9 things to know when visiting Jordan

Berenice Aqaba

I loved visiting Jordan, I can’t express this enough. However there are some things I think you need to know, or would like you to know for your visit to Jordan. Here the 9 main points I want to share more information about.

1. Jordan Pass

The Jordan Pass, is like an ultimate sightseeing package which also includes the visa fee to enter Jordan. You can buy it directly from their site. After the payment, they will send you one PDF file with a QR code.  When you arrive at the airport, you will need to queue up on the Jordan Pass line, to get your stamp in your passport. Just bring the Jordan Pass PDF with you (and your passport for Petra) when you will go visit the attractions and voila.

The best thing about it of course is that it includes the entrance of Petra. Depending on how many days you would like to enter Petra, you will need an other type of Jordan Pass. The Jordan Wanderer is for a 1 day visit to Petra and costs 70 JOD, the Explorer (the one we got) is 2 day entrance and costs 75 JOD and the Expert is for a 3 day visit to Petra and the price is 80 JOD.

Summing up the entrance of Petra and the visa fee, already makes the Jordan Pass worth its money. On top of that you have many attractions that are included in the pass. Popular ones including some we did ourselves: Jerash, Amman Citadel, Roman Theatre Amman, Wadi Rum desert and many other museums and sand castles.

2. Money

Currency exchange

The Currency of Jordan is called the Jordanian Dinar or JOD (or “jay-dee” with the young locals). It is made up of 100 piastres and notes come in 1, 5, 10, 20 and 50 Dinar.

Check the exchange rates before you go. Don’t make the mistake to think 1 JOD is 1 euro or 1 dollar because things could get more expensive than you originally thought (in 2019 it was 1.25 euros and 1.40 dollars).

It is better to have some cash money with you at all times, as they don’t accept cards everywhere. If you have a regular bank card (maestro), open it up to worldwide during your period and get money from the ATM and pay with this card to avoid high card fees. Ours is from Belgium and all worked fine. You can also try to get some money from the ATM with your credit card if it doesn’t work with maestro. You can also exchange your cash at the airport when you arrive.

 

Jordian Dinar

 

Be cautious for “tourist” pricing

Jordan is not really non-expensive. On the contrary, it is comparable to Europe. Big shops, especially in the bigger city or touristic places, have high prices.

Of course you can always bargain in Jordan in a souvenir shop or stand. It is common, but not to be expected to have great discounts. It is more like a social exchange.

A super tip I can give you is when you are doing moments of driving, to stop at a Lumi Market at any Manaseer gas station. The prices here for food, drinks and snacks are supeeeer affordable, even cheap. The best thing is, they have a coffee corner where you really should try their hazelnut coffee. Delicious!

 

Tipping

Tipping is not routine in Jordan, but is always welcome. You can count 10% for tipping if you would like to add it to your bill in restaurants, taxis, coffee shops, guides… In some restaurants it is already calculated in the bill, so double-check it.

3. Safety and “Welcome to Jordan”

Did I think Jordan was safe? Simple answer: yes, more difficult answer: yes I did.

I never felt unsafe or treated, or scared to walk the streets. We went with a small group of 4 women and If I compare Jordan to Egypt of Morocco, I felt MUCH more at ease here, from beginning til the end, than in these other two.

It all had to do with the locals. Every one we talked to was respectful, friendly or SUPER friendly. They are true to their culture and habits, but leave you alone. We were never really bothered by anyone. Not more than me walking the streets in Antwerp to be honest. And if somebody approached us, it was always polite and after a simple “No thank you” an other simple “Welcome to Jordan” followed and off we went.  We found that the locals (specially in Amman and all touristic places and shops) spoke good English, so it was easy to communicate.

 

4. Local food

Jordanian food

Jordan food is a part of Arabic food. Arabs don’t really claim dishes for their own, and every Arab can prepare a dish differently. But there are some dishes you should really try while in Jordan.

Mezze

I love appetizers, and Arabs really have a full delicious choice in this. We often just had meals consisting of many mezze, which is the dominant way of eating in Jordan. I would suggest you to eat as many as you can. Some of the mezze we ate:

– Of course hummus, a dip or spread made from cooked, mashed chickpeas
Mutabbal, mashed eggplants with seasonings
Falafel, a deep-fried ball or patty made from ground chickpeas, fava beans, or both.
Haloumi, semi-soft white cheese usually sliced and grilled or fried.
Kibbeh, a dish made of bulgur, chopped meat and spices, often deep-fried
Tzatziki, Dip made from plain yogurt, chopped cucumber with finely chopped garlic and mint leaf
Tabbouleh, bulgur, finely chopped parsley, mint, tomato, spring onion, with lemon juice, olive oil and seasonings
Sambousak, fried dough balls stuffed with cheese or meat with pine nuts and onions.

And try their (freshly) made flat breads!

Mansaf

The national dish of Jordan and the most distinctive Jordanian dish. Mansaf is a traditional dish made of lamb cooked in a sauce of fermented dried yogurt called Jameed and served with rice or bulgur.

Maqluba

A casserole made of layers of rice, vegetables and meat. After cooking, the pot is flipped upside-down onto the plate when served, hence the name maqluba which translates literally as “upside-down”. We made this dish at our Bed & Breakfast in Petra, as they offered us to help at the cooking and of course eating it afterwards.

 

 

Alcohol

As Jordan is 90% muslim, it is sometimes harder to find alcohol. But it is not forbidden. In bigger restaurants and supermarkets you can easily find it. However drinking in public streets is not allowed and drunkenness on public places is super frowned upon.

So it is accepted to drink as tourists, but might be more difficult to find in smaller towns. Avoid being drunk in public or just try their wide selection of soft drinks instead!

Water & Tea

Officially the tap water in Jordan is “drinkable”, but I never tried and probably won’t. I am always careful with this and many travellers agree to be cautious. It is better to buy sealed water bottles. Specially when travelling in remote areas, I suggest to bring some bottles with you.

If you stay long time, it is suggested to cook the water before. While you ate it, might as well just drink tea. We drank SO much tea in Jordan. It is delicious and a normal to serve guests tea, so you may encounter this many times. In the bedouin camp in Wadi Rum, it was all we had!

5. When to come

Best time for Jordan would be spring time from March to May. After that it gets quite hot and busy during the summer holidays. Autumn time is also an alternative as the temperatures are still comfortable around 32 degrees or so. I would avoid December to February as it can get super cold at night specially!

We went beginning of March and we had a variety of temperatures. In Amman and Jerash it was good around 20 degrees celsius or somewhat less. In Wadi Rum desert it was somewhat like that during the day too, but rather cold/freezing in the evening and night time. We had to dress warm to sleep at the camp. In Aqaba it was nice and warm, and super sunny. In Petra it was around 20 degrees again but very sunny!

6. What to pack & wear

Clothing

Like I explained here above, we had a range of temperatures. The best way to pack is in layers. Bring comfortable and breathing clothes but don’t forget a sweater or long sleeves for the evening time. We even brought a jacket and scarf with us and we used it in the desert! Also pack swimming gear for beach times in Aqaba and floating in the Dead Sea.

As for shoes, bring comfy sneakers or hiking boots, what you prefer best or both. Bring also a pair of sandals or open shoes for Aqaba or Amman, places you will not walk a lot.

Dress code

As already mentioned, Jordan is 90% Muslim. They do not have strict dressing codes for the women like some other Arabic countries, but of course please be respectful and use your common sense. Don’t wear revealing things or things that could make you feel uncomfortable in some situations (see-through, low cuts, skirts that blow open, etc..). As I like to wear dresses, I always wore shorts underneath it.

Women do usually cover their hair there, but as tourists it is not obligatory of course. A scarf can be handy to avoid sun strokes though. You will see this everywhere in Jordan (specially the typical bedouin scarfs they use).

Some examples for what we wore:

 

Adapter & portable charger

Bring an international converter. I always suggest to bring an all-in-one. Jordan has different types of plugs! We had to use our converter in the hotel, bed and breakfast and our Air Bnb. In the bigger hotel by the Dead Sea we didn’t have to use it.

If you would like to stay in a bedouin camp, I suggest to bring a fully charged portable charger too. They usually have one electricity source, but it is super basic and you will have to share with others. Bringing a charger yourself is also practical during a road trip to recharge your phones.

7. Car rental and driving

Rental

We rented our car beforehand on Rentalcars.com. We picked an automatic Chevrolet Sonic Sedan (or similar) from the rental company Thrifty. You can find them at the airport at the arrivals.

But there are many other companies there. I am sure if you don’t have any specific plans yet, you can rent one there at any point. The pick up at the airport is a good place to leave directly into the highway.

Traffic rules

Simply put, there are NO traffic rules. Driving in the city was a challenge! We used all of our eyes (so 8 in total) and drove very careful to get into the highway. There are no lanes, there are ALL of the lanes. Everyone drives everywhere, there is no keeping on the right side, there is no signalling. There is only bumping the car horn at every single thing and putting in where ever you feel like. I think the phrase “What the Hell are they doing?” came out of my mouth more than I can count. At the end of our week, I found myself doing the same things as they do. Got to blend in right? HAHA!

On the highways it is more chill to drive as it is less busy and therefore more relaxed.

Beware for animal blocks

In general the main roads in Jordan are quite good!

However, driving in Jordan means that at some points you will need to stop to let the local animals pass. We encountered goats, donkeys and camels during our drives! They will be guided with the herder of course, just be careful and shut off the car. It was quite something, but so fun to see.

 

 

8. Sim Card

Getting a (data) sim card is very practical when you will be one week or longer in Jordan! It helps you navigate and look up stuff you will need on the way.

When you arrive at the airport and go to the arrival hall, you can go either to the left near Starbucks or to the right close to the car rentals to get a sim card. They will install it for you there.

There are two providers we can suggest. As we were 4 girls, two got one of  Zain and the other two choose Umniah. Zain has a 15 GB data for 17 JOD and Umniah has a special tourist deal for 10GB for 11 JOD that is valid for 10 days. We did find Zain had more signal through out the country. For example, it had more reach in the desert or the Dead Sea. Best to ask at their counter desk which deals they have! Either way, it is not too expensive, but very worth it!!

9. Cat lovers will be pleased

Like Turkey, I found Jordan to have SO many cats everywhere. Which I loved of course. One the first day walking in Amman, we found so many on the streets! But everywhere we went there was a kitty or two. I didn’t take photos of them all (who am I kidding, of course I did), but here are some local fur balls we saw.

 


Might visit Egypt soon too? Check out the things you should know about Egypt here


What to know before Jordan

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