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DIY Aqaba and Petra from Israel

DIY Aqaba and Petra from Israel

Old May 21, 22, 9:21 am
  #1  
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DIY Aqaba and Petra from Israel

I'm hoping someone can steer me in the right direction on some trip planning for next month. It appears that Israel has suddenly eliminated its Covid entry rules, so I'm excited to be able to finally use my award tickets to TLV. After seeing the sights in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, we want to travel to Jordan. I'm intrigued by the possibilty of making my way to Eliat (which I've heard isn't so great) to cross the border to Aqaba. I'm a Hyatt Globalist so I'd like to stay for a couple days at the new (and apparently) nice Hyatt Regency there, which is quite affordable (especially on points) next month. From there, we'd like to see some sites like Petra and Wadi Rum. I assume this is doable in an affordable manner? I've heard I can't drive an Israeli rental car across the border, but can I drop one off in Eliat and then cross the border and get to my hotel by public transport/hotel shuttle? Once I'm in Jordan, it appears that I can rent a car. That has appeal to me to see Petra and Wadi Rum, but is it relatively easy to do and a good idea? Would it be better to go with a tour, and how expensive would that be?

Thanks for any suggestions.
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Old May 21, 22, 11:59 pm
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Easy peasy

I did the same thing (family of four) back in March 2020. We actually skipped the Negev and flew Arkia from TLV down to Eilat, then took an Uber to the border, walked across, and had an old beat up cab drive us to the Hyatt. Its nice! Great breakfast, too. Its not downtown, but in a new gated marina development. Still I recommend it.

Then we rented a car from a local Avis outlet in Aqaba, drive to Wadi Rum, parked in the lot overnight, and rode out to the encampment in the back up a pickup. Slept in the tent, ate the goat cooked in the sand pit, rode camels, and watched the sunset. All good and easy.

then returned to the lot in the aforementioned pickup, drove up to Petra, stayed at the Movenpick, walked through Petra for about 8 hrs.

then drive up to the Dead Sea, stayed at the Hilton, swam in the water, and returned the rental car next door at the Avis desk inside the Marriott.

then took an Uber to the border crossing, took the bus over the Allenby Bridge, entered Israel. Took the bus to Jericho, and then had a hostel owner from Bethlehem drive down and pick us up at the Jericho bus station, drive us to the hostel, spent the night, and toured the major Bethlehem sites with the hostel owner (who is also a tour guide).

the hostel owner dropped us off at the main bus stop in Bethlehem, and we caught the bus to Jerusalem. From there we walked to our hotel (YMCA).

After checking out, we took an Uber to TLV airport and flew home.

Great trip, all good, would do it again without reservations or concerns.
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Old May 22, 22, 7:34 pm
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Originally Posted by IAATM View Post
I did the same thing (family of four) back in March 2020. We actually skipped the Negev and flew Arkia from TLV down to Eilat, then took an Uber to the border, walked across, and had an old beat up cab drive us to the Hyatt. Its nice! Great breakfast, too. Its not downtown, but in a new gated marina development. Still I recommend it.

Then we rented a car from a local Avis outlet in Aqaba, drive to Wadi Rum, parked in the lot overnight, and rode out to the encampment in the back up a pickup. Slept in the tent, ate the goat cooked in the sand pit, rode camels, and watched the sunset. All good and easy.

then returned to the lot in the aforementioned pickup, drove up to Petra, stayed at the Movenpick, walked through Petra for about 8 hrs.

then drive up to the Dead Sea, stayed at the Hilton, swam in the water, and returned the rental car next door at the Avis desk inside the Marriott.

then took an Uber to the border crossing, took the bus over the Allenby Bridge, entered Israel. Took the bus to Jericho, and then had a hostel owner from Bethlehem drive down and pick us up at the Jericho bus station, drive us to the hostel, spent the night, and toured the major Bethlehem sites with the hostel owner (who is also a tour guide).

the hostel owner dropped us off at the main bus stop in Bethlehem, and we caught the bus to Jerusalem. From there we walked to our hotel (YMCA).

After checking out, we took an Uber to TLV airport and flew home.

Great trip, all good, would do it again without reservations or concerns.
I've been reading about driving to Wadi Rum and Petra and I can tell that your experience is typical -- it seems pretty easy. And car rental costs are affordable in Jordan. Do you remember where you'd stayed at Wadi Rum? There are like 2 dozen listings on booking.com for camps there and people love them all. The "base price" for the camps is dirt cheap everywhere, but I assume they make their money on dinner and a tour. Seems hard to figure out the best choice (price/quality and activities you're interested in) without doing a lot of legwork -- too many choices with too little posted info on the web.

From Petra, we were going to turn around because I figured it would be much easier/cheaper to return to Aqaba to reenter Israel. But, everything else equal, we'd much prefer to do what you did and head north to a Jordanian Dead Sea hotel and cross at the Allenby Bridge (we'd get to see the Jordanian Dead Sea resorts and avoid an unnecessary return to Eilat). But it looks a little far to the bridge from the hotels -- and then you're only in the West Bank! How much was that Uber to the bridge? And what was the condition of public transport to Jericho? If I could pick up a new car rental on the Israeli side of the border it would be a no-brainer. And, btw, as a general principle, did you feel safe travelling around the West Bank, especially on public transport?
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Old May 22, 22, 11:13 pm
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The guy we stayed with in Wadi Run was named Obeid Alamemrah; you can google his Bedouin Life Camp up pretty easily or ping me for his Whats App number [img]blob:https://www.flyertalk.com/3a8e294a-6205-4fb0-b351-f591c2ac071f[/img]

taking an Uber from the Hilton Dead Sea to the Allenby Bridge was IIRC 10 Jordanian Dinar in total. Once you get your passport stamped you then need to board the government bus across no-mans land, which probably cost another 10 JOD, but is worth every penny!!!

when you arrive on the Israeli side, its possible to grab an Israeli taxi cab and head to straight to Jerusalem without actually entering Palestine! Since Israel is expensive, Id guess that that Israeli taxi ride would be $100+ USD.

instead we bought tix and hopped the motor coach to Jericho, where we officially entered Palestine and got stamped in. The rank and file stamping passports in Jericho were perfunctory, but the officers in charge welcomed the (few) tourists with open arms and bent over backwards to ensure the tourist got a proper welcome to their country. They are trying to win our hearts and minds to their side.

Traveling around the West Bank with our hostel guide was great, especially when he took us to the Walled Off hotel (Banksy the artist) for a look around.

yes, we felt safe and welcomed all over the West Bank, because we were in a private minivan driven by a local.

that said, Bethlehem was crawling with 50 person tour groups, mostly day trippers from Jerusalem, traveling in motor coaches and led by a guide with a flag or umbrella.

We were thrilled that we did the West Bank and Bethlehem independently, so to speak.

Last edited by IAATM; May 22, 22 at 11:20 pm
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Old May 24, 22, 7:11 am
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Originally Posted by IAATM View Post
The guy we stayed with in Wadi Run was named Obeid Alamemrah; you can google his Bedouin Life Camp up pretty easily or ping me for his What’s App number [img]blob:https://www.flyertalk.com/3a8e294a-6205-4fb0-b351-f591c2ac071f[/img]

taking an Uber from the Hilton Dead Sea to the Allenby Bridge was IIRC 10 Jordanian Dinar in total. Once you get your passport stamped you then need to board the government bus across no-man’s land, which probably cost another 10 JOD, but is worth every penny!!!

when you arrive on the Israeli side, it’s possible to grab an Israeli taxi cab and head to straight to Jerusalem without actually entering Palestine! Since Israel is expensive, I’d guess that that Israeli taxi ride would be $100+ USD.

instead we bought tix and hopped the motor coach to Jericho, where we officially entered Palestine and got stamped in. The rank and file stamping passports in Jericho were perfunctory, but the officers in charge welcomed the (few) tourists with open arms and bent over backwards to ensure the tourist got a proper welcome to their country. They are trying to win our hearts and minds to their side.

Traveling around the West Bank with our hostel guide was great, especially when he took us to the Walled Off hotel (Banksy the artist) for a look around.

yes, we felt safe and welcomed all over the West Bank, because we were in a private minivan driven by a local.

that said, Bethlehem was crawling with 50 person tour groups, mostly day trippers from Jerusalem, traveling in motor coaches and led by a guide with a flag or umbrella.

We were thrilled that we did the West Bank and Bethlehem “independently”, so to speak.
It's quite coincidental that you stayed with Obeid. After looking through the 100 well-regarded Wadi Rum camp listings, Obeid's camp was the one I thought looked best! I assume you liked it? I've contacted him to find out how much he charges for dinner and a jeep tour. Do you happen to remember the cost? For some reason, Obeid doesn't just want to tell me the cost in a reply to my booking.com inquiry, he wants to send me a whatsapp message.

Do you remember how much you paid for the taxi in Aqaba afer crossing the border from Eilat? The Hyatt concierge told me it's 13 JOD, which seems high in Jordan for such a short ride. Is it a haggle situation, or is the price fixed?

Your trip through the West Bank seems adventurous! I'm not sure I can convince my wife to take the public transport. I'm still thinking we'll head back to Eilat, rent another car, and see the Dead Sea on the Israeli side.We don't really have enough time to go up to the Jordanian Dead Sea and then head back to Eilat to go back up north on the Israeli side.

BTW, did you buy a Jordan Pass? I think I don't need one if I enter and exit from Aqaba because the visa fee is waived there. Right?
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Old May 24, 22, 10:26 am
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  • Obeid: Yes, he was great! He charged 20 JOD per person per night, including breakfast. The traditional goat in the ground cost 10 JOD per person. Light lunch was 8 JOD per person. Camel ride was 20 JOD per person (go in the evening, specifically to see the sunset). There's also a government tax of 5 JOD per person to enter Wadi Rum, which Obeid collects and passes along.
    • Yes, he's clearly a What's App guy and used it for all his communications with me, which is why I was able just now to go back and find all the prices for you so easily.
  • Taxi: Yes, 13 JOD seems about right. Yes, it's a very short ride, and the cab was very old and rickety. Yes, I tried to haggle, but he looked around the empty parking lot, shrugged, smiled, and said, the price is the price, my friend!
  • Public Transport: Yes, but I have to say that the motorcoach from Bethlehem to Jerusalem was like riding Greyhound (without assigned seats), and was a wonderful little slice of life for the kids, especially when the bus stopped at the border crossing exiting the West Bank, and the two armed Israeli border guards boarded the bus to check ID's and profile (verb) everybody.........I smiled to the kids and said, "You're not in Kansas anymore," which led to a very good conversation about the pros & cons of living in Canada, the US, vs other places.
  • Jordan Pass: Yes, we purchased it online in advance and presented it at the border as we entered Aqaba, and again when we entered Petra. It worked like a charm! Highly recommended.
  • Aqaba: One last editorial point on returning to Aqaba; may I suggest staying at the Kempinski on your way "out", since it's downtown, which would enable you more easily get out, walk around, and explore the city a bit.
    • The beach and souk are two must-experience destinations. Not grandiose or magical, but worth a visit and will leave you with lasting memories, I'm sure.
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Old May 25, 22, 8:51 am
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Originally Posted by IAATM View Post
  • Obeid: Yes, he was great! He charged 20 JOD per person per night, including breakfast. The traditional goat in the ground cost 10 JOD per person. Light lunch was 8 JOD per person. Camel ride was 20 JOD per person (go in the evening, specifically to see the sunset). There's also a government tax of 5 JOD per person to enter Wadi Rum, which Obeid collects and passes along.
    • Yes, he's clearly a What's App guy and used it for all his communications with me, which is why I was able just now to go back and find all the prices for you so easily.
  • Taxi: Yes, 13 JOD seems about right. Yes, it's a very short ride, and the cab was very old and rickety. Yes, I tried to haggle, but he looked around the empty parking lot, shrugged, smiled, and said, the price is the price, my friend!
  • Public Transport: Yes, but I have to say that the motorcoach from Bethlehem to Jerusalem was like riding Greyhound (without assigned seats), and was a wonderful little slice of life for the kids, especially when the bus stopped at the border crossing exiting the West Bank, and the two armed Israeli border guards boarded the bus to check ID's and profile (verb) everybody.........I smiled to the kids and said, "You're not in Kansas anymore," which led to a very good conversation about the pros & cons of living in Canada, the US, vs other places.
  • Jordan Pass: Yes, we purchased it online in advance and presented it at the border as we entered Aqaba, and again when we entered Petra. It worked like a charm! Highly recommended.
  • Aqaba: One last editorial point on returning to Aqaba; may I suggest staying at the Kempinski on your way "out", since it's downtown, which would enable you more easily get out, walk around, and explore the city a bit.
    • The beach and souk are two must-experience destinations. Not grandiose or magical, but worth a visit and will leave you with lasting memories, I'm sure.
Thanks. I think I may have seen somebody post a sign at the Aqaba border crossing with "fixed" taxi fares. That seems to be a thing at Jordanian border crossings. BTW, how does one actually pay the 13 JOD? I assume there's not an ATM at the Aqaba border, and I'm sure the Aqaba taxi drivers don't take credit cards. Is there a moneychanging booth at the border?

I haven't used What's App in years, so I've reloaded it to my phone. Hopefully, I'll now be able to communicate with Obeid. He seems like an honest guy, but I obviously don't want to stay at a camp without first knowing what he'll charge me. BTW, does he take credit cards or only cash?

Did you buy a SIM card for Jordan? I had problems on my last overseas trip (pre-pandemic) because I brought a phone that I thought was unlocked but wasn't. I found an old phone that I wanted to test so I bought a "KeepGo" int'l SIM card at "half price" for $24 from Amazon. It covers Israel, but doesn't seem to work in Jordan. If I have wifi at my hotel in Petra, could I use that to reach Obeid on What's App to tell him we're leaving and set a time for him to meet me at the visitor's center?

Visa fees seem very confusing in Jordan, but I've read a few times that if you enter Jordan at the Aqaba border and stay at least 2 nights, you don't pay a visa fee (other border crossings are 40 JOD). So if you're just going to Petra and Wadi Rum, it doesn't pay to buy a Jordan Pass.
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Old May 25, 22, 11:18 pm
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  • How does one actually pay the 13 JOD? There's nothing at the border, other than the Israeli and Jordanian governments posts/offices - both sides are barren and without development.
    • I changed money in Eilat, before heading over; there'll be plenty of opportunities on the Israeli side to get a handful of JOD, just remember to get small bills.
    • Interestingly, when one enters or departs Jordan at the Allenby Bridge, which is north of Aqaba in the middle of Jordan, there's a HUGE amount of development and tourist services immediately there on the Jordanian side.
    • You can eat, drink, sleep, rent a car, etc., with all the usual Middle East type of traffic, people milling around, and what many Americans would call chaos.
    • Again, Aqaba is the polar opposite of that, just a dusty old parking lot, and a few homes in the distance, and a long walk to anywhere.
  • Does Obeid accept credit and/or cash? I paid Obeid in cash upon checkout, but he's a pretty tech savvy guy, and it wouldn't surprise me in the list if he accepts your MC/Visa and processes the payment via a Square device on his phone.
  • SIM card for Jordan? I have T-Mobile, which provides me with free international service.
    • Data was 2G slow at times, but the voice calls worked fine.
  • Meeting Obeid: Yes I essentially did the same thing, i.e. using What's App to alert him to my ETA at the parking lot in Wadi Rum (which I got from Waze, of course).
    • Obeid pulled into the parking lot about 30 seconds after I did, we threw our gear into his truck, clambered in the back, and off we went!
    • I suggest you arrive during daylight hours, just for your peace of mind.
    • In other words, if you arrive in the dark, see a pair of headlights approach out of the dusty darkness, then tell your significant other to jump into the back of a stranger's pickup truck, and drive off into the trackless desert, in Jordan, it may not be calmly received, and come across more like a Hollywood spy movie.......
  • Visa fees: Yes, I've also read that if you enter Jordan at the Aqaba border and stay at least 2 nights, you don't pay a visa fee, but can't tell you first-hand how that works.
    • Yes, if what we've both read is true, and you're just going to Petra and Wadi Rum, I agree that it doesn't pay to buy a Jordan Pass.
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Old May 28, 22, 4:07 pm
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Thanks, IAATM, just that knowledge that I need to get some JOD before crossing the border will save me some significant trouble.

BTW, I've come across some old reports that ATMs in Jordan don't disclose their (hefty) fees. Nice, right? Did you encounter this problem? Any recollection of whether the Hyatt has a normal ATM?

I'm intrigued by the idea that T-Mobile doesnt charge for int'l service. With the pandemic seemingly ending, that could save me considerable hassle. I'll have to look into that. I once had T-Mobile service in the US but, at the time, the coverage wasn't as good as ATT or Verison, so I had to switch.
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Old May 28, 22, 9:38 pm
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  • ATMs: My experience was that the Jordanian ATMs at banks were fine, without the hefty fees, but I avoided the "private" ATMs in hotels, restaurants, and bus stations.
    • Then again, I do my banking with eTrade, who reimburses me for ATM fees.........
  • T-Mobile: It's true that T-Mobile didn't use to cover the USA very well, but IMHO their new 5G service provides the coverage I need, and is more than fast enough.
    • I suggest going to Costco, and signing up there for T-Mobile.
    • I currently pay ~$147/month for three lines, with unlimited data and free Netflix.
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Old May 30, 22, 12:38 pm
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Originally Posted by iahphx View Post
I'm hoping someone can steer me in the right direction on some trip planning for next month. It appears that Israel has suddenly eliminated its Covid entry rules, so I'm excited to be able to finally use my award tickets to TLV. After seeing the sights in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, we want to travel to Jordan. I'm intrigued by the possibilty of making my way to Eliat (which I've heard isn't so great) to cross the border to Aqaba. I'm a Hyatt Globalist so I'd like to stay for a couple days at the new (and apparently) nice Hyatt Regency there, which is quite affordable (especially on points) next month. From there, we'd like to see some sites like Petra and Wadi Rum. I assume this is doable in an affordable manner? I've heard I can't drive an Israeli rental car across the border, but can I drop one off in Eliat and then cross the border and get to my hotel by public transport/hotel shuttle? Once I'm in Jordan, it appears that I can rent a car. That has appeal to me to see Petra and Wadi Rum, but is it relatively easy to do and a good idea? Would it be better to go with a tour, and how expensive would that be?

Thanks for any suggestions.
We did exactly this back in May 2019. Flew into TLV, rented a car, drove to Jerusalem, then Eilat. Parked the car at the border, walked across into Aqaba and the Avis guy met us on the other side and drove us back to the office to complete the paperwork for the rental. Drove to Petra, then stopped at Wadi Rum on the way back and reversed the process. Walked back across the border and got back in the Israeli rental and made our way back to Tel Aviv (via the dead sea). I think you can get Jordanian visas at the border, but we ended up getting them from the Jordanian Embassy in DC ahead of time. We weren't in Jordan very long (3-4 days) so we just kept the Israeli rental while we were in Jordan.
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Old May 31, 22, 2:29 pm
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Originally Posted by coolbeans202 View Post
We did exactly this back in May 2019. Flew into TLV, rented a car, drove to Jerusalem, then Eilat. Parked the car at the border, walked across into Aqaba and the Avis guy met us on the other side and drove us back to the office to complete the paperwork for the rental. Drove to Petra, then stopped at Wadi Rum on the way back and reversed the process. Walked back across the border and got back in the Israeli rental and made our way back to Tel Aviv (via the dead sea). I think you can get Jordanian visas at the border, but we ended up getting them from the Jordanian Embassy in DC ahead of time. We weren't in Jordan very long (3-4 days) so we just kept the Israeli rental while we were in Jordan.
Interesting, especially the part about having the Jordanian Avis guy meet you at the border crossing with the car. That would add a day to my rental (I was planning on hanging out at the Hyatt for a day), but I wonder if I could get the Avis guy to drive us back to the border after we return the car.
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Old May 31, 22, 8:29 pm
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Originally Posted by iahphx View Post
Interesting, especially the part about having the Jordanian Avis guy meet you at the border crossing with the car. That would add a day to my rental (I was planning on hanging out at the Hyatt for a day), but I wonder if I could get the Avis guy to drive us back to the border after we return the car.
The Wadi Araba border crossing is actually a selectable location on the Avis website, so I imagine you could just select that as your drop off point. I booked that as the pickup/drop off but then did some research and found out there isn't actually a physical Avis presence there, so I emailed the Avis office at [email protected] and they were like "just call us when you know your arrival time and we'll meet you there." I have no idea what would've happened if I just showed up...

I have to say, the whole border crossing experience was pretty cool. As alluded to upthread, it's a dusty border crossing and when we went across there weren't many people (though I understand it can get busy). It was a bit of a surreal experience, almost out of a movie.

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Old Jun 1, 22, 7:34 pm
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Originally Posted by coolbeans202 View Post
The Wadi Araba border crossing is actually a selectable location on the Avis website, so I imagine you could just select that as your drop off point. I booked that as the pickup/drop off but then did some research and found out there isn't actually a physical Avis presence there, so I emailed the Avis office at [email protected] and they were like "just call us when you know your arrival time and we'll meet you there." I have no idea what would've happened if I just showed up...

I have to say, the whole border crossing experience was pretty cool. As alluded to upthread, it's a dusty border crossing and when we went across there weren't many people (though I understand it can get busy). It was a bit of a surreal experience, almost out of a movie.

Thanks. As a President's Circle member, I'm trying to go with Avis but their rates are uncompetitive, even with codes I use in the USA. But they had a good rate through rentalcars.com that I'm waiting to be confirmed. If it's confirmed, I will email the office and try to get some assistance. I'd like them to pick me up at the Hyatt and drop me at the border when I leave. That would save me money and hassle!
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Old Jun 2, 22, 6:53 pm
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A few tips for your Jordan stay.
  • If crossing from Aqaba you don't have to pay the 40JOD visa fee as long as you cross back into Irsael from Aqaba but as mentioned above you need to stay in Jordan for a minimum number of nights. If you're planning to cross back over from Allenby bridge then you may be better off with the Jordan pass. Download Careem and Uber and see if there is any availability and if it's cheaper than grabbing a taxi.
  • I recently stayed at Suncity camp in one of their martian domes (one night only). Half board is usually included with these camps. The only cost was the sunset jeep tour (4hrs for 67jod for the truck plus a few jod for tip). There's also night time stargazing which is about 22jod per person. And if you're interested in hot air ballon for sunrise then you should book ASAP, assuming there's availability. It's 130jod per person. Send Captain Khalid a whatsapp at +962797300298. He is the only operator at the moment. My understanding he is going to get a second ballon started with a colleague and there is also a competitor https://balloonsoverrum.com/ that is planning to launch soon.
  • As for Petra stay at the movenpick petra that is near the petra entrance (there's two movenpick in petra) or the petra guest house. the latter used to be or is still part of IHG/Crowne Plaza as they still have a crowne plaza email address. Not sure what their arrangement Petra Guest House arrangement is with IHG. I stayed at movenpick and it was a fine stay. I did half-board for one day and a la carte for another night. I didn't enjoy the dinner offerings at the movenpick. You can purchase a 1, 2 or 3 day petra pass. The cost is incremental (5jod for each extra day) but you have to decide during the initial purchase. Most people that purchase 1 day regret it after. I ended up purchasing 3 day with jordan pass (as i flew into amman) and was happy i did so. Even if i didn't do day 3, it was at most 5 jod lost. You can hire a tour guide on site that will take you up to the Basin restaurant in Petra for 50JOD or up to the monastery for 100JOD. They also have electric cars available that will drive you right up to the treasury for 15JOD O/W or 25 RT. Depending on the day you will be there you can also book Petra by Night for 17JOD pp. It's hit or miss whether people like petra by night.
  • T-Mobile service works fine for sending whatsapp messages, google maps and light browsing on the 2G service.
  • I used my ATM card (schwab once) but found I got better rates at the local exchange. The exchanges don't charge commissions so the best rate I received at a money exchange place was .709. The official rate is .71 if you sell back your JOD. My Schwab card gave me something like .7088. The typical ATM fee is around 5-6JOD.
  • Since you're a globalist load up on all the complimentary bottled water at the hyatt regency.
  • Since you're going in June/July make sure to shade up because it will be hot and the sun beaming. There's barely any cover at the places you'll be visiting.
  • If you plan to stay in the Dead Sea area you have many options - Movenpick, hilton, marriott, Kempinski. I ended up staying at the Kempinski booking one of their ishtar rooms and it was a fine stay. Kempinski is supposedly "higher end". Note that if you choose kempinski you should try to get the GHA discovery plat or titanium status before your stay. plat is pretty cheap to obtain by doing a quick google search. However, if you don't want to stay overnight, some of these hotels offer a day package to use their facilities for swimming in the dead sea.
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Last edited by nas6034; Jun 2, 22 at 7:02 pm
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