How to get to Jordan

AS A COUPLE
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Jordan is served by daily nonstop flights from London and easy one-stop connections from around the UK, as well as nonstop routings from major European, North American and Southeast Asian hubs.

Queen Alia International Airport in Amman (AMM) (w aig.aero) handles almost all incoming flights to Jordan. A few flights arrive at Aqaba (AQJ) (w aac.jo), which is linked to Amman by daily short-hop shuttles on the national carrier Royal Jordanian.

When to travel

The best times to visit Jordan, weather-wise, are spring (March–May) and autumn (Sept & Oct), although this is also when air fares and package deals are at their most expensive. In summer you face the disadvantages of heat – though it’s rarely extreme – and the peak season for tourism from the Gulf countries (as well as the holy month of fasting, Ramadan, which falls in June and/or July each year until 2016). Winter, when fares are lower, can be chilly for sightseeing.

Air fares also peak in the periods surrounding major Islamic holidays such as Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha, when thousands – or, in the case of the hajj pilgrimage to Mecca, millions – of people are on the move. For weeks before the hajj (which takes place in Sept/Oct until 2016), whole planes get block-booked for pilgrims on many routes into the Middle East – not just flights into Saudi Arabia, but also connections via Jordan and neighbouring countries. For two weeks after the pilgrimage, few planes out of the region have spare capacity. It pays to check when Islamic holidays are due to fall; book well ahead if you want to fly at or near those times.

One thing to watch when planning an itinerary is your scheduled arrival time: many flights from London, for instance, are afternoon departures, landing in Amman in the late evening – which means your head may not actually hit the pillow until midnight or later. In addition, many return flights to London take off from Amman at breakfast time, necessitating a pre-dawn wake-up call.

Flights from the UK and Ireland

Flying to Amman from London there are nonstop flights daily from Heathrow on Royal Jordanian (w rj.com) and British Airways (w ba.com), and thrice-weekly from Gatwick on easyJet (w easyjet.com). With a bit of flexibility, return fares can be had for £200–250 – though if your dates are fixed or you’re booking at short notice, expect to add £100 or more to that. The flight time is five hours.

If you’re starting from elsewhere in the UK or Ireland you could opt for a shuttle flight into Heathrow or Gatwick to pick up a connection, or explore options on Lufthansa (w lufthansa.com) via Frankfurt, Austrian (w austrian.com) via Vienna or Air France (w airfrance.com) via Paris. Alternatively Turkish Airlines (w thy.com) has some decent fares from Birmingham, Manchester and Dublin to Amman via Istanbul.

Holiday charter flights formerly operated weekly from Gatwick to Aqaba, but were axed in 2011 and show no signs of resumption.

Flights from the US and Canada

From North America, Royal Jordanian flies nonstop to Amman from New York, Chicago and Montreal, plus one-stop direct from Detroit. RJ’s codesharing deals offer good connections from a range of other cities. Delta (w delta.com) flies from many US cities to Paris, and from there onward to Amman codesharing on Air France. United (w united.com) offers good connections with European airlines such as Lufthansa and Austrian, while British Airways (w ba.com), Air Canada (w aircanada.com) and others also fly (or codeshare) from major cities with a change of plane. Turkish Airlines (w thy.com) has nonstop flights from Chicago, New York, Washington and Los Angeles into Istanbul, for a shuttle onward to Amman. EgyptAir (w egyptair.com) does the same from New York via Cairo.

Expect a round-trip fare in high season of around US$1000–1400 from the east and Midwest, US$1600–2000 from the west, and C$1100–1800 out of Canada. All these drop slightly in low season. Flight time is eleven hours from the East Coast or fifteen hours from the West Coast, not including stops on the ground.

Flights from Australia, New Zealand and South Africa

There are no direct flights to Jordan from Australasia – though, thanks to code-sharing, it’s relatively easy to put together a one-stop routing: Qantas or Thai to Bangkok, for instance, then direct to Amman with Royal Jordanian. Pricier alternatives include Emirates via Dubai or Etihad via Abu Dhabi. From South Africa you’re looking at one-stop routings on Emirates, Etihad, Qatar, EgyptAir or Turkish.

Return fares from Australia are likely to start around A$2000; add A$500 or more in high season. From New Zealand, reckon on NZ$3000–3500, and from South Africa around R6000–9000.

Organized tours

Many organized tours follow a fairly set pattern – a week or so in Jordan, comprising stays in Amman, Petra, Aqaba and/or the Dead Sea, with sightseeing on the way and excursions to sites like Jerash and Wadi Rum. The advantage of these packages is that they get you a good-value flight-plus-accommodation deal; by booking a tour in advance you can end up staying in posh hotels for bargain prices. The disadvantage, of course, becomes clear if you fancy an extra day or two on your own to explore Petra once you get there.

Where fixing up an organized tour really comes into its own is if you have a particular kind of holiday in mind. If you want to know all about Jordan’s archeological sites or learn how to scuba-dive, or if you have your heart set on seeing a Sinai rosefinch (Jordan’s national bird), specialist tour operators can sell you ready-made packages or tailor-make a tour to suit your requirements. Adventure companies can often throw in activities such as camel-trekking, desert camping or snorkelling, and many operators specialize in pilgrimage tours to sites of biblical interest. You can also arrange tours directly with specialist tour companies in Jordan.

Tour operators in the UK

General cultural/historical

Abercrombie & Kent

t 0845 485 1529, w abercrombiekent.co.uk. Upmarket tailor-made trips.

Ancient World Tours

t 0844 357 9494, w ancient.co.uk. Archeological and historical itineraries.

Andante Travels

t 01722 713800, w andantetravels.co.uk. Small-scale, personalized, expert-led archeological/historical tours.

Audley Travel

t 01993 838000, w audleytravel.com. High-quality tailor-made trips both on and off the beaten track, with a special focus on the nature reserves.

Bales Worldwide

t 0844 488 1193, w balesworldwide.com. One of the biggest operators to Jordan – a family-owned company offering a wide range of escorted tours as well as tailor-made itineraries.

Cox & Kings

t 0845 564 1985, w coxandkings.co.uk. Highly respected and long-established company offering gilt-edged cultural and historical tours.

Dragoman

t 01728 861133, w dragoman.com. Extended overland journeys in purpose-built expedition vehicles; several itineraries pass through Jordan.

Intrepid

t 0800 781 1660, w intrepidtravel.com. Breezy itineraries for independent-minded travellers.

Jordan Tours

t 01446 774018, w jordantours.co.uk. Small tailor-made firm with the personal touch.

Kumuka Worldwide

t 0800 389 2328, w kumuka.com. Soft adventure trips and overland expeditions around Jordan and the Middle East.

Kuoni

t 0844 488 0578, w kuoni.co.uk. Large holiday operator, with a range of trips to Jordan.

Longwood Holidays

t 0844 770 4877, w longwoodholidays.co.uk. Good range of cultural tours, flying into Amman, or Ovda (near Eilat, Israel).

Martin Randall Travel

t 020 8742 3355, w martinrandall.com. Small-group cultural tours, led by experts on art and archeology.

Mosaic Holidays

t 020 8574 4000, w mosaicholidays.co.uk. Long-standing Jordan specialists, with a range of group tours and tailor-made cultural journeys that benefit from great local knowledge.

On The Go Tours

t 020 7371 1113, w onthegotours.com. Highly respected firm offering lively, expertly guided group tours, as well as tailor-made trips and unusual, insider angles on exploring Petra.

Original Travel

t 020 7978 7333, w originaltravel.co.uk. Short breaks and family holidays to Jordan.

Scott Dunn

t 020 8682 5475, w scottdunn.com. Luxury tailor-made tours, staying in some out-of-the-way corners.

Steppes Travel

t 01285 880980, w steppestravel.co.uk. Expertly prepared tailor-made trips.

The Traveller

t 020 7269 2770, w www.thetravelleruk.com. Historical, archeological and cultural tours led by expert lecturers.

Titan HiTours

t 0800 988 5823, w titanhitours.co.uk. Classic escorted tours of major historical sites.

Travelsphere Holidays

t 0844 567 9966, w travelsphere.co.uk. Well-designed holidays to Jordan’s major sites.

Voyages Jules Verne

t 0845 166 7003, w vjv.com. Major Jordan operator with years of experience, offering a range of innovative, well-thought-out holiday options.

Adventure/outdoors specialists

Adventure Company

t 0845 287 6627, w adventurecompany.co.uk. Guided soft adventure trips for individuals and families.

ATG Oxford

t 01865 315678, w atg-oxford.co.uk. High-quality outdoor itineraries, including excellent long walks with some of Jordan’s best walking guides.

Exodus

t 0845 869 9160, w exodus.co.uk. Small-group adventure tour operators, featuring walking, trekking, scrambling and cycling for individuals and families.

Explore

t 0845 291 4541, w explore.co.uk. A wide range of small-group tours, treks, expeditions and safaris, staying mostly in small hotels or bedouin tents.

Families Worldwide

t 0845 051 4567, w familiesworldwide.co.uk. Specialists in adventure holidays for families.

Headwater

t 0845 564 7148, w headwater.com. Guided walking tours to remote corners of Jordan.

High Places

t 0114 268 7760, w highplaces.co.uk. Great-value trekking and climbing in Wadi Rum and Petra.

Hiking World

t 01540 673402, w hikingworld.org. High-quality hiking trips in some far-flung corners of Jordan.

Imaginative Traveller

t 0845 867 5954, w imaginative-traveller.com. Well-respected adventure operator with a good range of tours.

KE Adventure

t 017687 73966, w keadventure.com. Good range of treks and adventure tours.

Naturetrek

t 01962 733051, w naturetrek.co.uk. Small-group birdwatching and botanical tours of Jordan with expert guidance.

Nomadic Thoughts

t 020 7604 4408, w nomadicthoughts.com. Tailor-made trips to Jordan.

NOMADS

t 01457 873231, w nomadstravel.co.uk. Small operation run by Tony Howard and Di Taylor, the British climbing duo who opened up Rum to international tourism in the 1980s. They provide detailed, knowledgeable advice on all aspects of independent exploration of Jordan’s wilder corners.

Peregrine Adventures

t 0845 004 0673, w peregrineadventures.com. Range of tours offering Jordan and its neighbours.

Ramblers

t 01707 331133, w ramblersholidays.co.uk. Great walking holidays.

Tribes Travel

t 01728 685971, w tribes.co.uk. Tailor-made trips that explore Jordan’s natural environment, working with the Royal Society for the Conservation of Nature.

Walks Worldwide

t 0845 301 4737, w walksworldwide.com. Leading walking and outdoors operator to Jordan, with a broad range of tours to suit all levels of capability, including family trips.

Wild Frontiers

t 020 7736 3968, w wildfrontiers.co.uk. Adventure trips into the desert.

Wildlife & Wilderness

t 01625 838225, w wildlifewilderness.com. Tailor-made trips focusing on culture, walking and nature.

Diving specialists

Aquatours

t 020 8398 0505, w aquatours.com. Jordan diving specialist, combining underwater trips with cultural itineraries.

Planet Dive

t 01273 921001, w planetdiveholidays.com. Good range of dive options at Aqaba, plus side-trips to Rum and Petra.

Horseriding specialists

Equus Trails

t 0845 269 2609, w equus-journeys.com. Petra and Rum desert rides.

In The Saddle

t 01299 272997, w inthesaddle.com. High-quality tours around Petra and Wadi Rum on horseback.

Ride World Wide

t 01837 82544, w rideworldwide.co.uk. High-quality horseriding holidays in Wadi Rum.

Unicorn Trails

t 01767 600606, w unicorntrails.com. Horseriding holidays in the Wadi Rum desert.

Pilgrimage tours

Guiding Star

w guidingstarltd.com. A leading pilgrimage operator with offices in Jerusalem and Amman, founded in 1961. Combining Christian sites with adventure excursions and cultural exploration, they are exceptionally well connected, and can design a unique itinerary on request.

Maranatha Tours

t 01753 689568, w maranatha.co.uk. Specialist in biblical pilgrimage tours to Jordan and around the Middle East.

McCabe Pilgrimages

t 0800 107 3107, w mccabe-travel.co.uk. Pilgrim tours to Jordan.

Worldwide Christian Travel

t 0845 458 8308, w christian-travel.com. Biblical and pilgrimage tours.

Tour operators in North America

Abercrombie & Kent

t 1 800 554 7016, w abercrombiekent.com. Fully escorted luxury tours to Jordan and its neighbours.

Adventure Center

t 1 800 228 8747, w adventurecenter.com. Hiking and soft adventure specialists, with a wide range of options including cultural tours, walking, cycling and more.

Adventures Abroad

t 1 800 665 3998, w adventures-abroad.com. Small-group adventure specialists.

Ancient Adventures

t 1 800 353 4978, w ancientadventures.com. A range of tours all round the Middle East.

Bestway Tours

t 1 800 663 0844, w bestway.com. Cultural specialists.

Caravan-Serai Tours

t 1 800 451 8097, w caravan-serai.com. Leading specialists to the Middle East, with a range of excellent, culturally aware tours to Jordan and all across the region. Owned and run by the award-winning Jordanian-born businesswoman Rita Zawaideh.

Cox and Kings

t 1 800 999 1758, w coxandkingsusa.com. Long-established top-of-the-range tour operator, with several Jordan offerings.

Far Horizons

t 1 800 552 4575, w farhorizons.com. Expert-led archeological and historical tours of Jordan.

HLO Tours

t 1 800 736 4456, w hlotours.com. Specialists in tailor-made trips, with many years of experience in the Middle East.

IsramWorld

t 1 800 223 7460, w isram.com. Long-established tour operator with a diverse selection of Middle Eastern offerings.

Maranatha Tours

t 1 800 545 5533, w maranathatours.com. Specialist in biblical pilgrimage tours.

On The Go Tours

US t 1 866 377 6147, Canada t 1 866 890 7038, w onthegotours.com. Leading worldwide operator to Jordan, with a variety of unique cultural and adventure itineraries.

Spiekermann Travel

t 1 800 645 3233, w mideasttrvl.com. Experts on Middle Eastern travel, with hosted tours around Jordan.

Travel in Style

t 415 440 1124, w travelinstyle.com. A good range of tours to Jordan alongside options to Egypt, Syria and Israel.

Wilderness Travel

t 1 800 368 2794, w wildernesstravel.com. Cultural exploration around Jordan and beyond.

Ya’lla Tours

t 1 800 644 1595, w yallatours.com. Middle East specialist, with a wide range of trips and packages covering Jordan.

Tour operators in Australia & NZ

Abercrombie & Kent

Australia t 1300 851 800, w abercrombiekent.com.au. Classy operator with a strong reputation – upmarket luxury tours.

Adventure World

Australia t 1300 295 049, w adventureworld.com.au; New Zealand t 0800 238 368, w adventureworld.co.nz. Agents for a wide array of international adventure companies – well worth a browse.

Kumuka Worldwide

Australia t 1300 667 277; New Zealand t 0800 440 499, w kumuka.com. Soft adventure trips and overland expeditions.

Martin Randall Travel

Australia t 1300 559 595, w martinrandall.com. British company running small-group cultural tours, led by expert lecturers.

On The Go Tours

Australia t 1300 855 684; New Zealand t 0800 447769, w onthegotours.com.au. Leading operator to Jordan, with unique cultural and adventure itineraries.

Passport Travel

Australia t 03 9500 0444, w travelcentre.com.au. Tour options on the Red Sea and around the Middle East.

Peregrine Adventures

Australia t 03 8601 4444, w peregrineadventures.com. Broad range of Jordan tours that reach some lesser-known highlights.

World Expeditions

Australia t 1300 720 000; New Zealand t 0800 350 354, w worldexpeditions.com.au. Australian-owned adventure company, with a broad programme of trekking and adventure expeditions, including Jordan and Syria.

Getting to Jordan overland

Many independent travellers visit Jordan overland, either popping across from one of the neighbours or as part of a longer odyssey between Istanbul and Cairo. Border crossings are straightforward, and most nationalities can get a visa on arrival – except at the King Hussein/Allenby Bridge between Jerusalem and Amman, where no Jordanian visas are issued.

From Damascus

At the time of writing, violence and civil disorder were continuing in Syria and the country was effectively closed to tourists. We have retained information in this section in the hope that, by the time you read this, travel will once again be possible. The easiest way to get to Amman from the Syrian capital Damascus, barely 100km north of the Jordanian frontier, is by serveece, or shared taxi. Before the conflict they departed day and night from the Sumriyeh (Somaria) garage in western Damascus, for S£700 (JD11 or US$15) per seat. It’s common for individuals to buy two seats (or couples to buy three) to give a roomier ride – or you can charter the whole car (usually four or five seats). There are 24-hour banks at the border. The usual terminus in Amman is Abdali, but for a little bit extra the driver will drop you off anywhere you want. The journey time is about three hours.

Karnak and JETT buses to Amman used to leave from Kadem station in Damascus (t 011 441 0531) daily at 7am and 3pm; as we went to press, though, the service remained suspended. Formerly, the fare was around S£600 (US$11 or JD8). Reckon on a journey time of four hours, since everyone must clear customs and immigration before the bus can carry on (which is one reason to go by serveece instead). Buses terminate next to the JETT External Lines office, in the Abdali district. It’s wise to book seats one day ahead. Extra buses are laid on in the peak summer season.

The passenger service between Damascus and Amman on the historic Hejaz railway has been permanently withdrawn. Flying takes longer than driving.

From Jerusalem

No public transport runs directly between Jerusalem and Amman: the only way to go is with a combination of bus, taxi and serveece. All traffic is funnelled towards the single border crossing open to the public, located a short way north of Jericho in the West Bank. It is known as the Allenby Bridge (Jissr Allenby in Arabic; Gesher Allenby in Hebrew) or the King Hussein Bridge (Jissr al-Malek Hussein). Opening hours are limited (Sun–Thurs 8am–midnight, Fri & Sat 8am–3pm; t 02 548 2600). The Israeli and Jordanian terminals are around 5km apart, separated by no-man’s-land either side of the bridge itself. Walking across, or taking a private car, is forbidden: you must take public transport. This crossing-point is also notoriously subject to the ebb and flow of Middle Eastern politics, and can close at short notice.

Although you must have a visa to enter Jordan, they are not issued at this bridge – which, thanks to a complex piece of official doublethink, is not viewed by Jordan as an international border. If you try to cross without already holding a Jordanian visa, you’ll be turned back by Israeli security.

Israeli buses from West Jerusalem don’t go to the bridge; they only drop off at a parking area beside Highway 90 by a security barrier. Instead, use the serveeces (shared taxis) which depart frequently from East Jerusalem for NIS38 per person plus NIS4 per bag – choose from Abdo travel agency opposite Damascus Gate (t 02 628 3281) or Nejmeh (t 02 627 7466), a short walk east on the same street beside the Golden Walls hotel. Set out early in the morning, or book your ride in advance: serveeces stop running by about midday (10am on Fri & Sat), after which your only certain option of reaching the bridge is a private taxi for NIS200 or more. Buses also run to the bridge from Jericho.

At the Israeli bridge terminal (foreigners’ hall), your bags are taken away for X-ray while you pay the Israeli departure tax, currently NIS176 (around US$45). If you intend to use your passport for overland travel beyond Jordan, be sure to tell the Israeli officials to stamp the loose immigration forms only, not your passport (see From Jerusalem). Then you reclaim your bags and must wait up to an hour for a bus which makes the short trip across the bridge to the Jordanian arrivals terminal – the fare is JD3 plus JD1.25 per bag, usually payable in cash dinars only. During the trip the bus driver will collect all passports; on arrival you go into the foreigners’ arrivals hall to reclaim your passport, which won’t have been stamped by the Jordanian officials. Here you’ll find a snack bar, a bank and an ATM. Taxi drivers gather outside, charging JD25-30 to Amman. Alternatively, turn left and head through a couple of unmarked doors to find the exit from the locals’ arrival hall, from where serveeces do the one-hour journey to Tabarboor station in Amman for JD5-6 per person.

With luck the journey from Jerusalem to Amman can take as little as two hours; without it (or with security/immigration delays) you could be hanging around most of the day. If you need speed, you can pay roughly US$200 for VIP service city-to-city from agencies such as w amman2jerusalem.com – but this excludes the bridge shuttle bus. A better option is to take ordinary taxis at both ends, but then at the Israeli departures terminal go to the marked VIP office run by Laufer Aviation (w laufer.co.il) – for around US$100 they can whisk you through all the passport and security formalities and zip you direct to Jordanian arrivals in a private minibus.

From Tel Aviv and Nazareth

Buses of Trust International Transport run regularly from the Israeli cities of Tel Aviv and Nazareth direct to Irbid and Amman, without passing through the West Bank. From Tel Aviv, buses depart from the Central Bus Station, 4th floor, bay 99 (Sun–Fri 3pm; NIS180; t 050 553 8762). From Lower Nazareth, departures are from the Trust office (daily 2pm; NIS160; t 04 646 6660). Both services cross at a bridge over the River Jordan about 6km east of Bet She’an (Beisan in Arabic), known to the Israelis as the Jordan River crossing (Sun–Thurs 6.30am–9pm, Fri & Sat 8am–8pm; t 04 609 3400), and to the Jordanians as the Sheikh Hussein Bridge or simply the Northern Crossing. You pay an Israeli departure tax, currently NIS98 (about US$25), plus around NIS5 for a bus across the bridge. On the Jordanian side, after you’ve bought a visa (JD20), the waiting bus continues to Irbid (dropping off at the Trust office near Safeway) and on to Amman, terminating at the Trust office near 7th Circle. Reckon on 4-5 hours end to end – and always book one day in advance. You can also cross independently, with a taxi from Bet She’an to the bridge (around NIS25) and another taxi to Irbid (around JD25) or Amman (around JD50).

Flying from Tel Aviv to Amman costs around US$280 one-way on Royal Jordanian (t 03 516 5566, w rj.com) – but offers the lure of spectacular scenery over desert hills and the Dead Sea. Flight time is about thirty minutes.

From Eilat

Another crossing-point from Israel is in the south, between the neighbouring Red Sea resort cities of Eilat (Israel) and Aqaba (Jordan), known to the Israelis as the Yitzhak Rabin Crossing or Arava crossing (Sun–Thurs 6.30am–8pm, Fri & Sat 8am–8pm; t 08 630 0555), and to the Jordanians as the Wadi Araba or Southern Crossing. From Eilat bus station, it’s reached most easily by taking a taxi (around NIS50) or by simply walking 2km to the border. There’s an Israeli departure tax, currently NIS98 (about US$25). Once you’re through the formalities – Jordanian visas are free at this crossing (see Customs and duty-free) – a taxi into central Aqaba (5km) costs JD10-15, if you bargain hard.

From Cairo and the Sinai

Buses do run from Cairo to Amman, though it’s an uncomfortable journey of at least twenty hours. Jordanian JETT and Egyptian SuperJet buses leave once or twice weekly from the Almaza terminal in Heliopolis (t 02 2290 9013). The East Delta bus company (t 02 2405 3482) runs daily services from the Sinai terminal in Abbassiya. The fare on either is around US$90–110 including the Nuweiba–Aqaba ferry, payable in dollars only. Royal Jordanian and EgyptAir fly from Cairo to Amman (around US$240; flight time 1hr 30min), and you can also find flights from Alexandria, El-Arish and Sharm el-Sheikh.

Ferry services from Egypt to Aqaba are operated out of Nuweiba by AB Maritime (Cairo t 02 2260 4949, Nuweiba t 069 352 0365; w abmaritime.com.jo). At the time of writing, fast ferries (catamarans) depart daily at 5pm (economy US$75; first class US$95; 1hr), and slow ferries depart daily at 5pm and 10pm (US$70; 3hr) – though their timetable is notoriously unreliable and can change from month to month. Expect lengthy delays. There may be a tax of about EGP50. Arrive at the port, 8km south of Nuweiba, at least two hours early to buy tickets (with US dollars only). On boarding, you’ll have to hand over your passport, which will be returned to you at Aqaba passport control, where visas are free. A serveece into central Aqaba (9km) is about JD2 per person, a taxi about JD8. Check for details of extra departures in peak season (during summer, at the end of Ramadan, and around the hajj and Eid al-Adha).

You’d do better to opt for the other ferry, a passenger-only catamaran (built in 2010) also run by AB Maritime but marketed by Meenagate (Aqaba t 03 201 3136, w meenagate.com). It’s slightly more expensive, but eliminates the chaos and uncertainty – and, above all, runs to a fixed, reliable daily schedule. Until their online booking system is up and running, book at least 24 hours in advance by phone or email; you may have to send a copy of your passport by email. Departure from Nuweiba is daily at 6am; you must be at Meenagate’s Pyramid Hall check-in zone, separate from the main hall, by 5am. The fare is US$85, which includes all taxes and a snack on board. The voyage takes ninety minutes and arrives at the convenient Royal Yacht Club marina, within easy walking distance of Aqaba’s city-centre hotels.

Ferries and cruises to Aqaba also used to run out of Taba, 70km north of Nuweiba. These were suspended at the time of writing; check for the latest info with tour operators in Sinai or Cairo.

A cheaper and often easier alternative is to go overland through the Israeli resort of Eilat. Taba, on the Egyptian-Israeli border, is well served by transport from Nuweiba, Dahab and Cairo. The crossing is open 24 hours daily, but it’s difficult to find transport inside Israel during the Jewish shabbat, so avoid turning up here after 2pm Friday and before 8pm Saturday. There may be a small Egyptian departure tax (around EGP50), and most nationalities are routinely issued with a free Israeli visa on arrival. Once in Israel, a combination of city buses and walking will get you to the Jordanian border (hagvul ha-yardeni in Hebrew), but it’s easier to take a taxi (around NIS80–100). Details about crossing into Jordan are given in “From Eilat”. Total journey time is about two or three hours – though the passport stamps you pick up will disqualify you from subsequently entering Syria and many other Middle Eastern countries.

Travelling onwards from Jordan with an Israeli stamp

If you intend to visit Israel, the West Bank or Gaza as part of a longer journey in the region, you need to bear in mind that it is the official policy of almost all Middle Eastern and North African countries (exceptions include Egypt, Jordan and Morocco) to refuse entry to people who have evidence of a visit to Israel in their passports. “Evidence” includes not only Israeli stamps, but also Jordanian entry or exit stamps from the border-posts at the Sheikh Hussein/Jordan River Bridge, the King Hussein/Allenby Bridge and the Wadi Araba/Yitzhak Rabin crossing (Aqaba–Eilat), as well as Egyptian stamps from the border-posts at Taba (near Eilat) and Rafah in northern Sinai. Visas issued in Israel for travel to any country and flight itineraries that specify Tel Aviv (or TLV) will also bar you, as will anything in Hebrew discovered in your belongings.

We’ve had some reports of travellers holding Israeli stamps getting into certain countries (Tunisia, Oman and the UAE, among others) without any difficulty, but this can’t be relied upon. Syrian and Lebanese officials are the least flexible in this regard.

The best advice is to construct your itinerary so that you visit Israel last, after Syria and the rest. Alternatively, you can apply in your home country, well in advance, for a second passport: many countries issue these to people travelling around the Middle East as a matter of routine, but it’s then up to you to ensure that your tally of entry and exit stamps in each passport adds up, and that you don’t hand the wrong passport over to the wrong border official.

If you hold only one passport, there is no foolproof method of avoiding a giveaway stamp. If you’re feeling lucky, and you’ve entered Jordan by air, sea or across the land borders from Syria, Iraq or Saudi Arabia, then you could try using only the King Hussein (Allenby) Bridge to cross from Jordan to the West Bank and back (while making sure that your Jordanian visa does not expire in the meantime). At this bridge Israeli and Jordanian immigration officials will usually stamp you both in and out on a piece of paper if you ask, thus avoiding any permanent evidence of having been “on the other side” (as many travellers refer to Israel, to avoid detection by eavesdropping officials). However, the success of this depends on not running into an official who decides to stamp your passport regardless.

It’s a well-known ploy of travellers who have unwittingly acquired evidence of a visit to Israel to lose their passports deliberately in Egypt or Jordan and apply for new ones from their embassies. However, an unused passport issued in Cairo or Amman is as much evidence to some consular officials of a visit to “Occupied Palestine” (as Syrian visa application forms put it) as a border stamp. Even if the loss of your old passport was genuine, you may still find yourself refused entry to certain countries on this suspicion alone.

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Rough Guides Editors
8/29/2020
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