Travelers Burned at Aqaba Ferry Port
From the new edition of Lonely Planet’s Middle Eastern guidebook, Jordan chapter about the ferry that runs between Aqaba, Jordan and Egypt:
“There are two boat services from Aqaba to Nuweiba in Egypt . . . The fast boat (one hour) leaves daily except for Saturday and costs US$36/ JD26 . . . There is also a slower (three hours or more) ferry service . . . Tickets costs US$25/ JD18.”
Man, this is an expensive ride, I thought as Chaya and I packed up our swag and got out of the grungy Jerusalem Hotel in Aqaba.
It was time to be moving on. In only a few days, we had a flight to catch in Cairo. We had to travel quick and hope for the best.
Wade from Vagabond Journey.com
in Jordan- May, 2009
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On a whim, I had previously downloaded a cheap PDF of the Syrian and Jordan chapters from the LP website. This was one of the rare circumstances on this journey that we needed to consult it for information.
But . . .
Travel guidebooks cannot be trusted.
I became a little suspicious that the LP may have gotten the price of the ferry wrong, as I came across a cheap traveling Russian tramp earlier in this day who relayed on the information that the cost of the fast ferry was $60 and that the slow one was $50. This was an absurd amount of money for the one hour or three hour boat ride, and nearly double of what the LP recorded.
I should have just keep those damn PDFs well sheathed and covered deep inside of the web of garbage in my computer.
I sought to check all of the data that I received. It is good advice to never believe anyone when it comes to collecting travel information. Gather data from a bucket full of sources, sluice out the slag, and go with what makes the most sense. People who do not travel do not know about traveling, and guidebooks can never be trusted. Use all the information that you receive as clues, but not as a map. Find your own way.
“There is a slow ferry at 10am, be at the port by 9am and you can get on,” a tour agent told me.
“How much does this cost?” I asked.
“Hmmmm . . . less than 30 dinars.”
I continued asking around. I hoped to find a traveler that had just taken the ride from Neweiba to Aqaba. I did not find anyone who did so, but I did find a bunch of people who had their own versions of misinformation about this route.
The consensus in Aqaba was just what the Russian tramp had told me:
$60 for the fast ferry, $50 for the slow.
But I still retained hope that the information in the guidebook could be correct: I was using the new edition . . . right? the guidebook writer actually traveled this route . . . right?
We went to the ferry port in hopes of catching the 10AM slow boat.
We only caught confirmation that the word in Aqaba was correct:
$60 fast ferry, $50 slow. Fast boat leaves at noon, slow boat at midnight.
I plead and begged the ticket agents for a cheaper price. I walked up to the ticket window a half dozen times battering them with the jazz that I heard of a cheaper boat that left at 10AM.
But they would not budge:
I was told that there was no such boat that departed at 10AM – that there was only the fast ferry that left at noon and the slow boat at midnight.
I had a drilling suspicion that the local people were not paying this much money to go an hour away. It is common for people outside of the pale of tourism to travel this route, the fishermen on the beach that we met the day before implied that this route was not expensive and that they had traveled it themselves – I know that they did not pay over a hundred US dollars to do so.
This price was absolutely out of my mind – it was out of anyone’s mind. Who could pay this much money for a one hour ferry ride?
It seemed funny that the price of the ferry could have doubled so quickly.
There was a waiting area full of local looking passengers. I tried to ask them about the prices that they paid, nobody would tell me a thing. There was a boat in the docks. At a little after 10AM all of the Middle Eastern people in the waiting area rushed forward to get on board.
The only people remaining were Chaya, myself, and a handful of foreigners who paid $60 for the 12 noon ride.
Something funny was going on, but it was a riddle that I was not willing to crack. My sleuthing here had met its brick wall.
I found myself at the bottom of a hole:
We had two hours before the next boat departed for Egypt and only two days to get to Cairo. Jordan is a good distance from Cairo, but it is a stretch that could be traveled quickly if there were no problems along the way. The cost of this ferry was a problem, I am not sure if we had enough money to take the boat if we wanted to, let alone pay the necessary exit and entrance fees to get to Egypt. We went to the ferry port because we still had a glimmer of hope that the information in the travel guide was correct and that everyone else was wrong.
We got burned.
We could either pay all of the money we had in our pockets or travel through Israel with Iraqi and Syrian stamps in our passports.
We put it to a coin toss:
Heads – Israel
Tails – ferry
The coin came up heads. I looked at Chaya, she said “Lets go.”
Chaya is the sort of traveler who respects the sanctity of a coin toss.
The merry streets of Aqaba.
The Aqaba ferry port.
Ferry Jordan to Egypt