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Jordan - Health and safety
People new to exotic travel often worry about tropical diseases, but it is accidents that are the biggest risk. Road accidents are very common in many parts of Jordan, so be aware and do what you can to reduce the risks. Try to travel during daylight hours, always wear a seatbelt and refuse to be driven by anyone who has been drinking. Listen to local advice about areas where violent crime is rife.
Preparations to ensure a healthy trip to Jordan require checks on your immunisation status: it is wise to be up to date on tetanus, polio and diphtheria (now given as an all-in-one vaccine, Revaxis, that lasts for ten years), typhoid and hepatitis A. Immunisations against hepatitis B and rabies may also be recommended.
Proof of vaccination against yellow fever is needed for entry into Jordan if you are coming from another yellow fever endemic area. (Visit the National Travel Health Network and Centre’s website at www.nathnac.org for more information on affected countries.) If the vaccine is not suitable for you then obtain an exemption certificate from your GP or a travel clinic, although this is not an absolute guarantee that they will accept the waiver. Immunisation against cholera is not usually required for Jordan unless there are known to be current outbreaks – though as the climate is dry this is rare. Hepatitis A vaccine is recommended for those aged one and above (Havrix Monodose or Avaxim) and comprises two injections given about a year apart. The course costs about £100, but may be available on the NHS. It protects for 25 years and can be administered even close to the time of departure. Hepatitis B vaccination should be considered for longer trips (two months or more) or for those working with children or in situations where contact with blood is likely. Three injections are needed for the best protection and can be given over a three-week period of time is short for those aged 16 or over. Longer schedules give more sustained protection and are therefore preferred if time allows and for those under 16. Hepatitis A vaccine can also be given as a combination with hepatitis B as ‘Twinrix’, though two doses are needed at least seven days apart to be effective for the hepatitis A component, and three doses are needed for the hepatitis B. The timing is age dependent as for the hepatitis B.
The newer injectable typhoid vaccines (eg: Typhim Vi) last for three years and are about 85% effective. Oral capsules (Vivotif) may also be available for those aged six and over. Three capsules over five days lasts for approximately three years but may be less effective than the injectable forms. They should be encouraged unless the traveller is leaving within a few days for a trip of a week or less, when the vaccine would not be effective in time. Vaccinations for rabies are ideally advised for everyone, but are especially important for travellers visiting more remote areas, especially if you are more than 24 hours from medical help and definitely if you will be working with animals. Experts differ over whether a BCG vaccination against tuberculosis (TB) is useful in adults: discuss this with your travel clinic.
Travel clinics and health information
A full list of current travel clinic websites worldwide is available on www.istm.org. For other journey preparation information, consult www.travelhealthpro.org.uk (UK) or http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/ (US). Information about various medications may be found on www.netdoctor.co.uk/travel. All advice found online should be used in conjunction with expert advice received prior to or during travel.
Jordan is generally a safe place to visit and if you venture out after about 19.00 in the evening you will probably find the main towns and cities almost deserted. Having said that, there are incidents of crime and you should be vigilant against pickpockets and petty thieves, especially in busier places.
As in many other countries in the world, there is a threat of terrorism and the occasional outburst of politically inspired unrest. You should be vigilant. The most recent period of unrest was in 2011 when street protests in Downtown Amman, fuelled by uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt, and incidents along the Jordan–Syria border resulted in a small number of injuries and reports of deaths. If you happen upon political rallies or demonstrations, whether organised or spontaneous, it is wise to avoid them for your own safety.
Women travelling alone should exercise the usual caution against crimes of a sexual nature, and in particular decline any offer, of a lift from strangers. Jordanians are a modest people and consider women dressing in a provocative manner unpleasant. If you dress is such a way, there is every possibility that you might be harassed by men thinking that you may be available. The wisest option is to dress modestly, for which you will be respected. You should cover your shoulders and arms, and never wear miniskirts or shorts.
If you are harassed, either verbally or more unlikely physically, then shout angrily and you will almost certainly embarrass your harasser. It is unacceptable for men to touch a woman, except possibly in a business situation where colleagues shake hands, and even then the woman would instigate the gesture.
It is also inappropriate for women to sit next to a male driver if travelling in, for example, a taxi. It is best to sit in the back to avoid any misunderstanding. On buses, it is generally accepted amongst Jordanians that you do not sit next to someone of the opposite sex unless you are married. A woman travelling alone should find another woman to sit next to. Wearing a ring to suggest you are a married woman even if you are not is also often a good deterrent against unwanted male attention. The Jordanian police advise that should you find yourself a victim of harassment, or become lost or stranded always call the emergency number (tel: 191 or 192) for assistance.
Homosexuality is illegal in Jordan, although it is widely known that Amman has a small, circumspect underground gay and lesbian scene. If you were to happen upon the areas frequented by gay and lesbian couples you probably wouldn’t even be aware of it, such is its discretion. However, public shows of affection between same sex couples, such as holding hands or kissing as a greeting, is all part of the social scene.