How to travel between Israel, Jordan, and Lebanon?
June 18, 2023 3:30 PM   Subscribe

If I wanted to fly from the US and visit cities in Israel, Jordan, and Lebanon, what would be the ideal order of operations and timeline?

I really need a vacation. I want one where there is a lot of stimulating historical detail to consider and I can leave behind my job in tech. I'd like to go for two weeks or a little more.

So... I'm thinking mid-September I fly from NYC to Tel Aviv, see various points around Israel, get transportation to Jordan, see sites there, fly to Beirut, see sites around Lebanon, fly back to Tel Aviv and catch my flight home.

If you were me, what cities would you see and in what order? How much of this is complicated by the idea I might get denied entry to Lebanon if I've been to Israel?
posted by critzer to Travel & Transportation around Baltimore, MD (4 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Your plan will be at least partially complicated by the fact that there are no non-stop flights between Beirut and Tel Aviv; you would have to connect via a third country. If you're not particularly attached to returning to Tel Aviv before flying home, you'd probably be better off flying back to NYC direct from Beirut.
posted by Johnny Assay at 3:45 PM on June 18, 2023 [2 favorites]

I went to Israel and Jordan about two decades ago. Flew into Tel Aviv, travelled through Israel for a week, making my way down to the southern tip and the Red Sea, crossed from Eilat (Israel) to Aqaba (Jordan) stayed in Wadi Rum did a desert jeep ride with some Bedouin (the nicest people, we had a jam session with them in their tents later) to see the rock arches, took a bus to Wadi Musa and Petra (the highlight of the whole thing, amazing), the castle at Karak, up to Amman and crossed back to Jerusalem. It was an awesome trip, but the situation in Israel at the time was much less extreme than it is now.
Not sure what the political situation is regarding border crossings, back then it was kind of slow but fine, and you could get your Israel entry/exit stamps on a separate slip of paper so you wouldn't have problems in countries that weren't that friendly towards Israel.
Because of the time that's passed, I don't have much practical information except that Petra is bonkers amazing, and whatever you end up doing it should include at least a day there.
posted by signal at 6:48 PM on June 18, 2023

I did almost two weeks about 15 years ago in Jordan and Israel (the two weeks were the end of a longer trip). I did the land border crossing from Amman to Jerusalem via the Jordan River Crossing; took a shared bus from Amman, there's a shuttle bus across the crossing, and then spent a lot of money on a taxi to Jerusalem (hint: don't do the crossing on a Friday afternoon).

My logic was that this direction skipped the hassle of not getting Israeli stamps in my passport, since I came home directly from Israel. I spent a very long time crossing the border (and also a very long time at the airport on the way home - three hours or more). If I was doing your trip, I'd consider flying into Beirut, then flying from there to Amman, then doing the land crossing and flying home from Tel Aviv.

Petra and Wadi Rum are definitely the highlights, although Jerash is a cool day trip from Amman.
posted by Superilla at 9:21 PM on June 18, 2023

Best answer: It is technically possible to make a trip like this, but there are some really important things to consider as you plan.

1. Lebanon

Lebanon is a collapsing state in many ways right now and a comfortable trip there is hard to imagine, though other commenters with better local knowledge may have more to share on this. The depth of the liquidity crisis is such that there just isn’t reliable access to the basic necessities of modern life like fuel, electricity, water, cash and medicine for everyday folks, and this has led to a lot of frustration and made life a lot less predictable and safe. Of course, while I am sure Lebanon’s people would do whatever they could for you as a guest in their country if you ran into a problem, at the moment the country’s institutions simply might not be able to assist you in the totally ordinary ways tourists often need help, like visiting a pharmacy for some over-the-counter medication or dealing with a lost passport or talking to someone inside a bank after the ATM outside swallows your card.

Also, Lebanon will deny you entry, and may arrest or detain you, if they find that you have been to Israel. While it seems remote that you would be detected without admitting you’d been there, this tour company’s website mentions some ways Lebanese arrival immigration staff might detect previous travel to Israel, ranging from just asking if you’ve been there to checking your ticket to/from the US to see where you have been and if it includes Israeli travel (for example, if you were to fly Royal Jordanian and booked JFK-Amman-Tel Aviv-Amman-Beirut-Amman-JFK all as one itinerary) to looking for stamps from Jordanian and Egyptian crossing points that show you must have been in Israel at some point (more on this below).

Finally, you’d need to fly between not just Jordan and Lebanon but also Lebanon and Israel, since Jordan and Lebanon don’t share a land border without going via Syria and since there is no direct Lebanon-Israel travel at all, meaning you’d need to go via Jordan again, or perhaps Turkey, Cyprus or Egypt.

2. Passport stamping and how it affects your itinerary

As mentioned above, Lebanon can’t know you’ve been to Israel; this implies you’d visit Israel after Lebanon. Jordan does not care about you visiting either place. Israel will not deny you entry if you have been to Lebanon, though it is very much worth reading the whole “Entry, Exit and Visa Requirements” section on the State Department’s page for the region here.

Lebanon uses normal ink-on-passport-page passport stamps, as does Jordan, though Jordan’s e-visa program and the Jordan Pass may mean ink-on-passport-page stamps are changing there; this blogger says her Jordan Pass, not her passport, was stamped when crossing from Israel to Jordan. Israel usually issues paper entry/exit slips instead of passport stamps, but their official tourism site states explicitly that they do not guarantee they will never use stamps; again, going to Israel after Lebanon seems like the simplest solution here.

It is worth remembering, too, that even if you were to go overland from Israel to Jordan without receiving an Israeli exit stamp, your Jordanian entry stamp would show that you had entered Jordan at a place where the only possible place you could have come from was Israel. Lebanon’s immigration folks, by the very nature of their work, would certainly know what the Israel-Jordan crossing points indicated on Jordanian stamps would be; one image from the Jordan Pass blogger link above shows the Jordanian arrival stamp includes mention of the crossing point, “King Hussein Bridge” — which can only be reached from Israel.

3. How to buy your tickets

If you want to include Lebanon, buy this trip as three tickets: a NYC-Jordan return ticket and two more completely separate return tickets:
with the one going from Amman to Beirut before your trip from Amman to Tel Aviv and back. (Notably, this second flight can be a great use for distance-based miles/points redemptions if cash tickets are very expensive; Royal Jordanian have a monopoly on the Amman-Tel Aviv route and there’s a train station right at Ben Gurion Airport on the main Jerusalem-Tel Aviv train line.)

Doing the trip this way would mean that Lebanese immigration would not see any travel touching Israel since you wouldn’t have been there yet; if they asked about your trip home to the US, you would still be fine because your ticket back to the US would be from Amman, not Tel Aviv. Israeli immigration would see your Lebanon passport stamps, but this on its own is fine, though, again, do check the State Department’s page on entering and exiting Israel above.

If you want to skip Lebanon, the ticket process would be far simpler and you could fly into or out of Tel Aviv or Amman, or fly into one and out of the other. But remember: if you ever plan to go to Lebanon on the same passport as you’d use on this trip, you would still want your crossings between Israel and Jordan to be by air to avoid the problem of the Jordanian entry/exit stamp indicating that you were going to/from Israel.

4. “Stimulating historical detail”

In Israel, I enjoyed day trips to Caesarea and Acre from Tel Aviv without a tour using the Rav-Kav transit card and the train and bus network. It’s also definitely worth visiting Yad Vashem in Jerusalem. I didn’t make it to North District beyond Acre but Haifa, Nazareth, Beit She’an, Safed and Tiberias would all be interesting historical stops.

In Jordan, in addition to Petra, you might want to check out Jerash and Gadara.

Above all, though, I really urge you to visit the West Bank, even if only for a day. I did this day tour from Jerusalem to Hebron and Bethlehem with Green Olive Tours. Aside from learning about the contemporary meaning of the historical places we visited — which would have been fascinating on its own — we also were very clearly shown how the varied permeability of barriers, boundaries and checkpoints makes life exceptionally challenging for ordinary people of all identities in the region as a whole. Green Olive’s “about us” page says more about the kind of tourism they do; it may not be what you are looking for, but honestly, I can’t recommend incorporating the West Bank into your plans highly enough.
posted by mdonley at 10:30 PM on June 18, 2023 [11 favorites]

« Older Best Photo-Slideshow Software   |   Adding a generic PNP monitor driver to Windows 10 Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.