On our recent trip to Jordan, we were completely undecided about visiting Aqaba which sits to the South of the country. We kept asking, is Aqaba worth visiting? Sure, we love a chance to down tools for a day or two and relax on the beach. And we’ve heard about Aqaba’s Red Sea being a fantastic place to snorkel and dive. But, we were also aware that women would be expected to dress modestly, and subsequently sunbathing could be a challenge. As budget conscious travellers, we also wondered is Aqaba expensive? Or at least, prohibitively expensive for our budget.
Eventually, after having enjoyed a few days hiking in Wadi Rum, the draw of some much needed R & R and prospect of a bit more civilisation than the desert could offer, was too much. So, we made a quick bee line for the beach in Aqaba and enjoyed a blissful couple of days!
So, what did we find? Is Aqaba worth visiting? And is Aqaba expensive? Read on to find out in this short guide for visiting Aqaba.
- Is Aqaba expensive?
- Is accommodation expensive in Aqaba?
- Is it expensive to eat out in Aqaba?
- Is it expensive to visit the beach in Aqaba?
- Can you buy alcohol in Aqaba? Is Alcohol expensive in Aqaba?
- Top tips for visiting Aqaba on a budget
- Is Aqaba safe? And is Aqaba safe outside of the expensive resorts?
- What is it like for female travellers visiting Aqaba?
- Is Aqaba worth visiting?
- How to visit Wadi Rum from Aqaba?
- How to visit Petra from Aqaba?
Is Aqaba expensive?
Let’s tackle this question first. Is Aqaba expensive? The answer, it can be. But it doesn’t have to be!
Lotus Eaters Travel are always on the look out for ways to save money consciously as we travel and we believe that Aqaba can be visited on a budget.
Is accommodation expensive in Aqaba?
Many of the large, exclusive hotels in Aqaba are expensive. We found some in November that cost in excess of £200 per night, not including food.
If you want to stay in Aqaba on a budget, then look for 3* hotels in the centre of town or outskirts. No doubt, there are some dodgy ones. We found a decent 3* hotel for 19JOD (just over £20) per night (Hotel Roza), which had aircon, hot showers and comfy beds.
There are also hostels available for approximately 10JOD per night.
Is it expensive to eat out in Aqaba?
It can be expensive to eat out in Aqaba if you choose one of the upscale restaurants near to the yacht club. But, as always, we like to eat where the locals do.
We enjoyed a few meals out in Aqaba that were tasty and budget friendly. Paying around 4JOD (£5) for chicken shawarma meal for two is normal. In one restaurant, we also had soft drinks, falafel, hummus and bread (in addition the delicious chicken shawarma) and it set us back 8 JOD (less than £10.)
There isn’t one particular place that we would recommend as there are so many good options. But look out for locals frequenting and ask your hotel for recommendations.
Is it expensive to visit the beach in Aqaba?
It might seem odd to ask whether it is expensive in Aqaba to visit the beach, but the main reason for this is that many of the beaches in Aqaba have been privatised as beach clubs or for hotels.
It is not advised for women to sunbathe in the city centre beach or any of the free beaches in Aqaba, at least not in a swimsuit. Therefore, to sunbathe in Aqaba freely then we would recommend going to a private beach.
The least expensive way to do this in Aqaba that we found is to visit Berinice Beach Club. This is a great private beach club with swimming pool, beach, restaurant, bar and activities.
For 13JOD per person (infants free and children at a reduced rate) you can enjoy the facilities including towels, sun loungers, umbrellas (perfect for sun conscious folk) and even transport from your hotel or tourist information.
If you book day passes to the beach club for 4, 6 or 8 days then rates reduce. 4 days will cost 10 JOD per day. Bonus, this beach club also runs a happy hour for drinks and food in the evening.
You can hire snorkels for 7JOD or arrange a snorkel tour.
Can you buy alcohol in Aqaba? Is Alcohol expensive in Aqaba?
You can buy alcohol in Aqaba. In fact, because of Aqaba’s duty-free status, it is actually the cheapest place in Jordan to buy it in stores. Bars are slightly cheaper than Amman and other areas, but remain similar to London bar prices (£7 for a glass of wine or £6 for a pint.)
For a more comprehensive guide on drinking alcohol in Jordan as a tourist, we’ve written an article to help you.
Are there liquor stores in Aqaba?
There are at least 3 liquor stores in Aqaba. They can be found easily on Google Maps and all have similar price points.
At Akroush liquor store, expect to pay 2 JOD for a can of Petra beer (the 10% ones are 2 and less strong ones even cheaper.) Here, you can also buy local spirit Arak at about 10 JOD per litre and cheaper imported spirits for around the same price. Don’t expect to get hold of premium brands though. Wine is also on the expensive side.
One thing to be aware of is that you are limited as to how much alcohol you can take out of Aqaba if it’s been purchased in the duty free zone (which appears to mean any liquor store in Aqaba). The official guidance is 6 cans of beer and 1 litre of liquor per person. We were stopped carrying this amount on our drive out of Aqaba and forced to return to Aqaba and throw away the beer, being given permission to only carry two bottles of wine and one small bottle of gin between two people. Not only was this confusing as the official guidance we had read appeared to be wrong. But also we had bought Jordanian wine and beer which we didnt think was in any way “duty free” as it wasn’t an imported item. Alas, something to learn from!
Are there bars in Aqaba? Are bars in Aqaba expensive?
There are a few bars in Aqaba, mainly these are centred around the Aqaba Yacht Club. This area has security and feels like a gated space. It has a slightly odd feeling to it, a little like the harbour areas you can find in Portsmouth and Southampton in the UK. But, the bars and restaurants here are pleasant and overlook the harbour.
We visited Neptune Bar, enjoying a bottle of Jordanian wine for 23JOD with a peaceful view of the sea and some 80s tunes to accompany our chatter.
Additionally, many of the large hotels in Aqaba have bars. Unlike in other countries, we’ve found hotel bars in Jordan to be similarly priced to bars outside of hotels, so they do make a good option in Aqaba. There are also a few nightclubs in Aqaba. We didn’t make it this time around!
Top tips for visiting Aqaba on a budget
- Fly into Aqaba directly on Easyjet, rather than flying into Amman
- Choose a budget hotel away from the beachfront
- For swimming and sunbathing choose Berenice Beach Club – save by buying a 4, 6 or 8 day pass and enjoy the happy hour for 50% off drinks
- Shop in supermarkets and bakeries – 2 JOD should be enough for 2 for bread and coffee for breakfast and remember to buy water in bulk (1.50 JOD for 6 bottles)
- Eat like the locals – don’t pay more than 4 JOD for a meal for 2
- Buy alcohol from the liquor stores and enjoy on your hotel terrace (remember it’s illegal to drink alcohol in public in Jordan)
- Make the most of free parking next to the tourist info, rather than choosing an expensive hotel with parking
- Alternatively, don’t hire a car and use transfers or public transport.
Is Aqaba safe? And is Aqaba safe outside of the expensive resorts?
Jordan is in general a safe country for tourists. Obviously, we would always recommend checking the latest FCO advice to find out if a country or city is safe to visit. But from our experience, we felt quite safe on our visit.
Aqaba has many tourists visiting and increasing numbers are enjoying restaurants and bars in town and away from big resorts. In our experience, we also saw many Jordanians out and about in the evening, including families with children. Aqaba does not have the same hustle and bustle as Amman, of course travellers should always have their wits about them, but Aqaba has a laid-back vibe making walking around easy.
We also found that taxi drivers can be quite keen to offer their services. Again, from our experience they were quite happy to move on if you declined their offers.
What is it like for female travellers visiting Aqaba?
One of our main concerns was whether it would be safe and comfortable for a Western woman in Aqaba, particularly as we were not planning to stay in one of the bigger, expensive resort hotels.
As female traveller, I chose to dress modestly in general in Jordan. I found that Amman was fairly liberal in this respect, Wadi Rum and Petra even more so. But I had read about women, even those dressing modestly in Aqaba, feeling that they were being gawped at. Therefore, I chose to fully cover up when we visited Aqaba. Although I still received a couple of cat calls and comments, I didn’t feel threatened or intimidated in any way. But that’s not to say that everyone will have the same experience.
I would also say that I saw many female travellers not dressing modestly in Aqaba. So in that respect, clothing choice is a completely personal choice!
If you’re a female traveller looking to visit Jordan, you can find a guide on what women should wear in Jordan here.
Is Aqaba worth visiting?
Overall, is Aqaba worth visiting? If you’re looking for sun, especially in the UK winter, Aqaba is fantastic. For example? in November, you can expect temperatures to be in the high 20s (Celsius). The evenings also remain warm enough to enjoy without a jacket.
Aqaba is also a great alternative to Sharm El Sheikh if you want to enjoy snorkelling or diving in the Red Sea. Although, it does not have the same cheap All Inclusive accommodation options as Egypt.
There isn’t that much to do in Aqaba beyond the beach and water sports. But the other big selling point of Aqaba is the proximity to major tourist sites in Jordan such as Wadi Rum and Petra. We believe you could happily spend a week to ten days enjoying Aqaba, Petra and Wadi Rum in the South of Jordan.
If you’re looking for more city vibes and have longer in Jordan to explore, we would recommend visiting Amman for 48 hours.
How to visit Wadi Rum from Aqaba?
From Aqaba, you can be in the incredible desert of Wadi Rum within an hour, camping in Bedouin camps under the stars and enjoying the breath-taking scenery. The cheapest way to do this (without a hire car) would be to use public transport. A tourist minibus would cost you 3JOD – more details can be found here.
If you have a hire car, driving to Wadi Rum is straightforward. Just park up in Wadi Rum Village and ensure you’ve arranged collection from your tour operator or Accommodation provider in the Wadi Rum protected area.
Alternatively, you could arrange a transfer with your hotel in Aqaba or Wadi Rum accommodation provider. You could also find other travellers willing to share a taxi. A taxi should cost no more than 20 JOD.
Wadi Rum has some excellent value Campsites. Look for late deals for the best rates. We booked one night in a campsite in Wadi Rum including dinner and breakfast for 3JOD (£4.) Check out our review of where to stay in Wadi Rum – link here.
If you’d rather not stay overnight in Wadi Rum, you could book a jeep tour which includes transfer to Wadi Rum.
How to visit Petra from Aqaba?
The stunning pink city of Petra is less than 2 hours away from Aqaba.
If you have a hire car, this is a straightforward drive. In Petra you can park for free near to the visitor centre, alternatively many hotels offer free parking.
The second option is to take an organised tour to Petra, but this is a more expensive choice. More details here.
The cheapest option is to take a tourist minibus for 20JOD return to Petra, or 12JOD one way if you’re staying overnight there. More information on public transport can be found here.