(Notes for the Abu Dhabi Bar Mitzvah)

What to Expect When You’re Expecting… to Take Buses from Amman to Tel Aviv

The Conclusive Guide to Crossing (In and Out Of)
Jordan by Land

If I’d spent Hanukkah in the United Arab Emirates, I had to spend Christmas in Israel. At a dark 5:30 in the morning, a muezzin belted out the dawn Call to Get Moving from the Grand Mosque. We few “Members of the Tribe” left for an 8:00 flight to Jordan, the civilized among us connecting to Tel Aviv by air. Not me. Here’s how to do it by bus:

Amman to Jerusalem/Tel Aviv
9:15 am (local time): Arrive at Amman’s Queen Alia International Airport and be sure to go to the separate Visa line if you don’t have one (10 JD, about $15). And have cash. There’s a change booth in that same room, but because any card-taking ATMs are on the other side of the border, the cashless may have to return to their home country for some Jacksons.
9:50 Get your bags and have them checked. “Is this your camera?” a guard asked me, pulling my camera from my bag. Not the kind of question that’ll stop murderers, but hey — I love any question I can answer. Get some JD from the ATM. You’ll need: 30 JD to get to the crossing, about 5 JD for the bus on the way over, 9 JD for the shared taxi to Jerusalem and about the same for the way back. Get at least 90 JD.
10:10 Get a taxi to the King Hussein Bridge for 30 JD. Near the end, the road bends down an overgrown driveway — don’t worry, you’re not geting kidnapped.

10:45 You’re dropped outside the gates of a compound where buses and taxis leave for the actual crossing. Enter the gates and turn left. On your right is a special “VIP” service that can speed up the next few steps for about $60; on your left is the standard corral for the rest of us. Find the door to the building next to the duty free.

The building next to the duty free.

11:15 Wait in a line to have your passport taken. Jordanian border guards will always stamp an extra piece of paper, but it can’t hurt to ask them to make sure. Your passport is returned on the bus, and if you arrived in Jordan that day by air, you don’t have to pay the 4 JD exit fee.
11:45 Big bus arrives.
12:25 pm Big bus leaves. Passports returned. Pay the driver for your ticket — a little extra for each large piece of luggage.
12:35 After two short checkpoints, stamped papers in passport are taken by the driver.
12:45 Get off the bus to show passport to Israeli border guard. There’s no stamping of anything here.

12:55 Back on the bus.
1:00 Arrive at the big border crossing center. My understanding is that those with VIP treatment will join the pack here, saving time waiting for the bus to fill up.

If it doesn't look like this, um...

Hand over your passport and any big bags — you’ll get luggage back after you’ve crossed the border. Wait to retrieve your passport, along with the stupid stickers they put on the back (20 minutes). Get through security (20 minutes). In the big hall for immigration, find the line for visitors to Israel, usually numbers 1 – 4. There are 14 total lines — this is why tourists tend to wait so long.

Don’t want an Israeli stamp? Get ready to answer some questions. I live [here]. My work needs me [here]. My family is [here]. I’ve been to Israel [this many] times. I enjoy falafel with [tahini].
Don’t tell them if you’re planning to visit the West Bank (or Gaza. Jesus Christ don’t say Gaza). Don’t give up if they seem not to understand. And most importantly, don’t be an asshole.
3:00 You’re through. Two (quick) passport checks. Recollect your luggage from a big pile.
3:05 Take off in a mini bus (42 shekels, 9 JD) for Jerusalem, west through the West Bank.

3:30 Checkpoint on the road up into Jerusalem. Nothing happens.
3:45 You’re in Jerusalem, dropped somewhere outside the Damascus gate. Of course, some of these steps could’ve gone faster but on average from when your plane disembarks in Jordan:
Total Trip Time to Jerusalem = 6 1/2 hours. (Quickest possible, if the buses fill up quickly and there are no lines at immigration: probably about 4 1/2 hours.)

If you’re not stopping here and are headed for Tel Aviv, get a falafel or street kebab. They’re amazing. And you’re probably hungry.
Then, at 3:50 take a taxi to the sheirut (shared taxis) for Tel Aviv (25-30 shekels). They leave from Yafo (Jaffa) street.
4:15 (or whenever) Get on a sheirut to Tel Aviv (22 shekels). If you’ve gotta figure out where the hell you’re going, Wifi is free outside the cafe Novo on Yafo St. — the sheirut are parked right around the corner.

For your way back (if you ever go back), read on.

Jerusalem to Amman
You can head back to the Allenby Bridge (Allenby Bridge on the Israeli side, King Hussein Bridge on the Jordanian) the same way you came in (and a lot quicker) — by sheirut taxi from the Damascus gate. Find the gate and ask around to find your ride.

You can also take a bus (#961) that leaves every couple of hours from the Central Bus Station. The ticket’s cheaper, but getting to the crossing itself costs extra for a separate taxi. You get the short end of the shekel stick with the bus route, but if you’ll have trouble (or will pay a lot more) getting to Damascus Gate than to התחנה המרכז’ת, it’s a straightforward way to cross Jordan.

10:00 am Take any bus for Allenby Bridge — often 961, sometimes 966 or 948. The information folk will know which bus, and make sure the driver knows you’re trying to get off there. It’ll take somewhere between 30-45 minutes and will be one of the first few stops where people get off. Check the Egged bus website for an exact schedule.

10:40 Get off the bus at a pretty desolate stretch of highway.

Desolate stretch of highway.

On the right: a few taxis parked, and something that looks like a toll booth. They’ll charge you 50 shekels ($15) for the 5 minute drive to the main crossing compound unless you show that all you’ve got is less. A great traveling tip: put in your wallet everything you’re going to spend and hide all the rest of your money. It works well if you have a couple of monopoly currencies (silly-looking money, no Euros, Pounds, Dollars, etc.) floating around — “This is all I’ve got!” As they’re all Arabophones on this side of the border, any Arabic you know could get you in better graces and better deals, too. I managed to get a bargain at 33 shekels in back pocket change, but take note, if you offer them a maximum that’s too low, you may find yourself having to “oh my god” find a crumpled bill in a jacket pocket.

11:00 Hand in your luggage to be retrieved on the other side. Enter the building and first wait in the line on the right to purchase your right to leave the country (172 shekels, almost $50). You can also change cash back into any kind of cash. Head to the immigration side with your receipt.
11:30 Passport check; get your bag back; hop on the coach bus waiting outside. Hand in passport to the driver.
11:35 Bus leaves, or waits, or goes and turns around. You might wait a little bit on the bus, but you don’t have to do much except write your passport number on a sheet of paper for the driver.
12:15 Retrieve passport, pay for bus (4.5 JD with one piece of big luggage), get off on the Jordanian side.

Taxis will be waiting to go anywhere — a trip to the airport will take about 45 minutes and should cost no more than30 JD. But if you have time, take a ride to central Amman (about an hour, 25 JD) and have some tea and falafel by the Greek ruins before your flight. From there, a cab to the airport is easy (half hour, 20 JD). For my 45 JD, I hired a driver to take me into the city, hang out for a few hours showing me the sites (there are about two), and drive me back into the airport. Find someone with a lot of free time and you’ll find a good deal.

Total Time from Jerusalem to Amman Airport: 3 hours.
To downtown Amman and 25¢ falafel:
3 1/2 hours.

More photos of Israel here
Jordan pictures coming soon


  G/Leecie wrote @

And all done without a word of frustration or irritation.
Await more about trip. G/Leecie

  Gigi wrote @

Je vois que mes lunettes voyages et vies de vrais aventures grace a toi 🙂
Inshallah i will take the civilised route to Jerusalem some time in 2011.

  Madeleine wrote @

Thank you for posting this. Your instructions were almost perfect.
I ran into a tiny bump because I tried to do this trip in reverse Tel aviv-Amman-tel Aviv. You can’t actually get a Jordanian visa at Allenby bridge you need to use one of the other 2 border crossings or get it at the Jordanian embassy in Tel Aviv before hand.
That being said I traveled at around noon on Friday when everything was about to close for the weekend. The border control staff on both sides were very helpful and organised things for me to get through. Even with the phone calls and waiting for visa paper work I made it Tel Aviv to Amman in 4.5 hours.

  av2247 wrote @

Righto! Very good point — if you’re making your first trip to Jordan crossing Allenby, you’ll have to be a bit more prepared. I’m glad it all worked out!

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