Jordan is an outdoor lover’s paradise, with archaeological wonders, stunning landscapes, hundreds of kilometers of hiking trails and flavourful cuisine. Backpacking in Jordan is safe and the country offers some of the best hospitality in the world.
The biggest concern when it comes to backpacking in Jordan is that it is NOT a cheap country to travel in. It is not like Egypt or Turkey, both of which are quite affordable in the region. With a little planning in advance, you will be able to keep your budget within reason, as long as you set your limits higher than traveling in a cheap country.
The best places to save money when it comes to backpacking in Jordan is on food. While restaurants offers meals upwards of USD20, you can easily eat in small local restaurants for just a few dollars, if you know where to look. Drinking filtered tap water is another way to save money while backpacking in Jordan. A filter like this one has an initial investment, but you are going to be able to use it again and again during your travels. In the morning (or the night before if you have a fridge), filter water from the tap in the bathroom and avoid paying JD1 everytime you need a bottle of water.
There are a few other things to do before you start your backpacking in Jordan to ensure you save money. Keep reading to save yourself some money!
Where to Go
How to Get to Jordan
Jordan is served by many airlines, but few low cost carriers. Therefore, there are limited cities that offer cheap flights to Jordan. EasyJet and RyanAir are the two ULCC carriers that offer flights from some European cities, this is usually seasonal and more popular in the winter. Otherwise, there is plenty of access from full service carriers.
Crossing from Isreal into Aqaba at Eliat is another way to get to Jordan. You can also cross in the North, but arriving into Aqaba means the visa fees will be waived. From the border you will need to take a taxi into Aqaba (about 10 minutes).
Arriving by ferry from Egypt is another way to get to Jordan, although it is not inexpensive. Nuweiba is the most common port to sail from and there are daily ferries to Aqaba port. Read more about Egypt – Jordan ferry service.
Get the Jordan Pass before Backpacking in Jordan
The Jordan Pass offers significant savings for those wishing to backpack Jordan (or anyone visiting the country who is not on an organized tour with everything included). It offers single or multiple Petra visit days, as well as entrance to Wadi Rum, Amman Citadel, Jerash and 4 World Heritage Sites. The total number of attractions are over 40 and vary from castles to museums to UNESCO sites and World Wonders!
For USD99 (JD70) you are given a FREE Visa to Jordan as well as One Day Entrance to Petra (and all of the other included attractions). The Visa is JD40 for most nationalities and Petra is JD50 for a one day visit, so you have more than paid for the pass with just entering Jordan and visiting Petra.
If you want to spend 2 days in Petra, the Jordan Pass cost is USD106 (JD75)
If you want to 3 days in Petra, the Jordan Pass cost is USD113 (JD80)
You must buy the pass before you arrive into Jordan in order to have the visa fees waived. Also, you must stay in Jordan for 3 nights. If you do not, they will charge you the JD40 upon exiting the country. The other thing to note about the Jordan Pass is that it does not include water hiking in Al Mujib Canyon near the Dead Sea.
If you are backpacking Jordan with children under 12, entrance to Petra is free (as are most of the sites). You do not need to buy a Jordan Pass for them as you will end up paying more.
Arrive Via Aqaba
Aqaba is a duty free and special economic zone and also home to Jordan’s only sea port and access to the Red Sea. If you arrive via ship from Egypt, by land via Isreal or by air into Aqaba International Airport, your visa fees will be waived. This is a good option to save money if you are arriving on a low cost airline or backpacking Israel before backpacking Jordan.
You do not need to exit via Aqaba to enjoy this cost-free visa.
If you plan to arrive via Aqaba, price out if the Jordan pass is still worth it for you. Petra entrance fees are JD50 for one day, JD55 for two days and JD60 for 3 days. Note that these are consecutive days. Also note that visitors who arrive to Jordan just for the day and do not spend the night will pay JD90 for their Petra ticket. If you happen to visit Petra the day that you arrive into Jordan you will likely be charged JD90 but if you return to the visitor’s center the next day you will get JD40 back.
This is my biggest piece of advice, tourism in Jordan has only been increasing year over year with Petra having its biggest year in 2019. The Syrian war and general Middle East instability put many visitors off, but Jordan is a very safe country to visit, and it is only going to get busier.
If you want to see Petra with only a few people around you, go now! If you want to wander ancient roman ruins in completely deserted sites, go now.
Travel off Peak
Peak season in Jordan is typically March-May and September-November as it is considered the best time to visit Jordan climate-wise. In March and April the days are still comfortable to hike and in October and November the hot sunny days are gone and light jackets are needed.
However, July can also be busy as it is a popular time for visitors from the Gulf Countries to come to Jordan to escape the unbearable summers in their countries. It is also popular for those who travel over school holidays.
If you travel in January, February and early December you are likely to have the lowest amount of tourists thus lots of cheap accommodations. This can help reduce the costs and gives you plenty of choices of where to stay.
However, I will say that prices do not skyrocket in peak season nor do they drop dramatically in the off season, you will only run into limited availbility in peak season and with a tight budget, you might be spending more on accommodation in somewhere like Wadi Musa than you would have liked as there are limited hotel rooms and sometimes a high volume of overnight tourists visiting Petra.
Travel during Ramadan
Ramadan is considered a good time to travel in Jordan, as it is especially quiet. For some reason, Ramadan scares away people from visiting as they expect everything to be closed. During morning and evening prayers, almost everything will be closed, but restaurants will be lively in the evenings after fast is broken.
Many restaurants in tourist areas are open, especially those who cater to tourists, and there are quite a few Christians and Muslims who do not fast, so there are places to eat during the day. Check with your hotel front desk if you are looking for a specific one. You will be able to get breakfast in your hotel regardless of Ramadan and they will likely have an early breakfast around 4:30 (depending when early morning prayers are set to begin) for those who are fasting and then a normal breakfast (usually around 6:30-10 etc) for those who are not fasting and tourists. Check with your hotel front desk.
If you are not eating at your hotel while in Amman, check out the best breakfasts in Amman, featuring a lot of local eats for just a few dollars.
JETT busses will have similar schedules but may adjust to after iftar allowing drivers and passengers to partake in morning prayers before they start to fast. These busses do not stop on the highway for their usual “smoke breaks”
When it comes to public transportation and taxis, they are almost non-existent between 7am and 9am (these times are adjusted as Ramadan changes, but it is usually about 1 hour before prayers to 1 hour after prayers) so keep that in mind if you plan on using local busses.
Evenings in Amman can be very busy, with restaurants open until 3am. Malls are also open very late.
Locals do not expect tourists to fast, but it is recommended not to eat, smoke or drink in public out of respect for Muslims who are fasting during Ramadan.
All Liquors stores are closed for the month of Ramadan but you can get a drink at a 5 star hotel.
Getting Around: Busses, Public Transportation or Car Rentals
While few backpackers tend to rent cars, Jordan is one of those places that does not have a super developed infrastructure. I have plenty of guides to get around in Jordan whether by car, bus, taxi or on a tour.
How to get:
What to Pack for Backpacking Jordan
I have always been a guide book person and physically having that book in your hand as you plan your day, in addition to blogs like this one, can help immensely. Pick up a Lonely Planet Guide to Jordan (or the kindle version) before your trip to Jordan.
Whether you want to keep the sun off your head or want to show a little modesty, a scarf goes a long way in Jordan any time of the year. You can bring one with you or pick up one when you arrive, but don’t leave your hotel in the morning without it! It can serve as a hat to keep the sun off your head and neck in the summer and can add some warmth in winder and can offer modesty to cover shoulders for women.
A Grayl Water Bottle is something I recommend for every traveller, not just those going to the Middle East and not just those who might be on a backpackers budget. Some people say the water is safe to drink from the tap, others say it is not; it is not something I am going to chance. And Jordan has a HUGE garbage problem. The streets, the forests and even the desert are littered with plastic bottles.
If you consider drinking at least 1-2 big water bottles a day while you are there, think of how much plastic that creates when every visitor and the population’s 9 million people do the same. With a Grayl, you can filter any tap water (or actually any water source) and have clean drinking water in seconds. Since most people travel with water bottles already, consider one like this with a filter so that you are not just pouring from big water bottles to small. It might sound expensive, but when you compare it to spending a few dollars per day on water while you travel (and do not forget how expensive the water is inside airports), you will pay for this very quickly.
Universal Travel Adapter
An inexpensive Universal Travel Adapter is another must for Jordan. You will find an assortment of 220V plugs, from European 2 pin, another style of 2 pin and UK Plugs. While European 2 pin is most common, it is best to carry one of these adapters with you. With a handy USB input, you do not need to bring your plugs from home.
Kleenex or Wipes
Kleenex or Wipes are another small (but essential) thing to put on your list for backpacking Jordan. Jordan’s public washrooms (and even restraint or hotel lobby washrooms can often be unstocked. Unless you are good with a bidet sprayer, bring yourself some kleenex or wipes just in case! You will find that most washrooms in tourist sites and rest stops have an attendant that will give you toilet paper and paper towel for a small tip. Usually, half a dinar is fine.
In Jordan, the plumbing is not set up to handle toilet paper. Every bathroom (even hotels) you should use the garbage can beside the toilet for your toilet paper and any sanitary products.
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