04 Nov Jordan: What to know before you go
Jordan has long been a feature on my otherwise ever-changing must-visit list.
I’ve been banging on about it with increasing frequency for the last couple of years, but after a particularly hot and bothersome August in the office while everyone else lapped up the sunshine on glorious Sardinian beaches, I managed to convince my nice Italian man that we should book a last minute getaway. And where better to escape to when Autumn starts setting in than the sun-soaked Middle East?
I was asked a lot of questions by curious friends and co-workers both before and after the trip. What’s quite apparent is that there are a lot of misconceptions about Jordan, so let me try to iron out a few of the most common ones.
Myth #1: Jordan is dangerous.
Having grown up listening to my parents’ stories about Nepal and the Falklands, and having developed a slightly random obsession with books about Afghanistan, it’s safe to say that I have a soft spot for controversial destinations.
That said, a large part of Jordan’s appeal is that, despite the fact it is sandwiched between Israel/Palestine, Iraq, Syria, and Saudi Arabia, it is really not a risky place to visit. Sure, if you search your local government advice website, you’ll inevitably read that terrorist attacks in Jordan are “very likely” but before you let that panic you, just remember that exactly the same wording is used on the pages of France and Spain.
I am one hundred percent serious when I say that I felt much safer wandering aimlessly around Amman than I have done in most European cities. If you’re a tall, borderline-blonde, westerner, of course you will be stared at, but you won’t be harassed anything like you would be in downtown Marrakech, or even in central London, for that matter.
You’ll see policemen everywhere you go (especially around tourist hotspots like Petra, or Aqaba on the Red Sea), and there are roadblocks along the main highways up and down the country. If you’re driving, you will be stopped, and you will have to roll down your window and speak to a man in uniform, but contrary to what you may have read online, you probably won’t even have to show a document. In ten fairly driving-heavy days, we were stopped probably 5 times, and on every one of those occasions a very smiley man holding a gun took one look at us and said “Welcome to Jordan” before waving us along. So don’t you worry, it is safe to travel to Jordan.
Myth #2: Driving in Amman is a no-go.
Every single blog and forum I looked at before leaving said that driving in Jordan is fine for the most part, but oh for the love of God don’t drive in Amman. Needless to say, I was terrified.
I don’t know what kind of automotive haven everyone on those forums comes from, but I can guarantee that if you’ve driven anywhere in mainland Europe, and are fairly good at checking your blind spot, like, all the time, you have no reason to worry.
What I was not expecting, however, were the speed bumps.
Jordanians. Love. Speed bumps.
To keep you on your toes, the enormous bumps are almost never signposted, and are often also painted black and plonked bang in the middle of the highway, so you can rip off the underside of your car at 110km/h. Don’t tell me you weren’t warned.
Myth #3: It’s hard to dress appropriately.
I admit, I Googled “What to wear in Jordan” about 571 times before setting off.
Jordan is a Muslim nation, and as is the case in Morocco, Egypt, or any other Muslim country, you should take this into account when planning your outfits.
Unlike some of its neighbours, Jordan isn’t super conservative. Choosing to cover up more than you would at home is purely out of respect. You won’t get in trouble if you don’t, but you’ll see that most female tourists cover shoulders, knees and cleavage, and you’ll feel pretty out of place if you’re the only one in hot pants.
You don’t need to be wrapped up from head to toe, so many of the outfits you’d wear at home can just be tweaked slightly to become Jordan-friendly – think long-sleeved tee instead of a vest top, or some leggings under that short dress. Scoop neck tops are fine, as are short-sleeved t-shirts.
Basically, just dress as if you’re meeting a very lovely but slightly old-fashioned relative, and not as if you’re meeting your high school friends at a beach party.
Loose layers are your friends. Tight clothes are much less frowned upon than in many other Islamic countries, but floaty options will keep you more comfortable in the Arabian heat. In October, the nights were sometimes chilly, so it’s a good idea to bring a few thin layers with you, just in case.
What must be said is that muslim-friendly outfits and hot weather do not a glorious full-body tan make. If you thought trucker tans were bad, you should see the Dulux effect after 10 days in Jordan: lovely bronzed face, neck, hands, forearms, and lower legs. Casper the friendly ghost elsewhere. A joy to behold, let me tell you.
Myth #4: The Middle East is cheap.
Jordan is not a budget-friendly destination. It’s not super expensive, but if you come from mainland Europe, it’s just not going to feel like a bargain in the same way as somewhere like Thailand might.
Both S and I are un-snobby when it comes to hotels, so were always happy to go for the cheapest available option (results sometimes questionable: I’m looking at you, weird hotel in Aqaba with way too much furniture). We ended up spending about €35 per night (for 2 people) on average.
The costs of eating out are much the same as they would be in France or Italy, and it’s worth remembering that taxes in restaurants are added at the end (like in the USA). However, portion sizes are often quite large (read: embarrassingly enormous), so you’ll get your money’s worth. If you’re looking to eat cheap, many cafés serve yummy wraps or sandwiches for 3JD or so, so it is possible to keep lunch costs down while you’re out and about.
If you’re counting pennies, it’s worth investing in the Jordan Pass before you go. This covers your visa, your visit to Petra, and also allows free entry to a load of attractions around the country (we used it for the Amman Citadel, Jerash, Kerak Castle, the Wadi Rum desert, Shobak Castle, the Madaba Archeological Park, and also got a discount on the Baptism Site – although actually wouldn’t recommend that last one. More on that in Part 2!) The Jordan Pass is super easy to buy online, and you can download a ticket to your phone (although it’s also advisable to keep the paper copy with you too, especially at the airport).
Myth #5: You’re only really going for Petra.
When you tell people you’re going to Jordan, 50% will immediately ask, “Are you sure that’s safe?!”, and the other half will ask if you’re going to Petra or, as it’s also known “that cool place off of Indiana Jones”.
Petra is the number one must-see for pretty much all visitors to Jordan, and don’t get me wrong, it is incredible, but actually there were other parts of our trip that I found equally amazing, if not more so (sacrilege?!).
Jordan really does have something for everyone: there’s history, adventure, friendly locals, incredible food, beaches, and other-worldly desert landscapes. Petra is just the tip of the ice(sand?)berg.
Explore the other posts about Jordan HERE for some inspiration on what to see other than the famous Treasury…