This is the definitive guide to Israel – Jordan border crossings and visas. (Revised April 2013)
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. My Israel-Jordan land border crossings took place in May 2012. I advise getting second opinions about what is possible. I didn’t 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.
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).
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, 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.
Also, see the special note about avoiding the Israeli passport stamp 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) 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.
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). 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 8 JD** (update 11/25/12: travelers report this is now 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 4 JD. You will also pay for each bag you need to put under the bus. (1.30 JD approx.)
Your bags will be searched carefully (I hope you have no artificial hips, ugh!) and the 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. 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 in Jerusalem for 38 NIS. 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.
Crossing from Israel to Jordan:
You will pay an exit tax on the Israeli side of about 100 shekels (January 2013) before you get your exit stamp (173 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 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 (20 JD) 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. 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. ***
1. Apply for a multiple-entry Jordan visa at a Jordanian embassy before your trip begins. This takes some time and at 60 JD (about USD$80) saves you money only if you will use it at least three times. Two entries on arrival are cheaper.
2. Go to one of the other two land crossings when trying to enter Jordan from Israel – see Sheikh Hussein and Aqaba below
3. Fly to Amman from Tel Aviv (pricey)
Crossing at Beit She’an / Sheikh Hussein:
Sheikh Hussein Bridge crossing. In Israel, you can get public transportation to Beit She’an (Egged buses except during Shabbat) which leaves you 5 km short of the border. The bus is 2 to 2.5 hours from Jerusalem for 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 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.)
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)
The view of Eilat across the water from Aqaba
Crossing at Eilat / Aqaba:
Eilat-Aqaba crossing. 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 5-10 JD from the Jordan post to downtown Aqaba.)
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 to avoid that passport stamp if you prefer.) 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.
That about sums it up. If you see anything amiss here, please do let me know! Enjoy Jordan / Israel. It is quite a nice travel pairing!