Following strenuous efforts by cartographers and government officials, Jordan now uses street addresses in some areas – but it’s only in the big cities that streets sport nameplates and buildings are numbered. Problems arise in spelling – there’s no universally accepted method of transliterating Arabic into English, so online mapping systems may not use the same spelling as the street sign in front of you – and also in usage: many people still ignore the system, navigating instead in relation to prominent landmarks or by asking passers-by. Mail is delivered only to PO boxes at post offices.
Though sometimes surprisingly expensive, Jordan is generally pretty good value. It’s possible to see the sights, eat adequately, sleep in basic comfort and get around on public transport for roughly £70/US$90 a day for two. If you like things more comfortable – staying in good mid-range hotels, eating well, perhaps renting a car to see some out-of-the-way places – reckon on nearer £120/US$150 a day for two. To travel independently while hiring drivers and guides, staying in five-star hotels and generally living the high life, a realistic minimum is £250/US$320 a day for two. All these figures – which are rounded and approximate – exclude the cost of getting into Petra, which at £100/US$130 for a two-day ticket for two people, could bust your budget, though the Jordan Pass (see page ) can help offset some costs.
Jordan has a government sales tax, which applies at different rates, depending on the goods/services involved, up to about sixteen percent: bear in mind that, in many situations, the price you see (or are told) doesn’t include this tax, which is only added on when you come to pay. In Aqaba, sales tax is lower than the rest of Jordan. In addition, hotels and restaurants above a certain quality threshold automatically add a ten percent service charge to all bills. They are legally obliged to state these charges somewhere, although it can be as surreptitious as a tiny line on the bottom of a menu.
The sense of honour and hospitality to guests embedded deep within Arab culture, coupled with a respect for others, means that you’re extremely unlikely to become a victim of crime while in Jordan. Along with the ordinary police, Jordan maintains a force of English-speaking tourist police, identifiable by their armbands with English lettering. Posted at all tourist sites nationwide, they can deal with requests, complaints or problems of harassment. Any representation by a foreigner, whether to the tourist police or the ordinary local police, will generally have you ushered into the presence of senior officers, sat down and plied with coffee, with your complaint taken with the utmost seriousness. The nationwide police emergency number is T911. Dial T199 for an ambulance. Otherwise you’re only likely to tangle with the police if they catch you speeding.
Terrorism and civil disorder in Jordan are extremely rare. At the time of writing, the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) had no warning against travel anywhere in Jordan, other than to within 3km of the border with Syria, because of the small risk of stray firing from across the frontier. There is no reason for tourists to venture anywhere near the border, anyway. Across the country, all big hotels have barriers keeping vehicles clear of the entrance, and airport-style security for everyone entering the building (including compulsory baggage X-ray and body search). Armed police patrol all major tourist sites. Regardless of the impression you might get from the nightly news – and as long as you stay clear of the border zones with Syria and Iraq – you’d be in no more danger travelling round Jordan than you might be in your home country.
Note that it is illegal to insult the king or the royal family, possess drugs or pornography, preach Christianity in public or encourage people to convert to any religion other than Islam.
You’re permitted to buy two hundred cigarettes, one litre of spirits and two litres of wine duty-free on arrival in Jordan. All borders and airports have duty-free shops which open for long hours, but if you forget to buy your allowance of alcohol, cigarettes, perfume or electronic goods when you arrive, you can go to the Duty-Free Shop on Tunis Street near 5th Circle in Amman (T06 520 6666, jdfshops.com) within fourteen days, where the whole range is available. Bring your passport.
The area around Aqaba is a Special Economic Zone, with lower taxes and its own customs rules: on all roads into the city, you’ll have to pass through a customs station. On departing the zone, you may be subject to checks: personal items, plus up to two hundred cigarettes and one litre of alcohol that you bought in the zone, are exempt from duty.
Departing Jordan, duty-free shops at the airports and the land borders stock familiar ranges.
The supply in Jordan is 220V AC, 50Hz – the same as in Europe. Most new buildings and big hotels have British-style square three-pin sockets. Older buildings tend to have two-pin sockets for European-style thick-pronged, round plugs.
No immunizations or vaccinations are required to 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 traveldoctor.com.au.
Canada CSIH csih.org.
Ireland TMB tmb.ie.
UK MASTA masta.org.
US CDC cdc.gov/travel.
All visitors to Jordan must hold a passport valid for at least six months beyond the proposed date of entry to the country.
On arrival at all airports, as well as at most land and sea borders – apart from the King Hussein/Allenby Bridge and the Eilat–Aqaba border – most nationalities are routinely issued with a single-entry visa. If you arrive at Aqaba, it’s free; if you arrive anywhere else, it costs JD40 (payable in cash, Jordanian dinars only).
The visa fee is waived if you hold the Jordan Pass or if your trip has been booked through a licensed Jordanian tour operator and you’ll be spending at least two nights in Jordan.
Multiple-entry visas are available in advance only, from Jordanian embassies and consulates, for JD120 or the local equivalent.
Citizens of around fifty developing countries – listed at wvisitjordan.com – cannot obtain a visa on arrival and must instead apply at the nearest Jordanian embassy at least three months prior to travel.
Both single- and multiple-entry visas are valid for a stay of thirty days. If you’re planning to stay longer than that, you must register at any police station in the last couple of days before the thirty-day period is up – a simple, free, five-minute procedure which grants a three-month extension. For any queries, ask your hotel (or an Arabic-speaking friend) to call the Borders and Residence Department (T06 550 5360, psd.gov.jo), part of the Public Security Directorate, on your behalf.
If you plan to enter Jordan for the first time via the King Hussein/Allenby Bridge, or via the crossing from Eilat to Aqaba, you must already hold a visa – they are not issued at these crossing points. If you left Jordan via the King Hussein/Allenby Bridge and are returning via the same bridge, you don’t need to buy another visa as long as your current one is still within its thirty-day validity period.
Always carry your passport on you: you’ll need it to check into hotels and to ease your way through any checkpoints.
Full lists are at wvisitjordan.com.
If you enter Jordan at Aqaba – which stands at the centre of the Aqaba Special Economic Zone (ASEZ) – you are granted a free thirty-day visa on arrival at Aqaba’s airport, seaport or the land crossing from Saudi Arabia (Durra). You are then at liberty to travel around Jordan as you like. Extending an ASEZ visa can be done only at the offices of ASEZA (Aqaba Special Economic Zone Authority) in Aqaba itself.
If you intend to cross by land from Eilat (Israel) to Aqaba you must already hold a Jordanian visa in advance.
If you arrive in Jordan elsewhere – other than the King Hussein/Allenby Bridge – and you let the passport officials know that you intend to go directly to Aqaba, you are in theory entitled to get a free ASEZ visa rather than paying for a standard visa. In these cases, though, you must register at the ASEZA offices in Aqaba within 48 hours of your arrival in Jordan: if you miss this deadline, you become liable for the cost of the visa plus a fine.
It’s essential to take out a good travel insurance policy to cover against theft, loss of property and illness or injury. Before paying for a new policy, however, it’s worth checking whether you are already covered: home insurance may cover your possessions when overseas, many private medical schemes include cover when abroad and premium bank accounts or credit cards often have travel insurance included. After exhausting these possibilities, contact a specialist travel insurance firm.
Airmail letters and postcards can take a week or two to Western Europe, up to a month to North America or Australasia. Asking someone to write the destination country in Arabic can help avoid things going astray. It’s safest to ignore the street postboxes and instead send your mail from larger post offices, all of which have a box for airmail (barid jowwy). Stamps (tawabe’a) cost pennies, but parcels are expensive (JD10–15 for 1kg). International courier firms are well represented in Amman and Aqaba.
Our detailed and interactive maps will guide you through your travels in Jordan. Click here to view our maps online.
The Jordanian unit of currency is the dinar, abbreviated to JD (or JOD). Most people refer to the dinar as a “jaydee” or a “lira”. One dinar is divided into 1000 fils or 100 piastres (qirsh). Locals always think in piastres; they only refer to fils when talking to foreigners. A hotel, restaurant or shop bill will show either “14.65” or “14.650”, both of which mean 14 dinars and 65 piastres (that is, 650 fils). In this Guide, we stick to two decimal places only.
Banknotes are JD50, JD20, JD10, JD5 and JD1, all with Arabic on one side and English on the other. For coins, there’s a gold, seven-sided half-dinar coin inset with a circular silver bit in the middle; a smaller quarter-dinar coin, also gold and seven-sided but without the silver inset; and silver coins of ten piastres and five piastres. All coins state their value on them somewhere in tiny English lettering.
In verbal exchanges, you’ll find that people quite often leave the denomination off the end of prices. If they say something costs “ashreen” (twenty), it’s up to you to decide whether they mean 20 fils (a throwaway amount), 20 piastres (ie 200 fils; the price of a street snack or a short bus ride), or 20 JDs (the cost of a room in a small hotel). Nicknames also pop up: 10 piastres is a barizeh and 5 piastres is a shilin.
Few banks in the West keep Jordanian dinars on hand, but you should be able to order them with a few days’ notice. It’s a good idea to bring JD80 or so with you in cash, to cover visa and transport costs on arrival.
Most hotels and shops above the cheapest level accept credit and debit cards, but Jordan is a cash society: just about everywhere the preferred method of payment is local banknotes. You can’t pay in dollars, euros or other currencies.
Security-wise, Jordan is safer than anywhere in the West: you can carry wads of cash around in your pocket without concern. You’re more likely to be invited for tea than mugged.
For changing money, every town has a welter of banks, with identical exchange rates, and there are also plenty of independent change offices. Cash machines (ATMs) are widespread, always with an English option. You can generally withdraw a maximum of around JD250 a day, depending on your card provider, but watch for hidden fees and commission charges: it’s worth checking your terms and conditions before you leave home – and switching to a card tailored for holiday use if you can. There’s no black market in currency exchange.
Jordan’s working week runs from Sunday to Thursday. Public sector office hours are 8am–3pm; private sector businesses tend to follow a split pattern, perhaps 8.30am–1pm and 3.30–6.30pm. The weekend is officially Friday, though banks, government departments and many businesses also close on Saturdays.
Although Muslims pray together in the mosque on a Friday, the concept of a “sabbath” or “day of rest” does not translate: downtown shops and markets are generally open seven days a week, roughly 9am–9pm. More upmarket shops tend to open 9/9.30am–6/7pm, perhaps closing for two or three hours at lunchtime. Almost everywhere shuts for a couple of hours around Friday midday prayers. All transport services operate seven days a week, though there are fewer services on Fridays (none at all on some routes).
During Ramadan, the Muslim holy month of fasting, everything changes. Shops and offices open from 9am to 2 or 3pm (closed Fri), while street markets operate every day until about an hour before sunset. Banks and government departments may only be open for two or three hours in the morning. Some shops might reopen for a couple of hours after dark.
Jordan’s secular national holidays tend to be low-key affairs; banks, businesses and government offices are closed, but shops might open as normal. Even though Jordan’s Christians are mostly Orthodox and follow the Julian calendar, which varies from the Gregorian calendar used in the West by a couple of weeks, everyone has agreed to celebrate Christmas Day together as a national holiday on December 25 (Muslim shops and businesses don’t close).
Islamic religious holidays, based on the Hijra calendar, are marked by widespread public observance. All shops and offices are closed and non-essential services are liable to be suspended. The following dates are approximate, since each holiday is announced only when the new moon has been seen clearly by an authorized cleric from Jordan’s Ministry of Islamic Affairs. Quoted dates could vary by a couple of days. The start of the holy month of Ramadan is also included here; Ramadan is not a holiday, but since it comprises thirty days of restricted business hours, its first day is a useful date to know.
Eid al-Isra wal-Miraj Night Journey to Heaven:
March 22, 2020; March 11, 2021; March 1, 2022; Feb 18, 2023.
1st day of Ramadan: April 24, 2020; April 13, 2021; April 2, 2022; March 22, 2023.
Eid al-Fitr Three days: begins May 24, 2020; May 13, 2021; May 3, 2022; April 22, 2023.
Eid al-Adha Four days:begins July 31, 2020; July 20, 2021; July 10, 2022; June 28, 2023.
1st of Muharram Islamic New Year: Aug 20, 2020; Aug 9, 2021; July 30, 2022; July 19, 2023.
Mawlid an-Nabawi Prophet Muhammad’s birthday: Nov 10, 2019; Oct 29, 2020; Oct 19, 2021; Oct 8, 2022, Sept 27, 2023.
Landline numbers are nine digits long – seven digits prefixed by a two-digit area code: 02 covers northern Jordan, 03 southern Jordan, 05 the Jordan Valley and central and eastern districts, and 06 the Amman area.
Mobile phone numbers are ten digits long – seven digits prefixed by a three-digit code (currently 077, 078 or 079).
Most Jordanians have given up on landlines and instead rely on mobile phones – many people have two, on different networks. To follow suit you can walk into any phone or electronics shop (there are dozens in every town), buy a local SIM card, plug it into your unlocked handset and be up and running with a Jordanian number in minutes, for around JD10. Topping up with scratchcards (buyable everywhere) is straightforward. Calling and texting off a local number is very inexpensive – much cheaper than roaming from your home network. Basic handsets can be purchased for perhaps JD20–30.
Smoking is banned in public places, including airports, museums and on public transport. However, enforcement is minimal and in effect it’s impossible to escape cigarette smoke anywhere in the country.
Jordan is usually two hours ahead of London, seven hours ahead of New York and eight hours behind Sydney. Daylight Saving Time operates from the last Friday in March to the last Friday in October.
Traffic accidents T190
To the UK T0044
To the Republic of Ireland T00353
To the US or Canada T001
To Australia T0061
To New Zealand T0064
To South Africa T0027
Calling Jordan from abroad
First dial your international access code (00 from the UK, Ireland and New Zealand; 011 from the US and Canada; 0011 from Australia), followed by 962 for Jordan, then the Jordanian number excluding the initial zero.
In a good restaurant, even when a service charge is included, it’s customary to round the bill up slightly as well. Low-budget local diners don’t expect tips and will never press you for anything. In most everyday situations a half-dinar tip (ie JD0.50) is a perfectly satisfactory indication of your appreciation for a service, such as a hotel porter loading your bags onto a bus or taxi. Taxi drivers deserve ten percent of the meter charge; if a driver has spent half a day shuttling you from place to place, JD5–10 is in order. An appropriate tip for a bellboy in a four- or five-star hotel who brings your bags up to your room is JD1.
The Jordan Tourism Board, or JTB (visitjordan.com), part affiliated to the Ministry of Tourism and part private, publicizes the country’s tourist assets abroad under the Visit Jordan brand. It is very active on Twitter, Facebook and other social media. In most countries, the account for handling promotion of Jordan is awarded to a local PR company, so contact details can, and do, change.
visitjordan.com Jordan’s official tourism portal.
kingabdullah.jo Detailed features on history, the royal family, politics and tourism.
jordantimes.com Leading English-language newspaper.
wildjordan.com Excellent information on Jordan’s nature reserves.
www.nomadstravel.co.uk For climbing and trekking enthusiasts.
maani.us/jordan Superb “Field Guide to Jordan”: download their app or buy the book.
jmd.gov.jo Weather forecasts and climate data (Arabic only).
Jordan makes few provisions for its own citizens who have limited mobility, and this is reflected in the negligible facilities for tourists. The best option is to plump for an organized tour; sightseeing is liable to be complicated enough – leaving the practical details to the professionals will take a weight off your mind. Throughout the country, pavements are either narrow and broken or missing altogether, kerbs are high, stairs are ubiquitous and wheelchair access to hotels, restaurants and public buildings is pretty much nonexistent. Hotel staff and tourism officials, although universally helpful, are generally poorly informed about the needs and capabilities of tourists with limited mobility. Travelling with an able-bodied helper and being able to pay for things like a rental car (or a car-with-driver) and good hotels will make things easier.
All Jordan’s ancient sites are accessible only by crossing rough and stony ground. Scrambling around at Jerash or Karak is hard enough for those with full mobility; for those without, a visit represents a major effort of energy and organization. Petra has better access: with advance planning, you could arrange to rent a horse-drawn cart to take you from the ticket gate into the ancient city, from where – with written permission obtained ahead of time from the tourist police – you could be picked up in a car and driven back to your hotel.
Children are universally loved in Jordan, and travelling with your family is likely to provoke spontaneous acts of kindness and hospitality from the locals.
Children are central to Jordanian society – many couples have four or five, and double figures isn’t uncommon. Middle-class extended families tend to take pleasure in spoiling kids rotten, allowing them to stay up late and play endlessly, but as a counterpoint, kids from low-income families can be seen out on the streets at all hours selling cigarettes. The streets are quite safe and even very young children walk to school unaccompanied.
Only the cheapest hotels will bar children; most will positively welcome them (with deals on extra beds or adjoining rooms), as will all restaurants, although discounts may have to be negotiated. There are a few precautions to bear in mind. Foremost is the heat: kids’ sensitive skin should be protected from the sun as much as possible, both in terms of clothing (brimmed hats and long sleeves are essential) and gallons of sunblock. Heatstroke and dehydration can work much faster on children than on adults. Sunglasses with full UV protection are vital to protect sensitive eyes. Kids are also more vulnerable than adults to stomach upsets: you should definitely carry rehydration salts in case of diarrhoea. Other things to watch out for include the crazy traffic (especially for British kids, who’ll be used to cars driving on the other side of the road), stray animals that may be disease carriers, and jellyfish and poisonous corals off Aqaba’s beaches.
Children will love riding camels in Wadi Rum, and even Petra’s threadbare donkeys may hold an appeal. Most of the archeological sites will probably be too rarefied to be of more than passing interest (aside, possibly, from exploring towers and underground passages at Karak, Shobak or Ajloun castles); spotting vultures, ibex and blue lizards at Dana or Mujib may be a better bet, and the glass-bottomed boats at Aqaba are perennial favourites. Children born and brought up in urban environments will probably never have experienced anything like the vastness and silence of the open desert, and you may find they’re transfixed by the emptiness of Wadi Rum or the eastern Badia.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
With the widespread use of English in public life, you’ll have good access to news while in Jordan. International newspapers and magazines are on sale, the local English-language press is burgeoning and satellite TV is widespread. The internet is not censored.
Among the region’s conservative and often state-owned Arabic press, Jordan’s newspapers, all of which are independently owned, have a reputation for relatively well-informed debate, although strict press laws – and the slow process of media liberalization – cause much controversy. The two biggest dailies, ad-Dustour (“Constitution”) and al-Ra’i (“Opinion”), are both centrist regurgitators of government opinion; al-Ghad (“Tomorrow”) has a fresher outlook. There’s a host of other dailies and weeklies, ranging from the sober to the sensational. Local news websites abound.
English-language newspapers are widely available from the kiosks in all big hotels and also from some bookshops, as well as online: unlike elsewhere in the region, Jordan does not censor the internet. The International Herald Tribune and most British dailies and Sundays generally arrive one or two days late (JD2 and upwards). Look out for excellent regional papers such as Abu Dhabi’s The National, Beirut’s Daily Star and Cairo’s Al-Ahram Weekly.
For local news in English, the Jordan Times is published daily except Saturdays, featuring national news, agency reports and pro-government comment. Jordan’s citizen journalism website 7iber.com (pronounced hibber – it means “ink”) runs a more enticing mix of stories in Arabic and English, as well as useful what’s-on information. One key local news blog is black-iris.com, while w BeAmman.com collates news, reviews and opinions about life in Jordan’s capital city.
There’s a lively market for Jordanian magazines, with a range of English-language monthlies including quirky JO, mixing lifestyle features with investigative reporting on social and environmental issues, glossy Living Well, and sober Venture and Jordan Business. Plenty of international magazines are available, from Cosmopolitan to The Economist.
Jordan TV isn’t up to much. Almost all hotels have satellite TV, featuring CNN, BBC World News, Al Jazeera English, plus a few movies and sitcoms in English, alongside dozens of Arabic, European and Asian channels.
As well as stations devoted to Quranic recitation, local news, phone-ins, contemporary pop and old-time crooners, Amman has several English-language music radio stations playing Western hits, including Sunny 105.1 and Play 99.6.
Top image: King Abdullah Mosque in Amman Jordan © kravka/Shutterstock