Middle East for 1 month

My trip to Middle East was completly unplanned. I got good offer and I changed job. So now I had to spend 1 month of vacation days in short period of time (2 months). So I statred to search for options in franzy. I would like to see something new, not to far and not to expansive. Because it was such a short notice I couldn’t find any companion to join me. In the end I chose Middle East. 13 days in Cyprus and Jordan, after short return home another 17 days in Gulf countries.

sunset in Wadi Rum, Jordan
sunset in Wadi Rum, Jordan

In this time I tried to experience different things on different price scale, ie. sleeping on bus and sleeping in 5 star hotel. Below I will try to group some information, for details click on link for specific day. But what all Middle East places have in common: warm climate, coast-beach, kind people, similar food (kebab, pita bread, meze, humus, salad, …) and they are not cheap except North Cyprus.

Daily review

  1. Ljubljana-Zagreb (The Cure concert)
  2. Zagreb-Cyprus (Paphos, Limassol, Larnaka)
  3. Larnaka-Famagusta-Nicosia
  4. Nicosia-Kykkos-Paphos
  5. Paphos-Jordan
  6. Dead sea-Amman
  7. Amman-Mt.Nebo-Madaba-Petra (wadi Musa)
  8. Petra
  9. Petra-Wadi Rum
  10. Wadi Rum-Aqba-Izrael (Eilat, Jerusalem)
  11. Jerusalem-Jordan (Aqaba)
  12. Aqba
  13. Aqba-Hungary (Budapest)-Ljubljana
  14. 3 days at home
  15. Ljubljan-Zgornja Kungota (Hiša Denk)-Maribor
  16. Maribor-Vienna-UAE(Abu Dhabi)
  17. Abu Dhabi-Bahrain (Manama)
  18. Manama-Abu Dhabi
  19. Abu Dhabi
  20. Abu Dhabi-Kuwait
  21. Kuwait-Dubai
  22. Dubai
  23. Dubai-Abu Dhabi
  24. Abu Dhabi-Muscat
  25. Muscat
  26. Muscat (tour)
  27. Muscat-Salalah
  28. Salalah
  29. Salalah-East
  30. Salalah resting
  31. Salalah-Abu Dhabi
  32. Abu Dhabi-Vienna-Ljubljana

Transport

I tried different kind of transport in this month. Following lines are writen for different means of transport with different countries mentioned with the prices.

empty wizzair flight
empty wizzair flight

Walking/Hicking

In this 30 days I walked around 350 km, that is more than 11 km/day on average (some days close to 0km and some more than 20 km). So it is important to have good footware. Mine was not optimal, low hicking shoes and flip-flops for beach/pool/bathroom. Also it is good to have some kind of head cover, while around noon walking in sun without shadow can be problem. Most problems I had walking in Wadi on slipery rocks. Also in Middle East , especially Gulf countries they don’t have pedestrian infrastructure, so you may be crossing 8 lane highways and wadi in the city just to get somewhere.

Airplane

On this trip I had 11 flights, made around 17.000 km and paid for all that 717 €. It is cheap because I used low cost carriers Ryanair and Wizzair. But still I paid double price because all tickets where booked last moment, ie. Flight Abu Dhabi Muscat was 10 € if booked 1 week in advance, two days before flight it was 50 €. But keep in mind there are also other expenses, like getting to/from airport and expensive food/drinks on airport or on board (slice of pizza 8,5 €, chips 4 €). Ryanair has multiple flights from Zagreb and Wizzair has now hub in Abu Dhabi so it is great spot for visitig Middle East countries. I don’t know how long it will last while most of flights where empty (20 people on airplane for 250 people). In this time I visited 11 airports, Vienna – probably most often visited by me, Budapest – it developed since it is primary Wizzair hub, Abu Dhabi – I was 8 times there on this trip and others (Zagreb, Paphos, Amman, Aqaba, Manama, Kuwait, Muscat, Salalah).

Bus

I started and ended trip to Middle East with Flixbus. It is cheap option if book in advance (20 € comparison to 75 €, made mistake so paid both prices on return). But it is not reliable, most of the time it is late, so have spare time. Bigger problems are on rout Germany-Croatia than Italy-Austria.

Buses in Jordan are tree types. Minbuses are cheap, but they start when they are at least 75% full. JETT bus company operates regualr buses on schedule, but price is double, ie Amman-Petra 7€ or 14 €. Last option is shuttle buss, that will pick you up at hotel and drive you to next tourist destination, not cheap.

In Israel I had return ticket Eilat-Jerusalem 38 €, good bus.

In Abu Dhabi you have good buses and you need HALIFAT card for ride payment (0,5 € ride, to airport 1.25 €), couldn’t recahrge it online-card problems. Bus are good, stations are air conditioned. Also you have buses to Dubai each 20 minutes (6,25 € paid with NOL card) from 4:00 till 23:00.

In Bahrain buses are good, price to airport is 075 €, but drivers are speeding.

In Kuwait bus to airport is 0,9, but at station they don’t stop completly so you jump of moving bus.

In Muscat there was confusion with buses. Mwsalat is company for public transport. Bus don’t stop on stations. From airport it cost 2.5 €. Once I took ride with minibus and sombody paid my fair so I don’t know the price. I traveled from Muscat to Slalah on bus ride 13h over night and 20 €.

Train, Metro

I used both to get from bus station to airport in Vienna (7 €).

In Dubai you have metro. Main is Red line that folows city-coast layout SW-NE, ride is 1-2 €, depending on how many zones you travel. You need NOL card to pay raids.

Car

In genral, I would say each fifth car in Middle East cities is taxi. Price per km is not to expensive but there are a lot of kms to cover interesting things.

In Zagreb I was driving around in taxi, few raids but Vesna ordered and paid via phone app so I don’t know prices.

I rented car in Cyprus (Green Motion), small automatic Toyota Vitz, for 3 days I paid 126 €. Gas for 450 km was 50 €. Insurance is not valid in Northern Cyprus. But main challenge was driving on opposite side. I needed one day to get used to it, mainly mixed signal light and wipers. Highways between cities are OK, free and 100 kmh limit. In cities driving is more caotic in small streets. One ride with Taxi in Paphos to hotel I paid 10 € for few kms, probably overcharged. On Norther Cyprus side I took taxi from border to Famagusta and back for 28 €, over charged for driving to wrong border back.

In Jordan I used taxi few times. In Amman I paid 21 € for ride to few attractions. Next day with same driver I visited Mt. Nebo and Madaba, around 75 km, halfa a day for 42 €. In Petra two rides for 2-3 €. In Wadi Rum we were driving in the back of Toyota pickup as part of tour. In Aqaba ride to border 14 € and back shared 4 €. Also there was a ride to beach where driver waited 3 hours and 20 € ride to airport.

In Eialt I shared cab to border, paid 4 €.

Driving car from Budapest to Ljubljana was challenge while car was broken and I could drive just 80 kmh, so it meant 2 extra hours and I was already tired from the trip.

In Abu Dhabi I used Taxi few times, start is 3 € and 1km is 0,5 €, cheap but distances are big. Similar in Dubai, 2 € start and 045 € km. Night tariffs are 10 % higher. Biggest charge was 23 €. I also used care share option from Abu Dhabi to Dubai and paid 23 €. In Abu Dhabi I took tour to desert and we enjoyed in Toyota dune bashing.

I took taxi from Ruwi to Old Muscat, 10 km, 10 €. I took tour to Wadi Shab where we drove in minibus. In Salalah AirBnB owner drove we around town one day for 12.5 € 2 hours. Next day we explored east of Salalah and I paid 50 € for half day.

Boat

I was twice on short boat ride. Once in Dubai to cross the canal, 3 minutes, 0,25 €. Second was crosiing river in Wadi Shab, also 3 minutes, it was included in tour, otherwise is 2.5 €.

Accommodation

Again I tried to experience as mucha as possible. Few nights I paid 0 €; in Zagreb I was out partying and no sleep, on way to Vienna and Salalah I slept on bus. I spent two nigt in hostel, Cyprus and Abu Dhabi, both times it was 17 €. One room I booked over AirBnb in Salalah, also 17 €. Cheap hotel in Amman, 20 € and Petra 19€. Bed hotel in Manama, 24 €. In Muscat I paid 25 € for nice hotel, bed location. Next range was around 50 €. It was 40 € for both hotels in Cyprus (one good and one bad), nice hotel in Aqaba for 44 €. Whole apartment in Kuwait, 52 €. Bad apartment in Dubai, 56 €. Bad place in Jerusalem for 52 €. OK hotel in Abu Dhabi 68 €. Last range was around 100 €, Dead sea hotel 99 €, Abu Dhabi 96 €, 112 € and 120 € for 5 stars hotel. I slept in tent in Wadi Rum as part of 1 day tour, 84 €.

Corniche hotel, Abu Dhabi, UAE
Corniche hotel, Abu Dhabi, UAE

Food and drinks

Typical ingrediens in Middle East cousine include olives and olive oil, pita bread, honey, sesame seeds, dates, sumac, chickpeas, mint, rice and parsley, and popular dishes include kebabs, dolmas, falafel, baklava, yogurt, kebab, shawarma. As for meat sheep, goat, beef and chicken are common. I tried also camel meat. A pork is found in Cyprus. Traditional fast food would offer shwarma, falafel, kebab. There are many fast food options that offer fried chicken. Tipical meal would include meat (i.e. shwarma) or falafel (chickpea) for vegetarian option, pita bread (rice/fries) and many side dishes (meze: humus, pickled vegetables, garlic, youghurt and spicy sauce). Prices of one meal I tried ranged from 1 € for chicken burger in Salalah to 24 € sea food plate in Larnaca. In Gulf countries there are many imigrants (45%in Oman to 88% in UAE; mainly Indain and Filipino). So this influence offer, byrjani or adobo chicken can be found in many places. Usually this food is on cheaper side; Indian breakfast (pancake with egg and tea)) for 1 €. But if you would like you can easily find also sushi or pizza or Michelin star restaurants. Also you should eat your food with hand, right one.

lamb dinner, Petra, Wadi Musa, Jordan, Middle East
lamb dinner, Petra, Wadi Musa, Jordan, Middle East

In Middle East you will drink a lot of water. In Gulf countries I drink it also from the tap, no problems. First part of trip I drunk only bottled water. Price of water can vary where you buy it. For 2 l bottle I paid from 0.4 € to 3€. There is a lot of arabic tea served there, usually offered as welcome drink for free in many places. Most of it I drunk in Wadi Rum. Also in Golf countries indian places offer masla chai with milk. Turkish coffe is most popular among coffe types served there. As for alcohol, most countries limit places you can buy it and prices are highr. But I drunk beer in Northern Cyprus for 1.9 € and in Abu Dhabi/Jerusalem for around 10 €. It was similar with cigaretts from 2.6 in Nort Cyprus € to 10 € at Petra.

Sights

Like I wrote before, Middle East countries have many similarities, below I enumerate most famous sights by country.

Cyprus – As an island you have access to the coast and nice beaches. I was in 3 coastal cities Paphos, Limassol, Larnaca. They all have promenade with bars and restaurants by it. In old part of cities you see religious object, fort. Paphos has some interesting archeological sites. Kykkos monestary is in mountains where the green part of island is. Close to Larnaca you have Hala Sultan Tekke on salty lake with flamingos. Nicosia is divided city on Greek side you have musem with free entrance and on Turkish side you have Buyuk han and cheap food. In North Cyprus Famagusta is nice old city, in suburbs you can see ghost town Varosha.

Archaeological Park of Kato (Paphos) - Cyprus
Archaeological Park of Kato (Paphos) – Cyprus

Jordan – Everybody nows abot Petra wonderful archeological site, Amman as capital city is worth visiting (theater, odeon, ciatadela, blue mosque; rainbow street didn’t impres me). Dead see is special experience with this salty water. Close by you have Mt. Nebo and Madaba with religous meaning. Wadi Rum is most popular desert park (dunes, canyons, spring, rock bridges, sunset, sleeping in tent). Aqaba on Red sea coast for sea and snorkeling (corrals are quite ruined).

Israel/Palestine – I just visited Jerusalem and passed Eilat. Eilat is touristic city on Red Sea. Jerusalem is one oh the holiest cities in the world with special importance to monotheistic religions (judaism, christianiti and islam). One can enjoy walking in old walled city in the quarters muslum, hebrew, catholic, armenic. In the morning when it is stillempty or later when all shops are open and it is full of locals and tourists/pilgrims.

UAE – Abu Dhabi as capital has many interesting places (Mosque, Palace, Louvre museum, race track). In Dubai you have tallest building Burj Khalifa, Frame, Marina, Burj al Arab hotel, aquarium. Like in other Gulf countries you have beach in fornt, many malls in the city and desert in background.

Bahrain – mosque (not too big, nice guid, free), museum (closed on Tuesday), many malls, fort UNESCO site (no public transport, not guids or labels)

Kuwait – mosque (coldn’t enter it), many malls, port (old ships, fish market), towers (main attracztion, closed)

Oman – In capital Muscat has 2 nice mosques, palace and fort in old town, opera house. Nature here includes desert, many wadi valleys with springs and waterfalls.

Budget

Costs summarized are around 4000 €, 1100 € accomodation, 952 € transport, 717 € flights, 630 € food, 255 € tours, 237 € tickets, 180 € visas, 131 € misc. If I would include concert in Zagreb, dinner at House Denk, parties, cigaretts I would get close to 5000. For one month is it not excessive. But still I could save aproximatly one third of the money and be on budget below 3000 €. For that I would need some luck, more time to plan and travel companion.

All of these Middle East locations where more expensive than Ljubljana, except North Cyprus. Paphos/Nicosia was 20 % more expensive than Ljubljana, Limassol/Larnaca was 33 % more expansive, Larnaca. North Cyprus was half the prices in Ljubljana. Jordan prices are 33% less than in Ljubljana but for tourist they excide Ljubljanas prices. In Golf countries prices are 20%-50% higher than in Ljubljana, most expensive was Dubai than Abu Dhabi and cheapest was Oman if you go to touristic places. But if you go to parts with imigrants you can find prices lower than in Ljubljana.

ItemMin price/WhereMax price/Where
Beer1,9 € North Cyprus11 € Jerusalem/Abu Dhabi
Cigarette2,6 € North Cyprus10 € Petra
Water 2 l0,4 € Manama old town3 € Petra
Accommodationa17 € Nicosia/Abu Dhabi hostel112 € Abu Dhabi 5 star hotel
Meal1 € Salalah (burger)/Muscat ( pancake)24 € Larnaca (fish plate)
Bus ride0,75 € Bahrain2,5 € Muscat
Some of min and max prices in Middle East

I lost 10% on currency exchange rate. Euro was at its all time low. So just month later of few months before it was 10% cheaper to buy all curencies I used on my trip, except Turkish lira but I was there just few hours. This is just my luck. On graph below you can see JOD was 1.42 € when I bought it and now is 1.3 €. Aprox values of diffrent currencies in Middle East at time of my travel you paid for 1 EUR 18 Turkish lira TRY; 0,7 Jordan dinar JOD; 4 Emirates Dirham AED; 0,4 Bahrain Dinar BHD; 0,33 Kuwait Dinar KWD; 0,40 Oman Rial OMR.

Middle East for 1 month 1
Currency exchange rate

Biggest expense was accomodation, more than 1100 €. On average that is less than 40 € per night. In reality it ment some night 0, some nights over 100 € and all in between. So I could half this expenses by sleeping in hostels, shared aprartment, bad hotels or hotels in bad locations. Other option would be traveling with someone. In this case you would get rooms for 40% less per person. So with some upfront planing I could half expenses and sleep in not great rooms, or sleep in great rooms all the time for the same amount I spent.

Transport costs excluding flight was next, with almost 1000 € for all buses, taxis, renta a car, … Long bus rides between cities were around 20 € (Ljubljana-Zagreb, Maribor-Vienna, Vienna-Ljubljana, Muscat-Salalah, Eilat-Jerusalem). Rentacar was 186 €. Taxis and rented drivers were from 3 € up to 50 €. All this costs would be lower if I traveled with someone, used and shared rentacar expenses. Also 75 € I paid for my mistake – bus to Ljubljana. Budapest was not necessary cost.

11 flights for 717 € seems cheap but it could be cheaper for 50 % if I bought ticket at leat one moth before. Also using Wizzair dicount club would sasve me 50 €.

Food was 630 €, that is a bit over 20 € per day. I ate when I felt hungry, I drunk when I was thirsty and didn’t mind prices. Cheapest was 1 € breakfast in Oman and most expensive was 20 € omlete in Bahrain fancy mall. I could probably save on airport and airplane expenses some 100 € if I came prepared. I didn’t count alcool and party expenses, that would almost double this amount.

I took 3 tours, 255 €. One was to Wadi Rum for 84, second was 101 € Wadi Shab and desert tour in Abu Dhabi for 68 €. I could save if I done them myself, but that would mean renting a car and sharing it withone or more people.

For different ticket I paid 237 €. Overpaid was vistit to Burj Khalifa 160 € instead 40 € for 100 m lower deck. And 24 € for Petra by night was not good thing to do. Other tickets were not to expensive.

180 € for visas was neccesser expense. 15 € was my mistake for Bahrain visa. Jordan pass 110 € is OK choice you don’t need visa and Petra and Wadi Rum ticket is included. Maybe I could fly to Aqaba and could enter without visa and pay just one day for Petra.

Misc expenses accumulated to 131 €, but that is not to much.

Telecommunications, Visa, COVID

As we use our phone constantly we need access to internet. For Cyprus as for Vienna, Zagreb and Budapest this was not a problem while we are together in EU and there was no additional costs. In Northern Cyprus, Bahrain and Kuwait I turned off data on phone and searched for WiFi in hotels and bars. In Jordan I bought SIM directly at airport, 21 €, enough for 1 week. In UAE I bought SIM for 32 € and in Oman I paid SIM 15 €. I had enough data for Google maps, mails, and even Netflix watching daily.

For both sides of Cyprus (EU Shengen), UAE (up to 90 days) and Oman (up to 15 days) I didn’t need visa. For Jordan you need visa 56 €. You can avoid buying it if you buy Jordan pass (I paid 110 €, 2 day Petra visit, Wadi Rum, museums, visa included) or if you fly to Aqaba. When I exited Jordan and returned one day later at Aqaba I didn’t pay anything. Exit from Israel costs 28 €. For Bahrain (12.5 €) and Kuwait (9 €) you need visa. You can get it online or on arrival. I suggest you get it on arrival because online doesn’t speed up the proces and in Bahrain case is extra cost (10 €). Also you should know if you enter Israel you can’t enter (with same passport) to many countries in Middle East, like Lebanon, Syria, kuwait, Sudan … But now in Israel they don’t give you stamp. So except Syria and Lebanon where they check exit border you should be safe.

COVID – before I went on the trip there were different kind of information what would I need to enter Middle East countries. Worst was UAE, but on arrival I didn’t need anything. Also in UAE on public transport masks were obligatory but half of people wore it, so did I wear it selectivly. Also some people in services wore masks but not the customers. So there was no need for anything special in connection to COVID. Just have one FPP2 mask on you if it will be needed somwhere.


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