A very big challenge – it seemed – was to cross the border from Israel to Jordan because I was not able to find it anywhere on Google to get the answer we were looking for, nor did anybody know who we asked (neither locals nor any other travelers). This is why I TRAVEL FOREVER took the challenge and dug deep to find the answer by not only experiencing it, but also happily sharing the knowledge with fellow travelers that plan to do the same or have the same questions. Crossing this border comes with challenges. Here you can read why and how to avoid them.
The issue derived from the fact that my girlfriend and I spontaneously decided to travel from Israel to Jordan. From doing research on the Internet, it was possible to find out that there are three borders to cross: in the north, the middle and the south. I also found out that the middle border from Israel to Jordan is the most complicated in terms of crossing spontaneously and at a higher cost [exit fee: 160ISL vs 100ISL (40 USD vs 25 USD)]. A visa is not available upon arrival. So we looked at the two other options. Even local tour operators cross the border on either the South or the North. Before we continued with any more planning, we checked if it was necessary to get a visa in advance to visit Jordan. A very helpful and precise website that had accurate information was Visit Jordan.
After we prioritised the places we wanted to visit, it was clear that it was the south border we wanted to use to cross.
South border Yitzhak Rabin Border Terminal / Wadi Araba Crossing
North border Bet Shean / Sheikh el Hussain crossing / Jordan River crossing
Why did the border crossing bring so much uncertainty ?
Because beforehand it was very difficult to get information about the experience crossing the border and to find answers for the following questions:
- how to get to the border
- how much it costs
- how to get from the border to Petra / Wadi Rum / etc.
Here is our experience crossing the south border from Israel to Jordan and back:
Getting to the south border
After visiting the Dead Sea area, it was pretty easy to catch a bus to Eilat (about 4-5 hours). You should buy a ticket in advance as bus tickets get sold out. Reserving a ticket at Egged is tough as this appropriate part of the website is only available in Hebrew. However, I managed to get help in the hostel but you can also call and make a reservation or buy a ticket at the bus station in advance. However, when traveling from Tel Aviv, Jerusalem or the Dead Sea to Eilat by bus, bear in mind to get off one stop before Eilat called “Eilot”. It’s not that far if you miss the stop but it triggers more costs and also takes more time because you have to get a taxi from Eilat to the border. Anyway, from Eilot you have to walk for about 20 minutes to arrive at the Yitzahk Rabin Border Terminal. When you arrive, before customs you have to show your passport to two soldiers at the gate. From here it’s a fairly structured process, as explained in the following paragraph.
The 11 different steps of crossing the South border from Israel to Jordan show you what you can expect and how much it costs.
- Passport check at the gate
- Passport check again and an exit fee of 100ISL (ca. 30 USD) per person
- From customs you then receive an exit ticket
- The path leads through a duty-free store
- Passport check (goodbye Israel)
Then we walked through a no man’s land for about 100 meters, where we actually got a feeling of insecurity.
- Border guy looked at the passports (hello Jordan)
- Walked through a TSA scanner on the way to security check
- Pushed door to enter security check
- They sent us to window 1 (if you don’t have a Jordan Pass), where the customs officer wrote in one documents and listed all the people travelling together on one paper (a document indicating the entry manifest the South Wadi Araba crossing border)
- At window 2, someone puts a visa stamp in your passport
- Before the exit that leads you to the taxi rank, there is another passport check by a policeman.
These 11 steps may sound more intense than they are. At the end, it’s just another border crossing with a couple of challenges.
On the way back, crossing the south border from Jordan to Israel** was similar but slightly different with only 8 steps:
- Passport check
- Walking through a TSA scanner
- Departing inspection / security check
- Departures / passport stamp – departure tax* (10 JD = 14 USD)
- Passport and stamp check and check if tax was paid (goodbye Jordan)
You then walk through no man’s land for about 100 meters. It was a very good feeling to be back in Israel again. But there is more.
- Passport check
- Very deep security luggage check
- Passport control counter visa entry with a lot of questions asked (hello Israel)
*Note: if you only stay one night, then you have to pay 40 JD (56 USD) as a visa fee. Be aware that the officer on the Jordan side tried to rip off a couple behind us who even stayed three nights and should have been visa fee exempt. As they heard this, it I made them aware and in the long run, they didn’t need to pay.
** I remember one guy who was traveling around Jordan crossed the border to go to Israel for one day and had to pay 10 JD (14 USD) to leave. I’m not sure how much he paid for entering or exiting Israel the same day.
How much does it cost ?
In total, just crossing the border cost 39 USD per person person (Israel exit fee: 100ISL plus Jordan tax fee: 10 JD). We stayed two nights but if you only stay one, you pay a visa fee of 40 JD instead of 10 JD. This is the cost to cross the border and doesn’t include taxi rates to travel anywhere in Jordan, the only vehicle service running from the border; and so rates are pretty high.
How to get from the border to Petra / Wadi Rum / Aqaba ?
Unless you come with an organised tour operator, the only option from the border is a taxi and the prices charged, as already mentioned, are high. Aqaba is the closest city from the border (about 15-20 minutes) and from there a bus runs to Petra (once per day: Bus)
Distance / duration from the border:
Border to Aqaba: ca. 15-20 minutes
Border to Wadi Rum (64km): ca. 1.5 hours
Border to Petra (130km): ca. 2.5 hours
Taxi service from the border
You can try but there is no way to negotiate the price with a taxi driver because they first refer to the prices (to all different places) set by the government, second get really angry and third it doesn’t go anywhere. I tried and it took a lot of energy, so I recommend you save the hustle and pay a little extra.
I TRAVEL FOREVER’s VIEW & RECOMMENDATION
Was the hassle crossing the border and the taxi worth traveling to Petra and feeling in danger for what you get to see for a high price ? I’m very unsure whether the DIY plan was worth the continuous hassle with the taxi drivers. There was no other option and no time to relax even in the taxi because I continually checked the GPS signal because I just didn’t trust them; they seemed very dodgy people – even if they don’t mean to.
An alternative option is to visit Petra / Wadi Rum / etc. by booking a tour from Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, Eilat. If you just plan to visit Petra, I would probably book a tour because the costs are minimal (a pretty good value option) and it saves you all the hassle of going on your own. A Jordan Pass may be a nice option if you plan to visit Jordan for at least three nights to save visa fees and well worth it if you visit more attractions than Petra and Wadi Rum. Otherwise, the pass doesn’t make it any cheaper. If you organise your trip by yourself make sure to take a taxi to Aqaba. Catch another taxi from there to go to Petra but this may be a lot of trouble so you may prefer to go straight to Petra (about a 2.5-hour drive).
Thinking about the taxi price afterwards, I can say that a 2.5-hour drive would cost way more in Germany. Tourists come to a place in the hope of pay less, so we tend to negotiate prices. Since this doesn’t work here, we have to give up thinking how cheap everything is in comparison to our home country.
Maybe it’s just the Arabic culture and trying to approach people; but if this is the case, I don’t know what to say other than that this cultural difference doesn’t make me a fan of Arabic countries. However, I’ll still go and visit all of them.
With this article I hope that everyone finds the answers they are looking for and has a good time in Jordan. Feedback is welcome !
Challenges of crossing the border
- Hassle with dodgy taxi drivers
- One night visa fee is ridiculous (40 JD)
- Trying to rip you off on departure
- Avoid Shabbat, as the Israeli border closes on Friday at 8:00pm and reopens Saturday evening
- Only one bus runs to Petra from Aqaba at 8:30am (check that), otherwise only a taxi is possible and you still want to go to Petra.