Airports & Airlines
Queen Alia International Airport, about 35km south of Amman, is the country’s main gateway. Recently subject to an impressive refurbishment, it has ATMs, foreign exchange counters, a post office and left-luggage counter. The departure lounge has several cafes and a good range of duty-free gift items, including Arabic sweets and some souvenirs. Car-rental agencies are located in the arrivals building.
The only other international airport is at Aqaba, where some international carriers stop en route to Amman. Flights to Sharm El Sheikh in Egypt are handled from here. Charter flights from Europe tend to come and go depending on regional stability, but at the time of writing a new low-cost carrier was about to be announced, operating out of Aqaba.
The national airline, Royal Jordanian (www.rj.com), is well established with a good safety record. It has direct flights to most major cities in Europe and all Middle Eastern capitals, and runs short flights from Amman to Aqaba (twice daily). Royal Wings (www.royalwings.com.jo), a subsidiary of Royal Jordanian, has smaller planes and runs expensive charter flights.
A number of airlines fly to Jordan:
Air Arabia (www.airarabia.com)
Air France (www.airfrance.com)
British Airways (www.ba.com)
Fly Dubai (www.flydubai.com)
Gulf Air (www.gulfair.com)
Iraqi Airways (www.ia.com.iq)
Kuwait Airways (www.kuwaitairways.com)
Lufthansa Airlines (www.lufthansa.com)
Qatar Airways (www.qatarairways.com)
Saudi Arabian Airlines (www.saudia.com)
Turkish Airlines (www.turkishairlines.com)
Jordan’s departure tax for travellers is JD8 by land and sea, and JD15 by air. If you are leaving by air, the departure tax is generally included in the ticket price.
It’s easy to reach Jordan by land from Israel and the Palestinian Territories. Foreign residents of Saudi Arabia (and transit passengers who can show they have no other way of reaching Jordan) are also able to cross Saudi Arabia and enter Jordan by land.
Most overland travellers arrive in Jordan by bus or service taxi, though it’s also possible to bring your own vehicle.
Note that currently it's not possible to get a visa on arrival in Jordan at King Hussein Bridge. Check the latest status of Jordan's border crossings on the Jordan Tourism Board website (http://international.visitjordan.com/GeneralInformation/GettingAround/Bordercrossings.aspx).
Overland Transport in a Hurry
It is possible to get from Petra to Jerusalem (and vice versa) in a day, and also to a handful of other popular travel destinations across the Middle East.
Petra & Jerusalem via Amman & the West Bank
Taking this route means you may be able to avoid evidence of a visit to Israel in your passport. Beware of long delays at the border.
- From Petra, catch a bus to Amman’s South bus station (three hours), a service taxi or bus to King Hussein Bridge (Allenby Bridge; one hour), a bus across the border (often a three-hour delay; border closed by noon Friday and Saturday) and a service taxi or bus to Jerusalem’s Damascus Gate (30 minutes).
- This route also works in reverse, to get from Jerusalem to Petra.
Petra & Jerusalem via Aqaba & Eilat
Visas on arrival are issued at Wadi Araba (Yitzhak Rabin).
- From Petra, catch a bus to the main bus station at Aqaba (2½ hours) and then a service taxi or bus to Wadi Araba (Yitzhak Rabin) border (15 minutes).
- Walk across the border (30 minutes; open every day) and then take a service taxi or bus to Eilat (15 minutes) and a bus to Jerusalem’s Damascus Gate (five hours).
- This route also works in reverse.
Petra & Sharm El Sheikh via Aqaba & Nuweiba
Note that travelling by public transport from Sharm El Sheikh or Nuweiba to Wadi Rum or Petra requires an overnight stop in Aqaba. The security situation in South Sinai, where Nuweiba is located, is changeable; check travel advisories before attempting this route.
- From Petra, catch a bus to the main bus station at Aqaba (2½ hours) and then a service taxi or bus to the ferry terminal (30 minutes) and catch a boat at 11pm to Nuweiba (one hour). From here, take the bus to Sharm El Sheikh (2½ hours).
- Catch a bus from Sharm El Sheikh to Nuweiba ferry terminal (three hours) and then catch the 1pm boat to the ferry terminal south of Aqaba (three hours) followed by a service taxi or bus to Aqaba (30 minutes).
- Catch a private taxi to Petra or stay overnight in Aqaba and catch a bus to Petra the following day (2½ hours).
- Be aware that the Aqaba–Nuweiba ferry can be prone to long delays in both directions.
Petra & Mt Sinai via Aqaba
At the Wadi Araba crossing you can only get a visa for the Sinai Peninsula, so if you want to travel further than Sharm El Sheikh, this trip needs some careful planning: full visas can be obtained in advance from the Egyptian consulate in Aqaba or the Egyptian embassy in Amman. Note that the security situation is changeable in Taba and Mt Sinai; check travel advisories before attempting this route.
- From Petra, catch a bus to the main bus station in Aqaba (2½ hours) and then a service taxi to the Wadi Araba (Yitzhak Rabin) border crossing (15 minutes) and walk across the border (30 minutes).
- Catch a service taxi or bus to Taba (15 minutes) and a service taxi to Mt Sinai (three hours).
- While the reverse trip is not possible in a day on public transport, you can avoid a night’s stay in Aqaba by taking a private taxi.
Getting to & From Jordan’s Borders
Most people travel between Jordan and Egypt by boat. However, it’s quicker and cheaper to travel overland via Israel and the Palestinian Territories using the Wadi Araba border (but be aware of potential issues caused by having an Israeli passport stamp if you're planning it visit some Arab countries). If you choose this route:
- Take a taxi to Wadi Araba border crossing and another taxi between Yitzhak Rabin and Taba border crossing on the Egyptian border.
- Taxis also run from either border to Eilat and there are buses from Eilat to either border.
- The whole trip takes about 1½ hours.
Israel & the Palestinian Territories
There are currently no direct services between Amman and Jerusalem or Tel Aviv. Of the three border crossings, Sheikh Hussein Bridge, King Hussein Bridge and Wadi Araba, King Hussein Bridge is the most commonly used and easiest to reach from Amman, but may require extra time and patience as there are often delays.
King Hussein Bridge (Allenby Bridge)
Take a service taxi from Amman’s Abdali Bus Station to King Hussein Bridge (JD10, 45 minutes) or there’s a single daily JETT bus (JD10, one hour, 7am). A private taxi to the bridge costs around JD25. Public transport stops at the immigration terminal for locals; make sure you're dropped at the second terminal, for foreigners.
The two border posts are 5km apart. Buses (JD7 plus JD1.500 per piece of luggage, 10 minutes to one hour – depending on waiting time) shuttle between the two borders (expect long delays). It’s not possible to walk or take a private vehicle across this border. Try to sit at the front of the bus so you can be near the front of the queue at Israeli immigration.
Jordanian immigration officials won't stamp your passport here – you're given an exit form instead. If you're coming back to Jordan, you can return at this crossing within two weeks without needing a new visa. Longer than this, you'll need to return via the Sheikh Hussein Bridge (or get a new visa at the Jordanian embassy in Tel Aviv). There's an exit fee of JD8.
At Israeli immigration, make sure you are given the immigration form with your photo on it, which is issued rather than a stamp in the passport.
Be prepared for slow progress at the border – plan for a couple of hours, and leave early to make the complete Amman–Jerusalem run in case of security delays. Sunday morning (ie after the weekend) and around holidays are the busiest – and therefore slowest – times to cross. If you're in a rush, a VIP service at the terminal is available to rush you through both immigration and security on both sides. This typically costs around JD80.
To get to Jerusalem from the border, take a sherut (Israeli shared taxi; around 42NIS plus 5NIS for luggage, 30 minutes) to Jerusalem’s Damascus Gate.
Travelling in the other direction, there's an Israeli exit tax of 174NIS. If you intend to return to Israel, keep the Jordanian entrance form safe – you will have to present it on exiting the border.
The border is open 8am to 8pm Sunday to Thursday and 8am to 1pm Friday and Saturday. The border is closed for Yom Kippur and Eid Al Adha.
Sheikh Hussein Bridge (Jordan River)
Regular service taxis travel between the West bus station at Irbid and the border (JD15, 45 minutes). Private taxis cost JD50 from Irbid. You can ask Jordanian immigration not to stamp your passport here.
Buses cross the bridge (around JD2) roughly every 30 minutes.
Taxis go to the Beit She’an bus station (10 minutes) for onward connections. To get to Tel Aviv, it's quickest to get from Beit She'an to Afula and change there.
Travelling in the other direction, take a bus to Tiberias and change at Beit She’an (6km from the border). From there, take another bus to the Israeli border (arrive early because there are few buses).
Israeli exit tax is 100NIS at this border. The transfer bus across the bridge to the Jordanian side costs around 10NIS.
The border crossing here is considerably faster than at the King Hussein Bridge. It's also more convenient if you're travelling in a small group and can share transport costs.
The border is open 8am to 10pm Sunday to Thursday and 9am to 8pm Friday and Saturday. The border is closed for Yom Kippur and the Islamic New Year (but not for Eid Al Adha).
Wadi Araba (Yitzhak Rabin)
Taxis run between Aqaba and the border (JD10, 15 minutes). There's an exit fee of JD8.
You can walk the short distance across the border in a matter of minutes.
Buses run to central Eilat, 2km away (five minutes). Taxis cost around 50NIS.
Travelling in the other direction, buses from Jerusalem to Eilat will stop at the turn-off for the border (five minutes), a short walk away.
Israeli exit tax is 100NIS at this border. Visas are available on arrival.
The border is open 6.30am to 8pm Sunday to Thursday and 8am to 8pm Friday and Saturday. The border is closed for Yom Kippur and the Islamic New Year.
Getting a visa, even a transit visa, to Saudi Arabia is very difficult. If you are eligible for a visa, the main land route for public transport is at Al Umari, south of Azraq. The other two crossing points are Ad Durra, south of Aqaba, and further east at Al Mudawwara. Several companies run services to and from Jeddah and Riyadh from Amman’s Abdali Bus Station.
The air-conditioned JETT bus travels to Jeddah, Riyadh and Dammam.
Elsewhere in the Middle East
For other destinations in the Middle East, travellers need time, patience and, most importantly, the necessary visas. Most trips involve long, hot journeys with frustrating delays so most people end up flying.
JETT has a coach service to Cairo (JD35), twice per week departing from the international bus office in Amman. Check with the JETT office ahead of your departure as schedules and prices change frequently.
Visiting Egypt is both a popular side trip from Aqaba or feasible as part of an onward journey. As Jordan has no land borders with Egypt, the journey involves a short boat ride to either Nuweiba or Taba (check travel advisories before taking these routes). At most times of the year this is a matter of turning up and buying your ticket. During hajj (pilgrimage to Mecca; late August or September for the next few years; dates move with the Islamic calendar), however, when Aqaba is abuzz with thousands of Egyptian pilgrims returning home from Mecca, you may find the journey becomes something more epic. Most nationalities can obtain Egyptian tourist visas on the boat or on arrival at Nuweiba (the Egyptian consulate in Aqaba also issues visas). Note that full visas are not issued in Taba, only the two-week Sinai Visitor Pass.
There are two main boat services to Egypt, which leave from the passenger terminal just south of Aqaba. Departure times are often subject to change so check with Arab Bridge Maritime (www.abmaritime.com.jo), which operates the services, before travelling.
The fast boat to Taba (US$60, one hour) leaves daily at 10pm. Fares for children aged between six and 12 are US$38 (under six US$32). The return ferry leaves Taba at 1.30pm.
There is also a slower regular service (US$45, three hours) departing twice daily at 11am and 2pm. It's notorious for being delayed (voyages can take up to 12 hours if the sea is rough) or even cancelled, although the night departure, which carries heavy commercial traffic, is regarded as being more consistent. Fares are reduced for children aged under eight (US$23). Services from Nuweiba leave at noon and 1pm.
Departure tax (JD8) is not included in the ticket prices. You need to show your passport to buy tickets. Note that fares from Nuweiba must be paid for in US dollars, but there are currency exchange facilities at the terminals at Aqaba and Nuweiba.
Passports are collected on the boat in both directions and handed back on arrival at immigration. Bear in mind, if you are travelling from Egypt, you will arrive in Aqaba too late for public transport to Petra or Wadi Rum, so you’ll have to stay in Aqaba or pick up a taxi from the city centre.