I am planning on traveling to the Middle East sometime around next summer, and am a little in over my head at this point. I am planning on making Cairo my first stop, and going across the Red Sea to Saudi Arabia, then go all the way up to Turkey, perhaps with a few stops in between. I was wondering if anyone knew if there is a way to cross from Saudi Arabia all the way to Turkey by bus or train. Are there ones that pass through Jordan and Syria, up to Turkey?
Any other advice would also be great!
As far as I know travelling in Saudi Arabia is restricted to expensive group tours only. So, i don't think you will be able to enter / cross the country independently.
From Egypt, you can take ferry to Jordan and obtain visa on arrival.
Best is to get visa for Syria at home, as it might be difficult to get it on arrival. Although not impossible, but you have to have a good reason to be able apply at the border. Note: with an israeli stamp in your passport, you can forget about entering Syria and crossing overland to Turkey.
Entering Turkey is straight forward.
You can also consider making a side trip to Kurdistani Iraq from east Turkey (as we did), should situation be ok in the very northern "safety" strip. Visa is on arrival.
As to many other travellers, to us, Syria was the highlight of our trip. For its great people, rich history and excellent food. So don't skip it! Hopefully, situation will resolve by next year.
Actually, travelling in this part of ME is a very pleasant experience. Sleeping on rooftops, listening to the music from nearby mosque, having a tea with locals, eating superb food, smoking shisha and visiting souqs. Very relaxing.
Bus will be the only option travelling in this region. Jordan is a bit more difficult to get around, but it's still ok. You can also consider hitching like locals (and we) do. Syria is also small and has good bus network. And Turkey has probably the most luxurious buses in the world, again with good network and regular services.
For Jordan, count with 15-20 euros a day. For Syria, 10-15 euros. Turkey will be more expensive, maybe 25-40 depending on what accommodation is available (hostel or only hotel) and how much distance you want to cover on buses.
Guidebooks and wikitravel will be useful for planning the trip a bit and getting around.
Other good news: we met mainly very nice and intelligent travellers in this region, so you can always find nice company.
Have a very nice trip!
We did Turkey - Syria - Jordan this spring. It was great fun! Make sure your passport don't get stamped on the Jordanian border with Israel, because you will not be able to enter Syria.
Once in Jordan, there are regular buses from Aqaba to Amman. Then you better use taxi service to Damascus. From Damascus to Istanbul you can easy get a bus ...
Thank you guys! I actually would prefer not to have to cross through Saudi Arabia so that is kind of a relief to hear! I didn't think that you could take a ferry straight from Egypt to Jordan. Can anyone give me a better sense as to how easy it is for tourists to actually travel through that region of the ME? I speak some Egyptian Arabic. Enough to hold a basic conversation. However I'm not sure how handy that particular Arabic will come in outside of Egypt? Will I be able to find all the buses/accommodations I need easily? I have never traveled alone and this is going to be quit the adventure for me, but I am nervous!
There are 2 ways to go to Jordan from Egypt - by ferry and over land. Once in Aqaba (Jordan) stay overnight and get the early morning bus to Amman. Once in Amman arrange yourself a taxi to Damascus. -snip-
In Damascus stay in Damascus hostel - very nice and cheap place. They will help you buy your ticket to Istanbul.
[ Edit: Sorry, no personal contact details please. ]
Do not go to Israel until you last stop if you want to go to Lebanon or Syria. Even if you don't get it stamped at the bridge crossing in Jordan, there's only one place to go on that bridge - to Israel - and they'll know you crossed. They won't let you in with Israeli stamps - no exceptions. If you're American you can get an extra passport for this purpose, but they seem to be on to that also, lots of Americans showing up in their countries with brand spanking new passports never stamped. So, like I said, save Israel for last if you want to go into those two countries.