Useful country information

Train operator in Jordan:

HJR (Hedjaz Jordan Railway) www.english.jh-railway.com

 

 

Time zone & dialling code:

GMT+2 (GMT+3 last Sunday in March to last Saturday in October).  Dial code +962.

Currency:

1 = approx 1.1 Jordanian Dinars.  Currency converter

Tourist information:

www.visitjordan.comThings to see in Jordan.

Information on Petra: http://nabataea.net/petra.html

Hotels in Jordan   Recommended guidebooks   Tripadvisor Jordan page

Visas:

UK citizens need a Jordanian visa.  You can get this in London from their embassy at 6 Upper Phillimore Gardens, Kensington, London W8 7HA, Tel. 020 7937 3685, www.jordanembassyuk.org.  UK, US & most western European citizens can buy a visa on arrival at the border, cost around 20 dinars or 22.

Page last updated:

4 September 2013


UK to Jordan by train?

  Petra, Jordan. The Treasury

Petra:  The Treasury

It's perfectly possible to reach Jordan and Petra overland from London & Europe via Istanbul & Damascus, without flying, or at least was before current problems arose in Syria.  This page will tell you how to plan, book and make this wonderful overland trip both there and back.  Jordan is an amazing place to visit.  Amman is worth a day or two, but the prime attraction is of course the fantastic lost city of Petra (pictured, right).

On this page...

London-Istanbul-Damascus-Amman-Petra by train

Damascus-Amman by train (twice a week, but currently suspended)

Damascus-Amman by bus (several departures daily)

Amman-Petra & Amman-Aqaba by bus

Things to see in Jordan:  Amman, Azraq, Petra, Aqaba, Wadi Rum.

Hotels in Amman, Petra, Aqaba & Jordan  Hotel search.

Amman-Cairo by bus or bus+ferry

Sponsored links...

 


London to Amman & Petra by train

Step 1:  London to Istanbul

The train journey from London or Paris to Istanbul takes 3 nights with daily departures all year-round.  See the London to Turkey page for train times, fares and how to book.

Step 2:  Istanbul to Damascus - check current travel advice for Syria!

You can travel from Istanbul to Adana in southeastern Turkey largely by train, as shown here.  Spend the night in Adana then take a bus onwards to Aleppo next day.  Total journey time Istanbul to Aleppo 2 nights, 2 days.  Several air-conditioned 100mph trains link Aleppo with Damascus every day, and there's a sleeper train too.  See the London to Syria page for train times, fares, how to book and other information.  With current major problems affecting Syria, you'll want to take advice before travelling through Syria, see www.fco.gov.uk.  The advice may well make this journey inadvisable until Syria sorts itself out.

Step 3:  Damascus to Amman in Jordan

There is (or rather was, see the update below) a wonderful train service from Damascus to Amman twice a week over the historic Hedjaz Railway.  This train ride should not be missed, although if time presses there are also daily buses which are faster.  Both options are explained below.  There are buses and taxis from Amman to Petra.

If you are new to independent travel, planning a trip like this can seem daunting, but it's not that difficult.  This may help you can plan a journey like this: How to plan an itinerary & budget.


Damascus to Amman by train

A narrow-gauge train used to link Damascus in Syria with Amman in Jordan, running over part of the famous Hedjaz Railway, although it's suspended at the moment.  This historic train ride cost a mere $4, even though buses are faster and run daily.  The Hedjaz line was originally built by the Turks to link Damascus with Medina in what is now Saudi Arabia, and it was the line attacked by T E Lawrence (Lawrence of Arabia) and the Arabs during the Arab Revolt in 1917.  For more information about the history of the Hedjaz Railway, see http://nabataea.net/hejazad.html.

Damascus ► Amman

    

  

Amman ► Damascus

Days of running:

??

Days of running:

??

Damascus  (Kadem station)

 depart 

-

Amman

 depart 

-

Deraa  (change trains)

 depart

-

Mafraq

 depart

-

Mafraq

 arrive

-

Deraa  (change trains)

 depart

-

Amman

 arrive

-

Damascus (Kadem station)

 arrive

-

Important:  Damascus-Amman Hedjaz train cancelled indefinitely...

My wife and I took the Damascus-Amman train in late 2005, when it ran twice-weekly.  But by mid-2006 it was reported that it was no longer running because 'something is broken' - Syrian tank manoeuvres destroying the tracks, according to one source.  The train was still cancelled as at January 2010.  In May 2010 it was reported that a weekly Deraa-Amman passenger train had started running, making one round trip on Saturdays, though this went unconfirmed, and at present there is definitely no Damascus-Amman train at the running - or indeed any other trains in Syria, given the conflict.

If you have any feedback about this train service, please e-mail me

If you can't take the train, you'll need to use the Damascus-Amman bus service shown here (which given the conflict in Syria, may or may not be running either)

You can phone the Hedjaz Railway in Amman on 00 962 6 489 5413

Damascus to Amman is 223 km (139 miles).

Trains are operated by Syrian Railways (CFS) and Hedjaz-Jordan Railway.  The Damascus-Amman train is in fact two trains, and you have to switch from a Syrian train to a Jordanian train at Deraa while your passports are being checked.  The Jordan Hedjaz Railway website is www.english.jh-railway.com, though it still shows the passenger service as running so it's not kept updated.

The Hedjaz station in Damascus is being rebuilt.  In the meantime, the Amman train starts from Damascus Kadem station 3-4km southwest of the city centre, easily reached by taxi for less than $2.

Amman railway station is 2.5km east of Amman city centre, taxis are available.

 Fares

 Damascus to Amman:

  -  

 Amman to Deraa:

  - 

How to buy tickets...

There is no need to reserve in advance.  In fact, it's not even possible to buy tickets in advance, as tickets are only sold on the day of travel an hour before departure at the station.  They may not bother selling you a ticket even then, but tell you to board the train and pay later.  So just turn up half an hour before departure with $4 in Syrian pounds, ask about tickets and see what they say.

What's the train like?

For the record, this section describes the (currently cancelled) Damascus-Amman train as it was in 2005.

Damascus-Amman by Hedjaz train:  The 1905-built passenger carriage on the Syrian train.   Damascus-Amman by train:  Inside the Syrian 1905-built passenger coach.

The Syrian train from Damascus to Deraa has one ancient passenger coach, built in 1905, with a side corridor and several 6-seater compartments...

Inside the Jordanian train from Deraa to Amman   The Jordanian train from Deraa to Amman, at Deraa.

The Jordanian train from Deraa to Amman has two passenger coaches, with bench seats along the coach sides...  You get great views (and covered in dust) from the open verandas at the end of the coach.

What's the journey like?

Arriving by taxi at Damascus Kadem station, you walk over the footbridge to the narrow-gauge Hedjaz Railway platform on the far side of the station, behind all the mainline trains.

At first, with the platform empty, you may think your train hasn't yet arrived from the sidings.  Then it will slowly dawn on you that the ancient freight train standing one track over from the platform line actually IS the twice-weekly train to Amman.

At the head of a long line of grey bogie boxcars is one solitary passenger coach, built in Nuremburg in 1905, with open verandas at each end and a 'clerestory' roof.  It has a narrow side-corridor and a number of 6-seater compartments, the ancient seat springs trying to burst out of what's left of the upholstery.  Ahead of the passenger coach is one 4-wheeler guard's van, a flat wagon and a Romanian-built diesel locomotive.  This is the Syrian train that will take you as far as Deraa.

The train leaves at 08:00 or maybe later, heading slowly out of the industrial suburbs of Damascus and then out into the arid countryside, descending a shallow valley.  There are military outposts in this area, so the policeman travelling with the train may ask you not to take photos.  The train twists and turns on its narrow-gauge tracks across the desert, at no more than 30-35 mph.  Eventually, it arrives at Deraa.

At Deraa, passports are collected and passengers told to transfer to the Jordanian train standing alongside.  The Jordanian train has two wooden passenger coaches of similar vintage to the Syrian coach, also with open verandas at each end.  Inside, these cars are open-plan with bench seats along the coach sides.  Two small guard's vans bring up the rear.  The train is hauled by a beefy-looking General-Electric locomotive marked 'Hedjaz Jordan Railway'.

After a long wait, passports are shown to their owners and handed straight over to the Jordanian policeman who has now joined the train.  With a long low hoot the train leaves Deraa.  You'll see the road frontier and all the wire fences that mark the actual Syrian/Jordanian border, which the train passes straight through.  Some distance after the actual frontier the train reaches the little station at Mafraq, and here there is also a long stop while passports are processed by the Jordanians.

South of Mafraq there is more desert, a river, bridges (including one rebuilt after being blown up by Lawrence in 1917) and a few hours later the train reaches the suburbs north of Amman.  The train seems faster in Jordan, often travelling at 40-45mph.  Now the train heads straight through the middle of a busy town market, past tenements and rubbish dumps.  The policeman is riding on the leading coach veranda, shaking his finger at any kid by the tracks who looks as if they might throw a stone.  Most Jordanian kids simply like waving at the train and love it when you wave back!  The train follows a cultivated river valley between hills covered in houses, and finally rounds a curve into the pleasant little station in Amman.

If you're interested in the history of the Hedjaz Railway, see http://nabataea.net/hejazad.html.

Damacus-Amman by train:  The Syrian train at Damascus Kadem station.   Damascus-Amman by Hedjaz Railway:  The Jordanian train waiting to leave Deraa.

Syrian Hedjaz train at Damascus Kadem...

 

The Jordanian train at Deraa...

Damascus-Amman train, between Deraa and Mafraq   Amman railway station

In Jordan en route to Amman.

 

Amman station...


Damascus to Amman by bus

JETT bus from Amman to DamascusAlthough nowhere near as interesting an experience as the train journey on the famous Hedjaz Railway, the Damascus-Amman buses are faster (4 hours) and run daily.  It's possible to travel from Aleppo to Amman (or Amman to Aleppo) in one day, combining an Aleppo-Damascus train with a Damascus-Amman bus.

JETT = Daily air-conditioned buses operated by Jordan Express Tourist Transportation, www.jett.com.jo, call +962 6 562 2430 fax +962 6 560 5005.

Karnak = Daily air-conditioned buses operated by Karnak bus company, Syria.

Damascus ► Amman (by bus)

    

  

Amman ► Damascus (by bus)

 

Karnak

JETT

JETT

 

JETT

JETT

Karnak

Damascus 

 depart 

07:00

15:00

16:00

Amman

 depart 

07:00

08:00

15:00

Amman

arrive

11:30

19:30

20:30

Damascus

 arrive

11:30

12:30

19:30

 Fares

 Damascus to Amman:

8 JD (7 or $11)

Damascus to Amman by road is 180 km.


Amman to Petra & Aqaba by bus

The Hedjaz Railway no longer operates south of Amman, except for freight trains.  But there are regular buses and minibuses from Amman to Petra (Wadi Musa is the name of the modern town next door).

Amman ► Petra (by bus)

    

  

Petra ► Amman (by bus)

 

JETT

JETT

Taxi

 

JETT

JETT

Taxi

Amman (Abdali bus station)

depart 

06:30

*

taxi

Aqaba

 depart 

*

-

taxi

Petra (Wadi Musa)

arrive

10:00

|

taxi

Petra (Wadi Musa)

 depart

|

17:00

taxi

Aqaba

arrive

-

*

taxi

Amman (Abdali bus station)

 arrive

*

20:30

taxi

* = Departures from both Amman (Abdali bus station) southbound & from Aqaba northbound are at 07:00, 09:00, 11:00, 14:00, 16:00 & 18:00.  Journey time 4 hours.  Additional departures run several times daily from Amman's Wehdat, Tabarbour & 7th Circle bus stations.

JETT = Jordan Express Tourist Transportation, www.jett.com.jo, +962 6 562 2430 fax +962 6 560 5005.  Air-conditioned buses.  The fare is 8 JD Amman-Petra, 7.50 JD Amman-Aqaba.

Taxi = service taxis, usually 25-seater minibuses.  The taxis leave when full and usually operate throughout the day.  The fare from Amman to Petra is 3 JD or less, journey time about 2 hours 40 minutes. These minibus taxis leave from Amman's Wahedat bus station.

Hiring a private taxi to take you to Petra will cost about 40-50 JD (36-46) after negotiation.

For ferries from Aqaba to Nuweiba in Egypt, see below.


Things to see in Jordan

Amman

Amman is a sprawling modern city which has grown very rapidly from what was once a small village.  Built on a number of hills and valleys, it does have a centre with a citadel and Roman amphitheatre, but isn't worth more than a day if you're passing through.  The Al Saraya Hotel, near the centre, is a good choice for budget travellers.

Azraq

T E Lawrence fans will want to visit the castle at Azraq, an hour's drive east of Amman.  The castle was used as the headquarters of the Arab Revolt for a while in 1917, and Lawrence slept in the room immediately above the gatehouse.

Azraq castle, Jordan   Roman amphitheatre, Amman, Jordan

Azraq castle.  Lawrence of Arabia slept in the room above the gatehouse in 1917.

 

Amman:  The Roman amphitheatre.

Petra

Jordan's premier attraction, and deservedly so.  The famous ruined city of Petra nestles in a valley surrounded by mountains and approached through over a mile of narrow defile.

Petra, Jordan   Royal Tombs, Petra   The Monastery, Petra, Jordan

Above left:  The end of the defile, where you emerge in front of the 'Treasury'.  Centre:  The royal tombs.  Above right:  The 'monastery', reached after a steep climb up into the hills on the far side of the Petra site...

Jerash

A ruined Roman city in northern Jordan, well worth a visit.

Aqaba

Now Aqaba is a modern town and holiday resort, but when Lawrence and the Arabs attacked it was little more than a fishing village.  The fort they captured from the Turks is still there and can be visited.

Wadi Rumm

A beautiful area of desert and rocky outcrops, it enthralled Lawrence, and much of the film 'Lawrence of Arabia' was filmed here.  You can visit on a jeep safari as a day trip from Petra or Aqaba.

Aqaba Fort, Jordan   Wadi Rumm, Jordan

Aqaba fort.

 

Brewing up in Wadi Rumm.

No flying was involved in the taking of these photos:  All travel from London to Jordan and back was overland by train...


London to Amman via Greece-Israel ferry

It used to be possible to go to Israel by sea from Greece, then travel overland from Jerusalem to Amman.  However, all ferries from Piraeus via Cyprus to Haifa in Israel were suspended in 2001 and show no signs of restarting.


How to travel from Amman to Egypt

Amman to Cairo by bus...

An air-conditioned bus leaves Amman (JETT terminal) on Tuesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays & Sundays at 14:00, taking some 20 hours to reach Cairo.  Fare 75.5 JD (about 69 or $102).  It is run by Jordan Express Tourist Transportation (JETT), www.jett.com.jo, telephone Amman 662722, fax 601507.  This bus crosses Israel - remember that you won't be able to re-enter Syria with any sign of a visit to Israel in your passport.

Amman to Cairo by bus & ferry...

It's also possible to travel from Jordan to Egypt avoiding Israel, using a ferry.  Here are details for the southbound journey - details for the northbound journey are shown on the Egypt page.

Aqaba (Jordan) to Nuweiba (Egypt) by ferry

The fast ferry from Aqaba in Jordan to Nuweiba in Egypt. Photo courtesy of Elliot Bannister


Recommended guidebooks

Lonely Planet guide to JordanClick to buy onlineI recommend planning a trip with the Thomas Cook timetables plus the relevant Lonely Planet guidebook - I've found that the L-P guides are the best out there for the independent traveller.

Click the images to buy online at Amazon.co.uk 

Or buy direct from the Lonely Planet website, with shipping worldwide.

The Middle East guidebook covers Turkey, Syria, Jordan, Egypt, Iran, Israel and several other countries.

 


Hotels in Amman, Petra & Jordan

 

◄◄ Hotel search & price comparison.

www.hotelscombined.com checks all the main hotel booking sites at once to find the widest choice of hotels & the cheapest seller.  It was named as the World's Leading Hotel Comparison Site at the World Travel Awards 2013 and I highly recommend it, both to find hotels in even the smallest places and to check that another retailer isn't selling your hotel for less!

www.booking.com is my favourite booking site.  It's really clear and you can usually book with free cancellation and so confirm your accommodation at no risk months before train booking opens.

Other hotel sites worth trying...

Backpacker hostels...


Travel insurance & health card

 

 

Columbus direct travel insurance

Get travel insurance, it's essential...

Never travel without insurance from a reliable travel insurer with at least 1m or preferably 5m medical cover.  It should also cover loss of cash (up to a limit) & belongings, and cancellation. An annual multi-trip policy is usually cheapest even for just 2 or 3 trips a year (I have an annual policy myself).  Don't expect travel insurance to bail you out of every missed connection, though, see the advice on missed connections here.  Here are some suggested insurers, Seat61 gets a little commission if you buy through these links, and feedback from using insurance for rail & ferry travel is always welcome.

In the UK, use www.confused.com to compare prices & policy features across major insurance companies.

If you have a pre-existing medical condition or are over 65 (no age limit), see www.JustTravelCover.com.

        If you live in Australia, New Zealand, Ireland or the EU, try Columbus Direct's other websites.

  If you live in the USA try Travel Guard USA.

Get an EU health card, it's free...

If you're a UK citizen travelling in Europe, you should apply for a free European Health Insurance Card, which entitles you to free or reduced rate health care if you become ill or get injured in many European countries, under a reciprocal arrangement with the NHS.  This replaced the old E111 forms as from January 2006.  The EHIC card is available from www.ehic.org.uk.  It doesn't remove the need for travel insurance, though.

Get a spare credit card, designed for foreign travel with no currency exchange loading & low/no ATM fees

Taking out an extra credit card costs nothing, but if you keep it in a different part of your luggage you won't be left stranded if your wallet gets stolen.  In addition, some credit cards are better for overseas travel than others.  Martin Lewis's www.moneysavingexpert.com/travel/cheap-travel-money explains which UK credit cards have the lowest currency exchange commission loadings when you buy something overseas, and the lowest cash withdrawal fees when you use an ATM abroad.

You can avoid ATM charges and expensive exchange rates with a Caxton FX euro currency Visa Card, or their multi-currency 'Global Traveller' Visa Card, see www.caxtonfx.com for info.

Get an international SIM card to save on calls & mobile data...

Mobile phones can cost a fortune to use abroad, so consider getting a global pre-paid SIM card for your mobile phone which can cut call & data costs by up to 90%.  At the time of writing, www.roamsure.com claims a definite 25% saving within the EU and up to 90% saving in the rest of the world.  Incoming calls are free in 73 countries, including all of the EU, the USA, Australia & South Africa.  There's no contract or commitment, and at time I write this Roamsure is offering a global SIM card for free when you buy 20 of call credit.  Seat61 gets some commission to support the site if you buy airtime from Roamsure.

 


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