Petra is one of the New 7 World Wonders that you can tell from any photo; should not be missed. It’s the getting to Petra part that probably makes a lot of people crinkle their faces. It definitely did for me.
Why? Well, to be completely honest with you (per usual), I had never traveled solo in the Middle East before, and mostly wanted to make sure I’d be safe. But after researching how to get to Petra, I realized transportation is NOT easy to figure out, and that I could either take a chance at safety and do it cheaply, or be completely safe and also completely broke by the end of the trip. I opted for the safe route, and wrote it off as my half-birthday present to myself…
That being said, I did feel 100% safe the entire time I was in Jordan, but I also spent more than I ever have on a trip to ensure that feeling. To be fair, walking around Petra on my own also felt safe without taking any extra measures…but it was still expensive because there’s no way around the freaking 55 JD ($78 USD) entrance fee! Anyway, getting ahead of myself, because that’s one of my tips below:
Note: 1 Jordanian Dinar = $1.41 USD >:(
Call me old fashioned, but you need to look at an actual map to understand the distances it’s going to take you to get anywhere in Jordan. I would describe it as a massive desert with a couple of really cool hidden gems sprinkled all throughout it, and none of them are anywhere near each other.
So for most people, you’ll arrive at the airport, and think you should automatically go to Amman, since it’s the main city and also the closest one to the airport. Wrong. Amman is in the opposite direction as Petra, which means it’ll be more expensive to get a ride from there than it will from the airport. But since there aren’t many things to do in the area that Petra is in (Wadi Musa) besides exploring Petra, most people get sucked into thinking they should stay in Amman, and do a day trip.
Look at the map, and realize how much driving that’s going to involve. Next!
After Petra made the list of New 7 World Wonders, its entrance fee nearly tripled to 55JD (almost $76), but only if you stay at least one night in the area; Wadi Musa. Otherwise, it costs even more! Why? I assume it’s because so many tour groups profit/congest the area with day trips from Amman. So yeah, if you don’t stay at least one night, you get charged a lot more.
You should also stay the night in Wadi Musa so that you can get to Petra early before the crowds, and also when it’s a lot cooler! In my attempt to be as safe as possible, I went and picked the hotel that was physically closest to Petra, the Movenpick. It was alright, but mostly just super convenient after hiking around Petra all day.
It also will allow you to see the Petra By Night (above photo) if you happen to be there on a Monday, Wednesday or Thursday. It’ll cost you an additional 17JD though.
Here’s where I made my ultimate transportation decision, and also my ultimate fails. The bottom line is that transportation sucks in Jordan because it’s either insanely expensive, or slightly sketchy.
So anyway, another reason why I chose the Movenpick, was because on their Booking.com page it said that it offered an Airport Shuttle. To me; someone who has stayed at dozens of hotels, that meant an airport transfer was included in the expensive nightly rate. Wrong.
It just meant that they can arrange the car for you, but since all hotels use a third party service, you still have to pay. Spoiler alert, any mode of transportation other than the one local bus that only leaves at 6am everyday from Amman to Wadi Musa, is expensive AF. Taxis are probably more expensive unless you have someone helping you haggle, but either way you can probably expect to pay around $100 just to get from the airport to Petra.
The only reason why I recommend choosing a hotel with a shuttle service though is because since they arrange it for you, it’s a lot easier for the driver to find you, and safety take you straight to the hotel. Plus I had a really awesome driver who also stopped along the way to show me cool stuff. Oh and another reason was because it’s a three hour drive, and I felt a lot safer sleeping in a hired car than a taxi!
The 2 day Petra pass is only 5 JD more than a 1 day pass, so you might as well not kill yourself and just do it in two days. I arrived just in time for sunset, which was nice, so I just explored the closest areas the first day. The second day I woke up at the crack of dawn to get there when the gates opened (already with my entrance ticket), and hiked the farther parts before crowds and heat took over.
So technically you can pay to have a donkey, horse, or camel take you anywhere in Petra, but I’m not really a fan of animal slaves so I’m going to go ahead and not recommend doing that (you’ll see why in the next tip). As impressive as Petra’s architecture is, its layout isn’t exactly ideal…but it was probably meant to be that way so I’ll stop complaining.
That being said though, you have to walk for about a mile just to get through the main Siq (cool canyons that look like Antelope Canyon in Arizona). The first major site you see (thank God) is the token view of The Treasury that you see in most of the popular Petra pictures. But, The Treasury is only about 1/4 of the way into the rest of the area, with the farthest structure being The Monastery.
The total distance from the entrance of Petra to the Monastery is about 6km (3.73 miles) each way. So yeah. Wear comfy shoes.
From the moment you walk through the gates of Petra, you’ll immediately be summoned to ride a horse to the entrance. The many guys (in kohl eyeliner) will say it’s included with your entry ticket, which is totally true, just be prepared to tip them afterwards. You’ll continue to get asked if you want a “taxi” AKA a donkey, horse, or camel throughout your hike, so don’t be afraid to politely say no…unless you actually want one.
In my personal opinion, the animals that are used at Petra seemed overworked and overheated, so I didn’t want to contribute to that. It’s always a double-edged sword though because I know that’s the main source of income for the people working them.
You’ve probably seen the Petra-from-above photo before, and if not, well, now you have! It’s actually a really cool hike, and not terribly hard, especially if you go super early when it’s still cool outside. To get to the entrance of the hike, you have to walk all the way to the Royal Tombs (see the map), then continue walking to the farthest one until you’re turning to the right.
You’ll see signs as well, and you really can’t miss the big stone stairway leading up the side of the mountain. After you’ve climbed the steps, and are at the top, look for some hand-drawn signs with arrows pointing to the “Best View”. Not joking.
It may seem a bit sketch, but eventually you’ll see that token Petra shot, and there’s even a little Bedouin hut built right on the side of the cliff that overlooks it. I’m pretty sure that during the day the Bedouins charge people to take them up there for the view, but since I got there so early there was no one there to haggle me yet. You technically don’t need a guide to go up there, unless you’re super bad at directions.
Not going to lie, doing the hike up to the Monastery was not the funnest thing on the agenda. But, the uncrowded views from up there were definitely worth the sweat and tears! I could honestly see why so many of the Bedouin guys kept trying to offer a donkey or camel to ride up to the Monastery; because it’s like 800 steps, and gets really freaking hot.
Once you get up there though there’s a nice little cafe type thing, with cold drinks, snacks, and even wifi! The Monastery actually looks very similar to the Treasury, with the exception of having dirt and flowers in front of it instead of massive crowds. There’s also an even higher view point option you can climb up to from this area, that will give you a birds eye view of the entire area.
Since this post is supposed to be mostly about Petra, I won’t go crazy on details, but I did want to include other things to do nearby. Oh and by “nearby”, I mean technically still an hour or more away. If you have enough time, Wadi Rum is a desert area that’s suppposed to have amazing hot air ballooning, and Aqaba is supposed to have some of the best diving in the world.
I didn’t get to go to either due to timing (and expensive-ness), so I opted for a litte excursion to the Dead Sea instead. Again, an arranged car from my hotel near Petra, to my hotel at the Dead Sea (another Monvenpick) costed almost as much as the hotel itself, but in the long run, it made me feel safe. Actually my hired car even had a wifi hotspot in it, which made me feel double-safe driving through the desert!
The Movenpick was very nice, and the room I had owned a view that I couldn’t stop taking photos of. It had it’s own personal Dead Sea-front real estate with a roped off, lifeguarded area that you can float around in all day. You can also cover yourself in Dead Sea mud fo’ free for a faux spa treatment experience!
A lot of people asked me if the hijab (head covering) was necessary to wear in Jordan. The answer is NO! Just because you are visiting a predominantly Muslim country, does NOT mean they expect you to automatically convert and adapt to their customs! I mean, yeah, you should definitely be respectful, but you don’t need to worry about trying to wear what the local people wear; they’ll know you’re just visiting!
Technically though, you should respect the conservatively dressed culture, especially if you DON’T want to be starred at, but let’s specify what that even is. Covering your shoulders and down to your knees is best if you can. Clearly as you can see from my photos, I wore a tank top sometimes, but only when I was in a touristy area. Don’t walk around in local areas dressed like that though.
I usually always carry a scarf with me, both to cover up, and to be versatile since I only travel with a carry on (hehe), and also always recommend a go-to long sleeved pant jumper just in case you aren’t sure what is acceptable to wear in certain areas!
GoPro Hero 5 Selfie Stick + Tripod
Memory Card iPhone Strap so you don’t drop it
Sleeved Pant Jumper Multi-Purpose Scarf