Jordan is an expensive destination. After all, the Jordanian dinar is currently strong (1 JOD = 1.07 GBP = 1.41 USD), hitting foreign travelers hard in the wallet. But with a little research and creativity, even travelers on a tight budget can make the most out of a vacation to this Middle Eastern kingdom.
Planning your trip
One of the first things that travelers should know about Jordan is that they’ll need a visa to explore this country. In most cases, visitors can obtain their visas at border crossings and in airports, but citizens of certain nations will need to apply before arriving. A single-entry visa costs 40 dinar (roughly 56 USD), but double- or multiple-entry visas are more expensive.
That said, travelers can waive their visa fees by purchasing a Jordan Pass — a sightseeing package that includes admission to more than 40 attractions, including Petra and Wadi Rum. The pass starts at 70 dinar (about 99 USD), with the price increasing if the passholder wishes to spend extra days exploring Petra.
Given that a single-entry visa totals 40 dinar and a one-day ticket to Petra costs 50, the Jordan Pass quickly pays for itself. This great-value bargain helps travelers get the most bang for their buck.
When it comes to finding low-cost airfare, it’s a good idea to start looking for flights several months before you’re hoping to depart (especially for peak-season travel). U.S.-based travelers can find nonstop flights to Amman’s Queen Alia International Airport from New York or Chicago, and European and Middle Eastern travelers can find fairly inexpensive options from several major cities across the region.
As far as accommodation goes, remember that backpacker hostels are extremely cheap — in fact, many dorm beds in Jordan are priced at less than 11 dinar (16 USD) per night. Note that much of the land along the Dead Sea has been developed by hotel resorts, so travelers who want to spend the night in this area will have to shell out.
Seeing the sights
Again, purchasing a Jordan Pass is the best way to get the most out of the country’s impressive natural, cultural, and archaeological wonders while also stretching your dollars. Passholders are entitled to free admission at a wide variety of ruins, several museums, and four UNESCO World Heritage sites.
Even so, travelers should make sure that all of the locations they want to visit and all of the activities they want to experience are included in the pass. For example, the Jordan Pass doesn’t cover the Petra by Night excursion, beach access on the Dead Sea, or camping trips in Wadi Rum.
Travelers without passes can still explore Jordan’s finest offerings, but they should be prepared to spend more. They’ll need to research admission prices and find the best ways to maximize value (for example, it’s more cost-efficient to spend two or three days in Petra than just one).
And anyone planning to visit the Dead Sea will need to balance the competing interests of cost and convenience. Although there are plenty of hotels located along the coast, most of them are four- and five-star establishments, making it more economical to stop by on a day trip. And although most Dead Sea beaches charge admission, the amenities and cleanliness improve with each dinar spent — so travelers have to make a judgment call when choosing their beach.
Chowing down and drinking up
When in Jordan, do as the Jordanians do, and opt for street food over meals at sit-down restaurants. Throughout the country, vendors operate stalls in major cities (especially Amman), midsize towns, and small villages, each offering delicious foodstuffs. Take time to try a variety of dishes, including hummus, falafel (a deep-fried concoction of spices and mashed chickpeas), shawarma (spit-roasted meat served in sandwiches), fuul (beans cooked in lemon juice, olive oil, and chili), and baklava.
Not only will visitors enjoy a more flavorful experience by choosing street food, but they’ll also save money. Street food items often cost less than one dinar, whereas restaurant meals cost several times that price, especially near tourist sites.
Drinking coffee and tea is an important social custom in Jordan, so head to a coffeehouse, get to know a few locals, and enjoy a nice, budget-friendly pick-me-up. For something a little stronger, go to a hotel or a touristy neighborhood (Amman does have its fair share of bars, but most Jordanian cities don’t). And keep in mind that local beers and wines are much less expensive than their imported counterparts.
Unfortunately, Jordan’s public transportation system leaves something to be desired. The bus network is fairly limited and doesn’t always connect smaller sites and cities, and the schedule is inconsistent, leaving travelers with fewer options for exploring the country.
Be that as it may, there are still a few reliable ways to get from Point A to Point B. For one, travelers often share a taxi when heading to the same place, cutting costs by splitting the tab between several people. It’s a great option for solo travelers or small groups, and since many hotels offer to arrange their guests’ transportation to tourist sites, the logistics are pretty straightforward.
Ultimately, many visitors decide to rent a car for at least a portion of their stay — but this step requires a little extra planning, as travelers can’t use the car while visiting Petra and a few other sites. Still, if you’re set on getting behind the wheel, it’s a good idea to shop around before you arrive, remembering to check out international companies like Enterprise, as well as local services like Monte Carlo and Reliable. Renting a small car should cost anywhere between 15 and 30 dinar per day (21 and 42 USD). And though fuel is inexpensive and driving in Jordan is fairly easy, you should know that Amman’s streets are known to be a bit chaotic. If that doesn’t deter you, get ready for a road trip!
Although many people count Jordan as a dream destination, few would call it a budget-friendly locale. However, these hacks will save you quite a few dinar — so pack your bags and meet us in Jordan!
Cover photo by Steve Johnson