Daniel is completely drained – physically and mentally. The parasite he had really took it out of him and despite having mostly recovered, he’s not back to himself. The 5-hour bus ride and two border crossings feel like a lifetime ago as we now sit in the back of Shaker’s truck driving away from Wadi Rum village and into the dead of the night.
“There’s no one else staying here so you get the camp to yourself tonight.” We sit in silence, looking out of the big open windows of our tent and see nothing more than the silhouette of the surrounding mountains lit up by the moon.
And so began our 2-month journey backpacking Jordan and diving into different experiences -from Workaway (working in exchange for food and accommodation) to Couchsurfing to navigating the craziness of Jordanian roads. We reluctantly left Jordan, a country that captivated our hearts and holds some of our most cherished memories.
If you’re currently planning your trip or are already there, we encourage you to take your time here and not to rush through – not only is this a cheaper way to travel, it’s a much more rewarding experience.
Here’s our complete guide to backpacking Jordan.
- 1. Top Places To See & Things To Do in Jordan
- 1.1 Petra
- 1.2 Tour Wadi Rum and camp under the stars
- 1.3 Float in the Dead Sea
- 1.4 Go canyoneering through Wadi Mujib
- 1.5 Support the Shaumari Wildlife Reserve
- 1.6 Hike in Dana Biosphere Reserve
- 1.7 Explore the Ancient Roman City of Jerash
- 1.8 Visit Umm Qais
- 1.9 Join Eco Hikers to pick up trash as you hike
- 1.10 Go on a tour of other canyons
- 2. Cost of Backpacking Jordan
- 3. Should You Get the Jordan Pass?
- 4. Travel Tips for Backpacking Jordan
- 5. Accommodation in Jordan
- 6. Best Time to Travel
- 7. Currency, Cash & ATM Charges in Jordan
- 8. Eating and Drinking in Jordan
- 9. Getting Around Jordan on a Budget
- 10. Festivals and Events
- 11. Getting to Jordan
- 12. Travel Insurance
- 13. Safety & Female Travellers
- 14. Scams You Should Beware Of
- 15. Useful Travel Phrases for Jordan
- 17. Visa / Entry Requirements
- 18. Responsible Travel in Jordan
- What to Pack for Jordan
- WIFI & SIM cards
1. Top Places To See & Things To Do in Jordan
Jordan is packed full of natural, historical, archaeological and UNESCO World Heritage Sites to visit.
Petra is an ancient Nabataean caravan-city and is half-built, half-carved into rock. The UNESCO World Heritage Site that has been inhabited since prehistoric times and is situated between the Red Sea and the Dead Sea was an important crossroads between Arabia, Egypt and Syria-Phoenicia. Although you can’t enter any of the tombs, the site itself is truly magnificent and is surrounded by mountains riddled with passages and gorges.
1.2 Tour Wadi Rum and camp under the stars
Also known as ‘The Valley of the Moon’, Wadi Rum is a popular location for Mars scenes in many films including The Martian. Amidst the red rock wilderness are extraordinary petroglyphs, natural arches, canyons and mountains. Wadi Rum is a place to escape and rejuvenate your soul.
1.3 Float in the Dead Sea
At around 30% salinity, there’s no actual swimming to be done here but you will most definitely float. Be careful not to get any water in your eyes (take it from me, it burns) and bring along some fresh water just in case. The Dead Sea is located 400m below sea level so it’s usually one of the hottest places in the country.
1.4 Go canyoneering through Wadi Mujib
Though Jordan offers many different wadis (canyons) to explore, Wadi Mujib is a slot canyon that you can navigate on your own without going on a tour. There’s a mixture of swimming, climbing and hiking and after having visited 4 other wadis in Jordan, it’s still our favourite!
1.5 Support the Shaumari Wildlife Reserve
Shaumari Wildlife Reserve is home to some of the rarest of animals in the Middle East. The reserve aims to help animals rebuild their populations as they are protected from illegal hunting and habitat destruction that nearly wiped them out. The Arabian Oryx became extinct in Jordan in the 1920s but a world survival herd was established and now the number of Oryx has increased to two hundred.
1.6 Hike in Dana Biosphere Reserve
Dana Biosphere Reserve is Jordan’s largest nature reserve featuring spectacular mountains and wadis along the face of the Great Rift Valley. Dana is also home to a variety of wildlife with species from Europe, Africa and Asia. You’ll find hikes varying in length and difficulty and can easily spend a few days hiking the area.
1.7 Explore the Ancient Roman City of Jerash
Jordan’s largest and most interesting Roman site is the ruined city of Jerash, located 53km north of Amman. Having been inhabited since the Bronze Ages, the city’s golden age came under Roman rule, during which time it was known as Gerasa. Jerash is now generally acknowledged to be one of the best-preserved Roman provincial towns in the world.
1.8 Visit Umm Qais
If ancient ruins are your things, head up to the northwestern corner of Jordan where you’ll find the ruins of the Decapolis city of Gadara, now called Umm Qais. Here, you’ll find a vantage point with a view of Jordan, Syria, and Israel and the Palestinian Territories, encompassing the Golan Heights, Mt Hermon and the Sea of Galilee. According to Matthew 8:28-34, this is the place where Jesus cast the demons out of two men into a herd of pigs.
1.9 Join Eco Hikers to pick up trash as you hike
We got connected with an awesome group called Eco Hikers, founded by a couple of people who combined their love for hiking and keeping the environment clean. Meeting points are in Amman and the group head out to many different areas to clean as they hike.
1.10 Go on a tour of other canyons
We did a 1-month Workaway with Adventure Pros and explored some awesome canyons that we wouldn’t have otherwise known about. Travellers often expect Jordan to be completely dry and desolate but we swam and hiked through many different canyons and repelled down waterfalls. If you’ve got the time for it, we highly recommend adding it your list.
2. Cost of Backpacking Jordan
Jordan isn’t the most backpacker-friendly destination and is one of the more expensive Middle Eastern countries to visit. Major attractions like visiting Petra or touring Wadi Rum are quite expensive although certainly worth it. We recommend a daily budget of 20 – 30 JOD (~28 – 42 USD) on top of the Jordan Pass, depending on the length of time you’re travelling and the style of backpacking you’re comfortable with. This excludes flights and travel insurance.
Being an Islamic country, you won’t find alcohol served in most restaurants and only in bars or clubs. Alcohol is also very expensive, even if purchased at a liquor store so cut out the booze to save some cash.
2.1 Examples of general costs
- Bed in a dorm room – 8 JOD (~12 USD)
- Bus from Amman to Aqaba – 8.60 JOD (~13 USD)
- Can of beer from the liquor store – 3.50 JOD (~5 USD)
- Cheap falafel sandwich – 0.50 JOD (~0.70 USD)
- Private double room – 25 JOD (~35 USD)
- Dinner for 2 at a restaurant – 15 JOD (~21 USD)
- Half-day tour of Wadi Rum – 60 JOD for the car (~85 USD)
- Car hire – $20 USD per pay (booked on a car rental website)
- Walk in car hire – 45 JOD per day (~63 USD)
TIP: Travelling with a group works out to be a lot cheaper in Jordan. If you’re travelling alone, we recommend getting connected with other travellers to split the cost of car hire and tours of Wadi Rum.
3. Should You Get the Jordan Pass?
For most people, YES, but read on to confirm.
The Jordan Pass gives holders prepaid entry to over 40 attractions in Jordan including Petra and waives the tourst entry visa fees if you stay a minimum of 3 nights (4 days).
The Jordan Pass is 70 / 75 / 80 JOD for 1, 2 or 3 days respectively in Petra. The Pass is valid for 12 months from the date of purchase and expires 2 weeks after the first time it is scanned.
3.1 Costs without Jordan Pass
- Single entry visa for one month: 40 JOD (~56 USD)
- Petra entrance fee for 1, 2 or 3 days: 50 / 55 / 60 JOD (~70 / 77 / 85 USD)
- Wadi Rum: 5 JOD (~7 USD)
- Amman Citadel: 3 JOD (~4 USD)
- Roman Theatre in Amman: 2 JOD (~3 USD)
- Jerash Archaeological Museum: 10 JOD (~12 USD)
- Umm Qays Museum: 5 JOD (~7 USD)
- Salt Museum: 4 JOD (~5.60 USD)
If you’re staying in Jordan for 4 days and 3 nights or more, it is definitely worth purchasing the pass as the visa fee and entrance fee into Petra alone exceed the cost of the pass. However, if you are staying for 3 days or less, you will be required to pay the visa fee upon departing the country. With less than 3 days, you will likely only see Petra and Wadi Rum so it is more cost effective to pay for the entrance fees and the tourist visa separately.
4. Travel Tips for Backpacking Jordan
- Join the Jordan Facebook group to meet other travellers. This is particularly helpful if you’re travelling solo and want to share the cost of transport or a tour.
- Go to the free beach for the Dead Sea rather than any of the other paid beaches (see our map above for the location).
- From Amman, it’s cheaper and more convenient to hire a car to visit the Dead Sea if you split the cost with other travellers.
- Don’t book VIP buses – it’s not worth it.
- Ask locals for cheap falafel and shawarma places.
- Avoid drinking alcohol! This will save you tonnes of cash.
5. Accommodation in Jordan
Hostels aren’t legalised in Jordan so it’s not common to find many of them and you’ll find dorm rooms in other hotels that offer them. Outside of attractions and tours, accommodation is the greatest expense in Jordan.
|Location||Accommodation||Why we love it|
|Amman||Sydney Hotel||Clean and comfortable hotel / hostel with air-conditioning.|
|Petra||Peace Way Hotel||Air conditioning, clean, good location and good breakfast.|
|Petra||Valentine Inn||Very cheap, passable for a night or two and good value.|
|Wadi Rum||Arabian Nights||Small, personalised camp with beautiful views and a great host.|
We sent last-minute Couchsurfing requests in As Salt and Irbid and received responses within half an hour. Our hosts were extremely generous and hospitable and gave us their room to sleep in! We love Couchsurfing and highly recommend it. Almost all hosts in Jordan are males. I spoke to a solo female traveller who also tried Couchsurfing and she said she didn’t encounter any issues or problems.
6. Best Time to Travel
The best time to travel in Jordan is from March to May when temperatures around the country are comfortable during the day and nights are cool. In some areas like Wadi Rum, you might find that the nights get quite cold so remember to pack accordingly.
Summer gets HOT in certain parts of Jordan like Wadi Rum and the Dead Sea (reaching up to 40°C). Amman and other places above sea level can get hot but are fairly comfortable and bearable. The Dead Sea is the hottest spot in the country (being 400m below sea level) so as long as you’re there early in the morning or late in the afternoon, it isn’t dreadful.
The peak time to travel in Jordan is April, September and October so avoid these months if you don’t want crowds.
TIP: Before booking your trip to Jordan, you should check the dates for Ramadan. While it is very interesting to experience a few days of Ramadan, most places adjust their opening hours, restaurants are closed during the day and you cannot eat or drink in public.
7. Currency, Cash & ATM Charges in Jordan
The currency in Jordan is the Jordanian Dinar (JOD). The exchange rate at the time of writing is:
1 AUD = 0.53 JOD
1 USD = 0.71 JOD
1 EUR = 0.82 JOD
1 GBP = 0.96 JOD
Credit cards are widely accepted in Amman at restaurants, bars and hotels though there may be surcharges. For the rest of the country, only cash is accepted. ATMs charge a hefty fee of 3 – 3.50 JOD (~4.20 – 5 USD) so try to withdraw large amounts of cash at one time to avoid paying this fee each time. Arab Bank charges the lowest ATM fee of 3 JOD.
TIP: Bring sufficient cash to Wadi Rum. There are no ATMs nearby and no places will accept credit which means you’ll have to travel to Aqaba to get cash out.
8. Eating and Drinking in Jordan
Jordanian food is delicious but tends to be carb and meat heavy. If you’re sticking to a tight budget, it’s quite difficult to eat healthily as the cheapest meals tend to be falafel sandwiches and shawarmas. A falafel sandwich will range from 0.5 – 1.5 JOD from a falafel shop. Expect to pay around 3 – 5 JOD at a restaurant.
Some must-try Jordanian dishes are:
- Mansaf: The national dish is Mansaf which is a traditional Arab dish made of lamb cooked in a sauce of fermented dried yogurt and served with rice.
- Maqluba: literally translates as “upside-down” and includes meat, rice, and fried vegetables placed in a pot, which is then flipped upside down when served, hence the name.
- Falafel: deep-fried chickpea patties often served in a pita bread with some salad.
- Shawarma: also known as a yiros or kebab in western countries, a shawarma is a pita bread wrap with meat and salad. Just a warning, they tend to be A LOT smaller in Jordan than what we’ve had in western countries so you might need to buy a few.
- Zarb: if you’re in Wadi Rum, It’s likely that you’ll enjoy a Zarb experience where food is cooked in an underground oven.
8.1 Vegetarians and Vegans
Outside of Amman, it can be quite challenging to eat as a vegetarian or vegan if you don’t want to stick to a falafel-only diet. Since most dishes served are often just meat and rice, if you’re not eating meat, you’re basically just eating rice. You can ask restaurants to serve maqluba without meat so that you just have rice with vegetables.
TIP: be sure to check the menu to see if tax and service charges are included in the price. If not, work it out and calculate the end price before eating.
9. Getting Around Jordan on a Budget
9.1 Car hire
Hiring a car is an easy and relatively cheap way to get around if you want to explore Jordan beyond Amman, Petra and Wadi Rum. If you’re heading to the Dead Sea, for example, there isn’t a bus that will take you to the free beach so your only option is to hire a private driver, hitchhike or drive yourself.
As mentioned earlier, get connected with other travellers and split the cost of a car rental. We found that it was cheaper to book a car in advance through one of those car booking websites.
9.2 Buses for long distances
For travel between major tourist destinations like Amman, Wadi Musa (Petra), Wadi Rum and Aqaba, taking a bus is the best option.
From Amman: Jett buses (big, proper buses) depart from a few different locations in Amman and tickets can be purchased online or any of the Jett bus offices / terminals.
From Wadi Musa (Petra): Minivans depart the main bus terminal (just ask anyone where the bus is and they’ll point it out to you) whenever they get full. A bus to Amman is around 6 JOD per person (~9 USD).
From Wadi Rum: Minivans leave in the morning to Petra or Amman and oddly vary in price (apparently it depends on how many people get on board) but is usually around 7 – 9 JOD (~10 – 13 USD).
From Aqaba: Head to the main bus station for buses heading north. The bus to Wadi Rum departs at 2:30 pm. Jett buses can also be booked ahead of time online.
TIP: Friday is the day of prayer so is the day off around the country. This means that the minivans don’t run as often and won’t get full quickly so you could be waiting 1 – 2 hours to leave. If you must travel on a Friday, try to leave as early as possible.
Hitchhiking is fairly common and easy outside of Amman as long as you’re on main roads. Locals are always willing to help out foreigners, though they may ask for a bit of money. Avoid sticking out your thumb out though – it’s a sign for prostitutes. Instead, you can wave at the car or point with your forefinger down to the earth.
We hitchhiked from Wadi Musa (Petra) to Amman and got a ride with a private driver who charged us the equivalent of the bus fare. He even dropped us right at our hotel! We also picked up hitchhikers along our road trip so hitchhiking is pretty commonplace. However, we didn’t see any female hitchhikers whatsoever during our time.
It’s a bit odd but information on public transport is only available by asking locals. So, unless your Arabic is on point, it’s basically impossible to try and navigate. Our local friends tell us that it’s too hard to figure out so even they don’t bother!
10. Festivals and Events
Aqaba Traditional Arts Festival is held in February and celebrates the culture of the Bedouin people through a crafts fair.
Azraq Festival is a small festival held in February presents the town’s art, culture and crafts and the celebration is filed with music, dancing and food in the streets.
Amman International Theatre Festival is hosted by an independent theatre company in March every year and brings together fresh talent from around Jordan. Each performer has the chance to showcase their skills in English or Arabic.
Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar and is observed by Muslims as the month of fasting.
Jerash Festival for Arts & Culture is one of the largest cultural celebrations in Jordan and takes place at the end of July or early August every year. The festival showcases various singers, musical and folklore troupes, poetry readings, dance and art shows.
Jordan Rally the motorcar race is held in October and for a few days, Jordan’s golden dunes are turned into a race track.
11. Getting to Jordan
Jordan has two international airports – Queen Alia International Airport in Amman (Jordan’s capital city) and King Hussein International Airport in Aqaba (south of Jordan).
11.1 International Flights
Direct flights from Europe to Jordan are available from London, Paris, Istanbul, Frankfurt and Madrid. Alternatively, you can fly through Cyprus and get a cheap flight to Amman with Ryanair.
11.2 Travel from Egypt
You can either cross the land border through Israel, take the ferry or fly. Though the ferry is slightly more expensive, we recommend it over the border crossing as it is much faster and you don’t have to go through 4 different securities, customs and immigration.
You can fly directly from Cairo or Alexandria for around 175 USD.
11.3 Travel from Israel
There are multiple border crossings available from Israel without different opening days and times.
Eilat / Aqaba border (Officially: Yitzhak Rabin Terminal / Wadi Araba)
- Open: Sun – Thurs: 6:30 am to 8:00 pm; Fri and Sat: 8:00 am to 8:00 pm
- Closed: Yom Kippur and Muslim New Year (Id il Hajira)
- Exit fees: from Israel – 100 ILS + 5 ILS surcharge; from Jordan – 10 JD
- Can Jordan visa be purchased? Yes
Jerusalem / Closest to Amman: King Hussein / Allenby Bridge
- Open: Sun – Thurs: 8:00 am to 12:00 pm (midnight); Fri and Sat: 8:00 am to 3:00 pm
- Closed: Yom Kippur
- Exit fees: from Israel – 173 ILS + 5 ILS surcharge; from Jordan – 10 JD
- Can Jordan visa be purchased? NO
- Must have Visa or Jordan Pass
Beit She’an / Irbid (North): Jordan River / Sheikh Hussein
- Open: Sun – Thurs: 6:30 am to 9:00 pm; Fri and Sat: 8:00 am to 7:00 pm
- Closed: Yom Kippur and the Muslim New Year (Id El Hijara)
- Exit fees: from Israel – 100 ILS + 5 ILS surcharge; from Jordan – 10 JD
- Can Jordan visa be purchased? Yes
- Most expensive and least convenient
12. Travel Insurance
We never travel without travel insurance and recommend that you do the same. Visiting a doctor in Jordan isn’t free so in the event you need any medical assistance, it will be completely out of pocket. If you are already travelling or in Jordan and don’t have insurance, World Nomads allows you to buy while you’re on the road.
Daniel got typhoid when we were in Egypt and without travel insurance, we would have spent over $3000! So yeah, please travel with insurance!
READ MORE: If you would like to know more about travel insurance, head over to this page to do some further reading.
13. Safety & Female Travellers
Jordan is extremely safe to travel and at no point did I feel otherwise.
Female travellers will likely receive some degree of minor harassment, particularly if travelling alone. In Wadi Rum, it’s a common misconception that foreign women are promiscuous. You won’t experience any real physical threat or harm although you are likely to get hit on.
If you are on the receiving end of any harassment or feel uncomfortable in any way, please speak up and say so. Unfortunately, silence encourages harassment so it’s vital that both men and women speak out against it.
What to wear in Jordan: Outside of Amman, men and women should both dress fairly modestly. You will almost never find Jordanians wearing shorts anywhere so as a woman, I found it particularly uncomfortable to do so outside of some of the wadi trips I did. I recommend wearing long skirts, dresses or pants that are loose fitting. You should also have a scarf prepared for some religious sites that you required you to be covered before entering.
14. Scams You Should Beware Of
14.1 Taxis ripping you off and not letting you out.
Taxi drivers will often pick up additional passengers along the route and the doors on the right-hand-side of cars are always locked for safety. This means that if you’re sitting in the back on the right and another passenger gets in, they have to get out before you can leave.
One of our housemates got in a taxi for a 1.5 km ride and was forced to pay 5 JOD. She knew the ride should have only cost around 1 JOD but when she tried to argue it, the taxi driver told the other passenger not to get out so she was forced to pay the exorbitant amount.
14.2 “You can’t go without a guide” in Petra
When you arrive at the Treasury, there are two higher vantage points to hike up to. The path towards the right is a long one that goes past a series of tombs whereas the path on the left is steep but goes straight up to the lookout point. When you try to go to the left, you may get some guys telling you that it’s forbidden without a guide and that you need to pay one to go up. If you say that you’ve gone before and you know the way, they’ll leave you alone. We chose the scenic route instead (path on the right).
14.3 Petra’s “free horse ride” included in the ticket
The free horse ride isn’t exactly free because you’re expected to tip around 10 – 15 JOD for the ride. We really discourage any tourists from participating in poor animal tourism (see more below). The walk through the Siq is easy and you really don’t need to get a horse at all.
15. Useful Travel Phrases for Jordan
Although English is widely spoken in Jordan, we found that locals really appreciated our (pretty miserable) attempts at Arabic. So, here are some useful phrases to start you off:
- Hello: salam or marhaba
- Goodbye: ma’assalama
- Thank you: shukran
- My name is…: ismi …
- I don’t speak Arabic: ma ba’ahkee Arabee
- Yes: na’am
- No: la
17. Visa / Entry Requirements
Entry into Jordan requires a tourist visa for most passport holders. To confirm whether or not you need a visa, check out Visa HQ. The Jordan Pass waives the tourist entry visa fee for a one month visa if you are staying for 3 nights or more. Without the Jordan Pass, visa costs are:
Single Entry visas valid for one month: 40 JOD (~ 56 USD)
Double Entry visas valid for three months: 60 JOD (~ 85 USD)
Multiple Entry visas valid for six months: 120 JOD (~ 170 USD)
If you have the Jordan Pass and are planning on staying for longer than one month, you can extend your visa by one month at the police station for an additional 40 JOD. Alternatively, you can simply overstay your visa and pay 1.50 JOD per day of overstay upon departure.
18. Responsible Travel in Jordan
18.1 Avoid riding any animals
It’s tempting, we know, but seeing the way the camels, horses and donkeys were treated in Petra really upset us. From what we could see and what we know, the animals aren’t treated well and look run down and exhausted. We discourage any kind of animal tourism and hope that you take a minute to consider whether it’s worth doing before participating in these activities.
18.2 Say no to plastic bags
Unfortunately, there isn’t a general awareness of the devastating impact of plastic and so it’s not part of the Jordanian culture to reduce waste and plastic. Plastic bags are handed out freely without regard so we encourage you to bring along a reusable shopping bag whenever you travel.
18.3 Bring a Lifestraw or boil water to avoid buying bottled water
You can’t drink tap water in Jordan so everyone drinks bottled water. As a result, you see piles of plastic waste all around the country. Rather than adding to the waste, bring a Lifestraw so that you can filter tap water and don’t have to worry about boiling it first.
What to Pack for Jordan
- Loose fitting clothing: longer than the knees and covering your shoulders.
- Scarf for entering any religious sites
- Layers for warmth: particularly if you’re travelling in winter. Even in summer, some nights can get cold around the country.
- Hiking sandals.
- Sun protection: sunscreen, hat and sunglasses.
- For the ladies, BYO sanitary products as you may find it hard to purchase. But hey, rather than using pads or tampons, why not switch to a menstrual cup instead?
- Lifestraw: you can’t drink tap water so
WIFI & SIM cards
Wifi is widely available in accommodations and restaurants but if you want to stay connected, you can get a sim card with 40GB of internet from Orange for 13.80 JOD (~ 20 USD) which will last a month. Orange is cheaper than Zain.
By the way, there is hardly any reception in Wadi Rum once you’re in the desert so switch off and enjoy the natural landscapes.
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