Day 1 - Arriving in Amman & settling in
ENTERING JORDAN - VISAS OR THE JORDAN PASS?
We highly recommend getting the Jordan Pass.
You can buy the pass online (here) before you go and it will be valid for 12 months. Prices start at 70 JD per person (with one visit to Petra) and that includes your visa into Jordan, one entry to Petra and entrance to other attractions such as museums, Wadi Rum, etc.
Most passports will be able to get a visa at the border (which costs 40 JD, ± 50 EUR) but if you're planning on visiting Petra (entrance for 1 will be 50 JD, ± 60 EUR) so already money saved by buying the Jordan pass.
Print it out or have it on your phone when you enter the country.
TRANSPORT & GETTING AROUND
Public transport is available and okay in Jordan, however relying on public transport will mean you have to take set time buses, usually early morning (like 630 AM).
Tickets from city to city are around 7-12 JD p.p (about 10-15 EUR) depending on where you're going.
Since we were two people and were planning on traveling to the south of the country and then back to Amman we opted to rent a car and make it into a 4 day road trip in Jordan.
For 4 days, an economy 4 door car cost us ± 100 JD (120 EUR) plus 60 JD (70 EUR) in petrol, which we picked up from the airport.
For the same itinerary, having used public transport instead would have overall worked out only 10-20 JD cheaper, but the convenience of having a car means not having to drag around luggage, being on your own schedule and also having the opportunity to stop at shops and cafe's on the side of the road.
Driving in Jordan: Yes, it's different.
I'd separate driving into two categories: city and outside of the city.
Amman driving is the one to look out for, peak times here see 3 lane roads turn to 6 lanes and there are no rules. Main traffic times are about 8 AM-10AM and 2PM-6 or 7PM. Try to avoid these if possible. The amount of cars, beeping and proximity others will get to your vehicle can be stressful, but as long as you stay vigilant and stick to the speed limits you'll be fine!
And driving outside Amman, for example going from Amman to Petra is absolutely fine. Don't be discouraged to drive yourself and make your trip into a road trip in Jordan.
Use the MapsMe app for a free GPS system that doesn't require an internet connection.
STAYING OVERNIGHT IN AMMAN
We checked in to the Crystal Hotel in Amman, which is located in a quieter part of the city. A few local shops and restaurants to walk to, but you'll need to get a taxi into the city center.
Price and quality: Rooms here are affordable (about 35 JD for a double room ± 40EUR) clean, have hot water and do nicely for an overnight stay. Breakfast is usually included & starts at 730 AM. Since we wanted to leave earlier, the hotel was nice enough to start the breakfast just for us!! Thanks guys!
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Day 2 - Petra and Wadi Musa
We left from Amman to Petra at 7:05 (to avoid the morning traffic) & arrived in Petra at about 11:45.
The road to Petra is not bad, although there are some road works, so plan to drive longer than the GPS predicts. There is parking close to the entrance of Petra, where we left the car, and proceeded to the ticket office.
Tickets are 50 JD per person (about 55-60 EUR) but are included in your Jordan Pass if you get one (Which we suggest you do!)
WALKING AROUND PETRA & HOW MUCH TIME IS ENOUGH?
If you are a history and ancient ruins enthusiast and have dreamed about walking around this ancient city since childhood, you'll need more than full day here. The place is huge and if you stop and actually enjoy it, climb to a few places off the beaten track, it will take you about two days. Fellow travellers did the majority of the park in their first day and then dedicated day number two climbing to the highest peak of Petra for the sunset.
For us however, 1 day (12pm- 4pm) was more than enough to calmly walk around and climb up to most of the sites - getting all the way up to a part just past the main cafe.
Overall Petra is a stunning place of natural beauty, where you realise just how small you are in the world. The entire park was once a huge community with houses, a theatre.. you can almost feel what it would have been like a few centuries ago.
However, one must realise that naturally Petra is one of, if not the most visited tourist destinations in the country. With this comes the sale of souvenirs (some of which are pretty cool though), local kids riding donkeys offering tours.
I even had a little boy offer to take me to the "secret spot" (from which you can get the iconic photo with yourself and the treasury from above) by showing me another tourists' instagram post.
Luckily, it is quite a vast area to walk around in, so getting oneself out of the main treasury part as soon as possible is recommended. For most of the journey afterwards walking around at your own pace and enjoying some of the stunning views is worth it.
Oh, IMPORTANT: If you get told near the entrance that a horse ride to the treasury is included - thats not true. They'll ask for a big 'tip' at the end. The walk to the treasury is quite nice and will take about 15 minutes.
RECOMMENDATION FOR STAYING THE NIGHT IN WADI MUSA (PETRA)
Although many do Amman to Petra as a day trip, we highly recommend staying the night in Wadi Musa, the town where Petra is!
Its not huge, doesn't have amazing night life, but yet still seems to be a good hub for travellers, offers plenty of accommodation options, places to eat and have a walk.
We picked the Rocky Mountain Hotel, because of its highly recommended views at sunset. Its a hostel type hotel, offering OK rooms, limited hot water and a very average breakfast. The price for the two of us per night was 30JD (± 35EUR). We made check in just in time for sunset and to be honest, I would pay the 30 JD as an entry ticket price just for that view.
The 5 o'clock call to prayer and echo from various mosque's truly immerse you in the middle east vibe with Petra's wonderful rock formations in the background.
Day 3 - Moving on to the Wadi RUM desert
So after a quick breakfast, continuing the 4 day road trip in Jordan, we headed south.
The south of Jordan in December sees slightly warmer weather than in Amman and the north, which means that if you sit in the sun, you can even get away with short sleeves, which is nice after having spent the rest of the trip in a light jacket.
Here, one of the major attractions is the Wadi Rum desert. From Petra, it took us about 3 - 3,5 hours to drive, considering we had a coffee stop and drove through winding mountain roads for about half the trip.
You can also get a bus from Petra, which usually leaves at 6:30 each morning. Ask the hotel you’re staying at to call and reserve a seat on the bus for you, the night before. Otherwise its a bit difficult to book tickets in advance or online.
When you arrive in Wadi Rum, you will mostly likely go to the visitors centre, where you’ll have to pay for entry into the reserve (or show your Jordan Pass, as the Wadi Rum ticket is included in that and get that stamped).
If you don’t have your own transport, most of the camps will be able to pick you up from this visitors centre if you arrange this in advance. Since we hadn’t done this, the staff there are extremely helpful and called our camp for us, arranging for a car to come show us the way.
SLEEPING IN THE WADI RUM DESERT
Wadi Rum is something that many people miss when going to Jordan, because its too far to go for a day trip from Amman.
If you base yourself in Petra, it is possible to do a day trip to the Wadi Rum desert.
The desert itself is home to the local bedouin people, who have lived off the land for centuries. Some of them, having received support from the Jordanian government, have set up camps for tourists, where you can spend the night.
The variety of camps is very large, ranging from luxury eco-bubble type camps for about 100 JD p.p (240EUR) per night to very basic tents with fold-up beds for about 10-15 JD p.p (15 - 20EUR). Most of these will include (transport from the visitors centre, or a leading car if you have your own), breakfast and a room/tent for the night. In addition to this, you can book a buffet dinner at the camp, which becomes an activity, as its prepared by local tradition in the ground and visitors get to see some of the process and unveiling of the cooked food.
We chose a budget friendly but comfortable option - the Rahayeb Desert Camp. For two people a tent was about 35 JD as it was off peak season and we got a good deal online. This got us relatively comfortable beds, clean sheets and blankets and the tent even had a socket for charging your devices over night. The bathrooms are shared by everyone (unless you get a family size tent) but are very clean, have showers and hot water at certain times of the day and proper plumbing.
There is also a common area outside and inside, where you can sit and relax, order some drinks or sit by the fire. The camp has wifi, good service and a good breakfast in the morning. Overall - highly recommend them! Its a great option if you want to do very comfortable “camping” but don’t want to spend over 100 JD on the stay.
IMPORTANT: Dinner was an extra 12JD p.p, but was absolutely delicious. Plus, there isn’t much around once you get the camps, so if you plan on skipping camp dinners, bring your own food.
And one last thing - the desert is cold at night. Especially in December. So ask for extra blankets and bring some warm clothes and socks for the sleep.
WADI RUM DESERT ACTIVITIES
Something that I highly suggest is planning your stay so that you can have time to allow relax & take a moment, taking in your surroundings. Camps are surrounded by high mountainous caves or sand dunes which are amazing! So have a longer breakfast, take the afternoon to sit and read in the sun or have a little walk around the area you’re staying - you won’t regret it.
When looking for more adventure, some of the things you might be considering whilst you’re here are tours to see some of the sights in the desert. There a variety of travel options - like walking tours, camel or horse riding tours, jeep or even hot air balloon. You can book these through separate providers, there are some options at the visitors centre, but the simplest option is to do it through the camp you’re staying in. We didn't book anything in advance, and just arranged it when we got there. Yes, that way you might be limited to times and availability, but unless you’re visiting in peak times, you should be ok.
Prices will vary, but since most of the camps do the tours themselves, they will be open to negotiate with you and the more people you have - the better. So finding fellow travellers and joining forces usually saves quite a bit.
We opted for a two-hour camel tour, going to see the sunset - for 20 JD (25EUR) p.p. 2 hours on a camel was more than enough for me, so unless you’re an experienced camel rider- don’t do the 5 hours camel tour (which yes, is an option…)
The vibe of the evening will usually depend a lot on who happens to be staying the same time as you, but its a great environment to meet other travelers and even have a dance or two. So be open!
Day 4 - Getting from Wadi Rum back to Amman
Since we stayed in Jordan only Monday-Friday we didn’t want to rush and try to see everything. This is why after Wadi Rum, instead of going further south to Aqaba (towards the Red Sea) like most people do, we headed back to Amman to finish off our 4 day road trip in Jordan
We found that heading directly from Wadi Rum to Amman is probably one of the most difficult (or most expensive) legs of the route.
Going by taxi: this is likely to cost around 75 JD (80EUR) per car, but can be arranged directly from desert camp to where you're going in Amman
Going by bus:
Option 1) take a taxi from the camp to Aqaba (about 12JD/16EUR) and then a JETT coach bus to Amman (7-12 JD/10-15EUR p.p). Overall should take about 6 hours.
Option 2) take a taxi from the camp back to Petra (about 15-20JD/20-25EUR) and then a JETT coach bus to Amman (7-12 JD/10-15EUR p.p). Bear in mind though that JETT busses from Petra to Amman leave at 4/5pm daily, but there is only one time.
Option 3) If you’re up for leaving Wadi Rum at 630 AM, then you might be able to get a public bus from the visitors centre, but I would check this with the camp in advance.
The cost (for 2 people) of this leg of the trip was about 80% of what a car for the 4 days would cost.
For example, getting a taxi costs 75 JD whereas the car rental price for entire 4 days was 102 JD. So if your trip involves going straight from Wadi Rum to Amman, we highly recommend making it a 4 day road trip in Jordan.
The drive is long, its about 350 km, and took us around 4/5 hours with bathroom breaks. This is considering we had quite good conditions on the road and it wasn’t busy. The road itself is good so driving should not be an issue overall and if you plan correctly and take it easy, stopping along the roads may even lead to some hidden treasures.
We were lucky enough to stumble on some bakeries and and can get great arabic or turkish coffee almost everywhere!
Day 5 - How to experience Amman
Obviously 1 day here is not enough to see everything. But we picked out a few of our favourites and key things if you’re on a tight timeframe.
Amphitheater - tickets are also included in your Jordan pass or around 2JD (3-4 EUR) p.p.
Walking around the old town - here you will find the popular Rainbow street with shops, markets and good food places, and walking towards the main mosque in Amman (AL-HUSSEINI MOSQUE) will allow you to get a feel of local life.
Eating in town
Try the legendary Hashem restaurant, where you can eat traditional Jordanian food such as falafel, moutabel, hummus and tabbouleh. The food here is simple but is some of the best and most famous in Amman. The place is filled with locals and has several seating areas, so don't be discouraged if it looks full, which it will.. Also, as in every restaurant you can enjoy a taste of traditional Jordanian tea - mint with sugar.
For 3 people we paid only 12 JD and we had one best breakfasts that year!
Walking around this area you will also be able to find some great shopping. On every corner you can find little shops where locals sell their own stuff like scarfs and dresses, but will also be able to get souvenirs – cheaper than those at the airport!
Walking down some back streets will allow you to get a full panoramic view and get the feel of the city.
Overall, one of the things that goes most noticed – is the WELCOME TO JORDAN phrase that you hear from local shop owners and locals. We found in Jordan that for the most part, foreigners and tourists get this phrase instead of being harassed to buy something like in many other countries.
Which, in the end just adds to the experience of being here and our 4 day road trip in Jordan.