Backpacking in Jordan; A CHEAP guide to Jordan

UPDATE 2021: Way before I made my millions from starting my travel blog, I traveled around the world broke af. And I loved it. I did an epic Cape Town to Cairo trip via public transport, and I continued on to every country in the Middle East. I ended up backpacking Jordan. Expecting it to be expensive, but you know what? Jordan CAN be done on a budget.

And after all, if Indiana Jones felt the need to visit Jordan then who are we to argue with its merits? What Jordan lacks in geographical size it more than makes up for in world-class attractions. Backpacking in Jordan means visiting Wadi Rum, visiting Petra and the Dead Sea.

Jordan has 3 world-class reasons to draw tourists from around the globe and no-one goes home disappointed. One week may well be enough to quench your Jordanian thirst but every last drop should be savoured because this place truly blows your mind.

EDIT 2021: I blogged an IN-DEPTH a Jordan Itinerary here, 7 days in Jordan. Check it out.

backpacking in jodan
Petra, Jordan

There are many places to see in Jordan but if you find yourself strapped for time and are asking ‘what should I see in Jordan’ then look no further. You won’t want to miss these 3 absolute gems on a budget:

(CHEAP!) Things to See in Jordan

Wadi Rum:

Desert landscapes from another planet, Wadi Rum played host to the filming of ’Lawrence of Arabia’ and it’s easy to see why.

Packed with undulating sand dunes and mountains to take your breath, surrounded by deep desert which changes colour with every degree the sun moves throughout the day, Wadi Rum can be organized as a day trip from Aqaba or Amman but to be honest, it’s better to stay the night.

You can stay with the Bedouin, the indigenous people of the region, in one of their (not so) genuine local camps in the desert. It’s a great experience and watching the sunset/sunrise here is something close to magical.

CHEAP? Yes, it is! You can organise a desert camp stay, overnight, with a ‘desert safari’ for about $20! Easy to organise in both Aqaba, Amman, or right here. Now that’s a bargain.

If you’re NOT backpacking and you want some luxury, I stayed at the Memories Aicha Luxury Camp ($250+ per night) the 2nd time I came to Jordan. It was INSANE!

TOP-TIP: You can day trip to Wadi Rum from Aqaba for about $100 HERE.

backpacking in jordan
Wadi Rum
Bedouin at Wadi Rum

Petra:

I’m going to struggle to articulate the awe you feel when you first see the Treasury at Petra (that’s the Indiana Jones temple from the Last Crusade gentlemen) but let’s just say it’s rather impressive.

Temples and tombs carved from sandstone that reach 45 metres in height, the sight itself is massive. You’ll need 2 days before you get your fill of the Petra (‘rock’ in the Greek language) but it doesn’t come cheap – since the price hike in November 2010, a one day ticket costs around $70 with the two days offering much better value at $80.

TOP-TIP: I blogged the best way to visit Petra here. On one of your days, be at Petra around 5.50am. The gates open at 6am and there will be NO ONE there. You’ll have the entire place to yourself for over an hour, it’s an eerily and impressive experience and one that I couldn’t believe wasn’t more popular.

Your photos will be tourist-free and on your way back you can laugh in the faces of the hordes of tourists and their crowded Petra pics!!

CHEAP? If you bought the Jordan Pass when you arrived in the country, then the entrance to Jordan is FREEEEE! So yeah, it’s cheap. Also, skip the Petra by night if you’re on a budget. It’s expensive, and looks better in pics.

Best viewpoint for Petra
The Treasury, Petra all to ourselves. Read on to find out how…

The Dead Sea in Jordan:

The lowest place on earth according to many sources, the Dead Sea is a ‘must-sea’ (get it??) on your Jordan itinerary.

It can be done in a day trip from Amman and in fact, that’s probably your best bet if you’re on a budget as accommodation and food in the region will run up bills with more zeroes than your bank account. From Amman, public transport is a real mission so my advice would be to get together with a couple of people and treat yourself to a taxi.

It costs around $40 for the cab (4 ppl, $10 each) and is well worth it for an entertaining day of covering yourself with the famous skin-regenerating Dead Sea mud and reading your book while floating in the water.

NOTE: There are 3 ‘official’ beaches on the Jordanian side – Amman beach (around $25 entry fee, with showers and good facilities), the public beach ($15 dollars, bucket showers and average facilities) and the free beach (a bit of a dump but the same water, free mud and, well… free!).

Naturally, they all offer the same awesome effect from the high salt levels so the budget travelers head to the free beach. That’s what I did and I think it offers far and away the best value for money. Be careful though, taxi drivers work on beach commission so they’ll try to discourage you.

CHEAP? If you take the bus from Amman ($3), and go to the free beach, and the bus back, then you can do that all for less than $10. Just bring some snacks.

LAZY TOP-TIP: No need to stay over at the Dead Sea. Day trips from Amman are easiest, and can be booked for under $60 HERE!

Jordan one week itinerary
Dead Sea time

Other places to Visit in Jordan?

If you have more time, spend a day in Jerash, 2 days in Amman, and 2 or 3 days relaxing and scuba in Aqaba.

  • Jerash (included in your Jordan pass!)
  • Amman (walking around the city is free, check out the ‘amman pasha hotel’ for coffee on the rooftop, the views are epic!).
  • Aqaba (the only place to party in Jordan, if you’re after that. Generic beach resort full of holiday makers).
7 days schedule jordan
Jerash, Jordan

Backpacking in Jordan Guide

Budget per day:

Backpacking in Jordan can be done on $40 – $50 a day. Not super cheap folks however this is largely down to the activities and pace at which you travel through the country. Petra – $80, Dead Sea excursion – $20, Wadi Rum – $80 and that adds up quickly, especially when you’re doing things on consecutive days.

On the bright side, you can see most of Jordan’s famous sights in under a week. So take the hit for a few days, have an amazing time and escape before you’re broke.

Currency:

1 Jordan Dinar – $1.41 USD (November 2021)

Food:

Standard delicious middle eastern fare. Shawarma, falafel etc. Street food costs around $.50-$2.0 and is pretty delicious. Eating in restaurants, especially around the attractions, costs $5+++.

Accommodation:

Each major town offers a sprinkling of cheap accommodation. You can find dorms for around $5 -$8 in Aqaba, Wadi Musa (Petra) and Amman but if you miss the backpacker hostels and take one step up in class you’re looking at $25 minimum.

Getting Around Jordan:

Easy! Nice buses, good roads, no need to book ahead. Just head to the local bus station, preferably early in the morning, and sort out your departure. The old rule of one dollar = one hour in a bus is lost in Jordan though. Triple that and you’ll be about right.

The People:

Coming from the West, as usual, we find the local people hugely welcoming. If you can ignore the hawkers around Petra then you’ll only have warm words about the people of  Jordan.

Language:

Arabic but thanks largely to the good standard of education and the massive tourist industry, plenty of English is spoken nationwide.

Best time to vist Jordan:

The seasons follow those of Europe so try to avoid December – February when temperatures can get as low as 10 degrees. Equally, however, you’ll want to July and August with their 40 degrees + temperatures.

Religion:

Predominantly Islam but Christianity is widespread too.

Jordan Visa; AND should you get the Jordan Pass?

Visa on arrival for almost every nationality (40JOD/$56)

A ‘Jordan Pass’ is availably in advance online for 70JOD ($98) which is your visa cost PLUS all entrances to sights around Jordan, including Petra which is 50 JD ($70) anyway. So YES, get the Jordan pass.

Getting to Jordan:

The main routes to Jordan are:

Egypt via the expensive ferry running from Nuweiba-Aqaba. $80, one hour.

Isreal: Sheik Hussein, King Hussein and Wadi Araba bridges are all now open, just remember about that troublesome Isreali stamp in your passport.

Syria: 2 crossing north of Amman (about 90 mins driving) are Ramtha/Deera and Jabir/Nasib. Both are easily accessible. It costs around $15 from Amman to Damascus but your transport may not wait for you if you have visa issues on the Syrian border. Beware.

Night life or alcohol?

Jordan is a super friendly, liberal country by Middle Eastern standards. But it is NOT a party country. Don’t expect much nightlife when backpacking in Jordan, and in Petra/Wadi Musa alcohol isn’t even allowed. If you’re dying for some nightlife in Jordan, the resort town of Aqaba is your only chance.

Insurance for Jordan?

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Final thoughts on backpacking in Jordan

I have been to Jordan 3 times. Once broke, once for work, and once with money. And it was amazing each and every time It’s completely possible to backpacking in Jordan for about $50 a day, visit Petra, the Dead Sea, Amman and Wadi Rum all within about 5 days.

If you’re not on a tight budget, a better Jordan itinerary is 7 days in Jordan. I did that with my wife last year in luxury, and it was unreal. Either way, it’s affordable! Enjoy

backpacking in jordan
Wadi Rum, Jordan

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