If you’re into ancient world wonders, it’s pretty likely you’ll think about going to Egypt and Jordan in one trip. They’re quite close together, and the Pyramids and Petra are both incredible sights.
But how best to get between the two countries? Especially if you want a trip to Mt Sinai thrown into the mix, you’re going to start wondering about overland options rather than flying. And that’s when you find the ferry that goes between Aqaba, Jordan and Nuweiba, Egypt.
General Info About the Jordan to Egypt Ferry
There’s not a lot of information online about the ferry. I didn’t find much more information when I was there in person. The guide I hired in Jordan had never even heard of it (and he’s an honest to goodness tour guide). I only took the ferry from Jordan to Egypt, but I’ve heard stories that it’s a bit more disorganized on the Egypt to Jordan side.
To note, I also wouldn’t go straight to “organized” as a description of the one from Jordan to Egypt.
First things first, you should know that the ferry is not optimized for tourists – it’s meant for locals. Everything is in Arabic. You’re probably going to need help finding the ticket. My tour guide actually insisted on going to a couple travel agencies in Aqaba for me to get my ticket because he wanted to make sure the information was good.
The ticket costs a flat $75 US.
And there’s only one ferry! I read online about the “fast ferry” and the “slow ferry” and there being multiple departure times. But with the tourism crater that’s impacted Egypt in recent years, it’s down to just one ferry. That one ferry is the slow ferry that leaves at 11pm.
The Aqaba Ferry Port
The ferry port is just south of Aqaba, and it leaves out of the true commercial port. You’ll need to take a cab there from either Tala Bay or Aqaba, depending on where you are. It is definitely not walkable from either place. There is also no public transit. There are places online that talk about the ferry leaving from the Yacht Club in the center of Aqaba, but that one does not seem to be running any longer. If it is, my Arabic-speaking Jordanian guide could find no information about it.
You’ll want to get to the port with some time to spare. It seems to me that the Jordanians are quite good about leaving on time. The ferry started boarding people at about 9:30 or 10pm. Make sure when you’re in the port that you find the customs and immigration booth – you need to get your exit stamp from Jordan. There’s also a 10JOD departure tax that needs to be paid there as well.
The Ferry Ride from Jordan to Egypt
The ferry is quite large and I’d estimate that there were at least 400 people on the boat I took (and it was nowhere near full). It turns out I was one of three foreigners on the boat – like I said, it’s not optimized for tourists. I was also one of the only women on the boat at all – and certainly the only blonde woman traveling alone. I did not encounter any harassment (in fact, I was surprised by how polite everyone was, and how even with the language barrier, people seemed to be invested in helping me get where I needed to be to board, etc.). However, I did get some stares. If you’re going to be blonde and female in Jordan and Egypt, you should just be prepared for that.
The ferry port is not especially nice, but not terrible either – there’s a small cafe that closes at about 9:00, so bring snacks if you’re going to get hungry. There are a reasonable number of seats available for when you’re waiting.
I could not find any information about when it gets into Egypt when I was in Jordan, so you should know it arrives in Nuweiba at about 3am.
The ferry itself is reasonably comfortable – there are rows of chairs. With it not being full, I was easily able to find a few open ones together to stretch out on. There are also places that you can buy food and drinks, though it’s fairly expensive. It’s all priced in JOD, so you’re better off waiting until Egypt if you’re not ravenous. You cannot take your luggage to the main compartment with you – you must leave it in the hold below.
Customs & Immigration in Egypt After Taking the Ferry
About an hour before docking in Nuweiba, an Egyptian border guard (in uniform) came to take my passport. This is apparently normal, and they’ll come back when you dock to escort the foreigners off the boat. This also means you’ll be the first to leave, and I liked that I was able to get my luggage with no issues. I’ve heard of different people on the Egypt side “helping” to get it for you and then expecting a nice tip for the pleasure of getting it back, but I did not encounter that.
They will escort you to customs and immigration, and make sure to have a crisp $25 US for your visa. You will want to have exact change, otherwise you might get no change. And at least for me, I laughed a bit – given the differences between Arabic and English, they actually pasted it in the very back of my passport! (Technically on the endorsements page, whoops!) It was an extremely easy process for me, with virtually no questions. I was also with someone named “Daniel Jones” and there was apparently a Daniel Jones who had caused a ruckus in Egypt at one point, so they almost didn’t let him into the country. This was a bit disconcerting, so be prepared to be patient and insistent as you enter Egypt.
How to Leave the Ferry Port in Nuweiba
Being that 3am is a sub-optimal time to arrive anywhere, be prepared. There are a number of hotels and resorts in Nuweiba, some even walking distance from the port – but it is unlikely you’ll be allowed to walk. Why do I say that?
When I mentioned above that the border guard takes your passport, it’s likely he will keep it until you successfully get into a cab. He will escort you all the way to the cab, and will “help” you get a cab to be on your way. “Help” is in quotations because while he won’t expect a tip, you will absolutely be price gouged on the taxi ride. The helpful border guard will get a cut of the fare. (To note – I’d even asked for my passport back before getting into the cab, and he did not give it to me.)
So even if you’re going somewhere quite close, the border guard will make sure you take a taxi. It’s up to you where you ultimately want to stay, but given that it’s pretty cheap even with the price gouging, you might want to go directly from the port to Dahab or Sharm el Sheikh.
I was lucky enough that the other two foreigners on the boat agreed to share a cab with me to Dahab, and one of them spoke Arabic and was able to get the price down about $20 US. Ultimately, we paid about $30 US for three people to get to Dahab. Not all together terrible for a ride that was more than an hour.
Should you take the Aqaba-Nuweiba Ferry?
Ultimately, the ferry is definitely an adventure, and one you should be adequately prepared for. If you aren’t interested in going to Sharm el Sheikh or Mt Sinai, I would absolutely skip it and simply fly between Amman and Cairo.
And even if you want to go to Sharm el Sheikh or Mt Sinai, and you’re going from Egypt into Jordan, I would highly recommend flying from Sharm to Amman. It’s a bit more expensive, but it’s certainly easier to navigate.
You can also find ideas for what to do on your trip to Jordan.