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Taba

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Taba, in the eastern Sinai peninsula of Egypt, is on the border with Israel, close to the city and airport of Eilat. The area within one km of the border is a duty-free zone with a couple of large resort hotels, a few shops, the bus station and other amenities. It is within Egypt and the term "border zone" on this page refers to this strip, not to the controlled area where you're crossing between countries. 20 km further south, the new resort of Taba Heights is developing, described on its own page.

Get in

Visas

Taba is part of the Sinai coastal zone where most visitors don't need a visa for trips up to 15 days. This zone extends from Taba through Taba Heights, Nuweiba and Dahab to Sharm-el-Sheikh.

If you're staying longer, or travelling further eg to Cairo, you need a visa. It's best to arrange this online, at least seven days in advance: see Egypt#Get_in. There are no visa facilities at Taba so if you enter without a visa and your plans change, you'll probably have to go to Sharm-el-Sheikh airport to be issued one. Taking a side-trip to Israel or Jordan of course would terminate a single-entry visa so you may need multiple entry. There are several checkpoints so if you try to travel further into Egypt without a visa, you'll soon be evicted from the bus.

Quite separately from the visa, you'll be charged LE400 (as of March 2020) as "Sinai tax" or similar, probably collected at the checkpoint 1 km from the border. (That's on top of the tax to exit Israel.) If it's collected elsewhere (eg at the bus station when buying tickets), make sure to get a receipt proving you've already paid.

It's only right for the Egyptian government to raise revenue from wealthy foreigners, but the multiple taxes make it easy for tricksters to claim there's some extra amount that you need to pay them.

By plane

Taba International Airport as of March 2020 has very few international flights and no Egyptian domestic flights. There's no public transport to the airport, take a taxi.

The nearest airport is Ramon ETM IATA, 20 km north of Eilat in Israel, with an expanding range of international flights. Ovda and Eilat city airports have both closed.

Sharm el-Sheikh SSH IATA also has an expanding range of flights, but onward transport to Taba is poor.

By bus

2 Taba bus station is prominent on the left hand side of the main road about 1 km from the border, but still within the "border zone." There are a few cafes and kiosks here, but will there be buses? The bus schedule is an Arabian mystery perhaps known to the Sphinx, but not necessarily to East Delta the operator. At busy times of year there may be several buses per day, and at quiet times one or none, and they may not know if one is running until shortly before departure.

For Cairo the likeliest bus to depart is at 2:30PM, taking eight hours. It cuts across Sinai to the Suez tunnel and doesn't serve the coast further south.

For NuweibaDahab and Sharm el-Sheikh the likeliest departure is at 3PM. Those towns' bus stations are all more-or-less inconvenient for accommodation there.

From Eilat

From Eilat Ramon Airport, Bus 30 runs via downtown to the border, while Bus 15 / 16 also shuttles between downtown and border, so the service is every 15 min. Rav-Kav travel cards are valid and give the best fares. A taxi might be 40 shekels. The border is 5 km from town so on a cool day you can walk it, but it's a ratty street especially around the harbour.

At the border, it's 150 m between the Egyptian and Israeli side. See "visas" above for entry into Egypt - you might not need one, but if you do, get it online at least seven days in advance. There's an Israeli exit tax of 102 shekels, but you don't need to pay this if you're staying within the border zone - have your reservation to hand as proof. You still need to queue with those who are paying to get a receipt confirming you're exempt.

Reckon an hour to cross, it depends if there's a tour party ahead of you. Once through the gate, you're within Egypt but still within the duty-free "border zone". Ignore all the taxi drivers and walk on the sidewalk on the left side of the road. After 100 m, long-distance taxis await at the traffic circle. These aren't "shared taxis" in the Levant sense, and they have the reputation of ripping off tourists, but club up yourself with fellow travellers to share a cab. Keep walking firmly towards the bus station: their price will drop faster if they believe there's a bus today.

Get around

The border zone is small and walkable. You'll need a taxi to reach the airport or Taba Heights.

See

  • The Great Taba Museum by the entrance to the Mövenpick seems to have been closed since pharaonic times, but try your luck.
  • 1 Salah El-Din castle. This castle perched on Pharaoh's Island just offshore was first built in 1116 AD by Baldwin I of Jerusalem, one of the leaders of the First Crusade. In 1170 it was captured by Salah El-Din ("Saladin") who rebuilt it. There were no other great battles here, and the castle was altered under Mamluk and Ottoman rule. There are boat trips to the island, hours vary with demand, enquire at the nearby hotel. Reckon US$3 for the boat and $1.50 to enter the castle.
  • See Eilat for attractions across the border, such as the Underwater Observatory about 1.5 km away.

Do

  • The casino within the Steigenberger is the main reason for Taba's existence.
  • There's snorkelling and scuba-diving off the local reefs, which are better preserved than Eilat's. But the infrastructure is little developed, you may be the dive shack's only customer, or find them closed up. Don't stray across the border underwater! - all the instructors have their own shocking story about the last customer to do so.
  • Tour buses pass through Taba on their way west to Cairo and east to Jerusalem, the Dead Sea and Petra. But they don't originate here: enquire ahead if a pick-up from Taba is possible.

Buy

There's a supermarket by the border gate open 24 hours, and a couple of little stores within and opposite the bus station.

Currency: Banque du Caire and Banque Misr have currency exchange booths within the Egyptian checkpoint, hours erratic, and there's an ATM. You can also exchange at the big hotels but rates aren't so good.

Eat and Drink

  • A handful of small eating places near the bus station.
  • The hotels are pricey but offer more choice; you'll stink of cigarette smoke for days after you eat in the casino.
  • Merhaba is a Turkish restaurant on the beach within the Steigenberger complex.

Sleep

  • 1 Taba Hotel and Nelson Village (formerly Taba Sands Hilton), Nuweiba Road (in border zone), ☏ +20 69 353 0140. Now part of Steigenberger chain, it's an unmissable 11 storey slab, the first place in the border zone after entering Egypt. Includes a diving centre and a popular casino. It's okay as a mid-range place, but the new management have a lot to do to earn their supposed "five star" rating. B&B double from LE1300.
  • 2 Mövenpick Resort Taba, Nuweiba Road (in middle of border zone), ☏ +20 69 353 0530. Large resort hotel now part of Accor group, comfy and good service. There's a main block surrounded by garden chalets. With private beach and nearby diving. B&B double LE1000.
  • Saladin Hotel is on the main coast road opposite Pharoah's Island and the castle.
  • Tolip Taba Resort is another km south, near the junction with the road north to Rafah.
  • See Taba Heights for the resort area 20 km south, and Nuweiba for the string of budget beach camps further along the coast.

Go next

  • Dahab is Sinai's backpacker hangout, with good diving.
  • Eilat in Israel is a grubby construction site. Just use it for the airport or as a base, then head swiftly on to Jerusalem or the Dead Sea.
  • You can reach Jordan either via Eilat or by ferry from Taba Heights. Fabulous Petra is about an hour's drive north of Aqaba.
  • Ras Abu Galum is a nature reserve north of Dahab



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