With Roman History, buzzing city culture, traditional Bedouin camps and jaw dropping scenery everywhere you turn, Jordan is fast becoming a very popular travel destination. But, despite being popular with families, couples, solo travellers and tours, travelling to Jordan can still feel a little “unknown.” Based on our experience of visiting Jordan recently, we’ve put together a list of top travel tips to help your trip go smoothly. Our Jordan travel advice is listed below.
- Travel Advice for Visiting Jordan
- Getting into Jordan: Jordan Travel Tips
- Shopping and money: Jordan Travel Advice
- Food and drinks in Jordan: Jordan Travel Tips
- Getting around Jordan
- Cultural quirks in Jordan
- Tourist Traps to Avoid: Jordan Travel Advice
Travel Advice for Visiting Jordan
Getting into Jordan: Jordan Travel Tips
1. Which airport should I fly to in Jordan?
From the UK, there are two airlines (Qatar Airways and British Airways) that fly from London to Jordan’s capital Amman. Low-cost airline, EasyJet, now flies from London Gatwick to Aqaba, to the South of Jordan.
The flight cost to Aqaba tends to be cheaper than the equivalent flights to Amman. Roughly, Easyjet, charges around £150 for return flights to the UK. However, British Airways flights tend to be upwards of £250, sometimes up to £400. As Jordan is classed as “medium haul”, you won’t even get food, drinks or a TV on a British Airways flight even if you do pay more. However, the Amman route is much more regular, with flights leaving every day. Flights to Aqaba run twice a week, less frequently in the winter.
If you plan to visit the North of Jordan, including Amman and Jerash, we suggest flying into the capital. But, if you’re visiting Jordan for a short period and only intend to visit the sites in the South (Petra, Aqaba and Wadi Rum), it could be more prudent to fly to Aqaba.
2. Do I need a visa for Jordan?
If you are flying from the UK, then you will need a visa to enter Jordan. You can purchase the visa upon landing in the main airports and you can’t buy it in advance. The price is fixed at 40 JOD (£48/$56). For Brits, the visa will only entitle you to stay in Jordan for 30 days. If you want to extend your visa, in a strange quirk, you must take an HIV test.
The fee for a visa is waived, if you purchase a Jordan Pass (see below.)
Always check the latest FCO advice (for Brits) and for others, consult the relevant embassy.
3. Should I buy the Jordan Pass?
If you plan to visit Petra, then yes you should buy the Jordan pass. The Jordan pass, inclusive of a one day visit to Petra, is 70 JOD. Whereas to enter Petra you’d pay 50 JOD if you buy a ticket separately. The Jordan Pass also includes your 40 JOD visa fee, that you would otherwise pay in the airport when you arrive. This means, that you’ve already saved 20 JOD by buying the Jordan Pass if you do plan to visit Petra.
There are around 40 sites that you can visit with the Jordan Pass. In our experience, most sites do not check your pass (apart from Petra), but this could of course change. The majority of entrance fees are around 2 or 3 JOD, with the exception of Jerash ruins which costs 12 JOD.
The Jordan pass lasts for 14 days from the day of activation, so if you are in Jordan for longer, then you may want to plan around this. The pass activates once you enter the first sight using the pass and not when you enter Jordan.
You must ensure that you buy the pass before you arrive in Jordan in order to take advantage of the visa fee being waived. You can buy the pass very quickly, we did it at the airport before boarding our flight. The other consideration you should make when purchasing the pass is to decide how many days you intend to visit Petra for. If you plan to visit for more than one day, you can purchase the 75 JOD or 80 JOD pass (which allows you into Petra for 2 or 3 days respectively.) You cannot amend the pass after purchasing, so even if you think you may want to visit Petra for more than one day, it’s worth paying the extra 5 JOD (versus 50 JOD on the door!)
Shopping and money: Jordan Travel Advice
4. Where can I shop in Jordan?
In Amman, there are some large shopping malls. Otherwise, the majority of shopping can be done in the various Souks in the city. Most cities, even small ones like Ajloun will have equivalent markets. There are supermarkets in Jordan, Carrefour is one of the larger chains, but otherwise supermarkets tend to be small and run by independent retailers.
We noted that it tends to be better to do food shopping in markets, rather than supermarkets. We tended to use supermarkets to buy staples like toilet roll, cleaning products and soft drinks. But, we bought fruit and veg from the markets, bread from bakeries and hummus and falafel from falafel shops. Alcohol can only be purchased in liquor stores (more info below and in our article here.)
What about opening hours? The religious day in Jordan is Friday, this is treated like a day off for locals. The equivalent to a Sunday in Europe. In our experience, shops and restaurants do not tend to shut on Fridays. In fact, in Amman, it seems to be a peak shopping day for locals.
5. Do I need cash in Jordan?
Jordan is a cash-based society. Most accommodation (outside of Amman), restaurants, supermarkets and tour providers will only accept cash. We were able to use card in liquor stores and one or two hostels, but the rest of the time we needed cash in Jordan.
6. Are there ATMs in Jordan?
ATMs are really easy to find in Jordan. Towns and cities tend to have many ATMs and they are mostly to be found on Google Maps. We noted that a few marked on the main highways were out of order, so it’s best to get cash in towns and cities when you’re there.
If you’re travelling to Wadi Rum, be aware that the village does not have an ATM. The airports have ATMs that you can use when you arrive. We found that most ATMs in Jordan charged around 5 JOD per transaction, so it’s better to take out a large amount if you can.
Food and drinks in Jordan: Jordan Travel Tips
7. Can I drink the water in Jordan?
According to our research, the water in Amman is drinkable, but it is not in the rest of the country. We chose not to drink any tap water throughout our trip, even brushing our teeth with bottled water.
Bottled water is easy to find throughout Jordan. Hotels will either sell it or provide it for free. A large bottle should not cost more than 0.5 JOD, and if you buy six, it should be around 1.50 JOD.
It seems a shame to use so many plastic bottles, especially as recycling in Jordan doesn’t seem to be mainstream, but we couldn’t find an alternative during our trip.
8. Can I drink alcohol in Jordan?
We’ve written an extensive article on this topic – link here. However, the short answer is that you can drink alcohol in Jordan. It is not illegal to drink in Jordan, unless you are in public. There are a handful of bars and hotels, as well as liquor stores in Jordan. Our two tips for drinking in Jordan are – plan ahead and expect to pay a lot for it.
9. Where can I buy food in Jordan?
In our experience, all towns, however small seem to have a falafel restaurant or two. It is also really easy to get shawarma or kebabs. Bread is easy to come by, with most towns having a bakery. Otherwise, there are frequent small supermarkets in most areas you travel to. One of the things we loved in Jordan is the opening hours – restaurants often open really late or 24 hours a day!
For more information on the best foods to try in Jordan – read our article here.
Getting around Jordan
10. Do I need a hire car in Jordan?
We had read on many blogs that you really need a hire car to travel around in Jordan. We went for it and hired one, but I would say that there were moments when we regretted it. Both in terms of the expense (around $800) and because sometimes having the car felt like a hindrance (where to park and worrying about damage etc.)
If you plan to only visit Aqaba, Petra, Wadi Rum and even the Dead Sea, we think you could confidently rely on public transport. This is particularly true if you fly into Aqaba. You will not use a car in Petra or Wadi Rum, and it’s unlikely you’ll want to use it much in Aqaba and at the Dead Sea.
If you are planning to visit Jerash, Umm Qais or other parts of North Jordan and you are looking to stay outside of the main resorts in the South, then a car may be useful for you.
In short, it is absolutely not essential to hire a car to travel around Jordan.
11. What is it like to drive in Jordan
Driving in Jordan can oscillate quickly from pleasurable and easy to chaotic and frankly terrifying. If you’re used to driving in cities, then it may not seem as daunting. But we would strongly recommend that anyone hiring a car doesn’t drive in Amman. Elsewhere, even the roads in smaller cities and towns can feel a bit frantic. If you’re an experienced driver, with your wits about you, then you can quickly adjust to this.
The main highways in Jordan are solid, wide and fairly easy to drive on. Sometimes the lane markings aren’t very clearly marked, and this can lead to cars merging into different lanes. Aside from the highways, many roads have uneven terrain and potholes.
This is much publicised but watch out for speed bumps in Jordan. They are very frequent and come out of nowhere. Police check points are also fairly frequent, so pay attention to those.
For more information on hiring a car and driving in Jordan – check out our article on that very topic.
Cultural quirks in Jordan
12. Prices are quite “flexible”
Rarely do supermarkets display prices. Ditto for most takeaway food places, cafes or small shops and stalls in the souk. We strongly suspect that prices are different for tourists versus locals. If you’re buying something, like a souvenir or item of clothing in a souk, you should feel comfortable to barter.
As a general rule, you really shouldn’t pay more than 0.5 JOD for a takeaway Turkish coffee. After being charged 2 JOD per coffee, we stopped asking how much we needed to pay and started just handing over 1 JOD for 2 coffees and walking away.
We also noticed that the price of tours, in Wadi Rum particularly, can be negotiated, sometimes quite drastically.
When getting taxis, be sure to agree a fare in advance and have an idea of how much it should cost. In Amman, 2 or 3 JOD for a short journey is reasonable. From the airport, expect to pay between 20 and 25 JOD to the city.
13. Sometimes information is vague
In many European and Western societies, we like rules, clear guidance and ample information. In Jordan, things seem to be a little more fluid and sometimes vague. As an example, the customs guidance for moving goods from Aqaba to the rest of Jordan is confusing to say the least.
Often travellers can feel frustrated in Jordan as things aren’t very precise. Tours may not have set times; prices can be unclear and sometimes you will be waiting with no idea what’s going on! Arguably, this is all part of the fun of travel.
14. Women in Jordan
Women in Jordan have the same legal rights as men, yet you will rarely see a woman in Jordan working in any sort of customer facing role. We saw plenty of women out and about and in restaurants (although we definitely saw a few very traditional coffee houses where women would not be permitted to enter.) But it’s very clear that men are running the hospitality and tourist industries in Jordan. This can create a strange dynamic, at least in contrast to European and Western culture.
It’s difficult to find the precise words to describe the situation in Jordan with regard to the role of women. I’m not an expert and throughout our trip, we didn’t get the chance to meet many women in Jordan. But, the best way I can possibly depict the dynamic, without overstepping, is to say that it feels very much like a male dominated society, at least from an outsider’s perspective.
As a female traveller, there were times when I did feel uncomfortable. We often encountered large groups of men gathering, although undoubtedly their intention was not so, it did on occasion feel menacing. I also experienced many cars tooting horns as I walked past and frequent comments from men. Perhaps this was more notable, given that absence of women gathering, or indeed tooting their car horns at me. This is not to say that female travellers should be deterred from travelling to Jordan, even as solo travellers. But I think it’s important to convey, at least based on my experience, you are unlikely to feel as free and relaxed when travelling to Jordan as you might in Europe.
For female travellers, remember to take heed of government advice, the FCO has a particularly good series of recommendations for women travelling to Jordan. If you’d like more information on what to wear in Jordan – check out our page here.
15. “Welcome to Jordan”
This seems to be a phrase that all Jordanians like to shout at tourists. Sometimes it really does mean, welcome to Jordan. Other times, it can mean just about anything!
16. Toilet Roll Situation
If you’ve travelled to any country outside of the USA and Europe, you might be familiar with this one. But, in Jordan, you cannot flush toilet roll down the toilet. Instead, used toilet roll must go into the bins provided.
In our experience, many toilets and hotels, don’t provide much toilet roll! We recommend packing loo roll or baby wipes and keeping them with you, just in case. I shall say no more on this topic.
Tourist Traps to Avoid: Jordan Travel Advice
17. Paying the first price
If you’re buying items at souks, or arranging tours, you may find that you can haggle the price down. Sometimes quite significantly. An item being offered to you for 10 JOD, may quickly go down to 2 JOD. The same can be said of tours in Wadi Rum.
If you think the price is too high, you’re probably right. Don’t pay it!
18. Paying too much for accommodation
In Jordan, often booking in advance isn’t the most fruitful way to book accommodation. Particularly in early or late season, you can find accommodation at a reduce or promotion rate. In Wadi Rum, which has 80 campsites, this is particularly true. Look out for late deals.
19. Riding camels and donkeys in Petra
There are reports about mistreatment of animals in Petra, but even without these, it is very obvious when you visit Petra that not all of the animals are being treated well. Aside from this, riding camels and donkeys in Petra can be dangerous. Do this at your own peril.
20. Believing that you can’t travel around Jordan independently
Jordan can seem unknown and mystical! Even with the number of tourists travelling to Jordan, there remains a lack of information about driving around independently. However, don’t let this put you off!
You do not need to book an expensive tour to travel to Jordan. If this suits you, then go for it. But if you have a hankering for travelling independently, then please give it a go! There can be a temptation to think that a tour is safer and easier, it may be the case. But we also think that you may not get to see Jordan outside of a tourist bubble if you are moving from one bus to another with a guide.
If you’re craving the freedom and flexibility of a road trip, you can hire a car. Or, if you’d prefer to, public transport is available – it just may require a little more forward planning. Either way, we are confident that you will see more of Jordan and get a better feeling for the country from travelling independently.