Jordan Trip Report, Dec 2012.
Replies: 12 - Last Post: Mar 31, 2013 9:25 AM Last Post By: billabongdom
Dec 17, 2012 12:01 PM
Jordan Trip Report, Dec 2012.Arrival:
- Straightforward, pay 20jod at the visa counter and then go straight behind to the immigration counter for a stamp. There’s a money changer with poor rates in the immigration hall (atm was out of order), so only change what you need for the visa; there’s more atms in arrivals to the left as you come out. Airport bus (3jod) leaves on the hour every hour; best to get off somewhere in town and hail a cab from the street to downtown (2-3jod), or you’ll end up at the north bus terminal and charged 5jod to central Amman.
- Hotel Farah was 14jod for a single w/o bathroom but w/breakfast. Nice hotel, quiet but central location, friendly staff, nice lounge/common area, although a daily limit on the wifi. Also has 5jod dorms, roof-space and more expensive rooms w/bathroom. Can organise tours if there’s enough people, otherwise check at the Palace Hotel or a travel agent. Best thing in Amman is the hilltop citadel (2jod), a bit hard to find walking but nice ruins to check out, interesting museum and great views of Amman below. Roman theatre worth a look too (1jod). Other than daytrips, you can wander through the bazaars, hang in coffeeshops or catch a flick in Jebel Amman (7jod), but not much else to keep you in town.
- Did a day trip to Ajloun castle and Jerash through the Palace Hotel (Umm Qais not accessible atm due to proximity to Syria). The car cost 50jod shared between me and two other travellers, 7 hours all up. The castle (1jod) is nice with great views of the area up on a hill-top, so worth a look. Jerash (8jod) is a large and very impressive site, with numerous arches, columns, temples and other remains to check out, takes a good 2-3 hours to see it all. Bit of hassle on the way through from vendors and ‘guides’. Up the street from the entrance opposite Hadrian’s arch are two decent local restaurants for lunch (3-4jod), the tourist place at the entrance charges 10jod. Other travellers said the Eastern castles weren’t so great, so this makes an ideal day trip from Amman. Leaving Amman, took a service taxi (0.5jod + 0.5 for bag) from near the local downtown bus station to the southern bus terminal, where after 1.5hours the bus for Karak (3jod) finally filled up and pulled away.
- Be warned, half the passengers chain smoke inside the bus! Got dropped beneath the castle, where you can take another minibus (.50jod) to the top. Cheapest of the two open hotels was Towers Castle for 20jod for a decent room w/bathroom, high pressure hot water and a great view of Wadi Karak. Makes a decent stopover for 1 night en route to Petra, the castle (1jod) looks very impressive from below and is interesting to poke around for a couple of hours, although it is obviously very ruined. Great views in all directions being on a high hill-top. The guardian let me stay a little after the 4pm closing time. Karak town is interesting to walk around with great views in every direction and some good local restaurants in the centre (no alcohol anywhere). Going out, you can walk to the minibus station half way down the hill, where minibuses (0.15jod) will take you to the main ‘bus station’ (aka, a parking lot), where after an hour a minibus left for Ma’an (2jod). Here, you need to fend off taxi drivers (20jod to Petra) and find the bus controller, who’ll direct you to the right bus when it comes (0.75jod + 1-2 jod ‘tourist tax’; another 1.5 hour wait).
- Went to Valentine Inn from Hotel Farah’s recommendation, room w/bath should cost 15jod + 2.50jod for breakfast or take-away lunchbox. Buffet dinner for 5jod is highly recommended, great spread of tasty middle eastern food, or there’s various other places in town. Big beers 5jod. Service was slightly disorganised at times, but good place to meet other travellers. Free lifts to Petra entrance (15mins walk away) and back twice daily. Petra is one the most expensive Unesco sites to visit in the world (50jod + 5jod for each extra day there), but it has to be seen if you’ve come to Jordan and is indeed spectacular.
- With an early start and lots of walking/climbing stairs, all the main sites can be seen in the one day, but its better to take it easy over two days, which is costs little more and allows time for some longer hikes. Seeing the treasury for the first time is a great moment after coming from the Siq; the next best monuments are the Monastery, Royal Tombs and Theatre, although there’s umpteen random tombs and rock-cut caves scattered all over the place you can freely wander through. View points beyond the Monastery are nice, although the best view of the Petra site itself is on top of the very ruined old crusader fort, great for a picnic. Be sure to walk up to the Palace of High sacrifice and down the other side for some more very cool tombs and interesting rock formations. Stay on the path up there, its easy to get lost and end up on top of a steep drop. Maybe recommended to bring a guide for any wanderings much further away, as there’s some very poor villages around and just outside the protected area.
- Just wanted to say the whole Petra experience was diminished by the relentless hassle from the mostly Egyptian vendors, horse/donkey touts, wannabe guides, people dressed in historical costumes asking for pictures and begging children. If you choose to take a horse ride from the entrance to the Siq that is supposedly included in the ticket, you’ll be held up at the end until you pay at least a 10jod tip. At one point behind the Crusader fort, when I didn’t hand over money to some small kids begging, they started throwing rocks at me, and another Bedouin women said f%&k you when I ignored the 57th offer of the day to buy worthless old coins. It’s hard to keep your temper at the end of the day on your way out when you get surrounded by horse touts yet again for another ‘free ride’. I guess hassle is going to be a given at such a touristic site in a poor area of Jordan, but after paying 50 euros just for entrance into a ‘protected area’, getting so much aggressive hassle is kinda galling!
- Valentine Inn does inclusive tours for 35jod, but didn’t have the numbers, so they got the minibus to pick me up at 6.20am, where it’s best to talk to other people on the bus and hook up with them. Bus cost 7 jod Petra – Wadi Rum, and 3jod from Rum to the highway on the way back. Private vehicles/taxis also offer 20jod Wadi Rum – Aqaba. You also have to shell out 5jod for entrance to the Wadi Rum protected area, and much more if you have your own vehicle. Mohammad, the tout on the Petra-Wadi Rum bus, seemed like a sketchy character. He was saying all sorts of stories to get other travellers with reservations to buy his tour, even at one point saying that the tours operators from the Wadi Rum visitor centre costs 100jod each and their guides try to sexually assault female travellers at night.
- So me and another traveller talked to the guide of two travellers on the bus and went with him; Atiq Aoodt is highly recommended, professional with excellent english and a very nice camp (cleaner toilets than the city hotels!) comfy tents and great food. Paid 35jod each for a 6-7hour tour around various canyons, sand dunes and rock arches, 3 meals, night in the camp and driven back to the town. Reserving in advance will cost 2-2.5 times as much, probably not much need as there’s so many beds in multiple camps. The scenery is wonderful, and well worth clambering up to the top of the rock-hills for brilliant views, especially at sunset. Guitars, tea, sheesa pipes and singing comes out in the evenings, which makes for a memorable night.
Aqaba and to Israel.
- Got picked up from the Desert Highway by a minibus pretty quick for Aqaba (1jod). Moon Beach hotel near the giant flag has very decent rooms for 21jod, good hot water showers, cable tv and a bit of a sea view over the dirt lot outside. Was very windy and chilly so didn’t make it for any snorkelling/diving; the beaches may be worth a look, but quite dirty. Perhaps diving is poor value, as the reefs are shallow and easily accessible from the shore. Minibuses (1jod) are very sporadic along the south beaches road, but private vehicles will eventually offer a lift for the bus price. Aqaba itself is nice to go shopping before moving on, as is less frenetic than Amman, and more hassle-free than Petra, although not a lot else to keep you beyond a night.
- Took a taxi for 8jod to the Israeli border the next morning (10jod departure tax by land). Entering Israel was pretty straightforward, a security check and some questions about what I did in Jordan and my plans for Israel, and was on my way pretty quick. They also stamped only the immigration card and not the passport itself after I asked. There’s a moneychanger on both sides of the border. Best to bite the bullet and call a cab to Eilat (40ils) as there’s no other transport; I walked 15mins to the highway but no passing bus north-bound would take me to Be’er Sheva or anywhere else.
Dec 17, 2012 2:58 PM
I'm surprised about Petra though, so I thought I'd relate our experiences. We were in Petra in October and had no real problems at all with touts. There were plenty of people trying to sell us donkey rides, and the horse touts were annoying on the way back, but taken in good humour or with a "shuk'ran" followed by blanking the worst ones everything was fine. There was actually one kid who took our photo and then seemed amazed when I gave him half a dinar. The Bedouin were all very friendly, and the camel ride guys were particularly nice.
On the negative side, one little girl tried to get me to swap Dinar for Euros and then threatened to call the police when I refused (she then started shouting "police" which amused me whilst causing me to move on quickly), and a kid tried to dip into my girlfriend's pocket up on the High Place of Sacrifice, but overall our impressions were positive.
Dec 17, 2012 3:14 PM
2Thanks for the report.
A couple thoughts. I think (although I might be wrong) there is no ATM in Umm Qais due to it's size and has nothing to do with Syria. I was there a little over a year ago and there was no ATM in town.
As I mentioned on your other post on the Africa branch, there was no reason for you to ask Israeli immigration authorities not to stamp your passport. Once Jordanian immigration stamped it as you exited that country it had the exact same effect as an Israeli entry stamp.
Dec 17, 2012 9:47 PM
Dec 18, 2012 12:51 AM
4#2+#3, yeah I did mean 'at the moment', not atm! Also laketraveller, well, i guess it worth asking them, hopefully a Jordanian border stamp is less obvious than an Israeli one, but point taken.
#1, re Petra, well I do agree most of the vendors its was done it good spirits, its not always necessarily like people follow you for hours on end, usually a 'shukrun' and thats it. My main point was that you get all that hassle actually inside the 'protected' area. Eg, hassle is worse at Angkor Wat in Cambodia, Bagan in Myanmar or the Taj Mahal in India, but you are (mostly) left in peace inside and assailed as you step outside the gate. Whereas at Petra you cannot walk around in peace anywhere enjoying the monuments, as you are getting hassled the whole time inside the monument area. Just kinda pissed me off after paying 50+euros to be there, people tell you to f%&k off, throw rocks at you, trying to pickpocket you, etc. Think the local authorities should be on to that more.
Dec 18, 2012 3:59 AM
5Unfortunately, there is a culture of 'sleaze' attached to many major historical sites, but I get your point about it being inside as opposed to outside.. What you described is totally unacceptable and it would be useful if people who experienced this kind of behaviour would report it to the authorities.. Without formal complaints its possible this issue never gets looked at and I believe it is a problem that needs to be addressed sooner rather than later when it may be more difficult to resolve it.
Who said they were Egyptian vendors? To my knowledge they are all locals, Egyptians cannot sell anything inside Petra - in hotels they work - but inside the historical site or adjacent to ... I don't think so. Maybe I am wrong, I will check.
The fact that 'hassle' is much worse in other places doesn't minimize that sort of behaviour or make it in any way acceptable and is contrary to the real Jordanian friendliness and politeness.
Great trip report and I'm sure very useful to other travelers.
Dec 18, 2012 6:55 AM
Aqaba Airport: Arab Bank, buy 1$ =0,708 JOD (08.12)
Aqaba, money changer: sell 1$ = 0,711 JOD (15.12)
“If you choose to take a horse ride from the entrance to the Siq that is supposedly included in the ticket, you’ll be held up at the end until you pay at least a 10jod tip.”
Is this your own experience, or just your fantasy? Yes, it is included in the price; it is printed on the ticket. I pointed that fact to the horseman, he answered a tip would be expected. After the ride I wanted to give him 0,5 JOD, he answered with a loud indignation people usually give at least 3 JOD, so I simple turned my back to him and walked away… I met him again on my way back from the site, and he asked me, as if anything happened… if I want the ride...
Dec 18, 2012 11:57 AM
7#5, well said, i think the issue is many Bedouins live very close to the protected area, and being their ancestral land, can come and go as they like, hence various miscreants coming in there. There are plenty of tourist police who were usually reclining under a tree; I guess it would be hard to patrol the entire area, but something has to be done there. Also, my guides in Wadi Rum said most of the vendors and nearly all of the horse/donkey guides were Egyptian Bedouins from the Sinai area, close by, but still not from that particular area.
#6, that wasn't my personal experience as I knew full well what would happen if I took them up on the offer. It was the experience of two other lots of travellers I met. Each of them got surrounded by a group of horse guides at the end and threatened to pay up. Not a fantasy!!!!!!!!! Seeing the exact same story from different people. Yes it is printed on the ticket its free but doesn't stop them; its a scam and part of the whole shitty experience inside the gates at Petra that I've been going on about,
Dec 18, 2012 12:40 PM
8Its hard enough for another Jordanian to muscle in on the action in Petra never mind an Egyptian - Its mostly dominated by the Bedul tribe.. about 3 families or so... Besides, its against the law for a foreigner to just open a business or just start a street vending business without a license. As far as I know all horses are owned by local people - and until recently their horses were medically maintained free by a British Charity - but since handed it over to the Petra Authority. It's possible they employ a guy to operate that horse, but from my experience the ones I saw were all locals..
People should address their complaints to the Minister of Tourism or Visit Jordan (Jordan Tourism Board) somehow maybe the Petra Authority might not be the best place to complain. The e-mails are on the respective websites if people feel strongly enough to follow through.
Dec 18, 2012 1:01 PM
Dec 19, 2012 5:31 AM
Jan 18, 2013 2:11 PM
11I have to agree with the posters who stated that they found little hassle in Petra. Yes, there were a lot of vendors who asked you to buy - particularly on the way up to the monastery - but on the whole, if answered politely with a 'la shukran' I was impressed by the fact that the vast majority of donkey owners and vendors took 'no' for an answer. In fact, I was impressed by the genuine friendliness and generosity of the Bedu. More than once, having accepted the offer of tea and had long interesting conversations, the money offered for the tea was refused and when it was accepted it hadn't been asked for.
There were obviously one or two small but annoying incidents but only one or two in the two days I spent in Petra. As a single woman traveller, I had a very positive experience
Mar 31, 2013 9:25 AM
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