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Many travelers arrive in Jordan on an overland Middle Eastern odyssey between Istanbul and Cairo, and routes into the country from the Syrian capital Damascus (barely 100km from the Jordanian frontier) are plentiful and undemanding.

The easiest and fastest way is to travel by service, or shared taxi. All such cars bound for Jordan depart 24 hours a day from the Karaj a/- Urdun (Jordan Garage), a chaotic open car-park next to the Karnak bus station in central Damascus You're only allowed into this car-park through the front gates and your bags will be searched as you enter Despite what drivers may claim, prices to all destinations are fixed and are posted (in Arabic only) on a black notice-board near the front gates. Currently, a seat in a service to Amman is JD6,000, to Irbid JD5.

Services also run to the less useful destination of Zerqa, and sometimes also to Mafraq. If you're in a hurry or prefer some privacy, the price for the whole car is five times the per-person rate Once you agree on a price, your passport will be spirited away to enable the driver to get a slip from the police permitting him to leave.

Cars bound for Amman use the newly opened border-post between Nasib and Jaber, where formalities are dealt with swiftly and efficiently; you'll only use the old border between Dera'a and Ramtha if you're heading for Irbid Both border crossings have 24-hour banks as well as use- ful Jordanian tourist information offices (daily lam-6pm), which offer free maps and can make hotel bookings The usual service terminus in Amman is Abdali station, in Irbid the New Amman station; however, for a few extra dollars the driver can drop you off anywhere you want in those cities Journey times to Amman can be as little as three hours, half-an-hour less to Irbid.

As an alternative, comfortable Karnak and JETT buses leave from the Karnak bus station in Damascus daily at lam and 3pm for Amman; the fare is either US$5 or JD4 (you can't pay in Syrian pounds). Journey times are about three or four hours, and buses terminate next to the JETT External Lines office, about 500m uphill from Abdali station. It's wise to book seats one day ahead.

For a more peaceful journey, once-weekly trains -sometimes pulled by vintage steam engines -depart from the Hejaz station in Damascus every Sunday at lam for a ten-hour meander to Amman. The fare is a rock-bottom US$3.

Most flights from Damascus to Amman are awkward early-morning or late-night departures, prohibitively expensive and not worth bothering for with. Time spent at both ends getting to and from the airports (both are 35km out of the city) plus an hour in the air adds up to a longer journey than by road.



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