Is Jordan Safe to Travel to in 2018
If you have been reading my blog for awhile, you will have read my passion and love for Jordan. If you are new to my page, my first visit to Jordan in 2016 was a catalyst for many life changes and leads to a fourth visit to the country in April 2018. While most of my close friends and family have stopped saying I am crazy to go to the Middle East, I still get many people who ask “Is Jordan safe?” when I say I spend a lot of time in Jordan with my young boys, and feel completely comfortable, whether it is in Amman, Petra, Wadi Rum or any of Jordan.
- 1 Is Jordan Safe to Travel to in 2018
- 1.1 How Safe is Jordan Right Now?
- 1.2 What to Expect on your Jordan Visit?
- 1.3 Independant Travel in Jordan versus a Guided Tour
- 1.4 Jordan with Kids
- 1.5 What to Watch for In Jordan
- 1.6 Military Presence in Jordan? and its Commitment to Safety
- 1.7 Is Jordan Safe for the Solo Female Traveller?
- 1.8 What to Wear in Jordan: Clothing and Dress
- 1.9 Jordanians
How Safe is Jordan Right Now?
If you are reading this post, you must be asking yourself this question. In my opinion, and in the research that I have done about traveling as a solo female, and as a mom of two little boys, Jordan is a safe haven in a relatively unstable region.
The Middle East Region around Jordan
It is not Jordan’s fault that it lies in a hotbed of political instability.
With the war in Syria hitting mainstream news every once and awhile, many people assume that the whole region is at war. As Jordan’s neighbour in the North, it has caused a huge drop in tourism.
During my last visit in December 2017, the Trump announcement that he would be moving his Israel Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem caused an outrage to most of the Arab world, sparking violent protests in Jerusalem and beyond.
Throw in Egypt, a nearby neighbour who struggles with extremists in the Sinai and who recently had a devastating shooting at a Mosque and who’s Arab Spring in 2011 is still felt in the region.
Then you have Iraq on Jordan’s Eastern border.
Recent Violence in Jordan affecting Tourists
It is not uncommon to wonder if the small Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan is safe for tourists to visit. Jordan has made a few headlines for violent incidents in the region.… There has been a few incidents in Jordan since my first visit that have shaken its tourism industry.
- In June 2018 there were non-violent protects by hundred of young people near the 4th circle in Amman. They are protesting a change to the income tax law that they feel is unfair and will take more money out of pockets of already struggling young people. Despite these protests, Amman is safe to visit.
- In December 2016 a Canadian women as well as local security forces were killed in Karak castle by attackers.
- In July 2017 the desert highway (the main North – South highway in the country) was closed for a day as one of the largest bedouin tribes protested a jail sentence of a Jordanian soldier who had been found guilty of shooting American soldiers.
My View on Jordan Safety in 2018
Overall I have found Jordanians to treat tourists with respect and welcome. Rarely was I ever hassled to purchase something from a shop, asked for a ride from a driver, or bothered by anyone on the street.
I travel with a 6 and 4 year old. Who were 5 and 3 on their first visit in 2016. On that trip, we had a 7 day guided tour with two other Canadians and had nothing but a wonderful experience. Our hotels were wonderful, the boys thought that having their luggage scanned was cool since the security outside the hotel was friendly and showed them the computer screen of what was inside their bags! No where have we ever visited anywhere where the security guards went out of their way to acknowledge my children.
When we visited the tourist sites on our tour, I was astonished that they were almost empty. While wandering the streets of Jerash, an entire Roman city, I could not believe that no one was there in the middle of what is Jordan’s fall tourist season (Sept – Nov). The only place we really ran into any crowds was Petra, and even those were minimal.
Petra was also the only place we ever experienced any hassle. Whether it was kids selling postcards, or bedouins asking if we wanted a donkey, we had been prepared by our tour guide that a “No, thank you” would have them leave you alone.
He was right. He informed us that Jordanians are polite and do not need to be responded to rudely, and a polite “no, would likely get them to go away. And it worked. He did caution that their reply of “Maybe Later?” also needed a “No,” not a “maybe,” or they would follow you until “later” actually happened.
My boys DID want to ride a donkey, and they did. They had a marvellous time and I insisted that we only pay an adult and find and a fit looking donkey. Well that was not a problem, the donkeys all looked healthy in Petra. I try really hard not to support child labor, knowing full well that school in Jordan is free and available to all children. If they are making money, they are unlikely to be sent to school by their parents. Even most Jordanians do not support children working, so you will not see many of them out their working during school hours.
What to Expect on your Jordan Visit?
Jordan’s capital city Amman is a typical big city. Home to 4 million people it has modern malls, fast food restaurants and plenty of 5 star hotels. Queen Alia International Airport is modern and when you step outside you would have no idea that you are in the middle of the Middle East, it could be a European City you are entering. There are modern hospitals, restaurants catering to any taste and plenty of things to do.
Women enjoy a lot of freedom in Jordan, although it may not be exactly as Western standards. You will find women working in hotels and in the malls although the work force is male dominated as most women will stop working when they have children.
You will find women dressed in modern fashion and you will also find women fully covered with a burqa. You will not find Jordanian women in short shorts and tank tops, as their dress is conservative compared to western standards.
Read this post on What to Pack for Jordan for more info and tips on modest clothing and my must-have items
On The Streets in Jordan
Where I expected feral dogs on street corners, we found orange and brown kittens in shops, restaurants and even on the hotel pool decks, some eager for attention, while others afraid of two little boys who wanted nothing more than to pet them.
While driving the streets, where I expected to see homelessness there was none. Admittedly we did not go looking. (I am well aware of the 2 million Syrian refugees currently camped at Jordan’s northern border.) Begging is rare from most Jordanians, I have only come across it a few times. Once was a well dressed young girl who we encountered outside a restaurant, who was likely with her younger siblings (a baby and a small boy) and asking for money for food. Another time was a gypsy who knocked on my car window at a gas station.
I expected bicycles and mopeds, but the traffic was largely cars, or pedestrians. While the rules of the road looked more like ants marching to their nest to a foreigner like me, I never once saw a fender bender, nor a pedestrian struck. Pedestrians walked. They did not have their noses in their cell phones as they weaved their way through the congested city traffic. Drivers drove. Constantly making assumptions on the traffic patterns in front of them. Safety in Amman was predictable amidst the congestion, with everyone getting to their destination. Im sure our driver laughed as we gasped, covered our eyes or held on to our seats on more than one occasion.
If you are looking for Things to Do in Amman with kids that you will not find in any guidebook you can check out my post here: Fun Activities in Amman with Kids
Independant Travel in Jordan versus a Guided Tour
As mentioned above, I am about to return to Jordan for the 4th time later this month. I now travel independently and am confident in the country, despite my limited arabic. I have plenty of posts about my experiences of renting an apartment for a month in Amman, how to get around in Jordan and my favourite hotels to stay at. You can check out the Jordan section for more info.
It is quite easy to rent a car and self drive the country. The road signs are all in Arabic and English and I did not have any hassle with any checkpoints. Most who saw my Canadian passport waved me through with a “welcome” or a “welcome to Jordan.”
What you will likely find, if you travel without a guide, is that once you are outside of the typical tourist spots, people’s english is limited. Tourism is Jordan’s biggest industry (long with phosphate) and those working in it are quite fluent in English, but those who work in local shops, or farm, or live in rural areas are not necessarily fluent. One day we wandered to the KFC near the Seventh Circle in Amman so that they kids could play on its playground and there were three local children there. They were so excited to say “hello” and practice their english, as outside of school, they do not get to practice it much.
Guided Tours in Jordan
If you are on a guided tour you will have do nothing more than sit back, relax and enjoy each day to the fullest. Whether you are visiting ancient sites, driving the dunes of Wadi Rum, or relaxing by the Dead Sea, every need will be taken care of and you are unlikely to face any challenges. Tour guides in Jordan receive rigorous training with only the best being certified by the Ministry of Tourism.
Jordan with Kids
Jordan has been quite an easy country to travel in with kids. Jordanians love children and my kids get more attention than me. Thankfully they are very social and used to it, so it does not shock or bother them. Men on the streets often give them a sweet or a candy and they absolutely love it. If you do have a shy child, ensure you warn them that people in Jordan are very friendly and love kids and will likely want to talk to them. If you child is uncomfortable, a polite “no” will leave them unbothered.
While we were staying in a hotel in Aqaba, I had another hotel guest bring me three chocolate bars and a banana milk for the kids! The kids get so spoiled in Jordan they now expect a treat at every shop we go into!
What to Watch for In Jordan
While I hope I have painted a picture of what it is like to travel this small and beautiful country, there are some things to keep in mind when you visit Jordan.
Typical Scams in Jordan
While most tourists are treated with respect in Jordan, keep these few things in mind during your visit.
When you get into a taxi, ensure they use the meter (unless you have negotiated a price). They also have an app similar to Uber that you can book a car to some pick you up, and you will know the price. This is often a bit more expensive that a taxi, but sometimes more convenient. Taxi meters are in fils not dinars. A 10 minute taxi ride will likely only cost about 1 JD. do not mistake it and overpay. While I cannot imaging anyone paying 100JD for such a ride, it is common to make this mistake.
ANTIQUES FOR SALE
Just because something is old and dusty, does not make it an antique. You should not buy something based on its described age. Furthermore, exporting antiques or anything over 100 years old from Jordan is illegal. Your bags will be screened at Queen Alia airport before your departure and I was held up for 20 minutes while they took a look at my souvenirs from Egypt (I can tell you right now that I did not pay enough money for my canonic jars in Egypt for them to be the 4000 year old variety! But they did make a few phone calls, and then wrapped them back up and let me go on my way).
When it comes to buying trinkets, pay what you think it is worth. Do not get hung up on its value. If you do not like the price, don’t buy it. If you love it and want it, buy it. Its authenticity should not matter if it is something you love. Do not buy something because you think it is valuable and you are getting a great deal.
SLEEP IN A CAVE IN PETRA
If you are a female travelling alone, or even a few of you, I do not recommend taking the offer from Bedul bedouin in Petra to see the caves at night and watch the stars. While they occupy Petra by day and seem friendly and lovely, there has been reported cases of them asking for money and harassing women long after they have shown them the stars. Once they get womens phone numbers they will come up with stories of needing money and some women, who have had such an amazing expereince, will give them what they need.
There have also been reports of women being raped in the caves of Petra and the tourist police have a hard time identifying the attacker because the victim cannot identify them the next day in a lineup of similar looking men. I am not writing this to scare anoyone, and I have personally only had good experiences with the Beduls at Petra, but I have turned down any invite for a hike or an evening dinner. A quick google search will find scary stories of other women’s experiences. While this may make you wonder if Petra is safe for a solo female, my answer is yes it is safe. Visiting during opening hours will likely hinder only the hassles of boys selling post cards, young kids selling rocks, and Bedouins offering a donkey ride or to show you the best way to get to the monastery. Just use your head like you would in any country, and if it does not feel right, do not do it.
Petty Crime In Jordan
Crime in Jordan is extremely low and I have never had any problems their myself. Locals know the importance of tourism and there are harsh penalties for theft in Jordan. Even just the loss of a job can affect the likelihood of a family. Like in any other country, keep large bills separate and keep some small bills handy. Keep a copy of your passport in your suitcase and an extra credit card just in case something does happen. This is something I do in every country I visit. I carry cash in a money belt and then about 30 dinars in my pocket or my purse for buying water or a meal. If I know I need to get my passport out I do not keep it in a money belt, I keep it handy. The point of a money belt is to not be seen. If you are pulling at it to retrieve cash or a passport, it makes it pointless.
Protests and Unrest
US President Trumps announcement that he was going to move the US Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem actually occurred when I was in Jordan in December 2017. It has caused major violence in Jerusalem, but only minor protests in Amman. They occurred outside the US Embassy after Friday prayers.
When travelling almost anywhere in the world it is best to stay away from political or religious demonstrations. In Jordan, protests are mostly peaceful, they usually occur after friday prayers and they result in a heavy police presence in the area. We drove by the Israeli embassy after Trumps announcement and you could barely get down the street there was so much police. They are very preemptive and try to ensure things do not get out of hand.
Military Presence in Jordan? and its Commitment to Safety
On my first visit, I honestly was not sure what I was going to encounter with regard to militarization in the country. Before we landed I did not know if our tour would require armed escort around Jordan. I was clueless. By the time we got to the hotel, I had thrown the armed escort idea out the window. I had yet to encounter any armed forces at all. We wandered the city of Amman with ease, there were traffic police armed wth a sidearm, and other police vehicles around. But not the massed artillery clad men I had been expecting. I actually only saw one automatic weapon the whole week we were in Jordan. This was strapped to the chest of one of the Gendarmerie outside the VIP entrance to the stadium during the opening ceremonies of the FIFA U17 Women’s World Cup. Even the security outside the stadium, while camo clad, were unarmed except for a small baton. The security inside was casually dressed in a golf shirt and slacks.
There was definitely a police presence in Jordan, but not an intimidating force, nor a protection force, just a general presence. I have been stopped at checkpoints, but besides the necessity to stop and wait, they are not intimating.
When you doffing yourself at any security checkpoint, whether it be a hotel entrace, tourist police or on the highway, it is best for you to cooperate with their instructions and be polite.
Jordan takes security seriously, and there is often security at the major tourist hotels in the country. There is also tourist police in all of the major sites and in Amman.
Is Jordan Safe for the Solo Female Traveller?
Overall, my answer is yes. I am a female and I do travel alone, and also with my children, my boyfriend and other family members. Women are generally respected in Jordan and Jordanian women dress exceptionally well, but conservatively. It is best to dress conservatively yourself. Avoid shorts that are below the knee. If you have a tank top or sleeveless shirt, you are likely fine to wear it in Amman, but bring something to cover your shoulders. I always travel with a button up long sleeve shirt.
Although you may be hiking a lot, do not hike in what Westerners would deem approtpreate. DO not hike in short shorts and tank tops. While capris or leggings are fine, try not to show too much skin. The instagram photos you will see of beautiful women in Petra wearing small dresses or tank tops are not the norm and just look ridiculous when you are there. Do not wear a dress to Petra. It is a huge archaeological site. If you are worried about being to hot, wear light colors, non tight fitting, wear hat and drink a lot of water.
I will be the first to tell you that I love wearing shorts and a tank top! I live in Canada when I am not travelling, and that is what everyone wears in the summer. But that wardrobe does not come to Jordan.
Beware of Scams
Beware of the scams I have mentioned above and mostly keep your wits with you. Do not accept an invitation to sleep in the caves without full understanding that you may have accepted an invitation for sex, even though nothing of the sort was mentioned. As I said before, I felt totally comfortable in Jordan. Yes, I was flirted with. Yes, I accepted an invitation to have tea with a young shopkeeper and we sat and talked for half an hour, him mostly fascinated that I travel alone with my kids, and me, enjoying talking to someone local.
Men in Jordan
Only once in Jordan was I ever cat-called, despite I read that it happens often. It happened when we disembarked from the Egypt to Jordan ferry. I do not let it bother me. I also had a local waiter in Aqaba ask me to marry him after talking for about 5 minutes. I laughed at him mostly and learned not to give my phone number to locals who continually send me messages on whats-app. But they are all “Hi, how are you messages,” nothing like the Petra scams where the beduls are asking for money for a sick horse or a family member.
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What to Wear in Jordan: Clothing and Dress
Jordan is a muslim country. Over 90% of the population is Muslim. Christians make up approximately 6% of the country”™s 9 million people. While conservative in dress compared to North American standards, women are not required to cover their head. Nor is it requested unless entering a mosque. Non-muslim travellers are not encouraged to wear a headscarf, as the Christians living in the country do not. Shirts with sleeves and pants are typical dress. Jordanian men rarely wear shorts and you will even see many in long sleeves in summer. Men can get away with shorts and t shirts in Jordan.
When you visit Jordan, you expect to be blown away by the history, the sights, the landscapes, but,… the people of Jordan are what made me fall in love with this country. No where have I visited before with such a warm, genuine welcome from strangers. Yes I have been welcomed in many countries, but the Jordanians love for their country is instantly evident. It is as if they have no idea how “dangerous” Westerners view the Middle East due to the media coverage that the region covers. Jordan is and has been a safe-haven for the instability in the region, welcoming its neighbours in need of refuge.
Do’s and Dont’s in Jordan
- Check your government travel advisory before travelling.
- Dress conservatively. It is a Muslim country and you are a visitor. respect their culture
- Be polite and cooperate with security
- Grab an english language newspaper in the morning if you hotel has it and at least have a look at the front page for anything you should be aware of
- Many countries allow you to register your visit. Check your Embassy before you go.
Canadians can register… https://travel.gc.ca/travelling/registration
- Do not talk bad about the King, it is a crime.
- Do not be paranoid. you are not likely to be victim to theft or any other violence
- To ensure safety in Petra as a women, do not take offers to see the caves at night or the stars, or to dine with the bedouins after the site’s closure.
- Do not get involved in local protest if you come across any.
- Do not be afraid of the police or security forces, they are trustworthy
Is it safe to travel to Israel and Jordan? Here are some traveller testimonials and posts:
Claudia Tavani from My Adventures Across The WorldI visited Jordan between the end of March and April 2018. I traveled with a group of other travelers, on an (sort of) organized trip (we had our own transportation, but also used public buses on occasions), visiting all the typical attractions in the country. We went to Amman, Jerash, Dana and Shobak, the Dead Sea, Petra and Aqaba. I felt no safety issues whatsoever, whether in the most crowded and touristy places such as Petra (though you have to watch out for scams) or in the smallest ones like Dana or Shobak. I feel the country is safe, much safer than people would think.
Brianne from theladybrianne.comTwo years ago I visited the Middle East for the first time and was so warmly received that I had nothing but positive expectations for the nine days in March I planned to spend in Jordan. Arriving before the Omani friend I made on my last trip and two of his friends, I had some time to explore Madaba and Amman on my own. No one was unkind but there was often a feeling of suspicion and occasionally disdain. Once joined by my Arabic companions, these reactions didn’t change. I recently shaved my head and wondered if this was taken as an offense. According to my Omani friend it just a matter of confusion; the culture in Jordan only knew of bald women in terms of being sick or part of some militant group.Driving from one region to another we would encounter the occasional military checkpoint, but the Jordanian people are peaceful and I didn’t witness a single incident of aggression nor did I ever question my safety. If I had it to do all over again, I would probably wear a head scarf the entire time just to make the Muslim Jordanians feel more comfortable.… …
If you have any questions about Jordan I am always happy to help. It is a wonderful country where hospitality comes natural and the people there are friendly and willing to help out foreigners whenever they can!
Our Favourite Guides and books about Jordan. Click on the Photos below to check them out!
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Lindsay is the founder and editor of Carpe Diem OUR Way. She left her career in Canada to share her love of travel with her two young boys. She is passionate about sharing adventure travel activities for families and to encourage others to explore the world. She resides in the suburbs of Vancouver when not jet setting abroad.