Crossing the borders with Egypt, Jordan, Syria, Lebanon and Israel

Map of Middle East: Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria
Map of Middle East: Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria

The borders between Israel and the two countries with which it has signed peace treaties, Egypt and Jordan, are open to both tourists and locals. The borders between Israel and the two counties which it didn’t sign any peace treaties with, Syria and Lebanon, are not open to anyone. This article tells about all the relevant and detailed information you need to access Egypt and/or Jordan for tourists.

Note: most Western governments recommend avoiding all non-essential travel to the Sinai because of recent attacks against tourists by radical Islamists.

Too many times I’ve repeated the instructions for groups and individual tourists what to do and how much it cost to cross the borders from and with Israel to Egypt and/or Jordan. So this article about all the relevant information to do just that. If you have additional questions, contact me on the contact page or contact me by email or phone, or go to my profile page.

Blue, Purple & Green Lines
The UN-certified international border between Israel and Lebanon is known as the Blue Line; the Israeli–Syrian ceasefire line of 1974 is known as the Purple Line; and the pre-1967 border between Israel and the  then-Jordanian West Bank is known as the Green Line. In many maps of Israel on this site, you see those blue, purple and green lines.

Border History
Britain and France determined the future borders of Palestine, Syria, Lebanon, Transjordan (Jordan) and Iraq in the secret Sykes-Picot Agreement of 1916.

Visas, Security & Entry Stamps
Israel no longer stamps tourists’ passports – instead, it issues you with a playing card–sized slip of paper.

Land Crossings: Your Options

Israel–Jordan: Jordan River/Sheikh Hussein crossing (map), south of the Sea of Galilee; Yitzhak Rabin/Wadi Araba crossing (map), just north of Eilat/Aqaba
West Bank–Jordan: Allenby/King Hussein Bridge crossing (map), just east of Jericho (controlled by Israel)
Israel–Egypt: Taba crossing (map), on the Red Sea just south of Eilat
Gaza–Egypt: Rafah crossing (map) (often closed)

Fees for land border crossings (not including visa fees, if applicable) are as follows:

  1. Israel: You don’t pay anything on arrival, neither on departure. But you pay at departure NIS 107 to travel to Jordan or Egypt and NIS 182 via the Allenby/King Hussein bride border crossing.
  2. Egypt: When arriving from Israel, you pay (Egyptian) £75 on arrival and £2 on departure (to Israel)
  3. Jordan: When arriving from Israel, you pay JD5 and on departure JD10 (to Israel)
  • A Yom Kippur All Israeli land borders and airports closed.
  • A Eid Al-Hijra/Muslim New Year Land crossings with Jordan closed.
  • A Eid al-Adha Taba crossing with Egypt and Palestinian wing of the Allenby/King Hussein Bridge closed.
  • A Ramadan All crossings may close early.

Crossing the border with Lebanon or Syria

Israel’s borders with Syria and Lebanon are shut tight. Unless you’re a UN peacekeeper, the only way to get to the other side is through Jordan – but if you’ve already been in Israel this can be tricky.

Travel To/from Jordan

While the two land crossings between Israel and Jordan are quick and efficient, the Allenby/King Hussein Bridge crossing between the Israeli-controlled West Bank and Jordan is not always as smooth.

Israeli exit fees can be paid at the border in a variety of currencies or by credit card. To save a handling fee of 5NIS, pay in advance at any Israeli post office (cash only) or online (https://borderpay.co.il).

Jordan River/Sheikh Hussein Crossing

Sheikh Hussein Bridge Crossing Jordan River
Sheikh Hussein Bridge Crossing Jordan River

Generally far less busy than Allenby/King Hussein Bridge, this crossing (04-609 3400; http://www.iaa.gov.il 6.30am-9pm Sun-Thu, 8am-7pm Fri & Sat, closed Yom Kippur & Al-Hijra/Muslim New Year ) is in the Jordan Valley 8km east of Beit She’an, 30km south of the Sea of Galilee, 135km northeast of Tel Aviv and 90km northeast of Amman.

Jordan issues on-arrival visas (JD40) for many nationalities. The Israeli side lacks an ATM, but you can get a cash advance at the currency-exchange window, open whenever the terminal is. For travelers heading to Jordan, getting through Israeli border formalities usually takes no more than half an hour. You then have to take a bus (7NIS or JD1.50, twice an hour) to cross to the Jordanian side of the river (walking across is forbidden).

Transport
On the Israeli side, taxis (052 328 8977), which wait at the border, can take you to Beit She’an (50NIS, plus 5NIS per suitcase) and destinations around Israel, including Tiberias (240NIS), Jerusalem (550NIS) and Tel Aviv (580NIS). Kavim bus 16 connects Beit She’an with Kibbutz Ma’oz Haim (11 minutes, five or six daily Sunday to Friday), a walkable 1km west of the crossing.

On the Jordanian side, regular service taxis travel to/from Irbid’s West Bus Station (JD1, 45 minutes). A taxi costs about JD20 to Irbid and JD40 to Amman. Nazarene Tours links Nazareth with Amman (80NIS, 4½ to five hours), via the Jordan River/Sheikh Hussein crossing, on Sunday, Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday.

Departures are at 8.30am from the company’s Nazareth office, near the Bank of Jerusalem and the Nazareth Hotel (not to be confused with the office of Nazarene Transport & Tourism in the city center) and at 2pm from Amman’s Royal Hotel (University St). Reserve by phone at least two days ahead.

Yitzhak Rabin/Wadi Araba Crossing

Yitzhak Rabin-Wadi Araba Crossing
Yitzhak Rabin-Wadi Araba Crossing

Located just 3km northeast of Eilat, this crossing (08-630 0555, 08-630 0530; http://www.iaa.gov.il; 6.30am-8pm Sun-Thu, 8am-8pm Fri & Sat ) is handy for trips to Aqaba, Petra and Wadi Rum. A bonus: thanks to the Aqaba Special Economic Zone, Jordanian visas issued here are free. Most hotels and hostels in Eilat offer day trips to Petra.

Transport
A taxi to/from Eilat (10 minutes) costs 45NIS. If you’re coming by bus from the north (eg Jerusalem, Tel Aviv or the Dead Sea), it may be possible to get off on Rte 90 at the turn-off to the border or at Kibbutz Eilot, but from there it’s 2km on foot through the desert (along Rte 109).

Once you’re in Jordan, you can take a cab to Aqaba (JD10, 15 minutes), from where you can catch a minibus for the 120km ride to Petra (JD5, 2½ hours); minibuses leave when full between 6am and 7am and 11am and noon. Alternatively, bargain for a taxi all the way from the border to Petra (around JD50, two hours).

Allenby/King Hussein Bridge Crossing

Allenby-King Hussein Bridge Crossing
Allenby-King Hussein Bridge Crossing

Linking the Israeli-controlled West Bank with Jordan, this busy crossing (02-548  2600; http://www.iaa.gov.il; 8am-midnight Sun-Thu, 8am-3pm Fri & Sat, closed Yom Kippur & Eid al-Adha, hours subject to change) is 46km east of Jerusalem, 8km east of Jericho and 60km west of Amman. It is the only crossing that people with Palestinian Authority travel documents, including West Bank Palestinians, can use to travel to and from Jordan and the outside world, so traffic can be heavy, especially on Sunday, around holidays and on weekdays from 11am to 3pm. Try to get to the border as early in the day as possible – times when tourists can cross may be limited and delays are common. Israeli citizens (including dual citizens) are not allowed to use this crossing.

Jordan does not issue on-arrival visas at the Allenby/King Hussein crossing – you’ll have to arrange a visa in advance at a Jordanian embassy, such as the one in Ramat Gan, near Tel Aviv.

However, if your visit to the Palestinian Territories and/or Israel started in Jordan, you won’t need a new visa in order to cross back into Jordan through Allenby/King Hussein Bridge, provided you do so within the period of validity of your Jordanian visa – just show your stamped exit slip.

The bus across the frontier costs JD7, plus JD1.50 per piece of luggage. Bring plenty of cash (Jordanian dinars are the most useful) and make sure you have small  change. There are no ATMs, but both sides have exchange bureau. This crossing can be frustratingly delay-prone, especially if you’re traveling into the West Bank and/or Israel. Chaotic queues, intrusive security, luggage X-rays (expect to be separated from your bags) and impatient officials are the norm; expect questions from Israeli security personnel if your passport has stamps from places such as Syria or Lebanon or you’re headed to less touristed parts of the West Bank. There are separate processing areas for Palestinians and tourists.

Transport
Shared taxis run by Abdo (%02-628 3281) and Al-Nijmeh (02-627 7466), most frequent before 11am, link the blue-and-white bus station opposite Jerusalem’s Damascus Gate with the border (30 minutes, 40NIS); the charge per suitcase is 5NIS.

Private taxis can cost as much as 300NIS, with hotel pick-up as an option.

Egged buses 948, 961 and 966 from West Jerusalem’s Central Bus Station to Beit She’an (and points north) stop on Rte 90 at the turn-off to Allenby Bridge (12.50NIS, 40 minutes, about hourly). Walking the last few kilometers to the crossing is forbidden, so you’ll have to take a taxi (50NIS).

To get to/from Amman’s Abdali or South bus stations, you can take a servees (shared taxi) or minibus (JD8, 45 minutes); a taxi costs about JD22. JETT (+962 6 566 4141; http://www.jett.com.jo) runs a daily bus to the border from Abdali (JD8.50, one hour, departure at 7am).

Travel To/From Egypt

Taba Crossing

Taba Crossing, Egyptian side
Taba Crossing, Egyptian side

This crossing (08-636 0999; http://www.iaa.gov.il; h24hr), on the Red Sea 10km south of Eilat, is the only border post between Israel and Egypt that’s open to tourists. There’s an exchange bureau on the Egyptian side. Check travel advisories before taking this route as the security situation in South Sinai is changeable.

You can get a 14-day Sinai-only entry permit at the border, allowing you to visit Red Sea resorts stretching from Taba to Sharm el-Sheikh, plus St Katherine’s. If you’re planning on going further into Egypt, you’ll need to arrange an Egyptian visa in advance, eg at the Egyptian consulate in Eilat or the embassy in Tel Aviv.

Transport
Local bus 15 links Eilat’s central bus station with the Taba crossing (4.90NIS, 30 minutes, hourly 8am to 9pm Sunday to Thursday, 8am to 3pm Friday and 9am to 7pm Saturday). On the way back to Eilat this line is known as bus 16; departures are 40 minutes later. A taxi costs about 30NIS.

Rafah Crossing

Rafah Crossing
Rafah Crossing

With a few exceptions, Egypt has kept the Rafah crossing between Gaza and Sinai closed since 2013. When or if it reopens, it is unlikely to be usable by leisure travelers.

Israeli Border Control

Israeli Border Control at Airport
Israeli Border Control at Airport

Israel’s rigorous entrance procedures are a source of annoyance for some and a breeze for others. Don’t be surprised if you are asked questions about your reasons for traveling, trips you’ve recently made, your occupation, your acquaintances in Israel and the Palestinian Territories, and possibly your religious or family background.

If you are meeting friends or family in Israel, you might want to have their full name, address and phone number handy (a letter confirming you’re staying with them is ideal). If you have hotel reservations, a printout may help – or be completely superfluous.

If border officials suspect that you’re coming to take part in pro-Palestinian political activities or if you have an Arab or Muslim name, they may ask some probing questions; on occasion they have even searched laptops.

Sometimes they take an interest in passport stamps from places such as Syria, Lebanon or Iran, but often they don’t. The one sure way to get grilled is to sound evasive or to contradict yourself – the security screeners are trained to try to trip you up. Whatever happens, remain calm and polite.

Israeli airport security – whether you’re flying in on an Israeli carrier or flying out on any airline –is the strictest in the business. It unabashedly uses profiling, but not necessarily in the way you think.

In 1986, a pregnant Irish woman, Anne Mary Murphy, almost boarded an El Al 747 in London with Semtex explosive hidden in her luggage – it had been placed there without her knowledge by her Jordanian boyfriend, Nezar Hindawi, who is still in prison in the UK.

Ever since then, Israeli security officials – at Ben Gurion airport and at airports abroad – have been on the lookout for anyone who might unwittingly serve as a suicide bomber, with young, unmarried Western women near the top of the profiling list.

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One comment

  1. How is it that just anyone can write a weblog and get as popular as this? Its not like youve said anything incredibly impressive more like youve painted a quite picture above an issue that you know nothing about! I dont want to sound mean, here. But do you actually think that you can get away with adding some quite pictures and not seriously say something?

    Like

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