t leave as our passports were stamped so we had officially exited Egypt) and I ended up sleeping on a bench (thanks Ueli for telling me to bring my sleeping bag!). The small shop inside the terminal thought it would be a good idea to crack Arabic tunes all night to the point where his speakers were about to blow (how all Arabic music is played in Egypt).
At 9am they started selectively loading us onto an old bus with no seats (approx 100 people per bus, no idea where it was going; turns out it is to move you a few hundred metres down the road to the ferry, yayyyy!!!). The Egyptians were behaving like school kids (the cop who was letting people go bench by bench lost control a few times when the locals tried to overpower him and swarm the exit. This resulted in the cop slamming the door until all the Egyptians returned back to their seats and behaved like normal people. The 6 of us just sat back and watched, quite hilarious. Their were even the odd few trying to slowly sneak up behind the cop and then walk past when he wasn’t looking; they never got away with it. Reminds me of kindergarten when everyone sits up really really straight with their legs crossed on the floor once the lunch bell has gone in order to be the first one out the door.
When we got to the ferry we threw our backpacks into the giant blue trolley and lined up again. it funny, we were allowed to take our daypacks onto the ferry but all the egyptians had to surrender every little plastic bag to trolley. Thank god, because i wasn’t getting on that boat with my camera not on me. The old dude somehow managed to sneak on his entire 30-something litre pack.
From leaving the terminal building in Nuweiba to exiting the ferry in Aqaba took 3hrs (1.5hrs of actually cruising). When you arrive in Aqaba it’s an absolute free for all to get off and grab your luggage; make sure your off first or your bag i likely to get crushed. I smelt like shit, was starving but had to work up the energy to find where my passport was hidden inside the terminal and haggle with a cab driver for the 6km trip to town from the dock (2 JD/head).
All in all i’d say it wasn’t a bad experience! The 5 lads were good company and the crazy Jordanian truck drivers were a good laugh; 22hrs went past rather quickly. And we got a free nights’ accommodation.