No immunizations or vaccinations are required before you can enter Jordan. However, before you travel, it’s a good idea to make sure you’re up to date with immunizations against hepatitis A, polio, tetanus (lockjaw), tuberculosis and typhoid fever. You should consult a doctor at least two months in advance of your departure date, as there are some immunizations that can’t be given at the same time, and several take a while to become effective.
Australia & NZ
TMVC t 1300 658844, w tmvc.com.au.
CSIH t 613 241 5785, w csih.org.
TMB t 01 271 5272, w tmb.ie.
MASTA t 0870 606 2782, w masta.org.
CDC t 1 800 232 4636, w cdc.gov/travel.
Top of the list of Jordan’s maladies, well ahead of the worst creepy-crawlies, is dehydration, which can work insidiously over days to weaken you to the point of exhaustion without your ever showing any signs of illness. If you’re sweating profusely during activity (such as hiking), even experienced walkers can go from alert and vigorous to dizzy and apathetic in as little as half an hour, due to heat exhaustion and loss of body fluids. It is essential to carry lots of water with you on these walks: one bottle is not enough.
An adult should normally drink two litres of water a day; from day one in the Middle East, you should be drinking at least three litres – and, if you’re exerting yourself in hot conditions, more than double that. It’s a matter of pride among the desert bedouin not to drink water in front of foreigners, but if you copy them you’re likely to make yourself ill. Drinking to quench your thirst just isn’t enough in a hot climate: you must drink well beyond that if you’re to head off lethargy and splitting headaches. Alcohol and caffeine exacerbate the effects of dehydration.
Heat exhaustion and sunstroke
The Jordanian sun can be scorchingly intense, and – obvious though it sounds – you should do all you can to avoid sun exposure, especially if you’re travelling in high summer (May–Sept). Head protection is essential. Lightweight 100 percent cotton clothes – such as long-sleeved shirts, and long trousers or ankle-length skirts – will allow air to circulate close to your skin to keep you cool and limit both sunburn and dehydration. If you feel very hot, dizzy and faint but aren’t sweating, you may have sunstroke: get out of direct sun and into air conditioning and/or cold water as soon as possible. Call a doctor if symptoms worsen.
If you arrive in Jordan directly from the West (or Israel), give your stomach a chance to acclimatize: avoid street food for a few days and spend a little extra to eat in posher, but cleaner, restaurants. Every eating place, from the diviest diner upwards, will have a sink with soap for washing your hands. Nonetheless, few travellers seem to avoid diarrhoea altogether. Instant recourse to drugs such as Imodium or Lomotil that plug you up (in fact, what they do is paralyse your gut) is not advisable; you should only use them if you absolutely must travel (eg if you’re flying). The best thing to do is to wait, eat small amounts of dry food such as toast or crackers if you feel able and let it run its course, while constantly replacing the fluids and salts that you’re flushing away. Maintaining fluid intake (even if it all rushes out again) is vitally important. Oral rehydration solutions such as Dioralyte or Electrosol are widely available worldwide, sold in sachets for dissolving in a glassful of clean water. They’re marketed as being for babies, but will make you feel better and stronger than any other treatment. If you can’t get the sachets, make up your own solution with one heaped teaspoon of salt and twelve level teaspoons of sugar added to a standard-sized (1.5-litre) bottle of mineral water. You need to keep downing the stuff, whether or not the diarrhoea is continuing – at least a litre of the solution per day interspersed with three litres of fresh water. Bouts of diarrhoea rarely last longer than 24–48 hours.
If it goes on for longer than four days, seek medical advice. Nasty but easily treatable diseases such as giardiasis and amoebiasis must be tested for by a stool examination. If there is blood in your diarrhoea, you’ve most likely got dysentery and must see a doctor.
Bites and stings
Malaria is not present in Jordan, though mosquitoes and sandflies are. Snakes are frightened of humans; if you walk slowly and noisily, any snakes present will slither away. To avoid tangling with scorpions and spiders never walk barefoot, and if you’re camping always shake out your shoes and clothes before wearing them.
Treatment in Jordan
Every town has a pharmacy (saydaliyyeh), generally staffed by fluent English-speaking professionals trained to Western standards. Unless you’re obviously a hospital case, this is where you should head first, since a pharmacist charges nothing for a “consultation”, and can either prescribe a remedy on the spot or refer you to a local doctor. If you’re given a medicine, find out explicitly from the pharmacist what the dosage is, since printed English information on the box might be sketchy.
If you need a doctor (doktoor), ask your embassy to recommend one or check first with a pharmacist. All doctors are trained in English, many in hospitals in the UK or US. If you’re in real trouble, aim for the emergency room of a hospital (moostashfa) – and call the emergency helpline of your embassy to ask for advice. Consultation fees and medical costs are much lower than back home, but you should still get signed receipts for everything in order to claim money back from your insurance company when you return.