So, you've been to Jordan? Tell me all about it!
February 1, 2012 4:20 PM   Subscribe

So I've just booked a flight to Jordan for a week in early March. The Lonely Planet guide to Jordan is in the post, but I'd like to start planning, and would welcome your advice on what to see / not see, how to get around, tour company recommendations etc.

I'm flying in on a Saturday night, flying out the following Sunday morning. So I'll have 7 full days in the country.

I obviously want to explore Petra (probably want 2 days there, not just do a day trip from Amman), Kerak, Jerash, the Dead Sea (relaxing, spa type stuff), and a day or two in Wadi Rum (happy to camp, would be good to get some walking in as well), and see Amman as well.

What is a must-see? What can I miss?

Recommendations for tours running out of Amman, info about how to get around / which towns to stay in, and general travel tips are all welcome!

Is there anything I should be particularly aware of as a single female traveller in Jordan? (I've travelled by myself a lot so I'm fine with the general precautions)

My travelling style - independent but happy to join a tour for a couple of days with other backpackers if that makes things easier. I don't need to have everything arranged in advance, I'm happy to go with the flow once I'm there, but I'm also happy to book a few things in advance to ensure I don't miss out! I'm travelling alone which I love because it gives me the opportunity to meet other people and be flexible about my plans once I'm there.

Budget - think "luxury backpacker" (i.e. private room in a hostel, ensuite optional) - happy to rough it a bit but equally happy to pay a bit more for a special experience.

posted by finding.perdita to Travel & Transportation around Jordan (5 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
I'd spend the majority of time in Wadi Rum and Petra. The tribes out there are very cool and you may hang out with some itinerant expats who've been literally camping out there for years. There's nice funky local places around Petra. Don't buy the authentic ancient greek coin that someone will try to sell you at the entrance to the park. And the donkey and camel rides are a rip off.

Amman's kind of transient and not a lot to see in my experience. A lot of sketchy expats and security contractors use it as a base for sketchier places in Iraq and Mid East. At night its dominated by gulf kids rich enough to buy a BMW with a loud sound system but whose parents won't let them go someplace where they can have some real fun shopping and cruising the Starbucks for loose women. Which they will assume includes you.

Search Ask for previous Jordan recommendations that are much more positive...
posted by RandlePatrickMcMurphy at 6:39 PM on February 1, 2012 [2 favorites]

My roommate studied abroad in Amman for a semester last fall and she has a lot to say to you!

In terms of being a female traveler: She says it's unusual for women to travel alone in Jordan, and that no Jordanian woman would do it. Her advice to you as an American woman is to find a (non-Jordanian) man or group of men going to the same places as you and stick with them. She says this will give the impression that you're protected and reduce the amount of harassment you may encounter (she says this is a common experience in Jordan.) Even traveling with a group of women is better than alone. Especially camping in Wadi Rum, make sure you're with other people or it could just be you and the bedouin (likely unpleasant for everyone.) And obviously, dress modestly and show general respect.

Transportation in Amman: All cabs are registered and it should be easy to get a cab. Make sure to make them turn on the meter (don't bargain, and no cab ride should cost more than 3 jds on the west side of the city.) If you feel unsure in a cab, make a display of writing the cab registration number, ask the driver for it, or pretend to call a man on your phone. Outside of Amman, you bargain for most transportation.

Must see: Petra is awesome, make sure you spend at least a day there. Be prepared - it's expensive to get in, but it's worth it. Eat at Al-Quds falafel stand on Rainbow Street in Amman. Have breakfast at Hashem in downtown Amman, and eat lunch or dinner at Jafra (also downtown.) Have anything at all at Blue Fig in Abdoun.

What you can miss: Don't go to eastern Jordan, or if you feel you must go with a group. Don't try to sleep in Jerash - use it as a day trip on the way to Um Qais or Irbid or somewhere else in the north.

Other advice: Greet and thank people in Arabic. Don't feel obligated to accept all hospitality (some is a tourist trap.) Don't go somewhere alone with Jordanian men. Somethings will be shockingly cheap and some will be shockingly expensive.

Have fun! My roommate is jealous.
posted by rabbitbookworm at 8:46 PM on February 1, 2012 [1 favorite]

Just noticed you are not American! Sorry for the assumption - advice still holds.
posted by rabbitbookworm at 8:49 PM on February 1, 2012

I travelled to Jordan about 6 years ago as a single female and felt like it was one of the safer places to travel. Of course, I had just come from Cairo where it was literally non-stop verbal harassment when I travelled around town. I loved Jordan and thought Petra was by far the most amazing man-made sight I had ever seen.

From Amman, it's an easy day trip to Jerash on the public bus. When I was there, I had the option of taking an organized tour, including transportation, to Jerash for $50, or take the public bus for $0.75. Busses seem tricky because the destination is written in Arabic. My cab driver who took me to the bus station in Amman got out and helped me locate the correct bus to get on, and on my return trip from Jerash a policeman stopped to made sure I got on the right bus. I placed a lot of faith in the helpfulness of Jordanians and was never dissappointed. It also helps that 10% of Jordan's GDP comes from tourism- they want tourists to enjoy their country.

I had two weeks in Jordan and spent one week on a horse back tour in the Wadi Rum. I can't remember the organization I used but the trip was fantastic. If you can get out in the Wadi Rum where you see actual bedouins herding goats it's a sight you won't forget.

As always when travelling, be respectful of the culture and wear appropriate clothing. You can keep comfortable and cool while still avoiding tank tops and shorts. Have fun and enjoy a truly beautiful country and culture.
posted by shornco at 9:34 AM on February 2, 2012

All the things you've got planned are good, though personally I wasn't especially taken by Jerash and would add Um Qais as well/instead--especially at the time of year you're travelling, when the spring flowers should be out, and it shouldn't be as hazy down over the Sea of Galilee as it is in summer. (Might be hard to find a place to stay, though.)

Check the average temperatures; I wouldn't be surprised by pleasantly warm days and chilly-to-cold nights at that time of year. March is also the tail-end of the period when rain is likely, though this will be more likely in the north than in the south. On that subject, though, don't be tempted to take one of the [even more] 'secret' canyon routes out of Petra--these are prone to flash flooding as late as May, and when you've seen rocks the size of Transit vans that have been wedged into a canyon a few metres wide you can imagine the force of the water that left them there.

There will usually be women on country buses, at least in the daytime, though usually in the minority--they'll probably be quite pleased if you sit next to them (and people will make room for you to do so). When they want to get off they tap on the windowframe (usually with a ring) rather than calling up to the driver; Jordan's the only place where I've seen this. If you're the only woman, maybe stay near the front. In shared taxis a plump elderly men (for example) will likely squeeze themselves into the back so you can have a place to yourself in the front. As shornco says, you can place quite a lot of faith in the helpfulness of Jordanians.

Getting around by country buses, incidentally, is perfectly practical for covering medium distances--there are quite a lot of them, quite regular, cheap (assuming prices haven't rocketed in the five or six years since I was last there--they've probably gone up a fair bit, for several reasons). Jordan is small, so unless you're going from Amman to Aqaba or something most journeys won't take long. It would be easy to get from Amman to Ajloun and then Um Qais in a day with time to look around the last two; similarly if you were heading south to Madaba, Mt Nebo (phenomenal view--toss-up with Um Qais for best I've seen in Jordan), and Kerak.

The fuul in Jordan is the best I've tasted; the bread, as a rule, is much nicer than in Egypt or Syria. The tea is crazy, though--so intensely strong but so intensely charged with sugar that it's hardly recognizable as tea, it's more like drinking some kind of liquid metal.

I understand the advice rabbitbookworm's roommate is passing on about travelling by yourself, but I'd say that if you can find Jordanian women who are heading in the same direction it would be much better. (This will be more likely when the destination isn't _only_ a tourist hotspot.) Assuming that you'd especially like to meet some Jordanians, that is; you might be just as happy finding some other travellers you get along with and sticking with them, and fair enough, you're only there for a week.

I know you've got the Lonely Planet on the way to you, but the last time I was in Jordan, the Rough Guide was exceptionally good. The current edition is still the same writer. Also, I've just realized I've been sort of repeating myself from an earlier post; that one mentions Habiba, though, which (assuming it still exists) is a very good place for sweet things to eat in Amman.

This sounds like a really good trip, and it's making me want to go back to Jordan. Enjoy it!
posted by lapsangsouchong at 2:55 PM on February 4, 2012

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