Cathedral at Petra

Backpacking Jordan Travel Guide

Why Travel to Jordan?

Jordan sticks with you. Long after you leave its borders this country will draw you back. It could be the spirit of the Jordanian people or its stark beautiful countryside. T.E Lawrence crossed the treacherous deserts of Arabia to find himself here for this same reason. From the ancient mysterious carved temples at Petra to the red sand dunes of Wadi Rum, backpacking Jordan becomes an addiction. Jordan also happens to be one of the safest places in the Middle East. Jordan has a small but beautiful coastline teeming with marine life. After delving into Jordan’s spectacular natural scenery take in the ancient carved temples of Petra or the Roman city of Jerash and to finish off in the urban streets of Amman modern day Jordan so you can experience The “New” Jordan. Traveling here will get you a good taste of what the Middle East has to offer. This is the land of true Adventurers, so just as Lawrence had done you too should come to Jordan and see for yourself why he held this country and its people so close to his heart.

Backpacking Jordan Travel Guide

When to Travel to Jordan

High Season (March – May) – Perfect weather warm during the days and slightly cold at night. Hotels can be hard to find as there are many tourists.
Shoulder (September – February) – Fewer tourist but can be very cold and sometimes see snow.
Low Season (June – August) – The desert is relentless at this time. Prices in hotels are low and very few tourists, get ready to beat the heat.

The Basics

Language – Arabic
Religion – Islam
Capital City – Amman
Visa – Visa readily available for most nationals on arrival at airport and land borders.
Currency – Jordanian Dinar (JOD)
1 USD – 1.45 JOD

Typical Costs and Getting Around Jordan

Accommodation – Most of Jordan’s budget accommodation scene comes in the form of guest houses. Some of these can be a great cultural experience as you stay in the home of a families. In Petra I was invited to a family dinner through our guest house. Most guest houses range around 10 – 50 JOD for a double private bedroom. Dormitories are often difficult to find. If staying in a guest house is not your thing don’t fret, because Jordan is home to some pretty swanky digs. Try staying in a medieval castle or an old converted Orthodox Church. Yes Jordan has some pretty interesting and historic hotels but also a good selection of modern hotels that provide western comfort. Most modern hotels and historic places you will find room rates can be around 50 – 100 JOD depending of course on quality, and how incredibly cool the hotel is. In my opinion, the greatest hotel Jordan offers is the one where you sleep under a million stars on a bed of sand in the surreal quietness of Wadi Rum.

Food – Jordan’s food is an example of its positions as the cross roads for many trading cultures. Being surrounded by countries with delicious cuisines has brought Jordan to be a Foodies heaven. Imagine Arab desserts, Egyptian style rice’s and beans, Lebanese salads, Indian spices and of course you cannot forget the Turkish influence. Jordan’s food scene can only be described as sublime and with most meals only costing around 3-4 JOD you can eat till you enter a food coma. Jordan’s street food is also great for cheap eats. Shawarmas and falafel are served from street side vendors costing as low as a half Dinar. These street eats are excellent and delicious as well.

Transport – Jordan is a small country with great roads meaning that traveling here does not take time at all. You can travel From the Syrian border to the sea in Aqaba usually in under 6 hours. Jordan for this reason is a great place to hire a cab to travel the short distances between sights. Taxi’s prices fluctuate depending on your bargaining skills and the quality of the cab. But expect to pay around 20 JOD per hour or so when driving from city to city. In town however Taxis are much cheaper as you do not have to pay the return fare. If you are on a budget or have the time and want to save money than there is also a bus network that travels to most destinations along the main highways. With this comes a busy network of Mini buses that tend to only leave when full, so waiting times can vary. Prices for these mini buses is rock bottom and can sometimes cost as low as 5 JOD for a 100km.

My Favourite Places in Jordan

Backpacking Jordan Travel Guide

Petra – What a surprise that I choose Petra ad one of my favourite sites but this is simply because Petra is mind blowing. Right from the main entrance Petra will amaze even the most jaded of travelers. Walk its rose red coloured rock alley ways and enter the main courtyard to be amazed at this perfect architecture. There are well over a hundred different tombs and cave sites you can visit here including a giant monastery atop a steep mountain.

Wadi Rum – My childhood imagination crossed these sand long ago. T.E Lawrence fell in love with this desert just as you will the moment you discover its serene silence and perfectly shaped Rose coloured dunes. The Arabs and Bedouin have writtem poems of this place, describing its beauty. Spend enough time here and become one with the desert.

Backpacking Jordan Travel Guide

Karak Castle – If you are a history buff as I am you will appreciate the significance of Karak. Used by medieval crusaders fighting the armies of Salah Adin this historic castle has not changed much since its original state. Wandering its empty corridors has an almost spooky feeling and sleeping in one of the castles old buildings is a great experience that will leave you with stories to tell. Come on who doesn’t love castles and knights in the Middle East!

Backpacking Jordan Travel Guide

Amman – Jordan’s capital city and the centre of Arab Jordanian culture. Shop for a red Keffiyeh (traditional red and white chequered scarf) and eat delicious Turkish deserts while sipping a cup of tea. Amman is Jordan’s heart and working centre that brings life to this country. Amman also has some very interesting walking tours that take you by Roman symbols and other ancient artifacts.

Jerash –  No visit to Jordan is complete without a visit to the ancient Roman city of Jerash. Its tall coulombs make photographing this city fun and easy. Oh wait there’s more! Jerash also has mock Roman battles and chariot re-enactments. Sure it’s kind of cheesy, but it’s also really fun to participate with gladiators in a real Roman city.

Top Experiences

Backpacking Jordan Travel Guide

Floating in the Dead Sea – Yes! You really do float. Swim out into the salty waters with a newspaper and get ready to be amazed. You truly can just sit upright and float to read your newspaper and get that perfect picture to send home. The Dead Sea is also incredibly gorgeous. Its rocky desert coastline where locals often picnic and play in the water is an incredible sight.

Backpacking Jordan Travel Guide

Golan Heights – Visiting one of the most controversial places is always exciting. It’s even more exciting when the area bares my family name. Stand among the daisy and lilac covered hills and look over the borders of Jordan, Israel and Syria.

Shepard’s and camels amongst the desert – Hiking around Petra and the Wadi Rum you will discover there are in fact real Bedouin tribes still living here. Even better is these Bedouins are some of the most hospitable people I have ever met who love to show you there way of life. Don’t be surprised if you get invited to herd sheep or drink Bedouin tea in sand of the desert.

The Food, oh yes, The FOOD – Jordan’s smorgasbord of cuisines have created one of the most gastronomically delicious and diverse cuisines that will drive foodies mad. Don’t get me started on the desserts! If you are lucky enough to be invited into a family’s home you will be treated with some of these spectacular dishes Jordan has developed through centuries of trade.

Top Travel Tips for Jordan

  • Camels bite so be cautious with these beautiful creatures
  • Bring an appetite for sweets, Jordanians love sweet things
  • If coming in summer it’s hot, really HOT
  • Bring a jacket as the nights can be very cool
  • Dress respectably, remember cover to the elbow and knees. No shorts. No tank tops.
  • Learning some Arabic phrases can earn brownie points
  • En Shallah means maybe, the kind of maybe that leads towards no
  • Sun screen is good, bring it
  • Stay at least one night in the desert
  • Avoid the Syrian border right now as times are getting sensitive now a days
  • The ferry from Egypt is ALWAYS delayed
  • Grab a guide book to help you in getting around
Stephen Gollan

Uncharted Backpacker is a glimpse at the past eleven years of globetrotting I have done. Now at over ninety countries I share my travel knowledge for you so you too can travel the world and see what wonders it has to offer.

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