The Ultimate Guide to Jordan | Of Miles & Musings

9th Feb 2018
Photo of The Ultimate Guide to Jordan | Of Miles & Musings by Khyati Maloo

So when I decided to travel to this beautiful country, I was prepared to face a few raised eyebrows. A lot of shocked faces and tonnes of questions right from "Is it safe?" to "You do know what is happening in the news, right?" Let us not forget the blatant statement "You are taking this whole travelling the world thing a bit too far! Why don't you go to Europe?" Well, unfortunately, one tends to make a final judgment of the country relying on western news sources. For, everything in mainstream media may or may not be the utter truth. And with the number of travel blogs I read, there was no scope of clouding my judgment with what most media has to say. Which is why I thought of writing this guide to Jordan and specifying how easy it is to travel around the country.

The concerns deepen not only because Jordan is a part of the middle east. But perhaps because it shares its borders with Saudi Arabia, Syria, Egypt - basically some of the most controversial countries of our times. Yet again, there is no place you could call the safest. May it be the sudden shootings in broad daylight in the USA, terrorist attacks in Europe, Molestation and Rape in Asia. Terror is everywhere, the least you can do is be careful of your surroundings while travelling, just as you are otherwise.

Photo of The Ultimate Guide to Jordan | Of Miles & Musings 1/4 by Khyati Maloo

Why you should visit Jordan

There is a lot that Jordan has to offer to a traveller - Culture, History, Food, Nature reserves and unsurpassed hospitality. I wanted to experience all of it and more. The tourism industry plays a significant role in Jordan's economy. With the onset of increasing tension in the neighbouring countries Jordan's economy is hit hard, primarily because of two reasons: Increasing number of refugees (about 6 million of them) and Decreasing number of tourist (About 70% decrease, due safety concerns).

Jordan, though rich in history, is a reasonably modern Arabic country. Having been to Jordan, I can vouch for one's safety and also how the economy needs tourism to revive itself. Jordan has welcomed refugees with open arms. Some neighbourhoods in Amman are dominated by refugees. Luckily we have several kind souls helping them by volunteering (both locals and travellers).

One can spend time teaching kids or donating money to many organisations working for them. I met a bunch of individuals from France, they were working on a project where they taught kids vocational skills like music, video making and photography. If one does not have the time to volunteer the least one can do is to take that much-needed break from your monotonous life and visit Jordan. Not just for leisure nor for adventure but to give the country a boost and to give back the community.

There are so many ways you can help them. Imagine, your travel bug could help this land of unparalleled hospitality. And in return, you get to fuel your wanderlust - sounds like a fair deal to me. I really hope my guide to Jordan helps answer all of your doubts and inspires you to visit this beautiful land!

How to score a Jordan tourist visa on an Indian passport? Should I buy the Jordan travel pass?

Indian passport holders can let out a sigh of relief here, they can obtain Jordan tourist visa on arrival. Jordan visa on arrival is valid for 14 days and costs JD 40, it is free of charge if you have a valid Jordan pass.

You can also obtain a visa from the embassy in India, this visa is also valid for 14 days and will cost of JD 124. It will take about 4-7 days to process your visa.

To find out the details of obtaining a Jordan tourist visa, read my full blog.

Think of Jordan pass as a unified ticket' that help one save a lot of costs while visiting this beautiful country. It is tailor-made for all kinds of travellers and can be modified as well. The Jordan pass comes in three categories to suit all types of visits. I saved a total of 60 JD by purchasing the Jordan Pass. Read the full blog on my experience of buying the Jordan pass here.

Photo of The Ultimate Guide to Jordan | Of Miles & Musings 2/4 by Khyati Maloo

When is the best time to go to Jordan?

I visited Jordan in February, which is regarded as the low season. The great thing is all the activities are functional, and a few art festivals take place around the same time, so you don't miss out on any experience. Weather is chilly, especially in dessert, more on this below.

Major festivals of Jordan

Held in February in the coastal town of Aqaba, the traditional arts festival celebrates Bedouin cultural. Bedouins are the minority group that resides in the part of the world since middle ages, they were formerly gipsies who wandered and lived across Wadi Musa and Wadi Rum. During this festival, Bedouins showcase their art crafts in the form of a trade fair. Perfect festival to witness their traditions.

Another reason to visit Jordan in February, this festival occurs in Azraq! You are sure to have a gala time during this festival with local music, traditional food and cultural crafts! Definitely one of the lesser-known festivals globally but no less significant!

Amman International Theatre Festival

Calling out all the theatre buffs! Held in March in the capital city of Amman, this festival is a great place to find some of the freshest theatre talents talent from all over Jordan.

The historical city of Jerash has more than a million reasons to visit! One of them being the most significant cultural celebration of Jordan. You will drown yourself in music, dance, literature, food, craft and a bunch of workshops during this festival. A treat like no other! For more details on Jerash, read my guide.

Photo of The Ultimate Guide to Jordan | Of Miles & Musings 3/4 by Khyati Maloo

Cheapest time to visit Jordan / low season in Jordan

Jordan being a dessert country, both summer and winters are extreme! Also why they are the low season and cheapest time to visit Jordan. Summer months in Jordan are June to August - this time it is exceptionally humid around gulf od Aqaba and endearingly hot in the desert of Wadi Rum. Winter months in Jordan are from December to February- nights are freezing and the days are relatively pleasant. I went to Jordan in February, most of the activities are on for tourist to visit.

Best time to visit Jordan weather wise

High season:

Spring is the most visited season of Jordan, this extends from March till May. During this time the temperature is pleasant, and skies are clear. Which means this is a great time to stay over in Wadi Rum and sleep under the stars! It is also the best time to float in the dead sea and to hike to see the wildflowers. To everyone who wishes to scuba dive in Jordan, visit during the month of March to May.

Mi d Season:

Autumn months in Jordan are September to early November, it is a reasonably busy touristy season. As the first rainfall hits in early October, outdoor starts to cool down, and we see a carpet of blooms. The manageable temperatures make it easy to hike in Petra and visit desert the likes of Wadi Rum.

Low Season:

Both Summer (June to August) and Winter (December to February) are the least frequented months by travellers. Summers are definitely unbearable if you plan to take on outdoor activities. And wintertime in a desert can be really harsh, with occasional snowfall around the high altitude regions of Wadi Musa (Petra). Though I did visit Jordan in February, and I think it is entirely doable. Bonus points for you save a ton of your travel budget on accommodation! Nights sure can be spine chilling in the desert (Wadi Rum) so if you plan to visit Jordan in February do carry enough winter clothing.

What to pack for Jordan

Your Jordan packing essential highly depends on the season you plan to visit Jordan in. Needless to say, you will need to pack airy/light coloured clothing if you visit Jordan in the summer months and enough and more warm clothes for winters. Keeping basic clothes and shoes aside, I have compiled the ultimate packing list of all the essential items you need to pack for Jordan.

Essentials to pack for Jordan

Sun Protection: Loads of sunscreen, believe me, you never have enough of sunscreen when visiting a Jordan! Most of the outdoor activities will take place in a desert where the body gets dehydrated real easy. Also, if you plan to camp in one of the deserts for a couple of days, you will not have access to necessary supplies. Carry enough sunscreen, after all, you wouldn't want sunburns in the middle of nowhere. In addition to that, carry an excellent sunglass and a hat. Waterproof bag and phone case: Very important! Not just if you are visiting Jordan in the wet season. Carry a small 6L waterproof bag to keep all your belongings safe for your beach activities near the dead sea or Aqaba. I highly recommend my waterproof bag. Quick-dry towel: A super essential item if you wish to visit the dead sea on a budget. The dead sea has a free beach and a 4-star hotel, at the hotel you can a fee to use services like - changing room, towels, pool, restaurant. Whereas the free beach doesn't have any such services. Moreover, many of the desert camps have basic to no toiletries, always right to carry a lightweight quick-dry towel. Money pouch: This should ideally be on the top of my list! I always carry my stealth money pouch. You can wear it around your waist; it is seamless! Electric adaptor: Jordan uses a standard European non-grounded, two-prong plug (type C) as well as a UK non-grounded, three-prong plug (type G). Buying one in Jordan will be an expensive affair, carry one from your country. Reusable bamboo/steel straw: Let's travel responsibility, shall we? Unlike most countries, Jordan still uses plastic. To minimalise the waste, carry your own reusable bamboo/steel straws. You can buy one here. Portable charger: You wouldn't want your phone battery to die on you while hiking up around Petra or at night in the middle of Wadi Rum! Carry a portable charger, they are a traveller's best friend. Filtration water bottle: You can not drink tap water in Jordan, that means you will end up buying water bottles throughout your trip. Two words: responsible and cheap. As a traveller, it is your responsibility to keep your waste to the minimal. One way to do this is by carrying a filtration water bottle, so you can fill as you go. Also, it is a cheaper alternative to buying plastic water bottles through the trip. A sleeping bag (November to March): Though all the places provide blankets and are equipped with aircon if you are averse to cold carry a sleeping bag for an extra layer of warmth at night. Snacks (Wadi Rum/Desert Camp): Wadi Rum is a protected area, with absolutely no general store or ATM. So better carry some snacks if you plan to camp out at the desert. Yes, the camp will provide you with the meals but no harm bringing some munchies. You can easily pick some dry fruits, pita bread and hummus from the local store before heading to Wadi Rum.

Hope my list of "what to bring to Jordan" helps you pack better and easy your trip planning.

Photo of The Ultimate Guide to Jordan | Of Miles & Musings 4/4 by Khyati Maloo

How to access the internet in Jordan?

Local sim card in Jordan

If you are flying in-to Jordan, you will see a couple of shops in the arrival hall selling travel sim cards. Zain is the best cellular network, and it comes with a bunch of options to suit your needs.

26 USD = 15 GB - unlimited calls to Zain - 1000 min other networks - 50 minutes international calls and valid for 30 days. 32 USD = 20 GB - unlimited calls to Zain - 1000 min other networks - 50 minutes international calls and valid for 30 days. 41 USD = 50 GB - unlimited calls to Zain - 1000 min other networks - 50 minutes international calls and valid for 30 days.

Wifi in Jordan

Most public places in Jordan do not have wifi, you may find a few restaurants with wifi. And it is nearly impossible to get cellular network let alone wifi connectivity in the middle of the desert camp. It's best to buy a local sim or have international roaming activated on your phone to stay connected through Jordan.

Where to go if you're travelling to Jordan for the first time?

First time in Amman

Amman is the capital city of Jordan. If you are flying to Jordan, you will most likely start your journey in Amman. While in Amman I spent a lot of my time in the Rainbow street, one of the busiest streets of Amman, lined with coffee shops, ice cream parlours and antique shops, a great place to soak in the culture of Jordan and also meet fellow travellers.

Apart from that, you have got to visit the Citadel- notable places on the site include the Temple of Hercules, a Byzantine church and the Umayyad Palace. Although archaeologists have been working on the site since the 1920s, significant parts remain unexcavated to this day. Tour the Grand Husseini Mosque and see the Roman amphitheatre. After a long day have dinner at the extremely famous and an all-vegetarian restaurant in downtown Amman -Hashem Restaurant. Amman also happens to be a great centre point to make day trips to - Madaba, Jerash, Dead sea and a few more attractions. More on things to do in Amman coming up on the blog, stay tuned!

First time in Petra

Petra, one of the major attractions in Jordan. It would be safe to say that all the travellers who visit Jordan have Petra on their list. And I was no different. To be honest, when I thought of going to Jordan, I knew of only 2 places of interest - Petra and The Dead Sea. As most of us know, the entire city was carved out of the mountains. The inhabitants had carved out Temples, a Theatre, Tombs, Churches and a Treasury. A number of these structures are well preserved till date. Petra puts forward amalgamation of high culture, geographical, archaeological and natural features. The ancient city has a lot to offer and is best done in 3 days while many do it in 2 days. Here is the ultimate guide to everything you need to know about Petra.

First time in Wadi Rum

Wadi Rum, Nature reserve is by far one of the most exceptional desert experiences I have ever had. Baring Jaisalmer, because of Rajasthani for life *wink wink*. Described by Lawrence of Arabia as "Vast and echoing" Wadi Rum is an outstanding desert landscape. This remarkable landscape is a protected area, it covers over 700 sq. Km. One can spend days and weeks exploring it, I was there for just 2 days and 1 night. Read about my experience and everything you should know about Wadi Rum.

First time in Jerash

The ancient city of Jerash is located 48 km North of Amman towards Syria. For centuries Jerash was hidden in the sand, its 6500 years of history was excavated in 1800's by a German explorer. The city prospered under the rule of General Pompey, it was known a Gerasa at that time and acknowledged as a best-preserved Roman provincial town in the world. Jerash reveals an excellent example of the grand, formal provincial Roman urbanism that is found throughout the Middle East. Comprising paved and collonaded streets, soaring hilltop temples, handsome theatres, spacious public squares and plazas, baths, fountains and city walls pierced by towers and gates. Read my detailed guide to Jerash to help you plan your Jordan trip better.

First time in Aqaba

The only coastal city oh Jordan sits in the Gulf of Aqaba. The first thing that comes to me when someone talks about Jordan are camels plopping across mars like land, remains of ancient cities, sandboarding through the dunes and maybe a shisha or two! Aqaba is a breeze of change in the Jordanian landscape. It comes with opulent resorts, sprawling beach houses, a crazy nightlife! Primarily frequented by locals to blow off some steam by the red sea! That brings me to why I went to Aqaba- to dive in the Red sea! Other things to do in Aqaba- take a boat trip through the gif of Aqaba, visit the historical sites, relax at one of the beach houses or attend a party at the many night clubs.

Offbeat Places to visit in Jordan

While the above, here is my list of some of the most offbeat destinations.

Mosaics of Madaba, the worlds oldest map of the holy land. You can easily visit Madaba by taking a bus from Amman, I spent half a day soaking in the vibe. River Canyons of Areedh, nestled near the dead sea. These canyons are a great stopover for adventure lovers. Mount Nembo, one of the most sacred sites for Christians. Mount Nebo houses the memorial of Moses. Its religious and historical importance also showcases splendid views of the valley. The Dead Sea, did you even visit Jordan if you did not float in the dead sea? Make sure you visit during the pleasant months to be able to enjoy the experience.

How expensive is Jordan?

Jordan is not very budget-friendly, with little or no hostels your overall cost can shoot up quickly. Aside from accommodation, you will end up spending a ton of money in cabs or hiring a car to travel from one city to another. While it is challenging to travel length and breadth of Jordan on a shoestring budget, it isn't nearly impossible! I travelled through Jordan for 8 days and spent 308 USD, that is 38.5 USD/day. This includes all of my accommodation, food, scuba dive, Jordan pass, Jordan visa, day and night pass to Petra, entrance fee if any.

The average cost of travelling in Jordan

Cost of staying in Jordan:

At one point tourism was thriving in Jordan. Still, with increasing conflict, the hospitality industry has taken a hit. As a result, you may find several hotel chains but very few BnBs and hostels. A budget room will cost you between 12 USD to 50 USD depending on the season and location. In most cases, this includes free breakfast. For 4/5 star hotels, you would end up paying 90 USD and upwards.

Cost of internal transportation in Jordan:

The best way to travelling around between inter-city is public buses. Amman (the capital city of Jordan) has excellent connectivity to go to nearby towns of Jerash and Madaba. There are two bus stations - North and South - and everything is written in Arabic. I asked the hotel reception for the right bus station, also ask them to write your destination's name in Arabic and English. This comes in handy to decipher the foreign language pasted on the bus (and is quicker than google translate).

Also, you can always show that at the ticket counter, and the rep will guide you well. These buses are equipped with heaters, and are super fun! Jordanians are very friendly, and you would end up conversing with one or two of them every ride. Word of caution: everyone seems to love smoking in Jordan, avoid taking the bus if you can't bear the smell of a cigarette around you. Another option to travel is to hire a cab, both the bus stations are lined with them. Cab drivers will crowd you and start convincing you to take one. It is an excellent option if you are travelling in a group and definitely much faster. But if you are travelling solo or as a couple a cab will eat up your daily budget. A short distance bus would cost you up to 3 USD (one way), and a long-distance Volvo bus ride will cost you 23 USD (one way). A cab, on the other hand, really depends on your negotiation skills! They will start anywhere from 20 USD (one way) for a short trip (Amman to Jerash), and a long ride (Amman to Petra) will hit your budget by 100 USD. Hiring a cab service is the best way to travel internally, I needed to hire on in Amman. I highly recommend him, he was a sweetheart and very reasonably priced. Write to me, and I'll share his phone number.

Cost of food and drinks in Jordan:

The cost of eating out in Jordan can be minimal if you pick restaurants carefully and stick to local dishes. A falafel sandwich or a Shawarma would cost you about 1 USD to 1.5 USD in most places, while at a touristy place like Petra that cost shoots to 5 USD to 8 USD. Tea at most locations is priced at 0.7 USD, and a Turkish coffee ranges from 2 USD to 3 USD. Bustling cities like that of Amman and Aqaba have many western food joints - Starbucks, MC-Donalds, Burger King, Costa Coffee, Dominoes and more. Prices there is pretty much the same standard as are in India.

Travel tips for experiencing Jordan on a budget

Buy the Jordan pass:

A unified ticket to all the major attractions of Jordan, including Petra! I saved over 60 USD by purchasing the pass. The pass comes in 3 variants depending on how many days visits you wish to do to for Petra. The pass doesn't cover Petra by night. Read more on Jordan pass here.

Eat Local:

Eating out in Jordan isn't very expensive if you stick to local dishes. A meal for one will cost only about 3 USD to 6 USD! Whereas if you eat western cuisine, you will end up spending 10 USD in a meal. Fast-food chains are cheap, but c'mon you didn't travel halfway across the globe to eat an undercooked burger that won't decay now, did you?

Free activities:

There are several activities in Jordan that you can do for free! A few museums are free, visit a beach, snorkelling by the shore, walking around the old quarters.

Use student ID card

If you are a student, use your ID card to get discounts at various attractions.

How to survive as a vegetarian in Jordan?

Jordan, a predominantly Arabic country, has a lot to offer to a real food lover. Right from succulent kebabs to wholesome maqluba, Jordanians love their meat. Still, Vegetables and pulses do find their way on Jordanian platter. Most of which is in the form of dips, sides and salad, there is very little or no main course vegetarian options. The average cost of a vegetarian meal is 3 JD. I have a detailed guide of what order as a vegetarian in Jordan, along with a list of my favourite vegetarian eateries in Jordan.

Photo of Aqaba, Jordan by Khyati Maloo

Diving in Jordan

Jordan is a divers paradise, thanks to the Red sea! Yes, many would say Egypt side of the Red sea is far better to dive in, but hey! A true diver won't dis any waters. Spring (March till May) is the best season to go diving in Jordan. The temperature is pleasant, skies clear and the visibility of the water much better. Moreover, several dive shops shut business during the winter months (October till early February) as a result of which you won't find a lot of options.

I dived with Aqaba adventure divers.1 shore dive would cost you around 50 USD to 100USD and a whole day on a boat with 1 dive will cost you 100 USD and 2 dives will cost you 155 USD..

So that was it from my side! Hope this answers most of your questions about visiting Jordan. What more would you like me to add on to my guide to Jordan? Do tell me in the comments below!

This Ultimate Guide to Jordan was originally published on the blog Of Miles and Musings