Visiting Jordan: an overview

header-image-intro-jordan

I took a short trip to Jordan for 4 days and 3 nights. And if I have to sum it all up, it was AMAZING.

Jordan had always been on my list of must see places. It’s in the Middle East and with only a little over three hours of flight from Dubai, it’s practically in my neighborhood. In a few weeks, we’re ten years in Dubai having not travelled to Jordan ever before in that span of time is kind of shameful, really. I attempted a visit once, in 2011 but my plans were scrapped due to work and later on, pregnancy and a small baby.

I travelled to many other places after that but Jordan never left my head and my heart. I know I HAD TO GO.

I’ll be writing extensively about my trip, the lessons I learned, experiences and will be sharing tips. For now though, the BASICS.

jordan-map

The most important question, I know most travellers to Jordan ask,

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. 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 the ongoing carnage in Syria but the key thing to remember is that there’s no advise against travel to anywhere in Jordan except a two-mile strip along the Syrian border (which is far from tourist sites).

VISA REQUIREMENTS (as of this writing)

Single Entry visas valid for one month: 40 JOD (approximately 56 USD)
Double Entry visas valid for three months: 60 JOD (approximately 85 USD)
Multiple Entry visas valid for six months: 120 JOD (approximately 170 USD)

Always check with the Jordanian consulate website or directly call them to confirm if you are eligible for visa on arrival or need to apply visa before going.

The Jordanian Government has waived visa fees for all non-restricted nationalities coming through Jordanian tour operators whether travelling individually or in groups. The visa fee is waived on the condition that the traveller/travellers spend a minimum of two consecutive nights in Jordan.

FLIGHT

flydubai

Our flight from Dubai was via Fly Dubai. They have flights to Amman twice a day and they have the best flight schedule for someone who has very limited time to travel. Our flight left Dubai’s Terminal 2 at 6:30 am, arriving in Amman a little after 8:00 am* so there’s practically the whole day to do things. Flight back to Dubai leaves Amman at 10:10 pm, so you have time to enjoy your last full day in Jordan till then.

Travel time Dubai – Amman is 3.5 hours and Amman – Dubai, 3 hours.

* Jordan follows winter time so the clocks are turned back an hour. In actuality, UAE and Jordan only have one hour of time difference, with the UAE ahead.

The cost of our roundtrip ticket bought on sale was AED800 (US$218) per person.

Fly Dubai do seat sales very often, so watch out for that. Our flight to Prague in May this year was also with this budget airline with tickets bought during their sales period.

CURRENCY

1 JOD = approximately AED5 (US$1.4)

TIP: Carry Jordanian dinar cash as there are many establishments and local stores not accepting credit card.

INTERNET CONNECTION

Jordan is well connected and many hotels have WiFi. I bought a Zain local SIM card at a kiosk right inside the airport, after the passport control section. The SIM was with 4 GB data and 30 mins (?) local calls for JOD8.8. Zain network had fantastic 3G coverage, even in the most remote places like most of Wadi Rum.

TRANSFERS

Although there are taxis and a public bus to Petra (and other destinations), your best bet would be to hire a private transfer with driver and if possible, a guide through a trusted tour operators listed in the official Jordan Tourism Board website.

We were taken care of by Amani Tours who provided a van with a driver and a wonderful guide.

So here’s a roundup of the places we went to in Jordan. This is just an overview. A more detailed post about each one will follow, hopefully SOON!

Fascinating Dead Sea

First up on our itinerary was to the Dead Sea, right after we got out of the airport. Why, because no one really goes to Jordan without visiting this fascinating, downright mysterious body of water, right?

The Dead Sea is the lowest point on Earth at 450 meters below sea level. It is actually a lake but called a ‘sea’ and is more than 8 times saltier than the ocean.

dead-sea

We did not stay overnight in the Dead Sea area but we were at the Movenpick Resort and Spa Dead Sea opting for day access to get into the shores of the Dead Sea. Our guide said there are public and semi-private beach access areas but we chose to be at the Movenpick because we wanted to relax at their spa and use the therapeutic hydro pool and shower facilities (which were all so nice, by the way!).

(After swimming floating in the salty waters, you NEED to rinse off.)

The hotel has wonderful spa and therapy programs for healing and wellness, too though we didn’t go for any therapy sessions due to time constraints.

dead-sea-2

We braved the cold temps and wind to do what everyone should do when at the Dead Sea: float in the highly buoyant water! Pics on the next post about our Dead Sea experience soon!

Magical Petra

After a few hours at the Dead Sea, we head out to Petra. The plan was to spend the night at the Movenpick Resort Petra and see the historic archeological site first thing in the morning. There are several hotels, hostels and B&B places within Wadi Musa (the village where Petra is), however, the Movenpick Resort Petra is located at the doorstep of the entrance gate to Petra. As in, literally just a few steps away so that means, if you overslept, you don’t ruin your vacation.

movenpick-petra

We set out very early to Petra, right after sunrise ready to experience one of the seven wonders of the world. The gates open at 7 am and we were one of the few who were there at that time.

petra-3

You must have heard wonderful stories and raves of Petra’s main attraction – the Treasury or Al Khazneh for locals but for me, the Siq – the stretch of dim, narrow gorge that winds its way approximately 1.2 kilometers (0.75 mi) impressed me more. If I had to take a picture of an angle I like, I’d probably end up with hundreds and hundreds of photographs.

petra-2

Entrance to Petra is expensive (at least for me!) at single entry for 50JOD (approx AED250 or US$68) per person. Children under 12 enter for free. The cost discouraged me a bit to be honest but I thought, heck, I have to see this at least once in my life so be it!

TIP: If you’re going to spend longer time in Jordan and going to other sites/museums, etc, get the Jordan Pass – it combines the country’s visa entry fee of 40 JD with the notoriously costly Petra entrance ticket of 50 JD + entrance to other attractions.

Refreshing Red Sea

We drove to the southern part of Jordan from Petra, to a city called Aqaba – the only coastal city in Jordan and the largest and most populous city on the Gulf of Aqaba. Even during winter, Aqaba is warmer than Amman or Petra making it a great holiday hub. Staying in Aqaba is a great idea if you plan to visit Wadi Rum.

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That said, there are several hotels and resorts in Aqaba, especially on Tala bay. We stayed at the Movenpick Resort and Spa Tala Bay Aqaba. It is a very family friendly resort hotel with great facilities and fun pools – yeah, plural because there are several pools! In the summer time, I can imagine lots of families enjoying their time here.

movenpick-tala-bay

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Movenpick Tala Bay has a beach access to the Red Sea. It was so refreshing to walk here every morning after breakfast. I absolutely LOVE the breeze here!

Breathtaking Wadi Rum

Now people, THIS.

Wadi Rum, another UNESCO World Heritage Site is out of this world majestic. This protected desert wilderness is located in southern Jordan and spans an area of 74,000 hectares.

I can take a thousand pictures and write a thousand more words to describe it but it won’t do justice as what my eyes have seen.

wadi-rum

I’ve heard many great things about Wadi Rum, as well as not so great ones too. If you love nature, history, mystery or even magic, go to Wadi Rum but if you’re one of the few who thinks a vast land of desert and ancient stones is boring, maybe you can skip it.

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I HOPE YOU WON’T SKIP IT, THOUGH! Wadi Rum is DREAMY.

Entrance fee to Wadi Rum is only JOD5 (approx AED25 or US$1.4) per person but you have to pay for the tour on a jeep. Ours was JOD55 for three hours – we had a Bedouin driver recommended by our fabulous guide and the cost was worth every penny.

*****

jordan-with-pristine

I travelled to Jordan with my soon to be officially teenager daughter, Pristine. This is actually our second mother-daughter trip together. The first one was last year checking out the Christmas markets in Prague for the first time. She is a year older now, meaning, more capable to endure all the walking and trekking I assumed our Jordan experience would entail.

And I wasn’t wrong! She is a real trooper and braver and stronger than me on all accounts. Pretty flexible too with almost everything from food to hiking distances and climbing rocks! I think I could write another 7 reasons why I love travelling with my daughter!

Our Jordan trip was fantastic and to be honest exceeded our already high expectations. I can’t wait to write more.

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