Despite its scary neighbors, Jordan is one of the safest and easiest countries in which to travel independently. Add the fact that tourism is way down and you have an opportunity to visit one of the world’s most impressive sites, namely Petra, with very few other travelers around.
Safety – Yes Jordan is smack in the middle of a hot bed region, but there have been very few incidents and none directed at tourists. During our 12 day trip we saw nothing that made us feel unsafe or nervous to be a foreigner. All the locals we met were friendly and happy to see tourists – including if not especially Americans.
Transportation – Renting a car and driving is relatively easy. Highways are in good shape and destinations are generally well marked in Arabic and in English. That said, in some more remote areas we had difficulty with the Google maps being out of date. We still managed to find our destinations with the help of friendly locals.
Jordan is a small country packed with sights. From the Roman ruins of Jerash in the north, the Dead Sea and Christian sights in the central region, and Petra, the Red Sea and Wadi Rum desert in the south you can have a very full itinerary without a lot of driving.
Prices – You might think that since the tourism industry is hurting prices should be rock bottom. While not as expensive as some countries, Jordan is not cheap. Those still in business have to charge enough to eke out a living on fewer tourists. We found prices on par with cheaper European countries. Alcohol, however, is taxed heavily. Beer for instance ran about 5JOD (7.50USD) a bottle.
Culture – Jordan is a great place to experience Arabic culture and eat great Middle Eastern food without much hassle. We went where we wanted to go without interference or being harassed by hordes of touts. While not every taxi driver in Amman speaks English, English is widely spoken, especially near tourist attractions, and you can generally get what you want without much difficulty.
When to go – Although temperatures can vary greatly between the higher elevations and the Dead Sea at 400 meters below sea level, most websites suggest March to May as having the best weather. On our trip in Mid-May we found the temperatures in Amman and Jerash cool and comfortable with bright sunshine. The Dead Sea was warmer and perfect for doing the Mujib Siq Trail. Petra was too warm for comfortable hiking during the day, but lovely at first and last light. Aqaba was just too hot for anything but a day on the sea, preferably in the sea. And Wadi Rum, cooler than Aqaba, was too hot for much more than a short hike in the morning or just before dusk.
What would I do differently – While we did this trip north to south, in hindsight, with rising temperatures in May, it may have been advantageous to start the trip in Aqaba (about a 4 hour drive from Amman) and head north. Also if you want to avoid the capital city on arrival, departure or both, consider staying in Madaba instead. This smaller and more manageable city is only about a half an hour from Queen Alia International Airport.
Final note – Jordan has a low crime rate and a tourist friendly environment. However, like most destinations, it’s important to take normal precautions and be aware. If you have always wanted experience Petra or the Dead Sea, this is the time to go.