Jordan is a small Middle Eastern country that occupies under 100,000 square kilometers including the Dead Sea, which makes it similar in size to Portugal and Austria. However, what will really surprise you (among many things) about Jordan is the array of climates and landscapes, as well as the country’s rich history all the way back to the Paleolithic period and spanning through the Hellenistic period, Ottoman rule and eventual establishment of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan.
Though Jordan’s location doesn’t make it the most obvious travel destination, I can tell you from personal experience that Jordan will surpass all of your expectations whether you travel for cultural experiences, incredible food or breathtaking sights. If you’re thinking about planning a trip to Jordan, there are some important things that you should know first – read on for essential Jordan travel tips and information!
11 things to know when traveling to Jordan
1. Get the Jordan Pass
If you plan on staying in Jordan for more than 3 nights then you absolutely should purchase the Jordan Pass for 70 Jordanian Dinars or “JOD” (approximately US$99). The Jordan Pass is not a physical card or ticket – you must purchase it online ahead of your trip, and a PDF containing a QR code is e-mailed to you afterwards. All you have to do is show your ticket at any of the 40 attractions covered by the pass across Jordan, including Petra.
Not only do you save massively on entrance costs throughout Jordan, the Jordan Pass also covers your entry visa into Jordan, as long as you are staying for more than 3 nights. The Jordan visa-on-arrival costs 40 JOD, and a 1-day pass for Petra costs 50 JOD. The basic Jordan Pass costs 70 JOD. You do the math!
2. Jordan is a tourist-friendly country
From the straightforward visa-on-arrival counters to the Jordan Pass and warm hospitality, Jordan is one of the most tourist-friendly countries I have visited. The Jordan tourism website is actually well-designed, functional and a helpful resource (unlike some others, *ahem*), and the staff at the hotels we stayed at throughout Jordan were knowledgeable, well-trained and more than happy to help. Sure, there are always exceptions to the rule, but the vast majority of people we interacted with were eager to answer our questions and help with bookings and recommendations.
We traveled as a couple independently around Jordan in mid-2019 without a guide or driver, and found the experience easy, straightforward and fairly stress-free. However, there are a few things to note ahead of your trip on safety and security in Jordan: though Jordan shares borders with Iraq and Syria, it has been relatively immune to the instability plaguing the region with the exception of a few isolated events in recent years. Terrorists have mostly targeted local security forces, though foreign tourists have been caught in the crossfire in the past.
Most countries advise against all but essential travel near Jordan’s borders with Syria and Iraq, but the vast majority of visits to Jordan are trouble-free. At the very basic level, you should exercise caution while traveling abroad, and pay attention to your personal security in Jordan at all times (the same as you would in any other country). Additionally, you should avoid demonstrations and large gatherings, monitor the media and other sources of information about planned and possible unrest, stay at hotels with a security presence and follow the instructions of local authorities.
3. You can cover a lot of ground in just 1 week in Jordan
You can drive from Amman in the north to Aqaba in the south in just over 4 hours! The country only covers about 90,000 square kilometers, so you can do and see a lot in just 7 days in Jordan. You can explore the capital city of Amman, traverse through the ancient city of Petra, go snorkeling in Aqaba, float in the Dead Sea, hike through the Dana Biosphere Reserve, visit crusader castles, learn about wildlife conservation and much more.
4. Driving in Jordan is manageable…but perhaps not for the faint of heart
Renting a car in Jordan is one of the best ways to travel around the country. Rental rates vary from about US$30-40 per day for a sedan or small hatchback to US$60 and upwards for a SUV. Here’s the thing: while driving between cities in Jordan is generally very manageable and the highways are in good condition, no one seems to follow speed limits! There are also lots of hidden speed bumps and the occasional pothole so you will want to stay focused when driving in Jordan.
If you are traveling to or from Aqaba, you should also know that there are many massive trucks and lorries hauling containers, gas and other goods on the highways. These drivers don’t always indicate when changing lanes and often speed past other vehicles without much regard for safety. When we were driving from Aqaba back up to Amman via Wadi Rum, we passed a gas tanker that had overturned on a bend and exploded – the massive fire and cloud of black fumes were terrifying, and I’m just glad that no other vehicles were involved in the accident. So, long story short, driving in Jordan is fine – it’s no worse than driving in Turkey, Greece or South Africa, but you’ll want to keep your eyes on the road and stick to the speed limit.
5. There’s more to Jordan than Petra
Most people would agree that Petra is the crown jewel and most iconic of heritage sites in Jordan. Not only is it one of the “New Wonders of the World”, but the Petra Archaeological Park is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. And while my mind was absolutely blown by the incredible landmarks and ruins within the ancient city of Petra, I wholeheartedly believe that Jordan has a lot more to offer visitors. If you are only visiting Jordan as a day trip to see Petra and skip the other historical and cultural sights scattered around the country, I truly believe you are missing out!
6. Jordan is home to some of the best preserved Roman ruins
So if you read #5 of this list and thought to yourself, “Oh yeah? What would I actually be missing out on?” Well, Jerash, for one. Jerash is an astonishing landmark not to be skipped, located a mere 48 kilometres north of Amman. The ancient Greco-Roman city was once entirely buried in sand, which has contributed to its fairly pristine preservation and outstanding condition. It’s even said that Jerash contains Greek inscriptions suggesting that the city was founded by Alexander the Great himself. Who would have thought that one of the best preserved Roman archaeological ruins in the world would be found in the Middle East?
History buffs should also explore The Citadel in Amman or the massive Roman Amphitheater which dominates the city’s landscape.
7. Yes, you can visit Jordan during Ramadan
We planned and booked our trip to Jordan in May, before realizing that we would be visiting during the holy month of Ramadan. Traveling around Jordan during Ramadan was probably not that different from visiting during any other month, with some minor exceptions. During Ramadan, Muslims fast from dawn to sunset so operating hours of tourism sites, banks, shops and restaurants may change slightly (i.e. open slightly later, and shut earlier). You can check the Ramadan-specific operating hours here.
Alcohol is not sold (except in some larger hotels and restaurants), and some places may switch to a special Ramadan menu or buffet. As a sign of respect, you should also try to avoid eating and drinking (even water) or smoking in public during the month of Ramadan. Those are the only major differences – there’s really no reason to be put off by traveling to Jordan during Ramadan!
8. Be conscious of what you wear in Jordan
Jordan is a primarily Muslim country, so conservative dress is advisable for men and women traveling in Jordan. Low-cut or crop tops are a no-no, and shorts are fairly out-of-place (even though you will find that many tourists wear shorts and sleeveless tops in public). I would recommend that you cover up your knees and shoulders (at the very least) in Jordan. Read more about dos and dont’s in Jordan here.
9. There are many 5-star luxury hotels in Jordan
…but you will be paying European/US prices! We stayed at some of the most incredible properties in Jordan: from the uber-slick Amman Rotana with panoramic views to the tasteful and classic Petra Marriott, luxury is not hard to find in Jordan. However, it also comes with a serious price tag, and most hotels also tack on an additional 17% in tax and service charge so be aware of this when booking hotels in Jordan!
On average, we paid US$180 and upwards per night for accommodation in Jordan. It was also difficult to find boutique accommodation – it seems like there is a major gap to be filled between the upscale chain hotels and budget-friendly backpacker hostels.
10. Some trails in Petra are off-limits
You know the picture I’m talking about: the one where men and women are sat on a small rug precariously perched on the edge of a cliff, overlooking the stunning Treasury facade from above. Well, did you know that the unmarked trails that lead to these “hidden” viewpoints are closed off and off-limits? I certainly didn’t – I mean, even the Jordan Tourism Board routinely shares photos taken from this “illegal” viewpoint in Petra.
Once I realized that we had gone someplace we shouldn’t have, I felt ashamed, especially as I pride myself on doing plenty of research ahead of a trip. These illegal hikes contribute to significant deterioration of the sandstone in Petra (you can read more about the impact of tourism development on Petra and the local communities here) – I would therefore recommend that you stick to the marked trails in Petra or admiring the Treasury from ground-level. To visit the proper Treasury viewpoint in Petra, take the “Al Kubtha” marked trail which begins near the Royal Tombs. Click here for a high-resolution map of Petra including trail routes – you do not need to pay any guides (official or unofficial) to walk on this trail.
11. Be mindful of your water usage
Jordan has one of the lowest levels of water resource availability, per capita, in the world. High population growth, the depletion of groundwater reserves and the impacts of climate change are likely to aggravate the situation going forward according to USAID. If you are traveling to Jordan, be conscious of how much water you use as it is a precious resource.
I hope this has convinced you to book that trip to Jordan, ASAP! It truly is one of the most captivating and wondrous destinations I’ve ever had the privilege to travel to. Let me know if you’re planning a trip to Jordan below!
Ready to plan your dream trip to Jordan? Click here to read my easy-to-follow 1 week Jordan itinerary or head on over here for even more Jordan destination guides!
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