Bargaining is expected in Jordan but the margin of movement in terms of the starting and final price is not that great. In fact, haggling over small change is more about social exchange than getting a discount. There are helpful guidelines to get a good deal, but in summary, fix on a maximum price the object is worth to you and if the seller matches it, that's a good price.
Dangers & Annoyances
Jordan is very safe to visit and, despite local dissatisfaction with issues such as Iraqi immigration, the Syrian refugee crisis, unemployment and high inflation, you are unlikely to feel any hint of the turmoil of neighbouring countries.
The democratic uprising during the Arab Spring of 2011 was only fleetingly experienced in Jordan. King Abdullah II is a respected leader and has wide public support for his efforts in introducing democratic reforms and curbing public corruption.
Jordan lives in a tough neighbourhood and has had to deal with the civil wars across the border in Syria and Iraq, as well as the aftermath of the Egyptian revolution and the ongoing Palestinian situation. For all this, the country is reassuringly calm and stable. That said, there are occasional demonstrations in support of the Palestinians in Karak, Tafila and Ma’an, and in the university areas of Irbid, Mu’tah and northern Amman, and occasional disturbances in the Zaatari camp for Syrian refugees.
The last major terrorist attack in Jordan was the 2005 suicide bombing of three hotels in Amman, which killed 60 people and injured 115, carried out by Iraqi Al Qaeda affiliates. A similar plot was foiled in 2012. Jordan strengthened its anti-terrorism laws in 2014 to clamp down on potential trouble from Syrian jihadists, and maintains close links to US and British security forces. One or two isolated incidents have occurred each year since 2014, none of which have dented Jordan's peaceful reputation.
Theft & Crime
Jordan has low levels of crime. Leaving your bag under the watchful eye of a member of staff at a bus station or hotel is generally safe, so avoid jumping to conclusions if something goes missing – locals have a lot to lose in a country where stealing from guests is particularly frowned upon.
Punishments are harsh and, in a country where unemployment is high, there is a serious chance of losing a job without much hope of recovering a livelihood in future. Inevitably, however, there are one or two scams to look out for.
- Taken for a ride The taxi fare quoted on the meter is in fils, not in dinars, and visitors often misunderstand this when paying. Perhaps understandably, it is rare for a taxi driver to point out this mistake.
- Crafty business Shop owners often claim something is locally crafted as part of a profit-share scheme, when in fact it is imported from abroad.
- Money for old rope So-called antiques are often merely last year’s stock that’s gathered an authentic-looking layer of dust. Similarly, ‘ancient’ oil lamps and coins are seldom what they seem.
- Full or five? At many petrol stations if you ask for 'full', the attendant fills up to the value of JD5, pleading misunderstanding, and then fills the tank and adds JD5 on top.
- Your money or your lights! Some kids on the roads between Madaba and the Dead Sea have taken to holding up rental cars demanding sweets or 'One JD'. If the driver refuses, they stone the car, aiming in particular for the lights.
- Cosy in a cave At Petra, a common scam is for men to befriend single women and offer them the moon, bedding down under the stars and promising them the world. The requests for money begin in the cold light of day and continue with different degrees of sophistication, often long after the love-struck visitor has returned home.
The Other Side of the 'Scam'
Taxi driver wouldn’t use the meter? Paid more than a friend for the same item? These may sound like routine scams but there’s often a legitimate reason. Jordanians take pride in their moral compass, and tourists on the whole are treated with respect and fairness. Here are some different perspectives given by service providers that may cast so-called scams in a different light.
- Taxi fares? The fare is set by the government and hasn’t been adjusted for inflation; taxi drivers usually agree on fair fares with locals, but it’s harder to negotiate with tourists who don’t speak Arabic.
- Room rates? Small hotels have to respond to fluctuations in tourist numbers, or they go bust. For some, this means offering unrealistic rates in low season; for others, it means raising prices to cover investments made in anticipation of a good season.
- Minibus overcharging? Foreigners don’t like waiting until the bus is full – drivers are happy to leave early but it means making up the cost of a full load. As for luggage, that often takes up the place of a fee-paying passenger.
- Double standards? When you're haggling, an item costs whatever a vendor is happy to sell for, balanced against whatever a buyer is happy to pay for during that one transaction. Comparison with other travellers’ experiences can be a pointless exercise.
Simple Safety Precautions
- Agree on a fare before you get in the taxi (or make sure the driver is using the meter).
- Do some research about genuine fair-trade establishments if you want your purchase to have added value.
- Pay the sum for an item based on how much you like it and want it, not on how much you think it is worth.
- Carry wallets or purses in a front pocket and avoid carrying too much cash. Keep small change (for taxis and the like) separate to avoid getting your main stash out in public.
- Keep a copy of your passport buried in your luggage, and a digital photo in an email account or on an online server.
- Be careful late at night outside nightclubs in Amman: pickpockets and muggers are attracted by the patronage of intoxicated, vulnerable and comparatively wealthy foreigners.
Jordan is a signatory to the Ottawa International Mine Ban Treaty, and in 2012 became the first Arab country to declare itself free of landmines. Sections of the Jordan–Syria border previously contained large minefields. These have now been cleared, although there are unsubstantiated reports that more mines have been laid on the Syrian side recently because of that country’s civil war.
Commitment to Safety
Over the past decade, the Jordanian government has invested significantly in tourism. Now, with so much at stake in terms of revenue, there is a collective desire among Jordanians to maintain Jordan’s reputation as a safe destination. Some of the measures taken by the government for this purpose include the following:
- A high security presence in many tourist hotels throughout Jordan.
- Metal detectors at hotels and some public buildings.
- Tourist police are present at all major sites.
- Checkpoints monitor all border zones.
- Be vigilant in the cities, keeping clear of large public gatherings.
- Cooperate politely with security checks in hotel foyers and at road checkpoints.
- Keep abreast of the news in English-language newspapers published in Amman.
- Check the latest travel warnings online through your country’s state department or ministry.
- Consult your embassy or consulate in Jordan for specific concerns.
- Register with your embassy or consulate on arrival if there have been recent public order issues.
- Trust the police, military and security services. They are overwhelmingly friendly, honest and hospitable, in common with their compatriots.
- Don’t be paranoid – the chances of running into trouble are rare.
- Don’t get involved if you witness political protests or civil unrest.
- Don’t strike up conversations of a stridently political nature with casual acquaintances.
Government Travel Advice
The following government websites offer travel advisories and information on current hotspots.
- Australian Department of Foreign Affairs & Trade (www.smarttraveller.gov.au)
- British Foreign & Commonwealth Office (www.fco.gov.uk)
- Canadian Department of Foreign Affairs & International Trade (www.dfait-maeci.gc.ca)
- US State Department (http://travel.state.gov)
- Buying a Jordan Pass (www.jordanpass.jo; with one/two/three days' entry to Petra JD70/75/80) represents a valuable way to save money – and time queuing for tickets.
- International Student Identity Card (ISIC) can be used for discounts at some tourist sites.
- University ID cards are not accepted.
Practical Tip: Jordan Pass
The Jordan Pass (www.jordanpass.jo) is a highly recommended discount scheme offered by the Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities that is easily obtained and readily recognised throughout Jordan. If passes are purchased online before arrival, the cost of a tourist visa for three or more nights' stay in Jordan is waived, in addition to giving free entry to Petra, Jerash and more than 40 other attractions. There are three categories of pass that differ only in the number of days of entry covered at Petra – Jordan Wanderer (JD70; one day at Petra), Jordan Explorer (JD75; two days at Petra) and Jordan Expert (JD80; three days at Petra).
Jordan takes a mix-and-match approach to electrical sockets. European round two- and three-pin plugs along with British square three-pin plugs are all used across the country, with frequency seemingly determined only by what the electrician had to hand during installation.
Embassies & Consulates
Most embassies and consulates are in Amman. In general, offices are open 9am to 11am Sunday to Thursday for visa applications and 1pm to 3pm for collecting visas.
German Embassy Between 4th and 5th Circles.
Lebanese Embassy Near the UK embassy.
Netherlands Embassy Near the 4th Circle.
Emergency & Important Numbers
|Jordan's country code||962|
|International access code||00|
|Ambulance, fire, police||911|
Entry & Exit Formalities
Entering Jordan is straightforward whether by air, land or sea, with visas and money exchange facilities available at all borders.
Always carry your passport with you when travelling around sensitive areas, such as near the border of Israel and the Palestinian Territories, along the Dead Sea Highway and roads linking the Dead Sea Highway to interior towns. Checkpoints and passport checks are common in all these areas.
It is important to remember that you may have difficulty entering some Middle Eastern countries from Jordan if you have a visa stamp in your passport from Israel, although generally visitors are given a loose-leaf Israeli entry card not a stamp.
- 1L of alcoholic spirits or two bottles of wine
- 200 cigarettes or 25 cigars or 200g of tobacco
- A ‘reasonable amount of perfume for personal use’
- Gifts up to the value of JD50 or the equivalent of US$150
- Prohibitions include drugs, weapons, and pornographic films and magazines
- Exporting anything more than 100 years old is illegal, so don’t buy any souvenir (including ‘ancient’ coins or oil lamps) that is deemed to be ‘antique’. If you’re unsure about an item’s provenance, contact the Customs Department (www.customs.gov.jo).
Visas, required by all visitors, are available (JD40 for most nationalities) at the international airports and most of Jordan’s land borders. Buying a Jordan Pass (www.jordanpass.jo) online before entering gives free access to many sites in Jordan, including Petra, and waives the visa fee.
At the Airport
Visas are issued on arrival at the immigration desks in the airport in Amman. There’s no form filling involved. Payment must be made in Jordanian dinars.
At Land Borders
Visas for Jordan are issued on arrival at Sheikh Hussein Bridge or Wadi Araba from Israel, but not at King Hussein Bridge. The Jordan Pass (www.jordanpass.jo) is recognised at all land borders. Borders with Iraq and Syria are open but are considered unsafe.
Check the latest status of Jordan's border crossings on the Jordan Tourism Board website (http://international.visitjordan.com/GeneralInformation/GettingAround/Bordercrossings.aspx).
Via the Aqaba Economic Zone
If you arrive in Jordan’s southern city of Aqaba by air on an international flight or by sea from Nuweiba in Egypt, you are entitled to a free visa as part of the free-trade agreement with the Aqaba Special Economic Zone Area (ASEZA).
Multiple-entry visas (from JD60) must be obtained in advance from Jordanian consulates or embassies outside the country. In the Middle East, you can find Jordanian embassies in all the neighbouring states, including Israel and the Palestinian Territories. You may want to avoid getting a Jordanian multiple-entry visa from the latter, however, if you intend to travel elsewhere in the region because many Arab countries refuse entry to those who have Israeli stamps or documentation in their passports.
In Amman and Aqaba visas can easily be extended, for a charge of JD40, for stays of up to three months. The process is simple but involves a little running around, although you’re unlikely to spend more than 30 minutes in each office.
- Ask staff at your hotel to write a short letter confirming where you are staying.
- Ask them to fill out two copies of a small card (or photocopy) that states all the hotel details.
- Fill out the application form for an extension on the back of this card (it’s in Arabic but staff at your hotel can help you read it and answers can be in English).
- Take the form, letter, photocopies of the front pages of your passport and the Jordanian visa page, and your passport to the relevant police station.
- Plan to arrive at the police station between 10am and 3pm Saturday to Thursday (best to go early).
- Wait for the extension (usually granted on the spot).
After assembling the necessary paperwork, it takes about 30 minutes to complete the registration process at a police station. You may be required to have an HIV test, which usually takes 24 hours to process. The maximum stay allowed on an extended tourist visa is six months. Failure to register results in a fine of JD1.500 for every day you have overstayed. This is payable when you extend, or on departure from Jordan at a counter just before immigration at Queen Alia International Airport in Amman.
In Amman, you can start the process of lodging your visa extension paperwork at Al Madeenah Police Station, opposite the Arab Bank.
Visiting Arab Countries with an Israeli Passport Stamp
Given historic tensions between Arab countries and Israel, any evidence of a visit to Israel in your passport (such as an entry or exit stamp from a Jordanian border crossing) can potentially bar you from entering a number of countries in the region in the future, so if you’re combining your stay in Jordan with a trip to Israel, there are a few things to bear mind.
- When you enter or leave Israel, immigration officials issue you with a separate immigration form instead of stamping your passport. Keep this safe, as losing it can cause big problems.
- If you’re crossing into Israel from Jordan via the King Hussein Bridge, you can ask the Jordanian officials to stamp a piece of paper instead of your passport. Alternatively, you can fly into and out of Ben Gurion airport in Tel Aviv (there are direct flights from Amman).
- Proof of having visited Israel isn’t a problem for every Arab or Middle Eastern country. It’s fine for Jordan, Egypt, Turkey, Oman, Tunisia and Morocco. Officially, Bahrain, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates will refuse you entry if you have evidence of a visit to Israel in your passport, but in reality they don’t always look for an offending stamp. Lebanon, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Libya, Yemen, Iraq and Syria will all automatically refuse you entry.
It makes sense for most travellers to buy a Jordan Pass (www.jordanpass.jo) online before entering the country: this waives the cost of a visa in addition to giving free access to many sites in Jordan, including Petra.
While Jordanians are quite hard to offend in general, they do appreciate some common courtesies.
- Greetings Men shake hands (or kiss cheeks) with other men but not always with women. If in doubt, touch your heart instead.
- Controlled temper Getting angry in public is considered unacceptable. Find a calm way to settle a dispute (for example, in a car accident).
- Hands The left hand is reserved for ablutions. Pass food and shake hands with the right hand.
- Feet Shoes are considered unclean. Remove shoes in houses and mosques, and avoid pointing the soles of feet at others.
- Taboo subjects Discussion about sensitive subjects like politics are best avoided.
- Respect Jordan has a conservative culture. Avoid wearing tight or revealing clothing or taking photos without permission.
- Religious norms Muslims fast during Ramadan. Avoid eating and drinking in public at that time and never offer a Muslim alcohol.
Homosexuality is illegal in most Islamic countries in the Middle East, but in Jordan gay sex is legal, and the age of consent is 16. Public displays of affection by heterosexuals are frowned upon, and the same rules apply to gays and lesbians, although same-sex hand-holding is a common sign of friendship in Jordan.
The legality of homosexuality shouldn't be confused with full societal acceptance, and discrimination and harassment are common. There is a subdued underground gay scene in Amman – if you’re keen to explore it, keep your enquiries discreet. Gay-friendly venues that attract young, gay and straight crowds include the multipurpose Books@café and the Blue Fig Café in Amman.
Check www.gayguide.net/middle_east and the gay and lesbian forum on Lonely Planet’s Thorn Tree bulletin board (www.lonelyplanet.com/thorntree) for more information.
Travel insurance that covers theft, loss and medical problems is essential. The policy should cover ambulance fees and emergency flights home.
Some policies specifically exclude ‘dangerous activities’, which can include motorcycling and even trekking. You must have insurance if you plan to dive in Aqaba – decompression-chamber treatment is an expensive business!
You may prefer a policy that pays doctors or hospitals directly. Alternatively, if you submit a claim after the event, ensure you keep all documentation. Some policies ask you to call back (reverse charges) to a centre in your home country where an immediate assessment of your problem is made.
Worldwide travel insurance is available at www.lonelyplanet.com/travel-insurance. You can buy, extend and claim online anytime – even if you’re already on the road.
Checking insurance quotes…
Wi-fi is standard (and mostly offered free) in hotels of most budgets, as well as many cafes and restaurants.
The Jordanian legal system has evolved from distinct traditions. Civil and commercial law is largely based on British-style common law, while religious and family matters are generally covered by Islamic Sharia courts, or ecclesiastic equivalents for non-Muslims. In a nutshell:
- The legal age for driving and drinking is 18.
- The age of consent for men and women is 16.
- You can be prosecuted under the law of your home country regarding age of consent, even when abroad.
- Travellers are expected to respect the law.
- Penalties for drug use of any kind are stiff.
- Criticising the king is illegal.
- Excessive speeding, drunk driving and seatbelt avoidance are not tolerated.
- If you break the law, your embassy can only contact your relatives and recommend local lawyers.
The Jordan Tourism Board’s free Map of Jordan is a handy map, with a plan of Amman on the reverse. The Royal Geographic Centre of Jordan also publishes good maps, including a hiking map of Petra.
Several detailed maps are available outside Jordan: ITMB’s 1:700,000 map Jordan is probably the easiest map to find, Jordan by Kümmerly and Frey is the best driving map, and the latest edition of GEO Project’s Jordan (1:730,000) has an excellent map of Amman.
- Radio Popular radio stations include Radio Jordan (96.3 FM), BBC World Service (1323 AM) and Popular Hits (99.6 FM).
- Newspapers The key English-language newspaper is the Jordan Times (www.jordantimes.com).
- TV Jordan’s Channel 2 (French and English) and satellite channels (BBC, CNN, MTV, Al Jazeera) are available in most midrange and top-end hotels.
ATMs are available throughout the country and credit cards are widely used.
It is possible to travel in Jordan almost entirely on plastic. ATMs giving cash advances abound in all but the smaller towns. There are no local charges on credit card cash advances, but check the maximum daily withdrawal amount with your card provider. All banks have large signs (in English) indicating which credit cards they accept.
Visa is the most widely accepted card at ATMs, followed by MasterCard. Other cards, such as Cirrus and Plus, are also accepted by many ATMs.
It’s easy to change money in Jordan. Most major currencies are accepted in cash. US dollars, UK pounds and euros are easier to change than Australian or New Zealand dollars.
There are no restrictions on bringing dinars into Jordan. It’s possible to change dinars back into some foreign currencies in Jordan.
Lebanese, Egyptian and Israeli currency can all be changed in Amman. Egyptian and Israeli currency are also easily changed in Aqaba. Banks and moneychangers charge about the same for exchanging cash, but large hotels charge more. There are small branches of major banks at the borders and airports.
Most major credit cards are accepted at top-end hotels and restaurants, travel agencies, larger souvenir shops and bookshops. Commissions of up to 5% may be added to the bill, so it may be better to get a cash advance and pay with the paper stuff. Make a note of the emergency numbers on the back of your credit cards in case you lose them.
Known as the ‘jay-dee’ among hip young locals, the currency in Jordan is the dinar (JD) and it is made up of 1000 fils. You'll often hear the terms piastre or qirsh: this refers to 10 fils (so 1 dinar equals 100 piastres). Often when a price is quoted the unit will be omitted, so if you’re told that something is 25, it’s a matter of working out whether it’s 25 fils, 25 piastres or 25 dinars! Although it sounds confusing, it's usually obvious given the context, and most Jordanians wouldn’t dream of ripping off a foreigner, with the possible exception of the occasional taxi driver.
Coins come in denominations of 1, 5, 10, 25 and 50 piastres (with the latter two marked as being quarter- and half-dinar respectively). Notes come in denominations of JD1, 5, 10, 20 and 50. Try to change larger notes as often as possible – when paying for petrol, for example, or for your hotel bill – as it can be hard to pay with large notes in small establishments.
There are duty-free shops at Queen Alia International Airport and next to the Century Park Hotel in Amman, plus small outlets at the border crossings with Israel and the Palestinian Territories. Most upmarket shops offer tax rebates.
|Israel & Palestinian Territories||1NIS||JD0.20|
For current exchange rates see www.xe.com.
Inflation & Travel Costs
If there is one bone of contention between our readers and those involved with tourism in Jordan, it is the issue of prices. Many travellers expect to find prices unchanged and become suspicious of hotel owners and taxi drivers who charge more than expected. By the same token, many service providers in Jordan feel frustrated when travellers insist on prices that may be unrealistic or were quoted in a guidebook several years earlier.
In most instances, prices for accommodation, food and transport in Jordan have remained stable for the past three years, but that is largely the result of a deliberate policy to save the effects of inflation impinging on an already weakened tourism trade. This is unlikely to remain the case for the foreseeable future. Instability among neighbouring countries and continued immigration have all contributed to high inflation. For some, a slump in tourism because of regional tension means there is no option but to put prices up. For others, it means being forced to offer unrealistic discounts.
While every effort is made to ensure that our published prices for entrance fees, tours, accommodation, restaurants, food items and private transport is accurate at the time of writing, treat them only as a guide to pricing, not a definitive statement of costs.
There is one piece of good news for those trying to estimate the cost of their trip to Jordan. Public bus prices, which are heavily subsidised by the government, have only minimally increased over the past few years, and there is no suggestion of an imminent price hike in this sector.
If you are a collector of notes and coins, you may be interested in old Iraqi money, bearing the portrait of Saddam Hussein, for sale on street corners in downtown Amman. Even if they’re fake, they’re good as a conversational gambit with the Iraqi refugees who are selling them.
Tipping is not routine in Jordan. To avoid counter-productive inflation, following local custom is recommended.
- Top-end restaurants Around 10% is expected (often included in the bill).
- Cafes and coffee shops Round up the bill to the nearest 500 fils.
- Taxis In Amman, 10% is the norm. Elsewhere, return the loose change.
- Petrol attendants Return loose change.
- Hotels Around JD1 per bag. No obligation for cleaning staff.
- Guides Around 10% per person.
Opening times vary widely across the country. Many sights, government departments and banks close earlier in winter and during Ramadan. The following opening hours are therefore a rough guide only. The official weekend in Jordan is Friday and Saturday, so expect curtailed hours on these days.
Banks 8am–3pm Sunday to Thursday
Restaurants noon–midnight daily
Cafes 9am–midnight daily
Bars and Clubs 9pm–1am daily
Shops 9am–8pm Saturday to Thursday; some close 2pm–4pm
Souqs 9am–8pm daily
Some Jordanians, particularly women and the elderly, object to being photographed, so ask first. Persisting in taking a photograph against someone’s wishes can lead to ugly scenes, so exercise courtesy and common sense. Children generally line up to be photographed.
Jordanians are very proud of their country and can be offended if you take pictures of anything ‘negative’ or suggestive of poverty and squalor; this may include the activity of a marketplace.
Photography in military zones and ‘strategic areas’ like bridges and public buildings is forbidden. Take particular care in the Eastern Desert as there are several sensitive military sites not far from the Desert Castles. You also need to be careful along the Dead Sea Highway where there are numerous checkpoints protecting the sensitive border with Israel and the Palestinian Territories.
Stamps are available from souvenir shops where postcards are sold, and there are postboxes around towns. Letters posted from Jordan take up to two weeks to reach Australia and the US, but often as little as three or four days to the UK and Europe. Every town has a post office, but parcels are best sent from Amman or Aqaba. For more detailed postal information, Jordan Post (www.jordanpost.com.jo) has an informative website.
Reliable courier companies include FedEx (www.fedex.com/jo), which has an office in Amman, and DHL (www.dhl.com), which has offices in Amman and Aqaba.
During public holidays, government offices and banks close. Shops, moneychangers and restaurants generally remain open, and public transport functions normally. During Eid Al Fitr and Eid Al Adha many shops close as shop owners join their families on these important days of celebration.
Archaeological sites and nature reserves tend to be very crowded on Fridays and public holidays.
New Year’s Day 1 January
Good Friday March/April
Labour Day 1 May
Independence Day 25 May
Army Day & Anniversary of the Great Arab Revolt 10 June
Christmas Day 25 December
The main Islamic holidays:
Islamic New Year First Day of Muharram.
Prophet’s Birthday Celebrated on 12 Rabi’ Al Awal.
Eid Al Isra Wal Mi’raj Celebrates the nocturnal visit of the Prophet Muhammad to heaven.
Ramadan Ninth month of the Islamic calendar.
Eid Al Fitr Starts at the beginning of Shawwal to mark the end of fasting in the preceding month of Ramadan.
Eid Al Adha Commemoration of Allah sparing Ibrahim (Abraham in the Bible) from sacrificing his son, Isaac. It also marks the end of the hajj.
11 Sep 2018
20 Nov 2018
6 May 2019
Eid Al Fitr
4 Jun 2019
Eid Al Adha
11 Aug 2019
31 Aug 2019
9 Nov 2019
24 Apr 2020
Eid Al Fitr
24 May 2020
Eid Al Adha
31 Jul 2020
21 Aug 2020
29 Oct 2020
14 Apr 2021
Eid Al Fitr
14 May 2021
Eid Al Adha
21 Jul 2021
9 Aug 2021
18 Oct 2021
2 Apr 2022
Eid Al Fitr
2 May 2022
Eid Al Adha
9 Jul 2022
During the holy month of Ramadan, Muslims refrain from eating, drinking, having sex and smoking during daylight hours in accordance with the fourth pillar of Islam. Even gum chewing is considered haram (forbidden).
Although many Muslims in Jordan do not follow the injunctions to the letter, most conform to some extent. Foreigners are not expected to follow suit, but it is bad form to eat, drink or smoke in public during this period.
Business hours during Ramadan are erratic and tempers tend to flare towards the end of the month. As the sun starts to dip, many villages turn into ghost towns as people go home to break their fast. Tourist attractions and hotel restaurants remain open and public transport generally functions normally, but the serving of alcohol may be restricted to room service or simply be unavailable.
- Smoking There are laws banning smoking in public places, but these are not always enforced, except in top-end hotels and restaurants in Amman, the Dead Sea and Aqaba.
Taxes & Refunds
Jordan has a sales tax of 16%, but it's generally only added to the bill in midrange and top-end restaurants. Midrange and top-end restaurants and hotels may add an additional 10% service charge. The Aqaba special economic zone has a sales tax of 5%, and many Jordanians head there on shopping sprees to take advantage of the lower consumer prices.
There is expansive coverage in Jordan for mobile phone networks. Local SIM cards can be used for international calls and can be topped up with readily available prepaid cards. 4G is increasingly available.
Two main service providers are Zain (www.zain.com) and Orange (www.orange.jo), both of which offer a full range of plans and prepaid SIM cards (ID required to purchase).
Jordan's country code is 962.
To make a call to a landline, you must precede the six- or seven-digit number with a two-digit area code.
- 02 Northern Jordan
- 03 Southern Jordan
- 05 Jordan Valley, central and eastern districts
- 06 Amman district
- 07 Prefix for eight-digit mobile phone numbers
- 0800 Prefix for toll-free numbers
- 1212 Local directory assistance (Amman)
- 131 Local directory assistance (elsewhere)
- 132 or 133 International directory assistance
Jordan is two hours ahead of GMT/UTC in winter and three hours ahead from April through September, when daylight saving time is in effect. Note that Jordan’s daylight saving time is slightly out of sync with summer clock changes in Europe. There are no time differences within Jordan. Jordan is on the same time zone as Israel and the Palestinian Territories, Syria and Egypt.
Almost all hotels and restaurants, even in the budget category, now have Western-style toilets. Where squat toilets are provided, the hose is used for ablutions and a water bucket is used for flushing.
Toilet paper (the use of which is considered an unsanitary practice in most Middle Eastern countries) is seldom available, except in the midrange and top-end hotels and restaurants. Local people prefer to use the hose and then deposit any toilet paper (used for drying purposes) in the basket by the side of the toilet bowl; these baskets should be used to avoid blockages as the sewer system is not designed for paper. For those who can’t do without it, toilet paper can be bought in most grocery shops throughout Jordan.
If caught short in the desert or hillsides of Jordan, it is imperative you choose a spot well away from water courses and bury the outcome in as deep a pit as possible.
Jordan has a good network of tourist offices and visitor centres. The main tourist office in Amman is located on the ground floor of the Ministry of Tourism in Jebel Amman.
The comprehensive website of the Jordan Tourism Board (JTB; www.visitjordan.com) has regularly updated information. JTB also publishes some excellent brochures in several languages.
Travel with Children
Children are universally adored in Jordan, so you’ll find that taking the kids adds a welcome dimension to your trip. Children are instant ice breakers and will guarantee contact with local people, especially as foreign families are still something of a novelty.
Best Regions for Kids
Don't miss the Children's Museum in Amman. This brilliant interactive centre offers features in English and Arabic and staff are wonderful with the kids.
- Northwestern Jordan
Kids studying the Romans will love Jerash, where centurions bring history alive.
- Dead Sea Highway
Children can swim with extra buoyancy in the very salty water – if warned to be careful with eyes.
- Central Jordan
With tunnels and passageways, there’s heaps to explore about the Crusaders at Karak Castle and its Islamic Museum.
A pre-trip viewing of Indiana Jones & the Last Crusade should nail it.
- Southern Jordan
Teenagers can learn to dive in Aqaba while younger kids paddle in the temperate sea. Camel rides, 4WD adventures and sandboarding make Wadi Rum a hit.
- Eastern Desert
Youngsters will enjoy searching for oryx and ostriches on the Shaumari Wildlife Reserve safari.
Jordan for Kids
Expect a Warm Welcome
While few concessions are made for youngsters, except the occasional high chair in a restaurant and baby-changing facilities in modern city malls, you’ll find people go out of their way to make your family feel welcome, especially on buses and in shops, hotels and restaurants.
The Jordanian Family Way
Child-oriented activities are still a novel concept in Jordan as normally children are included in adult outings and entertainments. Jordanians enjoy socialising in groups, so there’s usually an extra pair of hands to mind the kids. As a result of this child-inclusive approach, most adult highlights are treated as children’s highlights too.
Cultural Highlights a Hit
Feedback from parents on Lonely Planet’s Thorn Tree forum is very positive about the experience of taking children to Petra, Jerash, Karak and Wadi Rum, although it pays to get the family curious about the destination in advance. Jordan is a gold mine for school projects on the Romans, for example.
- Jordanian sweet shops A treat for all the family with honey-drenched pastries. Try Habibah in Amman or Al Baraka Sweets in Madaba for giant, colourful platters of kunafa – shredded dough with cream cheese.
- Fruit juice stalls A healthy way to beat the heat – watermelon and pomegranate juices are favourites. Wild Jordan Center in Amman does a particularly healthy range but almost every town has a stand or two with a blender at the ready.
- Snack pack Picnic boxes are prepared by some hotels, particularly in Petra, making a long day out seem more like an adventure.
Rainy Day Activities
- Haya Cultural Centre, Amman Includes an interactive ecomuseum.
- Children's Museum, Amman This fun and informative interactive centre, with its emphasis on engineering and human biology, is likely to keep mum and dad as engaged as the kids.
- Climbat, Amman Offers a child-friendly introduction to climbing with a starter wall.
- Malls A great retreat on a rainy day (or when midsummer temperatures soar), Amman's modern malls, such as Mecca Mall, have cinemas and activity areas for kids.
When to Go
Spring is the best time for a family visit. The weather is great, attractions are open and the peak tourist season brings evening amusements.
The heat of summer (mid-May to mid-September) is difficult for children to tolerate, restricting your activities to early morning and late afternoon. Winter months (mid-November to mid-February) can be freezing and many activities are restricted or too cold to be enjoyable. The risk of flash floods in wadis is an added anxiety.
Coping with High Temperatures
At any time of year, temperatures are comparatively high, particularly around noon. Trips to Petra and Wadi Rum involve long periods of sun exposure, and it’s not always easy to find shade: plan visits around early mornings and late afternoons. Follow local custom and take a family nap after lunch: this has the advantage of keeping the kids out of the worst of the sun and ensuring they're fresh for an evening out.
To prevent stomach complaints, children should stick to bottled mineral water, which is readily available, and avoid peeled fresh fruit and washed salads.
Fresh and powdered milk is available, but it's worth checking that fresh dairy products (such as milk, cream, yoghurt and cream cheese) are made with pasteurised milk. Ice cream is usually best avoided in rural areas where the electricity supply is often unreliable, leading to frozen goods defrosting and refreezing.
General hygiene might not be the priority it is in many Western countries; carrying a hand sanitiser is a good idea in case the local water supply is suspect.
Breast-feeding in public is culturally acceptable providing you are reasonably discreet. Carrying an extra garment, like a shawl or a cardigan, to tuck around you and the babe might help keep male curiosity at bay.
What to Pack
Disposable nappies (diapers) are not readily available outside Amman and Aqaba. Come prepared with plastic bags to avoid contributing to Jordan’s ubiquitous litter problem.
Mosquito nets and repellent are handy in the warmer months; malaria is not an issue in Jordan, but itchy bites can easily become infected in the heat.
Car seats are not a big thing in Jordan so bring one with you. Pavements, or lack of, will be challenging for most prams, but the locals seem to cope with them!
Jordanians are tolerant of Western norms, but you will earn local respect if the kids dress appropriately. This is particularly the case with teenage girls: provocative clothing, however fashionable elsewhere, will bring unwanted attention and stares.
Travelling in Jordan is generally safe for the family, with low incidences of crime.
For all-round information and advice, check out Lonely Planet’s Travel with Children.
In 2000 Jordan celebrated its first-ever Olympic gold medal, won by the female athlete Maha Barghouthi in the Sydney Paralympics. It was a proud moment for Jordan, and it threw a spotlight on people with disabilities – albeit briefly. Almost two decades on, and Jordan is still not a great place for travellers with disabilities. Although Jordanians are happy to help, cities are crowded and the traffic is chaotic, roadside kerbs can be uncommonly high and visiting tourist attractions – such as the vast archaeological sites of Petra and Jerash – involves long traverses over uneven ground.
There is some good news, however:
- The Jordanian government has legislated that wheelchair access must be added to all new public buildings.
- Entry to some attractions, including Petra, is free for those with disabilities.
- Horse-drawn carriages are provided at Petra for visitors with disabilities to help with access to the Siq and Treasury.
- There is a useful website (www.accessiblejordan.com) providing some key information for those travelling with a mobility impairment in Jordan. This includes information for the elderly and for mums with strollers!
Accessible Travel Online Resources
Download Lonely Planet's free Accessible Travel guide from http://lptravel.to/AccessibleTravel.
RSCN (www.rscn.org.jo) If you are keen to learn more about Jordan’s ecological projects, there are limited opportunities to work within some of the country’s nature reserves on a three-month voluntary program. Board and lodging are generally offered in return for a variety of services, such as working in the visitor centres. These posts are best filled by local Jordanian people, but if you have a specialist skill in management or conservation, you may strike it lucky.
Royal Botanic Garden The Royal Botanic Garden near Rumman north of the capital welcomes volunteers, particularly those with a horticultural bent.
For further ideas, see www.volunteerabroad.com/jordan.cfm.
Weights & Measures
- Weights & Measures Jordan uses the metric system.
Plenty of women each year have travelled through Jordan alone (this writer included) and have enjoyed the experience thoroughly. That said, there are bound to be times when you will have male company in Jordan that you would rather do without. This may involve nothing more than irritating banter, proposals of marriage and declarations of love. On rarer occasions it will involve leering and physical contact – a grope in a bus, for example. Where possible, it’s best to ignore such behaviour or pass it off as part of the experience, or a few sad individuals will spoil your whole trip. Needless to say, many women, such as the celebrated author Marguerite van Geldermalsen, have enjoyed male encounters enough to stay a lifetime, but it is important to gauge the sincerity of an admirer before being drawn into a relationship.
Attitude Towards Women
Being highly gregarious as a nation, Jordanians will be surprised that you want to travel alone. Men, who have little or no contact with women, let alone sex, before marriage, may misinterpret this as an invitation to provide company. Stereotypes of foreign women based on Western films and TV convince some that all foreign women are promiscuous and will jump into bed at the drop of a hat.
Nothing gives more offence in Jordan – a country with largely conservative and Islamic sensibilities – than baring too much flesh. To minimise harassment and to be respectful of local customs, it’s imperative to dress appropriately, especially in small towns and rural areas.
In the trendy districts of Amman, such as Abdoun and Shmeisani, in large hotels and resorts, or even in the middle of Petra (where tour group parties generally wear whatever they feel like) you can dress as you would at home. Outside those areas, aim for knee-length dresses or loose trousers, and cover your shoulders and upper arms.
On public beaches at the Dead Sea and in Aqaba, wear a swimsuit (and preferably a T-shirt and shorts) when swimming and save the bikinis for top-end resorts and dive centres. Never go topless – especially in the wadis where skinny dipping in freshwater pools is seldom as unseen as you might imagine.
Some foreign women go to the extent of covering their head, but this is inappropriate for non-Muslims in Jordan and can be misconstrued – particularly by the women of Jordan’s Christian communities who do not wear headscarves.
Advice from Fellow Women Travellers
- Sit next to a woman if possible on public transport.
- Be cautious when venturing alone to remote parts of Petra, Jerash and Wadi Rum.
- Check for peepholes in rooms and bathrooms (particularly cigarette holes in curtains).
- Place a chair against your locked hotel room door in case of ‘accidental’ intrusions.
- Pay for a better hotel, generally associated with less hassle.
- Be suspicious of lovelorn guides, especially the handsome ones!
- Prepare a cover story – Jordanians will be mystified that you have no family or friends to travel with.
- Chat to men in the company of women – not all men are one-track minded.
- Wear a wedding ring – this will add to your respectability in Arab eyes. A photo of husband and kids will clinch it.
- Bring tampons and contraceptives – they’re hard to find and embarrassing to purchase outside Amman.
- Don’t go to a local bar unaccompanied.
- Don’t make eye contact with strangers – dark glasses can help.
- Don’t sit in the front seat of a chartered private or service taxi.
- Don’t go outside with wet hair – this apparently implies you’ve had sex recently!
It’s not easy finding where to eat and drink, or even just sit, in public without becoming the centre of attention. Here are some guidelines.
Coffeehouses & Local Bars Often seen as a male domain; in some places the stares will evict you even if the landlord won’t.
Midrange Bars & Cafes Almost always welcoming of women in Amman and Aqaba; less ‘comprehending’ (of your solo status) in smaller towns.
Public Beaches Magnet for unwanted attention; best to stick to resorts.
Restaurants Most have a ‘family section’ where women can eat alone and in peace.
Toilets Usually only one in small restaurants and bars; avoid where possible!
Tourist Sites Counter-intuitively, the best places to be ‘alone’ as a woman – though be on your guard for charmers with ulterior motives in Petra.
Responding to Persistent Harassment
Some behaviour may warrant a public scene: bystanders will quickly support you if someone has overstepped the mark. Say out loud imshi (clear off): this should deter most unwanted advances. Be firm but stay calm. Swearing or losing your temper will lose you public sympathy.
What to Do in an Emergency
Assault and rape are rare in Jordan, but if you do suffer a serious problem, follow this advice:
- Go to a police station or tourist police booth; the latter can be found at most tourist sites.
- Be clear about the facts: the tourist police in Jordan take reports seriously.
- Call 911, the nationwide emergency number; this central coordination point has English-speaking staff.
There's not much in the way of casual work in Jordan as all such jobs are in hot demand from Palestinian and Iraqi refugees. If you are interested in staying longer in the country and have a specific skill or qualification, it’s best to apply for work before leaving home. That way, your employer will be responsible for paying for your air ticket and will sponsor your work permit.
Qualified dive instructors or divemasters may be able to get work at one of the diving centres in Aqaba, particularly during peak season (September to March). Keep in mind, however, that positions are hotly contested by locals.
English-teaching opportunities are open to those with TOEFL qualifications. The British Council (www.britishcouncil.org/jordan.htm) recruits teachers from the UK; you need the RSA Preparatory Certificate (the Diploma is preferred) or equivalent and at least two years’ work experience. Contact them before arriving in Jordan. Casual vacancies within Jordan occasionally arise: address your CV to the Teaching Centre Manager.
AMIDEAST (www.amideast.org/jordan) runs the other top language school. Like the British Council, teachers are mostly recruited before arrival in Jordan.