What are my options for airport transport upon my arrival?
We would be happy to arrange transport from the airport for you. This service costs 25 JOD. If you wish to use this service, please provide us with your airline name, flight number and arrival time on the Admitted Students Form. A driver will be waiting for you after you exit customs with your name on a sign.
Additionally, taxis can be easily found at the airport and prices are fixed between 20-25 JD depending on the neighborhood to which you are going. Do not ride with anyone who asks you inside the airport; instead speak with the bilingual employees at the designated taxi stand outside the terminal. They will follow the posted fixed prices.
What is the visa process for Jordan like?
If you are a holder of a US, UK, EU or Canadian passport, you can get a tourist visa upon arrival at the airport for 40 JOD (56 USD). It is a very easy process that should only take a few minutes. If you hold a passport from outside these countries, please check in with your embassy, to see if it’s possible to secure a visa upon arrival or if you should secure the visa before traveling.
The tourist visa that you purchase is good for one month from your arrival date. Within that first month, we will take you to the appropriate ministry to get it extended to three months. This is a short, painless errand that we will coordinate. Each time you travel outside the country, the visa process starts over anew, so do let us know if you are planning on traveling outside the country, so we can ensure that your visa is in order.
Will my cellphone work in Jordan? Do I need a local phone?
Having a cell phone here is highly recommended, as it will help you navigate the city and keep in touch with Sijal staff and students. Luckily, cell phone service here is both reasonably priced and reliable.
There are many different options for you to bring or purchase a phone. If you have a tri band/GSM phone that is unlocked, you’re all set. Upon arrival, you can simply purchase a local SIM card (approx. 7 JD or 10 USD); there are phone stores both at the airport itself and all over town. If your phone is locked (most American phones come locked by default), it can probably be unlocked for you at one of the many phone stores in town for anywhere between 5 JD and15 JD. After unlocking, you can purchase a local SIM card.
It is also possible to buy a phone while here. Phone prices range anywhere from 20 JOD to 300 JOD, depending on the type and quality of phone you are looking to purchase. You can then buy and install a local SIM card for it.
In Jordan, people do not sign contracts usually for cell phone service, rather they purchase pre-paid cards with minutes. If you have a smartphone, you can purchase a plan that includes both minutes and 3G or 4G data service. If you don't want data service on your phone, you simply buy a card with the specific amount of talktime minutes you want.
Do I need to purchase travel health insurance?
While Sijal does not require students to have travel health insurance, it is highly recommend that all students purchase comprehensive travel insurance before travelling to Jordan to cover any major medical costs, should they be required. If you are a current student in a higher education program, chances are your student insurance includes a travel insurance provision. If you are not or if your school doesn’t cover you abroad, here are some travel health insurance plans Sijal students have used in the past:
Travelex (great for families)
Do I need any immunizations?
Students coming from the US, UK or EU do not need any immunizations. All others should check with their home governments for information about immunizations and immigration.
I have a medical condition; how are Jordan’s medical services?
Jordan’s health services are considered to be among the best in the Middle East. Most doctors are bilingual and equipment is first-rate. Though virtually all widely-used prescription medications are available in Amman, we recommend that you bring any medication that you require with you. It might also be smart to bring a prescription from your doctor for any medications you need, using the generic name of the drug.
If you have a health condition we should be aware of for your own safety (e.g. epilepsy, food allergies, allergies to medication, etc.), you can disclose it to us in complete confidence.
How do I find housing in Jordan? Is a homestay an option?
Students have a variety of options for housing in Amman, all of which are briefly outlined below, and you can find more information on the Housing page. Please note, Sijal is happy to facilitate connections between students and the following housing opportunities, but all of these options are still independent housing.
Sydney Hotel: Sijal has secured discounted rates with The Sydney Hotel, which we highly recommend for students who would like temporary housing while they search for an apartment. The Sydney Hotel is approximately a ten-minute walk from Sijal, with very reasonable prices and a lovely, communal atmosphere. Past students have befriended the Jordanian staff and enjoyed studying and relaxing together in the common spaces.
Apartments: Amman has a number of apartments and rooms available for rent across the city. Neighborhoods that are close to Sijal and often popular with students include Jabal Amman, especially the Rainbow Street/First Circle area; Jabal Weibdeh; Shmeisani; Abdoun; and Sweifieh. Anything from the 6th Circle and further west (7th and 8th Circles), as well as around the University of Jordan, is quite a distance from Sijal. Most apartments range between 200-400 JD per month.
Many students independently seek apartments through various websites and Facebook expat groups, but Sijal also has a relationship with a few landlords in our neighborhood. You’ll find more information on the Housings page, but feel free to contact Sijal if you would like assistance in finding a flat.
Homestays: For students who are interested in a more immersive experience or who wish to improve their colloquial dialect, homestays throughout the city are available. Sijal can connect students to families whom we know and trust; trying to independently find your own homestay is not recommended.
All homestays cost 450 JD a month, which should be paid directly to the family, and require a minimum stay of 3-6 months. If interested in a homestay, please contact Sijal.
What should I pack?
Apart from the general clothing advice marked below, the following packing tips might help:
Sunscreen, while widely available, is quite expensive in Jordan. It will likely be cheaper for you to bring a bottle from your home country
While many brands of soaps and shampoos are available, sulfate free and natural shampoos are much harder to find. If you have a strong preference for a particular brand, I would recommend bringing it along.
There are lots of great desert hikes and river hikes in Jordan. While sneakers can also work, a pair of Tevas or a similar style of water sandal is ideal for watery or sandy hikes.
A reusable water bottle is a great way to cut down on plastic use.
If you plan on staying with a homestay family, it would be a very kind gesture to bring a gift for your family.
If you plan on cooking a lot, note that some international products, while available, can be quite expensive. Think 18 dollars for a small bag on quinoa. I would recommend cooking in a more Jordanian style while in Amman for a number of reasons, one of which being financial. - If there are any special and usual products you depend on for your diet (chia seeds, quinoa, etc.), it’s likely cheaper to bring some with you. With that said, there are large international supermarkets and smaller ethnic markets across the city and basically any food product is available.
Don’t bring too much! Leave some room in your bags for the things you will invariably purchase while in Amman. Additionally, don’t bring anything of high sentimental or material value, in case it gets lost, damaged or stolen in your travels
Do not plan on shipping any goods to or from Jordan. The service is not 100% reliable and very high shipping and customs fees can be levied.
For Spring students especially, when it rains, it pours and streets can turn into rivers! Bring shoes or boots that can get wet.
Can I use my debit and/or credit card(s) in Jordan?
Yes, most credit and/or debit cards work in Jordan. Visa and Mastercard are the most widely accepted. Make sure to inform your bank that you will be traveling. Some banks will freeze your account should you make charges from unexpected places, which can be a headache to deal with from abroad.
You can change money over before arrival or take money out of your bank account directly from any ATM here. Either method will carry a small commission of between 0.5% and 3%, according to the specific bank or money changer.
There are both ATMs and money changers located all over the city and in the airport before you get to the line to purchase your visa. In general, Jordan is a cash based economy with most transactions taking place with cash, so don’t expect to use your credit card for most daily life purchases. If you plan to be in Jordan for more than 3 months, you might consider bulk ordering Jordanian dinars from your local bank to avoid costly ATM withdrawal fees.
While at Sijal
What textbook will I need? Should I buy my textbooks in advance?
Our curriculum at the beginner and intermediate levels primarily utilizes the best-selling Al-Kitaab series (Georgetown University Press) for our core classes. Every student, except those starting from zero, will take a placement test to determine their level.
At Sijal, we will have the relevant Al-Kitaab book for each level available for purchase (prices are listed below). However, you will likely be able to get much better prices for said books in your home country, as they are not regularly available in Jordan. We strongly recommend purchasing the textbook for your expected level before arrival and bringing it with you. If you have any questions about which book to purchase, please get in contact with the Sijal team for advice.
If you wish to obtain your own copy prior to arrival, the relevant volumes for each course are below. Please carefully note the part number and edition number:
Beginner I and II - Alif Baa with DVDs: Introduction to Arabic Letters and Sounds, 3rd edition ($40); Al-Kitaab fii Ta`allum al-`Arabiyya with DVDs /A Textbook for Learning Arabic, part 1, 3rd edition ($65)
Intermediate I and II - Al-Kitaab fii Ta`allum al-`Arabiyya with DVDs /A Textbook for Learning Arabic, part 2, 3rd edition ($90)
Advanced I and II - Al-Kitaab fii Ta`allum al-`Arabiyya with DVDs /A Textbook for Learning Arabic, part 2, 3rd edition ($90) (Adv 1 will use at most the last few chapters of the book. Should you have a copy already, please bring it. If you do not, we are happy to provide you with scanned copies of the relevant chapters), Other materials provided.
We also recommend purchasing the spoken Arabic dictionary Diwan Baladna (Azban, 2011) as a resource for your time in Jordan. We will provide the materials for your colloquial Arabic studies.
Will I need a computer for my studies?
Yes, we strongly recommend that all students bring a laptop to complete their studies. All students will have homework assignments which requires the use of a computer, from typing up Arabic essays, to watching Arabic videos online, to completing exercises on the Al-Kitaab companion site. If your computer is not yet set up to type in Arabic, we would recommend buying Arabic stickers or a keyboard skin before traveling.
Note to Beginner and Intermediate students: Much of your homework from the Al Kitaab textbook will require use of the companion site. The flash player for the website is not supported on tablets. We would recommend bringing a computer that either has a DVD drive or supports flash.
How big are class sizes?
While class sizes vary depending on the time of year, course level, and course demand, Sijal makes every effort to create productive learning environments in which every student has the space to participate. Classes usually range in size from 3-10 students.
While in Amman
Can I drink the water in Jordan?
Drinking water directly from the tap or faucet is not recommended. That said, tap water in Jordan is perfectly safe for brushing teeth, washing produce, etc. Filtered or bottled water is widely available in stores, restaurants, apartments, and at Sijal. Furthermore, there are water shops located around the city (one is near to Sijal building #2) where you can purchase large, refillable jugs of water. These shops will often deliver the water upon request for a small fee.
How should I dress?
While you will see quite a lot of diversity in how Jordanians dress, in general Jordan is a conservative country -- showing too much skin, even in the summer, is generally frowned upon. That said, you don't need to buy all new clothing. Jordanians are quite fashionable and Western-style clothes are very common, especially in the neighborhoods around Sijal. Women should lean towards clothing which covers their knees and shoulders, while men should opt for pants. The one big no (for the ladies at least) is cleavage -- modest necklines are the way to go.
Also, you’ll want to bring sturdy walking shoes for your time here. Amman is extremely hilly, and uneven streets and sidewalks are common.
In terms of dressing for the weather, remember that Amman is not always hot and the weather differs for each season. Keep in mind the following recommendations, depending on what semester you plan to be studying with us.
November - February
The winter in Jordan gets quite cold and we do have snow days. While the weather outside may not get as cold as it does in some northern countries, the lack of quality indoor heating and insulation, as well as buildings designed to be cool in hot weather, often make Jordan feel much colder than the temperature outside. To combat this, bringing clothing that can be layered like sweaters, wool socks and long underwear is highly recommended. Make sure to bring a coat and gloves.
March - April
The spring in Jordan is a short, beautiful time of the year where it gets green and many flowers are in bloom. The weather will likely be mild and will, inshallah, have some rain showers. It’s a good idea to have some rain gear or water proof shoes, as the streets often flood in rain storms. The weather in general will be warmer during the day and chillier at night. A light jacket and some sweaters for evenings or chillier days are recommended.
May - September
Jordanian summers are quite hot, dry and sunny during the day; this weather starts in the late spring and lasts into the fall. Most public places, including Sijal, are air conditioned, but light, airy clothing is still recommended. Please remember, however, that shorts and skirts that fall above the knee are not recommended.
September - November
Similar to the spring, the fall in Jordan has cooler weather, but can be variable. Layered clothing and a light jacket will be most comfortable.
I’m interested in volunteering while in Amman… Can Sijal help connect me to organizations?
Sijal is fortunate enough to work with a range of non-profit and civil society organizations here in Amman, and would be happy to connect you to volunteer or internship opportunities based on your interests and background.
What’s the easiest form of public transportation to use?
Unfortunately, Amman does not have much in the way of public transportation at this time. Many buses and shared taxi routes are unmarked, and you should always check with the driver to make sure you’re going in the right direction. This map by Maa’n Aasel provides a good overview of your options.
Yellow taxis are widely available, and relatively cheap. However, there are a few things to keep in mind when dealing with taxis:
You should always make sure you have small bills to cover the fare -- anything larger than 5JD will likely not be accepted. Generally, courtesy dictates that men sit in the passenger seat while women sit in the back.
Before the trip starts, make sure the meter (العداد) is working. While it’s illegal for cabs to drive without a working meter, you will likely encounter at least one driver who claims their meter is broken. If he refuses to switch the meter on, your best bet is to find another cab. Also, sometimes drivers will attempt to charge you extra for ezme or traffic - don’t let them.
A slightly more expensive, but potentially less headache-inducing method, is to download Careem or Uber. You can plug in your exact pickup and dropoff information, and even pay by credit card.
Are there gyms or athletic facilities in the area?
The number of gyms in Amman is growing, but they are still a bit on the expensive side, ranging from 35-70 JOD ($50-$100) a month. Popular options close to Sijal include Powerhut in Shmeisani and Paris Fitness Gym in Weibdeh.
Other athletic facilities include Inta Ana, a yoga and pilates studio in Weibdeh as well as CrossFit QuickSand and 9Round Kickboxing in Shmeisani.
For runners, Al Hussein Sports City is a quick taxi or uber ride away. The complex has a dirt running path and a network of streets which can be used for jogging. For those who live further out or who want to make a special trip, the jogging paths at the Al Hussein Public Parks in Khalda are wonderful.
For those interested in working out at home, Baraka Sports carries a range of free weights and other sporting equipment. On Rainbow Street, Sadek Home carries decent yoga mats for 5-7 JOD.
How easy is it to travel domestically in Jordan? Can I easily travel to other countries in the region?
Travel within Jordan is quite accessible and inexpensive. The national bus company is Jett, which has routes throughout the country. If you want to visit somewhere off the Jett map, like Wadi Rum, the best option is to hire a private driver. Drivers will periodically advertise their services on the various Jordan Expat facebook pages. Feel free to talk to Sijal staff as well for trusted driver recommendations.
Travel from Queen Alia International Airport to countries in the surrounding region is also relatively easy, although local taxes can drive up the price of a plane ticket quite a bit. Keep an eye out for sales from Royal Jordanian, Ryanair, FlyDubai and other airlines to get the best price. Depending on your country of origin, you may or may not need a visa before you arrive in a neighboring country -- just be sure to check beforehand.
Bordering areas such as Egypt, Palestine, and Israel can be accessed through either land crossings or in Egypt’s case, a ferry for 50-60 USD. Expect to pay an exit fee upon departure from Jordan (8-10 JOD/ 12-14 USD), as well as another exit fee when you return from Egypt (LE 50/ 3 USD), Israel or Palestine (100-173 NIS/ 30-55 USD).
Are people in Jordan very conservative and/or religious?
This definitely varies between people, residential areas, and cities, but overall Amman is indeed relatively conservative. Many people are religious, and you will hear the Muslim call to prayer throughout the day. People are generally conservative in dress; if you have any concerns regarding what to wear, please see the related question above. Items like alcohol and pork may be more expensive or simply harder to find than you are used to, though both can still be purchased.
Additionally, because the Muslim holy day is Friday, weekends are Friday and Saturday here. Many smaller shops are either open later or are fully closed on Fridays. Restaurants and cafes are still open, however, and Friday nights are still social and lively.
Additionally, while people are generally warm and welcoming, public displays of affection between partners is not customary in public places. Your neighbors may also notice or frown upon frequent night visitors, so being discreet can help avoid potentially uncomfortable confrontations.
Is it hard navigating Amman as a beginner Arabic student?
While navigating Amman as a beginner student does carry its unique challenges, it is extremely doable and not very difficult. Beginner students may initially feel more comfortable using taxi hailing apps to commute in the city, as opposed to taxis or buses. However, once a student feels more confident navigating through Amman, taxis can be a great way to practice simple Arabic conversations and directions.
In general, though you may find shopkeepers and other vendors who don’t speak English, it can be easy to get by with only English in Amman. You may even find yourself looking to speak more Arabic since your day to day routine might not require very much. So don’t be afraid to practice your skills! Many people are happy to engage with beginner students and are often very patient with people who speak minimal Arabic.
What is Jordan like during Ramadan? How can I be respectful if I am not a Muslim?
Ramadan in Jordan is a special time during which many Muslims will be fasting from sunup to sundown. If you are not fasting, you should respectfully refrain from eating or drinking in public places. Most restaurants and cafes will be closed during the day and open for extended hours into the night, but Sijal can provide students with a list of restaurants that do remain open during daylight hours. Students are also welcome to eat during the day in both Sijal centers, but we ask you just be considerate of Sijal staff or students who may be fasting.
Ramadan is also a celebratory month full of warmth and hospitality. You may be invited to someone’s home for Iftar, or the dinner that breaks fast every evening. Feel free to accept, as breaking fast together is a really special experience, and the food is delicious