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)