Jordan is located in the Middle East north of the Red Sea and east of the Mediterranean Sea. It is bordered by Syria to the north, Iraq to the east, Saudi Arabia to the South, and Israel and the West Bank to the west.
The Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan is known as a link between the sea and desert and a connection to Europe, Asia, and Africa. It’s also where you’ll find the famous treasury of Petra, one of the most popular places to visit in the country.
In this Jordan travel guide, you’ll get all the information you need to plan your own Jordan holidays.
- Jordan travel guide: quick facts
- Jordan provinces/states
- How to get to Jordan
- How to travel around Jordan
- Where to stay in Jordan
- What to pack for Jordan
- When to visit Jordan
- What to eat in Jordan
- Famous events in Jordan
- Public holidays in Jordan
- Cultural customs to be aware of in Jordan
- Don’t forget travel insurance
- Basic phrases and their pronunciation
- Is Jordan safe to travel to?
- The use of cash and cards in Jordan
- Calling abroad, WiFi and data use in Jordan
- Tipping in Jordan
- A brief history of Jordan
- Posts about Jordan
Jordan travel guide: quick facts
Size: 89,342 km2 or 35,637 sq mi
People living there: more than 6,655,000
Capital of Jordan: Amman
Governmental structure: Parliamentary monarchy
National day: May 25
Time zone: UTC+2
Currency: Jordanian dinar
Power voltage and socket type(s): 230V, plug types B, C, D, F, G, and J. If these don’t match with your devices, make sure to bring a universal adapter.
Official religion(s)/Freedom of religion: Islam is Jordan’s state religion but the constitution does provide freedom of religion as long as the practice of that religion doesn’t violate public order or morality. However, religious minorities in Jordan do face some restrictions and official conversion from Islam to another religion can go hand in hand with the loss of civil rights and social disapproval. 90% of the population is Sunni Muslim, followed by Christian and Shia Muslim.
Official language(s) and general knowledge of English: Arabic is the official language. English is widely spoken.
Drives on this side: right
International driver’s licence accepted? International driver’s permit, yes
Phone code: +962
Vaccinations required? No.
Is it safe to drink the tap water? It depends. According to the World Health Organization, the tap water in Jordan is perfectly safe to drink but it might deteriorate depending on the cleanliness of the tanks it’s kept in and the state of the pipes it runs through. If you want to be absolutely safe while still not polluting by using plastic bottles every day, get a
reusable water bottle and a Steripen to filter the tap water before you drink it.
Want a more diverse list of Jordan facts with a bit of history and funnies thrown in? Check this post.
Jordan is divided into 12 governorates among three regions: north, central, and south. Let’s have a look at what these different Jordan destinations have to offer travelers.
Irbid is the second most populated governorate after Amman. Here you can visit the Dar As Saraya Museum that was built by the Ottomans in the 1800s.
Located in northwestern Jordan, Ajloun is known for its hilltop 12th-century Ajloun Castle and its forest reserves. Ajloun is also home to Mar Elias, the archeological site believed to be the birthplace of the religious prophet Elijah. It’s one of the most famous sights in Jordan.
Jerash is one of the top places to see in Jordan. The ancient ruins contain some of the most well preserved Roman architecture outside of Italy. Popular sights among the Roman Ruins of Jerash include the Temple of Artemis, the South Theater, the Hippodrome, the Arch of Hadrian, and the Nymphaeum.
My dad visited Jerash a few years ago. Check out his photos and read about his visit to Jerash here.
Mafraq means “crossroads”, a name that’s quite fitting as the place is currently best known as the home of the Zaatari Refugee Camp. It is estimated that as many as a half million Syrian refugees have passed through here.
Blaqa is the fourth most populated governorate of Jordan. Its capital city Salt has preserved much of its historic Ottoman architecture. Top attractions in Salt include the Salt Archaeological Museum, the Ottoman mosque, and the Abu Jaber Museum.
Surrounded by hills, the capital city of Amman is the largest city in Jordan. Not only is it a modern hub filled with cafes, shopping malls, and art galleries; it is also home to the Citadel, a fortress atop the highest hill bordered by a wall 1700 meters long. The most breathtaking attractions here are the Temple of Hercules and the Umayyad Palace.
Amman has something for everyone. For the nature enthusiasts, check out Wadi Mujib, known as the Grand Canyon of Jordan. Be sure to also see the Roman Theater, which is one of the most popular tourist attractions in the capital city. If you like museums, don’t miss the Jordan Museum, which is home to some of the Dead Sea Scrolls and Petra remains. With all Amman has to offer, it’s a must on your Jordan trip.
Zarqa, of which name means “the blue city”, is the third most populated governorate and Jordan’s industrial center.
Known as the City of Mosaics for its collection of Byzantine and Umayyad mosaics, Madaba is found along the King’s Highway. Madaba is home to the famous Madaba Mosaic Map that sprawls across the floor of the Greek Orthodox Church of St. George.
Other top sights to see in Madaba during your holidays in Jordan include the Church of St. John the Baptist and Mount Nebo, known as the summit from which Moses saw the Promised Land.
Found atop a hill, Karak (or Kerak) is home of the 12th century Crusader castle, Karak Castle. This is one of the largest castles in the region and is located at the southern tip of town.
Tafilah is where the ancient kingdom of Edom once resided. It is known for its gardens and natural hot springs as well as the Dana Biosphere Reserve. If you want to go trekking in Jordan, this is a great place to go.
Ma’an is the largest of all the governorates by area though it has the lowest population density. It is home to some of the top tourist attractions in the country and most likely the highlight destination for most tourists visiting Jordan.
The most popular sightseeing attraction in all of Jordan lies here: Petra. The UNESCO World Heritage Site is known as the Red Rose City because of the color of the rocks found comprising many of the site’s structures. The stunning sandstone carvings are a must-see.
Wadi Musa, known as the Valley of Moses, is the closest town in Ma’an to the Petra archeological site.
Aqaba is the only coastal region situated to the northeast of the Red Sea. Top sites to see in addition to the beaches include Aqaba Fortress and Wadi Rum, which is a valley formed from sandstone and nicknamed Moon Valley.
As you can see, there are Plenty of things to do in Jordan, but how do you get there?
How to get to Jordan
Visiting Jordan requires a passport valid for at least six months and a Jordan visa. Single-entry visas cost around 40 JD and can be acquired upon arrival for North American and most EU citizens at the international airports or border crossings. For more information, it’s best to check the Jordan tourism website.
The main Jordan bus company JETT offers services in and out of Jordan to neighboring countries.
Jordan can be reached via the Hedjaz Jordan Railway which connects Damascus to Amman.
ABMaritime runs ferries between Aqaba, Jordan and Nuweiba, Egypt every day except Saturday.
Fly to Jordan
The easiest way to travel to Jordan is by plane. There are two international airports of which the Queen Alia International Airport, located just outside Amman, is the most popular one. The other one is the King Hussein International Airport in Aqaba.
How to travel around Jordan
Independent travel in Jordan
It’s not too difficult to explore Jordan independently by car, but do take into account that Amman is a busy city like any other and might test your nerves if you decide to drive there. Driving along the historic Highway 35, also known as the King’s Highway, is a tourist experience in and of itself.
It’s also possible to travel between cities such as Amman and Irbid via local buses or tourist buses run by companies such as JETT.
Where to stay in Jordan
I always use Booking.com to look for hotels, guest houses and bed and breakfasts. It has great filtering options so I just need to look at only the hotels that meet my criteria. If you’re looking for accommodation in Jordan, I highly recommend you check there.
When I want to stay at an apartment rather than a hotel, I book one on airbnb. If you don’t have an airbnb account yet, you can sign up using my link to get a discount on your first stay.
What to pack for Jordan
Jordan has sunshine nearly all year round with four seasons.
The summers are typically hot and dry, with temperatures dipping in the evening. The weather on an average summer day can range between 15°C-30°C (59°F-86°F). The winters are generally cold and rainy, with temperatures between December to February falling as low as 4°C (39°F).
The exception to all this is the coastal city of Aqaba, which is usually about 10°C (18°F) above the temperature in Amman due to its drier conditions.
Whatever else you pack, there are three things you should have with you in every season:
- Modest clothing, especially when you’re a woman
- A refillable water bottle
- For women, a wide scarf. Something like this pashmina is light and still big enough to cover your hair, shoulders and/or legs when needed.
What to pack for Jordan in summer and spring
- a hat
- sun cream
- lightweight, loose-fitting pants like these ones
- good walking sandals
- swimwear for at the hotel
- sports/hiking shoes
- a light sweater
What to pack for Jordan in winter
- a waterproof coat
- a scarf
- warm socks
- sports/hiking shoes
- clothing to layer
What to pack for Jordan in fall
- a jacket or sweater
- a scarf
- clothing to layer
- sports/hiking shoes
When to visit Jordan
The best time to visit Jordan is in the spring, between March and May as it’s not winter cold anymore and not desert summer hot yet. You can even catch the flowers blooming in the wadis.
If you want to catch a national celebration, then May is the best month to visit Jordan. On the 25th, the Jordanians celebrate their Independence Day.
What to eat in Jordan
- Mansaf: Jordan’s national dish consisting of meat, rice, and pine nuts cooked with yogurt and served on a large platter over thin flatbread.
- Makloubeh: Translated to mean “upside down,” this dish stews together chicken, rice, vegetables, and spices before being flipped to serve.
- Falafel: Fried balls of spices and ground chickpeas.
- Kunafa: Dessert made from sugar soaked dough and layered with cheese.
- Mulukhiyah: A thick vegetable stew when cooked, usually served with rice and a few slices of lemon.
- Zaarb: Marinated meat and vegetables baked with hot coals in a pit under the sand.
- Musakhan: Roasted chicken baked with onions, spices, and pine nuts, and served over flatbread.
- Shorabat Adas: Lentil stew served with lemon on the side.
- Warak Enab: Grape leaves stuffed with vegetables.
- Makmoura: chicken and onions layered between dough and served as a savory piece of cake.
Famous events in Jordan
- Azraq Festival: A celebration of the town’s culture (February)
- Aqaba Traditional Arts Festival: A celebration of the Bedouin people as well as their culture and handicrafts (February)
- Amman International Theatre Festival: A performance showcase of skills and talent (March)
- Jordan International Rally: An international motorcar race (April)
- Dead Sea Ultra Marathon: An annual ultra marathon that begins in Amman and brings participants to 400m below sea level (April)
- Jordan Festival: Previously known as the Jerash Festival, this month-long cultural celebration takes place in tourist hotspots around the country such as Amman, Jerash, and Petra (July)
- Distant Heat: An annual dance festival with an electronic dance music party in Wadi Rum and beach parties in Aqaba (July)
- Petra Desert Marathon: A marathon around UNESCO World Heritage Site Petra (August)
- Jordan Running Adventure Race: A 160 km (~100 mi) race between Petra and Wadi Rum (October)
- Amman Design Week: A nine-day event that showcases local and international designers, exhibitions, workshops, and cultural programs (October)
Public holidays in Jordan
When you’re planning a trip to Jordan, you might want to take into account the public holidays. On the following days, banks, businesses, and government offices will be closed.
- New Year’s Day (January 1st)
- Labor Day (May 1st)
- Independence Day (May 25th)
- Eid Al-Fitr
- Eid Al-Adha
- Islamic New Year
- Birthday of Prophet Mohammed
- Christmas Day (December 25th)
Also make sure to check when the Ramadan starts and ends in Jordan. There are still some places serving food and drinks during the day as well as shops and markets that are open so you won’t go hungry. Try to book accommodation that has breakfast included to save you the trouble from needing to go out and find food in the morning and take into account that many places will have different opening hours during the Ramadan. Don’t eat, drink, or smoke in public during the day (except when going to a restaurant that serves food during the day, obviously) to respect the locals.
Cultural customs to be aware of in Jordan
While Jordanians are welcoming to visitors and different customs, it is best to dress conservatively out of respect to the local culture. Wear loose clothing that covers shoulders and knees (with the exception of beaches). If you plan on going to a nice restaurant or club, be sure to pack some nice dressy clothes.
If you meet some locals, it’s polite to greet them standing up and shaking their hands. Always accept Arabic coffee when offered by a host, then shake your cup side to side when you’ve finished to indicate you don’t want more.
Drinking alcoholic beverages is acceptable, though they should be consumed inside private areas.
Finally, be mindful if there is someone praying in public and be sure not to interrupt or pass in front of them.
Don’t forget travel insurance
No matter how well you plan and research your Jordan adventure, there are always things that happen beyond your control. Something might get canceled, you can get ill or hurt while traveling or one of your electronics might break or get stolen. When misfortune strikes, travel insurance has got you covered. I’ve had ongoing travel insurance ever since I started traveling to make sure I’m covered for every trip I go on. Don’t have insurance yet? You can get a free quote here:
Basic phrases and their pronunciation
Although it is not necessary to speak Arabic in order to visit Jordan, learning a few words in the local language is always appreciated wherever you travel. Here are a few words and phrases to use in Jordan to help with your cultural experience.
I don’t speak Arabic
How are you? (to man)
How are you? (to woman)
Thanks God (to “How are you?”)
Help me (to man)
Help me (to woman)
How much is this?
Ana ma ba’aref ahkee Arabee
Keef halak? (to man)
Keef halek? (to woman)
Ma’assalama – Bye
Sa’adni (to man)
Sa’adini (to woman)
Bekam hada? – Addesh Hada?
Is Jordan safe to travel to?
So how safe is Jordan? Well, despite being surrounded by countries with conflicts, Jordan remains a safe haven in the area with low levels of crime. It is one of the safest countries in the Middle East on the 2018 Global Peace Index and even ranks 23 spots above the USA in terms of overall state of peace.
In general, just be aware of tourist scams and stay mindful about your belongings and surroundings as you would when traveling to any new country.
The use of cash and cards in Jordan
Major credit cards such as Visa, American Express, and MasterCard are accepted at high-end hotels and restaurants. However, when it comes to smaller, local businesses and shops, be sure to have some Jordanian dinar on hand.
Calling abroad, WiFi and data use in Jordan
As I have a Belgian/European SIM card, I would normally pay roaming charges when calling, texting, or using data in Jordan. To get around this, I use the Solis mobile hotspot by Skyroam and buy day passes for the duration of my trip.
Aside from day passes, Skyroam also offers monthly prescriptions providing you with 4G throughout your trips. I’ve been using their daily passes not just when I travel outside the EU (no roaming charges for me in the EU) but also as a backup for when I think I’ll go over my phone’s data plan.
Tipping in Jordan
Tipping is part of the service and tourism industry in Jordan and while you should never tip horrible service, a tip is generally expected by waiting staff, taxi drivers, hotel staff, and tour guides. I’ve listed some guidelines on what to tip in Jordan here.
A brief history of Jordan
Jordan’s history dates back to ancient civilization and was once home to several biblical kingdoms.
The country went through many changes to its statehood. At one time part of the Ottoman Empire and a mandate of the United Kingdom, the Hashemite Kingdom of Transjordan finally gained its independence in 1946.
Following the creation of Israel, Jordan annexed the West Bank in 1950. Jordan participated in the Six-Day War in 1967 against Israel, who took control of Jerusalem and the West Bank and led to an influx of refugees into Jordan from Palestine.
Jordan expelled the Palestinian Liberation Organisation from the country in the conflict that became known as Black September in 1970.
In 1994, Jordan signed the Israel-Jordan Peace Treaty with Israel which effectively ended 46-year official state of war.
In 1999, King Hussein died and his son Crown Prince Abdullah succeeded to the throne. Under King Abdullah, the first parliamentary elections were held in 2003.
Between 2011-2012, a series of protests in the country took place against unemployment, corruption, and inflation.
And that’s it! I hope this Jordan travel guide gave you some ideas on what to do in Jordan and will help you plan your own Jordan vacation.
Posts about Jordan
Click here for all the posts I’ve written about Jordan.
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