Itinerary: southern Jordan in 3 days

September 2019

Day 1 – Petra

  • Fly in to Aqaba airport or cross the Wadi Araba border from Israel in the morning
  • Take a car straight to your accommodation by the Petra site
  • Arrange a car to drop and pick you up, pack up some food, sunscreen, (plenty) of water and off you go to see Petra
  • Stay until closing time and buy Petra by night tickets off of the workers without leaving the site to observe the “by night” setup and to get the photos without photobombers
  • Have a calm dinner, apply the aloe vera, and rest easy post many hours in the desert sun

Day 2 – pool day, Wadi Rum at night

  • Enjoy a relaxed pool day surrounded by the desert mountains
  • Set off around 2pm on the hour and a half drive towards the Wadi Rum petrol station
  • Get collected at “the petrol station” by the transport from your accommodation and set off on the dusty (please cover your mouth to not inhale half the desert) drive to your hotel
  • Enjoy a zarb (the Bedouin way of submerging your meal in sand to cook it) dinner and then head off for some stargazing with a stellar telescope
  • Wrap up and sit outside your hotel room to truly appreciate the view of the starry sky late into the night

Day 3 – beach at Aqaba

  • Wake up for the desert sunrise and go back to sleep until the desert sun won’t let you any longer (you’ve done a long nights stargazing and sunrise is early, trust me you will want to)
  • Post breakfast set off to your Aqaba accommodation (you will get picked up at the petrol station by your transport)
  • Spend the day at your hotel’s beach and enjoy some luxury and a beautiful sunset over Eilat before you end your trip

Jordan (south)

September 2019

There were essentially two reasons we decided to extend our trip to include Jordan, the Petra archaeological site and a night’s stargazing in the Wadi Rum desert, and let me tell you they were definitely worth it.

Quick Bites

Currency: JOD (Jordanian Dinar)
Why to go: Petra & Wadi Rum
Where to stay: 5* hotels (cheap comparative to western Europe)
How long to stay: 3 nights to not pay anything at the Wadi Arab border when crossing from Israel
Transport: Taxi
Go with: A partner or friend
Food: Disappointing but I mostly had hotel food to be fair

Why go to southern Jordan

I combined seeing southern Jordan with a trip from Tel Aviv to southern Israel I did with a friend. In Eilat, Israel there is a border with Jordan which is conveniently positioned to allow you to visit the most well known tourist attractions in the country. Click here to learn more about what to expect at the border. The border is around a fifteen minute drive from Aqaba (opposite Israel’s Eilat), a two hour drive to Petra, and around a one hour drive to the Wadi Rum desert. There were essentially two reasons we decided to extend our trip to include Jordan, the Petra archaeological site and a night’s stargazing in the Wadi Rum desert, and let me tell you they were definitely worth it.

Where to visit in southern Jordan

Petra

Woman sat at the Petra site
My friend taking in the Petra site

We crossed into Jordan from Israel around midday. After two hours driving to Petra, we arrived at our hotel at 2pm. The transport from the hotel to the archaeological site had already left and Khaled, who drove us to Petra, offered us a deal to drive us to and from Petra and to Wadi Rum the following day, allowing us to get straight to the site to make the most of our time. We didn’t go to the site prepared at all. We did not have enough water or any food and had bought Petra by night tickets before going in. We ended up staying at the site for around five and a half hours. The plan had originally been to return to the hotel or to eat something next to the site and go back for Petra by night. However, as closing time for Petra by night came and the crowds thinned, we didn’t want to miss the best time to roam around the site. Although the famous instagram photo is of the treasury at Petra, I urge you to walk around more. There are so many stunning structures and the site is huge. Walking beyond the treasury also leaves behind the tourist fanfare which I frankly found annoying.

Petra by night is very much a tourist trap. You walk the same path to the treasury (the first structure at the site) lit up by candles in paper bags only to sit down in front of the treasury lit up in various colours for 20-30 minutes. The event consists of a story by candlelight and some music played all whilst you sip on a small glass of tea. I’m not saying don’t go but I just think Petra is much more than this. There was no roaming around and seeing different structures lit up. Also, it was very cold, bring a jumper if you are going!

Wadi Rum

Bubble hotel at Wadi Rum
Our bubble at the hotel in the Wadi Rum desert

Wadi Rum became our desert stay destination thanks to my friend’s research. She had found a bubble hotel online and it became what she was looking forward to the most out of the trip. I had never stayed the night in a desert before but being in the middle of nowhere with minimal light pollution means you get a beautiful view of the night sky, the main attraction in my opinion. The hotel offered stargazing which we took advantage of, following which we just sat and stared at the stars on our bubble patio. It was a very romantic setting, hence most of our fellow travellers were couples. Although we decided we weren’t that fussed, the hotels in the desert also offer tours around the place to see various sites.

Aqaba

Sunset from a beach in Aqaba
Sunset over Eilat from our hotel’s beach in Aqaba

Aqaba wasn’t really an intended destination. We always knew that on the fourth day we were going to have to get a bus from Eilat and travel the five hour trip back to Tel Aviv. As such, the decision was to either stay the night in Eilat or Aqaba and set off in the morning. We decided to spend the night in Aqaba for two reasons: the hotels are cheaper than Eilat and if we stayed three nights in Jordan we saved 10 JOD each in exit fees at the Jordanian side of the border. Following our night in the desert, we got a car to Aqaba and had a relaxed beach and pool day. Rumour had it that easyJet is going to start direct flights to Aqaba, and I see why, the beaches were pleasant and for a cheap 5* stay with a nice beach, it worked well.

How long to stay in southern Jordan

Petra by night
The treasury at Petra by night

This will differ depending on how you entered Jordan. If you are doing an extended full country tour of Jordan, you may want to stay longer and explore additional archaeological sites. However, my friend and I had limited time to explore southern Jordan and we found that three nights was the perfect amount of time to see what we really wanted to whilst avoiding Jordanian border costs and even getting a day of relaxation before commencing our long bus journey back to Tel Aviv before our flight out. Our three nights consisted of a day and night in Petra, a pool day in Petra and night in Wadi Rum, and a beach day and night in Aqaba before heading back to the Wadi Araba border.

Transport in southern Jordan

Camel on the road in Jordan
One of the many camels we saw on the road on the way to Wadi Rum

We didn’t look into hiring a car in Jordan but to be honest with the little time we were planning on spending in the country, as well as what we were planning on getting up to, it didn’t seem like it would be that worth it. After crossing the border into Jordan from Israel at the Wadi Araba border you are met by the taxi mafia. They do not like you grouping up to pay less on taxis and they charge more than the standard fare posted on the billboard right next to the border office. We didn’t actually take any of these taxis as we’d met a Brazilian couple who asked if we wanted to share the trip to Petra. Their hostel owner was picking them up and agreed to take us along which did cause a bit of an argument with the taxi leader but we just got out of there as quick as possible and all was fine.

The best way to travel across the country conveniently was taxis. I warn you they are not cheap. We got the name of the hostel owner who had taken us to Petra who basically agreed to ferry us around during our time in Jordan for a good price. He took us from our hotel to Petra, picked us up from Petra and took us to our hotel, took us from Petra to Wadi Rum, and arranged for a friend to pick us up from Wadi Rum to take us to Aqaba on our last night. We ended up using the same driver to take us to the border on the fourth day too.

To give you an idea of prices:

Border to Petra = JOD 35 for two (two other passengers paid the same)
Hotel to Petra & back AND Petra to Wadi Rum = JOD 55 for two
Wadi Rum to Aqaba = JOD 25 for two
Aqaba to Border = JOD 10 for two

Where to stay in southern Jordan

Hotel near Petra
The stunning views from our hotel in Petra

Whilst taxis are expensive, you can stay at 5* star hotels here for a cheap price relative to what I’m used to in western Europe. Bear in mind that in Wadi Rum and Petra you are going to be roaming around desert so you may be in search of a bit of luxury when it comes to accommodation. Admittedly I’m more of an airbnb and hostel gal. I’m down for anything that has a good vibe, is convenient, and is well priced. On this trip I was with a friend who prefers a nice hotel so we both compromised, and frankly in a destination where you’re weary post hours in the desert, I was happy to change my usual habits. The most expensive stay was in Wadi Rum where we stayed in a luxury bubble. It was a once in a lifetime stay and well worth it for the experience. We ate in our hotels during our whole stay in Jordan and I must admit I wasn’t very impressed, but hey, I didn’t go to Jordan for the food!

Money

Woman in Petra site
Me in one of the nooks in the wall on the path leading to the treasury

We bought just enough dinars (around 13-15 JOD) on the Israeli side of the Wadi Araba border to get us a taxi to Aqaba. We only exchanged this much because the rate was pretty bad. The original plan had been to get a bus from Aqaba to Petra to save some money but of course we were lucky in bagging a car straight to Petra. We told the driver we needed to exchange more money which he did for us in the car at a better rate than the border. We kicked ourselves a little bit when we got to the hotel though, as it had a near perfect rate which usually isn’t the case at hotels. Lesson learned: change just enough for a taxi first chance you get, and then exchange the rest of your money at your hotel in Jordan.

Make the trip moments

Sunset at Wadi Rum
The sunset from our porch at Wadi Rum blew me away
  • Sunset from our bubble’s patio in the Wadi Rum desert (the most beautiful I have ever seen)
  • Stargazing in the Wadi Rum desert (we saw Saturn!)
  • Contemplating life whilst staring at all the stars from our bubble patio accompanied by a good stargazing playlist
  • Roaming around Petra in that sweet spot close to closing for Petra by night preparations, it was a lot less busy and made the experience all the more magical
  • Going on a “frienymoon” after my friend had just got married and come back from her honeymoon

Read about the procedure to cross the Wadi Araba / Yitzhak Rabin border when you enter Jordan from Israel.

How to cross the Wadi Araba/Yitzhak Rabin border

September 2019

Use this guide to straight up walk into Jordan from Israel with zero stress!

Quick Bites

How long to stay: Stay 3 nights in Jordan to pay no fees to Jordan
Why to visit Jordan from this border: Petra and Wadi Rum
Transport: Beware the taxi mafia at the Jordan border
Go with: A group if you want to pay less per person on taxis, or join up with people before crossing where the taxis can’t see you

How to cross the border into Jordan from Israel? When I made the crossing everything online was super outdated, unclear, or led me to believe that we would get fleeced at the border and end up paying more than we had to. Use this guide to straight up walk walk on into Jordan from Israel with zero stress!

The process

Israel to Jordan:

Get to the border via taxi or alternatively there is a bus that leaves you close. First, go to the cashier and pay your exit fee to Israel, taking the opportunity to exchange a small amount of money (very small as the rate is crap) for you taxi on the other side. Go through a couple of passport checks on the Israeli side (have your entry ticket with you) and exit Israel!. Walk straight to Jordan!

The Jordan side is simple. Enter a hallway with offices and go to the officer you are directed to. They will check your passport and give you a slip to fill in with your details which they will stamp. Do not lose this as you need this to leave. You shouldn’t pay anything upon entry, only upon exit if you don’t meet certain conditions.

Jordan to Israel:

Similarly to entry, go to the officer you are directed to and give them the slip you filled out upon entry (get this stamped at Petra). We had stayed in Jordan three nights and had gone to Petra so we were not eligible to pay the visa or exit fee. If you are eligible to pay anything go ahead and then pass through to the Israeli side. Here you will wait in line for a luggage check which can be rather slow. We left Jordan relatively early thinking we’d miss the crowds as we wanted to get a bus from Eilat all the way to Tel Aviv sameday. We were wrong though and were met by a long wait on the Israeli side for baggage checks so leave some time for the crossing (1-2 hours). Following this, go to passport control and obtain another entry ticket (I just kept all those I’d received during my time in Israel as a precaution). After passport control you pass through into Israel to find taxis waiting.

Visas and costs

Israeli costs:

Unfortunately, although I was charged nothing when arriving to Tel Aviv’s airport or when I re-entered Israel post my short visit to Jordan, there is a fee to pay when you leave Israel via the Yitzhak Rabin border. Israel charges 101NIS each to leave which we hadn’t been aware of when we made the crossing (thankfully you can pay with card).

Jordan Pass:

The Jordan Pass is a package you can buy before entering Jordan that acts as a visa fee waiver and a ticket for entry to Petra. Everyone online seems to recommend getting it, however, it really depends how long you want to spend in Jordan and visiting Petra, otherwise it may not be worth it (it wasn’t for us). The Pass has three packages: 70JD for one day’s, 75JD for two consecutive day’s, and 80JD for 3 consecutive day’s entry to Petra. This is really the only differentiator as you get free entry to more than 40 Jordanian attractions, free downloadable brochures, and the tourist visa fee waiver (only when you stay a minimum of three nights) with all three.

When to opt for the Pass if crossing into Jordan via this border:

If you want to see some of the other 40 attractions included in the pass, and will stay in Jordan at least three nights. Your visa fees will only be waived if you stay at least 3 nights in Jordan. Without the Jordan Pass entry to Petra is 50JD for 1 day, 55JD for 2 day, and 60 JD for 3 day entry. If you want to see some other attractions, the Pass is a good deal. Bear in mind if you are going to stay three nights in Jordan coming through the Wadi Araba border you wouldn’t pay anything upon exiting anyway so the Pass is essentially a ticket bundle.

When to not opt for the Pass if crossing into Jordan via this border:

If you are going to Petra but do not have time or interest in visiting the other 40 attractions included in the Pass. We were originally going to stay two nights in Jordan: one night in Petra, and one night in the Wadi Rum desert. We actually extended this because if you stay three nights you don’t have to pay a 10JD departure tax. Add to this the fact that accommodation in Aqaba is much cheaper than Eilat (we were going to have to spend the night in one of these two) and you’re onto a double winner.

Long story short, if you stay two nights in Jordan and visit Petra you don’t pay the 40JD visa fee, but if you extend to three nights or more, you also don’t pay the 10JD departure tax. Make sure to get your Jordanian entry slip stamped at the Petra ticket office. They won’t remind you, so remember to ask! I’m not 100% sure if you won’t get you fees waived at the border if you don’t have this, but why risk it! We ended up only paying 50JD each for our Petra entry, saving 20JD by not getting the pass. It is an almost free trip to Jordan if it weren’t for the Israeli charges.

Transport to and from

Get to and from the Israeli side by taxi, Gett taxi, or by bus. We made friends with some Israeli guys at our accomodation who offered to drive us so feel free to try that too if you are feeling charismatic.

Get to and from the Jordan side by taxi. There is a taxi mafia so they will charge you more like 15JD to Aqaba although the official rate is 11JD. A taxi to Aqaba from the border or vice versa at 10JD is a good price. We met a Brazilian couple at the Jordanian side waiting for the owner of their hostel to pick them up and joined them to go directly to Petra rather than stopping at Aqaba first. The taxi guys were not happy and came over to argue as they’d seen we’d grouped up! Ride sharing saved us time and money with the trip to Petra costing us about 30-40JD between the two of us. Grouping up is a way to pay less per head but group up before crossing where the taxi drivers can’t see you if you are going to do this.

Exchanging money

We exchanged just enough for a taxi to Aqaba on the Israeli side of the border. Obviously our plans changed and we ended up taking a car straight to Petra. We asked the driver if we could stop somehwere to exchange money on the way to pay him and he did the exchange in the car at a decent rate. Only when we got to the hotel did we kick ourselves as (oddly) it had the best rate we had seen. Advice: exchange just what you need for a taxi from the border and exchange the rest at your hotel.

Things to remember

  • Don’t lose your documentation (Isaeli entry/exit tickets and Jordanian entry slip)
  • You will always pay an exit fee to Isreal of around 101NIS
  • Stamp your Jordanian entry slip at the Petra ticket office
  • Group up before crossing to the Jordanian side of the border to avoid the taxi mafia’s wrath
  • Only get the Jordan pass if you want to see Petra and some of the other 40 attractions included
  • Stay less than two nights and don’t visit Petra (why would you not) to pay a 60JD visa and a 10JD exit tax
  • Stay less than two nights and visit Petra to only pay a 40 JD visa fee and a 10JD exit tax
  • Stay two nights and visit Petra to only pay 10JD exit tax
  • Stay three or more nights and visit Petra to pay nothing on exit!
  • Exchange enough money at the border to pay transport to your accommodation but not more

The main reason for any tourist to cross the Wadi Araba / Yitzhak Rabin border is to visit Jordan.