Before learning specific tips for this 1-2 hour trip you may ask yourself: why would I want to go this way? The short answer is that your Red Sea experience will probably cost less in one of the Taba Heights resorts of Egypt than staying in Eilat and certainly much less than going over to the Jordanian side of the same sea. It is the same beautiful Red Sea you will be ale to dive and snorkel in while spending less money on it. I say “probably”, because if you are going only for a day or two with the associated fees it may not. In every other case you can find better deals staying at Taba Heights resorts, than in the Eilat resorts. And now the tips I gleaned from going through
1. Take the bus to the border.
It is way cheaper and just a bit slower than a taxicab. On the plus side you can mingle with the locals and tourists and can enjoy some quality people watching. Where else can you see tzitzit hanging out from swim trunks?
If you are coming straight from the Ramon airport you can take bus #30 and if there is no major traffic the trip to the border would be about an hour.
1a. You can buy the bus ticket, which is right now 4.20 NIS (about 1.20 USD), from the driver or from ticket machines at the airport.
1b. Advance tip: If there is a line at the airport at the ticket machine which seems to be the only one, go over to the other side that gate and there are two more machines there.
1c. Don’t get scared when you reach the central Eilat station and the bus announces, not just that this is the terminal, but also that it is the final stop. It lies, the bus will keep going on in a few minutes towards the border.
If you are coming from downtown take bus #15.
In this case I recommend sitting on the right side of the bus for better view However if you are a bit short on time, get on at the Ha’Arava Road/Yotam Road stop, which is on the opposite side of the downtown mall (Hayam Eilat).
2a. Stay on the left side of the bus, so you could see more of the wonderful Red Sea and the beaches and the navy station…
2b. You can plug in your cellphone at every seat to a USB port. You may have to look above your head to find it though.
3. Buy your passage fee in advance and print it out.
The fee for leaving Israel at the Taba border is 100 NIS/person (about 28 USD). You also have to pay a 5 NIS fee if you pay it at the border. If you do it in advance, at this site, you save the processing fee and the time to get it, which may involve standing in a line. (OK, if you are going to one the three resorts, right on the other, Egyptian, side of the border, you don’t have to pay this fee. You have to stay there though.)
4. If you are traveling alone (or with just a few people) don’t get in the (loooong) line, if there is one.
Cut to the front and tell the guard that you are alone or how many people are in your party. S/he will let you go ahead. The line is for groups. (In my experience coming earlier in the morning there is less likely there would be a line than later in the day.)
5. Keep the printed barcode you got at tip 3 as you will need to hand it over when the Israeli guard will check your passport in a few minutes. Just like you kept the entry card you got when you entered the country.
6. Don’t buy anything at the small duty free shop. It is way overpriced.
7. Don’t wait for the Egyptian official to fill out the form for you before the passport check. Just ask him for as many forms as you need and do it yourself.
Otherwise you may stand in line for a long time, waiting for something you could do yourself much faster. It may seem he doesn’t have any form to give to you, but he will.
8. If you enjoy haggling you have a chance to do so for your cab.
If you didn’t arrange transportation to your resort from the border in advance there is a taxi station on the right side, right after the last official checkpoint. Don’t get intimated by the experience of stepping back a century or two. Here are he prices that I am aware. First, they offered to take us–a family of four with 2 suitcases–to our Taba Height resort for 200 NIS (~ 57 USD). We ended up paying only $20. The hotel would have arranged a ride for us for $50. On our way back through a new friend we took a ride for $30.
9. There will be a port fee of 400 Egyptian Pound (~25 USD), per person your way to the resort.
Our driver exchanged for us without any problem the 100 USD to the local currency that we immediately handed over to the officer. You may want to get some cash at the border if you are concerned about exchange rate; our drive was fair in this regard. (A side note: Egypt’s currency is officially pound, but the locals call it “lira” and the symbol you see for it is LE and not EGP.)
10. Don’t take pictures of people and in military zones.
I snapped a photo of two kids on the side of the road and our driver loudly disapproved and told me not to do it. A police office also went through the last dozen pictures in m cellphone as I wasn’t aware I was at the wrong leg of the journey (i.e. military zone) when I photoed some buildings.
The ride from the border to the resort can take anything from 15 to 40 minutes, depending on how fast the car is going and how often and for how long it needs to stop.