The fun of traveling is doing the unexpected and making adventures. Call me crazy, but adding a little risk to a trip can make the best memories!

My parents allowing me to travel to the Middle East by myself this summer was amazing. The plan was for me to stay with a friend in Jordan for the whole trip. But being the flag hunter I am, staying in Jordan wasn’t enough. While in Aqaba, I decided that I was going to make a solo border crossing into Israel for a day. At 17 years old, I wasn’t sure how pulling this off would go over, but I figured I would regret not taking the chance to visit Israel while I was literally a quarter mile away!

Aqaba, Jordan and Eilat, Israel are essentially one city divided by a wall, yet they couldn’t be more different. They are both located in the Southernmost portion of each country, both on the Gulf of Aqaba. One of the few border crossings between Israel and Jordan is located here, the Wadi-Araba border crossing (or the Yitzhak Rabin border crossing if you’re in Israel). It’s a pretty surreal place!

This article applies to my experience in 2014. Jordan recently changed their border crossing requirements:

Aqaba vs. Eilat (One City Divided By A Wall)

Aqaba vs. Eilat (One City Divided By A Wall)

To Israel

I found a taxi in Aqaba to travel to the border crossing (just a few miles away), but realized the driver spoke no English. So I said “Eilat, Israel, Border” and pointed towards Israel. He understood and made sure I had a passport (as there is a checkpoint before you can even access the border).

Driving to Border with Israel

Driving To The Border With Israel

On the Jordanian side of the border, there was no one, no instruction on what to do, nothing. I eventually figured out the places where I was supposed to pay an exit tax and get my passport stamped. After that, I was off! Once you exit Jordan, you walk less than a quarter mile between the two border terminals, to Israel. I was literally the only person there that day, so it was kind of surreal walking between the two borders, alone, 17 years old, with no shortage of “danger minefield” signs on either side of the barbed wire fences.

I began noticing the differences in Israel immediately upon arrival. All of the conscripted 20 something year old border guards were very intense and intimidating. I was “greeted” by a woman with a walkie-talkie and a man wearing sunglasses (not to mention a large machine gun on his hip). They asked if I was alone, to which I replied yes, and radioed through that they had one person at the border.

They led me through a metal detector and into a security room with x-ray machines. My hands were swabbed for explosive residue and placed into a scanner. Upon completing a few more examinations, I was led to a station to have my passport stamped.

This was where the real fun began. I was interrogated Israeli style, with many very detailed specific questions about my visit and why I was alone at 17 years old. It probably didn’t help that I was wearing flip flops and a bathing suit since I was going to the beach! Israel does a “behavioral interview” on anyone entering the country, so don’t be worried if lots of questions are being asked. Eventually they were convinced that I was legitimate and let me through.

Talking to one of the border guards, I was asked if my parents knew I was coming by myself from Jordan to Israel – I said yes to avoid suspicion. The girl quickly replied “Well, then you’re crazy.” Oh well.

Inside Israel

I hopped into a taxi and was off to my destination for the day, Israel’s national coral reef reserve. I’d heard about the amazing snorkeling there so was very excited (it didn’t disappoint). Check out some pictures below:

As a side-note, one smart thing to do if you’re only going for a short trip might be to take screenshots on your phone of where you’d like to go (images that include the place name in the local language). It’s much easier to show a cab driver a photo than to work through broken English.

After the snorkeling excursion, I headed to the marina of Eilat to get a better sense of the city in comparison to Aqaba. It’s amazing how close, yet how different, they are! Aqaba feels much more “traditional” Middle East, while Eilat feels like Europe. Beach-wise, Eilat’s public beaches were much more clean and easy to access than in Aqaba. In Eilat, people wear speedos and bikinis vs. the much more modest, Islamic dress you’ll find in Aqaba. There’s nothing wrong with that, just a noticeable change.

Back to Jordan

Returning to Jordan a few hours later wasn’t too hard. I did the same sort of thing, hopping in a Taxi and said “Aqaba, Jordan, Border.” The crossing wasn’t bad either. Once again, I was for the most part alone at the crossing. Upon arrival on the Jordan side, I faced a little more scrutiny than when I’d left. I had my GoPro camera with me in my bag, which the guards didn’t recognize. I was asked to take it all apart and show them the contents. They even got a supervisor to come over and inspect it! In the end, they left it alone and let me walk away.

Day to day relations can change quickly in the Middle East, so it’s important to stay on top of the news before you go. I would highly recommend that if you’re in Southern Jordan or Israel, you make a short day trip between Aqaba and Eilat. You’ll see first hand the differences between the Arab World and the European-inspired Israeli World. It was amazing to witness how the Western world has influenced this area of the globe!

Thanks for reading!
-Swayne Martin
Twitter: @MartinsAviation

About The Author

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15 Responses

  1. JD

    Really interesting post, sounds like a great adventure and totally amazing day although I can see where it might’ve been a little unnerving at times but worth the effort.

    • Swayne Martin

      It was unnerving at times… and that’s totally OK because it’s all part of the experience over there. Getting out of the comfort zone is good sometimes. If you’re ever over there make sure to give it a try. It was one of the highlights of the trip for me!

  2. Jim Stewart

    I was considering a trip to Israel and thought of visiting Eilat for some time at the beach. You’ve now convinced me to add Jordan to the itinerary! Thanks for the awesome guide!

    • Swayne Martin

      Hey Jim, thanks for the comment. I’m so glad you’re considering a quick trip to Jordan. Seeing these two different worlds is in my opinion on of the best things you can get out of the region.

  3. Jeff

    Hi Swayne,
    Nice post. Curious…what visa did you have in Jordan? I am flying to Aqaba in 3 weeks and want to cross to Eilat for 1 day. Did you have the free Aqaba visa originally and then get another one reissued when you returned to Aqaba? Or did you have a double/multiple entry Jordanian visa? I want to make sure I don’t have any problems crossing back into Jordan after only being in Israel for 1 day. Thanks!

    • Swayne Martin

      Jeff, thanks for your comment – You’ll have a great time in Aqaba. I’m glad to hear you’ll be traveling into Eilat for the day.

      When I arrived in Jordan, I paid for the standard 1-entry Jordanian Visa (it was 40 Dinars). I didn’t have to pay an exit fee when I left for Eilat, but I did have to pay an entry and fee, and possibly an exit fee as well, on the Israeli side (I don’t remember exactly). Returning to Jordan, I don’t believe I had to purchase another visa. Here’s a webpage that gives some more details:

      My advice? I’d try to pay for a double entry visa when you first arrive in Jordan. Then, when you travel to Israel just make sure you have extra Jordanian cash with you for your return (in case they don’t understand or have to buy another). Always stay safe by keeping a lot of cash with you for the borders.

      Also, when you’re in Eilat, I recommend visiting the Eilat Snorkel Reserve (it’s only a quarter mile from Egypt and you could cross the border there if you want another stamp). Take a cab and walk around the Marina in Eilat to see the differences between Eilat and Aqaba – It’s shockingly different even though their so close.

      Good luck and sorry I couldn’t provide more details. Feel free to message me anytime with questions or advice. Check out this video from my Jordan trip – I know you’ll love it!

  4. Raymond

    Great detailed report on border crossing Aqaba/eilat.
    many travelers will find it helpful
    thanks for sharing.

  5. Carlo

    Hi Martin,
    Came across your Akaba-to-Eilat travel report today. Loved to read it! It’s pretty cool that you do what you like and don’t let you hold back by mainstream opinions and the widespread anxiousness of so many.

    It reminds me on my own 3 month Egypt trip more than twenty years ago. A journey with many adventures and unexpected routes. I never stopped travelling adventurously. In my opinion it’s the «real» way of travelling which brings us closer to the unknown, to people and their culture and last but not least to ourselves.

    The next trip starts in 6 days: 2 weeks kitesurfing vacation with my son (28) in Brazil. We only fixed the rental of a 4×4 Pickup at the Airport, all the rest is open 🙂

    Wish you all the best, good travels and many dreams coming true.

  6. Diana

    Thanks for this wealth of info! In Aqaba now and I think we will try to cross the border in 2 days. We have been in Jordan for a month though, so I think we need to go to the police station tomorrow to extend our visas. Good luck with your endeavors!

  7. Quincy

    There’re tons of information about border-crossing from Eilat to Aqaba, yet so little about Aqaba-to-Eilat. Details in this article are helpful, which are exactly what I’m looking for.

    Thanks, Swayne 🙂


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