Crossing the Israel/Jordan border

This item appears on page 10 of the August 2012 issue.

Of the three border crossings between Israel and Jordan, the southern crossing, located in the desert between Eilat, Israel, and Aqaba, Jordan, is generally regarded as the quickest and easiest. It’s known in Israel as the Yitzhak Rabin Terminal and in Jordan as the Wadi Araba (previously Arava) crossing.

If you are visiting both Israel and southern Jordan (e.g., Petra), it is highly recommended that you cross the border there instead of at the far busier and more daunting Allenby (Israeli name)/King Hussein Bridge (Jordanian name) crossing located between Jerusalem and Amman.

The third and northernmost crossing, the Jordan River (Israeli name)/Sheikh Hussein (Jordanian name) crossing, about 25 kilometers south of the Sea of Galilee, has a degree of difficulty between those of the other two crossings, according to my guidebook.

The Lonely Planet guidebooks for Israel and Jordan have useful details about all three crossing points, as does each country’s government website. I used Bing and Google to find useful third-party websites with border-crossing info.

• My wife, Paula, and I made the Yitzhak Rabin border crossing on foot from Israel into Jordan late on a Sunday morning in April ’12 and then returned early the following Tuesday afternoon. On both occasions, there was only a handful of other people, mostly Jordanian families, making the crossing.

While we experienced no delays of consequence, the processing of families traveling in cars with several small children and lots of baggage slowed down those of us following them.

The border crossing was located a 5-minute, ILS30 ($8) taxi ride from Eilat’s airport. Upon arrival, we observed a series of low buildings, including a WC (there is one on each side of the border). There was also a much-appreciated cold-water fountain on the Israeli side. There were no ATMs.

We were provided with a one-page “Yitzhak Rabin Terminal” general information sheet in English that explained passport and visa requirements, along with a list of fees and Customs rules (e.g., “It is strictly forbidden to import to Jordan drinking water, food,…”). Americans do not need to arrange visas in advance.

At the first stop we each paid an exit fee of ILS100 along with a commission of ILS3 (total, about $27 each), cash only. Receipts were provided which were needed at the next stop, where our passports were stamped.

Then we walked about 100 meters across a no-man’s-land to Jordan. There was a rather cursory luggage inspection and we turned in our passports. We proceeded to a window, where we were photographed and, it appeared, had our retinas scanned. Our passports were returned and we were provided free visas for Jordan. (This is the only Jordanian entry point where visas are free.)

Our last stop was another building for a final passport check. We exited into a parking lot filled with taxis, and we were approached by a dispatcher who arranged onward transport. Total transit time was 40 minutes.

• Exiting Jordan and reentering Israel took only 25 minutes. After a quick passport check, we queued up at a window to pay an exit fee of JOD8 ($11) each (cash only). Our passports were stamped at another window, then we made the hot and dusty trudge with our luggage across no-man’s-land.

Back on the Israeli side, we had a quick passport check and passed through metal detectors while our luggage was x-rayed (and in some cases thoroughly hand-searched). After our passports were stamped, we skipped the Customs inspection (having nothing to declare) and proceeded to a final passport check. We exited into a small parking lot with a handful of taxis.

• Do your homework before attempting to cross between Israel and Jordan on your own. Make sure you have sufficient cash in the appropriate currency to pay the required fees. Rules and practices can change with little notice, so check each government’s website for updates before you leave on your trip.

(For Israel, go to; click on “Visiting Israel,” then “Coming to Israel” and “Arriving by Land.” For Jordan, go to; choose your language, then click on “General Information,” “Getting Around” and “Border Crossings.”)

The personnel we encountered all spoke, at the least, limited English, but there’s no guarantee you will be so fortunate. Signage is limited, so at each stop you may need to ask where to go next. While we were given a helpful information sheet when crossing into Jordan, none was provided in the reverse direction.

For the informed and prepared traveler, this border crossing is just one more interesting travel experience.

Charlotte, NC