This is my first attempt at blogging…The trip was so wonderful that this must be the sign to start dabbing at blogging.
First, let’s get the bureaucracy out-of-the-way. On both sides, the Israeli and the Jordanian travel agents and guides will try to convince you that there are new regulations in place and without their help you cannot enter Jordan. So lets put this to rest. Bullsh*t!!!
We entered thru the Rabin/Arava Crossing from Israel, by Eilat, and it was easy. This is how you do it:
First you pay 100 ILS p/p at the Israeli side, as border crossing fee. It’s 105 if you charge it. Then, you go to passport control window and get a little piece of paper, called exit permit. Keep it for later inspection and walk to the Jordanian side. There, you fill out “an independent visitors manifest”, write in all the passport details of your party, date of entry and date of exit. Here it is a little bit complicated, but totally blown out of proportions by people who want you to hire their services. If you stay in Jordan for 3 nights, there is no visa fee. If you stay 3 nights and go to Petra you don’t pay anything at all. So, clerk at the window, asks you what are your plans, makes 2 copies of your manifest, stamps them, gives them back to you and sends you to the passport control window. The clerk there (who is simultaneously smoking, drinking coffee and flips thru your passport) will ask you some more questions, will stamp your passport and will give you one of the manifests back. VERY IMPORTANT: when you go to Petra have the ticket office stamp the manifest!!! That’s all!! no brainer.
As we exited the border, the negotiations with the taxi attendant went exactly as I have read on tripadvisor and on other blogs. It is a “taxi mafia” there as they have a monopoly on transportation from the border. Even thought there is a visible price list displayed according to which the fare to Aqaba is supposed to be 9.90 JD, the taxi attendant asked for 15JD – “take it or sleep at the border”. When I mentioned the price list he responded that it’s out of date. Then I “quoted” the tourist police (I didn’t ask them but this is what tripadvisor suggested). In response the guy dismissed the police. At the end we agreed on 12 JD, exactly as I expected.
At the end of the taxi ride we made our first mistake. We got our of the taxi without making sure that we are at the right hotel. Beware: many hotels sound alike. Ours was Amir Palace, but we were dropped off at Amer Hotel. It took us about an hour to find the correct hotel, which was about 5 minutes walking away. First, we were send to another Amer, then we walked to the Tourist Information Center, but they couldn’t help us either. Notwithstanding the fact that people are extremely nice and are willing to help, they don’t know street names it their own city and cannot find their location on the map. At the end it worked out and the hotel turned out to be in convenient location and good value. 25JD. Definitely recommended.
After dropping off our bags we went to explore the city, got a local sim card, which I believe is the first necessity. The search of our hotel is an example of how important it is to get a sim ASAP on arrival. Aqaba is a nice little town worth one evening of your time. We walked around, checked the beach and the bar at Kempinsky hotel and had a very good dinner at Syrian Palace. The food was indeed great and affordable . 20 JD for both.
Next day we were planning to get a bus to Petra. We were not clear about the time, as we got several different opinions on that and there is no online info. So we got to bus station around 7 am and planned to wait around. At the end we agreed to take a taxi for 20 JD as it was absolutely unclear if and when will the bus appear. The trick to getting a good price is to play it very cool and to let them know you that are not interested. It started with a bunch of taxi drivers offering a ride for 45 JD and within half hour it went down to 20 JD just because we were not haggling, we just kept saying that we are waiting for the bus…Taking into account that 2 tickets would cost around 14 JD we decided it was a great deal for 2.5 hours drive.
The road to Petra is uneventful. Our hotel El Rashid (and now we made sure it was the right hotel…) is conveniently located in center of town. It’s a little further away from the entrance to Petra but the area is much less touristy and the prices reflect that fact. Plus, there are a lot more dining options. The room was nice and clean, and the price was 30 JD including breakfast. There is also a restaurant attached to the hotel that belongs to the owner’s brother. There we had the best humus I ever had in my life. It was so good that we came back for dinner at the same place.
Petra itself is absolutely amazing. The 4.5 km walk each way is very easy and a large part of it is in the shade. Petra is considered to be the 7th wonder of the world and it deserves it. There are Greco-Roman type buildings but they are carved into the red rock and not build from outside materials. Just magnificent. A side note: the cashier will claim that they don’t take credit cards – they will if you insist. After Petra visit we had a couple of well deserved drinks in the gorgeous bar at the Movenpick hotel.
The next day, our hotel organized a shared taxi ride to Wadi Rum (our share was 17.50 JD), where I have previously arranged for a full day of jeep tour in the Wadi. The package includes lunch, dinner, breakfast, full day of jeep tour and sleeping in Bedouin tent. Our deal was with Mohammed Mutlak, it’s a mid range accommodations. Nice and clean tent with 2 real beds with bedding. The bathrooms are shared but extremely clean. The food is good and the best part was hanging out after dinner with other guests, a medley of international tourists. No politics,just nice and pleasant conversation. The jeep ride itself is also interesting, red sand reminding of South Utah/Arizona. Frequent stops and easy walks broke the long days into short segments and the hot cooked lunch prepared by our guide Mohammed was very authentic. Total package price, 110 JD for 2.
Next morning after breakfast we got another shared taxi ride to the border and crossed back to Israel. End of trip!