You cannot think of Jordan without thinking of the ancient ‘lost’ city of Petra, the magnificent world heritage site famed for its role in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, but Jordan’s history is as long and rich as any of its neighbours despite getting only a fraction of the visitors that its neighbouring Egypt gets, and this has left its indelible mark on the country today. Crusader castles and Roman ruins are almost littered over the spectacular landscape and ancient Christian churches and imposing mosques are there to be admired and explored. There are so many things to discover in Jordan, from the stunning deserts and mountains to the biblical tales surrounding magnificent natural sites such as the Dead Sea, Wadi Rum and the Sea of Galilee.
Unfortunately the majority of visitors don’t see past the day trips to Petra, often coming over from neighbouring Sinai for a day or two, but for those travellers willing to give it just a little more time and explore it more thoroughly, Jordan will welcome you with open arms and cast a spell on you that will keep you there far longer than you originally intended.
Despite being sandwiched between the relatively unstable countries of Iraq, Israel and the Palestinian territories, Jordan is extremely stable as a country. Although there is a strong Catholic presence in Jordan, it is still a predominantly Muslim country. The locals are relatively used to tourists, especially in and around Petra, and are likely not to be offended by mild cultural faux pas, but you should respect local customs for modest dress when visiting, especially if visiting any religious building. Basic long trousers and a top that covers the shoulders should be more than adequate.
Visas are needed for all visitors to Jordan regardless of nationality, but for the vast majority, including citizens of the UK, Europe, the USA, Canada, Australia and New Zealand and many more, visas are issued at most sea and land border crossings with a minimum of fuss. The exception to this is the King Hussein bridge on the border crossing from Israel where you will not get a visa at all.
Visas are quite cheap and last for 30 days, but can easily be extended if you want to stay longer by visiting any Jordanian embassy before or during your stay. If you just want to visit Petra on a short visit from Sinai, and arrive in Aqaba via the ferry from Sinai, then the visa is free.
The following list of vaccinations are recommended for visits to Jordan by the Centre of Disease Control.
As for any destination, routine vaccinations including measles, mumps and rubella (MMR), diptheria, pertussis and tetanus, varicella and yearly flu shots are always recommended.
Hepatitis A and Typhoid are strongly recommended for most other travellers to Jordan as there is a risk of these diseases in this country.
Hepatitis B and rabies are only recommended to those travellers who are in at risk groups such as those engaging in sexual contact or working with animals. Discuss with your GP or specialist nurse whether you are in these groups for your trip and if you should get these vaccinations.
There is no risk of yellow fever in Jordan, but proof of vaccination is required if you are coming from a country with a risk of the disease.
Crime and Safety.
Jordan is a relatively stable and safe country, despite the media attention on its often more volatile neighbours. The risk of becoming the victim of any actual crime is actually very low, and no more than ordinary, reasonable precautions for your personal safety and security are necessary.
Costs and money.
The currency is Jordan is the Dinar, which is broken up into 100 fils. A piastre or qirsh is 10 fils.
ATMs are common throughout Jordan, particularly in the larger cities and tourist spots, and accept international cards, so you will have no trouble accessing money when you need it.
Jordan is a relatively cheap country, with great bargains to be had on food and accommodation in particular, but if you are not careful costs can add up quickly.
Accommodation costs are very reasonable, with cheap accommodation (or even rooftop bunks) starting at just £2 – £3 GBP. A comfortable, midrange private room with en suite can set you back around £20 – £30 GBP.
Food and transport are the real bargains, especially if you take public transport and eat at local cafes and street food level. Servees, or service taxis are a lot more expensive, but still a bargain by Western standards and can be worth it for the comfort and convenience from time to time.
Guides and guided tours of archaeological or historical sites are not that expensive, but will certainly make up the biggest part of your overall budget, especially with so much to see and do.
When to go.
Common advice dictates that the shoulder seasons of spring and autumn are the best times to visit Jordan, as you avoid the extremes of temperature, but in truth anytime is a great time to visit provided you prepare for the weather. The summer can obviously get extremely hot, especially in the desert and the Jordan valley. The winter can get surprisingly cold, the desert can be freezing at night and snow is not unheard of on Wadi Rum.
Jordan’s premier attraction. Get your Indiana Jones on and ride a horse through the siq canyon to the magnificent city carved into the side of a mountain. This modern wonder of the world is worth far more than the usual day or two package tour, and you should take your time exploring the colonnaded streets, the royal tombs and monasteries and the iconic treasury to get the full experience of this legendary world wonder.
This amazing protected area is a huge valley cut into the sandstone rock with spectacular desert vistas and jaw dropping sunsets. Any excursions or tours into the area must be pre arranged through the visitor centre in an effort to preserve the region, but is easy enough to do and an overnight camping trip is a great experience.
Roman Theatre, Amman.
This impressive Roman ruin is cut into the side of a huge hill and is perhaps one of the most striking reminders of Roman occupation in Jordan, even if the restoration isn’t 100% accurate. The whole place is floodlit at night, making two visits here worthwhile for two very different experiences.
Float in the Dead Sea.
The Dead Sea has been famed for its healing, spa like qualities since before the Roman era, and still draws people today. The unique geological properties of the salt water at the lowest point on Earth make it completely impossible to sink, and floating completely unaided in the water is an absolutely unmissable experience.