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We only spent 11 days in Jordan but it has taken us months to finish writing our posts about this wonderful country. From olive groves to desert, ancient ruins to scuba diving, there’s plenty to do and see in Jordan, and its small size makes it easy to fit a lot in. Some people are wary of travelling to the Middle East so in this post we want to answer any questions you might have and help you plan your own trip to Jordan, which we feel is the perfect introduction to the region.
Is Jordan Safe?
Yes. Despite Jordan’s location surrounded by Israel, Syria, Iraq and Saudi Arabia, it is a peaceful country with good diplomatic relationships with the UK and US. The British government’s FCO travel advisory is notoriously cautious but it currently only recommends avoiding the Syria border area which isn’t near anywhere tourists usually visit.
We felt very safe in Jordan and had no problems at all. People have been put off from visiting the country since the Arab Spring and tourist numbers were down when we were there. This is a shame as I don’t think there’s any reason not to visit.
Most nationalities are able to get a one month visa on arrival for 20 JOD ($28). You can change money at immigration or pay by credit card.
When to Visit
April and October are the best and most popular months to visit when the weather is warm but not too hot. We were there in October and the weather was perfect (usually late 20s celsius) and it didn’t get too cold at night in the desert as I thought it might. April might be a better option as the weather is just as good but the landscapes are greener after the winter rains. It’s steaming hot in the summer months and can get surprisingly cold in the winter.
What to Wear
Jordan is a Muslim country and women in particular should dress conservatively. We saw some very scantily clad foreigners and they got away with it but I think it’s best to be respectful. You don’t need to cover your hair but I followed the example of the Jordanian women I saw and always covered my legs in linen trousers or jeans. Most Jordanian women cover their arms too so I tried to wear a loose shirt or cardigan over a tshirt, but sometimes it was too hot and our guide told me it wasn’t necessary. I kept a cardigan on hand just in case I was in a situation where it felt more appropriate to cover my arms (like when visiting a Bedouin camp). At the very least cover your shoulders and knees.
At the Dead Sea and Red Sea resorts it’s fine to wearing a bikini or swimming costume.
You’ll want sturdy shoes for hikes in Petra, Wadi Rum and the many nature reserves. As it was hot I wore hiking sandles the entire time except for horse riding when I wore hiking shoes. Simon wore hiking shoes most of the time.
Do I Need to Speak Arabic?
Many people in Jordan speak English so unless you are getting really off the beaten track it isn’t essential but I’d recommend at least learning a few basic phrases as it’s appreciated.
Can I Drink the Water?
Our guide told us that he drank the water but that he recommended we didn’t, just in case. We drank bottled water instead, except one night when staying in a cabin in the remote Ajloun Nature Reserve we ran out of water at night when it was too late to ask the staff for more. I risked it and drank a glass of tap water and spent the night very ill. So no, don’t drink the water!
What to Take
- A head torch was useful when we stayed at Feynan Ecolodge which doesn’t have electricity
- A hat, sunglasses and suncream for hikes
- An Arabic phrasebook or iPhone app
- Spare camera batteries—you’ll be taking a lot of photos!
How to Get Around
As guests of the Jordan Tourism Board we were lucky to have our own guide and driver in a private car. You can reach the main sites by public transport (most aren’t more than five hours apart) but having a car gives you the freedom to cover more ground in a short period of time and get to places that are difficult by bus. The roads are in good condition (well except for the crazy shortcut we took once) and we’d be comfortable driving ourselves, but also consider hiring a car with driver so you don’t have to worry about directions and you can learn more about the country from your driver.
How’s the Internet?
Jordan is well connected and many hotels have WiFi. The tourist board provided us with a Zain USB Broadband stick and it had fantastic 3G coverage, even in the most remote places.
Costs vary widely in Jordan. Some things are very affordable like a falafel sandwich for 0.50 JOD ($0.70), and a taxi within Amman for 1 JOD ($1.40), but hotels, activities and upmarket restaurants are pricey. A big but essential cost is the entrance to Petra at 50/55/60 JOD ($71/78/85) for a 1/2/3 day pass (3 days is recommended). As we were guests of the tourist board we don’t have our travel costs to share. It’s definitely more expensive than Egypt or Syria but cheaper than Europe.
How’s the Food? Is it Vegetarian Friendly?
Jordanian food is influenced by its neighbours such as Lebanon and Palestine and it’s delicious. Meals start with many small dishes called mezze mostly consisting of salads and dips served with bread—they are very vegetarian friendly and we were happy to skip the meaty main courses. See our vegetarian guide to Jordan to find out which mezze and other snacks to look out for.
Where to Go
In a week you can see the highlights of Jordan but two weeks or more would be much more leisurely. There are many places that we would have loved to stay longer.
These are our top picks for places to visit in Jordan:
- Petra—An ancient city carved out of the mountains over 2000 years ago. Petra lives up to the hype and there is some fantastic hiking amongst the ruins. We only had one long day there but it’s worth 2-3 days.
- Dana Biosphere Reserve—This nature reserve isn’t on most visitors “must-see” list but our stay in the remote Feynan Eco-lodge was a close contender for our favourite experience in Jordan. The scenery here is stunning, there are plenty of interesting hikes and visits to Bedouin families, and Feynan is run exactly how an eco-lodge should be.
- The Dead Sea—Floating in the Dead Sea is a lot of fun and definitely worth a day or two. If you can afford it splurge on one of the fancy hotels right on the Dead Sea, or you could come for the day from Amman or Madaba.
- Wadi Rum—Explore this wonderful desert by camel, jeep, horse or hot air balloon, and then spend the night in a Bedouin camp. It definitely deserves one night and if you don’t mind roughing it a bit then a few days would be even better. Wadi Rum is best at sunrise and sunset when the mountains and dunes glow orange.
- Aqaba—If you like to dive or just want a place to relax after Wadi Rum then the Red Sea is only an hour away. I think budget accommodation options are limited but if you want to splurge we loved the Kempinski Hotel.
If you have more time you could also visit the well-preserved Roman ruins at Jerash, the capital city Amman, or the surprisingly green pistachio forests of Ajloun Nature Reserve. If you are interested in the religious/historic side of the country (we weren’t so much) you can see an ancient mosaic map of the Holy Land in Madaba, or go to the Mount Nebo viewpoint where Moses saw the Promised Land. Due to my illness we had to skip our hike in the Wadi Mujib canyon which was something we were really looking forward to.
Getting There and Away
We flew into Amman on Royal Jordanian (recommended) from Rome and left overland from Aqaba through Israel to Egypt.
We originally planned to take the ferry from Aqaba to Nuweiba in Egypt but that isn’t as simple as it seems and we ended up taking taxis via the thin slither of Israel that divides the two countries. It was an easy journey and quicker than the ferry but there are some complications and things you need to consider before doing the journey yourself—read the full story here.
Films to Watch Before You Go
There are a couple of classic films to watch before you visit Jordan.
- Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade features the Treasury at Petra.
- Lawrence of Arabia was filmed in Wadi Rum where TE Lawrence based his operations during the Arab Revolt of 1917-18.
- The Jordan Jubilee site has lots of great information about travel in the country.
- The following bloggers have also written about Jordan: Uncornered Market, A Little Adrift, Go See Write, The Planet D.
- Married to a Bedouin by Marguerite van Geldermasen—A fascinating read about a young woman from New Zealand who falls in love with a Bedouin man and lives with him in a cave at Petra, becoming part of the Bedouin community. Definitely read this before you get to Petra and you might even be able to meet Marguerite who still has a stall within the ruins.
- The Language of Baklava by Diana Abu-Jaber—I loved this humorous memoir about being raised by a food obsessed Jordanian father in the US. It’s an enjoyable read and you’ll learn about Jordanian food and culture along the way.
- Our Last Best Chance by King Abdullah II—Written by Jordan’s forward-thinking King this is an interesting insight into Jordan’s history, the King and his urgent plea for a solution to the Arab-Israeli crisis.
Our Jordan Posts
For more about our Jordan experiences take a look at these articles:
- Jordan Highlights
- 36 Random Observations About Jordan
- A Vegetarian Survival Guide to Jordan
- Magnificent Petra: A Photo Essay
- Bedouin Life and a Candlelit Night at Feynan Ecolodge
- Wadi Rum on Horseback
- Dead Sea Fun in Jordan
- Things to Do in The Dead Sea: An Illustrated Guide
- Red Sea Relaxation in Aqaba
- How to Get from Jordan to Egypt: Ferry Vs Overland
Jordan was one of our highlights from the last three years of travelling the world and an excellent introduction to the Middle East. From dramatic landscapes and adventurous activities, to delicious food and friendly people, there are many reasons to visit Jordan and we hope our guide will help you plan your own trip to the country.
A big thank you to Visit Jordan who hosted us during our stay in Jordan.