We were not supposed to travel to Jordan. However, 12 hours after we were stranded in Larnaca, Cyprus by a bankrupt airline (that’s a whole later blog post) we landed in the Jordanian capital of Amman. Jordan is located in the crossroads of the Middle East as it borders Israel, Palestine, Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, and Saudia Arabia.
This all leads to the idea that perhaps travel in Jordan is not such a great idea. It’s not in a part of the world known for its stability and peacefulness. Those ideas of doubt do not last long though in Jordan. Upon meeting the first Jordanian they’ll dispell this with the one English sentence the entire country knows.
“Welcome to Jordan.”
In our one week trip, we found earth shattering landscapes, ancient history, tantalizing food, exciting experiences, and hospitable locals. Jordan, by all means, is a total package for tourists and deserves a place on every traveler’s bucket list. If you love to travel for adventure, history, beaches or culture Jordan has something for you!
Travel in Jordan
Is it Safe to Travel in Jordan?
Yes, it is safe to travel in Jordan. This is the first question that crosses many traveler’s minds when they contemplate travel in the Middle East. It’s a justified concern if you’ve seen the news in the past five years with the rise of ISIL, the bombing of a plane in neighboring Egypt, and unrest in Palestine.
Truth be told with last-minute flights we didn’t have enough time to get in our own heads or be nervous about travel in Jordan at all. We found a good flight option and a new country and booked the flight. However, any worry would not have been justified. Jordan is not a dangerous country to travel.
We never once felt unsafe traveling around the country. In fact, we found the people to be genuinely welcoming and happy to have us as tourists in Jordan. I’m not kidding when I say the phrase you hear the most in Jordan is “welcome to Jordan.”
Furthermore, Jordan is very progressive compared to its neighbor’s and stable politically. In the capital of Amman, along with the main tourist destinations, you can find bars or at the very least beer in the hotels. Even our Bedouin camp near Petra had a fridge full of beer.
Jordan reminded us why we love to travel so much!
Quick Travel Facts about Jordan
- Currency – 1 Jordan Dinar – $1.41 USD
- Language – Arabic. However, with good education and a strong tourist industry English is widely spoken.
- Official Name – Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan.
- Capital City – Amman
- Constitutional Monarchy – King Abdullah II of Jordan
- Visa – Most visitors to Jordan will need to obtain a visa. US citizens can get a visa on arrival payable by card or cash. If you have plans to go to Petra it’s worth it to get the Jordan Pass which includes your visa and access to all the main tourist sites in Jordan.
Where to go in Jordan?
Touch down in Amman! There are two international airports in Jordan. One south of the capital of Amman and the other in Aqaba a coastal city on the Red Sea. Arriving last minute we had only one choice for flights and that was the Queen Alia International Airport in Amman.
After landing we caught a taxi to the city center from the taxi stand for a flat rate of 22 JOD. Years of traveling have built up a serious distaste to the taxi drivers that wait at the departures exit and hassle every traveler. So, we chose to stick with the regulated taxi stand, perhaps you can negotiate a cheaper rate or try Uber.
With limited time we chose a city center hotel near the old town since we had all of five nights in Jordan. With only a few hours to spare, we went to the main attraction in Amman the ancient Roman Theatre. It dates back to the second century and can hold up to 6,000 people. The theatre has undergone restoration and it’s amazing site right in the city center. Above this is the former ruins of citadel hill the major tourist attraction Amman.
When it came time for dinner we made our way to a local institution in town, Al Hashem. The vegetarian restaurant is tucked away in an alley and is full of both tourists and locals. There is no menu and they serve a meal of hummus, falafel, and some healthy sides.
Our favorite Jordanian dish is moutabel which is similar to hummus except it contains roasted eggplant. All together with two teas, the meal came to 7 JOD for two people – 3 JOD a meal and .50 for tea. One of the cheapest and most delicious meals we would have in Jordan!
Petra was once the capital of the ancient Nabataean Kingdom and sheltered nomadic Arabs for many centuries. Eventually, the city was conquered by various superpowers including the Romans and Saracens. Over the years, Petra was forgotten and remained hidden until it’s rediscovery by the western world in the 19th century.
We’re not big on major tourist attractions; however, there are some great ones in the world well worth their reputation (Hello – Machu Picchu!). Petra by every mark precedes its much-loved reputation.
It’s a spectacular site and no matter how much reading you do beforehand nothing will prepare you for seeing it in person. We didn’t know what to expect, but Petra is much more than the Treasury that you see in all the Instagram photos.
Once you pass through the gates you begin your journey through the Siq a long winding narrow slot canyon. On its walls, you see small glimmers of what is to come with ancient Nubian carvings and a few mausoleums. When you finally make it to the Treasury or Al-Khazneh it takes your breath away. Yet, it is only the beginning of the full site of Petra.
We had one day to see all of Petra and we were there from about 7:00 in the morning until 6:30 after the sunset. Despite almost twelve hours in Petra we still failed to see everything we wanted. In that time we also walked about 15 miles it would be a good idea to bring a comfortable pair of shoes to walk around all day. Tasha wore Teva’s and said she was comfortable, I only had flip flops and would have preferred walking shoes.
You’ll likely get asked 200 times if you want a donkey ride. The locals know your feet hurt, that it is hot, and that you are most likely tired of walking. We personally didn’t ride a donkey. I felt bad knowing that they were working the entire day just to carry tourists around that were a little too lazy to walk (sorry). It’s also possible to ride a camel, but this is more of a novelty and photo op than an actual mode of transportation.
In addition to the camels and donkeys, we were approached by many young children offering to take us around. This is a big no no for us as these kids are skipping out on school and learning to make a few bucks off tourists. It may seem okay now, but these kids will grow up and will then lack vital education that they need. If you want to have someone show you around I recommend going with a licensed guide.
If you have the time I would recommend at least two days to see Petra. There are many hiking trails to get away from the main sites and tourists and delve a little deeper.
Where to stay in Petra?
Seven Wonders Bedouin Camp
This is where we stayed near Petra. It’s a cool place to stay as the setting is wild and it’s run by Bedouin people. Don’t expect five-star luxury, but you do get a comfortable tent with twin beds and lots of blankets to fight the desert night chills. Bathrooms are shared and kept extremely clean with hot water always flowing. There is a massive feast served every night for dinner costing 10 JOD a person. For two people with breakfast, dinner, tea, and a fire it comes to around $85 USD a night.
Movenpick Resort Petra
We seriously considered staying at this property as we’ve had good experiences with Movenpick in the past. It’s right at the entrance to Petra so guests have a prime advantage to being the first ones through the gates. However, we really wanted the Bedouin experience and to get out of a hotel. If tents and sleeping under the stars isn’t your thing the Movenpick is a fantastic choice.
If there was one destination in Jordan that is an absolute must for travelers it is Wadi Rum – at least in my opinion. This all stems from my favorite
travel movie of all time, Lawrence of Arabia. It’s a great movie to watch if you plan to visit Jordan as it shows off the beauty of the country, culture and it’s based on important historical events (*warning it’s almost four hours*).
Wadi Rum is a wild desert that is home to nomadic Bedouins who have lived here for centuries if not millennia. It is a place of extremes with scorching hot summers and biting winters. Unlike the previous deserts we visited in Namibia and Morocco, Wadi Rum contains towering monoliths, mountains, and canyons. It is a unique place in the world and staggeringly beautiful.
Many visitors to Wadi Rum take a day trip or half day trip from Aqaba. This is one of the greatest travel mistakes you can make in Jordan as spending a night in Wadi Rum is a must. It leaves time for exploration of the desert and to sleep under the stars. After a jeep tour into Wadi Rum, we made our way to the camp where we waited out the hottest part of the day before setting off on a hike.
Hiking in Wadi Rum on our own was surreal. We saw few people doing the same and watched the tones of the desert shift from white to orange to red.
Far from the humdrum of the modern world, a night in the desert is soul-stirring in its silence. Night creeps across the desert temperatures drop, the sky fills with stars, and all you can hear is the crackling of the fire stoked by your Bedouin guide.
There are a number of desert camps you can check out. However, the one with the most amazing views and the best reviews would be the Wadi Rum Bedouin Camp. You can check out the rates below.
This is one of the most unique activities to do in Jordan, nor is it what you would expect to find. Wadi Mujib is a long slot canyon operated by The Royal Society for the Conservation of Nature, (RSCN). It’s an adventure center that is built around connecting visitors with nature.
It’s a great example of eco-tourism and a fantastic stop to get active. You can book a canyoneering tour that involves equipment, waterslides, waterfalls, and natural pools. You also have the ability to hike on your own if you’re looking to save some money or don’t like tours.
We made the stop and hiked up the canyon to cool off and stretch the legs. Make sure to wear a bathing suit and water shoes/sandals.
Out of all of our stops in Jordan, this is the one that surprised me the most. The Dead Sea is the lowest point on earth and one of the world’s saltiest bodies of water. It’s so high in salinity, 33%, that visitors are said to easily float. I had my doubts.
While the physics and the idea of floating in the Dead Sea are by no means a surprise the sensation your first time is wild. It puts an instant smile on your face as you find your legs wanting to float right to the surface. There is so much buoyancy it’s actually difficult to tread water with your legs in the water. After all these years I finally understand the novelty of reading a newspaper in the Dead Sea, it’s truly possible.
The mineral content of the water, lack of allergens in the atmosphere, reduced UV rays, and high atmospheric pressure of the Dead Sea is believed to have tremendous health benefits. This why beauty products are sold around the world using its mud and you’ll see every visitor wallowing in the stuff.
Due to the high salinity, most people will find the water irritating to the skin if you stay in too long and it’s best to rinse off after being in the water. This was our primary reasoning to head to a resort to enjoy the Dead Sea. All that being said, it didn’t bother us too much, even my toe that I had sliced open climbing a mountain that morning in Wadi Rum felt fine.
To visit the Dead Sea in Jordan is pretty expensive – at least if you want to do so comfortably. We chose to spend the night in a resort as we had to catch a flight the next day and wanted to have the amenities and comfort of a resort.
We had a search around with only a few options we landed on the Holiday Inn Resort, which cost about $100 a night with a buffet breakfast. The room was modern and comfortable while the resort grounds were well maintained and clean. To top it all of the resort employees were very friendly and attentive. The only complaints we would have been in regards to the expensive dining options and the fact they have a hard close on the beach at sunset and rushed everyone out of the water before the sun hit the horizon.
If we wanted to splash out a bit and stay somewhere special the Kempinski would have been the place to go. Either way, we had a great time at the Holiday Inn Resort and enjoying this special place on earth.
With little time, we only made a quick stop in Aqaba to see what the city was like. It has great access to the Red Sea where you can go for a swim in the ocean, snorkel, or even go diving. Sadly, we weren’t able to go scuba diving but heard it’s an amazing place. They even offer sunset dolphin cruises. We’ll update this when we finally make it to the Red Sea properly.
There are historical sites throughout Jordan that we failed to visit. The main site we missed due to a lack of time is Jerash. It’s a city in Jordan and North of Amman. It’s been inhabited since the Bronze Age, and well known for the Greco-Roman site here. It’s one of the most extensive Greco-Roman cities still standing and outstanding site for those interested in history. You can see an ideal Jordan itinerary here.
The Cost to Travel in Jordan
Jordan is a moderately priced country if not a little on the high side, which surprised us. That being said, the average traveler will find okay value. I have seen a few misguided posts on the internet that gave some bad information with prices being very cheap and that’s the wrong information for backpackers.
Make no mistake it’s not a cheap country for the average traveler. Including flights, our five day trip for two people cost about $1,350. That covers our flights (from Cyprus), car rental, food, visas, accommodation, coffee, and activities.
All travelers to Jordan should get the Jordan Pass before arrival if they plan on going to Petra. The cost of the pass is 70 JOD and it includes your visa fee and Petra ticket which would come to 80 JOD if bought individually. Plus the pass comes with free entry into a bunch other sites and museums around Jordan. You can buy it online and show it right to the immigration officials on arrival.
This is often your largest expense when it comes to travel around countries. Jordan has a number of options with the most popular one being group tour buses. It’s an understandable decision. The public transport is there, but often a pain and limited in ability to service travelers in Jordan. A car rental is also a daunting task for many travelers who have never driven in a foreign country.
There are large tourist buses that connect the major tourist sites. It’s a great service that is known for being reliable and comfortable. JETT is the national bus service and operates routes between Amman, Petra, and Aqaba. They run nice air-conditioned buses and even luxury buses with entertainment systems.
They run daily timetables with most buses operating out of their two Amman hubs of Abdali and Wahdat. Most of the destinations around Amman and to the North are serviced by the Abdali station. If you plan to head South on a long journey like Aqaba or Petra than Wahdat station will offer bus routes with JETT. The average bus from Amman to Petra or Aqaba costs about 8 JOD.
The alternative would be the independent minibusses. These can be super cheap; however, by no means comfortable. Minibusses do not operate on a time schedule and only depart when full. It’s the local way to travel so it’s often a colorful way to travel. We’ve used minibusses in other countries, but prefer our comfort when traveling too much these days.
This is the way we decided to travel around Jordan and we’re happy we did! Driving in a foreign country can seem daunting, but there is no real need to worry. I’ve driven in probably 30-40 countries now and find little to no difference. Read all our rental car tips here.
Jordan is a particularly easy country to navigate and drive as there are only a few roads and no traffic outside of Amman. You just need to be mindful of the potholes, goats, and the occasional camel (not joking). There are regular police stops and checkpoints; however, whenever they saw we were tourists they smiled and said “welcome to Jordan.”
We picked up a car from Dollar for $125 for five days and spent about $100 in gas.
The last option would be to opt for taxi drivers which isn’t a bad idea. Around Amman, taxi drivers are cheap and easy to find with most knowing the major sites in English. If you’re short on time you can rent out a taxi for the day and they’ll take you where ever you like for around 80 JOD.
I’d be lying if I said that Jordan is a cheap country to travel around; however, it is affordable. Overall we found everything to be within reason for our budget which may raise some backpackers eyebrows. We stayed in a private room hostel in Amman for around 30 JOD a night.
Dessert accommodation is basic and no frills, but with our desert camp outside of Petra with dinner we still spend 60 JOD a night or $85 USD. While camps in Wadi Rum come in at a similar price point. At the high end for resorts like the bubble tents or name brand hotels expect to pay around $200 a night. It’s all fairly reasonable, but out of the realm of the typical budget traveler or backpacker.
How long should you spend in Jordan?
A sufficient tour around Jordan and stopping at all the major points of interest can be done in a week, give or take. We had six days/five nights and left wanting to see more, but covered a fair amount of ground and stayed pretty busy. However, if we’d spent two weeks we may have gotten a little tired of the food and desert life. In an ideal world, I would say eight days is a fair amount of time to cover the main points.
Food to Try in Jordan
This is true for much the Middle East, but you have to try some of the coffee. The traditional coffee here is infused with cardamom and then heated to a rolling boil in a hot sand pan. It’s a very finely ground roast with no coffee filter so a thick sludge of grounds is left at the bottom of your cup. It’s similar to Turkish coffee if you’ve ever tried that! Expect to pay .50 JOD to 1 JOD for a cup. We did pay 2 JOD in front of the Treasury in Petra, but with a view like that, we couldn’t complain.
We’re no stranger to falafel as we’re mainly vegetarians; however, some of the best falafel I ever ate was in Amman. Falafel is made from patties of ground chickpeas and spice that is then deep fried. The best ones have a fresh taste to them from herbs with a crispy outside and fluffy inside. You can eat them any way you like, but I love a little bit of chili and hummus.
I mentioned this earlier. It’s a staple throughout Jordan and we found it at almost every meal. Very similar to hummus except with it has the addition of smoked eggplant/aubergine. It’s amazing!
Things to Know About Travel in Jordan
Until recent years and post 9/11, the Arabic world was known for its warm hospitality – there are many parts of it where this is still the case. Jordan is a country that welcomes tourists and visitors with open arms. We found locals to be helpful, friendly, and genuinely interested in us during our time in Jordan. This occurred even in random towns where a shopkeep would strike up a conversation asking where we were from and about our time in Jordan.
I mentioned the food earlier and that remains to be true. You have to eat your way through Jordan they have delicious salads and great roasts and amazing falafel. It had been a while that we had traveled to a country and really wanted to eat our way around.
There is a major trash problem
If there is one negative we have to say about Jordan it is the state of their waste management. We found plastic and trash strewn about everywhere in the country to a really alarming degree. The trash problem even extended out to Wadi Rum where we found all sorts of plastic bottles and knick-knacks in a protected desert landscape. It was all very disheartening from what would otherwise be a gorgeous country.
To make matters worse the culture does not seem to have much regard to the waste problem. We witnessed countless Jordanians throw trash from their vehicle windows, drop trash on the street, or throw it right out of their front door. I would go so far as to say it’s sadly one of the dirtiest countries we have traveled. If you want to know more read our tips on eco-friendly travel or ethos behind The World Pursuit.
Prepare to disconnect
It is possible to stay connected in Jordan through data providers who have convenient tourist SIM card packages. However, we chose to forgo the SIM card and enjoy a bit of a digital detox in the desert. Most of the camps and hotels have free Wifi, but in the more remote locations like Wadi Rum it is limited and slow.
What to Pack for Jordan
Travel Water Bottle
Plastic is littered all over the country so it’s best not to contribute to the problem buying plastic water bottles everywhere. We’ve shifted to using an insulated aluminum water bottle as it handles the hot sun well. However, we also love filtered water bottles in areas we’re uncertain of the water supply. Read more about favorite water bottle for travel in our post.
This all depends on the season, but the deserts of Jordan can get bitterly cold in the winter months. In October we found that the nights we’re chilling and having warm layers were a life saver. If you want to learn more about down jackets that fit in your luggage we have a post that breaks down all our favorites.
This all depends on your budget and price point. We no longer travel with a microfiber towel; however, Jordan was the first place in a while we were reminded of why it’s a great idea to have in your suitcase. Most nice hotels and guesthouses supply you with a towel; however, if you plan on camping in the desert it’s a great idea to have your own travel towel that drys fast and packs up small. We got a post on towels too!
What we loved most about Jordan was the ability to disconnect. It was one the few trips in a long time we settled into not working at night as there was often on WiFi or power in our desert camps. It was so refreshing. With that being said the lack of power also means a lack of light. We always travel with headlamps as they can be useful anywhere especially on a dark desert night far from any lights, or a dark tent.
These were great to have! You’ll do a lot of walking around Petra and Wadi Rum in the extremely hot sun. Hiking sandals allow for your feet to breathe and they do not collect sand when trudging through the desert. You bet we’ve reviewed the best hiking sandals for travelers!
Plan Your Trip to Jordan:
It’s a little tough to use Airbnb in Jordan. However, there are still a number of listings around the major tourist sites especially in Wadi Rum. Check out some tips and read more about getting an Airbnb coupon code here. Or just take this coupon for your first stay!
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