We had an amazing time in Jordan, but we didn’t always know what to expect. Here’s a recap on some logistical things that would have been nice to know going in.
Beds – Most places, even nicer hotels, gave us rooms with two single beds. We had to call around until we finally found a two person bed a week in, as we were sick of sleeping alone on vacation.
Toilets – almost every single one featured a spray hose adaption of some kind. We googled it to make sure they were for … clean up, and that is how most people used them. However there still was paper in most places we went. Many public restrooms had attendants, some of whom would sell you paper/soap/etc for cents, or just stand there and hand them out for tips. Some of these attendants were clearly employees (like at nice restaurants), but others were just people who adopted public toilets and kept them clean, knowing they’d get tipped out eventually. Like much of the world, the plumbing isn’t meant for anything but water and human waste – a little bin is waiting for any toilet paper you use.
Clothing – Jordan is primarily Muslim, but there are active groups of Christians and Jews as well. The Bedouin culture values hospitality strongly; everyone we met wanted to make sure we were comfortable and I never felt judged or offending. I brought lightweight long baggy pants, a shin-length skirt, covering shirts and a big scarf. You’ll see people in all levels of dress. In really touristy areas or large cities I fit in just fine with my blond hair uncovered and a t-shirt on. We spent a lot of time in mosques, temples, synagogues and churches. I was there to appreciate Jordanian culture, not push mine on other people, so felt best dressed more modestly than I would at home.
Alcohol – many Jordanians abstain, but if you search you can find local beers, wines and spirits! We liked the anise flavored Arak liquor and were impressed with Petra Beer’s crazy high 13% abv. We found few bars, but some nicer restaurants served alcohol and we also bought smaller bottles and enjoyed them inside our hotel rooms after long days.
Water/Food Safety – we generally only drank bottled water, buying it in huge jugs quite cheaply. We didn’t get too hung up on brushing out teeth with the right water or even on eating only cooked fruit and veg; we had no stomach issues. It is a desert country, so we tried our best to take fewer/faster showers and conserve water as much as possible.
Smoking – at our first hotel the clerk was smoking at the check in desk. I’d read to expect hookahs smoked, but seeing people smoke cigarettes inside is jarring to me as it’s so rare at home!
Driving – renting a car was a great way to get around. People drive differently than in America, and I’d be too timid to push my way through the roundabouts. It helped keep our plans flexible and Justin likes driving fortunately.
Eating – using specific hands wasn’t an issue, but we did get weird looks for wanting coffee before our meal. All the tea and coffee we had came with loads of sugar. The baklava store was my favorite place; you paid by weight for pounds of sweets. We also experimented with a sweet cheese dessert and some new-to-us chip flavors. I didn’t have any trouble finding vegetarian options – the traditional diet saved meat for special occasions so there were lots of bean/bread/veg heavy foods for me to enjoy. Also falafel was clearly the impetus for the entire trip.
If you’re debating visiting Jordan, I wholeheartedly recommend it. Jameel is one of the few Arabic words I retained because everything we saw was “beautiful.”