The Sinai Basics: What Every Traveler Needs To Know
There are many things that make Sinai an incredible place to visit, but the first thing most travelers need to figure out? How to travel to Sinai, and how to get around. Because yes, Sinai is massive and remote, and it can be tough to figure out exactly how to get to where you’re going in Sinai.
Interested in learning everything there is to know about traveling to Sinai? We’ve got you covered. Before we get started, let’s cover some of the Sinai basics that every traveler should know:
Sinai is part of Egypt, and in Sinai you’ll not only find the Egyptian people, but also many Bedouin people. The Bedouin are nomadic people who have been present in the Arabian Peninsula for hundreds of years, and hospitality is a huge part of their culture. You’ll notice many of the beach camps and other accommodations are Bedouin-run.
Sinai is expansive, but when we’re talking about traveling in Sinai, we’re talking about the region known as the South Sinai Governorate. This is the southern portion of the peninsula that encompasses the Red Sea and the Gulf of Suez, and which is a very popular tourist destination among Egyptians, Israelis, and people from all over the world. Sinai is mostly sandy desert and mountains, and it can get incredibly hot in the summer months.
Southern Sinai is generally considered safe for travel, and the Egyptian government and military goes to great lengths to keep the southern Sinai safe for travelers. For example, you’ll notice many military checkpoints while you travel in Sinai (so be sure to keep your passport handy). But as always with international travel, check your government’s official recommendations, and the latest news.
Egypt offers a special pass, called the Sinai resort permission stamp, for travelers from many countries, which allows them to stay within the areas of Sharm El Sheikh, Dahab, Nuweiba and Taba, for 14 days. If you do not fall into this category, Egypt also uses an electronic visa program, meaning you can get a visa online in advance. Keep in mind that if you plan on visiting other parts of Egypt outside of Sinai (such as Cairo), you’ll need to obtain a visa
When you travel to Sinai, don’t forget that it’s a desert landscape. This means summers can be scorching hot, and in the other seasons, the nights can be chilly. Bring sunscreen, a hat, and in the summer, bug spray might be nice to have.
How to Get to Sinai
Sinai can be a bit of a head-scratcher for first-time travelers. It’s huge, and there’s not a ton of information online that makes sense about how to get there, and how to get around once you’re in Sinai. But that’s what we’re here for.
To start, when traveling in Sinai, there are a few main types of places that travelers might choose to visit.
Cities: There are a handful of main cities in Sinai, including Sharm el Sheikh, Dahab, Nuweiba. In these places, you can stay at different types of accommodation (such as rental apartments), and there are varying degrees of public transport. There are also restaurants and shops. Sharm el Sheikh is the largest of the cities in Sinai, and is also home to many resorts. On the other hand, Nuweiba is a much smaller town, with only a handful of shops.
Beach accommodations: From the moment you step into Sinai, you’ll likely notice beach accomodations along the shores of the Red Sea. These beach accommodations vary greatly. Some might have hot showers and offer breakfast and dinner (like our new Aqua Sun Abraham Village), while others might be more simple, with electricity-free rustic huts.
Resorts: Sharm el Sheikh is home to plenty of resorts, if you’re looking for this type of experience while you’re in Sinai.
Getting around in Sinai depends on where you’re starting from, and where you’re going. In general, there are two main ways that people reach the southern Sinai peninsula:
By ground: Travelers on the ground can enter Sinai through the border with Israel, called the Taba Border Crossing. This border is accessible by traveling to the Israeli city of Eilat, and it’s where you can receive that Sinai resort permission stamp for entry. From Taba, you can then take a private car or public transit to other parts of Sinai. Taba is about 30 minutes from Aqua Sun Abraham Village, 2 hours from Dahab, and 3 hours from Sharm el Sheikh.
The process at the Taba border
You can reach the border by bus from Eilat (the central station is very close to the Abraham Hostel Eilat) or Ramon Airport. If you are coming by car, note that there is no free parking next to the border. It is best to park in the free, spacious parking lot next to the hostel in Eilat.
On the Israeli side, you will have to pay a 100 NIS toll (which you can pay on advance with this link)
On the Egyptian side, you will show your passport, and then walk to the main building. The first thing you will have to do is fill out a form. If an employee fills the form for you, you should tip him (Shekels and dollars work as well). If you have your own pen, you can fill it out by yourself. Prior to continuing to passport control, you have to pay 35 EGP (you can exchange money after you fill out your form). Next, you will go outside and show the passport again, and pay a border crossing fee of 406 EGP. You will receive a white receipt, hold on to it since you will have to show it again on your way back to Israel.
By air: If you would like to fly to Sinai, there is a modern and efficient airport in Sharm el Sheikh. The flight takes 55 minutes from Tel-Aviv, following which you will take a quick bus to the terminal. Before you cross the border control you will have to fill out a short form, so make sure you have a pen. Then you will pass through several stations, including a biometric screening. You will be able to exchange your euros and dollars, and you can additionally find ATM machines before the border crossing, and close to the baggage claim. The way to Aqua Sun Abraham Village is in good condition, and the ride is overall comfortable. Israeli passport holders don’t need a 14 day visa upon entry through Sharm el Sheikh.
When traveling to Sinai by means of ground transport, travelers can also reach Sinai by taking buses from other parts of Egypt, such as from Cairo. The bus can take anywhere from 7-9 hours. If you have a car in Egypt, there is also the option to drive from Cairo to Sinai.
Please note, that whichever way you enter Sinai is the way you need to exit. For example, if you fly into Sharm el Sheikh, you must fly out of it. You can not enter through a land border or airport, and then leave another way.
How to Travel Once You’re in Sinai
The beautiful deserts of Sinai have much to see, and once you reach your destination in Sinai, you might decide you want to explore more. The best way to get around Sinai is by hired car. There are many drivers in Sinai, and the cost of a hired car is much more affordable than in countries such as Israel. Especially when shared with a friend or two, you’ll likely find the price of a hired car to be very affordable.
In most parts of Sinai, there is not an abundance of public transit, and things are not within walking distance. If you have specific sites you want to see, it’s best to sort out a route with a hired car. The exception is in Sharm el Sheikh, where there are reliable public buses.
Traveling to Sinai with Abraham
Here at Abraham, we’re dedicated to providing travelers with an incredible travel experience that is safe and enjoyable. Aqua Sun Abraham Village, is just 30 minutes from the Taba Border Crossing. We offer a shuttle service from the border to the village, and during your stay, you’ll enjoy delicious breakfast and dinner. You can take a look at our facilities by clicking here, and we hope to see you soon in Sinai.