Tips For Traveling To Jordan

Introduction: Road-Trip Through Jordan
Review: Emirates Lounge San Francisco Airport
Review: Emirates First Class A380 San Francisco To Dubai
Review: Emirates First Class 777-300ER Dubai To Amman
Review: Mosaic City Hotel Madaba Jordan
Driving The King’s Highway In Jordan
Review: Feynan Ecolodge
The Sharah Mountains & Little Petra
Review: Glamping In Wadi Rum
Review: Petra Marriott Hotel
Visiting Petra
Review: Grand Hyatt Amman Grand Suite
Jordan Practical Travel Tips


Before I get into our flights home, I wanted to take some time to go over travel tips for Jordan. I really loved our trip to Jordan, and it’s a destination I’ve received many questions about.

While it takes some planning, I think Jordan is a pretty approachable country, with warm and welcoming people, so hopefully having extra details are helpful to some of you.

Plotting your itinerary

Jordan is a small country, with a rich and varied cultural landscape, that I think sometimes encourages overly-aggressive schedules. We packed as much as we could into our seven-day trip, but having another 3-4 days would have allowed us to break up the driving a bit more, have some down time, or see any of the other dozens of things we missed, like the Desert Castles, Jerash, and the Dead Sea.

It really depends on what you want to do, but I think at least outlining the trip is mandatory. I was discussing logistics with Stefan of Rapid Travel Chai ahead of time, and he summarized it as:

“For Jordan one way to look at it is if this will be Dead Sea corridor trip and or a history trip. The routes down to Petra run parallel and there’s too much on each.”

He’s right about there being too much, as you’d have to spend weeks to cover everything fully. Having now been there, I can see three general ways to “theme” the itinerary:

  • A relaxing/more luxury trip, with the bulk of time spent at the resorts on the Dead and Red seas
  • An archaeological/historical trip, incorporating the Roman City at Jerash (which I’m bummed to have missed), and the crusader-era castles
  • A nature-focused trip, dividing time between the Reserves at Mujib, Dana, and Wadi Rum

You’ll have to see Petra regardless, of course, but it’s centrally located enough that it should be easy to incorporate.

Petra-Jordan-33

You can also spend as much or as little time at Petra as you’d like. We felt like one full day was plenty, especially in conjunction with the other things we were doing in Jordan, but some people happily spend 2-3 days. I think it depends on your pacing.

Jordan Pass

Most “tourist passes” tend to offer poor value unless you’re going to visit every site on the list, so I honestly didn’t even research the Jordan Pass ahead of our trip.

I should have though, as depending on the length of your visit it’s a complete no-brainer. That’s because the price of the pass is based around how many days you’re visiting Petra, and includes a waiver of the tourist visa fee.

For example, if you were taking a three-day trip to Jordan, with one day in Petra, you’d typically pay:

  • 40 JOD Visa
  • 50 JOD Petra Admission

Meanwhile, a Jordan Pass with one-day admission to Petra is just 70 JOD, so you’re saving ~$30 right off the top. If you go to any other included sites, that’s a bonus.

Seriously, get this pass. They’ll email it to you. Don’t overpay like I did.

Turkish Airlines Discounts

If you’re not staying in Jordan for long enough to qualify for the visa waiver with the Jordan Pass, you can still save 15% on admission to Petra if you’re flying Turkish Airlines to or from Amman.

I had’t seen this advertised anywhere but outside the ticket office in Petra, which seems like bad marketing, but it’s a legitimate promotion (though I don’t know how long it will last). Our Aeroplan-issued award tickets for Turkish worked just fine – I just showed our eTickets at the ticket office.

And you’ll want any discounts you can find for Petra, because that place is just horrifically expensive.

Staying Connected

I love Google Fi, but when we were there they only offered cell service in Jordan, not data (T-mobile didn’t offer either). It seems like this may have improved in the past month or so, so check for updates before your trip.

Even though I was committed to staying away from work email as much as possible on this trip, we still wanted to be able to easily look things up, stay in touch with our nervous parents, etc., so we decided to buy a SIM card for my MiFi device as well.

We spent $12 for I think 10GB of data on an Umniah 3G SIM, which worked flawlessly (there were so many special exceptions where we’d apparently get more data, and it was honestly more than I could be bothered to care about at midnight, so there are probably cheaper packages too).

We had service pretty much everywhere, even on the outskirts of Wadi Rum, and didn’t have to jump through any hoops to get the connection working. The Umniah shop is next to the Starbucks in the arrivals hall of Amman Airport, and the employees were super helpful.

Driving in Jordan

We drove over a thousand kilometers during our week in Jordan, and outside of Amman, driving was relatively easy. Navigating is the real challenge, as spellings aren’t consistent, and the driving is “active” enough that you can’t really drive and look at the map at the same time. It’s a two-person task, with one person doing the eyes-up driving, and the other matching up the map instructions with the roads.

Google Maps worked much better than our rental car GPS, with caveats. In the cities, Google Maps references street names that aren’t signed (sometimes not even in Arabic), and has no qualms sending you through alleys, camps, or the wrong way down a street. You really have to pay attention, but the driving itself isn’t bad at all.

Amman-05

In general it was very safe, and easier than driving in the Mediterranean. We went through a dozen or so police checkpoints, which mainly consisted of looking at our blue passports and then wanting to practice English.

It’s also worth noting that distances in Jordan are short, but take a deceptively long time. Petra to the castle in Shobak is only 35km, for example, but it took us well over an hour.

Shoubak-09

We’d seen lots of itineraries online suggesting taking the King’s Highway between Amman and Petra, and stopping at the various sites along the way as a reasonable “day’s drive”. That might be possible in spring or summer, but in winter there simply wasn’t enough daylight.

Plan on all the drives taking at least twice as long as you’d think, but I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend driving in Jordan.

Packing essentials

We were obviously traveling in winter, so our clothing list might be different than yours, so I won’t get into that other than to suggest layers. Many layers. Jordan is colder than you think it is in winter, and the mountain and desert areas are apparently windy even in summer.

Even for Petra, however, serious footwear is strongly recommended. We packed hiking boots given all the outdoor exploration we wanted to do, and were very grateful to have them on the uneven trails at Petra.

Petra-Jordan-26

Regardless of the time of year, you’ll also want:

  • sunscreen
  • water bottles (we brought cheap ones we could leave in Jordan, but in retrospect I wish we’d had something more durable that could do hot drinks as well)
  • insect repellant
  • cliff bars/trail mix

If you’re going to stay in any of the protected areas, you’ll also get great use out of headlamps and external battery packs. And if you’re at all prone to motion sickness, ginger chews or capsules will be a lifesaver on twisty backroads.

Tourist “stuff” is kinda expensive

This is one of the biggest contradictions in Jordan, and one that I don’t necessarily mind, given that I wanted to support the economy in Jordan as much as possible, but is good to be aware of.

Lunch at a little Lebanese restaurant on a side street of Wadi Musa featured 12 JOD ($17) entrees. The hotels were priced a bit high for what they were, and of course the prices for Petra were outrageous. We didn’t take any tours, but the posted prices we saw seemed high as well. Fuel was also a bit higher than we’d anticipated, but still reasonable enough, at about $3.70/gallon.

In contrast, amazing street food falafel in Amman was ~$5 (for both of us), and buying fruit or bottled water from local markets was often just a few cents.

Amman-01

So there’s a balance.

Amman

Many sites and books recommend skipping Amman itself if you’re short on time, and that’s probably not a bad idea if you’re prioritizing.

We really enjoyed our time in Amman though – I always love cities, and Amman felt like a lived-in city full of people versus some of the “show” cities you see from time to time. The food and café culture were excellent, and there were a decent amount of activities for sightseeing.

Amman-12

We particularly liked The Jordan Museum for a quick and digestible overview of the country and history (including Jordan’s share of the Dead Sea Scrolls).

So definitely plan on getting out of Amman to enjoy the amazing nature in the rest of the country if you can, but I think it would also be a pleasant city for a weekend break, and is certainly worth visiting.

Amman-06

Bottom line

With a bit of planning, Jordan is an easy country to travel in. Surprisingly, we only met one other couple the entire week that wasn’t traveling as part of a tour of some sort.

I realize some people prefer tours, but Jordan was approachable enough that there’s no reason you can’t travel independently if you’d rather. We certainly appreciated having the flexibility of our own transportation!

Any other tips for visiting Jordan?

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Comments

  1. Tiffany–are you still using the same mi fi that you bought for Thailand? I bought the same model based on your report. If so, did you have any issues since it takes a full sized SIM card? Thanks in advance.

  2. How widespread is credit card acceptance in Jordan, especially outside of Amman? Pretty good, or should a visitor plan on hitting up the ATM every couple of days?

  3. Well done tiffany.
    Planning a trip to Jordan with my wife around september.
    Planning to rent a car as well.
    Cheers,
    Marcos

  4. @ DSK — I was on that trip, though I’ve since purchased one that supports 4G. Most countries will have full-sized SIM cards available, in my experience, or you can pick up a SIM card holder for a few dollars.

  5. @ MeanMeosh — I’d say about equivalent to Germany? All hotels, restaurants, and gas stations took credit cards, smaller vendors only took cash. I think we spent ~$250 in cash, other than what we spent at Petra.

  6. Any tips for a solo traveler? I would think renting a car is over the top for just one person.

  7. @ Ed — I suppose how mobile you want to be and how much ground you want to cover. You could definitely get around via bus and taxi, but it would take longer. A hired car would be an option, but probably more expensive than self-driving.

  8. @Tiffany, language-wise, English acceptance throughout? Did you need to use any translator apps?

  9. Jordanian SIM provided data service even within Petra? That is quite impressive, especially if outside the Khazneh area and the corridor beyond it where most tourists hang out.

    One part of me would love to go to Jordan again, but another part is squeamish about being so near the slaughter taking place daily in Iraq and Syria.

    I did think Wadi Rum was overhyped. As scenery, it is minor compared to (say) Utah. Anthony Quinn isn’t there any more to invite you to dine with him in the Howitat camp.

  10. Taking my son to Israel with day trip to Petra. Would you recommend having dinars or do most places take credit cards, shekels or US dollars? Thx

  11. @ Tiffany

    Can you do a post(or direct me to one) about these portable mi-fis? And how to use them? I only see the ones from carriers online and I don’t what that. I want the one I buy myself without a plan and just insert a SIM like you said. It would be really helpful as the internet is failing me. Thanks!

  12. @Allan Last year I purchased this unit which Tiffany indicated in her article on January 14, 2016 that she used in Thailand (available on Amazon): Huawei E5330Bs-2 21 Mbps 3G Mobile WiFi Hotspot (3G in Europe, Asia, Middle East & Africa) (white). It is only a 3G unit (which is why is is so inexpensive).

    @Tiffany If you wouldn’t mind letting us know what you purchased as a 4G replacement, it would be really appreciated. Thanks in advance.

  13. So glad you’ve been doing these trip reports, Tiffany. I love Jordan and encourage everyone to go there.

    Can put I put in another plug for my favourite guesthouse in Amman, Hawa Guest House.

  14. @Tiffany
    Taking my son to Israel with day trip to Petra. Would you recommend having dinars or do most places take credit cards, shekels or US dollars? Thx

  15. @ Rod — I wouldn’t expect anyone to take shekels or US dollars. All hotels, restaurants, and gas stations took credit cards, smaller vendors only took cash.

  16. @ JL — We both know a few basic words and numbers in Arabic, but they were only necessary for politeness. People were friendly and helpful enough that language barriers weren’t really an issue.

  17. Hi Tiffany,

    We went to Jordan independently – no tour group – two years ago and really liked the country. I pretty much agree with everything you wrote but I would never have driven there. You must be very brave! We hired a driver to take us down south and then back up to Amman. Though as you said, once out of Amman the driving seemed easy. I don’t remember the price, but I remember thinking it was not expensive at all and well worth it to just sit back and let someone else do all the work.

    We found the people to be friendly for the most part, or at the very least, polite.

    Two suggestions for anybody going: 1) Restaurants in Petra near the site are very expensive. Walk up the hill (or take a cab as it’s a long, steep walk) and eat up there for a fraction of the price. There are some good restaurants up there but no beer! 2) In Amman, all of the big Western hotels are in the new town. But staying in the old town gives a more authentic experience, and the small hotels and guest houses are inexpensive. The old Roman theater was only two blocks away and we could walk up the hill to the citadel.

  18. I have been using Google Project Fi for a little over a month. Cell service in the US is not as great as I had with ATT. Data service on recent trips to the UK and India was great. But Inwas disappointed to learn that similar to Jordan, the dont offer data service in the Maldives. Actually, the just have wifi service there. Will need to get a SIM for my trip there this month.

  19. You don’t really need a mifi, Any unlocked android phone will do double duty as a mifi (wifi access point).

    A newer phone such as the Samsung S7 will support many more 4G-LTE bands (including TDD bands in India and China) than the abovementioned 4G mifi does. And there’s one less thing to carry.

  20. My wife and I went to Petra and Madaba last October, and agree fully with your assessment: If more than 1 traveler, rent a car (need 1 to drive and 1 to navigate!), and watch out for the speed bumps; the other drivers are generally okay. Our guide in Petra advised “the new road” down to the Arava Valley — what a hair-raising experience! Stunning views and stunning gradients and drop-offs! Thankfully there was almost no traffic, but there was also no cell-tower coverage. Google-maps was surprisingly good, when we had phone coverage. We also agree about the Mosaic City Hotel: what a sweet family place!

  21. Everyone talks about Petra. Has anyone been to the Dead Sea or the Red Sea? Is that worth it? Is it terribly far to drive? Did anyone experience a guided overnight tent stay in the desert or a camel ride excursion in the desert or anything like that?

  22. @ Jen — If you look at the top of this post there’s an index with everything we did in Jordan. We didn’t go to the seas (too cold when we were there), but distances are short in Jordan, so you could. We did an overnight camp in Wadi Rum as well, and lots of hiking.

  23. I think you nailed it great! I had the same problem with Google Maps sending me to a farmers field on a very steep, dirt road, instead of the Dana Guesthouse (which was 20 minutes in the other direction), but otherwise it was quite easy to navigate the country. The driving in Amman, although erratic, was predictable in my opinion, as people actually pay attention, compared to the cell phone distracted driver’s I see daily in Vancouver.
    Your advice to choose your type of trip is great. It is hard to see everything. I was there a MONTH and still did not see anything (well I had two little boys with me, so things like hiking the water trails were not an option).
    You need to go back, Jerash is worth it!

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