RTW Trip Aqaba, Jordan Day 66 and 67: Red Sea snorkeling on a Backpacker Budget

Even if you are not a big diver, Aqaba can be a nice stop, especially if you have been traveling for a long time and want to chill out.  There are lots of restaurants, a city beach, and sidewalks everywhere making it the quite a walkable city.

After a beautiful bus ride to Aqaba from Petra, we spent a couple days to unwind before heading out to Wadi Rum for a desert trek.

I actually first heard of Aqaba when my sister almost took a job there.  It is not a huge city, but could definitely be comfortable for foreigners to live for a short stint.  The town is relaxed, has nice weather, hassome chain restaurants like KFC and Popeye’s (which we indulged in) if you are craving some flavors from home.  It is close to the sea, and is a great town for leisurely walks along the beach or around town.

Where to stay:
We stayed at a centrally located hotel called Al Qidra Hotel.  The staff were extremely nice, and bumped us into a nicer larger room for free.  We had a balcony, a kettle, a fridge (which I love having when I am traveling), a fan and air conditioner, a flat screen TV with a bunch of cable channels, hot water, and a living room.  I felt like it was my own little railroad style apartment in Aqaba!  We loved it so much that we decided to head back to Aqaba at the end of trip, and ended up staying here again.

The biggest hotel room ever...and on a backpacker budget!

The biggest hotel room that felt like a Brooklyn apartment.

To do:
Most people who come to Aqaba go on diving trips, as the coral is supposedly really great here.  We are not divers but definitely wanted to go snorkeling.  There are numerous dive shops that are willing to take you.  There are different price points based on the length of the trip, whether you take a boat or car out, and whether meals are provided.  The cheapest we found was at Red Sea Dive Center.  It was a basic van tour that offered transportation there and back, water, snorkel gear and wet suits for 30 JD.  We didn’t think we would need wetsuits, but the water was a bit chillier than we were used to.  We saw a lot of amazing fish (better than many snorkeling spots I have been to in South East Asia) and swam by a tank which was pretty neat. You are grouped with divers, so the day was pretty long as well.

Excellent snorkeling in the Red Sea

Excellent snorkeling in the Red Sea

Where to eat:
For quick budget eats, we particularly frequented two places. A few doors down from our hotel was a small falafel place called Falafel O Bas.  They had the best sandwiches for 0.75 JD that were some of the tastiest sandwiches I have had on my trip.  They were dirt cheap, filling, and kept well for takeaway orders.

There are also a couple bakeries here that have really amazing bread. I absolutely fell in love with these giant date bread rings.  Even if you don’t like dates, try it, as it is such a treat and costs a fraction of 1JD.

I have a new love.  The date bread ring.

I have a new love. The date bread ring.

Al Tarboosh Restaurant has excellent potato filled an spinach filled pastries.  They were freshly made on a daily basis.  Make sure to go early so you can get them before they sell out.  The guy running the place will also reheat them for you in his oven.

For a more sit down type place, I would suggest heading to Rakwet Kanaan Restaurant.  It is located by the Western fast food places, has wi-fi and excellent reasonably priced food.  Locals frequented the place which is also a good sign.  The fatteh, a dish using pieces of bread with various toppings, was particularly huge, delicious, and rich.

Far left: Falafel O Bas - We lived off of these tasty wraps! Top Right: Kanaan.  Bottom Middle: Al Qidra breakfast   Bottom Right: Guilty pleasure.

Far left: Falafel O Bas – We lived off of these tasty wraps!
Top Right: Rakwet Kanaan.
Bottom Middle: Al Qidra breakfast
Bottom Right: Guilty pleasure.

Aqaba is a good base before heading out to Wadi Rum, so if you want to do some swimming, it is a nice idea to stay here for a night or two.

Costs:

Day 66
Taxi 2 JD
Bus to Aqaba 16 JD
Water 0.5 JD
Al Qidra Hotel $46
Falafel O Bas 2 sandwiches 1.5 JD
Water juice beer 8.3 JD
4 Falafel sandwiches 3 JD
Oreos 1 JD
Spinach and potato pastries 1.5 JD
Nuts 0.5 JD

Total cost for Day 66: 34.3 JD + $46 = $94.42 / 2 = $47.21 per person

Day 67
Al Qidra Hotel 33 JD
Beach with Red Sea Dive Center 30 JD
Deposit for Wadi Rum camp 28 USD
Oreos 1 JD
Shwarma sandwich 0.75 JD from Al Tarboosh Restaurant
Date bread 0.3 JD

Total cost for Day 67: 65.05 JD + $28 = $119.83 / 2 = $59.92 per person

What I learned:  even though there is a city beach close by, it is better to go on a snorkel tour for swimming.  The city beach is more for strolling, going on boats, and having a bite or two.  Women are fully dressed when going in the water, so if you plan on swimming in your bathing suit, you may feel more comfortable at the cleaner and more secluded beaches, which is where a lot of the snorkel tours go.

Aqabamosque.jpg

Actual date of travel: Nov. 8 and 9, 2014

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