Saturday, 16 July 2011

Jordan: Do's and Don'ts!

Jordan has swiftly jumped up the list to near of my favourite countries. With its friendly atmosphere, dramatic scenery and amazing sights, it really is a 'must-see' place. Here are the usual do's and don'ts...


- Hire a car. Driving in Jordan is the ideal way to see as much as possible, from off-the-track ancient sites, to the beauty of the surrounding landscape at your own pace. The roads are easily navigable (and this from someone who regularly walks into a shop, and when coming out can’t remember which way to go on, and quite often ends up walking backwards…), and well-maintained. Driving allowed us to stop where we liked for photos, leave and arrive at places when we wanted, and spend the maximum amount of time without rushing for public buses. Although I generally love using local transport for getting around, in a small country like Jordan, with a relatively short amount of time to see a lot, hiring a car was perfect in this instance.

- Get talking to the locals. Although I’ve been to some very hospitable places in the past, Jordan was hands-down the friendliest country I’ve ever visited (so far!). Whether it was giving us directions, a free bit of advice at the sights or just friendly waves and light conversation walking down the street, everything was for free and offered generously. When they themselves didn’t have the answer, many people we met offered to phone friends (even despite our protests), and even a vague confused look on our faces in a public place prompted an onslaught of offers of assistance. At no point did we experience any hassle at all, not even from taxi drivers, and shopkeepers and stallholders allowed us to browse completely in peace. It was fantastic.

- Cough up the money for Petra and the dead sea. Although very pricey (both in terms of fees and nearby accommodation), both places are unique and well-worth every penny. If visiting Petra over a couple of days, the multi-day ticket is much better value than buying fresh each morning - for the sake of a few extra dollars I’d recommend it even if you are undecided. The resorts framing the dead sea are top-end and room rates reflect this, but even then we were able to get a good deal and the proximity to the water is unbeatable.

- Be an early bird! Getting up and out early ensures missing the crowds at the sights, having near-empty roads to drive along and misses the intense heat of the middle of the day. When driving, heading out in the morning leaves plenty of time for detours on the way to your next destination (and getting lost…), without having to drive unfamiliar roads in the dark.


- Underestimate the cost of a trip to Jordan. although accommodation can be found for a reasonable price, if you want to be close to the main sites and activities you'll have to pay for it. Similarly, entrance fees can be steeper than in many other countries. Petra is extremely pricey, as are some of the holy sites. Amman was good value, but as the days progressed, the spending racked up.

- Feel the need to take any tours. Wadi Rum is an exception, as unless you have your own 4x4 you must hire one, along with a driver, at the entrance, but everywhere else is easy to get around independently, and allows you to set your own schedule. The tourist office produces some great little leaflets with incorporated maps for most major sights, and some reading beforehand prepared us for what we hoped to see.

- Expect an exciting culinary experience. Jordan was an incredible place in nearly every way, but unfortunately the food was the exception. Although perfectly edible, it was bland and without much variety, and soon we were craving alternatives. Luckily, there are some great little restaurants everywhere! Tea is the main drink, and is often served free by stallholders and hostels socially.

Hopefully I'll get the chance to return to Jordan one day and explore some of the places we missed this time around. Meanwhile, it's almost time for this summer's adventure...

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