Before I start writing about my time in Jordan, I will tell you this – get the Jordan Pass! Despite my research I had not come across it, and if you get the Jordan Pass prior to your arrival then the entry visa fee of 40JD is waived and it includes your entry into many sites and places including Petra. Check out if it is worth it for you at: https://www.jordanpass.jo
Amman is a great place to start your trip, firstly to get your bearings, and secondly to meet up with other solo travellers to find people to share transport costs with as getting around Jordan on a budget is a little tricky. I will get into this later.
I flew from Cairo to Amman, thereby avoiding catching the bus through Israel and the potential problems with having evidence in my passport from entering Israel. I have written more about this in another post where I entered Israel from Jordan to avoid having this problem.
Amman is a really cute city originally built on seven main hills. It is much more modern than I had expected, un to explore and the Jordanian people are so lovely and hospitable. It took me a few days to let my guard down around the locals after some of the experiences I’d had in Egypt, but when I did I realised how genuinely nice most of the people are here.
The western part of the city is the very modern section, and the eastern part is more traditional and where the downtown area is. You can spend hours wandering the hilly streets in downtown Amman (be prepared for plenty of stairs), browsing the souqs (markets), eating great food, checking out street art and small boutique stores and stopping for coffee at any of the large number of cafes on the hillside that offer a view over the city.
The Roman Theatre (amphitheatre) and Citadel are worth checking out, however I was feeling very unwell when I was planning to go to the citadel. My camera ran out of battery when I was halfway up the hill and I took that as a sign to turn around and get some rest instead. The Roman Theatre has a seating capacity of 6000 and has been beautifully restored. It is a really nice spot to sit and people watch, of both visiting foreigners and locals. During the summer concerts/events are sometimes held here. The Citadel is perched upon the highest of the seven hills the city was built upon.
I was fairly flexible with my time in Jordan and spent my few days in Amman exploring the different options of what to do. I really wanted to hike a small part of the Jordan Trail (that runs the length of the country from Um Quai to the Red Sea), but there was a lot of resistance towards me doing it alone, and logistically it was going to be difficult and expensive to get to the trail, and it was hard to confirm if I could find water along the trail. So I decided this was something I would leave of another time when I am more prepared and potentially doing it with a few other people to cut down on transport and water delivery costs (some sections go through the desert with no access to water and you need to organise people to drop off water for you).
The Nitty Gritty:
- When someone in Amman refers to 1st circle, 2nd circle etc, they are talking about the main roundabouts in the city with 1st circle being closest to downtown.
- The currency in Jordan is the Jordanian Diner (JD) and their ‘cents’ are Fils.
- Time of year:
- I was here early November. The days were warm, but as the city is located at about 1000m above sea level, the nights were chilly enough to need a jumper.
- As in most of the middle eastern countries, their weekend is Friday and Saturday, meaning that you need to keep an eye on open times and transport strive times on those days.
- Getting around:
- The whole downtown area can be explored on foot.
- I caught a couple of Ubers when I had to go to an area of the city a bit further out which was a good way to avoid haggling about taxi costs.
- You can either catch a taxi form the airport to downtown or the bus to the city bus station and then a taxi from here. The taxi from the airport was going to cost me 22JD so I opted for the cheaper option, the bus that was 4JD. From the bus station I caught a taxi to the downtown area. I asked him to put on the taxi meter, I was charged almost 10JD for the taxi ride and I was later told it shouldn’t cost more than 4JD. So I think he was playing tricks with his meter. So in summary, a taxi form the bus station to downtown shouldn’t cost more than 4JD!
- Where I stayed:
- I stayed at Sydney Hostel close to the downtown area. It is a great hostel, clean, quiet, great common area where you can meet other travellers to share transport costs with. I met some great people that I ended up traveling with for most of the rest of my time in Jordan.
- Hashems is a local restaurant in downtown that has cheap and delicious falafel, hummus and tea.
- Jerusalem Restaurant has a good, cheap and filling food and next door is a great bakery with the most amazing baklava!
- There are lots of small local restaurant /eateries to choose from, anything from a cheap falafel sandwich or shawarma to splashing out on something fancier at a nice restaurant.
- Up on the hills are some great cafes with views over the city:
- Books@Cafe is a book store with a cafe/restaurant/bar on the top floor. You can sit outside on the balcony and enjoy a drink while looking out over the city at night.
- Wild Jordan is a cafe and travel centre – they have a chilled atmosphere with nice food and coffee and can organise trips for you in Jordan, such as hiking trips etc.
- Rainbow Street is the place to go out at night, and I wasn’t there for the Friday night market, but I heard from a local friend that it is great!
- Fresh fruit and veggies can be found at the downtown market.
- There is a very small street side shop (down the alley directly opposite the police station in downtown) that sells freshly made kunefe/kenefe – a soft white cheese covered in a semolina crumble or shredded pastry and pistachios and drizzled with a sweet syrup. It must be eaten hot, and it is pretty darn tasty! There are always people (foreigners and locals) in line for this tasty treat!
- I have never tied out a hammam/turkish bath before, and despite all the stories I had heard about how intense it can be when they scrub several layers of dead skin cells off you, I decided to try it out. I really enjoyed it! I went to Pasha’s and for 25JD I was steamed, jacuuzied, saunad, massaged, exfoliated head to toe and had a shower in-between each step. The whole procedure took a little over two hours and I stepped out of there feeling super fresh and squeaky clean! It sis something you just have to experience for yourself 😉
- The shop keepers do hassle you a little bit to come and look at their store, but not at all to the same extent as in some places in Egypt, so it wasn’t too bad.
- Entry fee to the amphitheatre = 2JD
- Entry fee to the citadel = 3JD
- It can be easy to get lost here as there are stairs and roads winding all over the place. Download maps.me, save your location before you set out for the day and you can still access your location offline to find your way home later in the day.
- I got a Jordanian sim card. It wasn’t very expensive and was very handy to have. I went with Orange (they have a large store in the downtown area) and they had good coverage.
- Jordan is definitely more expensive than Egypt, but you can still find accommodation and food that is reasonably priced. Alcohol is very expensive, especially out at a bar, I only had one beer in Amman and it cost me 7JD!!