I have been travelling ever since I can remember, first with my parents, later with my friends, and so when I ventured out for the first time on my own, I did not really plan anything and just went along with what was happening. I have curated for you not only my experience of travelling to a Middle Eastern country but also some tips for travelling on your own.
Amman: A Modern Middle Eastern Capital
I spent the first two days wandering a bit through Amman, trying to grasp a feeling for Jordan’s capital. Walking around the streets at first on my own, I felt a bit uneasy, as it is sometimes in Arabic countries, despite wearing loose long-sleeved clothing. I felt stared at – but I found it less intense than i.e. in Morocco. There aren’t a lot of women on their own in the streets, neither locals nor foreigners. I had read that Jordan was a bit more liberal than its neighbouring countries but still more women than I had anticipated wore a hijab. However, by the end of my stay I was walking through Amman with much more ease and felt more comfortable as I realised that it is actually quite safe. When the vendors here try to sell you their goods and you either ignore or politely decline, they leave you in peace and wish you a happy day.
I really liked Amman, for there are much less tourists (they are all in the South) and I do recommend visiting the Citadel, the Roman Theatre, Downtown and just exploring a bit around Jabal Amman and Jabal Weibdeh, there are lots of hidden cafés and shops to be discovered. I loved Books@Cafe on Rainbow Street – generally Rainbow Street is the place to be. If you live in the 1st Circle, it’s easy to walk anywhere, just keep in mind that Amman is built on several hills, so staying in Amman is quite a workout! If you prefer not to walk, use an Uber or Careem, the Jordanian version of Uber, which is a cheap alternative to cabs. Drop by Hashem’s – the most famous restaurant ever in Amman (supposedly the King of Jordan has dined here after Ramadan?) and enjoy the fresh hummus!
The North: Mount Nebo & the Dead Sea
I booked a private driver for a day and took a trip around the North along with three other travellers. Mount Nebo and the Dead Sea both were my personal highlight. Mount Nebo is the place where Moses was shown the Promised Land and the view is amazing – you can see the Dead Sea as well as Jericho and on a clear day you can see Jerusalem while on the other side you see the lush landscape of Jordan Valley.
The Dead Sea itself is also quite a view, between the red rock formations of Jordan Valley it is at 430 meter below sea level the lowest elevation on Earth on land and so salty that all you can is float – but be warned, not everything floats as this is the sad story of how I lost my sunglasses (they did not float). We covered ourselves completely in mud – as you do at the Dead Sea. The Dead Sea feels a bit oily and the dried mud washes right off, leaving you with very soft skin.
Petra – A New World Wonder
Of course I took the trip south to Petra – it is one of the new world wonders by its own right, the ancient city of the Nabateans is absolutely gorgeous and I spent an entire day walking around marvelling at what they carved out of stone two millennia ago. Khazne Faraun, the treasury, which is generally known to be the most famous attraction of Petra, is absolutely beautiful, although when I visited it was a bit overrun by tourists. The hour-long hike over 800 steps to see Ed Deir, the monastery, is definitely worth it as there are way less tourists crowding the place. I do recommend making the way up to the monastery, and you can easily spend two days exploring Petra, looking at ancient Roman ruins and at tombs, but I think you can get quite a bit done in one day as well. If you go during spring/summer it can get quite hot and so remember to use sunscreen and to stay hydrated!
The entrance fee is quite high – it costs 50 Dinar, around 65 Euros, so it does make sense to get the Jordan Pass (see last chapter!). You can also experience Petra by Night – this does not take place every night and is also a slightly costlier option, but the Treasury is illuminated by candles at night and definitely worth to see.
Wadi Rum: A Night in the Desert
I continued to travel to the desert, Wadi Rum, where I had booked a jeep tour through the desert as well as spending the night in a Bedouin camp. I began my tour in the early afternoon after the midday heat had passed and we drove over sand dunes and saw many different rock formations. Our Bedouin guide Suleiman knows this place like the palm of his hand. When I ask him if he has ever gotten lost and accidentally driven into Saudi Arabia (now there is a fence at the border), he laughs at me and says: “any Bedouin that gets lost in the desert is no real Bedouin.”
The desert here is quite unlike any landscape I’ve ever seen before and we drive around, taking regular tea breaks and take a million pictures. Even more gorgeous is the sunset that we see from the Bedouin camp which turns everything into a pinkish hue.
Dinner is then dug up from the ground and we enjoy dinner with a friendly Belgian couple who also give us a lift to Aqaba the next day from where we take a local bus back to Amman which cost around 10 Dinar, but took 7 hours (for a ca. 250 kilometer journey).
Tips and Tricks for Travelling in Jordan//Solo Travelling
- Before you even get to Jordan – you will most likely need a visa at the airport for 40 Dinar (around 50 Euro), but it makes sense to get the Jordan Pass online before. This will make your visa a bit more expensive, but you get free entrance to Petra and several other tourist sites, and is definitely worth it.
- Don’t underestimate the Jordanian Dinar! It is stronger than the Euro, so I found Jordan actually quite a bit more expensive than I had expected. 10 Dinar are around 13 Euro, so be aware of the currency.
- If you are travelling alone, do consider getting a SIM card. Having data and a Jordanian phone number do make it really easy to navigate around Jordan as well as using apps like Careem or Uber.
- Find someone who speaks Arabic! If you don’t speak Arabic yourself, make a friend who does. While they speak English quite well in Amman and in the touristy areas of Jordan, if you find yourself in more rural areas it’s quite difficult to get around. The bus we took from Aqaba to Amman we only found through a girl we met in the camp who spoke Arabic and would have never found otherwise.
- Get used to everything happening on its own time – bus schedules do not really seem to be a thing here.
- Trust your gut, but do not be naive. I found that if you trust the locals, you can have amazing experiences – we got a cab lift although we were looking for a bus from Petra to Wadi Rum for the price of the bus, which sounded a bit dodgy to us at first but we took the risk and had a really good experience.