So, you’ve landed in Tel Aviv, Israel, and want to cross the border into Jordan to enjoy all that the country has to offer. If you’re like me, you’re also on a budget, and flights are expensive. By choosing to travel via ground rather than air, you are saving money and the environment. However, this choice comes at a cost of time and confusion! Don’t worry, with a little bit of research and preparation, you can make things a whole lot easier for yourself. Trust me, I made it across and so can you.
I wrote this post based on my experience in December 2018 crossing at the northern Jordan River Border Crossing. Visas can be granted on the spot here – you could also cross at the more central King Hussein/Allenby Bridge, but visas must be pre-arranged in order to use this crossing! Since this was not an option for me, I proceeded to make the trip up north.
To illustrate why you may want to cross via land, here is a cost comparison:
Flight from TLV to AMM: ~400CAD
Buses, fees and taxis from TLV to Amman: ~110CAD
Protip: Make sure you have enough time. My flight into TLV landed at 10:15AM – I did not reach Amman until 7PM! If you have a late arrival, it would be best to spend a night in Tel Aviv or Jerusalem.
Protip #2: Buy the Jordan Pass. The cost of a visa into Jordan is 40JOD, and the most popular attraction in the country, Petra, costs 50JOD for a one day visit. By comparison the Jordan Pass is 70JOD and includes a free visa (if you stay more than 3 nights), entry to Petra, and tons of other attractions. This makes buying the Jordan Pass a no-brainer.
Airport to Jerusalem
First, you’ll need to get from the airport to Jerusalem. The cheapest option is taking bus 485, which departs every hour, on the hour. The service runs daily except on Shabbat. For a visual aid showing exactly where to go from the Arrivals hall to catch the bus, check out this video. The bus costs 16ILS and will take you directly to Jerusalem. Get off at ICC / Shazar (most people will disembark here) and cross the street. The Central Bus Station is close by.
Jerusalem to Beit She’an
Egged is the name of the bus company that runs most inter-city buses in Israel. You can check their timetables and prices online here – just choose Jerusalem CBS as your origin, and Beit She’an Binyamin Mall as your destination. Bus #966 or #967 will be your best options. Once at the Central Bus Station, go to the top floor for Departures. The platform for these buses is 21, located at the far right of the station. Wait for your bus (often late…), board, and pay the fare of 37.5ILS. If taking the 966, don’t miss your stop at the Beit She’an Terminal – the bus continues further otherwise. The 967’s final stop is at the terminal.
Beit She’an to Border Crossing
Here is where things may get a little tricky. There is no public transport from Beit She’an to the border crossing, so your only option is a taxi. Whether you can find a cab near the terminal depends on the time of day, lunar phase, what you had for dinner last night and how much it rained last year in Yemen. That is to say, no guarantee. I waited in front of the terminal for 20 minutes, walked up and down the street, asked inside the terminal and carefully inspected passing traffic, and was unable to find a taxi. I wanted to get going, so I decided to simply walk the 7.5km to the border.
My only luggage was a backpack (I travel light), the weather was nice, and it’s mostly downhill. I filled up my water bottle, cinched up my bag, queued up a podcast and headed off on my merry way. I kept my thumb out the entire way, but nobody stopped, so don’t count on hitching a ride. Note that there are sections of the road without shoulders or sidewalks, so you’ll need proper shoes or boots that can handle walking in ditches. Depending on your level of foolhardiness, you may want to put some more effort into finding a taxi. Personally, I enjoyed the walk. After about 1.5-2hrs, you’ll arrive at the Jordan River Border Crossing.
Cross the Border – Israel Side
Are you ready to pay 106ILS for the privilege of leaving Israel? No? Well tough, because that’s step one at this border crossing. Approach a teller and pay the exit fee. Move yourself and your luggage through a half-hearted attempt at a security pre-screening, and present your fee receipt and passport to another teller. They will provide you with an exit permit. Last but not least, show your exit permit and passport to a third teller, and you’re free to go.
Exit through a duty-free shop to a waiting area outside. Here, a bus will eventually take you to the Jordanian side of the border crossing – but the wait can be long. In my case, a bus was already there, but the driver was nowhere to be found. A group of 6-7 people eventually formed, and 45 minutes later I guess the driver decided enough people were present to warrant a trip, and began boarding. The fare is 1JOD, 2USD, or 5ILS.
Cross the Border – Jordan Side
100 meters later, you will be on the Jordan-administered side of the border. Enter the office and first proceed to the left side windows to obtain a visa into Jordan. Since you bought a Jordan Pass as recommended earlier (you did buy a Jordan Pass… right?) your entry is free. Then, proceed to immigration, hand over your passport and let them scan your retina. Once the officer stamps your passport, you’re officially done with the authorities! Head outside to the transportation area to complete the last part of your journey.
Border Crossing to Amman
To get to your destination, the only option is hire a taxi or rent a car. There’s only one cab company servicing the border (at least it seemed that way), so there’s not much choice or room for negotiation. Note that Jordan does have Uber and Careem as alternatives to taxis, but I tried to call in a ride and there were no drivers available in the area. Luckily, I found a fellow traveler heading to Amman, so we shared a cab. The ride to Amman came out to 25JOD per person and took about an hour. I spent most of the trip snoozing, exhausted from the long day of travel.
Congratulations! You made it all the way from Israel to Jordan for a fraction of the cost of air travel. Give yourself a pat on the back and get ready to take in the sights, sounds, smells, tastes, and insane traffic of one of the Middle East’s best countries.