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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. In Wadi Rum, 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.

Indiana Jones Petra

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:

Wadi Rum: Desert landscapes from another planet, Wadi Rum played host to the filing of ’Lawrence of Arabia’ and it’s easy to see why. Packed with undulating sand dunes and mountains to take your breath, surrounded in 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 which is a great experience and watching the sunset/sunrise here is something close to magical.

Day trips costs around $50 where 2 days/1night cost around $75. I went for the latter and had an unbelievable time.

Wadi Rum desert

Wadi Rum Landscape

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.

One tip not to forget: 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!! Check out the contrast….

The Treasury Petra

6am at Petra
Petra at 6am
Backers guide to Petra
Petra at noon

 

The Dead Sea: 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.

Reading a book in the Dead Sea

Mud at the Dead Sea

Jordan

Budget: $40 – $50 a day. Not 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 2010)

Food: Standard middle eastern fare  – Shawarma, falffel 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.

Transport: 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.

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.

Weather: 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

Visa: VOA free for nearly all nationalities. NOTE: You have to pay 8 Dinar ($13) departure tax, regardless of mode of transport.

Getting there: 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.

 

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25 thoughts on “A Backpackers Guide to Jordan

  1. Thank you for your guide! As it’s years old, I guess the prices have changed (up) a bit, but it’s still interesting to get tips from other travelers 🙂

    Cheers

  2. Hello, I’m a Jordanian and I just wanted to thank you for those kind words.
    I love my country and I think more people should recognize it even though it’s not that large or powerful,
    So thank you 🙂

  3. Incredible! This is really
    informative and useful blog. I appreciate that Israel is a best and unique tourism
    place
    in allover world. I had gone to Israel for tour of two days with my friends by
    help of mantis-tours.com which is best tourism Company in Israel. Petra is the one of the best places in Israel.
    Really this was great memorable moment of my life. Thank you very much for
    sharing this information with us.

  4. Going to Amman for 5 days in 2 weeks (Aug 18th – 24th). I know it’s going to be hot but coming from Dubai so I’ll survive. I am going to backpack and just try and get as much in as possible. Minimum is Dead Sea, Kerak and Petra.
    The dream would be to add some of Madaba, Wadi Rum or Jerash.
    Never traveled alone before so all tips big or small appreciated!

    1. wadi rum is a must mate, unreal! i’d put petra first, then wadi rum then dead sea – you can do that in 6 days for sure 🙂

  5. Hi
    Just doing some research and came across your site! Awesome!

    Do you by any chance remember the “not so authentic” beduin camp and tour provider that you used in Wadi Rum? Seems to be quite the scope available from $1500(someone got ripped off!!!) to $100 for an overnight stay and tour. Some have had some bad reviews, but then again peopel expect different things.

    Cheers and happy further travels

    1. i can’t remember im afraid Nikolai but i still had a great experience. I went with the cheapest and i guess i got what i paid for, that being said, Wadi Rum is bloody gorgeous

  6. Hey Johnny,
    Amazing post and amazing experience as usual. I am planning to visit Jordan next weekend from Qatar and had a couple of questions 4u:
    – Any recommended backpackers’ place in Amman? I’ll use it as a base.
    – I am a bit tight of schedule and I will have only two days, and was planning Dead Sea first then Petra in the 2nd one. Is there freedom to leave these places when you wish or you have to stay the whole visit with the group once you have paid the entrance? I guess a taxi would make it easier for me but obviously at a higher budget. Would it be worth it at all to hire a car?
    – You said we Europeans do not need pre-arranged visa, right?
    – And last, how do you manage to get to Petra @5.50am if you have to pay the entrance or go with a group? I remember Abu Simbel Temples in Egypt was something similar but you depended on your tour guide as it was not other way to visit.
    Thanks in advance for your help,
    Diego

    1. Hey Diego,

      Let me have a bash at these questions then:

      – i stayed in the Sun Rise hotel, which is 20metre from the Abdali station, get there and ask someone and you’ll be set. It’s one of the cheapest around (less than $5)

      – I never go with tours so you’r free to do what you want. I stayed in the city that Petra was in (Wadi Musa i think) so i set my alarm for 5am and walked down myself. For the dead sea you can take a bus or a taxi straight to it, and again you’re free to go when or where you want. The taxi is about $20 return so share it if you can, but it’s the best option imo.

      – VOA (visa on arrival) so no stress there mate

      Hope that helps mate, keep me posted 🙂

      johnny

      1. It indeed helps mate, thanks a lot! Will try the Sun Rise hotel then. So just to make sure, driving is not worth it in Jordan, is it?
        Thanks again!

        1. i wouldn’t bother mate, unless you go south to aqaba – i hear it’s nice there. Egypt is better for diving tho i think

          1. Ok Johnny, sorry to bother you again, last question I promise!
            Any good backpackers hotel in Petra / Wadi Musa? Thx a lot!

  7. Nice blog johnny

    Will keep print out with me, very helpful. I do have some Qs for you.

    Do I need to see all places by just staying in Ammam or can I move and see ??? I mean is backpacking in Jordan is possible ???
    Is Jordan safe ??? How are people ???
    Can I get veg meals anywhere ???
    Is it good country for 14 days travel ??? I can get 14 days Visa on Arrival at Ammam airport.

    Thanx

    1. hey, from Amman u can see the Dead Sea and obviously explore the city. It is possible to run day trips to Petra from Amman but it involves an early start and late finish and to be honest you’ll be knackered from walking around Petra all day so i reckon it’d be better to get the bus to Wadi Musa, sleep there, and see Petra from there (that’s what i did).

      From there then you can go on to Aqaba, see Wadi Rum and Aqaba – 2 awesome places. All that should take 7-10 days, 14 days if you’re chilling, sun-bathing etc so 2 weeks is more than enough 🙂 Veg meals are available sure, there’s a lot of tourism in Jordon so everything is available. It’s as safe as safe can be, very friendly people – no stresses there i assure u of that. Any more questions, feel free to send me an email or ask me on here 🙂 good luck, it’s an amazing country

      1. Thanks Johnny,

        Very useful.

        It seems Jordan is a very small country and travel times are less due to good roads & transport.

        Is public transport reliable and covers all parts of Jordan ?? Will I be able to get accommodation as I go ?

        Pls suggest me some budget accommodations (single) if you remember ??

        How many days can I spend for Petra and wadi rum ???. Is it possible to get permits for 4/5 days ???. Can I walk to Petra from Wadi Musa very early in the morning ???

        I am a shutterbug and take thousands of photos and then edit in my PC. Also I don’t like to include people in my photos.

        Can you suggest me locations route staring from Amman airport and ending at Amman airport ?? I am asking you a lot I believe. Is Lonely planet guide good for Jordan ??

        Regards,

        Jayanraj

  8. Nice comments! I understand no reason to go to Dead Sea in February? If I wish to visit some other sightseeings like castles in Jerash, Ajloun, Kerak I can easily get there by public buses?

    1. The Dead sea is the Dead Sea regardless of the month mate – i think it’d still be worth a visit for sure, but – up to you 🙂 Public transport is decent so, from Amman, you can get everywhere in the country within 2 days max, but probably one day. Hope that helps!

  9. Hey mate! Any chance you can provide details how to reach the “free Dead see beach”? Someone threw me these coordinates… is this it?
    31°36’3.20″N 35°33’44.12″E

    1. hahaha – errrrm yeah?!

      jump in a cab mate -costs abut $10 each (min 3 ppl) and takes about an hour each way. Give the driver those coordinates, he’ll know EXACTLY where to go then…

  10. Wow, thanks for the writeup. We’re seriously considering Jordan for our RTW trip next year. I don’t like how expensive it is to get to from Egypt though… hmmm..

    What does the ticket to Petra include? Just the admission price?

    1. yeah i know it’s very pricey! u can go cheaper via Israel but then u get a host of new problems with the israeli stamp, altho jordan will still accept you (Syria and lebanon won’t tho)

      The petra ticket is one full day admission and a tacky horse ride to the entrance, 2 days is better value but still pricey :S

      you guys shud defo go if u get the chance, it’s a cracking place

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