What makes Jordan a unique country to travel to?
The Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan is a constitutional monarchy with a developing economy and a modern infrastructure. Western culture features prominently in the lives of many Jordanians. At the same time, traditional Islamic ideals and beliefs provide a conservative foundation for the country's customs, laws, and practices. Businesses and facilities catering to tourists are widely available, although quality may vary depending on price and location.
Statistically, petty crime is the most common form that U.S. citizens and other Western nationals experience in Jordan, especially at tourist sites and in crowded areas. Pickpockets, purse snatchers, and opportunistic thieves are known to target foreigners in the narrow and crowded streets of the older parts of Amman’s city center. Travelers should be more guarded in these areas and in all tourist locations in Jordan to lessen the likelihood of becoming a victim of petty thefts. Jordanian police have warned the public to exercise vigilance when leaving banks or ATMs, as thieves have reportedly preyed upon persons soon after using these services.
Women from Western countries visiting and residing in Jordan have periodically reported incidents of sexual harassment, stalking, and indecent exposure. The Embassy continues to receive a limited number of reports regarding incidents of sexual assaults involving taxis and taxi drivers. Many of the incidents have involved verbal sexual harassment, staring, or following the victim, but some have included physical assaults. To decrease the likelihood of being victimized while using a taxi, foreign women should take precautions such as avoiding travel to unfamiliar areas at night, not traveling alone, not riding in the front seat of a taxi, and dressing modestly when in public. We also recommend carrying a cellular telephone at all times and immediately reporting incidents to the police.
Violent crime is infrequent and rarely targets U.S. citizens or other Westerners. In the past, the Embassy has received reports of firearms being discharged at vehicles being driven by Westerners. A dispute between two rival protection rackets led to shots being fired at multiple nightclubs, bars, liquor stores, and similar establishments in March 2011. While not common, thefts of vehicles, assaults, robbery, and attempted residential break-ins have also been reported.
Don’t buy counterfeit and pirated goods, even if they are widely available. Not only are the bootleg copies illegal in the United States, if you purchase them, you may also be breaking local law.
While you are traveling in Jordan, you are subject to its laws even if you are a U.S. citizen. Foreign laws and legal systems can be vastly different from our own. In some places driving under the influence can land you in jail. Criminal penalties will vary from country to country. There are also some things that might be legal in the country you visit, but still illegal in the United States, and you can be prosecuted under U.S. law. Engaging in sexual conduct with children or using or disseminating child pornography in a foreign country is a crime prosecutable in the United States. If you break local laws in Jordan, your U.S. passport won’t help you avoid arrest or prosecution. It’s very important to know what’s legal and what’s not wherever you go.
The Jordanian constitution provides for freedom of speech and of the press; however, in practice the government has imposed some restrictions on these rights. In particular, insulting the King or members of the Royal Family may lead to detainment or imprisonment. Additionally, activities that the Jordanian government considers proselytizing to Muslims are forbidden under the law and anyone undertaking these activities are subject to prosecution, imprisonment, and deportation.
While some countries will automatically notify the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate if a U.S. citizen is detained or arrested in a foreign country, that might not always be the case. To ensure that the United States is aware of your circumstances, request that the police and prison officials notify the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate as soon as you are arrested or detained overseas.
Medical Facilities and Health Information
Modern medical care and medicines are generally available in the principal cities of Jordan, but not necessarily in outlying areas. Most acute and chronic medical conditions can be appropriately handled. When called, ambulance vehicles are often slow to arrive and personnel generally have only a basic level of training. Seasonal dust storms that envelop the country for days or weeks each spring may significantly aggravate respiratory conditions such as asthma or sinus problems. Most hospitals in Jordan, especially in Amman, are privately owned. Doctors and hospitals often expect immediate cash payment for services. Because serious medical problems requiring hospitalization and/or medical evacuation to the United States could cost over US $150,000, we strongly advise travelers to carry medical evacuation insurance.
Travelers should take normal precautions against contracting the flu, including frequent handwashing and covering sneezes. It is a good idea to postpone traveling while ill.
Safety and Security
The threat of terrorism remains high in Jordan. Transnational and indigenous terrorist groups have demonstrated the capability to plan and implement attacks in Jordan. In August 2010, a roadside improvised explosive device (IED) detonated next to a vehicle carrying three USG contractors as it was traveling through an Amman suburb; the contractors did not suffer any serious injuries. In January 2010, an official Israeli motorcade was struck by an IED as it was traveling from Amman to the King Hussein/Allenby Bridge border crossing; passengers in the vehicles were unharmed and the vehicles sustained minor damage. Several rockets believed to have been launched from the Sinai Peninsula struck the port city of Aqaba in April and August 2010. In the latter attack, one rocket destroyed a taxi cab outside of a hotel, killing the driver.
The Department of State remains concerned about the continued threat of terrorist attacks, demonstrations, and other violent actions against U.S. citizens and interests overseas. In October 2012 the Jordanian government foiled a terrorist plot, arresting a number of Al-Qaeda operatives targeting public areas and the U.S. Embassy in Amman. Travelers to Jordan should be cognizant of the fact that Al-Qaida in Iraq affiliates have carried out terrorist activities against U.S. and Government of Jordan (GOJ) targets in Jordan.
Terrorists often do not distinguish between U.S. government personnel and private U.S. citizens. Terrorists may target areas frequented by Westerners, such as tourist sites, hotels, restaurants, bars, nightclubs, liquor stores, shopping malls, transportation hubs, places of worship, expatriate residential areas, and schools. In light of these security concerns, U.S. citizens should maintain a high level of vigilance, be aware of their surroundings, and take appropriate steps to increase their security awareness. It is especially important for travelers to be unpredictable in their movements by varying their times and routes and maintaining a low profile. Moreover, U.S. citizens should avoid contact with any suspicious or unfamiliar objects and immediately report the presence of such objects to local authorities. U.S. government personnel overseas have been advised to take the same precautions.
Demonstrations are common. Some, especially smaller ones, have turned violent, leading security officials to intercede. Because demonstrations intended to be peaceful can turn confrontational and possibly escalate into violence, travelers should avoid all protests and large gatherings of people. Many demonstrations occur on Fridays near mosques following noon prayers. Consequently, you should exercise special sensitivity and caution when visiting or traveling near mosques and religious sites during holy days and Fridays. Demonstrations and other forms of unrest have occurred on public university campuses in Jordan. Some acts of violence on university campuses have involved the use of firearms. Anti-U.S. demonstrations have also taken place in front of the U.S. Embassy. Travelers should avoid any demonstrations or large gatherings of people.
Tribal violence in Jordan remains a concern. Clashes between feuding clans or families periodically erupt without notice and sometimes involve an escalation in violence, including the use of firearms. In some cases, Jordanian security services are slow to respond or may opt to let the violence subside before intervening. When necessary, authorities have closed major roads, including a key road near Amman’s international airport, or parts of cities to contain the violence.
U.S. citizens should avoid the border area with Syria. Police and security officials have arrested weapons and drug smugglers, as well as foreign fighters attempting to enter Syria to fight in the country’s ongoing civil war. Some riots have occurred at the Ramtha/Jaber border crossing, resulting in the burning of key municipal facilities. The Department of State also advises against travel into Iraq.
Traffic Safety and Road Conditions
While in Jordan, U.S. citizens may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States. The information below concerning Jordan is provided for general reference only and may not be completely accurate in a particular location or circumstance.
U.S. Embassy Amman has advised its employees to avoid driving at night outside the Amman metropolitan area due to road conditions, poorly lit rural roads, and erratic behavior by other drivers.
It is typical for drivers in Jordan to not signal turns or lane changes. Drivers can also be aggressive, and cars operate very closely together on the highways. Jordanian roads are particularly treacherous during the rainy season, which runs from December to March. Driving in Amman is also more hazardous in the summer months of June to September when Jordan experiences an influx of visitors from other countries in the region. Highways are more crowded around the Muslim holidays when many Jordanian expatriates return to Jordan for family visits. Poor lighting and road conditions prevail, so extra caution must be exercised at all times, especially when driving at night.
The Desert Highway outside Aqaba, a popular tourist destination, is particularly dangerous because it is narrow, winding, steep, and crowded with trucks. If possible, you should try to avoid this area at night. When driving in both urban and rural areas, motorists should be aware of both unmarked speed bumps and livestock, including camels, sheep, and goats. Collisions between livestock and automobiles are common.
As a result of all these factors, traffic accidents are very frequent and continue to be the largest cause of injury and death in Jordan. Drivers and passengers are required to wear seatbelts, and all cars must have a fire extinguisher and warning triangle in the vehicle. Child car seats are not required by law. Violators of speed limits may be assessed fines up to US $140. Police routinely pull over reckless drivers as well as those believed to be driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Talking on a cell phone while driving is officially prohibited, although the practice is common. If stopped by police, drivers may face a fine. Licensed drivers must carry local third-party insurance with sufficient coverage for accidents resulting in injury or death. Drivers who are involved in an accident should remain at the scene and immediately call the police and emergency personnel in case injuries have occurred. Police may hold the driver’s license or passport in order to prevent the driver from fleeing. Identification documents can be recovered at the police station.
Landmines are often located within two miles of military installations and borders, including the popular Dead Sea area. Minefields are usually fenced off and marked with skull-and-crossbones notices, but the fences and signs may be in poor repair or hard to see. Avoiding these areas reduces the risk of accidentally setting off a mine.
Jordan has abundant bus and taxi services. Please see the Crime section for more information about incidents of sexual harassment and assault involving taxi drivers and important safety tips when using public or private transportation in Jordan. Visitors should arrange for their transportation needs via their hotel and should request that drivers not pick up additional passengers en route to their destinations. We do not recommend other forms of public transportation. Jordanian security authorities often establish checkpoints, especially on roads leading to popular tourist destinations, where drivers are expected to stop and present their identity documents. All drivers should stop when directed to do so and comply with the instructions provided to them by the authorities.
Emergencies should be referred to the Civil Defense Department at telephone number 199. Visit the website of Jordan’sMinistry of Tourism and Antiquities. For information on driving regulations, please contact the Embassy of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan at 3504 International Drive NW, Washington, DC 20008, by telephone at (202) 966-2664.