After having a summer of eating my body weight in French food in the South of France, relaxing by the pool in India and drinking cocktails in New York, I thought it was time to put a backpack on and explore a new part of the world.
When I was younger I made a bit of a hit list, of all the special places I would like to visit in my lifetime and having already ticked a few off, I thought it was time to try tick off another. So, when a close friend of mine told me she was off travelling around the Middle East, I jumped at the chance to join her for her stint in Jordan.
Getting to Petra (from Amman)
There are a number of ways in which to travel to Petra. I quickly found out that a lot of people, even locals, do not know all the different ways of travelling in Jordan. My friend and I were first told that we would have to either hire a private car or use the JETT bus service to get to Petra. However, after reading what felt like hundreds of different blog posts, we decided we could get one of the local buses from the South Bus Terminal in Amman.
TIP: If you’re staying downtown or even by rainbow street I would strongly recommend taking a taxi to the station, as it is about an hour or more walk.
The local bus cost around 5-7 JOD, however, be aware this is not a lot of room inside these buses. They’re more like a large minivan, with roughly 12-14 seats. The bus time table starts at roughly 09:00 am, every day, except Fridays (which is the Jordanian holiday). I would strongly recommend reaching the terminal well before 09:00 am though, as the buses fill up quickly and the next bus will not depart until it is full. We arrived at the terminal at 08:45 am and we got the last 2 seats and it left pretty much immediately after we sat down. Annoyingly for a fellow traveller we met, she had to wait until 11:00 am for the next bus to depart, so bear this in mind. The journey takes approximately 4.5hours (traffic depending). Our bus was very well air-conditioned and overall the experience wasn’t at all bad. Unless you factor in the god awful service station, which provided us with a very smelly, fly-infested, hole in the ground (toilet). Ugh! The very last stop is the one you need for Petra. So don’t worry about trying to ask the driver to stop, as many of the locals do on the route. Just wait until you enter a small bus depot and the driver gets out. Remember to pay for them!
TIP: Do check where you’re hostel or hotel is from the bus depot, as a lot of taxi drivers will try and drive you, saying where you’re staying is much further than it is. Wadi Musa (the town surrounding Petra) is pretty small, albeit it built on the side of a hill, so you can walk pretty much everywhere – just wear shoes with some grip (I fell on my bum too many times).
The trip consisted of lots of early morning starts, 5:00 am to be exact, and a heck of a lot of walking. As everywhere around Petra get’s super busy, with very large tourist groups and hoards of people shuffling to each monument. Even if there weren’t any tourists, I would still recommend leaving early, as the heat, even by 10:00 am, becomes very unpleasant when you’re spending hours walking.
Once you enter Petra you will be asked a number of times if you want a donkey ride to different viewing points, personally, I thought it was an amazing experience without having to hitch up on a donkey. Especially as we were warned about the care and treatment of some of the donkeys. It’s also quite rewarding walking everywhere, as once you reach the viewpoints it feels almost more beautiful because you’ve done the hiking. We decided to stay for 2 full days and to be honest, I think that was enough to see as much of Petra as we wanted. Wadi Musa, in general, isn’t that exciting, there is a limited number of restaurants, with not many serving particular brilliant food. There are two main hotels, which are on Petra’s doorstep: Mövenpick Resort Petra and Petra Guest House, both of which have restaurants where you can dine without being a guest. Both hotels serve alcohol, which is one of the reasons why they are so popular, however, bear in mind there is a 16% tax and the prices are not cheap!
If you happen to be visiting whilst ‘Petra By Night’ is taking place, I would definitely recommend going. It runs Monday, Wednesday and Thursday every week and it starts at 08:30 pm, from the Petra Visitor Centre and it finishes around 10.30pm. Tickets are 17 JD, however, if you get the Jordan Pass (which I strongly recommend and you can find more information here) it’s only an additional 8 JD. Yes, it’s a little gimmicky, as are lots of tourist-focused events. However, it was an experience I’m happy I had, as it was amazing to see Petra at night. In the evenings, other than Petra by Night, there is not a huge amount to do. Alcohol isn’t sold anywhere other than those few restaurants I have already mentioned, so bear this in mind, especially if you fancy a few drinks after a long day of walking. It seems that some hostels have roof terraces, the hostel we stayed at (Rafiki Hostel*) did and it was a lovely space to sit and watch the sun go down. Therefore, I would definitely recommend doing some research into where you stay whilst visiting Petra.
However you decide to visit Petra, I promise you will be mesmerised!