There are three border crossings into Jordan from Israel, but there’s really only one good option if your destination is Amman. The southern border (Eilat to Aqqaba) is too far out of the way, though you don’t have to pay for the expensive Jordanian visa there, so if you can reverse your Jordan trip and go north from Petra, it might be worth it. The crossing just outside Jerusalem (Allenby/King Hussein Bridge) would be perfect—if foreigners could get a Jordanian visa there. But they can’t, and getting a visa in advance from the embassy in Tel Aviv is a hassle, not to mention it’s nearly twice as expensive. That leaves the northern border (Jordan River crossing, or Sheik Hussein crossing). It’s a bit complicated, so here are detailed instructions for you:
1. Get to Beit She’an: Frequent public buses travel from Tel Aviv and Jerusalem to the small city of Beit She’an. Check the schedules at www. bus.co.il . From Jerusalem, buses 961, 966 and 948 make the trip. The 961 is the best bet as it is direct and terminates in Beit She’an, making the stop easy to identify. My advice is to take this bus at 10:00 am (you’ll see why below). The 966 takes the same amount of time, but continues on the Beit She’an, so site near the front and make sure the driver knows where you want to get off. The 948 is an indirect bus that takes nearly an hour longer than the other two. All three buses leave from platform 21 on the third floor of the Central Bus Station (CBS) in Jerusalem. The ride takes 2 hours and 15 minutes and costs 44 NIS.
2. Get to the actual border: Beit She’an is 7 km away from the border. You have two options from here. Taxis are hanging around the bus stop, and one of them can take you to the border. I was quoted 50 NIS, which is ridiculous. They wouldn’t haggle, even when I said I’d take the bus instead. Wait a few minutes to see if any other travelers arrive to share the taxi with. The other, far cheaper option, is the #16 bus that leaves from the west side of the street, which only leaves at one useful time, 12:45 pm. (Sep 2016 note: a reader commented that the bus now runs every 30 minutes all day. If anyone can confirm or deny that please let me know in the comments.) It costs 6.90 NIS and will get you to the border in a mere 5 minutes. There’s not an official stop at the border, but the driver was happy to go a minute out of the way to drop us there, so don’t hesitate to ask.
3. Exit from Israel: Walk toward the border and into the complex of buildings on the right. Approach desks 1-3 to pay your exit fee and change money. The exit fee from Israel is a 101 NIS (updated Sep 2016) but there are a couple little fees added in so you’ll probably be charged 106 NIS (details in a comment below). You can change money here or at the Jordanian side, but there are no ATMs on either side. You’ll need 40 JD to enter Jordan, not payable in any other currency. You also need to keep 5 NIS for the mandatory shuttle from the Israeli to Jordanian side. Once you’ve paid your exit fee, cross the room to desks 6-8 and get stamped out of Israel. Some of the workers behind the desk will offer to stamp a piece of paper instead of your passport, while others won’t, so be sure to ask for the paper if you don’t want the stamp. Next, exit the building through the Duty Free shop.
4. Get to the Jordanian side: There’s a mandatory shuttle bus to the other side. It leaves when it’s full, so you may have to wait awhile. Stow your bags beneath the bus (no charge), pay the driver 5 NIS, and enjoy the three minute ride to the other side of the river. Jordanian soldiers will check passports on the bus on the way over.
5. Enter Jordan: Disembark the bus and head into the left side of the building in front of you. If you haven’t changed money, do so at the first desk. Then stand in line at one of the two visa desks, where you’ll purchase your visa (two small postage-looking stamps) into Jordan. The officials here are also happy to stamp a piece of paper instead of your actual passport, but, again, you have to ask. Then move across the room to the passport desks, where your passport or piece of paper will be stamped again, and they’ll take your photo. Exit the building, walk through the border control to your left, have your bags scanned on the way, and ta-dah, you’re in Jordan!
6. Get from the border to Amman: There are two ways to Amman from here, and one is slightly cheaper than the other, but maybe not worth the extra effort. There is now an official taxi stand with official, posted taxi rates to a couple dozen destinations within Jordan. The prices are per vehicle and can take up to four passengers. A taxi from the border to Western Amman costs 36 JD. Once you’re in Amman you can take a metered taxi anywhere for 2-3 JD. The other, slightly cheaper option, is to take a taxi to Irbid, 45 minutes away, for 22 JD. From there a bus leaves to the Tabarbour bus station in Amman every half hour and only costs 1-2 JD, saving you 12 JD. It’s worth noting, though, that the taxis at the border do not leave promptly! We waited maybe 45 minutes before a taxi was available for us.
In my experience, the whole trip took 7 relaxed hours to get from the Jerusalem CBS (10:00 am) to my hotel in Amman (5:00 pm). The last food on the Israeli side is the falafel shop at the Beit She’an bus stop, and there’s nothing on either side of the border crossing, so bring food and water. I needed a total of 377 NIS to get from the Jerusalem CBS into Jordan. You can convert more than that to pay your taxi driver with on the Jordanian side, or have him drop you off at an ATM to pay him.
This is all true as of January 1, 2015 (yep, I crossed on New Year’s Day!). If anyone has more information to add, or sees anything that has changed since my experience, let me know in the comments or shoot me an email via the “contact” link at the top of the page, and I’ll update this post accordingly. Have a good trip!