1454799_771511606199222_468587741_nMy Jordan trip was one of my best travel experiences ever. Every bit of it brought beautiful, funny memories back and it is one of my favourite countries in the world. Biblical history, glorious ruins, amazing natural beauty and the warm, hospitable, friendly Jordanians made sure that I got hooked to this dinner plate sized ME country for life.

How to Go and Visa- Royal Jordanian is the flagship carrier, however Queen Alia International Airport receives a whole lot of foreign full service and budget airlines like Qatar, Emirates, American Airlines, British Airways, Air Arabia etc. Air Arabia is probably the cheapest option and has quite a dependable, customer friendly network (less transit time at Sharjah airport). Most nationalities are allowed Jordan tourist visa on arrival, which cost around 20 USD. Although a lot of Indian travelers have complained of having difficulty in acquiring a Jordanian tourist VOA, personally I did not have any problem. However holding a valid return ticket, hotel confirmation vouchers and/or proof of expense money would help ease these matters. Apart from Amman, Jordan can be entered at Aqaba too both by flight and ferry. There are also border crossing possibilities from Syria (Damascus), Israel ( Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Nazareth and Eilat) and Egypt (Cairo and Sinai). For those intending to travel on wards to more ME destinations, please get updated on the Israel visa stamp problem/restrictions.

Where to stay- Accommodation in Amman ranges from premium luxury hotels to grungy backpacker’s den. I had stayed in the downtown Balad area and found it one of the best places to stay in Jordan. It is within walking distance of most of the Amman attractions, has a huge variety of local markets, restaurants, sweet shops, fruit and juice sellers, money exchange kiosks and shops around. There are also quite a few backpacker’s dens in that area, which were marked by only signboards. They are not easy to find and its book one before arriving in Amman. The Boutique Hotel Amman where I had stayed was quite nice and came equipped with free wifi and breakfast, friendly manager, great location along with my basement studio room. It was modestly priced(around 40 USD) and was quite popular with travelers. So there are high chances of meeting more people who would be willing to travel with you, thus sharing costs.

Transport- Jordan is well connected by public transport which are available in form of taxis, shared taxis/ serveeces, air conditioned chauffeured cars, minibuses,Trust International Transport and JETT buses. For longer routes opt for JETT or TIT buses (these have to be booked in advance at the company offices). The airport is quite far from downtown Amman and it makes sense to carpool with other travelers or book a taxi beforehand. Taxi bookings for Amman can be done online at https://jordan-taxi.com/ , http://www.clevertaxi.com/taxi-directory/en/ and/or http://www.taxiautofare.com/jo/Default.aspx Just select Jordan in the country and get an idea of taxi fares, book a taxi etc.

When and Where to go- Although springtime (March-May) is the best time to visit Jordan, it is a year round destination. Summers are from June-September and if traveling to Jordan then be prepared for dry heat. Except for Aqaba, most places can be visited during that time comfortably. Autumn (mid Sept-mid Nov) is brief and lovely, but winters (Dec-Feb) are very chilly. Except for Aqaba, which is perfect at that time, Amman and Petra can be quite hard. Winters often see Petra getting dusted with frost in the mornings and it makes exploring the gorgeous ruins very taxing.

What to see- Jordan, although is a tiny nation, it is delightfully packed with huge varieties of attraction. It has something for all kinds of travelers-Biblical pilgrims, nature lovers, adventure seekers and those simply looking for a brief sojourn. Petra , Wadi Rum, and Dead Sea are the Jordanian tourism highlights, but the list does not end there. For detailed information on Jordanian places to visit please check the previous post http://www.maverickbird.com/new/outside-india/top-fun-things-to-do-in-jordan/

Culture- As a solo woman travelers, I had felt utmost safe in Jordan. Jordanian men like to stare, smile, maybe even greet with a friendly comment, but I have never felt them being lecherous or crossing the boundary of familiarity either verbally or physically. Jordanians are also one of the most welcoming people in the world and are one of its biggest highlights. They go out of their way to make travelers feel comfortable and you can be rest assured that every Jordanian will greet you with a smiling “Welcome to Jordan”. Having said that, it also makes sense for travelers to reciprocate this warmth by respecting the local culture. I have personally found Jordan to be one of the most progressive Arab countries, but dressing conservatively/ modestly is a sign of respecting the local culture. Although the buses are not segregated, it is better to stick to your own gender (while sitting/standing next to). If planning to enter a mosque, it is important to dress according and follow the segregation rules.

Public display of affection is frowned upon and gay/lesbian lifestyle (although legal) is strongly disapproved. Solo women intent on sleeping under the stars in Wadi Rum, need to be careful about selecting the guide/Bedouin campsite because as romantic as it may sound, but spending the night alone in complete wilderness with strange men can be pretty daunting. Wadi Rum as well as other wildlife reserves of Jordan are protected places and guides are mandatory for exploring them. Photographers need to take permission from Jordanian women (urban and rural) and Bedouins before taking their photos. Jordanians are extremely friendly, chatty people and they love to have conversations with travelers. While it is one of the most pleasant Jordanian experience, it is better not to criticize/converse about the royal family, world terrorism, Arab world political issues, Israel-Palestine conflict, Islam etc.

Shopping- Although not the highlight of any Jordan trip, shopping can be fun here. Jordan law forbids buying of any artifact dating before 1700 and it is necessary to know about your own country’s custom rules before purchasing any antique. Hand embroidered items like jackets, rugs, carpets are one of the must buys in Jordan. Naturally dyed they are mostly made from sheep’s wool or goat hair, although rarer and more expensive camel hair items are also found. Straw weaving handicraft items, like wall hangings, container covers and hand woven bamboo baskets are also pretty interesting and make great gifts. Intricately carved wooden platters, beautifully inlaid furniture, chandeliers, shields and daggers, organic perfumes etc are also great to carry back home. Gold and silver dominate the jewelry market and if intent on hoarding up some jewels, do visit the Gold Souk in Amman. Bargaining politely is a must and takes an art form in Jordan.

Adventure and Eco tourism- Apart from the well trodden tourist tracks, multi days wilderness desert exploration on pure bred Arabian horses, camels, quad biking, canyoning, scuba diving, Jordanian water falls hike and aerial adventures like sky diving, ultra light flying can be done. Most of the adventures will take you into the remote corners of Petra or Wadi Rum and get you up, close and personal with the Bedouins living there. Volunteerism is also possible. http://www.jordanjubilee.com/ is an excellent website to refer to for all things Jordan.

Although Jordan is not a budget destination in comparison with Asian countries, but with careful planning it is not difficult to experience its richness and beauty in a pocket friendly way. Jordanian Dinar is the official currency and at the moment the exchange rate with Indian currency and USD stand at (1JD=84 INR) AND (1 JD=2USD) respectively. The best part of Jordan is its cheap food and comfortable, affordable public transport. Preparing beforehand, planning your itinerary and going budget on food, accommodation will allow to spend around 100 USD for 2 days. Moreover with time in your hands, there is no dearth of things that you can do in Jordan and everyday does get you travel smarter.

Ancient cities, glorious deserts, virgin stretches of wilderness, crystal clear ocean and exotic local culture..I loved Jordan.