When should I plan to arrive in Jordan?
Plan to arrive at least a day or two before you begin classes, but no more than a week in advance. This will allow you to get settled in your accommodation and get your bearings in the city before you begin your intensive language studies.
Do I need to buy travel insurance (medical, evacuation, etc.)?
This is entirely up to you. Al-Mashriq does not provide insurance but if it gives you or your parents peace of mind, you are welcome to purchase extra coverage.
What kind of visa do I need? Do I need to buy it in advance?
Youíll be using a Tourist Visa, which you buy upon arrival at Queen Alia International Airport. This visa costs 40 JD (about 60 USD) and lasts for one month, after which you need to renew it (for free!) at the nearest police station. The renewed visa lasts for another two months. Al-Mashriq staff will assist you in renewing your visa, and if you are staying for longer than 3 months, we will help you get yearly residency in Jordan.
Note: If you travel outside the country, you will have to buy a new tourist visa upon re-entry to Jordan.
However, visas are free if you enter Jordan through Aqaba (coming from Eilat, Israel).
Do I need any immunizations?
US, UK and EU students do not. Others should check with their home governments for information about immigration and immunization.
Whereís the best place to live?
We have three options for housing arrangements. Here's a quick list of pros and cons for each option:
- Dormitory: These can be on the cheaper side (around 250 JD/month), which is an obvious plus. Living in the dorms (which are single-sex; womenís dorms forbid men from entering) can also provide opportunities to meet Jordanian students and practice Arabic. In general, though, the dorms arenít as nice as you would expect, given the price (relative to other options in Amman), and some female students have reported issues with their roommates smoking in the room/talking loudly at late hours (menís dorms have only single rooms).
- Apartment: Apartment prices vary based on location in the city (and, of course, quality of the apartment). Areas in Jabal Amman (near Rainbow Street) tend to be very pricey but quite hip, while apartments closer to Al-Mashriq are cheaper and aimed at university students. Having your own place can be a nice respite, but a major downside is that there are fewer chances to practice Arabic (aside from watching the news).
- Host Family: At 400 JD/month, this is the most expensive housing option, but it comes with a ton of benefits. The cost includes two meals a day, utilities and wifi -- but most importantly, it offers the chance to fully immerse yourself in Arabic language and culture, and to become friends with your host siblings (and their friends)!
How will I get from the airport to my accommodation?
We provide transportation from the airport to student housing, wherever that may be. All you need to do is provide us with your flight information (arrival date, time and flight number) so we can arrange to pick you up.
Is there a specific time when I have to vacate my room at the end of the program? Can I stay there in between sessions?
If you plan on overstaying your program dates, let us know ahead of time so we can notify housing resources. Dormitories and other living accommodations are completely separate from Al-Mashriq and its academic calendar. We arrange each student's placement in his/her room, but once they move in it is up to the student to deal with their residence manager according to his/her needs. This means that students are responsible for paying their own rent for as long as they plan to stay, regardless of the start and end dates for their course or the breaks in between.
Are meals available as part of the housing, or am I on my own?
Meals (2-3 per day) are only included for students who choose to live with host families. Meals are not included in the cost of dorm or apartment-style housing. Students are welcome to cook in their rooms or eat out/order in. Generally, eating out in Amman is extremely cheap and can often cost about the same as cooking. Fancy western-style restaurants and bars are an exception, and can be much more expensive than local restaurants that serve Jordanian food.
Do I have to apply ahead of time for the volunteer options or can I do that when I get to Amman?
No, you do not need to apply ahead of time. Students who are interested in volunteering should notify us when they start classes. The activities calendar posted in the Center will include some volunteer opportunities, but those students who are interested in long-term humanitarian engagements should let us know as soon as they arrive.
Is there any over-the-counter medicine I should bring with me?
Jordan has a lot of pharmacies (and doctors, and hospitals, etc.), so in most cases you should be able to get over-the-counter meds here. However, it canít hurt to bring Imodium for the stomach problems that will inevitably crop up once or twice while youíre here.
Will my cell phone work in Jordan?
This depends on your local carrier and whether or not your phone is "unlocked".
In most cases (Verizon, European carriers), you will be able to pop out your SIM card and replace it with a Jordanian one. We recommend purchasing a local line through the Jordanian telecom company Zain. For about $10/month you can get a plan that bundles 1GB of data with some text messages and lots of minutes for use inside of Jordan. Use your data for texting via WhatsApp and staying in touch with your family at home. Combining local cell service with Wi-Fi is the most cost effective way of staying in touch.
Note: If you have AT&T, your phone will probably be locked and you will not be able to substitute your SIM card. Consult your provider about international calling and data plans, or simply purchase a basic cell phone for local use in Jordan after you arrive (~$40).
Will my credit/debit cards work in Jordan?
Once again, it depends. Different banks have their own sets of fees and restrictions for international use, so itís best to check with your bank to get their guidelines. In general, youíll be charged two separate fees -- one from the ATM, and one from your bank -- whenever you withdraw money, but the amount of those fees varies.
Be sure to notify your bank of your travel dates and where you will be so they donít shut down your card when you try to use it.
What clothes should I pack?
Dress for the weather. Jordan gets up to the mid-90s (low humidity) in the summer and gets cold and rainy (30ís and 40ís) in the winter.
In all weather, though, modesty is the name of the game (for both sexes).
For guys, shorts are discouraged (though a longer pair is probably okay), and for girls, long skirts and pants are a must. Women should avoid wearing tight clothes, especially if traveling to areas outside Amman. In general, there is no need for women to cover their hair unless theyíre visiting a mosque (but itís a good idea to pack a scarf, since a mosque visit while youíre here is inevitable).
What other supplies should I buy before I come?
- Order your textbooks online from Amazon - make sure you order far enough in advance so they arrive before you leave for Jordan.
- Women may want to purchase feminine hygiene products before they arrive -- though theyíre available here, finding them can be a little difficult depending on the area/type of grocery store.
- Power adapters. This site has more information.
Whatís the best form of public transportation to use?
Amman doesnít have much in the way of public transportation: there are no commuter trains, and lots of the public buses are unmarked/a little risky to use if youíre not yet confident in your Arabic. What Amman does have, however, is an infinite supply of taxis. These are cheap and reliable, though (fair warning) using them can sometimes be a battle of wills between foreign riders and the driver.
There are three kinds of taxis: normal yellow taxis, silver ďmumayazĒ taxis, and white ďserviceĒ taxis. We recommend sticking to the yellow ones -- Mumayaz taxis are more expensive, and white ones have a set route/pick up multiple passengers along the way.
All taxis have meters, which start at 250 fils/25 qirsh during the day, and 30 at night. Few taxi rides should ever cost more than 3 JD, but when drivers know youíre foreign, they often try to get you to pay more (by claiming that their meter is broken, that you should pay them more because thereís a lot of traffic, etc.). Always make sure the meterís on as soon as you get into the taxi. If the driver says his meterís broken or he doesnít have one (which, by the way, is against the law), itís up to you if you want to try to haggle, or get out and find another taxi.
Addresses are not used or useful here (and Google maps is terrible/frequently inaccurate). Instead, youíll need to give taxi drivers a general area name, then a landmark (ex. University of Jordan Main Gate) as you get closer to your destination.
Sometimes, strangers driving by who see you trying to hail a cab will offer you a ride. Do not accept.
A note about taxi gender norms: Guys take the front seat of the cab; girls take the back seat (even if theyíre the only passenger). Not only is this a cultural norm, itís also a good way for girls to avoid harassment from drivers.
Is the water safe to drink?
Tap water is fine to use for brushing teeth and washing dishes, but consuming it in any form (even boiled) isnít a great idea. Though boiling it gets rid of germs that will make you sick, it still has heavy metals, so most people drink and cook with bottled water. You should do the same.
How much money should I carry around with me?
This depends. Pickpocketing is not a big concern due to the low crime rate, but to avoid a crisis we recommend not carrying too much cash or too many valuables with you. Some students may prefer to have their money and valuables (passport etc.) with them, however, in case there is ever an emergency and they need to go the Embassy.
Itís definitely important to have some amount of cash (ideally small change) with you, since most daily transactions take place in cash. You can take out Jordanian Dinars from ATMs (factoring in fees, listed above), but note that you canít take out more than 250 JD/day. There are also lots of exchanges throughout the city, especially in Wast al-Balad (downtown), with very low commission fees.
The exchange rate is about 1.5 JD to every USD, so things are a little more expensive than they appear. That said, things generally cost less here than they do in the US and Europe. As noted, a taxi ride shouldnít be more than 3 JD, a sandwich is about 2 JD, and a sit-down meal is about 6 JD (10 at nicer places). Use your best judgement about haggling: if youíre in a small store where prices arenít marked (especially in Wast al-Balad), they likely expect you to bargain the price down a fair amount. Donít get overcharged, especially in taxis!
Can I travel (domestically and internationally) while Iím here?
You should absolutely use Jordan as a base for regional travel during class breaks! Though many of the countries in the area are considered unsafe for Americans, a visit to Israel and/or the Palestinian Territories is fairly easy and inexpensive to pull off (as are visits to other countries a little farther away, like Turkey).
To get to and from Queen Alia International Airport, you can take a taxi (no more than 20-25 JDs; make sure to reserve one in advance rather than getting one off the street to give yourself a little more bargaining power) or the Sariyah Bus from 7th Circle (3.5 JDs, with a few stops along the way).
To travel to most major tourist sites within Jordan (and to cross the King Hussein/Allenby Bridge into Jerusalem), the JETT Bus Company can be a great deal since itís for Jordanians, not just for tourists. Reserve tickets online or by calling ahead.
As noted above, youíll have to buy a new tourist visa (40 JD) upon re-entering Jordan after international travel -- unless you enter through Aqaba, where visas are free. If you travel across the King Hussein/Allenby Bridge, you may not need to purchase a re-entry visa. Ask about this at the border.
How religious/conservative are people in Jordan?
This really varies by person and area -- in Amman, youíll meet people who run the gamut. Important things to know as a visitor:
- You will hear calls to prayer multiple times per day from the nearest mosque (and during some months, youíll hear them at night, too -- itís based on when the sun starts to rise, which in the summer can be as early as 3:30 AM).
- Women should dress conservatively -- no shorts, no short skirts, etc. You will feel uncomfortable in revealing clothes.
- Because Friday is the Muslim holy day, when most people go to the mosque, many stores will be closed, and it can be tougher to find a taxi (worth noting when planning weekend outings). Still, most restaurants are open, since lots of people go out with their families on this day.
- Practicing Muslims donít drink, but alcohol is available (in some places) for tourists and secular Muslims. Fair warning: because tourists are the main consumers of alcohol, it tends to be quite expensive (4-6 JD for a pint of beer; 5-8 JD for a cocktail).
What happens if Iím in Jordan during Ramadan?
Ramadan is the annual month-long fast for Muslims. During this time, Muslims canít eat, drink or smoke from first light to sundown. What this means for you:
- Almost all stores and restaurants (except some supermarkets) will be closed during until after sundown.
Plan around this -- make sure you buy food to cook at home.
- Restaurants and cafes will be open until late at night. This is the best time to go out and get together with friends, since everyone is able to eat and drink.
- Be respectful: do not eat or drink in public during daylight hours. Itís okay to eat within the Center, just make sure to be considerate of teachers and staff members who are fasting.
- People may invite you over to Iftar (break-fast dinner) at their houses. You should definitely accept! The food is amazing.
And speaking of people inviting you overÖ
In general, interpersonal relationships are quite a bit different in Jordan than they are in the US. Itís not at all uncommon for someone you just met to ask for your number or invite you over to their home, and itís usually a great experience (and good Arabic practice) to take them up on the offer. Of course, always use your best judgement when making plans with people youíve just met.
(Pro tip: itís generally a better idea to take down someoneís number instead of giving them your own.)
Jordan is a really safe place. Most people are lovely and very open to meeting strangers, especially foreigners, and asking lots of questions. Like any city, though, Amman has its share of people looking to take advantage of tourists who may not yet know all the ropes. So, on the whole: be on your guard and be aware of your surroundings, but be open to spontaneous conversations -- you could end up eating dinner with the grandmother of a friend of someone you met on a one-hour flight!
And finally: if you ever do run into a problem, itís worth noting that the police (emergency number 911) are very pro-tourist. There are ďtourism policeĒ around the city and at all major tourism sites, and theyíre always willing to provide directions and assistance. The US Embassy in Abdoun is also a good resource, should you run into any issues.
Is Jordan affected by the conflicts in the region?
Though it might not seem like it if youíre reading the news coming out of the Middle East, Jordan is remarkably stable given whatís going on in other countries nearby. Life in Amman is very normal; the only visible sign of the regional turmoil is the cityís increasing refugee population, which taxi drivers will be quick to tell you is the cause of frequent traffic.
Itís always a good idea to be careful and aware of your surroundings, of course, but on the whole, you will feel very safe while youíre here. If you are a US citizen, do register for the American Embassyís Smart Traveler Enrollment Program, which provides safety updates for Americans traveling in Jordan.
Is it safe for me to come to Jordan as a woman?
Yes! Our female students rarely feel unsafe or unwelcome -- most people are extremely friendly and welcoming. That said, verbal harassment can be an issue. You will get shouted/honked/stared at, especially when youíre alone. For that reason, itís a good idea to travel around with guys whenever possible, to avoid walking alone at night, and to more generally be aware of your surroundings. Avoid taking taxis alone late at night (post-11:00 PM) whenever possible.
Also, if you have any male visitors, your neighbors will wonder who they are/what your relationship is. In general, try to be subtle about any visitors you may have to avoid these confrontations.
Is it safe for me to come to Jordan if Iím Jewish?
Yes. Contrary to what you may expect, given the extreme unpopularity of Israel in the Arab world, you will most likely face no issues if youíre Jewish, as long as youíre cautious and only discuss it with people you know (not your cab driver). In most cases, you will be met with surprise and lots of questions about Judaism and Jewish culture, as most people have never met a Jewish person before.
That said, nearly everyone you meet will have unfavorable views of Israel and its policies. Getting into political discussions can be a little dicey (albeit very interesting), so use your best judgement about who you want to engage.
Finally, strangers will often ask about your religion. If you feel uncomfortable admitting that youíre Jewish, itís typically a good idea to say ďIím not religiousĒ (but not ďI donít have a religionĒ -- atheism is not popular) to ward off further questions.
Why is everyone shooting guns in the street?
Donít worry! Thatís just a traditional wedding celebration youíre hearing. Though itís illegal for people to shoot their guns into the air (at least in densely populated areas) youíll hear this a lot. We recommend you stay away from rooftops on holidays.