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Trip Report Jordan trip report (self-drive)

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My husband and I took a wonderful 10 day trip around Jordan and rented a car. We used Reliable Rent-A-Car and everything turned out fine. They are a local agency and I read about them in guidebooks and on other web boards. We paid about $490 for 10 days with full insurance and collision damage waver so we had zero liability. They didn't need a credit card to reserve and when we arrived, someone from the company waited for us with a sign. We went to the car, which was parked right outside and he pulled out a credit card machine and we paid right there. He said when we returned the car, we could just get a parking ticket, park the car right where we picked it up and leave the keys and the parking ticket in the trunk. That is what we did and it was very convenient to walk right into to the terminal and not have to fill up on gas before we got to the airport. About the gas, I had read on other web boards that this company always gives you cars with very little gas. That was case and I was glad I expected it. The guy from the rental agency rode with us for about 20K and was with us when we first got gas. We dropped him off on the side of the highway and he called a cab.

The first two nights of the trip, we stayed at the Marriott Dead Sea and it was very nice. It wasn't too warm while we were there so during our full day at the resort, we took the car and drove to some sights. We drove up to the Dead Sea Panorama and then down to Madaba where we saw the mosiac map and the archeological park and had a delicious lunch. I should interject here that the driving was really very easy in Jordan but we did have some difficulties when we got to cities because we didn't know where we were going. There are plenty of signs pointing to places such as Madaba but when you get to the town, there is no sign pointing to the most famous tourist site. We were just driving around and at one point drove the wrong way down a one way street. People just flashed their lights and waved their fingers like "Oh, no you didn't!" and we did a 3-point turn and went back the way we came. We just stopped and asked people and used the maps in our book (Rough Guide, VERY useful if driving or even if not driving) and finally found our way. On the way back to the Dead Sea, it started raining hard and got very foggy so we didn't see much at Mount Nebo (at least we had seen the view from the Dead Sea Panorama) and the church there was closed for renovation so we headed down to the Dead Sea and it was nice enough for us to take a dip in the sea and slather ourselves with mud. Very fun! I am going to post this so I don't lose my report and start again in another post.

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    So where was I? Oh yes, the Dead Sea... We left early in the morning to drive down the King's Highway. We had reservations in the Feynan Ecolodge in Dana Nature Reserve. I was very excited to stay there because it seemed like a very interesting place. The plan was to stop at Karak on the way, enjoy the views on the King's Highway and then park our car at the visitor's center where Bedouin drivers would take us into the desert in a truck. (Traveling to Feynan requires a 4WD.) I am not sure if the use of phrases such as "The plan was..." is giving you a clue, but things did not go as planned. At first the sights were amazing and beautiful but soon there were no sights at all because there was a terrible fog and rain. I think this is the worst fog that I have ever been in. We couldn't see more than 10 feet in front of the car at some points. Some cars were pulled over on the side of the road but most kept going with their hazard lights on. We got to Karak and went to the Crusader castle. It was an interesting site and I am sure the views would be good but we couldn't see anything off the castle walls. We wandered around for a bit but we were getting a bit worried about the time and whether we would even be able to make it to Dana. We ate some lunch and then called Dana reserve and they said that there was flooding so they didn't even know if we could get to the lodge. We were able to cancel with them and then sat in the car and tried to figure out where to spend the night. There are not many hotels in Karak and the books do not make them sound very good. We called the decent-sounding one and they were full. We thought maybe we should try to push on to Petra but when I had booked the trip 1 month earlier, everything was full. We had two nights planned there and I was lucky to find us a hotel for the second night (we had to switch hotels.) We called every hotel in the guidebooks and finally found a room at the El-Rashid for 35 dinars a night. We were ready to press on to Wadi Musa (Petra) but first had to get out of Karak. It is a walled city and we couldn't get out. We went out the back side of the town and the road was heading out in the wrong direction. We drove for a while but it wasn't going to Petra so we headed back in. Picture a walled city with narrow streets, cars parked on the sides, making it narrower, it's raining, foggy, we were worried about getting to Wadi Musa before dark and oh, did I mention that at this point I decided that I really had to go to the bathroom? Good times! There was really nowhere to go. Eventually we found the road we came in on and there was a gas station and the gentlemen there were nice enough to unlock their squat toilet for me. I was very grateful. (Sorry if this part is Too Much Information but aren't finding bathrooms when you really need them part of the joy of travel?) We made it to Wadi Musa safely and got to the hotel. Strangely, even though I couldn't find anywhere else to stay, it almost seemed like we were the only people staying there. It wasn't the cleanest (I was happy to use my sleep sack.) but the price was right and it was in the more local area of town so it was convenient for great Shwarma and a great bakery. More soon...

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    As I said in my last post, we had planned two nights in Petra but because we couldn't go to Dana, we now had three nights there. I am sorry not to have seen Dana but the two full days in Petra turned out to be perfect. I think some people are fine with one day but if you like to hike and you want to go to the Petra by Night, two days would be good. The bad weather of the day before was gone and we had beautiful weather the rest of the trip. It was ideal, warm enough but not too hot. We spent our first day seeing Petra. We did the hike up to the High Place of Sacrifice and then hiked down the back way, following the the directions in our guidebook and came down by the Roman street. We sat for a while and ate our lunch (which was just delicious bread from the bakery) and then did the hike to the monastery. The monastery was very impressive but by the time we got down from there, we were very tired. We walked back to the siq and saw the sights we had missed by doing the hike down from the High Place of Sacrifice but didn't look at anything in much detail. This was where it was nice to have the extra day. We could afford to leave without seeing everything because we knew we would be back. We moved to our second hotel that night, the "fancy" one of the three, Taybet Zayman. It was very nice but a little expensive and far out of town. Not a problem for us with a car but it was nice to be in town on the other days. The next day, we went back to Petra to see the other major sight we had missed, the Royal Tombs. They were very impressive and I had read about a hike in Lonely Planet that sounded interesting. It wasn't in Rough Guide. If you walk past the tombs around the corner, there were stairs going up (way up). We hiked all the way up, through a Wadi and then you come out above the treasury. It was very cool. This one felt more like a "secret" hike compared to the other two (although obviously not since it is in LP) and it was well worth doing. After this, we were pretty exhausted from all the stairs two days in a row so we walked back out of the Siq. The hard part when you are tired is that it is such a loooooooooooong way out. We rested at hotel #3 (pretty noisy and I still used the sleep sack) and then went to Little Petra which very good to see. After that, we had dinner and then went to Petra by Night. Petra was amazing but this was the one thing that didn't live up to my expectations. It sounded amazing but I think its popularity might be hurting it. I think there must have been 500 people there. They announce at the beginning that you should walk in single file, don't talk and don't use flash photography until everyone makes it to the treasury. It is supposed to create the mood. Of course, everyone talked very loudly, walked in clumps and took tons of flash photography so it was kind of annoying and not too magical. I would still say you should check it out but it wasn't as good as I hoped. One last thing about Petra, read Married to a Bedouin right before you go. It was fascinating and you might run into people in the book.

    The next day, we drove to Wadi Rum. We just showed up and did a 3 hour tour in the desert. We rode a camel for 30 minutes and I was happy to try it but that was enough for me. Wadi Rum was really beautiful to see. We then headed to our Red Sea resort hotel, the Moevenpick Tala Bay. It was heaven! We spent three nights there and I don't normally enjoy pool and beach time but it was so beautiful and wonderful just to lay around and read and swim. We had wanted to take a snorkel tour but the boat was full so the guy at the hotel said we could snorkel right from the shore. He showed us the spots and told us to park at the Aquatic park which was near the hotel. This was the only time I felt uncomfortable in Jordan. The whole beach was men and boys and a few covered women who were definitely not swimming. Quite a few kids came up and said stuff to us and we felt pretty conspicuous. I didn't feel like I could swim there. We left and drove back down the highway and parked at a more deserted beach and did some snorkeling there. The snorkel boats were parked right off shore so we knew where to go and we saw a tank underwater.
    After leaving the Red Sea, we drove up to the our hotel in Amman, the Ibis. It was very nice for the price (65-75 dinars) and more of a business hotel. We had dinner at the italian restaurant reccommended in the guidebooks and it was delicious!! There were lots of tourists there so obviously, people are following the guidebook. The next day, we drove to Jerash and saw the Roman ruins and the Roman solider/gladiator show. I thought the show was really worth seeing and I actually learned quite a bit. We drove to another castle afterwards but it was so overrun with people, we just left and drove back to Amman. We only had a little time in Amman, so we quickly went to the Roman Theater and then had another very good dinner at Wild Jordan. We had been eating Jordanian food most of the time but these two restaurants in Amman were really good and worth going to. The next morning, we dropped off the car with no problems and headed home. It was a really great trip!! I will write one more post about driving so more soon.

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    One last thing, about the driving. It was totally fine. People didn't drive that crazy. The only hard times were in the cities, not knowing where we were going. In Amman, there are lots of roundabouts and there are bridges and tunnels that go over and under the roundabouts. It is actually pretty efficient if you know what you are doing, but of course we didn't. The secret is U-Turns. There is a median and you may have to drive the wrong direction for a while but you will eventually be able to turn around. We decided to take taxis in Amman because they were very cheap and it was much easier. While driving around the country, there are lots of police check-points where you will be waved over and they will look at your passports. A few times, my husband had to get out and open the trunk but the police never hassled us or said much more than, "Welcome to Jordan!". We didn't have any maps but those in our guidebooks. I read on other boards that people got lost on the King's Highway but we had no problems. I highly recommend the Rough Guide. It has very good maps and mentions things like "This turn-off is poorly marked so watch for it near this hotel". If you read that in advance and have a good navigator (like me!), it shouldn't be a problem. Well this report got a little longer than I planned. Thanks for reading and please go to Jordan. It was wonderful, tourist-friendly and the people were very nice


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    Thanks for the detailed report, and congrats on driving yourselves! I had two full days at Petra and did the three hikes you did and really think it's worth the second day. Pity you missed the reserve, though.

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    Thanks for the report...we're going in October so I was anxious to read what you thought. And good for you for're braver than I am...we're getting a driver/guide!

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