How to Save Money in Jordan: The Jordan Pass
Prior to arriving in Jordan, I purchased the Jordan Pass. Out of the three pass options, I chose the Jordan Explorer Pass, which cost 75 JD (106 USD). With this pass, my entry visa fees were waived (normally 40 JD) and I received a two-day ticket to Petra (normally 55 JD). For those two reasons alone, the Jordan pass already saved me almost 30 USD. 😀Additionally, with the Jordan Pass, visitors receive free admission to 40 attractions in Jordan, including museums and historical sites. Based on the sites that I visited, I saved about 50 USD. According to the website, if you visit all the attractions, you save 120 USD.
Overall, the purpose of the pass is to encourage tourists to stay longer in Jordan, so if you plan to stay at least 3 nights in Jordan, you qualify for the pass, and I highly recommend it. 😀
To get to Jordan, I took a bus from Nazareth to Amman, booked through Abraham Hostels. The bus cost 20 USD and took four hours. Crossing at a land border was an adventure in itself, and luckily, the three immigration stops only took us one hour. Our first stop was to the Israeli immigration office, to pay an exit fee of 30 USD, and get our card stamped. Next, we stopped at the Jordan immigration office to get our visa, and pay an entry fee, which mine was free (thanks, Jordan Pass). Lastly, we had to literally drag our bags across the border from Israel to Jordan, so that the inspectors could x-ray all our luggage. When the bus finally arrived in Amman, I realized we were not in walking distance to my hotel, so I decided to take a taxi. Sounds easy, but apparently the streets in Amman were only given names in the last 10 years, so taxi drivers had NO CLUE where my hotel was located! 😮Many also tried to scam me, and asked for almost 20 USD, not even knowing where I wanted to go.🤔 I’m a very stubborn person when it comes to getting a fair price, so I was persistent to find a taxi that would use a meter, and also someone who vaguely understood the direction I was going. Finally, after 6 or 7 fails, I found a metered taxi that cost 3 JD (4 USD).
While in Jordan, I stayed at the Sydney Hotel. Their dorm beds cost 10 USD per night, and I found the staff very attentive. The reception helped me with currency exchange, bus tickets, and even wrote down Arabic directions for me to show taxi drivers. The hotel had a nice common space, fast WiFi, and although they had no kitchen, they had a mini grill and microwave to heat up food.I met a girl from Oklahoma in the hotel, who is volunteering here in exchange for free accommodation using Workaway. She is getting her Masters in Global Studies, and found this was a good way to live abroad and save on expenses. She said she basically prepares breakfast for the guests, and sometimes helps at reception. Sounds like a pretty sweet deal. 🙂
I also met a woman staying in my hotel that look quite unsettled. She would sit in my room for hours, anxiously organizing and folding her clothes. When I asked her if she was packing to leave, she simply responded with, “No, I must wait.”
She later revealed her story to me. I learned that she is from Bulgaria, and had married a Jordanian man. They had been living in Bulgaria with her two twin girls, and had been asked to attend a wedding in Jordan last year. However, it turned out to be a set-up, because when she arrived, the husband and his parents abducted the children. Luckily, before the husband’s parents took her passport and locked her in a basement, she was able to send a few texts for help. The husband is Muslim and she is Catholic, so the family has declared to the Muslim courts that the mother will not raise the two children properly, according to those religious beliefs. According to Jordanian law, this grants the father primary custody. It has been 9 months now, and the mother has yet to see her girls. She won’t leave Jordan until she gets them, and is in a daily battle with the courts for custody. Her twin daughters are only 3 years-old. I can’t even imagine how sad they must feel, to be separated from their mom. Apparently, she has recently gotten the European Union involved, to help declare this case an act of violence. She is hoping in the coming weeks to see her babies again. Such a sad and cautionary tale. I wished her all the best. 😞
The city of Amman is huge, the sidewalks are not pedestrian friendly, and the pedestrians here are overly friendly. I know I stand out as a blonde white female, but I was wearing a glorified moo moo and a sweater, and I still felt bombarded by catcalls.
I’d suggest dressing modestly, possibly wearing a head scarf, and taking a taxi everywhere, especially since metered taxis are relatively cheap. In fact, on day two, I ended up walking around with a British guy from my hotel. I told him I was using him as my male ‘bodyguard’, which made the day quite more enjoyable, since I wasn’t harassed by other men. Plus, he was very entertaining, which always helps. 😉
His name is Brett, which I said was easy to remember. I told him the name reminded me of Favre, a legendary QB from the Green Bay Packers. Being British, he just looked at me and said, “Are you still speaking English?” Hah! I guess I had to break down those terms. 😛
Top Sites in Amman
The Amman Citadel is a fortress and gathering place that has been occupied since the Bronze Age (3200 BC). It was built upon the highest hill in Amman, and is surrounded by a large plaster wall, since it made the hill more difficult to climb, and harder for rebel armies to attack.
Temple of Hercules
The most impressive site within the Citadel, is the Temple of Hercules, a 2nd century Roman Temple. It was built during the reign of co-emperor, Marcus Aurelius. One of his many famous quotes being, “Very little is needed for a happy life. It is all within yourself, in your way of thinking.” 🙂
Umayyad Arabs built this 1st century palace to be a home for the governor of Amman. The entry hall is the most impressive, built to resemble a domed Byzantine church.
Behind the entry hall are numerous columned walkways, building ruins, and a cistern that once supplied water to this royal residence. Also, when I was walking around the Citadel, these kids ran up to me and started introducing themselves. It seemed like they wanted to practice their English, so I walked around the ruins with them for a bit. Then they wanted to introduce me to their parents and two other siblings, making for a beautiful family of eight. So sweet! ❤Anyway, the viewpoint from the Citadel provides gorgeous views of the city as well.
Jordan Archaeological Museum
Located within the citadel, this museum presents artifacts from archaeological sites across Jordan, as well as, antique jewelry, pottery, and even everyday tools dating back to the Stone Age.
This 2nd century Roman Amphitheater has an auditorium built for 6,000 people. Plays, usually of religious significance, were performed here, and to this day, Amman continues the tradition by holding theater productions here in summer.
Here is a view of the amphitheater from atop the Citadel.
Jordan Folklore Museum
The Jordan Folklore Museum, located next the amphitheater, showcases traditional Jordanian life. There are many mannequins dressed in traditional clothing, posing in typical day-to-day activities.
The museum also has mosaic artifacts from famous historical sites, like Madaba and Jerash.
King Abdullah I Mosque
This is the only mosque in Amman open to non-Muslim visitors. It should be noted that every Friday, Jordan observes a holy day. Most businesses are closed, and the mosque has an extra service, in addition to the five daily prayer times. This made my visit on Friday nearly impossible, but it was at least nice to look from the outside. 🙂
For trendy shops and restaurants, most tourists head to Rainbow Street. The street caters to an international crowd, with places serving American burgers and French lattes. To get more of the local flavor, I headed to Bukhariyeh Market, near the Grand Husseini Mosque.They sell dry goods and fresh produce here, with items like spiced nuts, mini eggplants, pomegranates, and root vegetables.
My friend even tried some smoked fish. I was a little leery and asked him if he had any last words. 😛He said the fish was super salty and there were quite a few small bones, but overall, very tasty. The market also sells lots of pigeons, which are very popular pets in Jordan. I asked the Jordanian hotel owner about this, and he went on forever, raving about pigeons, as if they were dogs. 😀
Apparently, there is a huge pigeon market in Jordan, and people keep them as pets on their roof. They train the pigeons to fly around the city, and collect more pigeons to bring back to their home. The owners then make a profit by selling the pigeon eggs. The hotel owner said the most expensive pigeon breed can go for over 20,000 USD per pair! 😮Anyway, to visit a different area full of both local shops and trendy cafes, I headed to a district called Weibdeh.
On the way there, I saw a lot of the staircases were painted, and noticed a bit of colorful street art.
In Weibdeh, I found a popular clothing store called Jobedu. Their brand is famous across the Middle East, selling spin-off clothing with an Arab flare. For example, here is the star of Breaking Bad, wearing a Jordanian head scarf. 🙂They also had Star Wars shirts written in Arabic, and the popular Arabic word ‘habibi’, meaning ‘my love’ printed on many of their items. I ended up finding this quirky camel crossing pin, and a sticker resembling an Arabic eye veil for my laptop. ❤More traditional souvenirs in Jordan include gold jewelry, red head scarfs, mosaic pottery, and even sand art.
For a tasty and cheap Middle Eastern meal in Amman, I headed to Hashem restaurant. For only 3 USD, you get tea, hummus, falafel, pita, and galayet bandora, a sauce of stewed tomatoes, garlic, and olive oil. Yum!
My British friend also showed me a place called Fouad Restaurant.
They sell two falafel wraps for only 2.50 USD. The owner even gives you a few freshly fried falafel balls as an appetizer while you wait. 😉Anyway, that wraps up my time here in Amman. Next up I’m heading to the city of Petra, for a real Indiana Jones adventure. Stay tuned to hear all about it. Until then. 🙂