About the border crossing
Israel is notorious for tight security. Especially at their borders. So even though I was leaving rather than entering Israel, I was understandably on edge. Not to mention that my Israeli tourist visa was expired by 5 days.
My flight to India was from Amman, Jordan but I was currently staying in Jerusalem. How do you get from Jerusalem to Amman, without unnecessary stress and frustration? There are three border crossings between Israel and Jordan. Though there is a border opening in East Jerusalem (the King Hussein/Allenby bridge), because of certain restrictions and it’s notoriety for long waits, I chose to take the northern border crossing from Bet She’an. And it was easy!
***January 2013 note: I recently learned there is a direct bus from Nazareth to Amman as well every Saturday, Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday at 8:30am. Nazareth is just a simple bus ride away from Jerusalem so this would be an easy alternative. Additionally, Nazareth’s Old City is quite scenic and there are definitely some things worth seeing if you decide to spend a few days there. If so, I highly recommend the Fauzi Azar Inn which made my 2-night stay incredibly enjoyable.***
Just 5 steps to get from Jerusalem to Amman
Here’s how I did it…and how you can too! (information valid as of February 2011)
- From Jerusalem’s Central Bus Station take bus line 961 (express) or 966 to Bet She’an. The stop you’ll have to get off at is basically a corner on the street in front of Bet She’an’s mall. Luckily bus drivers in Israel are fairly friendly so they can let you know when it’s your stop. It’s about 2 hours total from Jerusalem, and only about 10 minutes after the rest stop the bus line takes during the journey.
- Once off the bus, I had to ask the falafel/shawarma place across the street to call a taxi for me. A few minutes later and I was on my way to the border. It’s about a 5-10 minute taxi ride and cost me an overpriced 50 shekels (this can be negotiated).
- Once the taxi drops you off, you have to enter the building, pay your exit tax (just under 100 shekels) and go through Israeli immigration. Then you exit the building and have to go wait for a mandatory bus to the Jordan border. The bus costs 5 shekels, or $2. It didn’t look like I was supposed to take the bus because there was a massive Brazilian tour group in the way, but it turns out it’s the only way to cross the border.
- At the Jordan immigration, you may need to buy a tourist visa depending upon the length of your stay. Be aware that they only accept Jordanian currency and do not have any sort of ATM or credit machine. You can take out currency before you exit Israel at the same time you pay your exit tax, which I’d recommend doing.
- Once you go through immigration and customs, walk a little bit and you’ll see a taxi or two waiting for you. It cost me another overpriced 40 dinar to taxi to the Amman airport. If you wait long enough, you can likely share a cab with another solo traveler.
All in all, it took me just about 5 hours total to get from Jerusalem to Amman. When I purchased my ticket to India, I purposely bought it departing from Amman rather than Tel Aviv because it saved me nearly $350. And as it turned out, crossing the border over land rather than flying was much cheaper and just a bit longer. And security was a lot less stressful than the Ben Gurion airport. Jerusalem-Amman? Not a problem!
One other thing I’d like to mention: I don’t really recommend taking a Israel / Jordan tour, or one of those “holyland” tours to get from Jerusalem to Amman (or vice versa). The Middle East is safe enough and the people are friendly enough that it’s perfectly manageable on your own with just a little will. And if you’re planning a tour to Petra, Jordan from Israel… I definitely don’t recommend booking it, but instead doing it on your own. But that’s another story.