This time last week, you read Part 1 of this post. If not, here is your chance.
Last week, I shared with you my experience entering Israel at the Ben Gurion airport and crossing into Jordan in the South at the Eilat-Aqaba border crossing.
Today, I will share my experience entering Israel from Jordan at the King Hussein-Allenby border crossing and my exit experience at the Ben Gurion airport.
Jordan, an Arab country trapped between several warring countries (Syria, Iraq, Israel) has witnessed a severe decline in its tourism sector. At the same time, the lack of public transportation makes it challenging for solo travelers on a budget to travel between its points of interests. Fortunately, the Law of Attraction was on my side and I met another solo traveler with a rental car who was traveling North from Petra, where we met.
TRAVEL TIP #1:
If you intend to travel solo in Jordan, consider renting a car. It will save you the headache of negotiating with the taxi drivers. Unbind you from the handful of long distance buses available between Amman, Madaba, Petra and Aqaba. Give you lots of freedom to be wherever your heart desires.
The day arrived when I wanted to return to Israel from Jordan. I asked the hostel owner to call the bus company the day prior to confirm the time of departure. 7 am was the answer I seek.
The morning of my adventure from Jordan to Israel started at 6:30am. The taxi from my hostel in downtown Amman to the bus station cost me less than 3 Jordanian Dinars (JOD). From there I had 2 options. One – pay 3 JOD for a seat on the 1 hour bus to the King Hussein bridge border. Option 2 – pay 10 JOD, join 3 other travelers and cram into a white taxi that commutes between Amman and the border. As I was in no rush, I saved 7 JOD and took the bus.
If the man who “kindly” put your luggage under the bus for you, tells you there’s an added cost for the luggage – ignore him. He is lying. The man who is collecting the bus fare will tell you there is no additional charge. If a tip seems justifiable, that is different.
The bus driver hoped to get a few more customers so we waited until 7:30am OR I was misinformed and the bus is really scheduled to leave at 7:30am. This I am unsure.
Along the way is another grim reminder that war is a horrible horrible sight. Refugees set up temporary housing that becomes permanent.
Forgive me – I tried to take photos but considering it is a border crossing point, the security guards stopped me as soon as I lifted my phone up to take 1 photo.
When the bus pulls into the parking lot of the King Hussein Bridge border crossing, you will see a small booth/counter on your right. No need to go there, you will be turned back as that is for locals or those who speak Arabic. I thought I would be smart and follow my fellow passengers but I was quickly turned away.
I was redirected to the courtyard to the left, after a narrow passageway, I was led into another building.
To EXIT Jordan at the King Hussein Bridge crossing, these are the main events:
- Pay 10 JOD as departure tax.
- On the provided piece of blank paper and write down name and passport number. The departure stamps were chopped onto this simple piece of paper. They will NOT stamp inside the passport.
- Get on the awaiting bus with other confused foreigners. But then I find out I had to pay for the bus ride and my luggage to be transported across the “No Man’s Land” zone. There is no possible way to save this money. I could not possibly walk this distance – it is FORBIDDEN.
- Pay 7 JOD per person and each piece of luggage stowed under the bus cost 1.5 JOD.
However, I kept wondering – Where did all the people who took the bus with me from Amman disappear to???
Sad Truth – I did not know a man will board the bus to collect the only proof I left Jordan (small white piece of paper with my Jordan exit stamps) when we cross into “No Man’s Land” – I have no photo!!! *sad face
N.B. :- If you have leftover Jordanian dinars to spend, there is a Duty Free shop for that but make sure someone knows that, else risk missing your bus.
The “No Man’s Land” at King Hussein Bridge – Allenby crossing is much different than the one in the South (Yitzhak Rabin Border crossing). There is a lot more security measures and is extremely heavily guarded. I took one illegal photo.
Well after the slightly confusing departure from Jordan, I did not know what to expect from Israel.
Once we arrive at the administrative building, we collected our luggage and lined up. I noticed some people with a BIG bright V.I.P. sticker on their luggage – they skipped the line but still had similar treatments as I.
To Enter Israel at the Allenby crossing, here are the main steps:
- At the small portable building on the left is 3 counter windows, I passed them my passport, they put a sticker on the back.
- Pass my luggage to the luggage person who tags it and sends it through an opening in the wall.
- Walk through into the building and go through the routine x-ray machines.
- Staff at the counter collects my passport and tells me to “Have a seat”
- All confused foreigners look at each other as each is taken individually to a niche in the wall and questioned by an officer of the opposite sex (I’m not sure if this is always the case but that’s what I noticed)
Conveniently, there is a W/C and snacks counter to start spending your money to await the questioning period. I brought snacks and water just in case there was no such “conveniences”.
And the FUN begins!!! Before I was allowed to leave the building in ONE piece, I was interrogated 3 separate times! Yes you read that correctly. I completely lost track of time.
The American citizen told me to brace myself as he returned to the sitting/waiting area. He said they asked him these lovely questions and some others:
- Why are you visiting Israel?
- Where did you study? Where is the proof of your studies and proof of employment? (We did not know we have to travel with our university diplomas!!)
- How long will you stay in Israel?
He was only going to Jerusalem for the day and returning back to Jordan to visit Petra the next day.
Interrogation Round #1
Man holding my passport asks me to join him in the “Interrogation niche” and asked me a long series of questions. Some of them sound like this:
- Why are you crossing this border?
- What will you do in Israel?
- How long will you stay in Israel?
- Where will you stay?
- Which city are you going to now?
- What did you do in Jordan?
- Why did you visit Jordan?
- How long were you in Jordan?
I do not know how long that lasted but it drained me. I think I got my passport back and walked over to the Immigration counter. I thought I would just get the Entrance paper and be set free. Oh nooooooooooooo.
There were 2 counters for me to choose from and I chose the man. As soon as he starts Interrogation #2, I wondered if the woman would have been nicer. In addition to the previous questions, this guy decided to be more detail oriented. He flips through each page of my passport and really look at each and every stamp. SH*T!!!
Interrogation #2 ensues, I’ve chosen to include some of my responses:
- How much money do you have in your wallet? (A few hundred shekels)
- Israel is an expensive country! How much money do you have exactly?? (I am not counting my money here, I will get robbed!)
- Do you own a credit card?? (Of course, I cannot buy an airplane ticket without one)
- How will you pay for your stay in Israel? (With my savings)
- Where will you be staying? (My mistake – I mentioned staying in a Vipassana meditation center which is free but suggests donations are welcome. I end up having to explain meditation to him. That I will be paying for my stay at the meditation center)
- How long will you stay in Israel? (At this point – I know what he is getting at. He is worried I am a free-loader and will stay in his country. He does not realize that I have no interest in LIVING in Israel. That this interrogation has completely made me sick of being in Israel. I could not fathom the thought of living here, while unsure which day an Israeli will kill an Arab or vice versa.)
I decide to show him my flight from Israel to Turkey and from Turkey back to Canada. This puts him at ease a little bit.
- What is this stamp?? (He’s pointing at the “souvenir” stamp from the Jerusalem post office, he picks up the phone and calls someone. All I can think is I’m in deep arse sh*t now.
God I wanted to cry. I’m like “See Karen – all your frigging stamps is finally getting you into trouble.”
Luckily someone told him it’s not a big deal. He understood my childish collection of stamps
He even offers to stamp my passport and printed me the blue Entrance permit. Phew!
Who would’ve thunk that after all that excitement, I would encounter Stage 3. Honestly I will stop giving my passport to man in uniform.
Interrogation #3, as he flips page by page in my full passport – he stops at each page with a stamp from a country which Muslims can be found:
- Why did you visit Malaysia??
- Why did you visit Indonesia??
- What were you doing in Egypt?
- Why did you go to Turkey?
- What were you doing in Nepal?
It felt like I was in there for 10 hours. I was completely mentally drained. He finally found my repetitive answer, “I was a tourist” – suitable.
I was in a daze. I saw my luggage but it was behind a barricade and some Muslims were sitting and waiting. So I sat with them but then I came to and wanted to ask the officer. Lucky I did ask – as I was allowed to just walk out with my luggage.
I walked past the currency exchange counter. I walked past the final border crossing official who was busy texting on her phone.
Outside were the vultures, I mean – the taxi drivers and sherut (shared taxi) drivers. It was 50 Shekels (NIS) to Jerusalem in a sherut or 50 shekels just to be dropped off on the highway, at the bus stop. However, I would have to wait for the other 9 passengers to fill the sherut. I bit the bullet and took the taxi to the highway.
What is wrong with this country??? – I wanted to scream.
I was elated to take the train to Ben Gurion airport and get on my flight back to Turkey!! I knew I would not be interrogated nor questioned how much money I have in my wallet.
Though before they let me line up at the airline’s check-in counter, they did give me a mini interrogation. Fortunately it was swift and eventually I got my Exit Permit.
Yes Israel is one of the most difficult places I’ve ever visited (so far) in regards to entry into their country and exit. Almost to the level of paranoia – worrying when they’ll be bombed or have a squatter who wants to live there. It’s one of the numerous strings attached to international travels these days.
Personally I dislike politics and by visiting Israel, I had to learn a bit about politics and their history. I just know an eye for an eye is not a solution.
Though I would say it is a country that’s worth exploring if you’re so inclined, for what ever your rhyme or reason. Despite the unnerving experience at the border. Despite the times when I heard unexplained explosions. There were times when I forgot about those challenges. I did meet some very friendly and helpful Israelis. Though I did meet a woman who did not want me to know about the location of her silent retreat as she thinks anyone who does not share her beliefs will bring evil entities into her space.
No one is perfect. I want to believe peace is possible.
When you do go to Israel, DO make the time to see Palestine. The Palestinians are also friendly and helpful. It’s always good to understand each situation from all sides to gain a better perspective in the lives around us.