Jordan is a country packed with outstanding natural beauty, some of the oldest and most wonderous sights on this planet, and not forgetting the friendliest people. A visit to Petra will make you feel as though you’re discovering a forgotten city for the first time, and a trip to the Wadi Rum desert will make you want to live like a Bedouin local.
As a backpacker, Jordan comes with a price tag and unless you have a healthy budget it’s very easy to overspend. We spent 2 weeks in this incredible country, and came up with these money-saving tips to help you on your adventure....
Get A Jordan Pass
Few travellers know of the Jordan Pass (we discovered it by reading a blog) but after finding out about this money saving tip we were feeling pretty smug. The Jordan Pass works like this, you can choose to buy either 1, 2 or 3 day passes to Petra, along with free entry to 40 other attractions and the visa price included. A Jordan Pass with 1 day entry to Petra will cost you 70 JD (£70), a 2 day pass is 75 JD (£75), and for the full 3 days in Petra the pass is 80 JD (£80). Now that’s pretty good considering a day ticket to Petra is 50 JD (£50) and the visa costs 40 JD (£40), so you are saving at least 20 JD (£20) just by having one. We had a few awkward conversations with other travellers that didn’t know about the pass and had paid 3 days entry to Petra and of course the visa.... ouch. The pass also includes free entry to some of Jordans top sights, such as the Roman Amphitheatre and Citadel in Amman, the famous ruins of Jerash in the north and many castles scattered around the country. If you want to get a pass then make sure you book it online before entering the country, otherwise you will be paying for a visa on arrival. You can find all info on what it includes here….
Bring Your Own Food To The Hotels & Camps
Places like Dana village and Wadi Rum are just tourist towns, and the lack of convenience stores, restaurants and public transport leaves you in the hands of the money-making hotel owners. So unless you have a secret stash of hummus and flatbreads in your backpack, you will most probably have to splash out on 7-10 JD buffet dinners every night. The food at these places is actually very good, most hotels and camps prepare a full spread of middle eastern dishes including slow cooked meats, fresh salads, dips, vegetables and breads, but eating at these hotels every night can blow the budget, so make sure you have a few dinners up your sleeve. Breakfasts are mostly included in the room price, but check beforehand because some can be an extra 5 JD (£5) and lunch up to 10 JD (£10)!
We always made sure we had supplies of flat breads from the local bakery, spreadable triangle cheese (the Jordanians love this and for some reason never keep it in the fridge), hummus in a can, fresh lemon to put on the dry hummus, tomatoes, apples & oranges, instant noodles and some overly sweet treats from the bakery. That covered us for all meals of the day, and rarely did we need to buy any meals from the hotels. I’m sure all the hotel owners hated us because we were the worst customers ever. Try to buy fruits from the local market, especially in Wadi Musa near Petra because the shop owners try to charge you 3 times the actual price. As an example, you can get 6 oranges for 1 JD (£1) at the market, so when the shop owners try to charge you 3 JD (£3) for 6 you can confidently tell them where to go.
Purify The Tap Water
Rarely do we spend money on bottled water. We have recently discovered aquatabs, or water purifying tablets, and use them every day to clean the water that we drink whilst travelling. Aquatabs are only a couple of pounds for a pack of 50, and so you immediately save money by using them instead of buying bottled water. If you have a bit more money to spend and are travelling for a long time, then you may want to invest in a fancier option such as a water filter flask for around £60 or a UV cleaning wand for around the same price. The benefits of cleaning your own tap water means that you can fill up from anywhere, whether it be from the sink in the airport, or in a cafe in the city. Also think of all the plastic bottles you are going to stop going into landfill, or being burnt for that matter! Then you can really call yourself the environmentally aware traveller, well more aware then you were before anyway. They say that it’s generally safe to drink the tap water in Jordan, but maybe best to purify it if you are on a short trip. Buying bottled water in Petra can cost up to 2 JD (£2) for a 2 litre bottle, so get purifying to save some JD!
Hitch Hike & Bus It
Jordan is the first country that we’ve travelled to where people will go out of their way to offer you a ride. Many times were we walking down the main roads, we prefer to walk where possible. Pretty much every time we have been offered a lift by a friendly local within minutes, people are keen to share their story and hear yours, making it the perfect way to learn about Jordan. What’s more, hitchhiking in Jordan is really safe, the drivers don’t drive like crazy people, the roads are in good condition and the people are friendly. It’s worth confirming at the beginning of the ride whether the driver wants any money from you, sometimes they want a few JD and other times they just want your company. Once you know the price you can then decide whether to go for it, or wait for the next offer. We managed to hitchhike from the Dead Sea all the way back to Madaba for free, and from Dana Nature Reserve to Wadi Rum.
Unfortunately, the public transport leaves a lot to be desired in Jordan. There are very few buses that run to the key tourist attractions, for instance there is only one bus that runs daily to the Dead Sea from Amman and there isn’t a return bus. The one daily bus we took from Amman to Dana Nature Reserve took 3 hours to fill up before leaving, and we had to make a change in Al-Tafilah because it didn’t even go the whole way. JETT buses cover some of the main tourist sights, and are marketed more as luxury coaches for tourists and locals. JETT buses can cost up to 9 JD (£9) per journey, whereas local buses should be no more than 4 JD (£4). For short distances local buses only cost 1 JD (£1), so make sure the bus driver doesn’t try to rip you off. Sometimes they charge you for ‘extra baggage’, just a made up fee to try and make more money. This should never be more than 1 JD (£1) though. Funnily enough, it’s still legal to smoke on the local buses so you’ll leave smelling like an ashtray.
Count Your Change
How many times did we hand over money and not get the right change, or any change for that matter. A bus driver charged us 2 JD (£2), we gave him a 5 JD (£5) note and oh look, no change. When we pulled him up on it, he rolled his eyes and drip fed us 1 JD (£1) at a time until we had the right change, it was a slow and annoying conversation. This does tend to be the norm in Jordan, and so if your not on the ball then you will likely be a few JD out of pocket. It’s also a good idea to confirm all prices of things before you buy them. Even a dish that was priced on a menu in a nice restaurant magically increased by 2 JD (£2) when the bill came, and we had to argue that it was clearly printed on the menu in black and white. It’s a funny game but make sure you stand your ground otherwise the deceptive vendors will be laughing.
Book Accommodation In Advance
In high season, so around April time, lots of the accommodation can be taken by other travellers and so it’s advisable to book at least a few days in advance to get a good deal. Even though we were booking 3-4 days beforehand on booking.com, many of the cheaper rooms had already gone and so sometimes we were having to spend up to 25 JD (£25) on a room for 1 night! This is not good for the budget traveller. Dana, Wadi Musa and Wadi Rum are particularly expensive, and there aren’t many cheaper options available. Even walking into the hotels and trying to negotiate cheaper prices didn’t seem to help, and in some cases the room prices were double that on booking.com. Amman however has many cheaper options starting from around 8 JD (£8) for a double room, and so you don’t necessarily need to book in advance. Thinking of staying by the Dead Sea? Maybe think again as some of the resorts charge up to 600 JD (£600) per night!
Spend Less Time & Hire A Car
Jordan is a really small country to travel around, the public transport isn’t great and cars are cheap to hire. After visiting for 2 weeks, we came to the conclusion that it would be better to spend less time there and just hire a car to get around (if you have a bit more budget that is). For example, we spent 8 hours getting from Amman to Dana by public bus which is only a couple of hundred kilometres away! That’s basically a whole day spent on the bus for 10 JD (£10) between us, and then another 20 JD (£20) for a nights accommodation, so really it might have just worked out cheaper to hire a car and have the rest of the day to do stuff. We spoke to a traveller that had rented a car for a mere 21 JD (£21) a day, which is amazing value considering that most rentals cost around 40 JD (£40) per day. If you spent a week in Jordan, you could cover most of the key sights and spend 150 JD (£150) on a car rental, maybe even splitting the cost with some other travellers. The roads are in good nick, the drivers are respectful and safe, and the country really isn’t that big to drive around. If you have the budget then we think renting a car is the way to go, and you will save some money by cutting down on the travel time.
Swim In The Dead Sea For Free
Most online blogs and guides will tell you that you need to pay to visit the Dead Sea, 25-30 JD (£25-30) to be precise, but after visiting for ourselves we found that you don’t really need to. There are some open sections of fence where the locals visit around Herodus Spring and the waterfall on the north east side. You can relax there along with a handful of Jordanians, and enjoy a peaceful bob in the salty waters. The rest of the sea however is fenced off, or blocked by fancy resorts, so make sure you head to the open section to save some money. If you go a bit south of Herodus Spring, even 1 km down the road, it is much quieter of tourists. Remember to rub yourself in the oily mud from the bed of the sea, whilst you smirk at your mega saving!
Make Sure The Taxi Is On The Meter
Jordanian taxi drivers can be a bit sneaky and some try to overcharge you for your journey. The easiest way for them to do this is to negotiate a price in advance. If you are travelling in and around Amman, then putting it on the meter will be the cheapest way to travel and should cost no more than 2-3 JD (£2-3), and that’s to go to the bus terminals on the edge of town. Little journeys in central will cost around 1 JD (£1) or less, so make sure they put it on the meter at the beginning of the journey. The taxi guys that hang around the bus terminals usually try to rip you off and give you silly prices, so it’s a good idea to step away and hail one from the main road. The meter should read 0.25 JD by day, and 0.35 by night at the start of your trip, if it’s been put on the correct rate. Good luck!
Make Sure The Taxi Is On The Meter
(Except Going To The Airport!)
There are always exceptions to the rule, and we found this out the hard way. We were originally offered 20 JD (£20) to go to the airport from Amman city centre by one taxi driver and refused because we thought he was trying to rip us off. Instead we insisted on travelling by a different cab on the meter thinking it would be cheaper. 28 JD (£28) later, we realised it was probably better to have gone with the fixed price after all! Even better than that, it’s possible to get an Uber for around 15 JD (£15) from Amman to the airport.
Many drivers use Uber around Amman so it’s never hard to find a ride, and if you are looking for a fixed price before travelling then this is a good way to do it. For a short distance, ie a few km, it would probably be cheaper to opt for a local cab on the meter, but anything over 6km we would say go for an Uber. We got an Uber from Madaba to the Fort Of Macherus near the Dead Sea which was about 40km away, and were billed only 8 JD (£8)! That’s so much cheaper than a local cab would have been. If you don’t have internet on your phone, then it is possible to hail the Uber using wifi at your hotel/hostel and then complete the journey without internet.
Prepare For Friday Holiday
Friday is the Jordanian’s day off, and so across many parts of the country you can expect the locals to be resting and shops to be shut. This includes many of the grocery stores and bakeries, so unless you have planned well you may be walking around for some time to find that hummus. If options are limited then you may end up spending more in overpriced convenience stores. It’s also worth noting that some of the restaurants had shut for the day outside of the capital.
We hope our tips will help you save money in Jordan, and if there is anything else we can help you with then let us know in the comments box below.
(So you can find it again next time)