This post is more information for travellers instead of a story. I found surprising little information on the internet about the ferry crossing between Jordan and Egypt and return, so I decided to write this to help other travellers wanting to make the crossing.
From Jordan to Egypt
First off – there is no ticket office at Aqaba Port. The port is a few kilometres to the south and you will have to catch a taxi there. The ticket office for ABMaritime (Arab Bridge Maritime) is in town, just a little bit north of the bus station. Ask your taxi driver to take you there first for you to get a ticket.
Tickets are $70 USD at time of writing, but you can pay using Jordanian Dinars at the Aqaba office (50JD). This is for the fast ferry – but the Lonely Planet and just about anyone else I’ve talked to recommends this over the slow ferry. The rest of the advice here is for the fast ferry.
Ferries do not run on Saturdays – but DO run on Fridays (and every other day).
Once you are at Aqaba port there are a few things you need to do (and no-one tells you). First, head over to the large white building and pay your departure tax on the ground floor. This will be 8 JD. There are NO ATMs at the port either – so make sure you have some cash. There are currency exchange offices upstairs in the building if you need some more Dinars.
Once you have paid your tax, head upstairs (stairs on the right side of the building) and get your passport stamped by immigration.
Then find a bunch of westerners and wait with them for the boat. When they are ready to load, buses pull up and drive you the few hundred meters down to the ferry. If the staff see you are a westerner, they will move you to the front of the queue, and maybe on a bus together, which is good because there is lots of pushing and shoving by the locals. Try and place your bags against the wall inside the vessel (instead of inside the cages) and get in line to have your passport checked and go upstairs. Westerners generally stay in the back of the boat, on the lounges that surround the cafe. I’m not sure if this segregation is enforced, but it is a nicer part of the vessel anyway.
Now expect loading to take more than an hour while they get the cars and passengers on the boat.
The trip takes about an hour, so sit back, relax and talk to any new friends you have met.
At some point of the journey you will need to go thru the Egyptian customs procedure. There is a small office near the lounge, and you will see all the locals line up to get their passports stamped. When the line disappears, a staff member will usually come round and invite you to the window. If you are going further than the Sinai peninsula, they will take your passport and give you a slip of paper. Don’t worry – the guy in the window is an immigration official and takes them to an office in the port for you to collect when you arrive.
When you arrive in Nuweiba make sure you are comfortable, because you won’t be getting off that boat quite yet. It will take them about an hour before they are ready to let the passengers off. There will be a rush of people and more buses to take you to the passenger area.
If they took your passport, you will need to buy an Egyptian Visa. This costs $15 USD and you buy it from either bank in the port. They are in facing buildings where the bus drops you off. The visa is a sticker, and you take it to the building south (to the left of where the bus drops you). Find the room on the ground floor with the official from the boat and give him the sticker. It goes in your passport with a stamp and you are free to go. Push your way past everyone in the customs hall because at this stage it will just be families with huge amounts of luggage.
Thats it! Your in Egypt! Turn right out of the customs hall and find a bus or taxi to take you where you want to go. I think buses to Cairo leave within the compound, and private buses will take you south to Dahab and Sharm e Sheik.
Egypt to Jordan
To get your tickets, head to the ticket office to the south of the port. If you are looking at the port entrance, it is to the right. When you reach the cross intersection, it is the building across the road on the left. The morning I got here there was a huge line for foreigners (including Jordanians which is why the line is so big). There is actually a line, and a heap of people waiting at the front for their papers to be returned. The paperwork for cars is done here too which accounts for the long delays. They will take your passport, $70USD (only USD accepted here so make sure you have some) AND 50 Egyptian Pounds departure tax and then 10 to 15 minutes later give you your passport back along with a ticket.
Allow yourself 2 hours to get your ticket. The day I went might have been extra busy because the Israeli border was closed due to a religious holiday, but it did take me almost 2 hours to get my ticket and I was there at 6am in the morning.
Once you have you ticket, grab some food from the cafes across the road because there is definitely no rush getting to the port.
Once you are ready, head into the port. You show your ticket and then head into a big waiting hall. To the right side of the building is the immigration counters. You line up in the hall and wait to get your passport stamped. If you are lucky they will fast track you with a bunch of other foreign travellers. Note that they will just stop processing people at lunchtime for about an hour. You might be left sitting there on the floor until they come back.
Then comes the wait. The shed isn’t as bad as other accounts I’ve read had made it out to be. But it is just a shed, with a small overpriced canteen in the middle. I didn’t use the toilets so no idea how good/bad they are. There are heaps of wooden benches and I suggest you ask someone where you should wait. When I was there people for the fast ferry were waiting at the end closest to the port entrance.
Make sure you are comfortable because there are endless delays at this end. I was in the building from 10am in the morning. The fast boat was supposed to leave at 12pm – I rang ABMaritime the night before to check. Midday became 2pm which then became 4pm and it wasn’t until then that we started to load onto the boat. The boat finally sailed at 6pm which ruined my plans of getting to Aqaba. Basically – make sure you have plenty of time and that your travel arrangements are flexible.
Loading onto the boat is the same process as the Jordanian end – buses to the ferry. Again try and put your bags in the hold instead of in the cages. At the Jordanian end I saw them throwing bags out of the cage trolley into a pile on the ground so make sure there is nothing fragile in your bags.
Once you are on the ferry – again sit at the back of the vessel. The staff members will probably tell you to sit there anyway. The Jordanian immigration process is the same too – wait until the locals are all done, then head up to the counter. They will probably take your passport regardless this time if you don’t have a visa. You collect it in an office in the port, but this time you don’t have to pay for your visa.
Again, expect to wait an hour on the boat during loading, an hour trip to Aqaba and another hour once you arrive at Aqaba port.
Hop on the bus that takes you to the big white customs building. If you put your bags in a cage you will find them here. Grab your passport (down the hall on the right hand side just after the currency exchange place), get your bags x-rayed and head on out and into Jordan. Expect to be accosted by taxi drivers trying to get your business. Try to bargain them down to 5 JD into town, and nothing more than 10 JD.
The ABMaritime website is very pretty and it makes the whole operation look pretty schmick. I found the timetables completely wrong. One of the fast ferries was moored in Aqaba port the entire week I was in Egypt but I’m still not convinced everything runs on time even if it is in service. I suggest calling ABMaritime the day before you want to travel to check the schedule (and then add a few hours). From Aqaba the ferry was on time when I travelled, but was 6 hours late leaving Nuweiba.
Of course the other option is to cross the border overland thru Israel. Do your research if you want to do this. You need to hire a taxi, and there is a rather expensive departure tax. Then there is the possible problem of the Israel stamp in your passport. I was going to do this, but unfortunately wanted to cross the day before the religious holiday of Yom Kippur, when the border crosses at 12pm and I just didn’t want to risk being stuck in Israel (I had a flight to catch).
So I hope this is useful to other travellers out there. If it helped, leave a comment below. Feel free to send me corrections, but I encourage you to edit the wikitravel articles and keep them up to date.