Amman is the capital and largest city of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan with a population of more than four million.
Amman forms a great base for exploring not just Jordan, but the wider region as well and does, despite popular belief, offer much that is of interest to the traveller. The city is generally reasonably well-organized, enjoys great weather for much of the year and the people are very friendly.
Although Amman can be difficult to penetrate at first sight, the city holds many surprises for the visitor. Visit Amman's Roman Amphitheatre, its many art galleries or the newly opened Jordan Museum, while an afternoon away on a chic cafe terrace, take a course in the University of Jordan or stay in luxurious hotels and dine on the region's varied and delicious cuisine. Modern shopping malls are increasingly abundant in Jordan but open air souqs are what many travellers will remember most.
Amman is experiencing a massive (some would say: reckless) change from a quiet sleepy village to a bustling metropolis, some of whose neighbourhoods seem hell-bent on wanting to imitate Dubai. Amman's roads have a reputation of being very steep and narrow in some of parts of the city but the city has state of the art highways and paved avenues. The steep terrain and heavy traffic remains challenging for pedestrians and for the rare cyclist. New resorts and hotels dot the city and there are many things for the traveller to see and do in and around Amman.
A hilly city built of white stone, Amman's growth has skyrocketed since it was made the capital of Trans-Jordan in the early 1920s, but especially after the 1948 and 1967 wars with Israel when hundreds of thousands of Palestinian refugees settled in Amman. Another wave arrived after the second Iraq war, with Iraqi refugees forming the majority of newcomers. As of 2011, large numbers of Syrians have made Amman their home.
Its history, however, goes back many millennia. The settlement mentioned in the Bible as Rabbath Ammon was the capital of the Ammonites, which later fell to the Assyrians. It was dominated briefly by the Nabataeans before it became a great Roman trade centre and was renamed Philadelphia. After the Islamic conquests, Amman became part of the Muslim empire and experienced a slow decline, until the Ottomans were forced out by the Allies, with the help of the Hashemites, who formed a monarchy that continues to rule until the present.
Today, West Amman is a lively, modern city. The eastern part of the city, where the majority of Amman's residents live, is predominantly the residential area of the working class and is much older than the west. While possessing few sites itself, Amman makes a comfortable base from which to explore the northwestern parts of the country.
Many Jordanians understand English to some level, particularly the middle classes of West Amman and those people working in the tourism industry. Charmingly, the most commonly known English phrase seems to be "Welcome to Jordan". The only non-Arabic language used in signposting is English, and you will find "Tourist Police" near the major monuments. It is always good to know a few useful phrases and to come prepared with a translation book, or to have the names and addresses of places you are going written in Arabic for use with a taxi driver.
Most travellers to Amman (and to Jordan) will arrive via Queen Alia International Airport, the two old terminals have now been replaced with a spacious, state of the art Norman Foster designed terminal (March 2013). Very occasionally, regional or charter flights use Marka Airport, centrally located in east Amman a few kilometres beyond the railway station.
For most western visitors, entry visas to Jordan can be purchased at the airport, if not already obtained from a Jordanian consulate overseas. The price of a visa is JOD40 (€42/USD56), payable in Jordanian dinars only; at the immigration line you will pay for the visa at the first counter, and then pass through to the second counter to receive the stamp. Money exchange is available before passport control and a single ATM (note the USD7 exchange commission!!!), more ATMs are available after customs. Only take out enough from that ATM to get through customs (or convert currency). For US cards, the ATM will automatically convert your money to US dollars and tacks a 5% fee onto its withdrawal fee (it doesn't ask you if you want to convert, it just does it). On a withdrawal of JOD250, the ATM fees cost this user USD17 more than using an Arab Bank ATM.
From Queen Alia to Amman city proper, the two best options are to either take a taxi or an Airport Express bus. Taxi transportation from the airport to Amman should cost around JOD20 (€21/USD28). Airport taxi fares are fixed and you should get a piece of paper from the taxi stand controller which sets the price of the trip.
Note that the fare is only fixed from airport to city, taxi driver might try to secure a ride from you from the city back to the airport, often with an inflated price.
The Airport Express bus runs 06:00-18:00 every 30 minutes (both ways), from 18:00 to 23:59 every 60 minutes (both ways) and costs JOD3.25 as of Oct 2014 (buy tickets from official kiosk). It leaves from a marked bus stop right outside the Terminal building. The trip from the airport to Tabarbour bus station in Amman, with a stop at the 7th Circle, usually takes from 45 minutes to an hour. It is then possible to catch a taxi from the bus station to your hotel but beware of taxis drivers trying to rip off the newly arrived traveller and insist on using the meter.
Fair taxi fares for the trip between 7th circle and 1st circle (straight route west-east along Zahran road) should be JOD2, but beware, drivers may try to take a detour northwards to the 'city centre'.
As of August 2014, the bus service is available during the whole day and night with a bus leaving the Tabarbour station in direction of the airport every one hour, but best check at the ticket office upon arrival to Amman airport. If going from Tabarbour back to the airport, the taxi drivers there will most definitely try to convince you that there is no night bus to the airport, that the last night bus to the airport just left, that the bus to the airport goes just after your flight, that the buses don't exist in Jordan etc. Once the clearly marked yellow bus arrives, they might even try to make the bus driver convince you he's not going to the airport anymore. Ignore them, although this might be the most challenging thing to do during your visit.
The airport bus stop at the 7th circle, less than 100m south of the circle. The small yellow "airport express" labelled bus is easily recognized and the driver will also stop on other places if you wave him. From there take a taxi to the place you're going and insist on using the meter. You should rarely pay more than JOD2-4.
To reach the 7th circle from downtown take bus 41 or any headed to Wadi As-Seir and ask to be dropped of at Dawaar As-Saabe'a (7th circle).
There are, of course, rent-a-car stations in Amman and at Queen Alia International Airport as well.
Amman bus services have a website with a somewhat usable English interface.
Tabarbour bus station GPS coordinate: N31°59'41.28", E 35°55'10.92". Right next to the big highway interchange.
Abdali bus station GPS: N31°57'36.37" E35°55'1.82"
JETT bus station (OpenStreetMap) is located near to the King Abdullah I Mosque. It is possible to walk from there, for example, to the Roman Theatre, within about 40 minutes (all downhill). Buses leave either in front of the ticket office, or from the big parking lot in the side street.
The general Abdali bus station is now closed.
The new bus station is called Tabarbour Bus Station and is in the Northern fringes of Amman. Most of the buses to the Allenby/King Hussein Bridge and the various cities ('Ajloun, Jerash, Irbid) in Northern Jordan leave from here. To get there from downtown, take Servees (A sedan car that works like a bus) #6 from Raghadan Tourist Service Station (Raghadan Al Seyaha) which is located right next to the Colosseum. The Tabarbour Bus Station is the last stop on the Servees' route.
There are numerous buses pulling into the city of Amman, most of which are operated by JETT (Jordan Express Tourist Transport). The JETT bus to/from the Israel border bridge costs JOD7.5 and takes about 1 hour. However JETT maintains offices in Abdali station and many routes are served from there, including the Amman-Petra daily bus, cost JOD9.5 one way(December 2012) and departing at 06:30. Return bus from Petra departs at 16:00. Amman-King Hussein Border Pass to Palestine is served also by a daily bus (September 2012).
Local public minibuses are available from Tabarbour bus station to the city of Jerash (until afternoon daily, but not on Fridays). Buses leave when they are full. The price is exactly JOD 1.0 one way (December 2014). Service taxis run on Fridays instead JOD 2.5 (December 2016). The bus stops 50m from the south entrance of the ancient Acropolis and departs again when it is full exactly from the opposite direction.
There are two operators (one of them called Challenge) each providing two daily services from Damascus (Sumariya-Terminal) into Amman for SYP500 (SYP50 student discount). Times tend to change a bit, but they leave around 07:30, 08:30, 14:30 and 15:30. The tour takes typically about 4 to 5 hours, but can be longer depending on border formalities. The Challenge buses still arrive in Abdali. These buses don't run at the moment due to the war (December 2014).
From the bus station, you can take a taxi to the city centre. As a guide, it should not cost more than 2 JD on the meter from the bus station to most places in town, so either go by the meter, or pay a maximum of 2 JD. When using yellow taxies insist that the driver uses the meter which starts at (0,25JD, 0,35JD in the evening) and it is the most affordable way for taxi travel inside the city. Note that taxi drivers are obliged to use the meter and will lose their license of they don't. So insist on using it! The word for meter is the same in English as it is in Arabic.
Be wary of the private cars posing as taxis around the bus stands. They would offer their services asking you to pay as much as you want but later on insist on pocketing more money from you. In case you get one, insist paying the standard price which should not be more than JOD2. Anything more than JOD2 is a rip-off.
NOTE: There are 2 Raghadan stations in Amman, the one near the Roman Theatre (which is relevant to most tourists) is Raghadan Al Seyaha, make sure you tell the taxi driver this otherwise you will wind up at the wrong Raghadan station like I did and will have to catch another serviis back!
Train operator in Jordan: HJR (Hedjaz Jordan Railway)  check seat61  for details. Since about 2005, scheduled services within Jordan and to Damascus have, sadly, been suspended. They are unlikely to resume. Train excursions run occasionally, as do local services to Zarqa. Neither operate more often than once per week, if at all. Amman's tiny, charming railway station (Mahatta) with its museum is worth a look even if you do not (or cannot) take a train.
A taxi to/from the Palestinian/Israeli border crossing bridge called King Hussain/Allenby can cost 25 JD and takes one hour. Negotiate the price with the driver and its likely possible to pay 20JD (December 2012). You may also take the service taxi (white one), this is 6JD per person. The taxi leaves when it's full and will drop you off anywhere you want to go in Amman.
Finding your way: It's important to note that although Amman is a capital city, it probably seems a lot less organized than most European or US cities. It has experienced extremely fast growth since it was named the capital almost a century ago (mainly due to independence, palestinian refugees, after the Oslo accords, etc). So you'll find a lot of inconsistencies in naming of landmarks, directions you're given, as well as the general user-friendliness of the city. As an example, you'll probably find that any street called "King Hussein" street will be referred to as something else by the locals/on signposts due to recent renaming.
In terms of direction finding, your best bet is to spend a little time to learn the locations of:
The Circles refer to the traffic circles on Zahran Street that lead West from Downtown Amman (near the Citadel). The higher the circle number, the more westerly you are. Most of Amman's non-residential development has been west of downtown so these are useful for tourists. Also they're actually reasonably well signposted.
The districts are less well-defined but in general are bounded by the larger roads. Most taxi drivers ought to know, for example, that when you ask for Shmeisani, you mean the general area bounded by Queen Noor St, Queen Alia Street and Arar Street (more or less). Likewise, Abdali is mostly the area of new development immediately east of Shmeisani (starting to get how directions work here?)
The Jebels or Hills of Amman are (just like Rome) the original 7 hills that made up the city. The city is much bigger than these hills but the districts retain the names. So Jebel Webdeh is the hill West of downtown topped by Paris Circle (or Square...).
By Car Rental
There are several car rental companies located in Jordan. Some will even give you a driver for free if you book a car rental with them.
Stations are available at Queen Alia International Airport, downtown Amman and in Aqaba. In case of any problems with your car, it's advisable to choose a bigger company with several branches (like in Amman and Aqaba). Then you have a better chance to receive faster road assistance or a replacement vehicle.
rental company branches within Amman city
If you decide to take a rental car, make also sure you have an extra liability insurance for your car. This is a very important point, because the standard liability insurance (LI) covers car damage to approx. $7,000 and personal injury up to $17,000. Don't forget to add the extra liablity insurance during the booking process. It usually covers liablity claims up to $ 1 Mio. Otherwise you may have to pay the full amount of damage or personal injury at yourself. And this could ruin your life.
If you're driving much in the city, it's important to note that many of the streets do not have lane markings, and "rules of the road" seem to be based more on convention than actual laws. Stay slow and move to the right to let faster cars through. That said, drivers don't seem to be all that aggressive. Some tips:
Yellow and grey taxis are readily available and can be easily found anywhere in Amman. Just hail them in the street as Jordanians do. Taxis for Amman will have a green logo on the driver and passenger doors. The grey ones have an advertisement on top of the car. Resist hailing cabs with another color logo; these cabs are based in other cities and it is illegal for them to pick up fares in Amman.
White taxis (servees) are shared, and they have a specific route that they move along back and forth like buses, which means they don't necessarily drop you off at your exact destination, and the driver can pick up other fares along the way.
Yellow taxis in Amman are required by law to use meters and most drivers will reset the meter as soon as a fare is picked up. Meter rate is 0.25JD start, then 0.4JD/km, 1 hour waiting is 5JD (2014 Oct, according to Numbeo|http://www.numbeo.com/cost-of-living/city_result.jsp?country=Jordan&city=Amman)
Most trips within Amman should be under JD2 or JD3, at most a ride from one end of town to the other should not cost more than JD5. Taxis are required to use meters all the time (as of 2010) but with a base rate of JD 0.3 instead of JD 0.25 and 40% higher rate from 22:00 till 07:00. Beware of drivers offering to give you a short ride "for free" as a "Welcome to Jordan", especially if you're walking between the Citadel and the Roman Theatre; they will then offer to wait for you to take you to your next stop, and will use the "free" ride as an excuse not to start the meter. They will then charge you exorbitantly when you arrive at your next stop.
Drivers are not normally tipped, instead the fare is simply rounded up to the nearest 5 or 10 piasters. It should be noted that many drivers do not carry much change, so exact change should be given when possible.
If a driver is pretending he has no change, it is likely that he just wants to keep it, so that you'll have to pay more. If you mind this, ask the driver to find a nearby shop and get change or get the change yourself from a shop or (if you don't mind being rude) look into their money box to find the change yourself.
The going, negotiated rate for a taxi from Amman to the airport is JD20 or more, although some drivers can be talked down to JD15 or even JD 10 (which would be close to the metered rate). All taxis are allowed to take passengers to the airport; only special Airport Taxis may take passengers from the airport into town.
If you are visiting the Citadel, call it al-Qala'a. It's best to be dropped off at the Citadel and walk down the hill to the Roman theatre.
Service (white) taxies are leaving when they are full from Tabarbour bus station to King Hussein Bridge boarder crossing with Israel. The price per person is 6JD(December 2012). The proper line of the taxies is in Arabic but its easy to spot them by the King Hussein Bridge logo in their side doors.
A yellow metered taxi ride from city centre (Roman Amphitheatre) to West Amman (Royal Auto-mobile Museum-City Mall) will cost you apx 3.5JD.
Big, municipal buses serve many parts of Amman. They are used by low-income workers, working-class youth and foreign workers, but are perfectly safe. As of August 2014, the fare was JOD 0.35. Pay the exact fare (or overpay); bus drivers have no change! You can also load a bus fare cash card with a few Jordanian dinar and swipe the card past a reader as you enter the bus, but places to buy and recharge the card are rare. Most buses are numbered; some display their destination in Arabic only. Bus no. 26 conveniently travels between the old town (Balad) and the 7th Circle along Zahran Street. No. 27 goes from the old town towards the posh Abdoun neighbourhood. No. 43 passes near Shmeisani (as does no. 46) and continues along Mecca Street towards Mecca Mall. Many bus stops are marked by bus shelters, but buses also drop passengers at unmarked spots wherever it is safe to stop. Private minibuses shadow the municipal buses. They do not display route numbers, but a conductor usually shouts out their destination. Both cases, bus rivers rarely know the names of station and tourist attractions in English.
You can visit the fascinating Roman Theatre and Nymphaeum, that reflect the historic legacy of the city, and the enchanting Citadel which has stood since the ancient times of the Ammonites. Or enjoy a leisurely stroll through the King Hussein Park and visit the Automobile Museum, which contains the late King Hussein's car collection, or the Children's Museum.
Jabal Amman 1st Circle Walking Trail is also interesting, with its coffeshops and grand traditional villas. A leaflet with a route description is available from the Wild Jordan Café.
If it's shopping you're after, then the pedestrian Wakalat shopping district offers a wide selection of international brand names to choose from.
For a more exotic and traditional experience you can visit the old city centre, also known as the Balad, and take in the traditional sights and smells of the spice market and shop for authentic souvenirs.
Amman isn't exactly a pedestrian-friendly city. In fact it's almost exactly the opposite of that. It's hilly, there are no pavements (if there are the kerbs are like a foot high, so no wheelchairs), there are no pedestrian crossings (if there are they tend to be ignored), and the streets are labyrinthine. Yet what better way to get a genuine feel for life here. Use a decent map (as of 21/4/15 Google Maps was rubbish, OpenStreetMap was almost perfect) or chat to the locals, who will endlessly and cheerfully offer you help to get to where you want to go. Just be prepared for bustle, watch for traffic, and be prepared to not reach your destination on time. As long as you take things easy you should have a wonderful experience of life in an Arab city. Also, if you're not a Muslim, marvel at how easy it suddenly becomes to get around the city when the muezzin call to prayer goes out. For 15 minutes at least, until the chaos starts again...
Although the capital of a diverse kingdom, Amman is not what one would call "packed" with things to see, making it a great gateway to explorations further afield. Even so, the city does hold a few items of historical and cultural interest (allow about 2 days to see them).
The cultural scene in Amman has seen some increased activities, notably cultural centres and clubs such as Makan House, Al Balad Theater, the Amman Filmmakers Cooperative, Remall, and Zara gallery. Around the 1st of September the Jordan Short Film Festival takes place.
It is highly advisable to see the sunset from the view point near the Citadel. But pay also your attention to the time of the muezzin call. If you listen to it from the view point, where the whole city lies before you, you get the unforgettable acoustic impression.
Due to accelerated growth the past several decades, the styles of living differs considerably as one travels from east to west throughout Amman. Visitors desiring to experience "Old Amman" should explore the central downtown, or Balad, which features numerous souqs, shops, and street vendors.
Besides touring the city, shopping is also advisible for the traveler. Please see the 'Buy' section below.
Nightlife in Amman has grown tremendously over the past few years and probably comes right behind neighbouring Beirut and Tel Aviv in the region, there are now quite a few trendy clubs, bars, cafes and restaurants in (mostly West) Amman that you should make an effort to check out.
Abdali, a section of downtown Amman, is being transformed into a modern center for tourists and natives alike. The plan includes a broad pedestrian boulevard where visitors can shop, eat, or do numerous other activities. New office buildings and residential hi-rises are being constructed. "New Abdali" should have been completed by 2010, however, this has been delayed and the first phase is now expected to be completed in early 2014.
Amman has numerous antique dealers littered throughout the city. Those located in the western parts of the city will most likely be serviced by those with a competent grasp of the English language, but you run the risk of the items being a bit overpriced. For the more adventurous, some of the best tourist shopping can be done in downtown Amman (the Balad). Shopping in the Balad has a more authentic feel with shop after shop filled with wares and negotiable prices.
Some interesting, original souvenir items that one may consider taking home are:
Those who crave gourmet coffee have a number of choices along Rainbow St. off of First Circle in Jabal Amman with other shops sprinkled throughout the city.
Alcoholic beverages (beer, wine, liquor, etc.), can be purchased in liquor stores across the city. Most are distinguishable by an advertisement for Amstel or some like beverage outside. There are also bars up and down Rainbow St. in Jabal Amman and throughout Abdoun. Drinking age is 18 but some bars/cafes might card you and admit 21+ customers only.
There are numerous universities one can study in. Irbid, Madaba, and Aqaba also hold many educational institutes for foreigners. Jordan's universities are world-renowned and respected for their hospitality and methods of instruction.
Amman features many different styles of restaurants, from traditional Middle Eastern fare to more familiar Western fast food and franchises. Prices range from ultra-cheap to moderate, depending on one's taste buds. For those on a budget, Arabic food is very affordable and can be obtained everywhere.
Arabic food generally consists of several general basic groups. Meat dishes will generally consist of lamb or chicken; beef is more rare and pork is never offered. Shwarma, which is cooked lamb meat with a special sauce rolled in piece of flat bread, is a local favorite. Rice and flat bread are typical sides to any meal. Jordan's speciality, mansaf, is a delicious lamb and rice meal, typically eaten with one's hands. Arabs serve plenty of cucumbers and tomatoes, many times accompanied by a plain white yoghurt condiment. Another favorite is chick pea-based foods such as falafel, hummus, and fuul. One of Amman's most famous local foods restaurant is Hashem, located in down-town Amman and you can have a lunch or dinner there for no more than 1.500 JD which is very low compared to other restaurants in Amman. This restaurant is one of the favourites of the Royal family and you will see a lot of photographs of the Royal family of Jordan dining at this restaurant. Nearby, there is Habeebah, which serves traditional east Mediterranean sweets such as baklava, but is most famous for serving a traditional dessert known as knafeh nabelseyyeh in reference to its origin from the Palestinian city of Nables.
The allegedly best shawerma in Amman is found in the street-side kiosk called Shawermat Reem, at the 2nd Circle. It is very famous and there are even lines at 2 a.m. It is a must to eat from this place and is very cheap.
Lebnani snack is a great place to eat Middle Eastern sandwiches, delicious ice cream and cocktails.
Contact details: 10 Rainbow Street, 1 Juqa Street Jabal Amman Mobile: +962 7777 333 33 Telefax: +962 6 46 56 561
And even if you can afford the above-mentioned, do not forget the good surprises coming from the countless shawarma outlets and other very cheap places.
Note: If you are a vegetarian, probably you will have to live on bread, felafel, fries, pita bread with hummus moutabal and salads. The salads are really tasty well marinated.
Jordan's national beer is aptly called Petra beer. Philedelphia and Amstel beers are also brewed in Jordan, with Amstel being particularly prevelant. There are many liquor shops and kiosks around Amman and alcohol is sold relativaly freely. Jordan also produces some very drinkable wines, the main two labels are Mount Nebo (a better choice) and Haddad. A local must try alcoholic beverage is Araq, the Levantine cousin of Ouzo, Raki and Pastis; this is usually drunk mixed with water and ice and accompanied by some mezzes or snacks. If you didn't buy anything at the Duty Free Shop when you entered Jordan you can still do this in Amman (and other cities). Regarding to the high alcohol prices in Jordan it is worth having a look if you feel like drinking some booze. The shop is close to the 5th circle, Tunes St 10 next to the Century Park Hotel. Cheapest Vodka 1L for 10 USD and cheapest cigarettes (200 pieces) 4.5 USD (December 2014).
The majority of Amman's pubs and night clubs can be found in West Amman.
Living in Amman, the main places people spend time during the evenings are hookah shops.
Amman has the full range of accommodation options from very basic 1 star accommodation to luxurious 5 star facilities.
Compared with other capital cities, Amman is a very safe place to visit. Jordanian police and the military maintain a tight grip on law and order. Personal safety is high in Amman - it is safe to walk anywhere in the city at any time of day or night. Serious crime is extremely rare. In 2005, some major hotels were targeted by bombers (connected with the conflict in Iraq). Security measures at all major hotels were increased as a result.
Jordan is a majority Muslim country with a large Christian population too. Jordanian people are mostly very welcoming to any foreign visitors.
While Jordan is a generally free and tolerant country you should be sensitive when discussing topics with casual acquaintances or strangers such as the Israeli-Palestinian conflict or making negative comments about the Jordanian royal family, as you would expect of a foreigner expressing opinions on charged political issues in your country.
Jordan is one of the most liberal countries in the region but it is still conservative by Western standards.
Women usually face the most restrictions because of this but are relatively unencumbered here, when compared to other islamic states. If you are not a muslim there is no obligation to wear an Islamic headscarf (remember there are a lot of Christian women here who do not cover their heads and doing so if you are not a Muslim is unfair to them). The one exception is when visiting religious sites. Many local muslim females will choose to cover their heads, particularly in East Amman. In more affluent areas, particularly in West Amman, women tend to dress more liberally.
Both male and female travellers are generally advised to dress modestly when sightseeing. Outfits such as long skirts, pants and shirts with sleeves past the elbows will attract less unwanted attention for female travellers. But note that staring is not considered as rude as it would be in the West so don't take it too personally; it's fairly common.
Shorts are not advisable for men away from the poolside. Sandals are fine for everyone.
Amman makes a convenient base for day trips to:
Bike tours are a good way to see the local scenery and meet local cyclists. There are a couple of bicycling tour firms in Amman: Tareef cycling club  was founded in 1982 and developed into an active group in August of 2007 by a former Jordanian National Team cyclist. They provide fun active weekend cycling and hiking trips, supporting all levels of fitness all around Jordan.
Cycling-Jordan.com offers tours and weekly trips to the Jordan Valley and Dead Sea.
Many budget hotels like Palace or Farah organize day tours for about JOD16-18 which seems a sensible price, but they do not include entrance fees which could be important. These tours are open to people who don't sleep at the hotel. Classical tours are Jerash/Ajlun/Um Qais, Madaba/Mount Nebo/Baptism site/Dead sea, and Castles.