I expected to feel uncomfortable traveling in Jordan as a solo female traveler.
Probably from a combination of seeing mostly negative press about the Middle East in the North American media and not being very familiar with the culture and religions of this area.
For whatever reason, I expected my visit to Jordan would be comparable to my travels in India. I thought I’d see animals (camels, donkey, elephants) on the road, male vendors aggressively trying to sell me trinkets, and women and kids following me to beg for money.
To my relief and surprise, my 8 day visit in Jordan turned out to feel much safer, relaxed and comfortable. While I spent half the time as a guest of the Jordan Tourism Board, I spent the other days walking around and organizing visits to other cities alone.
My opinion of traveling in Jordan is now this: If you’re not scared of going to India, Europe, Central America or South America, you shouldn’t be scared of visiting Jordan.
If you’ve been curious about visiting Jordan but were concerned about safety, here are a few thoughts to keep in mind.
1. Unfamiliar ≠ unsafe
Does the idea of being in a country in the Middle-East makes you uncomfortable?
It’s normal to feel uncomfortable when dealing with new experiences or knowns. I’ve felt scared each time I entered a new world region, like India, Southeast Asia or Europe. I also get nervous before land border crossings or boarding a public bus alone in a non-western country.
But looking back at 12 months of travel, no harm has come my way even during times I felt extremely uncomfortable.
Just because you feel uncomfortable or worried, doesn’t mean that the country is actually unsafe.
2. Reassuring things to know about Jordan
- Locals speak English quite well – well enough to give directions and if not, at least identify that you’re speaking English to find someone else who can help.
- Lots of Tourism Board offices and English-speaking tourism police – they are present from the exit at the Amman airport to all the major tourist and historical sites.
- Roads, highways are smooth and driving is orderly – As far as I saw, there are no “chicken buses”, camels or elephants, tuk tuks or auto rickshaws on main roads like in India or Southeast Asia which also made crossing the street easier.
3. Jordan compared to other countries
Even though I had fears about Jordan being like India, it turned out that Jordan was actually far easier and smoother to travel through.
Compared to India:
- There were no instances of people or children grabbing me to ask for money.
- I didn’t have to pray before crossing major streets. Even in the busy streets of downtown Amman, drivers consistently slowed down to let me cross the street.
- No men shouting “Hello China/Japan/Korea!” at me as I walk by (to put things in perspective, this has happened to me in Nice, France).
- No male vendors following me for blocks trying to get me to look in their shops.
4. Other indicators of stability/tourism growth
Some other indicators that might assure you Jordan is a stable area is that large organizations have made major investments in the country.
- Number of 5 star hotels: 27. There are 13 in the capital of Amman, 5 in Petra, 5 in Aqaba (on the Red Sea), and 4 at the Dead Sea. The Hilton also opened a property this year and have another scheduled opening in 2014.
- Guests the Jordan Tourism Board hosted this year: 20 bloggers and 250 print/online writers (including solo female travellers). The country probably wouldn’t host these visitors unless they were confident in the safety and quality of the country’s amenities, especially since any negative coverage would spread much faster and further than with a “regular” tourist.
- New flights. EasyJet started flying a route between Jordan and London Gatwick this March.
5. Other resources to check
Two places to help check for safety information on Jordan, or any other country you’re planning to visit are:
- Official travel advisories – For example, the Canada Foreign Affairs Jordan Travel Report or the US Consular Affairs travel warnings. At the time of my visit and at the time of writing, the Canadian the advisory on Jordan was “Exercise high degree of caution” which is the same advisory level for Greece, Peru, Dominican Republic, Mexico and China which are countries I wouldn’t be scared to visit.
- Status of trips from tour operators - G Adventures (formerly Gap Adventures) and Intrepid Travel are both large, award-winning travel companies that run tours on around the world, including Jordan. In addition to checking the official travel advisories, I sometimes also email these companies to ask if their tours were running normally for the country in question. I figure if an area becomes unsafe, they wouldn’t run their tours and risk ruining their brands. Here’s the Gap Adventures contact page and Intrepid Travel contact page.
Even though Jordan is a relatively small country (about 500km from top to bottom), it offers a huge variety of experiences, including some I didn’t get the chance to see during my short visit. If I was returning to Jordan again, I wouldn’t be scared of going alone.
>> Is Jordan a country you’ve considered visiting? If you’ve been to Jordan, did you feel safe there?
Thanks to the Jordan Tourism Board for hosting me during my a portion of my visit. As usual all opinions are my own and this article should be used for informational purposes only. For safety, always consult your government’s official travel advisory before visiting any country.
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