10 Things I Wish I’d known before Visiting Petra, Jordan

Compiled by Isabel Clift

A city of rose-coloured stone, carved out of Mount Hor’s rock-face by the Nabataeans in the 3rd century BC, there’s nothing else like Petra. If it’s not on your bucket list already, it really should be – so when you do finally scrape the moolah together for the trip, check out this handy list of things to know before you go…

If you’re looking for accommodation, see our cheap hotels and hostels in Petra, starting at 5.655for a shared dorm @ Orient Gate Hotel

 1. When’s the best time to visit Petra?‎

Petra is a stiflingly hot place in the height of summer (36°C!): best instead to go during spring (March – May) or autumn (September to November). Temperatures then are pleasant and warm – around 18-25°C.

As for the time of day to visit, if you’re particularly determined get ahead of the crowds and go with the sunrise at 5am: Traveljunkette’s story on doing just this is a bit of an inspiration. It means you’ll escape the heat, and have the city nearly to yourself away from other day-trippers.

If you really can’t face an early morning,  arrive at 3pm to miss the worst of the midday glare and stick around until sunset – the quality of light makes the rocks glow an incredible ruby colour.

2. How much time should I dedicate to exploring Petra?‎

You can comfortably see Petra in a day. Everyone has different levels of historic site tolerance: you could spend five to six hours exploring, or twice that time – but even so, a day gives you plenty of time.

3. What’s the best way to get to Petra?‎

Flying in from Amman airport, it’s a four-hour drive pretty much straight drive down a highway which has English signposting. For a lower cost than a hire car or taxi, you can hop on a public bus direct to Petra from Amman bus station (which is itself a taxi ride from the airport).

From Aqaba airport, it’s a 1.5 hour drive – though a lesser number of airlines fly here. You can only enter Petra by buying tickets at the Petra visitors’ centre in Wadi Musa, the closest town.

Once you’re at the site (2km from visitors’ centre), you enter through a rocky passage with very high walls called the Siq – you can do this on foot, or on horseback (horses are hired from the visitor centre).

4. How much does it cost to visit Petra?

A one-day visitor pass is 90JD. An ‘overnight visitor’ pass – ie someone who’s staying for more than one day in Jordan in overnight accommodation (including cruise ship passengers) costs 50JD. Jordanian citizens, residents, students and Arab nationals pay 1JD. Kids under 15 go free.

5. What are the top sights to see at Petra?

Entering through the Siq is a dramatic and atmospheric introduction to the ancient city. You come out the other side of this passage at The Treasury, a rock-cut temple that’s the most-photographed part of the site due to its starring role in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.

The next big thing to do is to hike up 822 steps carved out of the mountain to the Monastery building – its large, intricately carved façade and views looking out over the surrounding valleys are stunning. Other things to see include the pillars of the Hadrian Gate and the Cardo beyond it – a long street that was once the ancient city’s main thoroughfare.

The rock-face holds the carved-out tomb of Nabatean ruler Uneishu, as well as other fantastical tombs named the Obelisk, Urn and the Silk Tomb. The ‘street of facades’ also holds smaller tombs that were used by less rich families.

Entrance Petra

 6. Are there places to eat and drink in Petra?

There are restaurants on site, and you’ll receive a free map with your ticket so you can locate them. We’d suggest bringing a packed lunch and eating outside – you honestly didn’t come to Petra to sit in a restaurant, did you?!

 7. What should I bring to Petra?

Wear comfortable, sturdy shoes you’re happy to walk around in all day. Bring a hat, sunglasses and sunblock. Also make sure you have a ready supply of water. Temperatures drop fast when the sun sets – bring an extra layer to stay warm.

 8. How safe is it to visit Petra?

Petra and Jordan are safe and stable places to visit. Likely the biggest threat you’ll encounter at Petra is dehydration from not drinking enough water. Remember, you’re in the desert – bring plenty of bottled water to last you a day, or stock up in shops on site.

9. Will I be bothered by people trying to sell me things at Petra?

Bedouin stall-holders can be found on site, selling  everything from jewellery to carpets. Sales techniques are persistent, and you’ll be offered a lot of stuff you didn’t know you needed. Turn down offers of “antique coins” (a scam) and unofficial tours. To avoid feeling hassled, don’t look at anything you’re not interested in buying, and respond to unwanted sales patter with a polite “no thank you” or “la’a shukran”.

10. What’s a cheap place to stay close to Petra?

HostelBookers has a selection of great-value  hotels in Wadi Musa a ten-minute walk from Petra, all highly rated by our previous guests. Here are three of the best:

    • Al Rashid Hotel scores 94% from other travellers, with free Wi-Fi, air conditioning and breakfast included in the rate. Rooms start at €16.66pppn. More info & booking
    • Rocky Mountain Hotel scores 94.2%, and the hotel has free Wi-Fi as well as a traditional Arabic breakfast included in the price. They can also make up lunch boxes for you to take to Petra. Rooms start at €19.44pppn. More info & booking
    • The owners of Rocky Mountain also run the Seven Wonders Bedouin Camp in Little Petra, where you can sleep under the stars in traditional Jordanian luxury. Customers have rated the experience 90.2%, and beds start from €22.21pppn. More info & booking

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25 Responses to “10 Things I Wish I’d known before Visiting Petra, Jordan”

  1. Excellent article!!!! I’m going to Petra in August, but I’ve lived overseas in very hot climates and been to the U.A.E. several times. Make sure you’re in good physical shape before you go. I’m 60 but continually mistaken for 40 because I watch my diet, work out, swim and ride horses regularly. But I’m still going to be very careful with the heat because of my age. I would also advise women to blend in: cover your head out of respect with a proper and cool scarf and wear long sleeves made of cool, white material. If you’re single, stick a ring on your left finger and don’t draw attention to yourself. Also, I’ve read of 20-something girls going to Jordon thinking they could have a romance with a local and got fleeced or worse – such free thinking will only get you thought of as a prostitute. Jordan is a very conservative country so don’t be a stupid ex-pat and behave yourself!

  2. Ever since Petra was voted as a New World Wonder, the prices have become ridiculously inflated. Back in 2008, a foreigner could visit Petra for 30 JD. Granted, it’s still very much worth seeing, but I hate the fact that the Jordanian Tourism Board is trying to milk tourists out of a huge amount of money.

  3. In a narrower sense, the term is used for the pretention of love feelings toward women with the sole objective of gaining financial or material benefits or a residence permit in a western country, preferably in Europe.

  4. @M C Huffer, nice post, especially the advice you give to women to dress p r o p e r l y.
    When I visited Petra I found it quite shocking seeing far too many girls walking about in tight shorts & tank tops. Through the eyes of the locals this is close to….naked and very disrespectful.

    I must disagree though on your remark about 20something girls coming to Jordan for a romance with the locals. That is (far less than) half the truth.
    It is in fact the local young men that go “fishing for tourists”, as they themselves call it. It’s a very lucrative business, involving all family members. It is a very clever scamming practice where they target the 30+ (and well above!) females by faking an authentic interest, soon followed by faking authentic love. They aren’t really interested in the 20something versions, as they usually don’t have enough income. It’s a very clever game described here: see the first post “Romantic Deceit in Petra”

    http://www.virtualtourist.com/travel/Middle_East/Jordan/Muhafazat_Maan/Petra-1800275/Warnings_or_Dangers-Petra-TG-C-1.

    And it’s not just a handful that are fully occupied in these scamming practices, it’s a big part of Wadi Musa’s economy. The local government is very aware, but prefers to ignore it.

    You better keep your guard up when you visit. You will probably be a target too, looking 40-ish 😉

  5. Well David (23rd Feb) 90 JOD equates to about £81 so maybe it does sound expensive but ‘milking tourists’ is a very loaded comment. This is what pays the wages of the breadwinners of lots of families and for the preservation of the site. Tourist should expect to be paying rates which will give locals as good a standard of living as they expect for themselves.

  6. @Hilary

    Milking tourists is not so loaded as you may want to think.

    Where the money goes

    JD 21 of the total cost of the ticket is paid to the Ministry of Finance; the balance goes to the government authority that manages the Region of Petra, the Petra Development Tourism Regional Authority (PDTRA). 25% of moneys sent to the Ministry of Finance accrued from entrance fees, are allocated in the annual budget to the PDTRA and 10% to the Petra Archaeological Park (PAP) for conservation activities.

    (source: http://petranationaltrust.org/ui/ShowContent.aspx?ContentId=196)

    The Bdul and Bedouin working in Petra receive a very small percentage of the ticket price. They get their income through faking romance with female visitors and very cleverly getting them to send them money through Western Union based on all kinds of made up dramatic stories and tragedies that have happened in their lives.

    Can you explain why Arab visitors to Petra pay a fraction of the entrance price ?!

    If the costs of (basic) living are far less in Jordan than it is for visitors outside, I don’t think it is reasonable to triple the prices for tourists. In rural areas of Jordan you can have a good life with
    JD 600, although away from tourist areas people get far less than that. Also, the income of all members of the (large) families goes towards the family. Believe me, families around Petra, they have more to spend than you. How do you think they afford mobiles, laptops, pc’s, internet, cars?

    You can’t rent anything in Europe for JD 350 (let alone JD 150, what a lot of families in Wadi Musa and Uhm Sayhoun pay).

    Why should anyone want to pay more than they have to pay back home, when the costs of living there are 1/3rd in comparising?

    So yes, they do milk tourists. To many tourists are just that: milk cows.

  7. If you are looking For tours with your family, then Perta and jardon tour great options for you. would also feel proud of your best choice. You just need to call them up or make your bookings online.

  8. Yogita Maharaj Reply

    I have recently toured with Artium of Exclusive Tours in Eilat to Petra and he has been caught for fraud. His tour agency has been suspended by Hostelworld as of July 2013. Please refer to TripAdvisor forums on his tour company to verify this notification. He scams tourists and overcharges them, leaving them at the Jordanian border and then harasses them online. Please be aware of this agent. Thank you.

  9. Thanks for the post. We are visiting Petra in mid-December. For Petra, do you recommend guides or do you just do it on your own?
    Thanks.

  10. Michelle McAlister Reply

    When I was in Petra I saw two cases of animal cruelty there with the donkeys. One was chained by an extremely short chain to a fence and whipped and yelled at for no reason as he stood there. He was just standing there chained up (meaning, not trying to be moved). The other was left in the sun with a tight plastic muzzle over his mouth for 9 hours! I was there. He couldn’t move and was there in the sun with no water or shade for 9 hours. It really altered my opinion of Petra.

    Fellow tourists, please report mistreatment of donkeys to the Petra Archaelogical Park and Heritage Society. They want to hear from tourists visiting Petra about any signs of crutely toward the donkeys working there (neglect, excessive whipping, hitting, punching, leaving in the sun for long periods).

    Email them at: info@pra.gov.jo or at http://www.pdtra.gov.jo

  11. This is really one of the best blog and very likable at all.If you are looking For tours with your family, then Perta and jardon tour great options for you. I have been to Egypt many times and I will continue to want to go there as often as I possibly can.I had contacted with mantis-tours.com and it arranged everything what I needed.

  12. I want to go to Petra but worried about all the Terrorism threat in Jordan. Should I be? With the ISIS threat are security high in that area?

  13. Why do you think there is a terrorism threat in Jordan? There is none, apart from a general one, just as there is a general terrorist threat in the UK. I have just returned from Jordan and had a great time – there were no signs of any trouble. ISIS is not interested in Jordan. Just don’t hang around the borders of Syria. Jordan has no oil and tourism was it’s second source of income. Sadly this industry has been decimated because of people assuming Jordan is dangerous just because it borders troubled countries. The fact that Jordan is never mentioned in the media should alleviate any fears. I can recommend a visit there – a life changing experience! To quote Wikipedia: Decades of political stability and security and strict law enforcement make Jordan one of the top 10 countries worldwide in security. Jordan is also among the top ten countries whose citizens feel safest walking the streets at night.

    David, London

  14. How much, approximately, is a taxi from the airport to Petra and back with the driver waiting around for me at Petra for a few hours?

    The results I’m finding online are all a few years old.

  15. How much,approximately,is a taxi from Queen Alia AERPORT to Petra and back with the driver waiting around for me at Petra for a few hours?

  16. It will cost you too much…. Something around 200(260$) jd… I suggest you to rent a car(30 jd per day).or use jett bus company from amman(not the airport)… It will cost you less than 24 jd two way. http://jett.com.jo

    Here is my email: maen08@gmail. If anything else you wanna know about jordan

  17. Selim Kaymakoglu Reply

    Hello
    We are flying to Aqaba airport next week.The plane arrives at 3 am and mostly
    I want to take a taxi directly to Petra.Is there anyone who would inform me about how much would be target fare for taxi?
    Thanks in advance
    Selim & Jodene

  18. Carlos Martinez Reply

    This morning I went to the South Station of Amman to go to Petra.
    The driver of MicroBus ask me for 7 Jod for the ride whereas the local people paid only 3.5jod.
    I denied to pay 7jod and he urged me to get off the microbus.
    When I entered the bus first, he wanted me to seat at the front with a couple of japanese not to notice what he was charging the locals. But I realized that.
    Finally I took a picture of the plate and he threat me to hit me and I took a taxi to leave rightaway.
    I advise travelers not to fall into such a rip off

  19. Wadi Rum Desert Camps Fool Tourists

    Most of the “camps” in Wadi Rum listed on the Internet (TripAdvisor, Routard, etc.) don’t actually exist. Their “owners” together with the help of their girlfriends, who write and speak good English, create a fake website and post a lot of self-promoting reviews in order to attract naive tourists. As a result, travellers find themselves in trouble and get scammed.

    That is why, before going to Wadi Rum, insist the desert camps on sending you a scanned copy of their license, as 99.9% of them don’t have one.

    Have this in mind before booking any tour, and never let anyone persuade you with boasts.

    http://www.stop-scamming-in-wadi-rum.com

  20. Entrance fee for Petra is 50 JD for 1-day ticket, 55 JD for 2-days and 60 for 3-days. The 90 JD ticket is for people, usually crossing the Israel-Jordan border to visit Petra only, and straight back to Israel the same day, without spending 1 JD in Jordan.
    From the entrance fee not 1 JD is spent for the Bdoul tribe, or any of the poor families who originate from the caves of Petra, prior 1985. The only ones who are payed from the entrance fee’s are the horse men at beginning of Petra Park and those people are NOT bedouins but locals from Wadi Musa.
    Most shop owners inside Petra are Bdoul bedouins and they all work very hard just to make 5-10 JD a day, as most of Western tourists rather drop dead than spending anything inside Petra after paying high entrance fee’s.
    About hassling and scamming ladies… nobody is forced to go with those boys. Use your common sense.
    Don’t blame those poor bedouins trying to make a little money with donkey- or camel rides. But somehow most tourists rather drop dead than spend 5-15 JD for a nice camel ride, or climbing up the mountain to the monastery by donkey.
    Don’t believe that those bedouins are rich or well off. Most of them are very very poor, trying to make a little money for their large families of 8-10 persons, just for a little food.

  21. If you want a real good experience of Petra, book a room in bedouin village Umm Sayhoun, the village of the Bdoul Tribe at airbnb

  22. All this information is wonderful thank you.
    I want to travel to Petra from Israel, but I am a single 62 year old female on my own. I would like to do the bedouin camp but would like to know how safe it is. Can anyone plea give me assistance. Thank you

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