Category: Jordan

Jordan Travel Itinerary

Jordan Itinerary

Here’s what we did day by day:

Day 1
Flight from Paris to Amman. Inside customs we used an ATM to get cash (dinars) and had no issues. Right outside customs in the airport we each bought a SIM card for our phones. There were two different mobile companies so we got one of each. There wasn’t too much difference in the price/service, and we each had pockets where one of us had reception and the other didn’t. Our taxi ride from the airport to the hotel was dark and we were unnecessarily nervous about our first time in the Middle East. Driving past an IKEA was somehow reassuring; it reminded me that the city was full of average people with average bookcases.
Jordanian food
Day 2
Eat all the food. Hummus, fuul, falafel, pita, cucumbers, tomatoes, haloumi, zaatar and baklava for days. Toured the Citadel and learned about all the cultures who’d used that site from 40,000 BC until the present. The Roman Temple of Hercules, Byzantine Basilica and Amayad Mosque were all amazing. We then walked to the amphitheater and through winding neighborhoods.
Day 3 and 4
We rent a car! We went for the smaller company, Monte Carlo, and they were very friendly, affordable and safe feeling. Justin drives us south to Madaba to visit some more religious sites. We see the oldest known map of the holy land; a mosaic tiled floor. Driving south we came upon a massive canyon we weren’t expecting. In my head I just imagined sandy deserts, but Jordan is full of sheep at pasture, rocky canyons and cliffs, and even forests in the north. We drive the Desert Highway south to Dana and stay at a tiny little hotel that feels very Edward Sharp and the Magnetic Zeros. We spent the next full day exploring the surrounding nature reserve.
Day 5 and 6
Drive farther south and stop at Shobak castle for a bit of climbing around before we end up in Petra where we spend all the following day as well. It’s amazing. Stay with a local Bedouin from AirBnB.
Day 7 and 8
We drive to Wadi Rum. It’s a beautiful expansive desert we’d planned on exploring for a few nights. We’ve already been roughing it for a week and staying with hosts, and we decide somewhat sheepishly that we’d prefer a private room with a western shower and not having to talk to anyone for a night or two. Drive south to Aqaba and get our first not-twin bed, some alcohol and watch the sun set over the Red Sea, Egypt and Israel. We spend the next day exploring Aqaba, the hotel pool and buying spices as souvenirs.
Day 9 and 10
Drive north on the Dead Sea Highway, stopping at Lot’s Cave, the museum of the Lowest Place in the World and Mount Nebo. Drive past sheep, goats, donkeys, camel and people living in goat hair tents.  Spend two nights in Madaba, driving do the Dead Sea on the full day to float and soak up the salty goodness. Went to a formal restaurant in Madaba for our one fancy meal.
Day 11
Drive to Jerash to discover the gladiator show is canceled indefinitely. We’re pretty worn out at this point so have a sit down lunch and then head to a mall in Amman for some slow indoor wanderings. We spend an entire hour exploring a grocery store. As we went through customs at the airport leaving, one man said “you’re from America? Please tell everyone there how beautiful Jordan is and to visit soon!” oozing pride and eagerness to share his country. It is beautiful!

An American in Jordan: What to Expect

jordan travel tips

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.”