Petra Travel Guide
When to Go
Summer temperatures hit 100 degrees, but it can get chilly and rainy in January and February. In all seasons, sturdy shoes are essential for negotiating the rocky, uneven terrain. If traveling during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, some services may not be operating or operating at reduced hours; however, all tourist sites and services are open for regular business. Check with your hotel or the tourist office ahead of time.
Planning Your Time
An overnight (two-day) trip to Petra is optimal. Be prepared for a lot of walking: it's about 2 miles from the entry to the Basin restaurant.
Begin at the Horse Square and walk through the narrow, mysterious Siq to the Treasury, Petra's most magnificent facade. From there, continue along what was once the city's main street, lined with monuments from Petra's glory days. Walk along the colonnaded street to the Basin for lunch. The route back is the same, but the sun striking the rocks at different angles reveals new dimensions of the site's beauty; note that the way back is uphill. The horse-drawn carriages you'll see are meant only for the infirm, but they can be hired, gypsy-cab style, by tired pedestrians. Expect to pay about JD 40 from the entry to the Treasury or JD 40 from the Basin to the entry. In the evening, enjoy the sunset from a hotel balcony or rooftop terrace. Check at the visitor center to see if the Petra by Night tour is on.
On the second day, you can return to the Treasury and explore other sites, perhaps making the climb up to the Monastery. There are lots of well-stocked souvenir shops by the visitor center if you want some souvenirs or gifts.
Crossing the Border
The closest border crossing to Petra is just north of Eilat at what’s called the Arava crossing. Cross the border early in the morning to avoid waiting in line behind large tour groups and aim to be in Petra before noon. When crossing back from Jordan to Israel, bring JD 6 for the Jordanian exit tax.
Americans need a visa to enter Jordan. It can be bought on the spot for about NIS 88.
Most visitors take a taxi to the Jordan border from Eilat (10 minutes, NIS 35), walk across, and catch a taxi to Petra on the other side (about JD 45). The Arava border crossing, just north of Eilat, is open Sunday to Thursday 6:30 am to 10 pm, Friday and Saturday 8 to 8. The crossing is closed on the religious holidays Yom Kippur and Id el Fitr. Two other border crossings might be convenient under certain circumstances. The Allenby Bridge crossing (known in Jordan as the King Hussein crossing, four hours' drive from Petra) is about 45 minutes from Jerusalem. Remember to bring a passport photo. The northern Beit She'an border crossing (five hours' drive from Petra) is approximately 40 minutes from Tiberias.
The Jordanian unit of currency is the dinar, abbreviated JD. The exchange rate at this writing was approximately JD 0.71 to the U.S. dollar. You can change money at the Moevenpick, next to the entrance to Petra.
A number of operators run tours to Petra that you can reserve in advance from Eilat. They're a good option if you want to see the highlights without worrying about logistics. (www.petraisrael.com offers tips on arranging tours to Petra from Israel.)