Backpacking in Jordan is the adventure of a lifetime. The natural landscapes of Jordan are otherworldly. The mouth-watering cuisine gives you something to look forward to after a long day of adventuring. Best of all, the people of Jordan are among the friendliest and most genuinely hospitable people I’ve met on my travels. For a relatively small country, Jordan has so much to offer. I had an incredible experience backpacking through Jordan. It is easily my favorite country in the Middle East so far, and one of my favorite countries in general. Every traveler should have Jordan on their radar. Here’s everything you need to know before taking on this magical Middle Eastern country.
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How To Get to Jordan
The best way to get to Jordan is by catching a flight to Amman’s Queen Alia International Airport. Flights from Europe and the Middle East can be quite affordable. Skiplagged is a great resource for finding cheap flights. Once you’ve landed, it’s about an hour to get to Amman by taxi or by public bus. I’d recommend taking the bus, and then an Uber to where you are staying in Amman. It’s also possible to go elsewhere in Jordan from the airport. There will be no shortage of drivers offering to take you straight to Wadi Musa (Petra) and other tourist hotspots.
It’s relatively hard to get to Jordan via overland travel as the countries it borders are Syria, Iraq, Israel/Palestine, and vast swathes of Saudi Arabian desert. I traveled to Jordan via ferry from Egypt, crossing the Red Sea from Taba to Aqaba. It was an ordeal, and I wouldn’t particularly recommend it, but I try to avoid flights when possible. It ended up costing me more than a flight when all was said and done, and was far from straightforward. I’ve heard that it is still not as complicated as trying to cross through Israel/Palestine, though. Here’s a guide on that overland border crossing if you’re looking to take that route.
Is Jordan Safe to Visit?
I’d say Jordan is the best country to visit as a first-timer in the Middle East. It is a very safe country. Despite being an Islamic country, I’ve found it more accepting and tolerant than some of the other countries in the region. Everyone was friendly, honest, and very welcoming. Everywhere I went, locals would offer me rides, even inviting me into their homes when I was a complete stranger. It was almost a shock to be able to trust people again after spending three months avoiding scammers and hustlers throughout Egypt and Morocco. Although I only spent a short time in Jordan, I felt perfectly safe. I also asked for feedback from solo female travelers, and they’ve agreed that it is perhaps the safest they’ve felt in a Middle Eastern country.
Things To Know Before Going to Jordan
Currency of Jordan – The currency in Jordan is the Jordanian Dinar. In tourist hotspots, euros and dollars may also be accepted. While credit cards are widely accepted throughout Jordan, be sure to always have cash handy as some places are still cash-only, especially in smaller, more rural towns.
There are no shortage of ATMs to withdraw money from throughout Jordan, although they are harder to come by in rural areas. There are also money exchanges throughout Jordan. Most ATMs will charge a small fee for withdrawing money, but with my Charles Schwab card, I get reimbursed for all of those fees so it wasn’t an issue for me. The usual fee for withdrawing money was 5 JOD, which adds up if you’re withdrawing money frequently.
Language in Jordan – The language of Jordan is Arabic, although like most Arabic-speaking countries, it has a few phrases and differences distinct to the country. Getting by as a traveler in Jordan without speaking any Arabic is pretty hassle-free. Having some grasp of the language would definitely help, but in general, English is commonly spoken in areas frequented by tourists.
Do you need a visa to visit Jordan? – Yes, but one can get it on arrival if flying in by air. If coming in through other means, you don’t need to get the visa on arrival. It will save you some money. However, if you’re purchasing the Jordan Pass, it waives your visa fee. It makes the Jordan Pass that much more attractive, considering one can get their money back just from the visa fee and a visit to Petra alone.
SIM Cards for Jordan – While I’m fond of using eSIMs, Jordan is one place I’d recommend getting a SIM card for. The data plans are outrageously cheap in Jordan. You’ll find yourself struggling to use up all the data one can get for as low as $10. I don’t remember the exact prices, but my friend got 50 gigabytes of data for around $15 USD. He ended up hot spotting me and another friend for our entire time in Jordan and still didn’t come close to using all of it.
If you opt to use an eSIM app like Airalo, you can use my code ELIJAH933 to get $3 off your first SIM card. It worked great throughout the country, it was just pricier than what you’d typically pay for a similar data plan.
Travel Insurance for Jordan
Oh, and before you go, make sure to have good travel insurance handy while you’re off adventuring across the world. I use SafetyWing to keep me covered throughout my travels for as low as $45 a month, and their coverage includes Jordan among the 190+ countries that they cover. It’s always important to have when hiking through remote deserts and rappelling down Jordan’s canyons and waterfalls.
How To Travel Around Jordan
Buses and minibuses are the most common form of transportation to get around Jordan. It is budget-friendly and a great way to travel like a local. The official buses have loose timetables, and the minibuses typically leave whenever they fill up. Jordan is not a big country and the highways are in good condition, so you’d typically never have to sit in a bus for more than a couple of hours. Even if it isn’t the most comfortable method, it’s the most affordable and generally reliable.
Renting a car is also a good option for those who feel comfortable driving in a foreign country. It is surprisingly affordable, and allows you to visit places not accessible by public transport, including some hidden gems like Wadi Mujib. Outside of Amman, the roads in Jordan are easy to drive on. The roads are well-kept and there isn’t too much traffic. Amman is a different story, as the narrow, curving, hilly layout of the city can be tricky to navigate, not to mention the traffic at peak times.
One can also hire a driver. When I was in Amman, we found it was cheaper for the three of us to hire a private driver for a day than it was for the three of us to book the same tour. We ended up hiring the same driver for multiple days to take us to Jerash, the Dead Sea, Madaba, Mount Nebo, Ajloun and beyond. He was also the eccentric receptionist and manager of Cliff Hostel in Amman. I’d highly recommend anyone to stay there just to meet him.
There are no trains in Jordan, and the only internal flights are from Amman to Aqaba and vice versa, a journey that only takes four hours by car. For those uncomfortable with driving, buses and public transportation are a perfectly fine, albeit slower, way to travel around Jordan.
Where To Stay in Jordan
You’ll find all types of accommodation in Jordan, from luxurious resorts on the Dead Sea to glamping in the Wadi Rum desert. For backpackers, hostels are a budget-friendly way to travel through Jordan. While still budget-friendly, the cost of living in Jordan is noticeably more expensive than other countries in the region. Hostels can help travelers stick to a budget and meet other backpackers.
There aren’t too many hostels in Jordan, but each city with a tourist presence should have its fair share. Some of my favorite hostels include Nomads Hostel in Petra, Hakaia Community Hostel in Aqaba, and Battuta Hostel in Amman. Typically hostels will cost between $10-20 USD per night for a dorm, and about $30-50 for a private room.
Just note that in Wadi Rum, many of the prices don’t include meals. Considering you’re in the middle of a desert about 8 kilometers from the nearest store or restaurant, you don’t have any options besides eating at your camp. Meals are typically between 5-10 JD, which adds up. I stayed at Wadi Rum Fire Camp for $4 a night, and my bill for the two nights came out to about $40 after meals and post-meal shisha. Make sure to look through what’s included in the price per night of accommodation, as sometimes it might be better to book the pricier option if it includes everything.
Top Travel Destinations to Visit in Jordan
Now, the reasons you’re going to Jordan in the first place. Jordan has no shortage of incredible travel destinations, from ancient cities carved into red mountains to the Martian landscapes of Wadi Rum. This is a good starting point for crafting your own itinerary through Jordan, or you can check out my 10-day Jordan travel itinerary for more inspiration.
It’s a World Wonder for a reason. Even with sky high expectations for Petra, I was still blown away. I’ve only seen photos of the Treasury and Monastery, both iconic and definitely living up to the hype. However, the archaeological site of Petra is vast, boasting much more than just those two attractions. Various civilizations have left their mark on the ancient city, so one will find Byzantine temples, Roman theaters, and of course, the iconic dwellings carved into the mountains by the Nabataeans. It’s mystical setting within secluded canyons and valleys adds to its otherworldliness. Be sure to get here early to avoid the tourist crowds and sweltering midday heat.
There’s a reason why movies like Star Wars and Dune were filmed in Wadi Rum. It truly feels like an entirely different world. I’ve been to deserts, but none quite like Wadi Rum. It is famed for its reddish-orange sands and buttes and mountains that seemingly jut straight out of flat ground. I loved my experience at Wadi Rum, staying at a Bedouin camp, going on a Jeep adventure to many highlights of the desert, and feasting on traditional Bedouin cuisine. If you only do two things in Jordan, it should be Petra and Wadi Rum.
Jordan’s capital city of Amman was full of surprises. It was a pleasant change from the overwhelming mayhem of other Middle Eastern metropolises that I had visited before. Amman is a very walkable city, and hardly anyone will bother you as you’re walking down the street. It’s filled with art, from street art and murals, to charming galleries tucked away in cute alleyways. It is budget-friendly, but also filled with amazing restaurants for anyone looking to take advantage of big city luxuries. I had incredible food all throughout Amman, from $1 kebabs to mansaf feasts.
Jordan’s coastal gem on the southern tips of the country was my first introduction to the country. I took the ferry over from Egypt and the stark contrast between the two countries could immediately be felt. Aqaba is definitely a bit of a vacation spot, and one can expect to spend more money here than other parts of Jordan. I didn’t stay too long as I’d just spent a week lounging on the Red Sea in Dahab in Egypt, but for those looking for some sunshine and sparkling waters, Aqaba can’t be missed. It’s also home to some small archaeological and historical sites.
Although my experience at the Dead Sea was not that memorable, it is pretty cool to say you’ve swam there. Or at least, floated there. It’s the lowest point on Earth, and a sea so salty that nothing lives in it. Keep that in mind before rubbing your eyes with the water because you’ll be tearing up for an hour afterwards. There are a few options for visiting the Dead Sea. Most tourists will have to visit through one of the resorts that claim the beaches. That’s unfortunately what we had to do, although the price wasn’t terrible and included a buffet lunch. If you have local friends, they can take you on a proper beach day out since they’ll know the spots and likely have a car to take you to the few public beaches along the sea. It’s hard to get public transportation otherwise.
The ruins of Jerash are often considered to be among the best-preserved Greek/Roman archaeological sites in the world. The city lies about an hour north of Amman, and I’d recommend setting aside a few hours to properly explore the site. Jerash is home to well-preserved theaters, colonnades, temples, and more. For lovers of history, it’s well worth a visit. Be warned, there is absolutely no shade at the site, so try to go early to avoid both the sun and tourist crowds. There is also not much to do in the modern city of Jerash, so I would recommend visiting the ruins as a day trip as opposed to spending a night in the city.
Wadi Mujib would thrill anyone who loves adrenaline. It’s one of the lesser-known Wadis of Jordan, but for adventure-seekers, this is where it’s at. Canyoning and rappelling, hiking through canyons and rivers, it’s perfect for nature-lovers. The Siq Trail is the must-do of Wadi Mujib. This is where renting a car comes in handy, as it’s difficult to access unless visiting through a tour agency.
This is supposedly where Moses overlooked the Promised Land and then dropped dead. It was kind of cool retracing his steps, as I escaped from Cairo, summited Mount Sinai, crossed the Red Sea, and then found myself standing on Mount Nebo. Thankfully, that’s where the similarities stopped and I didn’t drop dead or anything. The visit was included as part of a tour itinerary, otherwise I would say don’t go out of your way for it unless it has a special significance to you.
This a city that history and culture lovers would be fond of. We visited two churches here, a Byzantine Church and a Greek Orthodox Church with a famous map. We also visited a museum included in the Jordan Pass that was quite underwhelming. Our time in Madaba was short, and honestly, maybe not short enough. It was part of the itinerary that the driver we hired had crafted for us, and I’m glad we got to see the two churches. However, if you’re strapped on time, I don’t think it should be a priority.
Of course, this is just a starting point for your adventures in Jordan. There are many more places to explore, from the forests of Ajloun to the famed Jordan Trail taking thru-hikers from Um Qais to the Red Sea.
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If this post helped you out, show some love and support for the blog and help keep my adventures going by buying me a beer! My adventures are entirely self-funded, so any show of support is greatly appreciated, and allows me to keep writing helpful travel guides and creating travel content to help you all travel the world on a budget.