Well, my friends. The title says it all.
If you made prior plans of visiting the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan by crossing the land borders from Israel, better make immediate adjustments.
Contrary to earlier reports, Filipinos cannot obtain free visa on arrival in Jordan even if you travel through the Aqaba special economic zone. While it is unclear whether such privilege was indeed available before, I can share with you with finality that it is no longer in effect.
Last March, 2014 I took a five-hour drive from Tel Aviv all the way to the southern district of Eilat, in the hopes of crossing the Israel-Jordan border, to visit the red city of Petra, the last remaining member of the original seven ancient wonders of the world.
Seeing Petra has been a lifelong goal and since I was already near it, making a trek towards the place was a no-brainer.
I have read in several Filipino travel blogs that it is possible to secure a free visa on arrival stamp in Jordan if you take this route. Supposedly, this is possible since Aqaba, the first town after the border, is trying to promote tourism and economic growth in the area. This facility was reportedly available to almost all nationalities, even Filipinos.
Believing these reports were true, I happily paid the 102 shekels exit tax, and went out of Israel at the Itzhak Rabin Terminal.
At the Jordanian gate, they checked the passports of all tourists and instructed them to head over passport control. This was the start of my travel nightmare.
I queued after other travelers crossing the border and my spirits were lifted as I saw them getting free stickers which would allow them to enter Jordan for free. These stickers are posted at their passport cover.
After several minutes of queuing after other travelers, it was finally my turn to get that free sticker. to Immediately, the border agent gave me a head to toe and asked me if I am Filipino. Yes, I told him and he immediately stood up and asked me to follow him.
As it turned out, I was being brought to the border control manager. There, the border agent told me the truth, Filipinos need prior visas issued in the Philippines before they can enter Jordan.
I asked them about the supposed free visa on arrival, but the border control manager confirmed that it is no longer being issued to Filipinos for quite some time now, because Filipinos are known to abuse this privilege in finding employment in Jordan.
Still unwilling to give-up, I showed the manager copies of my employment documents and previous visas issued in other countries, trying to prove that I was indeed a traveler, not a would-be worker.
The manager believed me and tried to make calls in the visa offices in Amman, Jordan, but unfortunately, there was nothing he can do. The directive was final and explicit. Filipinos need to get visas even before they leave the Philippines.
The problem is, if you apply for a Jordanian visa in the Philippines, you are likely to get it after 2-4 months since the process of securing clearance and getting the actual visa takes a lot of time.
All my dreams of seeing Petra was shattered. I should have researched more about the free visa. But in reality, there was really nothing to verify since I haven’t met any Filipino who has successfully secured a free visa on arrival in Jordan.
I was ‘asked to rest in the border control office for about n hour. After that, I was advised to take the short journey back to Israel.
I thought my predicament was already a very low point. Heck, I was wrong. Ordinarily, I would be subjected to very strict security check at the Israeli border. But the fact that I was not even allowed to enter Jordan, made the Israeli immigration agents even more suspicious. So I had to be screened and re-screened and asked more questions at the border control.
Thankfully, they allowed me back in. From there, I had to travel back to the Eilat bus station and take another five-hour bus back to Tel Aviv.
Looking back, it was really not a big deal, since I really enjoyed my stay in Israel. But I still wonder whether I could have avoided such predicament.
I am sharing my experience so that other Filipinos who wish to visit Jordan through Eilat would know that no, it can’t be done.