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First post of a Israel/Jordan Trip series.

Nothing is ever easy.

Obtaining a Jordan visa, for example. I’m flying to Israel this spring, visiting Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, then crossing over to Jordan and working my way down with stops at the Dead Sea, Dana Biosphere Reserve, Petra, Wadi Rum and Aqaba.


My options for entering Jordan from Israel by land are:

  • The Nahar HaYarden (Israeli name)/Sheikh Hussein (Jordanian name) crossing, which would put me 90 miles north of Amman
  • The Allenby/King Hussein Bridge just above the Dead Sea
  • The Yitzhak Rabin Terminal/Wadi Araba Border Crossing connecting Eilat and Aqaba at the southern tip of both countries

Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan Map

As I’ll be departing from Jerusalem and my destination is the Jordan Valley (the area near the Dead Sea), the Allenby/King Hussein Bridge makes the most sense.

State of Israel Map

Of course, the Allenby/King Hussein Bridge is the only crossing of the three that does not issue visas upon entry into Jordan, and procuring an advance Jordan visa is a pain in the ass consisting of:

  • Completing a Jordan visa application
  • Digging up (or taking) a passport photo
  • Running to the bank for a money order ($37.50)
  • Purchasing a return shipping label (UPS — NOT Fedex — per the instructions), and
  • Sending everything, along with my precious passport, to the Embassy of the Royal Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan in Washington, D.C.

Anything that can possibly go wrong, does. – Murphy

The whole Jordan visa deal makes me nervous. I’ve lived long enough to know that either UPS will lose the package, the Embassy will misplace it (WE WILL NOT BE RESPONSIBLE FOR ANY LOSS THAT MAY OCCUR DURING PROCESSING reads the Jordan visa application form ominously), the money order will contain an error or the return postage will have been miscalculated.

That’s just how The Universe works.


Jordan visa application (U.S. citizens)

Jordan visa requirements from the Jordan Tourism Board

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This post is part of a Israel/Jordan Trip series.


I receive an email from Royal Jordanian Airlines informing me that instead of connecting at Queen Alia Airport in Amman and continuing directly on to Tel Aviv, I will be staying over in Amman and flying to Tel Aviv on the 7:00 a.m. flight.


Only… maybe this turn of events means that I no longer have to obtain an advance Jordan visa, as I will be issued one the evening that I arrive at Queen Alia Airport?

I email the Jordan Embassy to see if the visa I obtain in Amman that night will get me back into Jordan from Israel via the Allenby/King Hussein Bridge later in the week. A woman responds that if I request a dual-entry visa upon arrival at Queen Alia Airport I will be Good To Go.

Leery. I struggle with the potential benefit of procuring an advance visa to be safe versus the potential risk associated with mailing-off my passport two weeks in advance of a trip and possibly never seeing it again. I can’t send it to the embassy any earlier, as it’s good for only 30 days from the time of issue.

I opt NOT to mail my passport two weeks before my trip and rely upon the advice of a stranger. What could possibly go wrong?


Midnight in Amman. Sounds like a Paris Hilton perfume but no, it’s my reality: I’ve just landed after traveling forever. The Queen Alia Airport is kind of a dump.*

I request a duel-entry Jordan visa from the officer at the arrivals desk and — wait for it — he tells me that they don’t issue dual-entry visas!

Fuck. Do I NEVER learn? This is not my first visa issue.

Exiting Customs, I stop at the Jordanian Travel Bureau desk and explain my situation to the agents. They tell me that I can get a visa at the Israel/Jordan border.

“No, I can’t. Not at the King Hussein Bridge,” I reply.


“Oh, right. Not at the King Hussein Bridge you can’t.” You’d think they’d remember these kind of important details?

They ask me to wait a minute as they make a call. I wait. They call.

“It is ok!” they tell me. “We called The Bridge. You can pass through and pay for your visa on your way out.”

There’s no way… Are their intentions malevolent or simply misplaced? I don’t know.

*A new Queen Alia Airport terminal opened in March, 2013 (after my trip) and it is said to be very nice.

Queen Alia Airport

Photo courtesy of Nigel Young/Foster + Partners.

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This post is part of a Israel/Jordan Trip series.


Tel Aviv reminds me a lot of Miami: both share a proximity to the ocean, a party atmosphere, unique architecture (Tel Aviv: Bauhaus; Miami: Art Deco), and lively art scene. And, like it’s sister city, there are no shortage of Tel Aviv boutique hotels. I wasted an entire Sunday months before my trip reviewing my choices and picking my future home for all of two nights. I love hotels and choosing from among them is part of the trip fun.


Tripadvisor lists a whopping 22 Tel Aviv boutique hotels with scores of 4.5 or 5.0:

I read the online reviews, studied each property’s website critically. Too staid. Too masculine. Dark. A lot of avocado green. Too many flowery prints. Takes itself too seriously. Boring. I wanted something hip, contemporary and fun. Eventually I narrowed my list down to a handful of properties:

The Varsano: With its perfect location, spacious rooms, sloped ceilings and mix of oriental and modern design, it’s one of the sexiest Tel Aviv boutique hotels this one. Unfortunately rates start at a pricey $350.

Alma Hotel and Lounge: I also developed quite a crush on this quirky and posh little number. Obviously I have great taste as its rates begin at $380. I made a note to maybe splurge on a meal at one of their funky restaurants (amazing food porn on their website).

Alma boutique hotel Tel Aviv

Cinema Hotel: I’m a sucker for unique properties and easily amused by theme hotels. The Cinema Hotel is both: it’s an original Bauhaus style building, which used to be one of the first movie theaters in Tel Aviv. They’ve taken that history and run with it in their decor (original projectors and movie posters are part of the decor, classical movies are screened in the hotel lobby and popcorn is served). Very tempting.

The Diaghilev LIVE ART Hotel: The animated home page won me over right away. Another theme hotel, this one features rotating art exhibits. And it’s affordable.

Neve Tzedek Hotel: The enormous, high-ceilinged suites are to-die-for, but it’s beyond my budget.


Neve Tzedek 3 Tel Aviv Boutique Hotel

Neve Tzedek Boutique Hotel Tel Aviv 2

Brown TLV: I’ve been reading about The Brown TLV in travel articles for years: It’s one of the original Tel Aviv boutique hotels. The Brown TLV is well-known for it’s sun deck overlooking the city, lively atmosphere and diverse style.

I cross-referenced my final choices on my go-to cool hotel booking siteswhich are pretty reliable when it comes to picking chic properties. Surprisingly, most of them had no listings for Tel Aviv properties, with the exception of Tablet., which listed seven Tel Aviv boutique hotels: the Alma, Varsano, Brown, Dan, Hotel Montefiore, and Townhouse and rothschild 71.

I’m telling you, it was a big, goddamn, momentous decision for me — where I would stay for two whole nights — and I went with…

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