Saturday, August 10, 2013

Planning a Trip to Jordan

Planning a Trip to Jordan

A holiday is meant to bring excitement, adventure and relaxation. By planning well, you increase your chances of a successful trip that lives up to your expectations. That's why we list here some information for planning a trip to Jordan. 

Arriving to Jordan: Most visitors will arrive to Jordan through Amman Queen Alia Airport. If you are in one of the neighbouring countries there is certainly the possibility to arrive through the land border. The national airline Royal Jordanian (RJ) serves the only domestic route Amman - Aqaba and vice verse (RJ).

When to Go: First thing to decide is, in which month you like to come. Jordan has four seasons. Spring, mid March until end of May, is the best time, when the vegetation is lush, and the temperatures are mild. With regards to the weather another popular season is autumn, September until November. The summer period, June until August, is very warm, and winter, December until mid March, can be cool and rainy. The advantages of summer and winter are better travel deals, especially in the 5* hotel category, and less tourists.

Budget Your Tour: Important to know, Jordan is not a cheap destination. Better hotels, restaurants and any activities are rather pricy. This has to be considered for the length of your stay, the accommodation you choose and the activities you want to do. In the high season the most expensive rates are charged at the Dead Sea, Petra and Aqaba. Food costs vary widely, a Falafel sandwich or a Shawarma can be bought for 1.5 to 3 USD, better restaurants start with 40 USD. To be considered for every travel, the high admission fee in Petra, a one day pass is 70.00 USD per person. And for individual travelers the guide fees in Jordan are a high expense.

Accommodation: A variety of accommodation suiting all pockets you find in Amman, Petra and in Aqaba. The town Madaba, 30 kms from the capital, offers several hotels, but not one in the 5* category. But not far from Madaba, the Evason Six Senses Group runs a 5* property at the hot springs of Hammamat Ma’in. A stay at a Dead Sea Hotel is more expensive, only 4* and 5* hotels are available, and for the one who can afford it, the Dead Sea resorts offer a range of spa treatments. You can stay overnight in a camp in Wadi Rum desert or in Little Petra. Simple, but clean accommodation is available in the nature reserves Ajloun, Azraq, Mujib, Dana and in Feynan. Due to the location in the reserves this might be a highlight of your trip. To visit Jordan’s north, the area around Amman, and the eastern desert, a stay in Amman, Madaba or the Dead Sea is a good base. To explore the south of the country overnights in Aqaba or Petra are necessary.  

Jordan as Destination: Jordan is a small country, and you can visit in a relative short period of time several sites and landscapes. We list here the most popular and impressing attractions:
Petra, the rock city in the south is the number one tourist place and most visitors travel to Jordan just to see it. You can stay here from half day until three days. Petra is divided into a lower and an upper part and if you plan a longer stay, you have to be prepared for hiking to the upper parts with no fear of height. Some trails to the Monastery El Deir and the High Place of Sacrifice can be done without guide, but for other routes a hiking guide is highly recommended. A hiking guide is per day 160.00 USD.
Wadi Rum, the great desert in the south, you can explore by 4x4s, on the back of a camel, by hiking or in a hot air balloon. There are a lot of camps in Wadi Rum, inviting you to experience the starry sky in the night and to get the feeling for Bedouin life.  
Aqaba, the town at the Red Sea, is not to be missed for divers to discover the marine life of the Red Sea or just relax some days at the beach.
Dead Sea, the water of this lake is so salty that one can float.  The minerals in the sea and the black mud on the shores are famous for its positive effect on the skin. You can visit one of the beaches for some hours or stay at a hotel at the Dead Sea, some of them offering a wide range of spa treatments.
Religious Sites, are around the Dead Sea as well. Bethany beyond the Jordan, the Baptism Site of Jesus Christ, Madaba with Byzantine mosaic art, Mt Nebo, the burial place of Prophet Moses, Machearus where John the Baptist had been beheaded to name the most important.  
Canyons, along the Dead Sea are many of them to explore by the more adventurous traveler type. Easy to visit is for instance in Wadi Mujib, the Siq Trail. The canyons are only accessible from April until October, because for the rest of the year flash floods are a risk. 
Roman cities, Jerash and Umm Quais are the best example for the Greco-Roman cities, member of the Decapolis, in northern Jordan. Especially in Jerash the remains are well preserved and the view in Umm Quais over the Golan Heights and the Lake Tiberias are amazing.
Castles, can be found from the Omayyad period east of Amman, known as the Desert castles, in the north the Islamic castle of Ajloun and traveling to the south a stop at the Crusader castles Kerak and Shobak is worth it.
Nature Reserves, had been established in Jordan with various ecosystems. It is possible to spend the night in the Ajloun, Azraq, Mujib, Dana and Feynan. In all reserves you find hiking or biking trails, a stunning scenery and in some of them you can meet local communities like Bedouins or Druze.
Amman, is a good base for many tours. Amman has no highlight to offers like Jerusalem or Cairo, just a modern city in the Middle East with some Roman ruins in downtown. But in comparison to the rest of the country you find here many shops, restaurants and nightlife. 

Getting Around: If you plan to rely on public transportation, the easiest bus connections are between Amman and Petra as well as Amman and Aqaba. Most towns in Jordan are connected through mini buses, but time tables are not existent and even if you are in the bus, they depart often when full. Unless you have plenty of time, it is more convenient to rent a car and drive around on your own or rent a car with a driver. Certainly it is more expensive, but saves you time and you can reach places a local bus will not go to. It is also easy to get one of the yellow taxis, and in general they go anywhere if the driver considers the price right. But, not all taxi drivers speak English. There are no trains in Jordan, and the only domestic air route is Amman Aqaba.

Food: As an Arabic country the food in Jordan is influenced by Bedouins and its neighbours Syria, Lebanon and Palestine. A meal starts usually with mezze, a selection of appetizers, many are vegetarian dishes. Popular are hummus (chickpea paste), falafel, ful (fava bean paste), moutabel (aubergine dip), pickled vegetables, kibbeh (minced meat) and salads like tabouleh or fatoush. Main dishes are often prepared with chicken or lamb, like Magluba or the national dish Mansaf. When camping you might have the chance to taste the Bedouin dish Zarb, which is cooked underground. Main dishes are often served with pita bread. Desserts are very sweet like Baklava and Kanafah, they are often prepared with nuts and syrup. Traditional drink tea with peppermint or the strong Arabic coffee. Very tasty in summer is a lime mint juice. Jordan has a tradition of wine production, and alcohol is served in many restaurants and bars, except during Ramadan, the holy month of fasting.

Tips for Families: The suggested itinerary depends certainly on the age of your children. The younger they are, the less activities are to recommend. You might choose also to build the trip around few hotels and avoid long distance drives. Due to the high temperatures traveling in the summer month June to August shall be considered twice. Children will love riding camels in Petra or Wadi Rum, camp in Little Petra or in Wadi Rum desert,  explore the castles in Karak or Ajloun and spend time at the beach like in Aqaba or the Dead Sea.

What to Bring: Jordan is a Muslim country therefore you should dress conservatively. The general rule is to cover your shoulder, your knees and the décolleté. In rural areas and when meeting Bedouins it is even more appropriate to cover your arms and legs completely.  If your tour includes time at the Dead Sea and in Aqaba at the Red Sea a bathing costume is no problem. Every traveler needs to pack good walking shoes for the visit of Petra and when planning to hike in Jordan. Except in the winter period, hat, sunglasses and sun block are recommended.

Travel Documents & Health: Make sure your passport is valid minimum 6 month when traveling to Jordan. This is the condition for non-restricted nationalities to obtain the visa upon arrival for 20 JOD in cash. Credit card payments are offered, but to be on the safe side it is better to have the 20 JOD handy in cash. There is an exchange in the arrival hall. Important to know, when arriving to Jordan through the Allenby Border, also called King Hussein Bridge, you need the visa to Jordan in advance. Check if your tetanus, diphtheria and polio vaccinations are still active. Make an appointment with your medic several weeks before your tour, he may recommend other vaccinations. When in Jordan, don’t drink tap water and use bottled water instead.

Bon Voyage & enjoy your Jordan tour!


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