Facts, tips and hints for the destination…
To ensure you get the most from your visit to Jordan, it is important to have a few basic facts on hand before you arrive. From currency to transport, from newspapers to business hours… you’ll find here the information you need.
Jordan is primarily a Muslim country, although the freedom of all religions is protected. Muslim women’s clothing often covers their arms, legs and hair. Western women are not subject to these customs, but very revealing clothing is never appropriate and conservative dress is advisable for both men and women in the old part of Amman (Downtown), and outside the cities. Shorts are rarely worn by either sex, and would be out of place in the downtown Amman area. Topless sunbathing is prohibited and one-piece swimsuits are preferred, although two-piece swimsuits are acceptable at hotel pools.
2. BUSINESS HOURS
Friday is the weekly holiday. Banks, government offices and most businesses are closed on Saturdays as well. Many businesses, including airline offices, travel agencies and some shops also close on Thursday afternoon, although department stores and supermarkets remain open. A few businesses and shops close for some of Sunday.
Visitors with a valid passport may obtain a visa at any Jordanian embassy, consulate, or legation abroad. A visa can also be obtained at Amman’s Queen Alia International Airport or at any other border crossing except King Hussein Bridge and the ferryboat from Egypt. Visas are valid for 2 weeks, but can be extended at any police station. No inoculations are required for entry into Jordan, although preventive shots for hepatitis, polio, tetanus and typhoid are recommended.
The main English-language daily is The Jordan Times. A weekly English-language paper, The Star, is published on Thursdays and has a French language supplement. Foreign newspapers are available at hotels and some shops.
5. CREDIT CARDS
Credit cards are accepted at hotels, restaurants and larger shops, including American Express, Visa, Diners Club, and MasterCard. Please note that many smaller shops still prefer cash payment in the Jordanian currency, and it’s essential for shopping in the local souks.
The official language of Jordan is Arabic, but English is widely spoken – especially in the cities. Many Jordanians have travelled or have been educated abroad so French, German, Italian and Spanish are also spoken, but to a lesser extent.
When Arabic is written in Jordan using the Latin alphabet, English spelling is applied however these spellings can be interpreted in various ways, the spelling for example of street addresses can vary widely. For this reason, the sounds of the words are a much better guide than the spelling.
Speaking Arabic is easier than you might think and attempting a few basic words will gain you respect from the locals and is a good way to break the ice. The Jordanian people are extremely understanding and will help you whenever they are able. Here are a few useful words and phrases to get you started:
Arabic numbers are easy to read – in fact; the western numerical system was originally derived from the Arabic system. Unlike the words, Arabic numerals are read from left to right (the same as western numerals). A good way to practice is by reading vehicle registration plates, which carry both sets of numbers.
7. ELECTRICAL CURRENT
220 AC volts, 50 cycles, requiring rounded two-prong wall plugs. Visitors from the US will need a transformer which most hotels can provide.
Jordan is a leader among Arab countries in educational spending as a percentage of GDP. Jordan’s eight public universities, 13 private universities, 21 community colleges, and 35 vocational training centres house more than 140,000 students from around the globe and the Arab world, with the numbers of foreign students growing at a rate of 9% per annum.
The Jordanian government and the private sector, working with international IT initiatives, are investing considerable resources in primary and secondary education programs, elevating the ICT know-how of Jordanian graduates. Jordan has a young population, 70 percent is under the age of 30 (about 3.8 million), and these programs are creating an impressive pool of bilingual, savvy ICT graduates.
Wherever you go in Jordan you will find plenty of opportunities to shop. For visitors there is a wide range of locally made handicrafts and other goods available at all the popular sites as well as within the boutiques of the leading hotel and at the various visitor centres. There you will find hand-woven rugs and cushions, beautifully embroidered items and clothing, traditional pottery, glassware, silver jewellery embedded with semi-precious stones, Bedouin knives, coffee pots, narghiles (hubble bubble), marquetry work, antiques and other artifacts. The list is endless and about as varied as you can imagine.
Take time to visit the souks in Jordan’s larger towns and cities. These are treasure troves for those seeking something a little bit out of the ordinary. Within the souks are also excellent gold and silver outlets, where some great bargains can be found. Also worth visiting are the busy market shops, especially for exotic spices, herbs and seasonings.
Both Amman and Aqaba offer sophisticated shops and boutiques selling the very latest fashions in jewelry, clothing, accessories, leather and electronic goods.
Almost everywhere in Jordan you can find the world-famous Dead Sea spa products. All are of excellent quality and produced under strict clinical conditions. They are also very reasonably priced.
In all cases, the shopkeepers are helpful and friendly. Most speak at least a little English but even if they don’t, there is usually someone around who will be only too willing to assist you. After all, this is Jordan!
10. LOCAL TIME
October – March: Greenwich Mean Time plus 2 hours (G.M.T. + 2)
April – September: Greenwich Mean Time plus 3 hours (G.M.T. + 3)
Jordan is seven hours ahead of US Eastern Time
Water is a precious resource in Jordan and visitors are encouraged not to waste it. Hotels rated 3 stars and above have their own water filtering systems and their water is considered safe to drink. Elsewhere, bottled water is cheap and readily available.
12. MEDICAL CARE
Medical services are excellent in the larger cities and towns and most doctors are bilingual in Arabic and English. Larger hotels have a doctor on call and embassies can also suggest doctors and hospitals.
Telephone services within Jordan are efficient and reliable. Directories in Arabic and English are widely available and international calls can be made from public and private phones. Fax services are available at most hotels while telegrams can be sent from post offices. Internet access is widespread via Internet cafes and hotels.
The local currency is the Jordanian Dinar, symbol JD, which is often called the “jaydee”. There are 1, 5, 10, 20, 50 JD notes. The dinar is divided onto 100 piasters (pronounced “pee-aster”) of 1000 fils (“fills”). The fils is the unit most commonly used and you will usually see prices written as 4,750 (which is 4 JD and 750 fils).
Currency can be exchanged at major banks, exchange booths and at most hotels. Street money-changers are best avoided. Exchange rates are set daily by the Jordanian Central Bank.
15. POSTAL SERVICES
As well as post offices, most 4 and 5-star hotels offer postal services.
Post office opening hours are:
Summer: Sat-Thurs 0700-1900, Fri 0700-1300
Winter: Sat-Thurs 0700-1700, Fri 0700-1300
There are also a number of international courier services, including DHL, FedEx, TNT International, UPS, etc.
The population of Jordan has grown rapidly over the last fifty years or so to more than 5 million people. Around 80% of the population lives in urban areas, with approximately 2 million living in the capital, Amman.
17. PUBLIC HOLIDAYS
Banks, businesses, government offices and many shops close all day for public holidays.
Fixed public holidays include:
New Year’s Day: 1st January
King Abdullah II’s Birthday: 30th January
Labour Day: 1st May
The late King Hussein’s Birthday: 14th November
Christmas Day: 25th December
A number of public holidays are not fixed. These include Easter and the following Islamic Holidays, which are based on the Lunar calendar:
Eid al-Fitr – A 4 or 5-day holiday marking the end of Ramadan
Eid al-Adha – A feast at the end of the Hajj, or month of pilgrimage to Mecca
First of Muharam – Islamic New Year
Eid al-Isra’ wal Mi’raj – Celebrating the visit of the Prophet Mohammed (PBUH) to heaven
The Birthday of Prophet Mohammed (PBUH)
18. WEIGHTS & MEASURES
Jordan uses the metric system.
For more, check: http://www.visitjordan.com/visitjordan_cms/Default.aspx?tabid=59