Looking to visit Jordan? First question: Do you have your Jordan Pass yet?
The only negative part of our trip to Jordan was that we found out about the Jordan Pass the day we arrived in the country, after going through customs. If you buy the pass, and stay more than 3 days, your visa fee is included (40 JD otherwise), along with the entry fee for most of the country's major attractions. Great way to save money if you purchase it before you arrive in the county. Sigh. Oh well, you live and you learn (and hopefully this post will help someone else not make the same mistake!).
We arrived in Amman after a flight from Mumbai via Sharjah. Another teaching moment...don't book an overnight layover in SHJ airport, as the facilities are very basic and you will end up sitting on the cold floor with hundreds of other people for 9 hours. You can pay $30USD for a couple hours in the airport VIP lounge, but we opted to save the money and rough it. If you are travelling as just females, in one of the bathrooms there is a small prayer room that the women all seemed to hide in for sleep, away from the hundreds of men sleeping in the main corridor.
Once we arrived in Amman we purchased our visa on arrival. There is an ATM right across from the counter where you get the visas, but you are able to pay using a credit card so this is the better option unless you already have JD cash on you (the ATM charges 5 JD to withdraw money which is about $10 AUD). Outside the airport we were kindly greeted by a lovely old man who drove the airport bus. http://sariyahexpress.com/en/content/airport-express. We took it into the North Station and then got a taxi to our hotel. The taxis will try to tell you that they don't have meters, or that there is a standard charge, but you insist that they use the meter if you want to save a lot of money.
We stayed in a great little place called the Cliff Hotel. It is a budget accommodation with a shared bathroom, but the room was clean and big and the location was great. Andrew (at reception) was awesome and made us feel at home straight away. Make sure you have a meal at Hashem right across the street. It is a family run restaurant that has no menu- you can get bread, hummus, falafel, pickles, tomato, cucumber and tea. Pretty basic, but it's a fun experience and is open 24 hours a day and is great for your wallet.
You can explore Amman by foot, just be prepared for the stairs. Everything is on a hill so you will either be going up or down 99% of the time. We checked out the Citadel, the Roman Amphitheater, a few of the Mosques, Rainbow Street, the Jordan Museum and walked through a lot of the old city. We're still undecided if the one-tone, sandstone, city skyline of Amman is ugly or beautiful, but there is something special about it. However once you get amongst the buildings and start exploring the the alleys and side streets you'll notice the contrast of the exterior to the fun and colourful artwork and graffiti that gives Amman some real originality and character.
Jordan is fairly small (you can drive from Aqaba in the south to Irbid in the north in 5 hours), so it's easy to do day trips to see almost anything in the country. From Amman we also did a day tour to see Madaba, Mount Nebo and the Dead Sea. The mosaic map in the Madaba Church is amazing (even more so back in the day when it would have covered the entire floor) and Mount Nebo has an incredible lookout (and also religious significance). As much as you don't want to obey the rules at the Dead Sea, they are there for a reason. We thought it would be fun to wet our heads and taste the water...NOT FUN. The salt burns your eyes horribly and the water tastes like battery acid. Not a good time. The experience of floating weightlessly, however, is spectacular. We didn't have enough time for a trip to Jerash, but from all accounts it is worth a visit if you like Roman ruins.
The main bus company in Jordan is Jett Bus. You are able to make "online reservations" but I'm still not convinced they would hold up if the bus was really busy the day you were trying to travel. If you fill out the details on the website, you will get an email saying that the reservation department will get back to you, and then another email a couple days later with a vague "your reservation is confirmed"...with no details of what reservation this is, departure information, or even the cities. Both times we used Jett Bus (Amman-Petra & Aqaba-Irbid), we went to the office the day before to purchase the tickets just to make sure we have them.
Petra speaks for itself. It is amazing and you can easily spend two days exploring the different trails and hidden places. If you have the Jordan Pass, make sure you buy the one that includes two (or three) days at Petra. If you buy your ticket at the gate, make sure you buy the multi-day ticket on Day 1 or you will have to pay the one day price again on Day 2 (50JD for one day, 55JD for two days). We covered almost all the marked hiking trails ,the Place of High Sacrifice and the Monastery (850 steps) are a bit more difficult, but definitely worth the climbs.
There is no Jett bus from Petra to Wadi Rum, but there is a small local van bus that makes the route every morning at 6am as long as they have enough passengers. Your hotel in Petra can call them and they will come pick you up from your hotel. It is meant to cost 7JD, but we paid 10JD because there was only 4 of us on the bus and they said they had to make more money to make the trip.
If you are heading to Wadi Rum, I would advise you make clear instructions with your camp before you get there. We were travelling in May (a lower tourist season) and it seemed like several different companies (we used Wadi Rum Beduland Camp) made bookings separately, but everyone ended up in the same camp in the desert. When you arrive in the town of Wadi Rum, there isn't much there and not much to do unless you have a jeep to take you out to your camp or on a tour (the taxis can't make the trip to the camps, as it is all 4WD sand territory). A jeep your is pricey but worth doing since you will cover off a lot of the sites in a day (and you can't really walk between them). It was pretty amazing spending two nights in the quiet isolation of the desert. Plus there was kittens at the camp, so that's a bonus. There is no food at the camps aside from what they provide, so be clear on what meals are included in our accommodation. If meals aren't included, come prepared with food or expect to pay more for meals and water etc at the camp.
The trip from Wadi Rum to Aqaba seems to only be possible by taxi. We paid 30JD between 4 people and it took about an hour and 20 minutes to drive. Aqaba was the most Western place we visited, with liquor stores (beer was 1.5-2JD vs 3-6JD everywhere else) and dive shops on every corner. It is very close to Eilat, Israel, and you can see the city lights across the narrow channel of the Gulf of Aqaba in the Red Sea. If you are crossing into Israel, and you don't require a visa (most Western countries don't need one), you can cross via the Wadi Araba Border Rd near Aqaba. If you do need a visa, apparently you need one beforehand to cross at this border or can get one on arrival using the north border at the Sheikh Hussein Bridge (an hour drive from Irbid).
Overall, Jordan is an amazing place. We were told tourism is down 80% (maybe an exaggeration, but you get the idea) because people hear it is unsafe and are afraid to visit now. We felt safe the entire time we were there and for the most part the people we met were lovely. Like anywhere, some people try to take advantage of tourists by charging you more money that they should (especially taxi drivers! We used Uber in Amman to avoid this), but just be aware and willing to push back on the prices. The only reason we didn't stay longer was the cost. Having come from India, and being on a pretty tight budget, we couldn't stay for longer, but we are very glad we made it for these 9 days.