I’ve always found traveling through the Middle East on a budget an easy feat. With many of the sites having free entry, easily accessible through public transport and providing cheap food options, it’s a backpackers dream.
I always found this until I decided to go to Petra in Jordan. Jordan is a vast country that is rich in beauty. Petra, its most famous site, is known for its appearances in films and its deserted ambiance. I’m sure when it was first re-discovered in 1812 by Swiss Explorer Johannes Burkhardt there was no entry fee charge. Now however, things have changed. Although it can get a bit pricey, I can’t overemphasize how worthwhile a visit is.
After a trip to Petra, I realized some smart tips to lower the costs and thought I’d share so you can learn from my mistakes.
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Budget Travel Tips
Travel to Petra with Buddies
There are a number of ways to get to Petra, including organized tours, local buses and taxis. Whether you go from Amman or Aqaba – the two most popular routes – you are looking at about a 2 hour journey to the Petra site.
I’m not a fan of the pre-organized tour so I went on my own. I recommend finding some travel buddies in advance (up to 3 other than you is good) and sharing a taxi. To give you a guide, the cost of a one-way trip from Aqaba to Petra (~2 hours) should cost around JD30 (US$42). At least if you go with 4 people, the roundtrip cost works out to just over US$20. In my case, I fronted the bill for the taxi ride on my own – making the roundtrip a whopping US$84!
By finding some travel companions, not only will you have company when taking in all the beauty that Petra has to offer, you will also save a bit of cash.
Consider Public Transportation
Jordan has a lot of cheap and clean buses. They don’t operate the best of schedules, but if you plan ahead and have ample time in this beauty of a country, then you may as well take advantage. There are local buses that run from both Aqaba and Amman to Petra and both cost under JD10 one-way.
When I looked into the local bus from Aqaba to Petra, it said that there are 5 buses that leave daily with the first leaving at 6am. There are no schedules and when all the buses are filled, that is it for the day. So like I said, if you have time to wait – it’s worth a try to save a bit of money, otherwise, go with the taxi.
When you backpack, sometimes it pays to plan ahead and (unfortunately) wake up early!
Spend the Night
This may surprise you as a cost-saving mechanism but staying overnight in Petra can actually help you save on the cost of entry.
Since I only went for the day, I learned quickly that admission to the Petra site for those in Jordan without an overnight stay was quite expensive. Just to enter the grounds on this basis, I had to pay JD60 (US$84). I found out that if you show proof of an overnight booking in Petra or Jordan, this entry fee gets almost halved (JD33). Also if you plan to stay a couple of days and tour the Petra site the incremental costs are minimal. For instance an overnight 2-day visitor pass to the site is JD38 (only an additional JD5).
The area also has a wide variety of accommodation from guest houses and hostels to 5-star hotels. If you select a cheaper option, which I’m told can be had for as little as JD20, you will essentially save money on your overall costs.
Another option to consider is staying in Bedouin tents which are all over Jordan. One of the most popular regions to do this near Petra is in the Wadi Rum area. Costs are as little as JD26 and include a spot in the tent, breakfast and dinner cooked by the Bedouins. Sleeping under the stars while saving money will complete your Jordanian experience that’s for sure.
As a backpacker, Jordan offers a lot of variety of accommodation and options. Petra is an incredible place to include on your itinerary while travelling the world. The biggest piece of advice I can offer is to allow a lot of time.
Petra is one of the most special places I’ve ever visited. By taking the right amount of time for your visit, you will save money and, more importantly, get lost in the Lost City!