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Israel and Jordan with Gate One Tours - November 2019

We’re sitting at the Amman airport waiting to make the long trek home. And while I’d love to put long trip reports on this site, I spend a ton of time already blogging my trips and I can’t find a way to paste my blog detail into this site in a way that feels readable since my blog has so many pictures and discussions of those pictures.

However, requests for reviews of Gate One come up regularly on this site as do requests for reviews of Israel tours (Jordan comes up less often). So here’s a bit of detail. If you want funny and intensive detail of the trip, check my profile on this site.

Gate One in general - I’ve traveled with them twice now. (Japan and Israel/Jordan) I like them. For the two tours I took, the itineraries were jam-packed and fun. Not liking large groups, I opted for their smaller group tours (max 22-26) and felt it was an okay size for transiting around. I was the youngest person on the Israel tour at 51. The summer Japan tour had 4 teenagers.

Gate One hotels - We booked a Deluxe tour and we got high-end tourist hotels for all stops. In countries like Israel (and especially Jordan) a nicer hotel is a great respite from the chaos of the cities.

Safety - Israel - We arrived in Israel right in the middle of that flare-up of missile fire. It was actually quite intimidating to read about it as we waited for our flight at CDG. But Israel was right on top of things. Even though there had been missile sirens going off in Tel Aviv that day, the airport kept flights right on schedule. We were shown the bomb shelters for each of our hotels and given instructions about how to get there within 90 seconds. Again - a little intimidating but, in the end, despite the news that was showing up on CNN, people were going about their business in Tel Aviv.

Safety - Jordan - I was less worried about Jordan than I was about Israel. The biggest issue I noticed was super scary driving - about like Cairo, if you’ve been there. Two lane highways are used as four and five lane weaving tarmacs. We felt just fine wandering around on our own but, for some reason, when we went way south to the Wadi Rum area, a police officer joined our tour and remained with us all day.

Crossing from Israel to Jordan by land - I promised a couple of people that I would report on this. In the end, I found it confusing and I’m not sure I can accurately describe it. I know we approached the Allenby Crossing on our tour bus. We were stopped by guards who walked around the bus with mirrors, looking underneath. They waived us ahead and then we were stopped by some border guards. The asked our guide some questions and waived us forward. Then our bus parked and we all got off with our luggage. Our luggage was loaded onto a cart and we all went inside to Border Control. We cleared the Israel border here. Then we walked out some doors and we were in Jordan (or maybe a no-man’s land?) A bus awaited us here and we got on it. Some people brought our luggage over. We then drove forward for about 5 minutes and our bus was stopped again for a passport check (surely NOW we were definitely entering Jordan). And then we headed to our hotel. It took about 45 minutes total. I hear it can take MUCH longer.

I planned this trip to see Israel and then added Jordan on at the last minute. But it was Jordan that wowed me. I generally like somewhat chaotic Middle Eastern cities and so I came prepared to be charmed. But what blew me away were the two archaeological sites I saw here: Jerash and Petra. They’re worth the trek over here on their own.

Posted by
1324 posts

The process at the border is just about the same as when we went from Lithuania to Russia. Never did make sense.

Posted by
9716 posts

Thanks so much for the synopsis here and even more for your blog link! I love your reveal of Petra in that last post. Wow. It's not ever been a location that I've wanted to visit but that may have piqued my interest!

I love your sense of humor as well as the sobering moment regarding ajar apartment doors and the appalling moment with your tour mate at the Holocaust Memorial. Ugh.

I appreciate your assessment of Gate 1. I have not traveled with them but see people ask about them so am always curious.

Posted by
3358 posts

I always look forward to your trip reports. And once again this was a hit! Concise and informative.
Of course, as usual I followed up on your detailed blog link. Several friends have visited both Isreal and Jordan. Between your review & others it is moving further up my list.

Thank you also for sharing your encounter with the tour mate. A disturbing exchange. This is an example why their is a need to educate. Let us never forget.

Last year we experienced a similar delay at the Bosnia-Herzegovina Croatia Border. It took about 45min. Our tour guide said it too can take longer.

Enjoyed your heartfelt reference honoring your mother and father at the Western Wall. Liked your sense of humor about the "camera seminar" with Ron. I can identify with that!

Thank you for sharing your photos of Halva. OMG, it's "Halva Heaven!" I love Halva.

Posted by
2133 posts

Thanks! And now that you mention it, I forgot to discuss the food. I am a pretty picker eater and I have some food allergies. I had no trouble in Israel. Each hotel in Israel had a large gluten free section (not true for Jordan, though).

The halva, tahini, falafel, babka and hearth-fired pita was enough to fill me up most meals. Israel was a little easier than Jordan because in Jordan I ate no uncooked produce and drank no juice/ice. Numerous tour members who were eating salads etc in Jordan got sick our last couple of days.

Yad Vashem - the Holocaust museum in Jerusalem was unbelievably crowded. It easily merits 3 or 4 hours - we were only given two, with a guide, and we felt we missed a lot of it. I wondered if afternoons were less crowded but we had no scheduling choice.

And yes, Petra! There’s something about the chaos of Jordan, the garbage everywhere, the shepherds on the side of the road, the big buses...and you navigate your way through it all and start hiking into Petra. And then about 20 minutes later The Treasury comes into view and takes your breath away. Go to Petra!!!! And also - we arrived and started hiking at 7am. It was mostly empty. When we hiked out 5 hours later there were thousands and thousands and thousands of cruise ship passengers walking down. Go early. It actually opens at 6am.

Posted by
14911 posts

I'll just comment on the border crossings. There are 3, north (Sheikh Hussein/Jordan River), center (Allenby Bridge) and south (Eilat/Aqaba). The only one I've never used is Allenby, but the procedure sounds the same as in the north.

There is indeed a short strip of land between the Israeli and Jordanian terminals at all 3 crossings. Tour buses can't use it (vehicles licensed in one country are not allowed to travel to the other one), so they shuttle passengers with a "special" bus. I think the luggage collection is just to make it easier on passengers - so you don't have to load/unload your luggage again. In the south, the only difference is that passengers walk across the "no man's land" so they take their luggage with them.

Valerie, you got to see the two top sights in Jordan and they are indeed worth a trip.

Posted by
2133 posts

Thanks, Chani! I wanted to report on the crossings but I have no idea if that was helpful so your chime in is immensely appreciated.

We loved Israel, too, as you know. And it was extra special to get to meet you!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Posted by
681 posts

Petra has always been a place I want to see and now even more. Thanks for the report.

Posted by
1 posts

My family of nine visited Jerusalem, Amman, Jordan, Petra, Wadi Rum and The Dead Sea November of 2018. We toured by ourselves and found the experience profoundly exciting, if you really don’t know for sure where you will be staying and when! I have to say, if I got to do it all over again, I would stay longer in Jerusalem and not include the confusing dynamic of border controls between the Jewish State and Jordan.

On the other hand, our stay in Jordan was superior to anywhere I have traveled, due to the amazing, cheerful hospitality and affordable choices in accommodations. DO NOT equate this country and Muslims with terrorists! You are safer there than in the United States. Their culture demands that if you are a guest, you will be protected as a member of their family. We made life long friends and long to return. I love Jordan! You will, too.

Posted by
7707 posts

We recently returned from a fabulous trip to Egypt and Jordan.
We also liked Jordan a lot and will return there as we only saw Amman, Petra, Mr. Nebo , Mandaba, and Jerash. We were at The Treasury around 9am, and only a few other people were there. By afternoon, there were many more so we walked back to our hotel. There is even more to see in this country. It was so much more modern , as well as as expensive, than Egypt. Now I have an interest in visiting Israel which I never did before.
And the food in Egypt and Jordan was so delicious and healthy.

Posted by
210 posts

Thanks for reporting on these two countries and on Gate One as I've previously read mixed reviews about them. We hope to visit these two places someday!