Is Jordan safe? This is a frequent question people ask when considering a visit to Jordan.
In November 2016 we had the opportunity to visit friends that were living in Jordan. Immediately upon booking our trip, other friends and family cautioned us that it was not a safe place to visit.
What made them think this? The fact that Jordan shares a border with Syria? The media? The government and travel warnings?
We decided after our visit that we would take the time to address some concerns people might have about visiting Jordan.
It’s no wonder that people are scared of the Middle East. Dominating headlines are about the war in Syria, civil unrest in Iraq, and the constant war of religions.
The media’s main purpose is to make money. That’s their business. The most effective way the media can keep you reading or watching is to illicit fear. Unfortunately, this leads people to believe that some places are too dangerous to visit and very often this is not the case. Better to do your own research and talk to locals, than to blindly trust what is being said on the news.
I honestly believe it is better to know nothing than to know what ain’t so.Josh Billings
Our Experience in Jordan
During our stay in Jordan we felt very welcomed by locals who were more open and generous than we expected. English is widely spoken throughout Jordan. Every time we went into a market, shop, or bakery people were excited that we spoke English and that they could practice their language skills with us (though we did learn some key Arabic phrases to help us get by). Many places we went shopping in even gave us small tokens as a welcome gift to their shop.
Jordan is an ally country to the United States and USAID especially has had a huge impact on the Jordan economy. A few times we were asked, “U.S.A?” We would nod and get a big smile in return, followed by, “U.S.A is good for Jordan!”
We stayed in Jordan for two weeks. For the majority of the time we were with our friends who had lived there for 5 years. As Americans living in Jordan, they had never experienced any issues or felt unsafe.
During our time in Jordan, the closest we got to the Syrian border was when we visited Jerash. It was about 25 miles from the border. We were told by our friends and by locals that although close to Syria, Jerash was a safe area, and we definitely felt safe while visiting. We were, however, cautioned against visiting some wineries near the border.
You should always try and respect the culture of the country you’re visiting. Although Jordan is a fairly progressive country, it is also a conservative Muslim culture. Female visitors don’t need to cover their heads or anything, however, both men and women should dress more conservatively when visiting. We were visiting while it was fairly cold out, so being covered all the time was not a concern for us. However, the summers can get exceptionally hot there, so consider bringing loose, breathable clothing (save the short shorts and tank tops for the resorts).
Overall, Jordanians are an exceedingly friendly people. Our friends did, however, let us know about customs and cultural differences that we needed to be aware of. For instance, talking to the opposite sex could sometimes be interpreted as flirting. We had known this prior to our visit, but more often than not Laura would forget and talk to whomever. Happily, we never had any problems, but it’s something to keep in mind.
The driving in Jordan is much more aggressive compared to the U.S. The lines painted on the roads are merely suggestions for drivers. It is more important that you follow the flow of the traffic, than follow the lines of the road. Driving can actually be pretty dangerous (or scary) if you’re not a confident driver.
There is a sizable police/military presence throughout Jordan. Anytime you drive down one of the few highways or enter a tourist site, there are police or military. And if you’re not used to police walking out in the middle of the highway pulling you over for no reason (and let’s face it, you’re not), it can be scary!
But not to worry — this is routine!
The police perform these routine stops to check your papers (car registration or rental car agreement and passports). Usually when they see your foreign passport they wave you on. We were pulled over a half-dozen times during our two weeks there — mostly during our trip to Wadi Rum — but never had any issues. There are also sometimes checkpoints going into big tourist areas, like Petra or Wadi Rum. They may or may not stop you. Again, this is routine and nothing to worry about.
As in most tourist areas or major cities that you visit, pickpockets are always a concern that you should be aware of. Always watch your bags and your wallets. Be extra careful when getting money from an ATM.
Situations change daily. Get updates and alerts on any country you’re visiting by checking the US State Department website. When the State Department issues travel warnings, read what they are. They may say a holiday or a conference is coming up and threats are higher or that you should avoid a specific area.
If there have been attacks in any city you visit, research if they involved tourists or tourist areas. In most cases they have not, but do your research and decide what you feel comfortable with. There was a travel warning when we visited Jordan. It said to stay away from the Syrian border and that there were potential terrorist threats. After talking to our friends that lived there, we felt comfortable going.
Here is a great article about reading travel warnings and common misconceptions about them.
You should always we aware of your surroundings and be a smart traveler. Don’t be a target. Don’t flash money or valuables or be constantly distracted and leave your stuff out to get snatched.
Try be open to new experiences, but at the same time, only enter situations where you feel comfortable.
In case of an emergency, know the address and/or phone number of the Embassy near you. In Amman, the phone numbers for the US Embassy are: (international: +962-6-590-6000, local: 06-590-6000).
Is Jordan Safe?
We definitely thought so. We loved our time in Jordan! At some points it even felt like we were back in the states. For dinner one night in Amman, we walked through a mall and up the stairs to a roof top restaurant. If we didn’t know any better we could have been back home in California. We never felt unsafe while there. But safety is a relative term and you should always do what feels right to you.
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