Marketing Manager, Emma, explains why you really, honestly, seriously don’t need to worry about safety when travelling to Jordan…
If there’s one question I can always guarantee that my mum will ask when I tell her about my next travel destination, it’s “is it safe?“
From Kyrgyzstan to South Korea, it’s always the same question – one which I usually brush off with an affectionate eye roll and semi-exasperated “yes, mum…“
Of course, it’s just what mums do, especially when their daughters keep going off to places that most people don’t know much about, to do silly things like mountaineering, climbing and wild camping. You can’t really blame ’em.
No prizes then for guessing how our conversation went when I explained that I was going to test out a new Bucket List Company trip in Jordan…
Now, my mum wasn’t alone in being unsure of Jordan’s safety status. Whilst Jordan has a growing reputation around the world as a peaceful and safe country, this hasn’t reached everyone just yet.
In fact, when you type “Jordan travel” into Google, queries such as “is Jordan safe?”, “is it safe to travel to Jordan?” and “Jordan travel advice” are among the top results. It’s almost certain that, when you announce your plans to visit Jordan, you, too, will get asked these very same questions.
To tell you the truth, I could answer the question of “is Jordan safe?” in one word (spoiler alert: it’s a yes). But that wouldn’t make a very good blog post, would it?
So instead, I’m writing this to put your mind at rest. And your mum’s.
We’re super excited about the brand new Bucket List trip to Jordan that we will be announcing soon, and we hope you are too… So just send this article to your mum and get ready for the adventure of a lifetime!
For the past decade, Jordan has been widely regarded as an “island of peace” in the somewhat tumultuous Middle Eastern region. Personally, I’m skeptical of the stereotype perpetuated by mainstream media of the Middle East – but this label is somewhat understandble considering that Jordan is situated between Syria, Iraq, Israel and Palestine. These countries are currently undergoing their own conflicts, but it is true that Jordan stands largely unaffected by its neighbours political situations.
You have to remember, though, that the Middle East is a big place. The idea that the entire region is just full of rebel militias and bombings is simply not true. In fact, Kuwait, UAE and Qatar are all ranked above the UK in the Global Peace Index, which ranks 163 nations’ relative peacefulness.
Just like any other part of the world, the Middle East is just full of normal people living their lives – and in the majority of cases, any conflict is fuelled by outside interferences and geopolitics that are far out of the control of the average person.
Personally, I’ve visited UAE and Bahrain, and felt perfectly safe. I have friends who have visited Egypt, Lebanon, Oman, Saudi Arabia, and Israel who have all had safe trips. But for me – and for many others who have experienced the country – Jordan does indeed feel even more safe as a traveller.
But before we get into the anecdotal stuff, let’s have a look at the facts and figures.
Is Jordan safe to visit? The facts
The first thing most of us do when we want to know if a country is safe to visit is check GOV.UK’s Travel Advice service. To be honest, though, I tend to take the site’s advice with a pinch of salt. Think of it this way – GOV.UK tells you everything that could possibly go wrong in a given country. They have to cover all bases and warn readers of all conceivable eventualities, because it’s a government service. This doesn’t mean that the possibilities they mention are even remotely likely to materialise – much less at the same time and place that you happen to be on your trip.
For example, GOV.UK says that “demonstrations regularly occur in Amman” – Jordan’s capital city. But how many demonstrations have there been in London over the past few years? Demonstrations occur everywhere, and in the vast majority of cases they are peaceful. Even if protests become heated, all a tourist has to do is stay out of the way and they will be completely safe.
The number one concern for most people regarding safety when travelling to Jordan is terrorism. GOV.UK suggests that “terrorists are very likely to try to carry out attacks in Jordan.” Speak to any local, though, and you’ll realise that this is not the case. And, to be honest, GOV.UK says this about almost every region – even more so the UK, USA and Western Europe.
Risk Advisory.com gives Jordan a “medium” rating for terrorism risk – the same rating as the UK. If you take a look at the Risk Advisory map, you will see that most of the world has at least a “medium” ranking – so Jordan is far from a high-risk country when you look at it on a global scale.
In fact, in 2019, Jordan received a Global Peace Index rating of 2.012, ranking at 77th out of all countries. To put that in context, the UK ranks at 45th and the USA ranks at 128th! And, in 2016, Jordan had 145 homicides, whereas the UK had 791. This would all suggest that Jordan is actually much safer than the UK and the USA.
Looking at all of these statistics, it becomes clear that Jordan is indeed a very peaceful country in spite of its geographic location.
Jordan’s safety infrastructure
Over the past decade, tourism has been growing steadily in Jordan, and so have government efforts to improve safety procedures throughout the Kingdom. Considering that tourism is bringing in significant revenue – and creating jobs – the vast majority of Jordanians have a shared interest in making visitors feel safe, comfortable and welcome.
Today, you will find that security presence is high in tourist areas, with tourist police stationed at every major attraction, be it Petra or Amman Citadel. Most tourist hotels also feature security on entry, including metal detectors and bag searches to ensure that no prohibited items are brought in. There are also police checkpoints at border zones, which you may experience on your way to the Dead Sea.
In addition to specific safety provisions, Jordan’s infrastructure is very modern – they have good paved roads and highways – much better than most of the roads here in Devon! The healthcare service is the best in the region, and is easy to access for locals and foreigners alike. This all adds to the country’s reputation for safety and visitor-friendliness.
A progressive paradise
One of the main things that people talk about when they return from a trip to Jordan is just how progressive the culture is. This should perhaps be unsurprising, considering how multicultural the country is.
Jordan has developed a reputation for being accepting of newcomers – there are around 1.4 million Syrian refugees now living in the country, almost 1 million Iraqi refugees and over 2 million Palestinian refugees. In fact, the UNHCR recognises Jordan as having the second highest share of refugees compared to its population in the world, at 89 refugees per 1,000 inhabitants. Considering that the country’s total population is only around 10 million, these numbers are significant. However, UNHCR Jordan was also the first UNHCR operation worldwide to introduce “iris-scanning fraud-proof biometrics” for refugee registration, to ensure that individuals seeking refuge were not criminally affiliated – keeping the country safe for all.
This multicultural society has created an admirable environment where newcomers are accepted as part of the national fabric, whilst still being able to celebrate their cultural roots. Walking around downtown Amman, you will come across Syrian restaurants, Palestinian juice bars and Bedouin artisinal shops all on the same street.
This welcoming and accepting attitude extends to tourists, too. Jordan is a predominantly Islamic country, with 95% of the population following Islam. As such, there are certain elements of religious and cultural etiquette that locals prefer tourists to follow – and we strongly recommend that you do so in order to show respect.
For example, the dress code in Jordan is relatively modest – meaning that most people will cover at least their shoulders and knees from day to day. Visitors should, therefore, follow suit, covering at least the knees and shoulders outside of tourist resorts, and preferably wearing trousers that reach the ankles in local parts of town (men, too, by the way!)
However, failure to do so will not put you in danger. If you were to depart from the dress code and walk through Amman, the worst that is likely to happen is that you might get a few stares – as some people simply won’t be accustomed to seeing this. Jordanian culture values the respect of fellow human beings to the point that even tourists behaving badly will be safe and treated with kindness by the vast majority of locals.
In Jordan, Arabic culture and Islamic religious beliefs coexist with a growing awareness of international issues such as gender equality, LGBTQ+ rights and anti-racism. Same-sex relations were legalised in 1951, although LGBTQ+ Jordanians do still face discrimination, as is, unfortunately, the case around the world.
You can rest assured that you will not be targeted for your sexual orientation when visiting Jordan, but all couples – straight and gay – are advised to keep PDA to a minimum, as it is not generally used by locals in romantic relationships. You will, however, see male friends and family members greeting each other with kisses and hugs – Jordanian culture is very open and relaxed in this sense.
Why I felt so safe in Jordan
So now that you know about Jordan’s official safety status for visitors, perhaps you’re curious about my own experience during our trip?
If you haven’t guessed by now, it was overwhelmingly positive.
As a female traveller, I do have to exercise caution when travelling. I was sure to research Jordanian culture before I left and to follow the local dress and behavioural codes whilst I was there. However, when I arrived in Jordan I got the sense that most locals have something of a “live and let live” attitude – in other words, they are very relaxed.
Throughout our whole trip, we did not have one negative interaction with a local person. Everyone we met was very friendly and went out of their way to make us feel relaxed and welcome.
And, as a woman, I felt far more respected and safe than I do at home – even more so than in sleepy Devon. You see, there is a real sense of community in Jordan, and a culture of looking out for your fellow person – whether they are your best friend or a stranger on the street. Unlike at home, I felt sure that if I did come into any trouble, a kindhearted onlooker would come to help me out. In fact, I would feel safer walking through Amman at night alone than in any town in the UK.
This is not to say that there aren’t bad people in Jordan – there are bad people everywhere. However, there does seem to be more respect for women in Jordanian culture – and indeed for anyone – than there is in the UK. Everyone I’ve spoken to who has travelled or lived in Jordan has said the same.
A common concern for travellers when visiting new places is “hassling”. Personally, I don’t like to use this term, because in most cases it refers to people who are simply trying to make a living by selling items or services to the tourists who have chosen to visit their country. On the other hand, it is understandable that incessant sales talk can be frustrating or intimidating, especially for new travellers.
Luckily, this isn’t something you have to worry about in Jordan. Market vendors, gift shop owners, restaurant staff and local tour guides alike are relaxed, and if you tell them that you’re not interested, they will usually leave you be. There is certainly none of the following or intense persuasion tactics that you find in some places.
One thing that really stood out to me as we were travelling around Jordan was how honest people are. At one point during the trip, we stopped off at a minimart to get some drinks and snacks. With the others having already left and a queue growing behind me, I mistakenly misheard the seller’s request of 40 cents for a bottle of water for 4 dinars (JOD) in my panic. That would be the equivalent of around £5, but I wasn’t thinking straight, so I handed him 4 dinars and walked out. As soon as I reached the car, the seller came running out to speak to Mahmood (our local guide), explaining that I had overpaid and handed back the remaining 3.60 JOD. He could so easily have kept the money and got away with it, but he was honest and kind – even to a foolish traveller like me!
Would that have happened in the UK? I’m not sure!
Hopefully, this article will have answered your – or your mum’s – questions about whether Jordan is safe for travel. The answer is a resounding yes – both from a factual point of view and from personal experience.
One final point to consider, though, is that travelling in a group is the perfect way to stay safe if you still have your reservations. At The Bucket List Company, our trips are led by experienced UK-based and local guides, who will be able to support you and help you stay safe during your trip. Our trips will always give you a safer experience of any country, whether it be because of our reliable transport options and the expertise of our trekking guides – or simply when it comes to translating you out of awkward situations!
We can’t wait to share Jordan with our Bucketlisters – it is a spectacular country, from the culture, to the landscapes, to the history – and definitely the people. Now that your mind is at rest, you can get excited about what’s to come. Trekking to Petra, floating in the Dead Sea, exploring Wadi Rum, snorkelling in the Dead Sea and so much more… yes please!