A Complete Guide to Jordan

A Complete Guide to Jordan

Jordan, a small country in the Middle East, is a premier tourist destination. Considered one of the most westernized nations in the region, it has developed infrastructure and road signs are in English. It is perfect for self-driving enthusiasts.  

Jordan has a diverse range of attractions. Go back in time to the Ancient City of Petra, one of the most unusual and amazing ruins in the world, also one of the New Seven Wonders of the World. Enjoy awe-inspiring desert excursions in Wadi Rum and let’s not forget about floating in the Dead Sea.

With so much to offer, Jordan is a perfect stop for Middle Eastern culture, history, and beauty. Read our complete guide to Jordan to help you plan your next trip!

Content and photographs provided by Yana Kogan and Timon.

Important Things to Know About Jordan

Visa to Jordan

A visa is required for entry to Jordan from most countries, which is typically available upon arrival. The visa fee is 40 Jordanian Dinar (JD); however, at Aqaba a 14-day visa is free. We heard some people having trouble getting the free visa in Aqaba but as of December 2016, it was not a problem. If you buy the Jordan Pass (see Jordan Pass section for more info), the visa fee is included.


Getting into Jordan

Jordan Visit: Treasury
Peeking through to the Treasury, Petra

You can fly internationally to Amman airport from anywhere in the world. From Egypt, you can take a ferry from Nuweiba or Taba to Aqaba. You can also overland from Egypt through Israel. From Eliat, Isreal it is only a short ride over to Aqaba.


Language

Arabic is the main language in Jordan. English is also widely spoken in major towns and at tourist attractions.

Common Words/Phrases:

  • Welcome – ahlan
  • Goodbye – ma’ salama
  • Thank you – shukran
  • Yes – ai wa
  • No – la
  • My name is – ismee …

Culture in Jordan

Jordanians are very generous and helpful people.  If you have any questions or need directions, don’t be afraid to ask. Don’t be surprised if they offer to drive you places for free or pay for your food.  

In one incident, a family kindly refused to let Yana leave until she ate their falafel. We enjoyed the Jordanian culture and the friendliness of the locals. The only thing we did not like is when paying for items or food, it is common to not get the correct change.

They also will likely say a price three or four times the correct price. Make sure to negotiate prices before you agree to buy anything, even food. This is more of a Middle Eastern cultural thing and common outside of Jordan as well.

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What to Wear When Visiting Jordan

For tourists visiting Jordan, it is best to stay conservative with clothing choices. Bring clothing that is lightweight and breathable that covers legs and arms.  

Unlike some other Middle Eastern countries, Jordan can get cold in the winter. So a warm jacket, jeans, and closed shoes are proper. Here are some suggestions for how to dress in Jordan:

  • Cover knees and thighs
  • Wear tops that cover the entire chest area
  • Bring a lightweight scarf (good for entering mosques)
  • To enter mosques, men and women must wear long pants covering ankles and women must wear long sleeve shirts covering their arms

Currency

Trip to Jordan: Jerash
Sunlight shining through a door in Jerash

The Jordanian Dinar is pegged to the USD at 0.708 USD, so 1 JD = $1.40 and 1 JD = €1.28. Coins are also distributed in Piastres, which is a hundredth of a Dinar. The Dinar is a very strong currency. As a result, Jordan is an expensive country to visit.


The Best Time to Visit Jordan

Visit during the spring and autumn when daily temperatures are manageable with warm days and cool nights. Summer temperatures reach over 100° Fahrenheit (40°C) in the desert and around the Dead Sea. It makes it difficult to visit several important attractions. In the winter, nights get very cold, and locations in higher elevations, such as Amman, commonly get snow.


Food in Jordan

Jordanian cuisine is similar to other Middle Eastern countries, such as Egypt and Lebanon. Falafel is the national dish, available at nearly every corner. Jordan (and most of its neighbors) is excellent for vegetarians. The commonly served mezze dishes are falafel, hummus, moutabel, ful, and eggplant (aubergine).

Meat is available, served mostly as kebabs or shwarma. Jordanians don’t like for anyone to go hungry, so just tell them “taslia” at the end of the meal for some extra food. Typical street food (mezze) ranges in cost from 35 Piastres to 75 Piastres. Coffee typically costs between 50 Piastres and 1 Dinar.

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Transportation in Jordan

Jordan Country Guide: Wadi Rum
Jumping at the small arch, Wadi Rum

Public transportation is available to most tourist locations in Jordan. There are minibusses that go between most cities. Buses are available between destinations, including Aqaba, Wadi Rum, Petra, Amman, and Jerash. However, you may have to return to Aqaba or Amman between each destination. For example, no buses go between Wadi Rum and Petra.

Bus fares are between 7 JD and 10 JD on the JETT bus. For those who prefer to self-drive, this is an excellent and easy option in Jordan. Renting a car in Amman will cost between $25 and $35 USD per day.


Accommodation in Jordan

Hotels are common in popular tourist destinations, including Amman, the Dead Sea, and Aqaba. The Dead Sea has mostly high-end resorts. Budget guesthouse rooms start from 10 JD in Amman and Aqaba.

Wadi Rum has several Bedouin camps for around 40 JD that include a 4-hour jeep tour, dinner, and accommodation. Petra (Wadi Musa) has budget guesthouses available starting from 10 JD.


Safety in Jordan

Jordan has historically been one of the safest countries in the Middle East. However, tourism in recent years has declined due to issues with neighboring countries. Jordan has shared borders to the north and east with Syria and Iraq. With the number of international news headlines from the Syrian refugee crisis and ISIS terror attacks in the region, some may be wary of visiting Jordan. Aside from an attack in December 2016 at the Kerak Castle, this country remains safe.


Jordan Pass

The Jordan Pass is a tourist pass that covers the cost of a visa fee and entry to over 40 major attractions. The pass includes Petra, Little Petra, Wadi Rum, Wadi Dana, Jerash, the Amman Citadel, the Ajloun Castle, Kerak Castle, and many other sights. Check out the official website for more on the Jordan Pass.

Cost: 70 Dinar

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Best Places to Visit in Jordan

Amman

Jordan Travel Tips: Amman Citadel
Amman Citadel

The capital of Jordan, Amman has 4 million inhabitants and is the economic, political and cultural center of Jordan. It is a major tourist destination, in particular for those in Arab countries and Europe. Amman has an assortment of beautiful historic sights with the Citadel and Roman Amphitheater being our favorite.  

There are several great cultural activities to do in Amman. Start with a visit to the Mosque of Abu Al Darwish, one of the more elaborate and unique mosques in the Middle East. Stroll around Rainbow Street and Souk Jara before a simple, but authentic Jordanian feast at Hashem Bros Restaurant.

Budget Stay: Check out The Cliff Hotel Amman with rooms starting at $14 USD.

Mid-Range Stay: Check out the Albasem Hotel with rooms starting at $55 USD.


Petra

Jordan Travel Tips: Petra
The Treasury at Petra

Petra is the highlight of Jordan, and reason alone to make this journey. Located near the village of Wadi Musa, the Ancient City of Petra is one of the New 7 Wonders of the World.

This magnificent lost city is enormous. The Treasury and the Monastery are the two main attractions that cannot be missed. With hundreds of tombs and a massive temple complex, Petra requires a full day or two-day visit.

Don’t miss the hike up to the overlook of the Treasury, starting behind the Royal Tombs. Every Monday, Wednesday, and Thursday, Petra by Night lights up a walk through the entire Siq to the Treasury. Read our complete guide to Petra!

Budget Stay: Check out the Little Petra Bedouin Camp which includes dinner and breakfast for $20 USD per person.

Mid-Range Stay: Ammarin Bedouin Camp is a really cool experience, offering dinner and breakfast for $85 for double room.

Cost: Entry cost is 50 JD for one day, 55 JD for two days, and 60 JD for three-day visits to Petra. Little Petra entry costs 2 JD. Both sites are included in the Jordan Pass.

Tip: Stop at Little Petra, a 15-minute drive from Petra. Little Petra can be seen in a couple of hours and is great to do the day before exploring Petra.


Wadi Rum

Jordan Visit: Wadi Rum
Overlook at Wadi Rum

Wadi Rum is located in the south of Jordan, only a 45-minute drive from Aqaba. It is a protected area and the desert scenery is some of the most beautiful in the world. Huge mountains 5,000 feet tall (1,500 m) surround this gorgeous orange desert.

Stargazers claim Wadi Rum to be one of the best places to view stars in the world. The area is commonly explored by off-road jeep tour or by camel. Jeep tours can be arranged with Bedouin camps, and typically last four hours. Tours often explore slot canyons, sand dunes, arches, natural springs, and ancient rock art.

Budget Stay: Check out Wadi Rum Desert Adventures with double bedouin tents.

High-End Stay: For an amazing experience in the desert, look no further than The Wadi Rum Night Luxury Camp. They have luxury rooms for $140 USD or igloo bubble tents to sleep under the stars for $180 USD.

Cost: Entry cost is 5 JD to Wadi Rum. Entry to Wadi Rum is included in the Jordan Pass. Jeep tours cost between 20 JD and 40 JD with a budget-friendly outfitter. Camel rides cost 10 JD per person for a one-hour ride.


Dead Sea

Trip to Jordan: The Dead Sea
The Dead Sea

The Dead Sea is an extremely hypersaline lake bordered by Jordan and Israel. It is known as one of the saltiest bodies of water in the world, and it is located at the world’s lowest elevation of 1,400 feet (430 m) below sea level. With salinity, nearly 10 times that of the ocean, swimming in the Dead Sea is more like floating.

The Dead Sea is known for its spas and lavish resorts, where the extracted salts and minerals are popular for therapeutic uses. The Jordanian side of the Dead Sea is very remote, unlike its neighbor. Most accommodation and beach access are in the far north.

For those just coming for the day, there are two options. Amman Beach has two entrances, one for their main beach as well as access to several pools, the beach, food, and shower facilities. Next door (also part of Amman beach) is a more basic option with only beach access and shower facilities.

Budget Stay: There are no true budget places to stay directly at the Dead Sea in Jordan, but Thara Real Estate is the cheapest option for $55 a night.

Luxury Stay: To stay directly on the sea at a stunning resort we recommend the Kempenski Hotel Ishtar for $190 USD (double room).

Cost: Entry to Amman Beach (with pools and facilities) is 20 JD. The separated but more basic Amman Beach next door is 12 JD per person.

Tip: Between April and October, head out on an excellent hike in Wadi Mujib, located next to the Dead Sea.


Jerash Ruins

Jordan Country Guide: Jerash Ruins
Jerash Ruins

Located in Northern Jordan, Jerash is 45 minutes from Amman. This modern city is one of the largest in Jordan, but the main draw is the ruins of ancient Jerash. This Greco-Roman city was built as early as 300 BC by the Greeks.

After conquests by Romans in 63 BC, Romans continued to build a prosperous city that lasted hundreds of years. This site holds some of the best preserved Roman ruins and is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Jordan.

Stay: We recommend staying in Amman and coming to Jerash as a day trip. A good option for groups if you want to stay in Jerash is the 2-bedroom 1955 Heart of Jerash apartment for $65.

Cost: Entry to Jerash ruins is 10 JD. The Jordan Pass covers the entrance.


Dana Biosphere Reserve

Jordan Travel Tips: Wadi Dana
Wadi Dana

As the largest reserve in Jordan, Wadi Dana is becoming more popular each year for tourism. The area is a melting pot of wildlife and animals with roots from Africa, Asia, and Europe. There are over 1,250 species within the reserve and up to 25 of which are considered endangered.

The best way to explore Wadi Dana is by hiking on one of the popular trails. Some of the best hikes are on the White Dome Trail, the Wadi Dana Trail, the Wadi Dathneh Trail, and the Wadi Ghwair Trail.

Budget Stay: Check out the Dana Moon Hotel with double rooms for $25 USD.

Mid-Range Stay: Check out the Dana Gate Lodge with double rooms starting from $100 USD.


Kerak Castle

Jordan Visit: Karak Castle
Karak Castle

Situated on top of a large hill, Kerak was built by the Crusaders during the 12th century. From the 13th century to the 16th century, the Mamluks controlled the region and built several new towers and additions to the castle.

The castle is a wonderful mix of Roman design with an influence of European, Byzantine, and Arab architecture. Large enough to visit for a couple of hours, Kerak Castle is a good stop after the Dead Sea. Unfortunately, this was the location of a terrorist attack in December 2016, when terrorists shot and killed ten people, mostly Jordanian security forces, and one Canadian tourist.

Stay: There are limited places to stay in Kerak with most coming for a day trip. The Cairwan Hotel has double rooms in town for $25 USD if you want to stay the night nearby the ruins.

Cost: Entry to the Kerak Castle is 2 JD. The Jordan Pass covers the entry cost to Kerak.


Sample Itineraries

One Day in Amman

  • Grab a taxi or hire a rental car and drive 30 minutes to the Jerash Ruins (2-3 hours)
  • Visit the Amman Citadel and soak in the views of Amman (1 hour)
  • Walk to the top of the Roman Amphitheater steps (1 hour)
  • Visit the Mosque of Abu Al Darwis (30 min)
  • Take a stroll on Rainbow Street where there are several shops (1 hour)
  • Walk around Souk Jara for some souvenirs (1 hour)
  • Finish with dinner at Hashem Bros Restaurant
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One Week in Jordan

Trip to Jordan: Treasury, Peta
The Treasury at Petra
  • Visit Amman and all the local sights, including Jerash Ruins (one to two days)
  • Spend a half-day at the Dead Sea and a visit to the Kerak Castle (one day)
  • Hike in Wadi Dana (one day)
  • Explore the dunes and magnificent Wadi Rum by jeep tour (two days)
  • Go back in time at the Ancient City of Petra and visit the Treasury, the Monastery, the Temple Complex, the Royal Tombs, and hike up to the overlook. (two days)

That’s it – have a wonderful time exploring Jordan!


Planning a trip to Jordan? Check out our favorite books and travel guides!


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