Jordan has been one of our favorite destinations from our 2018 travels. Although we thought by traveling in off-season that we wouldn’t see many other tourists, we were very wrong. We went around late October / early November and we can confirm there is a flourishing tourism industry in Jordan all year. You have Petra to thank for that as one of the new seven wonders of the world.
Jordan is a country full of stunning rocky landscapes, genuinely welcoming locals and a rich culture and history. Don’t get me wrong, the entire trip I felt out of my element and my comfort zone. This was my first experience in the Middle East so I had a sense of uncertainty. Mainly because I can not even pretend to read Arabic, and as hard as I can try there was no way for me to not look like a tourist. However not for one minute did I ever feel unsafe while traveling through Jordan. If you respect the local culture and customs (ie. dress appropriately, see below) you will be warmly welcomed.
Here is what you need to know before visiting Jordan!
How to Get Around Jordan
We did extensive research and decided on a private tour with Jordan Direct Tours. Booking with them allowed us to personalize our time in Jordan to see the things I wanted within tour schedule. Jordan Direct Tours picked us up from the airport, coordinated our visa, got us through customs, transferred us to each of our hotels (we self booked hotels, but they can also do that for you), organized a tour guide at Jerash and Petra, transferred us to all the sights and had a bottle of water in the car for us everyday. All of the tour guides and drivers spoke English and everyone was extremely punctual.
When there were certain things I did not want to miss, like the sunset at the Dead Sea, our driver made it happen. We cannot recommend our experience enough with this company. Although not the cheapest way to visit Jordan, we always felt well taken care of and safe. In addition, we got to interact with our driver about local customs and daily life in Jordan and he even recommend changes in our itinerary to make it more enjoyable.
Other cheaper options would be to join an organized tour with other people, or to self drive through Jordan. You can find some really great day tours or organized group tours through Jordan on the Tourist Jordan Website. Self driving is possible but do be aware that driving in downtown Amman can be quite hectic and stressful to drive. In addition, pay close attention to the police check points along the highways; the Jordanian police may wave you over to check your papers.
Where To Stay in Jordan
We stayed at a mix of name brand hotels, as well as budget hotels and Bedouin Camp Sites booked through booking.com. See our itinerary below for the exact hotels we stayed in during our trip through Jordan.
Is it Safe as a Tourist in Jordan?
Jordan is a very safe country for tourists to visit and crime is very low. It is easy to assume the location of Jordan, which shares a border with Syria and Iraq, would be impacted by the current political and economical problems of its neighbors. However during your time in Jordan you will unlikely see or feel any of these tensions. Jordan doesn’t have the same oil industry like its neighbors and therefore the tourism industry is a lifeline for the country, so they want you to visit. They actually NEED you to visit Jordan.
The Middle East has long been known for having some of the friendliest and most warm-welcoming locals, which unfortunately these days is largely buried beneath war and extremest headlines in the news.
As situations can change for any country you visit please check the travel advisories by the US Department of State before your travels. You can find them here.
Jordan Visa Requirements
Depending on your country of residence, you may or may not need a pre-arranged visa for Jordan. In general most international visitors require a visa in order to enter Jordan, but many nationalities can obtain the visa on arrival. Most European, North American and South American countries, with a few exceptions, are able to obtain a visa on arrival at the Amman’s Queen Alia International Airport or at any other border crossing except King Hussein Bridge (Allenby) and the ferryboat from Egypt. Visas are valid for up to 3 months.
The visa on arrival at the Queen Alia International Airport is 40 JD (roughly 56 USD). One of the perks of Jordan Direct Tours is that the agency coordinated our visa ahead of time and took care of getting us through customs at the airport. It was a seamless process!
What to Wear as a Female Visiting Jordan
Jordan is a primarily Muslim country and the typical Muslim women’s clothing covers their arms, legs and hair. Western women are not subject to these customs, however it is important to be respectful of these customs. This means that very revealing clothing is never appropriate and conservative dress is advisable for both men and women in the old part of Amman (downtown), and outside the cities.
I felt very comfortable in long, flowy dresses which were still cool enough in the heat that we experienced in late October. I made sure to cover my shoulders in Amman, the capital city; however in Petra I wore a sleeveless dress and brought along the Jordanian headscarf I picked up during our time in the Wadi Rum Desert to use as a shaw to cover my shoulders. I did not feel it was necessary to cover my shoulders in Petra, so at some point during the day I put the headscarf back on my head to keep a little cooler from the sun.
One-piece swimsuits are preferred when in public beaches, although two-piece swimsuits are acceptable at hotel pools.
What to Wear as a Male Visiting Jordan
You will see the locals wearing long pants and long sleeve shirts even in the summer. From our observations, shorts are rarely worn and would be out of place in the downtown Amman area; however I have seen plenty of tourists wearing shorts in Jerash and Petra. I think Matt wore shorts the entire trip and had no problems. Pack some long pants in case and use your discretion here.
Best Time to Visit Jordan
Jordan being located in the middle east can endure some extremely hot summers and in the Wadi Rum Desert some pretty chilly nights. We visited at the end of October / beginning of November and I was still wearing dresses and only slightly chilly in the mornings and evenings.
I would suggest Fall or Spring (September – November or March – May) as the best times to enjoy Jordan without extreme heat. However the closer you get to winter, the days will be shorter, so if you want to pack as much as possible into your itinerary go with early Fall or late Spring.
Crossing the Border from Jordan to Israel via Land
There are only three boarder crossings between Jordan and Israel: the Yitzhak Rabin Terminal/Wadi Araba Crossing, the King Hussein Bridge (Allenby) Terminal and the Jordan River/Sheikh Hussein Crossing. From talking with our Jordan Direct Tours driver in Jordan, we learned that it is actually forbidden for the Jordanians to use any of the border crossing to go into Israel.
As we spent our final morning in Jordan at Petra which is in the southern region of Jordan, we were closest to the Yitzhak Rabin Terminal/Wadi Araba Crossing. This is the southern most border crossing that connects the Jordanian city of Aqaba with the Israeli city of Eilat. This is the only land border crossing that we used during our trip and a pre-arranged visa for entering into Israel was not required.
A departure tax of currently JD 10 per person is paid at all borders when departing Jordan, and it is currently included with your flight ticket, but is payable if you cross over land borders. Prior to our trip I had read that if you stayed more than 2 nights in Jordan, the departure tax was waived. Therefore, we showed up at the border crossing with 0 JD in our pockets. The final customs officer we spoke to requested that we pay the departure tax. But wait, we have no cash. We asked if he took credit cards, and obviously not. Then I pointed out to him that we had stayed in Jordan for 4 nights and should be exempt. He checked our papers again, and let us through. I’m not sure if it was my understanding or his, but everything was peaceful. If you are leaving Jordan through a land border it is advisable to keep about 10 JD per person with you at the end of your tour in case you are requested to pay the departure tax.
Above are just our personal experiences with one of the border crossings. Rules can change at any time so I advise you do current research at the time of your trip for any new border requirements or opening and closing times.
for the latest information about crossing the border from Jordan into Israel, you can find it here:
- Jordan River/Sheikh Hussein Border Crossing
- Yitzhak Rabin Terminal/Wadi Araba Crossing
- King Hussein Bridge (Allenby) Terminal
If you want to read about crossing from Israel into Jordan you can find more information here.
Sample 4 Day Itinerary through Jordan
Day 1: Amman and Jerash, Transfer to Dead Sea
We arrived late into Amman, Jordan on Friday night at the Queen Alia International Airport. It was surprising how many people were still around at the airport as we landed at about midnight. We were met by the travel agency at the airport and once they helped us with our pre-arranged visas, we headed straight to our hotel to get some rest.
Where we stayed: We just needed somewhere to sleep for the night, nothing fancy so we booked the Conroy Boutique Hotel. If we were spending more time in Amman, I would have booked the gorgeous Amman Rotana hotel because the views from your room over Amman are stunning!
The next morning, bright and early, we visited the restored Roman amphitheater in Amman located in the Hashemite Plaza. Jordan Direct Tours handled purchasing our tickets for us, which you can do right at the entrance. We did not have a guide here and got to explore the amphitheater and the two museums on site at our own pace.
We were quite surprised to find Roman ruins in Jordan but those Romans really made it everywhere. Since 63 BCE, the area of Jordan, Palestine, and Syria was under Roman rule. This lasted for over 4 centuries and left extensive Roman remains which you can see today. The cities of Philadelphia (modern Amman), Gerasa (modern Jerash), Gadara (Umm Qais) and Pella and Arbila (modern Irbid) were part of the Roman Decapolis. This was an area of 10 ancient cities in the Middle East that were reorganized under the Roman conquest.
Next we drove with Jordan Direct Tours to the Amman Citadel which was truly one of my favorite parts of our time in Amman. The Citadel is perched on the Jebel Al Qala’a hill, so you have an amazing view over the city. Here you will find the remaining two standing columns of the Temple of Hercules, the well perserved Umayyad Palace, the ruins of a Byzantine Church as well as an archaeological museum.
If you can manage it, try to visit during a call to prayer. Being able to listening to the call to prayer in the mid-afternoon while having a view over the entire city was such a peaceful moment. The site costs 2JD to enter and is open from 8AM till 7PM.
If you enter alone without a tour group, right at the entrance you will find tour guides that will immediately start up a conversation with you giving you facts about the site and will start walking with you whichever direction you are going. Their hope is that you will oblige and let them give you a tour of the grounds, for a fee of course. We politely declined and kept walking, however if you do want more information you can easily agree on a price beforehand and pick up a tour guide at the entrance.
Next we headed for the city of Jerash where you will find what is said to be the most well preserved Roman ruins outside of Italy. Here we had a tour guide to show us around the site which was organized by Jordan Direct Tours. However it is also possible to organize a tour guide on site. You will see “Tour Guides” written in multiple languages on a trailer after you pass under the Arch of Hadrian at the entrance. We thought the tour guide was really informational and showed us parts of the ancient city that we would have overlooked on our own.
Culture tip: There will be lots of vendors inside of the city trying to sell anything from sand art, clothing to small souvenirs. It is customary if you stop and talk with one of the shop owners that they will pour you a cup of tea. It is rude to not accept it or to try to pay for it. This is their way of showing hospitality and inviting you into their country and/or home. As we stopped at one of the locals stands, he poured us some tea, and even though I do not like tea, I sipped on it slowly. He even insisted that I put on one of the dresses that he was selling and to take pictures! I contemplated purchasing the dress as it was gorgeous, but the material was very thick and it was so incredibly hot!
We were losing sunlight at this point and knew we wanted to make it to the Dead Sea for sunset, so we did not get a chance to climb up to the Temple of Zeus. However, I would say that getting to see the sunset over the Dead Sea from the Jordanian side was well worth it.
The Dead Sea is evenly split down the middle with the left half belonging to Israel and the right to Jordan. The Jordanian side of the Dead Sea is the only side where you can see the sunset over the Dead Sea. There aren’t many free access points to the Dead Sea on the Jordanian side as most of the hotels have laid claim to their section, so we used some points to get a room at the Hilton Dead Sea Resort.
The Hilton was absolutely beautiful and luxurious, I really wish we had spent more time here to just relax. The rooms were spacious and the shower in our room was the best I have ever seen inside a Hilton! After the sun finally set, we went and changed for dinner on the terrace at the resort. Dinner here was fabulous, there was a lady making fresh breads on the terrace and plenty of local wines to choose from.
Day 2: Dead Sea, Transfer to Wadi Rum for Sunset
We took an opportunity to sleep after a few early mornings and slowly made our way down to the Dead Sea for one last float. You don’t need to buy the mud from the resort, as you can actually just reach down and pull up some Dead Sea mud from the sea floor. Doesn’t get more authentic than that!
Next we headed to the Wadi Rum, a protected desert in Southern Jordan. You should not miss this experience on your trip to Jordan! The Wadi Rum desert has some of the most unique landscapes I have ever seen, with the towering sandstone mountains. Virtually all the people living in and around Wadi Rum are of Bedouin origin and, until recently, led nomadic lifestyles relying on their goat herds for income.
We stayed at the Wadi Rum Bedouin Camp which was such a great experience overall. Located right behind the camp is a rock formation that you can easily climb and has the best view over the landscape for sunset. Staying in a Bedouin camp is a must when you are in the Wadi Rum. The camps are usually pretty basic, we had a bed and lots of blankets in our tent, but no power outlets and was no lock on our door. In addition, there are separate men’s and women’s restrooms with showers outside of the tents. My favorite part about staying in the camp was the homemade dinner made by the Bedouin’s that ran the camp and that everyone comes together to eat dinner. We enjoyed meeting people from all over the world and sharing travel experiences that night!
Day 3: Morning in Wadi Rum and Petra
We woke up with the sunrise in the desert to see the landscape in a whole new light. It was still chilly in the morning and very windy, but nothing beats watching the sunrise over the mountains in the Wadi Rum desert. After the sunrise we headed to the common dining area to share breakfast with everyone staying at the camp. At dinner the previous night, we got a chance to speak with the Bedouin man that was running the camp and he set up a camel ride back into the Wadi Rum Village for us and some other staying at the camp!
Next we headed to the village of Wadi Musa which is mostly visited because of Petra. The village was actually more built up than I expected it to be and there are tons of hotels in the town catering to all the visitors of Petra.
Where we stayed: We suggest staying within walking distance of the visitor center so you don’t need a taxi when you want to visit. We stayed at the La Maison Hotel which was exactly what we needed and had a buffet style restaurant for breakfast and dinner. We wanted to stay at the Movenpick Petra Resort, however we were too late and all the rooms were sold out. Not within walking distance, but if you want to book on points you can stay at the Petra Marriot Hotel.
After dropping off our suitcases at our hotel, Jordan Direct Tours had organized a guided tour of Petra for us. Our tour guide took us through the Siq, which is the narrow gorge that continues for about 15 minutes from the visitor center to the famed Treasury. Along the way he explained little details that we would have definitely overlooked without a guide. We toured most of the flat parts of Petra with our guide, and afterwards on our own we hiked up to the monastery just as the sun was setting. Check out our complete guide to visiting Petra for more details.
Travel Tip: Geographically it makes more sense to visit Petra before the Wadi Rum desert if you are heading south. We flipped the two and drove an extra 2 hours each way because the Petra by Night show is only on Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays. We had bought tickets to Petra by Night but ending up not going and getting them refunded because we needed some sleep and I wasn’t feeling well.
Day 4: Petra in the Morning, Transfer to the Border Crossing
The next morning, we woke up around 5AM to be one of the first people at the visitor center. The visitor center opens at 6AM officially, but unofficially it is possible to get in earlier if someone has gotten to work early. When we got there slightly before 6AM it was a little confusing if it was opened yet or not. We stood around waiting for a few minutes until someone waved us in, to find out there was already one or two couples inside. One of the most stunning things I have ever seen is walking through the Siq completely alone and seeing the first sights of the treasury without anyone else around (except a couple of camels of course). This was such a surreal moment and I highly recommend an early morning in Petra to anyone!
Quick Tips on How to visit the Treasury in Petra without any crowds:
- Stay overnight in Wadi Musa, within walking distance of the Petra Visitor Center
- Arrive at the entrance before 6AM (as the doors already might be open) but the officially opens at 6AM3.
- Head straight for the Treasury and take pictures of the Siq afterwards as you exit
Afterward taking in the treasury for about 30 minutes we ventured up to the viewpoint over the treasury. From there we continued through the rocky landscape on a hike to see the High Place of Sacrifice. Petra is so much more than just the Treasury. I really suggest to everyone at least 1.5 days to see all the sights and not feel rushed. There are also many intricacies to Petra that if you know beforehand will make your time there much more relaxing. Check out our complete guide to visiting Petra for more details.
We cut it close only spending 4 days in Jordan. Ideally, 5 to 7 days would have been a perfect amount of time. Taking our rough itinerary and spending one to two extra days at the Dead Sea, as well as one extra night in the Wadi Rum would really make you feel like you have had enough time to explore Jordan. Jordan is a beautiful and very welcoming country towards westerners and the tourism industry is only on the up turn. We would love to visit again one day!
For any additional information on types of clothing to bring, visa requirements, things to do in Jordan, booking guided tours or general Jordanian culture information, the best and most consistent research I used while planning our trip was Tourist Jordan. Happy planning!