Tips for Visiting Jordan as a Solo Traveler
I just finished a quick trip through Jordan by myself. I spent a total of 5 nights in the country. The one thing I didn’t do is see Wadi Rum; but it seemed like you’d really have to join a tour to see it.
Here are some of the things I learned during my visit.
- The process of renting a car is different than anyone where else I’ve been. I picked up my car in the Amman airport and dropped it off at the Aqaba Airport. I rented through Budget, so it wasn’t like it was a tiny fly by night operation. When I picked up my car, I was given the name and phone number of someone to call the day before I returned the car. Turns out that they don’t really have an office in Aqaba despite their website saying it is open 24/7. I ended up leaving the car in the airport parking lot with the keys inside and sent a photo of the car and where it was parked to the guy. Seems like it worked out. Note that rental cars all start with the number 70; I’m guessing this is so tourists stand out more which honestly is kind of nice.
- Driving in Jordan is not for the faint of heart. I still think it is probably the best way to get around unless you are hiring a guide. There isn’t public transportation besides the Jett Bus that goes between Amman, Petra, and Aqaba. But driving is scary. After nearly a week I still don’t understand the logic of how driving works in Jordan. No one uses turn signals. People tend to drive across two lanes; if there are any lanes painted. At one point I stopped to make a left turn and a bus passed me on the left side of my car (in the other lane of traffic). Cars stop at random times in the highway for no apparent reason. There are a ton of speed bumps; even on the highways with speed limits of 110 km/hr. More than once I encountered cars going the wrong way down the road in my lane. When you are out of the cities it is usually fine; city driving requires you to be on alert. I didn’t take out the extra insurance on my car but I would encourage you to do so.
- Apart from the driving situation, Jordan is a safe place. One of the hotel staff I talked to in Amman used to live in Chicago but felt like he wanted to live in a place that is more safe. Crime rates are low and it seems like the culture just doesn’t put up with or facilitate crimes especially against tourists. Tourism is Jordan’s biggest source of income so I think they know that and respect those on vacation.
- I found flying in to Amman and out of Aqaba was a good decision. This meant I started in the north of the country and ended in the south and didn’t have to retrace my steps back to Amman. Note that there are only a few flights a day out of Aqaba so do a little research and figure out if it will work for you.
- Don’t visit Amman. It isn’t a bad city, but just not that much to see or do and the driving is a mess. Most of what you will want to see is south of the Amman airport and the city is north, so you will have to back track if you go into Amman.
- If you do nothing else in Jordan, of course you will want to make sure you visit Petra. You can read my in-depth guide to Petra here.
- I visited Madaba to see the Madaba Mosaic Map of the holy lands. I also visited the Al Kerak Castle. Neither of these places were really worth the trouble of getting to in my opinion.
- I thought the Site of the Baptism of Jesus was pretty interesting. It cost a bit and you have to take a tour. The most interesting part to me was at the end you visit the Jordan River. In the middle of the river (probably only 10 feet across) is the border between Palestine’s West Bank (Israel) and Jordan. You can wade in the river but make sure you don’t cross it.
- Also nearby the Baptism Site is the Dead Sea. I stayed at the Marriott and got to float in the salty water. It is a very strange feeling; almost like swimming in Jell-o. Worth it!
- About 30 minutes south of the Dead Sea resorts is Wadi Mujib. Stop just off the road at the Visitor Center where you pay 21 JOD to get to hike the Siq Trail. Included is a life jacket. They’ll tell you to rent a dry bag for your phone, but I just kept mine in a ziplock bag. It got a bit wet but my phone is waterproof so it didn’t matter. Leave your keys in the cubby at the check in desk. You’ll then hike/swim/climb about an hour up to a waterfall. If you aren’t as adventurous, you can turn around before you have to start scrambling up ladders and ropes on slippery rocks. There are staff members along the way but they don’t really do much unless you go injured. Make sure you have some good running shoes that you don’t mind getting wet. It reminded me a TON of Zion’s The Narrows hike but more intense.
- Stay a couple nights at the end in Aqaba, a resort town on the Red Sea with great scuba diving and nice hotels. I loved the Hyatt Regency. It was a great place to relax after a busy four days seeing the country.
Have you visited Jordan? What tips do you have? Anything I missed that I should have seen?