JORDAN TRAVEL TIPS FOR FIRST TIME VISITORS
Visiting Jordan and especially its most famous attraction, Petra, is probably on many travelers' wish list. Jordan is one of the safest places in the Middle East, Jordanians are the most welcoming and friendly people you will ever meat, and there is so much to see from the archaeological sites at Petra and Jerash to the lowest point on the Earth, the über-salty Dead Sea.
Here are eight travel tips for first-time visitors to help you make the best of your trip.
JORDAN TRAVEL TIP ONE: VISA REQUIREMENTS
With only a few exceptions, visa is required to enter Jordan territory. Visa requirements can be found on the Jordanian Tourist Board's website at http://international.visitjordan.com/page/4/VisasToJordan.aspx
In most cases, visa can be obtained at the airport. All you need to do is to head to the immigration desk, pay the 40-dinar ($56) fee and the visa will be issued on the spot. Note that the visa fee is waived if you get the Jordan Pass.
Get the Jordan Pass Before You Arrive
The Jordan Pass includes entry to over 40 attractions in Jordan, as well as waives the tourist entry visa fees, if you purchase the pass before arrival. The minimum required stay is three nights and depending on whether it is a day or multiple-day pass, the fee is 70-80 JD ($100-$113).
VISITING JORDAN TIP TWO: HOW TO GET FROM THE AIPORT TO AMMAN
Hire a driver
The safest option is to hire a driver to pick you up at the airport and take you to the hotel. There are many agencies that offer this service, do your research and expect to pay around 30 dinars for one-way travel in a comfortable, air-conditioned car. Luxury hotels will offer you the same for about three times more.
The Airport Taxi stand is in front of the airport terminal. It costs around 20 dinars ($28) to get to Cirlce 5 where most of the high end hotels such as the St. Regis, Four Seasons and Sheraton are located. However, most of these taxis are not air-conditioned, not that clean, and most importantly, they do not have working safety belts. The trip to Amman is 30 minutes and there are some wild drivers speeding on the roads.
There is a cash machine inside the airport terminal. Make sure you have cash to pay your driver to take you to the hotel.
JORDAN TRAVEL TIP THREE: JORDAN IS EXPENSIVE
You pay dearly for being a tourist in Jordan. Tours are expensive, transportation is expensive and you will go through cash faster than you think. Even the Jordanians themselves admit that they have become greedy with the steady flow of tourists pouring into the country.
For instance, the ticket to Petra costs 50 dinars ($70). Or, if you want to take a dip in the Dead Sea and are looking for a place where you can change, be prepared to pay. Unless you are fine with a crowded public beach, the only other option is to get access to a Day Spa at a Dead Sea resort. For instance, the Dead Sea Marriott Resort charges 60 dinars ($85) per person (this includes 30-dinar food and beverage voucher whether you want it or not), the Mövenpick Resort right next door charges 40 dinars ($56) and it includes a 15-dinar food voucher. It is a hefty price to pay if you only need a place to change and do not care about using their pools or spa nor their food.
JORDAN TRAVEL TIP FOUR: HOW TO GET AROUND IN AMMAN
There aree yellow cabs everywhere, but like in many countries, there are honest taxi drivers who are willing to turn on the meter... and then there are the other ones who try to charge you five times more, just because you are a tourist. The average trip in Amman is around one to two dinars if the meter is on, but some ask ten for the same trip. If the driver refuses to to turn on the meter, walk away.
The hotels have their own ways of getting the maximum revenue from tourism. A trip that would cost you two dinars costs 20+ when using their limousine service.
Al Balad, Rainbow Street, and downtown area are walkable, but most of Amman is hilly and spread out. If you want to get from the Citadel to the Roman Theatre or downtown which look so close on the map, be prepared for a 20+ minute walk zigzagging down the hill with only limited sidewalks. The taxi trip down the hill costs one dinar, but it is challenging to find an honest driver at the major tourist attractions in Amman. The drivers simply wait for the uninformed tourist who is willing to pay 10 times the price.
JORDAN TRAVEL TIP FIVE: HOW TO TAKE DAY TRIPS FROM AMMAN
In Jordan you hire a driver, not a tour guide, to take you around. If you want in-depth information about the sites you are visiting, then local tour guides are available at major tourist sites. Luxury hotels offer their limousines but they are incredibly overpriced. As a guideline, a half-day trip to Jerash is around 50 dinars ($70) and a day trip to Petra 100 dinars ($140) per car. These are rock bottom prices for good quality service.
A good thing to know is that all cars that the companies serving tourism industry own, are less than five years old. This is a requirement by Jordanian law. We do not recommend taking a taxi out of town, unless you find one that is air-conditioned and has functioning seat belts for your safety.
JORDAN TRAVEL TIP SIX: WHAT TO WEAR IN JORDAN
Even though Jordan is a predominantly Muslim country where modesty is the norm, nobody blinks when tourists are wearing more revealing clothes. Men are just fine in shorts and women have no problem walking around in short-sleeved, knee-lenght dresses.
JORDAN TRAVEL TIP SEVEN - WHAT TO EAT IN JORDAN
There is more to Jordanian food than the usual, well-known Middle Eastern dishes like falafel, hummus, labneh, shawarma, fattoush salad, or tabbouleh.
Some of the dishes to try are foul - stewed fava beans mixed with lemon juice and oil, mansaf - lamb cooked in a sauce of fermented dried yogurt and clarified butter and served with rice, and magloobeh - tender meat on aromatic rice, layered with paper-thin flatbread and eaten with a tangy yogurt sauce. A good place to try these traditional dishes is at the Jordanian Heritage Restaurant in Amman.
For dessert, knafeh (or kunafa) is must - it is a layered desert with fine pastry threads and cheese, topped with syrup. Try it at Habiba Sweets in Amman.
JORDAN TRAVEL TIP EIGHT - ROYAL JORDANIAN BUSINESS CHECK IN AT AMMAN AIRPORT
If you happen to travel by Royal Jordanian and have a business class ticket, go to the very first entrance of the terminal and you will arrive at a special RJ business check in lounge. The same applies to OneWorld Emerald, Sapphire and Ruby members. Check in could not be smoother in this special lounge, away from the airport rush.
The Business Lounge itself is located on the mezzanine level overlooking the Duty Free shops and gates below. The food is plentiful but not very appetizing, however the WiFi service is excellent. Bon voyage!