After a day or two of seeing the sights in Petra, you may want to head (back?) overland from Petra to Israel. Unfortunately it’s not as easy as simply walking to the supermarket or in this case catching a bus for a few minutes to the border crossing. You’ll have to get a bus, a taxi, cross the border, take a short walk, then catch another bus or taxi.
Every morning there is a bus that leaves from the Wadi Musa bus terminal to Aqaba. Just like the bus that goes from Aqaba to Wadi Musa, this bus also only leaves when full. The bus fare is 5 dinars and starts boarding at sometime between 8 and 9 in the morning.
Because Aqaba is in a special economic development zone there is a checkpoint on the highway a few kilometres outside of the city. It generally a routine stop and won’t last longer than couple of minutes while the driver has a quick chat with one guard while one of the other guards will board the bus and may or may not inspect passengers’ travel documents.
From the bus station in Aqaba, a taxi to the border crossing usually costs 12 dinars, but it’s possible to bargain the price down. I managed to get a ride for 8 dinars, but a local did the bargaining for me. Although… if you fancy a bit of beach time, scuba diving, or fresh seafood it’s worthwhile to stay the night in Aqaba. There are several restaurants in the city offering fresh and reasonably priced seafood, all within walking distance of the bus station. One of the most popular seafood restaurants is Al-Shami. The food is fresh, delicious, generously portioned (think American size portions), and fairly priced but service can be quite slow during the peak dinner hours.
The other two major attractions are the Al-Sharif Al Hussein Bin Ali Mosque and the 130 metre tall Aqaba Flagpole, one of the tallest freestanding flagpoles in the world. You can see the flagpole from almost anywhere in town. In fact, you can also easily see it from across the border in Eilat, Israel.
Back at the border crossing, you should be prepared to spend at least 45 minutes total to pass through immigration and customs on both sides. There is an exit fee of 10 dinars on the Jordanian side of the border. Don’t forget to request the Israeli border official to not stamp your passport if you ever plan on going to somewhere like Indonesia with your current passport. As far as security goes, expect a lot of questions, searches, and maybe even some pat-downs or more intrusive measures. The protocol can change at any time.
The north and southbound bus stands are 1km from the border. There is frequent service to Eilat on the southbound side, and a few buses a day to Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and many points in-between on the northbound side. The national bus operator (Egged)’s timetable can be found here. It’s also really important to note that
- Egged doesn’t operate during the Shabbat, which is roughly from every Friday at sunset till Saturday at sunset.
- You can only pay by cash on the bus so be sure to have some shekels with you. There are no ATMs or businesses nearby. You’re on a highway near an international border in the middle of the desert. From here to Jerusalem or Tel Aviv expect to pay around 80 shekels.
So in summary,
1. Take the morning bus from Wadi Musa to Aqaba
2. Stay the night in Aqaba or take a taxi to the border
3. At the border, have 10 dinars ready for the exit fee and request border officials to not stamp your passport if you plan on going to a non-Israel friendly country in the future.
4. Walk 1km to the bus stands at the roundabout. Bring shekels and a bottle of water.
Alternative Route There is another border crossing close to Amman called the Allenby – King Hussein border crossing. I would not advise using this crossing because you will very likely be detained on the Israeli side of the border for several hours. Several Europeans told me they were stuck there for 6+ hours. The drive from Petra to Amman is about 3 hours on the desert highway or 5 on the more scenic kings highway.