Is Jordan safe to visit? The answer may surprise you.
Is Jordan Safe to Visit?
Jordan offers world-class mountain and trail hiking; beautiful beaches; mouthwatering cuisine; spectacular star gazing; rare Martian-like deserts popular with Hollywood filmmakers; fantastic snorkeling and scuba diving in the Red Sea; and countless ancient Roman and Nabatean ruins, including Petra, one of the 7 Wonders of the World. But…
Is Jordan a safe country to visit?
When I began leading group trips to Jordan, the main questions I got (including from my mother) were: "Is Jordan safe?", “Is Jordan safe for women?”, and “Is it safe to visit Jordan alone?” Yes. Yes. And YES!
According to a 2017 World Economic Forum report, Jordan is safer than Germany or Great Brittan, two countries widely considered to be very safe for travelers.
As the birthplace of the world’s three major religions, the home of massive oil reserves, and the site of countless border re-drawings, the Middle East has been a hotspot of global conflict for hundreds of years. Jordan shares borders with Iraq and Syria to the north, Saudia Arabia to the East, and Israel to the West. While the Middle East still suffers from plenty of tension and conflict, Jordan remains a safe and peaceful place in the middle of a “rough neighborhood.”
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Jordan takes national security very seriously and King Abdullah II is a respected leader lauded for introducing democratic reforms in and curbing public corruption in the country. Over the past decade, the Jordanian government has invested significantly in tourism, which has begun to pay off in the past few years. With so much revenue at stake, there is a collective desire among all Jordanians to maintain Jordan’s reputation as a safe destination. Some important safety measures include:
High security presence in many hotels
Metal detectors at many hotels and public buildings
Tourist police present at all major tourism sites
All border zones being fully monitored
Unlike in some countries, travelers can trust Jordanian police, military and security service personnel. They are overwhelmingly friendly, honest, and helpful, and they genuinely want travelers to enjoy their stay in Jordan.
Is Jordan Safe to Visit for Americans?
Jordan is safe for Americans to visit and is a strong ally of the United States, According to the U.S. Department of State, the only areas in Jordan that American travelers should avoid are the borders with Syria and Iraq. This small section along Jordan’s northern border is more likely than others to experience civil unrest but it makes up a very small section of the country as a whole. Additionally, none of the main attractions in Jordan, including Petra, the Dead Sea, Red Sea, Jerash, or Wadi Rum, are anywhere near those borders so most travelers have no reason to wander in that direction anyway.
Just in case, here’s some information about the US Embassy in Amman, the capitol of Jordan.
+(962) (6) 590-6000
Is Jordan More Dangerous than the United States?
For a lot of people, the thought of getting on an airplane and going to any country where another language is spoken can be very intimidating. Add to that the endless number of stories on the news about violent riots, mass shootings, church/synagogue/mosque bombings, and natural disasters like fires, floods, and earthquakes and you may never want to leave your house.
Did anybody notice that list of atrocities also applies to the United States? We're often only shown negative images of foreign countries and as such, we have a negatively skewed opinion of a country that might be quite safe and welcoming.
Countless people I've met abroad (particularly during my Cuba group tours) have told me they believe the United States is one of the most dangerous countries in the world because they think everyone owns a gun. All the news coverage about the United States in their country is about violent political protests, police beating up innocent people, and middle schools being shot up. While this certainly happens in the US, I suspect most Americans consider the United States to be one of the safest countries on earth. Having been born and raised in the United States, I feel my country is very safe. I also feel just as safe in Jordan as I do anywhere in the US.
Go Beyond Sensational News Coverage
I encourage you to go beyond sensational news coverage to learn about any destination you’re interested in visiting. The Middle East is a prime example of a place with a bad rap (as is Mexico, I might add). There are absolutely places in the Middle East that I would never visit, such as Afghanistan or the Gaza strip. But much of the Middle East is extremely safe, we just have a hard time believing it because that's not what the media shows us.
My Personal Experience Traveling Alone in Jordan
I first traveled to Jordan by myself in 2016 and had a marvelous time. Up until that point, I never knew much about Jordan and had only heard of Petra the previous year (I never saw Indiana Jones and The Last Crusade, which prompted tourism from the US in the late 80s). While planning a trip to Egypt, I looked at a map, saw Jordan just across the Red Sea (30-minutes by ferry, I would learn!), and thought “Why not?”
During my trip, every single Jordanian I met – from Immigration & Customs officials and border security personnel to taxi drivers and falafel shop employees – went out of their way to make me feel safe and welcome. Each of them greeted me with a warm smile and said “welcome”. Women approached me on public buses, offering help to get me to my next destination. Men waiting at taxi stands made sure I found the correct microbus. Other passengers on the microbus ensured I wouldn’t be overcharged and that I got off at the correct stop. A restaurant owner even insisted I borrow an extra pair of his sneakers that were better suited for the rain than the sandals I showed up in to trek through the ancient Roman ruins of Jerash. The kindness was unreal, almost like I was in a movie.
I made local friends, some of whom we began referring to as “the three Mohammads”, and several of them now make appearances in my group trips to Jordan by joining us at the Turkish bathhouse, guiding us on street art walks, or taking us to an overnight flea market. I spent several weeks traveling alone through Jordan, making friends along the way, and felt completely safe the entire time (including hitchhiking with a Couchsurfer and sleeping in a Bedouin cave). If you want to read more about my first solo adventure to Jordan, check out my blog post Desert Camping and Cave Surfing to Petra.
Solo Travel vs Group Travel in Jordan
Though I’m a HUGE fan of solo travel and have enjoyed traveling alone by myself in Jordan several times, I firmly believe there is safety in numbers so hesitant travelers or those who have never traveled alone before should consider traveling with a group. This could be a group of your friends, or it could be a formal group tour. I help solo travelers and groups plan their own adventures to Jordan (among other places around the world), and I also lead group tours. My next group trip to Jordan will be in April, 2020. If you’d like more info, please contact me!
Travel Safety Tips in Jordan
The US State Department’s 2019 Crime and Safety Report describes Jordan as a “low-threat crime country” but general travel safety guidelines should be followed. Exercise the same safety precautions throughout your travels as you would in your own country.
Don’t wear flashy watches or jewelry.
Keep cameras and phones safely stored while not in use.
Keep your bag/purse close and carry as little cash as possible.
Keep small change (for taxis and tips) separate to avoid pulling out your main stash in public.
Carry a copy of your passport and keep the actual passport safely stored at your hotel/guesthouse. Keep a digital photo of your passport on your phone and in an email account.
Learn basic Arabic phrases to make you feel more confident. Write down important phrases in a notebook and/or install a language app on your phone!
If you’re heading home late, take a taxi instead of walking (especially if you’ve been drinking)
Always carry the business card of your hotel/guesthouse so a taxi can bring you right to your front door.
Download an off-line navigational app such as Maps.Me. Download the app AND the Jordan map it in your home country. You can save locations of interest on the map or add new places that aren’t currently listed.
Travel Safety Tips for Women Visiting Jordan
The first thing women considering a trip to Jordan should know is that they absolutely can and should visit Jordan. As any woman in any country on earth knows, we are subject to far more harassment than men, and we often need to take extra precautions to be safe, including in our hometowns, as safe as they may be.
Here are some general travel tips for women that also apply in Jordan:
Keep your belongings close to you.
If you’re heading home late by yourself, take a taxi instead of walking (especially if you’ve had a few drinks).
Always carry with you the business card of where you’re staying so a taxi can drop you at your front door.
Dress modestly to avoid unwanted attention.
Don’t wander off with strange men (such as the previously mentioned “Pirate Casanovas”).
Transportation Safety in Jordan
Use licensed commercial taxis at major hotels and don’t let the driver pick up additional passengers.
Agree to a fare before you get in a taxi.
Consider ride sharing services like Uber, which is available in Jordan. Click here to save money on your first few Uber rides.
Avoid city buses, which are occasionally targets of rock throwing and other forms of harassment.
Common Scams in Jordan
Currency Swap: Taxi fares may occasionally be quoted in fils, not in dinar, and visitors may get confused when paying.
Made in China: Some shop owners claim an item is crafted locally, when, in fact, it is imported from China or elsewhere abroad.
Fake Antiques: Some so-called antique dealers are really pedaling last year’s merchandise that may look ancient simply because so much dust has collected on it. Dusty oil lamps and coins are the most frequent frauds.
Pirate Casanovas: In Petra (and in Wadi Rum, to a lesser degree), Bedouin men are known to befriend single women, who they attempt to swoon, often by inviting them to hike or watch the stars under the desert sky. The men, whose long hair, head scarves, and thick eyeliner resemble that of Captain Jack Sparrow (Pirates of the Caribbean) often continue requesting money long after the women return home. More here about the Bedouin Romance Scammers.
Driving at Night: Kids along the road between the Dead Sea and Madaba occasionally hold up rental cars, demanding “One JD” (about USD$1.40). If a driver refuses, the kids throw stones at the car, aiming in particular at the headlights. This happens very rarely but overnight driving should be avoided just in case.
Traveling to a Muslim Country
Jordan is a Muslim-majority country but non-Muslims should have no problems traveling here. That said, regardless of what your personal religion or stance on religion, keep in mind your guest status. It’s important to respect the culture and customs of any country you visit and Jordan is no exception.
Jordan is the most progressive country in the Middle East, but it is still a conservative place by Western standards. Even though Jordan is primarily a Muslim country, the freedom to practice any religion is protected. Some traditional Muslim and Christian women choose to wear clothing that covers their arms, legs and/or hair, however, this is by choice, it is not mandated by the state.
As a general guideline, conservative dress is advisable and shoulders and knees should be covered. Long shorts can be worn during hiking (sorry, booty shorts are never welcome!), though lightweight hiking pants/trousers that offer sun protection may be more practical and comfortable. In Petra, the Dead Sea, Aqaba beach resorts, and in Wadi Rum, people are used to seeing tourists and a more relaxed dress code is acceptable. The wearing of shorts is allowed at beach and pool areas but may restrict your entry into family homes and buildings of religious nature.
There are often rallies, demonstrations, and protests in Jordan (similar to those in the United States) but they are typically small, contained, and non-violent. Try to avoid demonstrations but if you find yourself at one, follow the guidance of local authorities.
Government Travel Advice
The following government websites offer travel advisories and information on current hotspots.
Travel insurance typically covers theft, loss, and medical attention (including hospital stays and emergency flights back home). Some policies specifically exclude ‘dangerous activities’, such as motorcycling and even trekking while others are very comprehensive but may charge extra for high-risk activities such as deep sea scuba diving or skydiving.
I’ve bought travel insurance for every single trip I’ve taken over the past 3 years and my favorite company is World Nomads. Read my article Why You Should Buy Travel Insurance to learn why it’s so important.
Please Share Your Thoughts
Have you been to Jordan? Are you considering visiting? Please drop a comment below with your thoughts. Thanks for reading!