Ruins of Umm Qais, Jordan

Travel to Jordan – Sites, Lodging, Tipping and Bargaining

What to see, where to eat and sleep, and how to tip and bargain…

Jordan requires at least 9 days to enjoy properly – we stayed for 15. The primary locations are Petra, Amman, Aqaba, Jerash, Dana Nature Reserve, the Dead Sea and Wadi Rum. The Desert Castles are also a popular tourist site, and worth seeing if you have the time.

The Ma’in hot springs are an attraction for some, but we found the site to be thoroughly underwhelming.

panorama of golan heights, um qais, jordan tipping and bargaining
View of the Golan Heights from Umm Qais

Getting There

We flew with Turkish Airlines and had a lay-over in the Istanbul airport. Not the best, crowded, badly ventilated, with cheesy pop music blaring from every shop. Head straight for the lounges or departure gates, which are, in contrast, clean, calm and very nicely air-conditioned.

Visa is purchased at arrival and costs 40 JD for all nationalities.

red poppies and daisies growing in ruins of Umm Qais, jordan tipping and bargaining
Wild flowers growing above some Ottoman ruins in Umm Qais, near the ancient town of Gadara

Getting Around

We travelled with Jordan Select Tours, where a driver was assigned exclusively to us the whole time we were there. Most of the tourists we met travelled with a private driver, or went from site to site with the JETT bus (the “luxury” tourist bus).

Wild Poppies growing in the ruins of Ancient Gadara, Um Qais,
Poppies and other wild flowers growing in the shade of the ruins of Umm Qais, Ancient Gadara

Hotels and Other Lodging

Lodging in Jordan comes in two flavours. International 5 star hotels and everything else, with the exception of Dana Guesthouse, Feynan Eco-Lodge, and camping in Wadi Rum. Forget boutique hotels, they don’t exist here. It is always better to book the hotels through an agency. We did it through Jordan Select Tours, and thought their rates were very good. While in Aqaba, diving, we met a guy who had been sleeping on rooftops. It’s the kind of thing I would do if I was travelling solo, but not really apropos for a romantic, R & R holiday.

stuffed toy replacing shop seller in petra, jordan tipping and bargaining
Valley of the Kings, Petra, and a very peculiar shopkeeper 🙂

Eating Out (or in)

Where possible, with the exception of Amman, go for half-board at the hotels. Outside Amman, the best restaurants are all in hotels. You will be hard pressed to find better elsewhere. At the Dead Sea, there are, in fact, no easily reachable restaurants outside the ones in your hotel. In Petra, we took a cooking class at “Petra Kitchen”, which was a great experience.

steps of roman amphitheatre in jaresh, jordan tipping and bargaining
Remains of a Roman Theatre in Umm Qais

Tipping in Jordan

Tipping is a minefield in Jordan. Tipping accounts for 50%, or more, of the monthly income of a Jordanian working in the tourist industry. Tips for drivers vary between 8 JD to 12 JD. We tipped our driver roughly 12 JD per day. He was excellent. Tour guides, 5/10 JD per person. Short trip, 4×4 drivers whose services we procured in Dana Reserve and Wadi Rum, we tipped between 2 to 5 JD. The guide that took us for the 16 km hike through Dana Valley, we tipped 30 JD. Frankly, we haven’t the slightest clue if this was too little or too much, in any case, it was worth it.

sketch of the treasury, petra, jordan tipping and bargaining
Sketch of the Treasury, in Petra

Bargaining in the Middle-East

You can always bargain hard in Jordan. Our Jordanian driver told us he always discounts 80% off the asking price, before then, slowly working up to 50%. This, for me, reveals the secret of bargaining in the Middle-East.

panorama of wadi mujib, largest canyon, jordan tipping and bargaining
The largest canyon in Jordan – Wadi Mujib

Jordan Select Tours

We could not recommend Jordan Select Tours highly enough. They catered to all our wishes and requirements perfectly. We had to change the itinerary on two occasions, once due to weather conditions, and the second time due to us changing our minds with regard to the above mentioned Evason Ma’in – they handled it in stride, although one of the incidents occurred during a non-working holiday. We did not lose an hour of our vacation time – quite a feat.

red Poppies, black and white photo of roman ruins, um qais
Poppies growing in ancient Gadara, Umm Qais