Jordan – A Kind Friend in the Middle East

Politics aside, we had a memorable time in Jordan, met the kindest people and had a lot of crazy “first” experiences. I always feel the urge to encourage people to visit places that transmit good energy, and experience humanity in a different way.

Brimming with extraordinary cultural heritage and ancient sites, it also holds a strong past and present significance. It is not a country without economic problems and the recent hiked taxes also frustrated many in the country. Yet, they remain warm to strangers and compassionate towards each other.

“First time in Jordan? Welcome to Jordan!” 

Summary of cost breakdown at the end of the post! 🙂

Day 1:

Depending on your flights, if you arrive in Amman in the morning/early noon, you do have time to visit Amman for a bit.

We were able to visit Amman Citadel (only outside), roamed around the streets, had dinner with locals on the streets and hang out at Rainbow Street in the evening.

Do check the closing hours of the citadel online, they are somehow really strict about it, with at least 5 tourist police guarding at the gate, and we hate the bribing culture so we decided to return the next day. Oh, its almost impossible to watch sunset as the citadel closes before sunset. So how? We found a short-cut!! (refer to Day 2)

During the day, there are more cats than humans on the streets. This is because of the Ramadan period. I find it agonising initially, the idea that everywhere is closed and its really tough to find a place to eat. Subsequently, we thought that there was really nothing to be worried about. There are some supermarkets around to get water and snacks, all hotels will serve breakfast and some restaurants are open. In the end, I didn’t really feel hungry because we were sightseeing in that sweltering heat. We just needed water.

Accommodation – The Sydney Hostel 31 JD (approx. 60 SGD)

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People were really friendly, a group of locals also invited us to break fast with them, bought us food and drinks, and introduced their lives to us. Mohammed also invited us to his suit tailor shop. Funny guy. To be honest, we used Google translate to converse but it was also really fun!

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Day 2:

One of the most prominent activities in Israel and Jordan would be visiting the Dead Sea. Before heading to Jordan, I did my research and found 3 ways to get there for a day trip. 

Method 1 (did not try this) – Take the Jettbus at 0830am in Amman and the return trip will be at 4pm. The return ticket costs 10 JD. In this case, I read that the drop off point is at Amman Public Beach.

Method 2 (did not try this) – Get the bus from Mujaharin bus station to Rame (1JD) and then a taxi on to Amman beach (around 4JD). 

Method 3 (did not try this) – Return shared taxi from Amman to dead sea. Different sources stated different costs but I think this depends on how well you are able to bargain the price. Works really well if there are 4 people sharing.

We did…Method 4. We were really lucky to meet Ahmad (a local living in Karak) the night before and he graciously offered to take us there on his way home. We did not know what to expect at the Dead Sea or thought about how we will be able to return to Amman. Eventually, we found another traveler and shared a Careem ride back together. Cost was 16 JD.

After reading many poor reviews about the public beach, we decided to go for the next budget option, the Amman Beach Resort.

Entrance fee – 20 JD. 

Towel and locker hire – 2 JD

Mud experience – 3 JD

Instead of staying there the whole afternoon (our initial plan), we reached our limit after spending 3 hours there. It was way too hot. Juanpa unfortunately had dead sea water splashed in his eye due to my careless kick while struggling to flip my body in the sea. It was uncomfortable knowing that I was floating effortlessly. Subsequently, he developed conjunctivitis in both eyes. That was tough. 😦 (We will share our story to the Eye Specialist Hospital later.) Moral of this story is…be really careful with the dead sea water. It should NEVER get in your eyes!

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We arrived!!!

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As you can see from the photos, it was really calm and we had the sea to ourselves for most of the time spent there.

We head back to Amman and visited our new friends who live near the Amman Citadel. Let me rewind a little back to how we met.

Juanpa and I went to the citadel again on Day 2 morning before Dead Sea. We were both awed by the citadel overlooking the entire city. Beautiful. From that viewpoint, we both saw an old man with his dog at the rooftop of their home. We thought that was really cute, and waved at them frantically! …. We got invited to his home for tea.

It was really funny because we entered his home when his whole family was still asleep in the common area. They are too friendly! We looked at the street plan and realised we didn’t even need to pay to visit the citadel if we knew how to walk up from the streets.

Here is the GPS coordinates of the street just below the citadel. You can actually walk through the houses, up the hill to reach the citadel.

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Sunset from the hill near the citadel!

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View from their home.

Accommodation – The Sydney Hostel 31 JD (approx. 60 SGD)

Day 3: 

We took a careem early in the morning and got to the bus station at 6 am to buy our tickets to Petra.

Bus Ticket – 11 JD

The bus ride was about 4 hours, with a 20 mins rest stop in between. For that price, we thought the bus was alright, comfortable enough for this duration. We arrived in Wadi Musa and took an arranged transport to our Airbnb.

We quickly washed up and set off for Petra. We couldn’t waste any time because we only planned to stay in Petra for day and bought the pass for a day. It was definitely enough.

Jamal (our host) explained to us that there are three ways to see Petra. Petra extends for at least 60 square kilometres through canyons. I DID NOT know it was so big.

Method 1 – Indiana Jones way, hiking approx 2 hours to view the treasury from above.

Method 2 – Entering from the visitor centre and hiking to the Monastery and then back to exit from the visitor centre (maybe 5-6 hours?)

Method 3 – Only the locals / some tour companies know it and would encourage it. Hiking from Little Petra to reach the Monastery first and continue towards the visitor centre. We thought its a nice way to see all of Petra without repeating the view points, just one direction. That took us around 5 hours because it was way too hot, and also because we stopped at several areas to take photographs of the canyons and mountains.

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Start of our hike in Little Petra

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Mid-way view!

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Check out our Bedouin eyeliner!

We got back to the Airbnb at about 4 pm and took a nap before heading out to watch the most spectacular sunset of my life!

Jamal took us with a car but if you get a taxi, you can definitely let the driver know this spot, it is actually like a little park near the highway.

It is on road no. 35 from Wadi Musa to Taybeh on the Kings Highway. You will see the small playground on the right side.

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Okay my photo really don’t do this place justice, but it was really beautiful and most importantly, there were only some locals there, no tourists!

Accommodation: Petra Family Home Airbnb (Hosted by Rami) $51

Day 4: 

You can let your hotel/guest house know that you want to head to Wadi Rum the day before. They will inform a bus company to pick you up. There were 15 seats but only 7 was filled. We paid 10 JD, price will be 7 JD if the bus is filled. This journey was another 1.5 hours.

There are MANY camps to choose when you go to Wadi Rum, it is advisable to make a booking beforehand as the drivers can take you to the exit drop off point of each camp. I decided to go with Bedouin Traditions Camp due to the great reviews on tripadvisor. I think they are partners with Bedouin Lifestyle Camp as well.

Initially, I booked a half-day Camel tour because Juanpa LOVES camels. The owner later explained to us that it is basically 4 hours walking with the camels in the desert and we wouldn’t have anything to do after. He suggested another option 1/2 hour camel + jeep tour all the way till sunset. It was 185 JD per person. THE MOST EXPENSIVE tour package of my life, but I later realised it was really worth it.

There are many significant places in Wadi Rum and I think we covered it all. We also got the best guide – Akram. We also had a really lovely travel buddy – Giulia. In short, our desert life was sandboarding on dunes, climbing all kinds of rocks, chasing goats, driving the jeep (YES I DID IT!), camels and speaking Arabic after cups of tea. It was phenomenal! After covering all the sights, including lunch and fruits in the middle of the desert, we head to our base camp. Dinner was also really unique, what I liked most of the Bedouin campfire, singing and dancing to the traditional music. I even took over Akram and played the drum with the rest of the Bedouins.

There are a few spectacular sights in Wadi Rum and all tours will take you there. However with Akram, he even took us to visit his friend who was a shepherd, no hidden intentions, just showing us his life.

Here is a link that shows the sites of interests the jeep tours will take you to: http://wadirum.jo/things-to-see-and-do/sites-of-interest/

Website: http://www.wadirumbedouintraditions.com/en/

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Day 5: 

Giulia, Juanpa and I shared a taxi to Aqaba, where we got a jettbus back to Amman. That taxi ride was 25 JD, it should not be more than that, probably took us around 1.5 hours.

Jettbus has several timings to head back to Amman. You can stay in Aqaba to enjoy the beach and beautiful life underwater or head back to Amman earlier. We chose to head back earlier because as I mentioned before, Juanpa contracted conjunctivitis since Day 3 and he suffered a lot in the desert.

Thanks to Giulia, we found out that there was an eye specialist hospital in Amman. I had to write this in the post because I was so impressed with their services, quick and good. I remember waiting in the hospital for half a day when I had corneal ulcer in Singapore. The cost of treatment was surprisingly low for non-residents too.

Later that night, we headed back to downtown to absorb the last Jordan’s vibrant night. We went on a quest to search for the best tea in Amman and we were led to this really unobtrusive shop. There is no place for customers to sit, its really for to-go orders. I thought it was the best tea ever! (We fell in love with the Arabic version with MINT leaves)

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That night, Juanpa was really not satisfied with the tea so we continued our quest on the streets and decided to go to this pretty tea-house (Jafra Cafe) just opposite our hotel. It was a great idea because we had a nice view from the terrace overlooking the bustling life happening beneath us!

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Stairs leading up to the tea house.

Accommodation – The Boutique Hotel Amman (19 JD w/o taxes) 

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION

Outfit: For men, there aren’t any restrictions, but I think it looks weird to be in singlet and shorts. People are more conservative so its basic respect to be dressed properly as well. For women, I was always wearing long sleeve shirt with long pants, except when we were at Dead Sea. Generally I find that T-shirt is also acceptable. Jordan is not like Iran, so women don’t have to cover their heads with scarves too.

SIM Card: You can purchase it at the airport, it costs 15 JD with Orange company. Juanpa arrived at 2 am and it was still open so I guess it opens overnight. It was really good and the only place that we could not really get a signal was inside the desert.

Credit Card/ATM: You can use credit card in most hostels/hotels. Samsung Pay worked for us as well. We had troubles with using our card to withdraw money from the ATMs though. We tried many branches and machines in Amman, Petra and Aqaba but none worked. Apparently, this was also a problem for some other travelers. It will be good to prepare spare USD or link up your Uber/Careem car app with your card before entering the country.

Taxis: We did not hail or accept any taxi rides by drivers who approached us. We were cautious with them hiking up prices just because we are tourists. Thankfully there are apps like Uber and Careem. We used Careem throughout in Jordan because the Orange mobile company gave us some discount codes HAHA. It is evidently cheaper because somehow the hotels and taxis all quoted 25 JD as the standard price from the airport to city centre, but with Careem, we only paid 15 JD. The issue with using these apps is…THEY ARE ILLEGAL. The police are quite particular but we always got away with no issues, just make sure you sit in front, and claim that the driver is your friend.

Restaurants: There are some marvelous and popular restaurants around but we tried…NONE. Well, its Ramadan, and we were always eating during odd hours. I’m gonna recommend them anyway because we saw a lot of locals in these restaurants, probably because its the best in Amman?

1) Hashem – (Al-Amir Mohammed St, Downtown, Amman)

2) Falefel Al Quds – (Rainbow Street, Amman)

These were two places which we chanced upon. 

1) Jafra Cafe (Complex No 15, Prince Mohammad St 15, Amman)

A really pretty cafe, with a flight of stairs so sweetly decorated, you’ll see a lot of couples taking photos there. A comfortable place to people-watch in the evening

2) Habibah Sweets – (Al Hazar St 2, Marwan Madi ComplexAmman 11162)

Turned out to be one of the best places for knafeh. We did not even know it is a popular local dessert! IT WAS DELICIOUS, but choose the original flavour.

Meeting Locals: Many travelers would have shared this site – Couchsurfing. I gained a lot of valuable experiences when I travel abroad with this app. In Amman, we also met Ahmad, Mohammed and Raz on our first night, super awesome conversations and cultural exchange over buffalo wings! A lot of people wanted to hang out with us so it was easy to find companions in Jordan. Go there with an open heart and mind, because the Jordanians we met all opened their heart and life experiences to us, and made us feel like home.

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With our new friends!

Trip Cost Summary for 5D5N

Accomodation: The Sydney Hostel 31 JD 2 nights

Petra Family Home Airbnb (Hosted by Rami) 27 JD 1 night

The Boutique Hotel Amman (19 JD w/o taxes)  1 night

Transportation: Airport to Amman Downtown Taxi – 15 JD

Dead Sea to Amman Downtown Taxi – 16 JD

Sydney Hostel to Amman Jettbus – 3.5 JD

Amman to Petra bus – 11 JD each

Petra to Airbnb –  2 JD

Petra to Wadi Rum Bus – 10 JD each

Wadi Rum to Aqaba Taxi – 25 JD

Aqaba to Amman Bus – 11 JD each

Amman Jettbus Station to Eye hospital – 3.7 JD

Eye Hospital to Boutique Hotel – 3.5 JD

Amman Downtown to Airport – 15.7 JD

Entrance tickets: Dead Sea Entrance – 20 JD
Tours & activities: Dead Sea Experience

Mud experience – 3 JD

 

Petra Experience

Petra entrance 50 JD (can use Jordan Pass)

Little Petra to Monastery Hike, Sunset view Guide – 25 JD

 

Wadi Rum Experience

½ camel ride + jeep tours – 185 JD

Others: Jordan Pass – 70 JD

Jordan Visa – 40 JD (can use Jordan Pass)

SIM card – 15 JD

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