(Revised January 2016)
This is the definitive guide to Israel – Jordan border crossings and visas. (Revised January 2016 – special note about Aqaba/Eilat crossing)
Ha! Don’t believe that claim from anyone! These rules can change at any time and as in one particular moment in my case, a rule can be ignored or forgotten. I had a couple of Israel-Jordan land border crossings myself and we’ve been compiling crowd-sourced experience and knowledge since then. I advise getting second opinions about what is possible. I wasn’t clear about passport stamp options, and I unwisely canceled an easy trip to Lebanon – missed opportunity! During my trip, just for kicks I asked immigration officials and tour operators questions I already knew the answers to and some of them either didn’t know, weren’t sure, or had it wrong! (according to what I had experienced earlier that day). Try to rely on official sources (I found some that contradicted each other) but then balance that off with the most recent experiences of fellow travelers (see myriad comments below, but I’ve also add much of that information up here as well).
My own crossings went very smoothly, but there are true horror stories of entry into and exit from Israel. Even Paul Theroux had a bad moment in The Pillars of Hercules: A Grand Tour of the Mediterranean (great read, by the way). If you are planning to travel to Petra from Israel (I did, here’s where I stayed), you are going to want to read this carefully.
One thing to remember at any border in any country: you have no cards to play. You can read in the news of diplomats who have gotten shafted in some cases. Israel may be a little tougher than some due to what they fear may come walking in over the border. So if someone is being testy, insolent, mean, unreasonable, or whatever, do your best to lighten the situation rather than escalate it. In all cases remember it is better to attract flies with honey than vinegar. I mean to say that if a border agent gets testy with you, lay on the sugar. Be polite and patient. You came to cross the border, not to debate.
Crossing the Israeli – Jordanian Border
I was originally going to entitle this “the Clusterf*ck of border crossings between Jordan and Israel”. But instead let’s look at it positively. You have options!
First, before you attempt crossing to Israel be sure you don’t need to apply for a visa in your home country or at an Israeli embassy elsewhere in the world. See the current Israeli visa rules. Many countries are exempt from visa requirements – including the US, UK, much of Europe, Australia, parts of South America and Africa, and more. Check to be sure. (For that matter, also be sure Jordan doesn’t require you to get a visa BEFORE arrival. For most countries, they do not. But check the drop down menu at the bottom of this Jordan Tourism Board page to be sure.)
Also, see the special note about avoiding the Israeli passport stamp, and other stamps associated with that crossing, to enter Lebanon or certain other countries.
Crossing to Israel at Allenby Bridge / King Hussein Bridge:
This is the closest land border to both Amman and Jerusalem, about an hour away from each. My hostel in Amman (Jordan Tower Hotel – recommended!) helped me and three other guests book a taxi to the border at Allenby/King Hussein bridge for 26 JD total. Much easier than taking a taxi to the bus station (maybe 5 JD) and then the bus to the border (8 JD). And in this case, cheaper. Other travelers report about 35 JD as a typical taxi price from Amman.
After arriving on the Jordan side by bus or taxi, go to the departure waiting room (opens at 8 a.m. but taxis will often get you there just after 7 a.m. so you can wait and beat a crowd if one is forming that day. There are restrooms here). The last bus from the Jordan border station across the border is allegedly 8:30 pm Sunday-Thursday – this is questionable internet information that currently contradicts what Jordan Tourism websites and embassies have recently told us. On Friday and Saturday, we are told the border closes at 2 pm. But now we hear that this is true on all days and that you should leave Amman by about 11 am to get to the border and get through in time. (We are still trying to determine the veracity of all this, so if you are there on the ground, please share what you know. Mar 7, 14) It is best to go in the morning anyway.
At the first window the agent examines your passport. If you owe the departure tax you will pay it at the next window. If you entered Jordan that day or the day before (and the stamp will show this) you will not owe a departure tax, otherwise you must pay 10 JD. You leave your passport and go out and get on the bus which will wait until it’s full to cross the bridge to Israel. The Jordanian border agents will bring the passports to each person personally on the bus when they are finished processing them.
The last distance between Israel and Jordan is crossed by bus for 7.5 JD. You will also pay for each bag you need to put under the bus. (1.50 JD approx.)
The bus stops and everything is unloaded. Your bags will be searched carefully (I hope you have no artificial hips, ugh!) and you will be sent through the metal detector like at an airport. On the other side, an Israeli immigration agent will ask lots of questions and look over your passport carefully. Stamps from certain Arab states may bring questions but should not affect your entry at all. Have good, pleasant replies for why you were there. They will give you a small piece of paper with a small passport photo with details like passport number, nationality, validity, etc. and as you enter the next area they will look at your passport.
Past immigration you can change money at a crappy rate. I did the minimum I needed to get to Jerusalem.
Outside you can either hire a taxi to your next stop or take a yellow mini-van to Damascus Gate (Bab Al-Amood) in Jerusalem for about 40 NIS plus 5 NIS for luggage. The ticket booth for the mini-van is around the corner to the right. The bus departs when it’s full. The taxi is very expensive. The taxi driver I met started at 300 NIS but dropped significantly while haggling with others I overheard. In a group and with haggling you may be able to get a better per-person price than the mini-van. Here are several hotels and hostels closest to Damascus Gate.
Crossing from Israel to Jordan:
You will pay an exit tax on the Israeli side of about 101 shekels (Jan 1, 2015-Dec 31, 2015) before you get your exit stamp (about 176 shekels at Allenby!).
Crossing at Allenby Bridge / King Hussein Bridge:
You can return to the border using the same yellow mini-van that drops passengers off at Damascus Gate (Bab Al-Amood) in Jerusalem (see the drop-off point in the photo above). Be aware that Jordan does not give visas at the Allenby / King Hussein bridge crossing. If you do not have one, you are wasting your time here (and Israeli border agents will not always alert you to this!). A visa-on-arrival in Amman at Queen Aila Airport (40 JD as of January 2015, about USD$60, ) is typically only good for that single entry! You need another visa to re-enter Jordan. ***HOWEVER, you may re-enter the Kingdom through Allenby/King Hussein on that same Amman / Queen Aila Airport visa if your exit from Jordan and re-entry are within the two-week validity of that visa.*** This little exception only works here, not at the two other land crossings. ***The “rule” here has gotten murkier. One traveler exited at Eilat, spent 7 days in Israel, tried to return via Allenby, was told No, insisted he had only been there 7 days, and the border agents said, sure, give us another 20 JD (the visa rate at the time). Ahem. Probably not the rule as it is written. We suspect that that two-week allowance to depart Jordan at King Hussein/Allenby with your initial visa and return is perhaps only valid if it is all done at that particular crossing. I wouldn’t recommend offering a bribe, but perhaps insistence and begging may elicit the offer in a clutch. :)*** The white taxis on the Jordanian side cost as much as 35 JD back into Amman.
1. Apply for a multiple-entry Jordan visa at a Jordanian embassy before your trip begins. This takes some time and at 120 JD (USD$170) it saves you money and hassle only if you will use it at least three times. It is valid for 6 months (for entries from the date is was issued, not a six-month stay). Two entries on arrival are cheaper.
2. I contacted the Jordanian embassy in the USA and was told that there is a double-entry visa for Jordan available at the airport and at the borders. (1/2015): The cost is
45 JD about 60 JD (USD$84.50 and its validity for entries is for three months from the date is was issued. ***WARNING: 1/16 see Aqaba/Eilat crossing info below! ***WARNING: 4/14 a recent traveler reportedly asked for the double-entry visa at Queen Alia Airport in Amman, and was told there wasn’t one. There may have been confusion there regarding a double-entry visa vs. purchasing two single visas. ***
3. Go to one of the other two land crossings when trying to enter Jordan from Israel – see Beit She’an (Jordan River)/Sheikh Hussein crossing and Eilat/Aqaba (also called Wadi Arava Border in Israel) crossing below
4. Fly to Amman from Tel Aviv (pricey)
5. Apply for a visa at the Jordan Embassy in Tel Aviv This can be a hassle as the location of the Jordan Embassy in Tel Aviv is not convenient, and the cost is rather high: 360 NIS (1/2015) for a single-entry, 1000 NIS for multiple-entry. You’ll need to fill out a form and submit a passport photo, and service can be done same day; if you are in early enough in the morning, you can get it in the afternoon.
Crossing at Beit She’an / Sheikh Hussein:
Jordan River / Sheikh Hussein Bridge crossing. In Israel, you can get public transportation to Beit She’an (Egged buses except during Shabbat when route options end early on Friday, start late on Saturday) which leaves you 7 km short of the border. The bus is 2 to 2.5 hours from Jerusalem for about 42 NIS. From there, taxi rental is generally pricey and susceptible to some cheating as well. You can take a taxi all the way from Jerusalem or Tel Aviv to this border (again around two hours) but you will pay through the nose (more than 700 shekels some have said. Haggle like hell and go in a group.)
Pass through Israeli immigration at Jordan River Border Terminal with the 103 shekel departure tax, walk or take the shuttle a short distance across, and do the immigration thing with Jordan as well. (Remember to skip getting the passport signed if you prefer.) The Jordan River Border Terminal hours are Sunday to Thursday 6:30 to 21:00 and Friday-Saturday 8:00 to 19:00 (confirm times here) Special hours apply for Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement) and the Muslim New Year (Id il Hajira) and potential random security issues.
Be aware that you should try to arrive well before the closing time, and be clear on the Israel border closing times for Shabbat (Fri-Sat).
From here you can either take a taxi to Irbid for about 20 JD and take a cheap public bus from there to Amman, Jerash, etc., or take a taxi all the way to your final destination. I was quoted 50 JD for the 2-hour Amman / Sheikh Hussein segment by a trusted driver, so I’d expect a bit more than that from a random driver, especially as I am standing with my bags in the middle of nowhere. It is a longer trip than just crossing at Allenby, almost double the distance. (See Allenby Bridge/King Hussein info above). This border is usually open 24 hours a day.
The view of Eilat across the water from Aqaba
Crossing at Eilat / Aqaba:**
Eilat-Aqaba crossing (also referred to by the region “Arava” in Israel). This is five hours south of Tel Aviv by bus with Egged (78 NIS), and four hours south of Amman by bus (8 JD with JETT bus). Taxis on either side will stiff you (should be 20 shekels to the border from the bus station in Eilat – I paid 35, and 11 JD from the Jordan post to downtown Aqaba. Taxis on the Jordan side are referred to as the taxi mafia. No use haggling here and even the guards remain mute when drivers say you have no choice. It’s about 1.8 mi/3 km out to the nearest highway, and then another mile or so south just to the edge of town, and it gets pretty hot. Walking is not the best idea.)
The Yitzhak Rabin border station is open Sunday to Thursday 6:30 to 20:00 and Friday-Saturday 8:00 to 20:00 (confirm times here) Special hours apply for Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement) and the Muslim New Year (Id il Hajira) and potential random security issues.
From the Israeli side you first pay the exit tax at the first windows, then go to the next set of windows to stamp out and get your gate pass. (Remember you no longer need to worry about avoiding that passport stamp if you get the new loose-leaf Israeli visa card when you enter Israel.) You will walk across the actual border crossing. Fun in the sun with luggage: Amusing going the Jordan direction as they all seem bored and disinterested; quite a different scrutiny going the Israel direction. Don’t try to be funny.
**UPDATE for January 1, 2016: That free ASEZA-sponsored Jordan visa on arrival you may have heard about at the Aqaba/Eilat crossing? It is not currently available at the border. In fact, NO VISAS are currently being issued at this border crossing as of January 1, 2016. Jordan Tourism has said that decision is on hold, but actual travelers have found it to be the case. The free visa then is likely no more and those without visas are being turned away. [Another source, unverified, claims it’s still available, HOWEVER, only for those 1) staying more than 2 nights in Jordan and 2) carrying a passport from a nation eligible for visa on arrival, of course. But no readers/travelers here have thus far confirmed that, and it seems quite unlikely.] So, if you plan to cross into Jordan at the Aqaba/Eilat border crossing, you have two options (1/1/2016): 1) you either need to have a pre-arranged Jordan visa (at least two weeks in advance) from a consulate or embassy elsewhere, or 2) you can travel with a qualified tour company on a tour. In this case the tour company can vouch for you at the border (confirm this with your tour company!), but you will pay the full amount for the visa as of January 1, 2016. (No free Jordan visa.)
From the border into Aqaba you will only have taxis, and they are all in collusion. Some call them the “taxi mafia.” From a fellow traveler: “The easiest way is to ask for a taxi to Aqaba, then switch to a bus or another taxi to Amman or Wadi Musa. Don’t tell the driver your final destination, or else they will try to take you there. Make sure you change money before crossing the border because the taxi driver may claim that they have no change. A ride from the border to Aqaba is about 11 JD. Here are some hotels in Aqaba.
That about sums it up. If you see anything amiss here, please do let me know in comments below! Enjoy Jordan / Israel. It is quite a nice travel pairing!