I just returned from a short trip from Amman, Jordan to Jerusalem & Bethlehem via the Allenby Crossing, and before I went there was almost no accurate or recent information out there so I have decided to try to write down everything that happened in my experience so that those of you out there who may be in the same boat can have something recent to base your plans around.
I will describe my experience crossing from Amman to Jerusalem, and then my re-entry into Jordan. But first, just a little background information for reference.
SPECIAL NOTE ON JORDAN VISAS: When leaving Jordan via Allenby, you are not “technically” leaving the country – so you will get an exit stamp on a separate sheet of paper, rather than in your passport, and your visa will remain valid. When you return, you will either get a neutral entrance stamp not stating your place of arrival, or nothing. You will not pay for a new visa. IMPORTANT: After this, you need to go to a different place in Jordan (I will update this location within the next 48 hours) and buy a new visa there for 40 JDs, which will be issued for the date of your King Hussein stamp. Once I complete this, I will publish more information.
- The Allenby Crossing is the King Hussein Bridge. Same place with two names.
- You will have to pay an exit tax on either side before departing to the other. From Jordan to Israel, it was 10 JDs. From Israel to Jordan, it was 175 shekels + 5 shekels service fee, so total 180 shekels. Signs say that it can be paid by card, but in my experience it was easier to have cash.
- From either direction, you will go through one country’s customs & passport control station, then take a bus to the other, and do it again before entering.
- If you want to travel to Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, UAE, etc. (countries who do not have a treaty with Israel), make sure that you do not receive an Israeli stamp in your passport, as you will be turned away from these countries. In my experience, they gave out physical separate visas rather than stamping passports, but if this is important to you make sure to ask specifically (but politely).
- Both sides of the border have different opening hours which change frequently with no notice. However, at this point I believe that it is fairly reliable to plan that either border opens at 8am. The Jordan side will have different/shorter hours on Fridays (Muslim holy day) while the Israeli side is either closed or has special hours on Saturdays (Jewish holy day).
- If you are a tourist, be sure to follow the signs marked “Tourists”! Otherwise you will be in a different and much longer line or bus.
Amman –> Jerusalem via Allenby (King Hussiein Bridge)
- Home to JETT Bus: Our first step was to leave our home at 6am in order to buy a ticket and board the 7am JETT bus from Amman to the King Hussein border. This bus leaves every morning at 7am from the JETT bus station in Abdali. The bus ticket cost 10 JD and was also valid for the bus ride from the Jordan side of Allenby to the Israeli side – if you take a different bus, you will have to pay a second time for this second bus, so hold on to the ticket. NOTE: this bus stop is NOT the Abdali bus station – it is the specific JETT bus station. It is across the street from the Islamic Hospital, on the corner of King Hussein Street and Omar Hekmat Street. By taxi, just ask to be taken to the Islamic Hospital – you should see the buses parked there when you arrive.
- JETT bus to Jordan side of Allenby: the bus ride took about an hour and dropped us off directly at the entrance to the Jordan customs building at Allenby. The 7am bus arrived around 8:10am.
- Jordan side of Allenby: We arrived, put all our luggage through a cursory scan and then got in line for passport control. It seemed like it did not open until 8:30am, and the line moved very slowly because many tour guides would go to the front of the line with a stack of all 40 people on their tour bus waiting outside and have each of them processed ahead of the individuals in line. If you take an organized tour, this is likely how your crossing will be handled. Meanwhile, we waited in line and then arrived at the first window there, where they checked your passport & identity, and gave you the King Hussein stamp on a separate piece of paper inside your passport. They then kept the passport and handed it through a little space in the wall to the next window. You move on to this window and wait for them to call your name when they reach your passport, and then you pay the 10 JD exit tax in cash on the spot. This took us about 2 hours – we boarded the second bus around 10am. Side note – there are bathroom facilities on the Jordan side, but the ones available on the Israeli side are much preferable.
- Bus from Jordan side to Israeli side of Allenby: This is where we had some problems with the organization and coordination on the Jordan side. After you pay the exit tax, the officers keep your passport and say that you will get it back on the bus. As soon as the bus pulled up, everyone swarmed onto it to get a seat, as they only come every 30 minutes to an hour or so. We took our seats on the bus, and waited to receive our passports; however, the operation was quite disorganized. Multiple officers boarded the bus with what seemed like random stacks of passports which were even delivered by other tourists who happened to be walking by! It was very nerve wracking since they had thrown all the passports in a pile and were struggling to find everyone’s who was on the bus. They would board with these random stack pulled from the pile and softly announce each first name in order to claim the passport. Eventually, people at the front began yelling the names back so that they were audible, but it still took almost an hour on the bus for everyone to receive their passport – some people even had to just get off the bus and search for their passports in the facility on their own – one man even found his just laying around near the luggage scanner. I’m not sure if there is any way to keep your passport safe from this type of experience, other than trying your best to keep an eye on it as long as possible as the officers handle it. Of course, do not leave the facility without your passport.
- The bus took about 30-40 minutes to the Israeli side. We arrived at about 11:45am.
- Israeli side of Allenby: We disembarked the bus with our passports and headed into the Israeli side into the line marked “tourists.” The line moved fairly quickly, even though almost everyone on the bus was in it – only took about 15 minutes. The first window there was to confirm your identity with your passport, and then we moved to another luggage scan. After that, we went to the passport control area and waited in line – again it moved fairly quickly, took about 15 minutes. Each person or family must speak with the passport officer as with any border about the purpose of your trip, etc. Some people’s passports were held and they were kept for further questioning individually – I had no such problem as I am an American tourist. This is where to ask to not receive a stamp, if it seems like you will receive one. I didn’t have to ask as they were only issuing separate visas. We were all through this process by 12:15pm – total of about 30 minutes to go through the Israeli side. After passport control, you can change your JDs into shekels on site if you want. Then we looked for transportation to Jerusalem.
- Israeli side of Allenby to Jerusalem: We took a shared taxi-van from Allenby to Jerusalem, called Al-Neibeh or something similar (I will update this soon) which cost us 10 JDs each – not bad but not great. The ride took about 40 minutes and dropped us off right outside Damascus Gate. During the ride we had to show our passports to officers at a checkpoint who boarded the bus. We arrived there about 1:30pm.
- Damascus Gate to our hostel: We walked this, took about 15 minutes, and was very scenic. We stayed at the Citadel Youth Hostel, which I would absolutely NOT recommend, as there were bedbugs and poor restroom facilities. Instead for young travelers I would recommend the Abraham or Post hostels – much better!
Jerusalem –> Amman via Allenby Crossing
- Hostel to Damascus Gate: We walked this – about 15 minutes. We left our hostel at about 6am, made a quick stop at an ATM to have shekels in cash to pay the exit tax, and then booked it to the same shared-taxi / bus station we had taken to arrive, which did not open until 6:30am anyways. We bought tickets, which cost 42 shekels each (+5 shekels for luggage, so up to 47 shekels each) and then boarded the bus, which was full quite quickly. Our friend arrived too late, but were able to take the next one at 7:30am. We left at about 7:05am.
- Bus from Jerusalem to Israeli side of Allenby: The bus took about an hour and a half, since the checkpoint we had to drive through did not open until 8am, so we had to wait for a while there. At the checkpoint, we handed our passports up to the front of the bus where they were checked by officers, who also inspected the luggage in the back. They then returned our passports to us by calling our names and confirming our identities. The bus arrived at the Israeli side of Allenby at about 8:30am.
- Israeli side of Allenby: We arrived back at the border facility, where there was a covered walkway for local residents, but a separate door on the far right for tourists. We entered through there and then got in line for passport control – the same process as on the way in, except this time we were issued an exit visa on a separate piece of paper. Then, we got in line at another window marked “Passenger Fee” where we paid the 180 shekels exit tax and received a little receipt. Once we had both these pieces of paper, we went to the exit turnstiles and handed them to the officer there, who ensured their validity. This whole process took about 30 minutes as it was very crowded.
- Bus from Israeli side of Allenby to Jordan side: Once we exited the facility there were buses straight ahead for local residents, and then to the left a separate station for tourist buses – which is where we waited for about 20 minutes and then boarded the bus. The ride again took about 30 minutes to the Jordan side, and at the end we were required to pay a 7 JD fee for the bus, and again hand over our passports to a random person not even wearing a uniform who took them to the passport control booth.
- Jordan side of Allenby & re-entry: When we arrived, we did another luggage scan, and then went to the passport control booth where (thankfully) our passports had been delivered and not stolen. The officers confirmed our identity and then passed them through to a second booth, where the officers would again call our names and hand back the passports. This only took about 15 minutes, and then we changed our remaining shekels into JDs, and took a taxi back to Amman for 25 JDs (not terrible but definitely not great).
Hopefully this detailed account of my experience with this endeavor can be helpful to those of you planning your own trip to Jerusalem from Amman. I cannot guarantee that any of this information is an accurate representation of any policies or procedures that regularly happen at these borders, only that they happened at least once to me as I experienced them. I would advise any travelers to allot full days for travel to and from through these borders, in case it takes much longer than expected. As American tourists, it took us 7 hours to get from our house in Amman to our hostel in Jerusalem, but it only took us 4.5 hours to get from Jerusalem to Amman on re-entry. Good luck!