I just knew that we would love Jordan, even before we set out on our trip. And yes! We did love the country, the people, the landscapes, the food – everything that the country had to offer. If you are a history buff, adventure seeker, history lover or a foodie, the country has to be on your bucketlist. Here is the link to our nine day itinerary to inspire you to book tickets to the wonderful and mystical land.
Read on for eight tips to help you plan you trip:
Jordan offers visa on arrival for a lot of nationalities, Indian being one of them. While the rules allow Indians a two week visa on arrival, the authorities are inclined to give only a one week visa. We were given a one week visa even though our return ticket was after nine days and we’re advised that this would not be an issue when we exited the country. We would have to pay a penalty of approximately 1 JD per person per day of overstay. Indeed, our exit was smooth and we were not asked to pay the penalty either.
Another condition for visa on arrival is that one needs to carry USD 1000 per person in cash. We weren’t asked to show the money but have heard stories where no other currency, including the EUR was accepted.
The local currency in Jordan is the Jordanian Dinar(JD). JD is pegged to the USD and the exchange rate in most places, except the airport is roughly the same. Suggest converting a only the amount require for the visa and maybe a little more at the airport. The rest can be converted in any of the cities or towns.
Road trip – self drive or with travel agents
Jordan is a small country with a fairly well developed road network. Unlike in India, where railways can take you anywhere and everywhere, railways in Jordan are primarily used for transportation of goods. You can either rent a car or connect with one of the many travel agencies to help you plan your travel. For the two of us, we found that self drive was cheaper than the quotes that we received from various travel agents. It also imparted us with a lot more flexibility to plan our trip and let the shutter bug in me stop every now and then to take random pictures.
If you do intend to rent a car, book online at least a few days in advance, especially if you want a small economy car. We saw a lot of fellow travellers being disappointed as the small cars were booked and they had to shell extra money to rent a bigger one.
While we would recommend a self drive in Jordan, we would not recommend it without the GPS. The highways are not well marked and there is plenty of construction going on everywhere, resulting in diversions, which aren’t well marked either. We lost our way every alternate day regardless of the fact that we were using Google Maps on our phone. We were later told that Bing has mapped Jordan better than Google has.
Asking the locals is an option, though not many locals understand English. The Google translate tool came in handy during our trip.
Local Sim Card
Buying a local sim card is easy and affordable at the airport. All you need is your passport and boarding pass. There are various plans that are available for the prepaid option. We chose the data only plan and converted a phone to the GPS by downloading the map. Over the nine day period, we saved 80% of the amount that we would have spent had we rented a GPS from the car rental agency.
Locals in the interiors of Jordan do not understand the concept of vegetarianism. They believe that vegetarians eat vegetables, even out of a meat dish! We were offered complimentary platters of kebabs, despite having explained that we are vegetarians. While camping at Wadi Rum, the bedouins asked us to join them for a meal, which we politely declined as it was lamb with flat bread. Declining a bedouin meal is a mark of disrespect to the host, which was never our intention. There wasn’t much that we could do as our hosts did not accept the fact that one can survive without eating meat! However, locals in the bigger cities do understand that there are people in this world who do not eat meat.
Cheat sheet – the Middle Eastern mezze platter has plenty of vegetarian dips. Most restaurants offer a vegetarian curry with rice. We had a really nice mushroom pizza at Aqaba. However, there was nothing for us to bite into at McDonald’s or at Burger King.
Tap water is not potable. Be nice to your stomach and drink packaged drinking water. Buying a few bottles in bulk from the grocery is the best way to save some money.
Jordan is an Islamic nation. Carry modest clothing that covers your shoulders and knees. While we felt comfortable wearing shorts in the confines of a five star hotel, we would not recommend dressing that way in the local market. On similar lines, a bikini is perfectly acceptable at the private beach of a resort, not on the public beach. As we always say, respect local culture and make an attempt to be a part of it.
The weather in the desert may get cold at night – it wouldn’t hurt to carry an extra layer if you are here in any season except the summer.
You will walk a lot in Jordan, especially if you have planned a trip to Petra. In the 12 hours that we spent at Petra, we walked over 20 kms! Needless to stay, comfortable shoes are a must have. Let the heels and the fancy shoes stay in the suit case and wear a pair of flat walking shoes for exploring this country. And oh, remember to carry a pair or beach slippers for the Dead Sea – the salt crustations can cut your skin!
Bargain, negotiate and haggle
Jordan isn’t a budget destination. Our nine days in Jordan cost us almost as much as nine days in any European destination.We bargained for ‘everything’ and ended up getting discounts of at least 10 – 20%. ‘Everything’ includes day trips in Wadi Rum, souvenirs. bottles of water, lip balm and even ice cream! If the goods do not have a printed price or are not being sold at printed price, there is room to bargain!
As always… send me an e-mail if you need any further details. Glad to help!
Let the travellers’ tribe grow!