I had a wonderful experience traveling to Jordan as a woman alone. I came in from Dubai and recommend this archaeologically and culturally rich, friendly country as part of any trip to the Middle East. A portion of my trip fell during Eid al-Adha, which made for a more enriching experience (although quite a few shops and restaurants closed during the day!).
Landing at the Airport and Going Through Customs
With a little bit of work to do in the region and some great interest in Arab culture, I decided to make my way over to Jordan. I landed at the Queen Alia International Airport and already want to share my first tip. Work with a travel agent to expedite you through customs. They will greet you right outside the gate and make your customs process seamless. While even the locals were having their bags scanned, I was waived on. It was fairly clear that the security crew knew the travel agent. The travel agent was arranged through a friend who was born in the country. Everything was seamless and the airport experience was better than most European countries. We were off to the Mercedes and out of there!
Hotel and Security: Traveling to Jordan as a Woman Alone
From the airport, we headed off to the Four Seasons in Amman… and thus began the first post-Dubai Middle East security “feature”! After having the undercarriage of our car searched with mirrors (I later found out that this hotel was a target many years ago and has implemented strong security since), I checked in, met the American hotel manager who kindly introduced herself, and settled into my one bedroom corner suite. Another tip: booking with American Express (if you have a Platinum card) can get you a free suite upgrade if there is availability. This was a wonderful benefit which I enjoyed immensely.
Many people have asked me if I felt safe at this hotel and traveling to Jordan as a woman alone. Absolutely! I felt so safe at this hotel that as I ventured out into other areas of Jordan for nights at a time, I packed a small bag and left my belongings, laptop included, in my hotel room. More on this later!
Four Seasons Amman
This hotel cannot come with higher recommendations. The accommodations were terrific. Comfortable, tasty treats were delivered regularly and randomly left on my coffee table. The hotel staff replaced my nonexistent mouse pad with one from their hotel that I still travel with to this day! You can tell it’s been beat up and has seen hundreds of days of road warrior use (and an added happy face sticker by my daughter). It’s a lovely reminder of my time in Jordan and the amazing people that I met along the way.
While some people need a cup of coffee every morning, my vice is one RedBull a day. The room service gentleman became so accustomed to this request and apparently it’s unusualness resulting in limited supply that they made a trip down to the local grocer to have it for me on hand. The small details made a big difference when the region you are traveling to feels so far from home.
Room Service, Massage and WiFi!
Three important components of any good hotel: room service, massage and WiFi! I ordered room service relatively often, particularly in the morning while I got caught up on work. I used the hotel WiFi which was relatively fast and didn’t have any interruption. However, due to the blockage of many websites, be sure to subscribe to a VPN before you go. I like PureVPN and HideMyAss. Both offer desktop and mobile phone tools. Also, if you download movies or shows onto your iPad or other device before you go, they won’t work here unfortunately. There is no accessible HDMI port on the television. I tried! I hit the fitness room, the pool area frequently and got a wonderful massage from a fantastic therapist. Women will immediately notice that men and women are quite separated in this country. That is the norm and to be expected.
Here is a photo of the pool area, from which you could hear the call to prayer throughout the day.
Each time you enter into the hotel, expect to have your bags checked and to go through x-ray. While it can be alarming because we don’t see this often elsewhere, it’s just part of Jordan’s security commitment to its citizens and visitors. Jordan used to be a hotbed for tourism, but has unfortunately been lumped in with more volatile parts of the Middle East. Bordering Syria doesn’t help, although the security throughout the country is top notch. I never once felt at risk in the hotel or elsewhere as a target of terrorism. Be sure to do your own homework on safety and security and get your sources from experts, not from travel bloggers!
Practicing Arabic and Exploring the Country
One of the things that I loved about staying in Jordan was practicing Arabic. If you have a penchant for language, this is a wonderful place to practice. Locals are more than happy to help you with words and phrases and to speak with you. At night time, I would make my way out to the terrace, have a little argileh and some tea, and practiced Arabic. It made for a wonderful experience.
On my very first day there I explored the area right around the hotel. I was pretty exhausted and wanted to get settled in. Lots of local men stared for a very long time and I did get a bit lost on my first trek out. Wear comfortable sneakers! In the City of Amman, the women don’t dress very conservatively. It’s not unusual to see women in tank tops and very short shorts.
This is really as “risky” as I took my attire; bare shoulders. In the car was a scarf to cover up which I wore in public.
Still, I didn’t want to call too much attention to myself and dressed in modest clothing. The men never made me feel afraid, it just seemed as though they were just not used to seeing a blonde American wondering around the city alone or something. I went into many shops and purchased one of my favorite shirts from a shopkeeper. I just wandered around and explore a little bit, tried to understand the “circles”, and how to navigate. (Later, I borrowed a drivers car and jammed around those circles with a huge grin on my face!)
Excursions! So Much To Do…
What about excursions, particularly when traveling to Jordan alone as a woman? There was so much to do that I ran out of time, quite literally. I was there for nearly 2 weeks! I will write about specific things that I did and the path that I took in another post. Check out the destinations section/Middle East Travel for that post.
Leaving the Country
After the adventures had to come to an end, I gave myself four hours to get to the airport and through security. While it was only a 30 minute drive, I made the mistake of thinking that once I had made it through security and had been screened, that was it. I would simply get to the gate and board the aircraft. Wrong! (I was flying Royal Jordanian and used miles on American Airlines to be awarded a first class ticket back to JFK). After I had been through security and through the first class lounge (first class passengers check into a lounge and are escorted into a different security area), I made my way through the duty-free shops, purchased a few bottles of scotch and waited 30 minutes before boarding to head to my gate – plenty of time, I thought! That is when I saw it… a line forming… and quite a large one.
Extra Security, Extra Time!
Right at the gate is a second security screening. All of your personal items will be opened and searched. If you are a woman, your items will be searched by a woman and if you are a man your items will be searched by a man. You will go through a pat down also by gender, and then finally head off to board. Rather than board by group number, if you show the gate agent that you are a first class or business passenger, you will walk right onto the aircraft.
I think at this point I had three or four hand carry pieces of luggage, which they don’t flinch at. (One thing I have always hoped that American domestic airlines would adopt is a more lenient policy towards first class passengers, particularly on international flights. Most of the rest of the world does this and RJ did it well!) I settled into my comfortable seat with only four other passengers in the entire first-class cabin. This was an example of how much the fear of terrorism in the area has spread to a very safe country.
Throughout my time there, I met some incredible people that shared some wonderful stories. I will share in my adventures and excursions post!
This is a pretty good rundown of some things to expect when you check in and check out traveling to Jordan as a woman alone. Now for the adventures!