Getting there and away
All visitors to Jordan need a passport with at least six-month validity remaining on arrival, and an entry visa, which can be obtained before departure at any Jordanian embassy, or on arrival into Jordan at any port of entry, except if entering via the King Hussein Bridge (Allenby Bridge) on the Jordan/Israel border.
Obtaining a visa at an airport or port is a straightforward procedure. Single-entry visas, which cost JD20, are valid for 30 days. If you are entering the kingdom via Aqaba – Aqaba Special Economic Zone – then the 30-day single-entry visa is free. If you plan to stay longer you can easily extend the validity of your visa for up to three months, to a maximum of six months, at any police station after your arrival. It is advisable to register with the police a few days prior to the expiry of your single-entry visa if wishing to extend it. Visas, when purchased in Jordan, should be paid for in local currency. Visa charges are not applicable if you are arriving with a group of five or more people through an official Jordanian tour operator. If your visit involves crossing into Jordan from Israel via the King Hussein Bridge (Allenby Bridge) you must have purchased a visa in advance. Multiple-entry visas are available at JD60 and valid for six months, but these are only available from Jordanian embassies and consulates. Multiple-entry visas are ideal if you plan to cross borders and re-enter Jordan a number of times during your visit. Apply for a multiple-entry visa from your local embassy before your initial day of departure.
Exit tax is no longer applicable when you leave Jordan, other than with a vehicle. An exit service fee of JD5 per vehicle and JD8 per passenger is applicable at all land and sea border points.
Visas are granted to visitors from the following countries, but do check with your embassy prior to departure as requirements can change. Citizens of all other countries should contact their local Jordanian consulate or embassy prior to departure for up-to-date advice on requirements and whether a visa must be obtained before travel. Failure to have the correct documentation can result in you not being allowed entry into the kingdom.
Getting there and away
The Queen Alia International Airport in Amman is the main airport of Jordan and the home of its national airline, Royal Jordanian Airlines. It is also a major hub for Jordan Aviation, a private-owned Amman-based airline that serves the Middle East, Africa and Europe, along with providing transportation for the UN peacekeeping forces. VIP flight specialist and charter company Royal Falcon Airlines and a former subsidiary of Royal Jordanian Airlines, Arab Wings, fly from the airport too. The airport lies around 32km south of Amman city centre on the edge of the desert, and is easily reached via the country’s main highway linking the south with Amman.
Jordan has a short coastline and a port and ferry terminal where cruise ships and passenger vessels from Egypt dock. Independent travellers can use a car-ferry service operated by Arab Bridge Maritime Company (03 209 2000; 03 209 2001; www.abmaritime.com.jo) that plies a route between Nuweiba in Egypt and Aqaba in southern Jordan. Fast ferry departures from Nuweiba are at 11.00 and 17.00 and return departures from Aqaba are at 08.00 and 13.00, Sunday to Friday but times can and do vary so check the current timetable at least a day before your planned trip. The journey takes roughly one hour and costs around JD60 one way per person. The slow ferry departs from Nuweiba at 14.30, returning from Aqaba at midnight; both daily, but again subject to change. The slow ferry takes around three hours and costs around JD50. Vehicles on all crossings are charged separately, from around JD40 for a motorcycle and JD140 for a car. It is advisable to purchase your ferry ticket in advance if you can, as the passenger terminal in both Nuweiba and Aqaba can be busy prior to departures. Allow yourself plenty of time before your departure. Sindbad Xpress (Maysloon St, Aqaba; 03 205 0077; email@example.com; www.sindbadjo.com) also operates fast passenger catamaran crossings from Egypt’s Taba Heights Marina in Taba, South Sinai, to Aqaba’s marina in Tala Bay, South Beach (variable departure times; duration 25mins; from around JD70). The Tala Bay marina is located a ten-minute drive south of the city centre. To enter Jordan by sea you will need a visa. If, during your holiday in Jordan, you intend to travel to Egypt, you will need to obtain an Egyptian visa, which can be purchased onboard both the fast and slower vessels. If you are planning to return to Jordan after your trip to Egypt and have a multiple-entry visa obtained when you first arrived then your arrival back in Aqaba should be straightforward.
The only route into Jordan by train is from Syria, but at the time of publication this service is suspended because of unrest in and around Damascus. Normally, the Hejaz Railway (tickets available from the railway station on the day of departure only; JD2.50) trains run between Damascus and Amman once a week for the journey through often-spectacular countryside. The trip takes around nine hours. On a Sunday the train leaves Damascus at 07.30 and arrives in Amman at 17.00. It leaves Amman on Mondays at 08.00, arriving in Damascus at 17.00. Although there is a single-track railway line between Amman and Aqaba, there is no passenger service.
Air-conditioned buses operated by the Jordan Express Tourist Transportation Company (JETT) in Amman (06 585 4679; 06 585 4176; www.jett.com.jo) and Syria’s state-owned bus company, Karnak, run between Damascus and Amman twice daily (be sure to check the bus schedule before your planned journey as at the time of publication this service is subject to cancellations due to unrest in Syria). Buses generally arrive and depart from Abdali Bus Station in Amman to the Karnak bus station in Damascus. Journey time is around five hours, including the time it takes to complete formalities at the border crossing. A one-way ticket costs JD8 for adults and JD5 for children. This is a popular route so it is advisable to book several days in advance. Tickets are available from JETT, the Karnak offices at Karnak bus station and the Syrian Agency (tel: +963 118126238).
JETT and local operator, the Saudi Public Transport Company (SAPTCO) (+966 (01) 2884400; +966 (01) 2884411; firstname.lastname@example.org; www.saptco.com.sa), operate daily bus services between Riyadh, Jeddah and Dammam in Saudi Arabia to the Abdali bus station in Amman. The journey time from Riyad is approximately 17 hours, from Jeddah 18 hours and from Dammam around 21 hours. The companies also run a three-times-a-week service between the Saudi Arabia cities of Qaseem and Medina to Amman. Tickets are available from JETT and SAPTCO.
JETT services between Baghdad in Iraq and Amman run three times a week with a journey time of around 15 hours, while four times a week it operates a service between Beirut in Lebanon, in conjunction with the Transport & Tourist Services Company of Lebanon (S Solh Av, Badaro, Beirut; +961 1 399 777; +961 1 399 780; email@example.com). Journey time is around six hours. JETT, in conjunction with local operator Egyptian Super Jet of the Arab Unity Company (+202 2 290 9013; firstname.lastname@example.org) provides a service between Cairo in Egypt and Amman four times a week. Journey time is around 22 hours.
If you are planning to visit Jordan from Israel or the Palestinian Territories, you will find local buses or taxis from Damascus Gate in East Jerusalem that will drive you to the crossing point at the King Hussein Bridge (Allenby Bridge). Here your passport, visa and luggage will be checked, you will pay an exit tax, and then be escorted to a shuttle bus to the Jordanian terminal. From here you can take a service taxi for onward travel to Amman.
Driving a car into Jordan is relatively straightforward through most of the border crossing points. There will be no duty to pay for up to one year unless you sell the vehicle to a local resident. To drive in Jordan you must have a full picture driving licence valid in your country of origin which you have held for at least one year. Be sure to take full insurance documents with you to show if asked to do so. For peace of mind you may wish to purchase added insurance in Jordan, which is generally inexpensive. Among the companies offering motor insurance are the Jordan International Insurance Company (www.jiig.com), the Jordan French Insurance Company (www.jofico.com) and the Jordan Insurance Company (www.jicjo.com). All travel over land into Jordan is subject to border crossing controls, not all of which are open 24 hours.
Private taxis and service taxis, known as serveeces (pronounced servees) operate to and from the Abdali bus station in Amman to most cities of the neighbouring countries and from the King Hussein Bridge at the Israeli border. Private metered taxis are comfortable and not overly expensive; as a guide expect to pay around JD60 for a trip from Damascus to Amman, and about JD30 from the King Hussein Bridge to Amman. Service taxis are cheaper; for the same journeys expect to pay around JD12 and JD7 per person respectively. If you want the taxi to yourself you can negotiate a rate.
National carrier Royal Jordanian (03 201 8633; email@example.com; www.rj.com) operates scheduled, twice-daily flights (morning and early evening) between Amman and Aqaba, which makes it easy to travel between the north and the south of the country. The flight time between the two cities is just 45 minutes. Ticket prices are as little as JD23 excluding tax.
The public transport system in Jordan can be a little bewildering to visitors and you may find it easier and more convenient to hire one of the bright yellow taxis with green panels on the side doors that can be seen everywhere. Aqaba has its own fleet of lime green taxis that operate in the same way. Around town a journey by taxi will set you back just a few JDs. For example, from the Queen Alia International Airport in Amman a taxi will cost around JD15 for the 50-minute, 32km journey. Your taxi driver should always switch on the meter around town, which starts at JD0.15 and rises in increments. If your budget allows, you can always telephone to book one of the smart silver radio taxis from your hotel, although these are only available in Amman.
A cheaper option to both the yellow cabs and the silver radio cars in Amman is the serveeces taxis (service taxis), which can be a fast, convenient way to travel if you don’t mind sharing the vehicle with others. This service is available in most towns. The idea is you flag a serveeces vehicle down, and providing your destination is one on their predetermined route they will take you there for 80 or so fils. The vehicles are easy to spot; they are usually Peugeot 504s or Mercedes, and have a sign indicating they are a serveeces taxi, but their destination and number are always in Arabic. If you cannot read Arabic don’t despair; flag one down and ask the driver if your destination is on his route. Most drivers speak good English. The chances are you’ll be planning a trip to Downtown Amman, to the Abdali bus station or to the commercial district, and you’ll find that most serveeces taxis run between the three.
It is also possible to hire taxis for longer journeys, to the Dead Sea, Petra, Wadi Rum or Jerash from Amman or Aqaba, for instance. However, be aware that while a taxi journey around Amman or Aqaba will be inexpensive, the further afield you go the rate per kilometre rises alarmingly. In the end, you may feel a rental car is a better option if you’re planning lots of long trips. Serveeces minibuses are the cheapest option and likely to cost around JD30 for a typical trip from Amman to Petra. It will be direct, however, and you may find yourself squashed in.
An alternative is to hire one of the yellow and green taxis in Amman or the lime green taxis in Aqaba for private use for a few hours, a day or even for a few days. Be sure to negotiate or at least check the price you will be charged for such trips before embarking on them. You may be looking at over JD80 for a straightforward round day trip from Amman to Petra, or from Aqaba to Petra, but when you consider your driver will usually have a good command of English, will be knowledgeable about the sights and take pleasure in chatting to you about Jordan, and is sure to be happy to stop if you want a break or to take some photographs, then you may feel the taxi fare is worth every dinar. It’s generally a comfortable way to travel, more direct and convenient, especially if you are in Jordan for just a few days and want to see as many of its fabulous sights as you can.
A word to the wise; Jordan has very few female taxi drivers, although the number is on the increase, and a local women taking a taxi would never dream of getting in the front seat with a male driver. This applies even if they are travelling with a male companion. It is simply not the done thing. Foreign women should do the same to avoid any misunderstandings
Jordan has a number of bus companies that provide fast and regular links between the cities in either larger minibuses or gleaming air-conditioned intercity buses. The JETT bus company is the largest, and its fleet of modern blue-and-white luxury buses can often be seen running up and down the Desert Highway to Aqaba in the south, or north to Irbid. It operates to a daily timetable with buses linking the major towns and the King Hussein Bridge, along with main tourist destinations like Petra and Jerash. The hub of its operation is the Abdali and Wahdat bus stations in Amman. Most destinations around Amman and to the north are served out of Abdali, but if you’re planning a longer trip to, say, Aqaba, Petra, Ma’an, Karak or Madaba to the south then your JETT bus will leave from the Wahdat bus station. The destination of the bus will be clearly shown on the front; the downside is it will be in Arabic. If you don’t read Arabic then you’re almost sure to find the driver speaks good English and will happily point you in the right direction for your bus.
Enterprising businesses also run minibuses in competition with the large shiny air-conditioned buses. These seat around 18 people and depart when full. The advantages to travelling by minibus are that they are far cheaper than the larger buses, and, because they do not run to a timetable and are a popular mode of transport for locals, they often run more regularly on busy routes. That said, if you are travelling to a more remote region or a small town, the chances are you may have a wait for your bus to fill up and depart. It’s something to consider if time is a key part of your journey. In terms of fares, to use the Amman to Petra and Aqaba to Petra example again, typically you will pay less than JD2 for a minibus, compared to around JD8 on a scheduled air-conditioned bus.
While discussions to introduce passenger trains have been afoot for decades there is currently no service, other than the Hejaz Railway that runs between Amman and Damascus in Syria. You may catch sight of the narrow track that runs south of Amman down to Aqaba, and if you’re lucky you may even see one of the lovely old steam trains that ply the route. However, these only ever carry freight, especially phosphates, between the cities.
Renting a car and touring around Jordan on your own has lots of advantages and is relatively straightforward, if a tad alarming at times. Driving is on the right, but given that many roads aren’t marked with lanes, especially in rural areas, and locals tend to drive without too much thought to rights of way (which can be particularly problematic at roundabouts), it can all be a bit of a challenge for the faint-hearted. In busy areas the drama of drivers sounding their horn is all part of daily life.