Practical Guide for Visiting Jordan

It’s been a few months since my trip to Jordan, but I left the best for the last – practical tips to plan your own trip.

I’m by no means an expert on the country, but I managed to see quite a bit in just a week and had to learn few things the hard way. While there is plenty more to explore, I will try to focus on practical advice and a few tips that will save you a few headaches and pennies.

If there is anything I left out, feel free to leave a comment below.

Outside the Treasury in Petra

Is It Safe to Visit Jordan?

The number one question I got was: is it safe to visit Jordan?

I’m not an expert on international relations, but there are plenty of other countries with an active terrorist threat status (which has been officially declared in places like Turkey or Egypt), but that doesn’t stop people from booking holidays or even checking the safety status of the country. Somehow when you mention Jordan, everything changes. So here is my advice.

Short answer? YES, it is.

Long answer – Jordan is a very safe country, however, due to location and the shared border with Syria, there might be times when you might not feel safe enough to travel to the region. Few months ago there have been some serious tensions in Israel and that’s certainly not a time I would consider booking a trip, even though the trouble didn’t concern Jordan directly. Keep an eye on what’s happening in the region and if there are no serious threats, feel free to book a trip. It is also not recommended to travel close to the Northern borders with Syria, at all times.

What makes me think that Jordan is safe?

The government takes excessive measures to make sure that tourists are protected and looked after. Starting at the airport where there are numerous security checks, the most I’ve seen in any airport. They check you on numerous occasions even after you got your passport stamped and got your visa. They scan luggage in two or three different security areas when you’re leaving the country. There are guards on every corner.

Once you arrive at the hotel, the security checks continue there. They have airport style security gates where they scan your luggage and belongings. Each hotel keeps a log of all cars entering the resort, drivers details and they even check each arriving car with a mirror to make sure there are no bombs planted. It was a bit of a shock to see that but on the other hand you know that they take security seriously.  Another example – when I visited Petra, there were police guards by the entrance to the visitor centre.

During the whole trip, I found Jordanians to be very welcoming and kind people. I never felt like I should be worried about my safety.  Jordan is a beautiful developed country that has so much to offer, which would be a shame to miss because of some unfounded prejudice or fears some people might have.

centre of Wadi Musa village

enjoying water (not by choice) in our hotel in Wadi Musa

Getting To and From Jordan

There are three airports in Jordan, with most commercial flights landing in Queen Alia International Airport. The other two are King Hussein International Airport and Amman Civil Airport.

If you live in Cyprus like me, it’s super easy to get in and from Jordan with Ryanair.

Some of my friends scored return flights for as little as 10 eur and I’ve seen promotional posters plastered all over the country, advertising the destination and trying to get more people on board. There are direct flights to Jordan from a lot of places in Europe, including the UK. In case you want to combine your trip with something else, you can also visit Israel at the same time. The crossing is possible in the south of the country, in Aqaba. You can find more information on the border crossing on this blog or the official website of Jordanian tourism.

Airport & Security

Queen Alia is a very modern large airport with lots of security checks and modern features. It reminded me a bit of the airport in Dubai, the design is very striking and everything seems to be so polished and clean.

The building itself is absolutely stunning with impressive striking design on the outside and spacious modern interiors inside. There are lots of nice shops on your way out of the country and plenty of dining options – try the falafel fast food, super delicious and cheap! If you are a coffee enthusiast, you can get freshly ground Jordanian coffee packed for the journey home or get a few blends of their local teas. They also sell local delicacies and sweets there so you will have plenty of opportunities to buy souvenirs on your way out.

one of the many sights in Petra

When to Visit Jordan

I visited at the end of March and I would say that’s pretty ideal time to be there. Recommended months for visits are March – May. Summer is pretty hot and a lot of people avoid the destination, so if you want to experience the country when its least crowded, you can bear the heat in the summer. More detailed info about weather conditions and season in Jordan available on Rough Guides.

Hotels & Accommodation

I found that most affordable hotels were in the capital city and some of the most expensive ones were by the Dead Sea.

The sights and experiences are stretched across the country so one of the things you will need to think about is where will you base yourself. Cheapest accommodation I’ve seen is in the capital city, Amman, but it’s also by far the most inconvenient option. The drive from Amman to Wadi Rum for example will take you in excess of 3 hours and you will spend most of the day in the car, commuting back and forth.

If you have 5 days and more, it’s best to plan your drive from north to south and back, and plan some interest points along the way. For trips shorter than that, I would head straight to Petra village (Wadi Musa) and perhaps stop by the Dead Sea on your way back.

Hotels in Amman

I haven’t really looked into accommodation options in Amman as that was not part of my trip this time. If you want to do the trip on a budget, it’s a good place to base yourself and then hire a driver to visit all the sights on a day trip basis. Some of the hotels with best reviews in Amman, in order of stars and prices, starting from most expensive to budget options:

Fairmont Amman *****

Sheraton Amman Al-Nabil Hotel *****

W Amman *****

Seven Roses Hotel ****

Beirut Hotel ***

Rafi Hotel **

Sydney Hotel *

Arabian Suites (apartments)

Al Houriat Hotel *

Hotels by the Dead Sea

I stayed in the Movenpick Dead Sea resort and couldn’t recommend it enough. I also spent a night at the Holiday Inn Resort by the Dead Sea on my way out of the country, which was also very nice, but faded in comparison with Movenpick.  Hotel options listed below:

Movenpick Dead Sea Resort *****

Kempinski Hotel Ishtar Dead Sea *****

Hilton Dead Sea Resort & Spa *****

personal favourite for next trip – Ma’in Hot Springs *****

Ramada Resort Dead Sea ****

Dead Sea Spa Hotel ****

budget – Thara Real Estate (apartments)

Hotels by Petra (Wadi Musa)

At the time I booked a hotel in Wadi Musa, there were not many left and not much to choose from. I found the Village Resort (as seen in this post) by chance and even though it was on the other side of the village, the option for free transport to Petra visitor centre seemed as a good compromise. Unfortunately that also meant that they would only give us lift once and for the remaining part of the trips we had to take taxis there and forth as it wasn’t a walking distance even to the village centre. So location is something I would definitely consider a top priority when looking for a hotel in the village.  As far as I could see, there was one luxury resort – Movenpick, and a few other options in different price categories.

where I stayed – Old Village Resort Hotel *****

my pick for next visit – Movenpick Petra Hotel *****

great value hotel close to Petra entrance – Petra Moon Hotel ****

right next to entrance to Petra, situated next to the cave bar – Petra Guest House Hotel ***

5 mins walk to Petra entrance – La Maison Hotel ***

Esperanza Petra *

Rocky Mountain Hotel

Staying in Wadi Rum Desert

My favourite place of all. If you’re planning a trip to the desert, definitely consider staying over night, the experience is well worth it. The desert offers both budget and luxury accommodation options which I listed below. The first one is the camp I booked for my trip as they had a bundle offer which included desert safari, breakfast and dinner, plus private bathroom facilities (rare luxury in the desert).

what I was looking forward to booking, but was completely full (Martian style igloo tents) – Wadi Rum Night Luxury Camp

Salman Zwaid Camp

Wadi Rum Dream Camp

where I stayed – Jamal Rum Camp

Wadi Rum Starlight Camp

Rum Planet Camp

Khaled’s Camp

Hotels in Aquaba

I haven’t been this far down south, but I’ve heard it’s a beautiful place for diving and water sports. Here are some hotel options to choose from.

Kempinski Hotel Aquaba *****

Dweik Hotel 3 ****

Lacosta Hotel ****

Cedar Hotel ***

Arab Divers Bed & Breakfast

Afnan Hotel

Golden Rose Hotel *

the grand hall in Movenpick Resort, Dead Sea

outside of Movenpick Resort

outside our room in Movenpick

What To Avoid

I got burned really bad on taxi fees. I didn’t ask for prices from a few companies but went with an offer that our hotel had posted on their website, thinking it must be a good deal. It wasn’t. They had a taxi company on the premises and all of the guests were encouraged to book them. I think we paid something like 50 JD for the trip and it was a proper rip-off. I went to the same company to ask for transport from the Dead Sea to Wadi Rum and the price they gave me was almost 60 JD more expensive than a different company. It pays to ask around and don’t go for the first option.

I found the taxi drivers super annoying. Especially in places like Wadi Musa (home of Petra), where there are a lot of tourists and the taxi guys just try to get you to book them for other trips and pressure you into making the booking on the spot.

Check what sort of hotel you are booking. In case you like a bottle of wine with dinner, some resorts will not offer that option. I found that most international resorts (like Movenpick) will cater for tourists, however, some hotels owned by locals (like the one we stayed in Wadi Musa) will not have that option at all. When we asked they said the hotel is being used by locals and that’s why they don’t offer alcohol.

Don’t dress provocatively. Jordan is a Muslim and conservative country and even though they are used to tourists, there is no need to stir attention for no reason. Respect the local customs and adjust your wardrobe. Of course in hotel resorts and the Dead Sea nobody would object to seeing you in a bikini, but in villages and towns, it’s better to dress conservatively.

What Not to Miss in Jordan

Jordan is a big country and if you want to see most of the highlights, I would recommend a holiday longer than a week, 10 days ideally.

On my trip, we only had five days so we focused on the main points of interest. One of the problems is that these places are spread out throughout the country, and Jordan being the size it is, it takes a while to commute. Public transport is very limited to my knowledge, so you can’t rely on buses to get around teh whole country.

Here are the highlights of my trip and a few tips relating to each:

The Ancient City of Petra, Wadi Musa

The number one thing I tell everyone is get there EARLY.  And by that, I mean 6am when the gates open.

Buy Jordan Pass online to save yourself some time and when you get to the visitor center simply show your pass and they will give you a ticket.  If I would come for second time, I would book a guide to tell me more about the place as the leaflet you get at the visitor centre is fairly limited.

Take pictures at the Treasury as fast as you can because people will keep pouring in after 7am. There will be local kids trying to sell your route recommendation to get to the top of the rocks to get a better view of the Treasury, but you can simply watch other tourists climbing the rocks and they will show you the way. Local guide will be also able to point out the way to get to the top.

Now a frequent question – 1 day pass or 2 day pass. If you have enough time, get the two day pass. There is plenty to see and the site is not enjoable in the afternoon when it gets ovecrowded. Two early morning visits will give you plenty of time to enjoy all Petra has to offer in peace.

the Monastery in Petra, last stop

view from above, the Treasury

climbing up to see the Monastery

Dip in the Dead Sea

Staying in a hotel by the Dead Sea was another highlight of the trip. If you’re lucky enough with good weather, you will see a spectacular sunset that is reflecting on the surface of the water like glass. In my case there was quite a bit of dust or pollution in the air, so we didn’t get as clear pink shades of sunset.

The access to the Dead Sea is very limited, it’s not like any other seaside where you can simply stop by the road and go in for a dip. The more accessible parts were in the south, the north is dominated by tall cliffs overlooking the sea and is virtually inaccessible unless you’re staying in one of the hotels which have man-built access.

Having said that, it’s not impossible to make a stop on the road and find your way to the sea, it’s not just that easy. Each of the hotels offers mud from the sea to spread on your skin (something you will have to find yourself if you just stop by the road). Apart from the hotels, there is nothing else in the area and the only dining options are inside the hotels. There are a few companies that make cosmetics using the mud from the Dead Sea and you can purchase the products in their factory.

Some of them are: Zoar ** Ashtar Natural Dea Sea Products ** Muhtaseb Cosmetics

Night in Wadi Rum Dessert

After Petra, this is one of my top memories from the trip. The landscape looks quite different on a clear sunny day when the blue sky provides a beautiful contrast to the brown and beige sand dunes and rocks in the background.

Choose one of the recommended hotels I mentioned earlier and book yourself a desert safari. These camps are run by Beduins and are very simple, so if you want something like private toilet and bathroom, you will have to pay a bit more. The prices start from somewhere around 15 eur per night.

our casa for one night

our safari guides

this car has taken a lot of beating but it got us back to the camp safely

Beduin BBQ for dinner

What Else to See

There were quite a few things that I would love to see for which there was simply not enough time. Here are the highlights you can use as inspiration for booking your own trip:

Mount Nebo – Mount Nebo is an elevated ridge 710 metres above sea level. According to the Hebrew Bible, it was the place where Moses was granted a view of the Promised Land. PS – Nebo means Heaven in the Slovak language.

Amman Citadel – I haven’t seen anything in Amman and it would be one of the places where there is so much to discover!

Dana Biosphere Reserve – perfect for an off-season trip to do a little bit of hiking and exploring the nature

Feynan ecolodge – this looks like cut out from National Geographics, stunning eco accommodation option in the middle of beautiful nature.

Ma’in Hot Springs – natural waterfalls and hot springs close to the Dead Sea

Little Petra – we drove around this place in a taxi and it looked as impressive as Petra, minus the grand architectural marvels

Baptismal Site of Jesus Christ – on borders with Israel

Mujib Nature Reserve – perfect for hiking in an off-season

Jerash – for Roman ruins

Childrens Museum – if you’re traveling with kids.

Aquaba – for water sports, Red Sea and diving

Wine Tasting – Jordan River is one of the wines I got home as a souvenir and would love to do a proper tasting experience on my next trip.

This map shows all the highlights of Jordan along with their location, super handy for planning your trip. More ideas available on Lonely Planet.

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