I knew visiting the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Petra and camping in the desert had to happen if I was flying all the way to Jordan. Here is a complete guide on how to go from Tel Aviv to Petra – navigating the Israel/Jordan northern border crossing (otherwise known as the Jordan River Crossing / Sheikh Hussein Bridge Border Crossing).
I’ve provided information on alternative border crossing options in this post to give you as much information as possible when planning your Tel Aviv to Petra trip! This post is roughly 3.5K words long so grab some coffee, pen and paper!
Read More:Wadi Rum Bedouin Camping
Visiting Petra (and the rest of Jordan) from Israel seems like a natural itinerary given their proximity to each other but due to geopolitical reasons, can be challenging if you opt to do-it-yourself.
Day tours from Tel Aviv to Petra are common but limits your flexibility at Petra (it is a city so vast that a few hours won’t do it justice and if you’re already here, why rush the experience? Price is another key factor – while geographically a Tel Aviv to Amman flight shouldn’t take long, only 14+ hour and CAD$700 flights are available due to the need to stopover in another country.
Read More: Jordan Pass Review
After a few hours of research, it dawned on me how complex this process was going to be – as I went through pages and pages on Google realize that there are so many variables (it seems every blog post yielded a different information), and that due to the political situation, entry is not always guaranteed, and you’re quite at the mercy of the Israel and Jordan border agents.
It didn’t help that every time I went on Google to do some research, articles like this kept popping up (Hostility and Humiliation: The ‘Welcome’ Awaiting Tourists at Israel’s Border Crossings).
Oh yeah, the beauty of planning one’s own travels!
Tel Aviv to Petra: Alternative Options to Consider
Once I got over my pity party, I got to work. There are two elements that come into play when deciding which border to pass through – the visa and which border crossing is safest to cross. I came up with a few possible alternatives to get from Israel’s Ben Gurion airport (in Tel Aviv) to Jordan and availabilities of visa at each border:
- Join an organized Israel/Jordan group tour – the easiest, most comfortable / convenient option – this means having a pre-set itinerary with limited time in Petra and no guarantee overnight stay in Wadi Rum (which is an experience of its own). Conveniently, there’s a special rule for group tours travelling between the two countries that allows the tour operators to manage your Jordan visa for you so you can avoid the hassle of paperwork
- Go to Ramallah in the West Bank / Palestine – the city is located in the West Bank / Palestine and attempt to get a visa to travel to Jordan but risk being denied entry back into Israel because Israelis are highly suspicious of anyone attempting to go to the Palestine and back
- Take a private transfer – pay exorbitant prices with companies like Amman2Jerusalem at the cost of USD$200+
- Suck it up and fly from Tel Aviv to Amman at a cost of CAD$700+. You can purchase the Jordan visa upon arrival at the Queen Alia Amman Airport for JD40 (The standard price)
- Renting a car and switch at the Israel-Jordan border – I wasn’t confident about the driving situation and for around 4-5 days, it seemed to be a lot of hassle to have to switch vehicles at the border. Cost was also top of mind as I was travelling alone.
- Take a minibus (or fly) from Tel Aviv to Eilat, then cross the border in Aqaba to Jordan via the Wadi Araba Crossing – this involves taking a 4-5hr shuttle bus or a short domestic flight which could lead to “double-paying” for the Jordan visa on my part.
Here is a map of my 6-day trip through Israel and Jordan!
After a bit more research, I saw that Abraham Tours offers an affordable transfer between Nazareth to Amman for NIS80 (Roughly C$30). The transfer is outsourced to another company (Nazarene Tours) and it ran on 3 specific days per week but I figured this was the cheapest, and logistically most attractive option available to me. So I took it.
How to go from Tel Aviv to Petra through the Land Crossing.
Israel and Jordan share 3 land borders and I’ve highlighted the pro/cons between the three options and let you know why I picked what I ended up doing. The below border cross names are listed based on the names their name on the Israel side and their equivalent name on the Jordan side.
1. Jordan River Crossing / Sheikh Hussein Bridge Border Crossing (North)
This border will provide Jordan visa upon arrival for JD40 with a reasonable exit fee of 101NIS (or if you’re travelling the other way around, exiting Jordan and going into Israel, it’s JD8). Conveniently stops from this border includes stopping at Irbid and Jerash before arriving to Amman and continuing your journey onwards if you want to visit these sites.
For Jordan Pass holders, your pass will waive the JD40 fee but you need to be present / still line up for paperwork.
On the flip side, this is the furthest Israel-Jordan border crossing from the main tourist sites – Wadi Rum and Wadi Musa / Petra.
2. Allenby Border Crossing / King Hussein Bridge Border Crossing
This border makes the most sense as geographically it is closest points between Jerusalem and Amman, two cities that are often on most travellers’ itineraries. This is the border used exclusively those living in the Palestine/West Bank. As a result, it is notorious for long lines, unexplained detainment by the border agents, higher exit fees (NIS176, roughly C$65 vs. NIS101 at the other borders which is roughly $30; the other way around will cost you JD8).
No Jordan entry visa is issued at this border, including if you have the Jordan Pass.
Returning to Israel from Jordan, I went through this border and I’ll share my experience on another post!
3. Eilat Yitzhak Rabin Border Crossing / Aqaba Wadi Araba Crossing (South)
This border crossing looked like the most attractive option as it is closest to Wadi Musa / Petra and Wadi Rum. When I booked my accommodation, the owners mentioned that visa on arrival is back at the border but at a cost of JD60 (CAD$120), it was more expensive than the JD40 (C$80) I would have paid from the other borders. Even though I had my Jordan Pass, there was some confusion around rules of entry at this point as this change was only instituted in the last few months before I arrived, so no confirmation whether my Jordan Pass would hold up at this border.
This crossing only allows travellers who have pre-arranged Jordan visa to enter. This means if you’ve arranged your visa ahead of time (i.e. in your home country), you will have no problem crossing this border. I was entering Jordan with the Jordan Pass (which waives the cost of the visa but not the visa itself which can be obtained only at one of the other border crossings) but no confirmation if this will hold up at this border and I didn’t want to “double-pay” for the Jordan visa.
As of 2020, it appears this border will allow eligible Jordan pass holders to get visa upon arrival.
4. Queen Alia International Airport
I am including the airport even though it’s not technically a land border for the sake of completion; arriving and getting your visa at the airport is the most convenient given that it also allows extension to the visa if needed. However, this option was not for me as the cost and time required to fly from Tel Aviv to Amman would have been too expensive and wasted too much time in my short itinerary.
Getting to the Meeting Point for the Nazarene Tours Pick Up in Nazareth
The transfer with Abraham Tours departs from their bus station in Nazareth. The first thing I had to figure out was how to get to Nazareth from Tel Aviv. I had 3.5 hours from the time I land in Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion airport to make it to Nazareth for the 8:30AM pickup. Google Maps indicate that Nazareth was only 1 hour 15 minutes by car and with more than enough buffer time, I opted to take the public transit to save money.
How to get there: What I had to do was take a train to Haifa and then take bus #332 all the way to Nazareth (confirmed by the customer service agents at the airport). Sounds simple enough.
1. Train from Tel Aviv Airport to Haifa (1.5 hours)
First, I needed to find the train station at the Ben Gurion airport; it was one level below the arrivals point. There are machines (with instructions in English) so you can buy your ticket. Credit card is accepted for payment. The train leaving to Haifa is on Platform 2 and it departs at 5:35AM arriving at around 7AM. So far so good – no traffic involved and I arrived at the Haifa train station just in time.
2. Bus #332 from Haifa to Nazareth that Didn’t Happen
The bus was trickier though. There was no one else waiting for bus #332 so the driver decided to wait. I had 1.5 hour (gave myself a 30 min buffer) to get to Nazareth so I was getting pretty nervous. After waiting 20 minutes at the station (and realizing that I now had just over 1 hour to get to Nazareth), I sucked it up and took a taxi at a cost of NIS200 (C$60) for the rest of the journey.
I thought the money spent would have been worth it if I made it so you should know that it was the worst 60 minute ride of my life with a lot of traffic, one too many wrong turns, and finally me frantically leaping out of the taxi as the bus was preparing to leave. I was the last person on the bus, 4 minutes late, and hadn’t even sat when the bus started driving away.
3. Bus Ride from Nazareth to Amman via Abraham Tours Transfer
Once I got on the bus (which involved me wildly waving my confirmation paper in the driver’s face), I realized I was one of the two foreigners on the bus which made me super nervous. “Was I on the right bus? I can’t read Arabic so how / when should I check if this bus is going in the right direction” kind of thoughts were swirling in my head.
The bus had a very generic “Nazarene Tours” decal on the outside and no sign/markers/paper to say that this is the specific bus going to Amman. The only confirmation I received was a gruff nod when the driver briefly glanced at my paper.
I was too tired to think and basically prayed that I make it to Amman.
In one of those moments that I look back and said, “What was I thinking!?”, I slept as soon as I sat down (In my defence, I didn’t sleep on the Toronto » Reykjavik » Tel Aviv flights and spent a whole day awake in Reykjavik).
4. Exiting Israel through the Jordan River Crossing
The exit process is fairly redundant and almost comical in how many steps in involves. Considering I had just landed 5-6 hours earlier, paying $30 to leave the country again kind of sucked. Israel and Jordan are surrounded by active conflict zones and have managed to keep their countries relatively safe and away from the fighting. So think of this experience to keep you safe instead of a nuisance!
Here is a summary of the process you can expect when crossing the border:
|Exiting Israel||Entering Jordan|
1. Pay your exit fee (NIS101-106 / CAD$25-30) – credit card is accepted
2. Pass through passport control (hand in your entry stamp and exit fee barcode/stamp) – see an example of the slip below.
3. Go through the duty free to get back on the bus
4. Drive to the Jordan side
1. Obtain visa on arrival (even if you have the Jordan Pass)
2. Go through passport control
3. Go through security check on luggage
4. Board the bus on the Jordan side to the checkpoint
5. Pass the checkpoint – border agent will review your docs on the bus again
An hour later, we arrived at the Jordan River Crossing / Sheikh Hussein Bridge border. Cue the sigh of relief. Once we passed the checkpoint, we got off without our belongings and proceeded to go through passport control.
The first thing I had to do was pay the exit fee – NIS101 + NIS5 for paying on the spot (you could get pay the exit fee at the post office, saving NIS5) for the benefit of being in Israel for only 3 hours at this point. But I digress. The counter is located immediately after you enter (I recall it had counters #1, 2) so it’s easy to locate.
Then you walk over to Passport Control, to the left of the payment counter (counters 6-8) to hand in your exit fee barcode, show your passport, answer a few questions and go through the formalities. This is where you hand in your entry stamp and receive your exit stamp. Once that’s done, you pass through the duty free and get back on the bus.
Note that Israel has ceased stamping foreign passports knowing that it could limit mobility of the traveller in certain countries. At Ben Gurion airport, this is the standard, but not all land borders do this. Always double-check and ask to be safe.
We did a quick drive across a No Man’s Land before arriving at the Jordan side.
Crossing the Jordan River Crossing / Sheikh Hussein Bridge Border Crossing: The Jordanian Side
There was only one counter open for the visa on arrival. I had my Jordan Pass and still had to line up in the same line as everyone else. I requested my Jordan stamp to be on a separate paper (even if you manage to avoid the Israeli stamp, if you get the Jordan stamp at one of the borders, it clearly shows that you’ve travelled to Israel because there’s only one other country in the world that’s on the other side of said border). I had to fill in a separate piece of paper which was stamped.
I then proceeded to passport control where they scanned my passport, ask a few questions. All in all, this process took another 30 minutes (mostly due to the line up). I did not have to pay any visa fee as it was already covered by the Jordan Pass.
Once the formalities were completed, I had to get my luggage through security. It was a quick xray scan but the agents seemed to have a fascination with my and another traveller’s camera gears. I only had my DSLR and extra lens, while he had a point-and-shoot camera and a GoPro. We were held back for about 5 minutes without them actually inspecting the cameras beyond admiring it.
We then boarded the bus towards the last checkpoint before exiting the Jordan “border”.
At the last checkpoint, a border agent came on board and went through everyone’s passports again. It was a quick process, taking about 10 minutes before we were free to go!
At this point, it was another 1 hour drive to Irbid where 2/3 of the passengers got out. You could absolutely alight at the Irbid station should you wish to go to Jerash then onwards to Amman. It was another 30-45 minutes drive to Amman drop off point (Wardat Albustan Hotel) where there were tons of taxi drivers waiting to pick up passengers. Try to split taxi fares if you can.
My reading and hotel told me that it should be JD3-5 (C$10) to get from the North bus station to downtown Amman. I paid JD14 (C$28) because no one was heading in that direction and I asked them to find me a place where I can also buy a SIM card for my onward travel.
I’m pretty sure I got ripped off but it was peak traffic time and the 25 minute journey took just over an hour. All in all though, I am super glad I had a SIM card with me for the remainder of my travels in Jordan, especially because I was taking the public transportation (serviis) all the way to Wadi Musa/Petra.
I hope this is helpful to you in case you’re planning upcoming travels to Jordan! Travelling from Tel Aviv to Petra is not too difficult if planned correctly and lets you see a lot more than just the inside of an airport!
Where to Next?
- Make time to visit Jerash, home of the best and most well-preserved Roman ruins outside of Rome
- Here’s how you to plan your trip to Petra to make the most of your time!
- Here are a couple of female solo-travel approved transportation options to get around Jordan!
- Here’s an updated review of Wadi Rum Bedouin Camping with Bedouin Directions
- Here’s how much it will cost to travel in Jordan
Essential Reading for a trip to Jordan and Israel
- Cash is king – always be sure to bring extra dinars and USD/Euros just in case you need to exchange them. ATMs are not very common but black market exchange houses are readily available
- Enjoy the Bedouin tea, especially the unsweetened version!
- Jordan’s Tourism Board website is a fantastic resource to plan your trip – it outlines the entry requirements to enter Jordan, border hours, and embassies for various countries
- Consider getting a Jordan Pass if you plan to stay in Jordan for longer than 4 days/3 nights; here is my review of the Jordan Pass