…and some tips and/or reminders when traveling during the pandemic, based on our experience. 😊 I hope they are useful (and still relevant!).
If you know me personally, you know how much I love traveling and how much travels my husband and I did pre-pandemic. Putting it shortly, we used to travel a lot and we tend to have at least one major travel (i.e., 3-week travel) every year.
Since the pandemic started, we didn’t do any international travels nor actively make an effort to plan for one – the last international travel we had was a long weekend trip to Seville towards the end of February 2020, mainly for the marathon. With the uncertainty brought about by the pandemic, it felt (still feels) very challenging to plan for trips abroad, especially when travel restrictions can change at very short notice. Not even managed to go back to the Philippines because quarantine alone will eat up most of my leave! Anyway, we have also been very anxious and careful to not catch the virus (a sensible move I guess. :p) therefore we have restricted ourselves.
As I said, we haven’t been planning on international trips, until last October. Following a stressful September for me, I thought I’d want to go somewhere outside of the UK and so I started checking skyscanner.net after avoiding this site for so long! To be honest, I had been feeling exhausted and I thought I needed a proper holiday, just like the pre-pandemic times! At the time of checking Skyscanner, traveling to Jordan seemed to be the most appealing and most feasible. We have always wanted to visit Petra anyway, and we thought this is the perfect time to go. And so, we booked our flights for a trip to Jordan in December!
- Get back into international traveling again
- Visit Petra – one of the New7Wonders of the World
- Take some time off work (very important)
- Check travel restrictions and book flights and accommodations
- Check visa requirements
- Research on tours (organised or DIY?)
- Pack (light!), travel and enjoy the holiday!
Travel dates: 11Dec – 19Dec 2021
Airline: Ryanair, but booked via kiwi.com (found a cheap flight through skyscanner.net)
a. Pre-departure Stuff
I did a little research before booking the flight to make sure we allot sufficient days in Jordan to make the most of the trip. These days, we have to plan our travels more carefully and diligently considering the additional steps we have to take for international travels (e.g., getting PCR tests which can be a bit costly, filling out travel locator forms, making sure we do not lose holiday time quarantining, etc). After some reading, we decided that we will spend at least 8 days in Jordan – booking our flights such that we arrive in Amman (North) and exit from Aqaba (South), visiting the key tourist spots in Jordan!
I found this post quite useful in coming up with our itinerary: https://girleatworld.net/jordan-itinerary/
Despite all the planning, there were still a lot of uncertainties that we got worried about nearing our flight date. Towards the end of November, a new variant emerged (Omicron) that was causing some sudden changes in travel restrictions! Thankfully, for us, the only change that impacted our trip was the additional testing that we had to take when coming back to the UK, i.e., effective 7Dec, those traveling into the UK will have to take a PCR test or lateral flow test 48hours before the flight. Apart from this, none of the recent travel restrictions impacted us.
Actually, on the day before our flight, the tour agent in Jordan messaged us informing us that there are some recent changes in Jordan’s travel rules effective 12Dec whereby any person arriving in Jordan will have to take a PCR test within 2 days of arrival. Since we are due to fly and arrive on the 11th, we have (thankfully) not been impacted by this change. We had our PCR test anyway in the UK within 48hours before our flight, which is already an existing requirement.
- Fill out the online travel locator form for Jordan – link here.
- Purchase Jordan Pass which covers the fees for most sites in Jordan. Also, when you have the Jordan pass, you don’t need to pay for the Visa. We got our visa upon arrival in the Amman Airport. Link here for the Jordan Pass purchase.
- Get a PCR test within 72 hours before boarding the flight to Jordan. We used DAM Health in Reading – link here.
Below is a summary of itinerary during our trip:
|1||Umm Qais, Ajloun and Jerash||Amman||Hotel-arranged|
|2||Mt. Nebo, Madaba, and Dead Sea||Amman||Hotel-arranged|
|3||Roman Theater + The Odeon, Temple of Hercules, Amman Citadel||Amman||DIY|
|4||Dana Biosphere Reserve and Little Petra||Petra||Jordan Horizons Tour|
|5||Petra Archaeological Park||Petra||Jordan Horizons Tour|
|6||Wadi Rum||Aqaba||Jordan Horizons Tour|
We arrived on the evening of 11Dec and was met by our driver in the airport – we had pre-arranged our pick-up with our hotel, which at that time, is the most reasonable option. This cost us 25 JOD.
DAYS 1 to 3 – AMMAN
We had tried and looked for options for our mini trips when in Amman: a) DIY – taking public transport; b) renting a car with a driver; or c) renting a car and driving it ourselves. After further considerations, for us, we decided that our planned day trips from Amman are better done via option b) i.e., rent car with a driver. Reasons being i) we couldn’t find any reliable public transport option and from our reading, most of the public transport (e.g., buses to Jerash, Umm Qais, etc.) don’t have fixed timetables and only leave when they are full; and ii) driving in a foreign / unfamiliar place is kind of stressful!
- Accommodation in Amman: Gallery Guest House
- Places to Eat – I recommend these as the food we had were great and at very cheap prices (we were probably averaging at 5-6 JoD total per dinner)!
- Shahrazad Restaurant – tried their Ara’yes, Kofta, and Mixed Grill, as recommended by Thair (our host in Gallery Guest House), who was very accommodating and friendly
- Albasha Shawerma – for the shawarma of course! Can’t remember if this is the exact place but I remember it being very close to and on the same street as Shahrazad Restaurant
DAY 1 – Umm Qais, Ajloun, and Jerash Full Day Tour
Cost: 75 JoD for a car with a driver
We started early (8:30am) for this day tour as doing all the three points of interest will take quite a while – Umm Qais, the farthest of the three, is roughly a 2-hour drive from our hotel. We started off with a hefty breakfast in the hotel, enough food that we lasted the day and only had our next meal at around 4pm!
It’s wintertime in Jordan but the temperature was at least 15°C, and the day started very sunny. Felt like a UK summer’s day to be honest, with the right kind of breeze. When we arrived in Umm Qais, we thought it looked so still – are there no other tourists around? We kind of know December’s off season, but we didn’t realise how quiet it could get!
Later on as we continued exploring, we spotted around 4-6 other fellow tourists. Not that the peace and quiet bothered me, I was just not used to being in a tourist spot with very few people. I guess it worked for our benefit: (a) no crowding that is going to heighten the risk of getting COVID, and (b) no one else is in our photos! :D I shouldn’t be complaining really.
My initial impression when we arrived in Umm Qais was ‘Is this it?’ without realising that there was more as we walked the entirety of the place! Roman ruins everywhere!
After maybe an hour and a half of wandering around, and taking-lots-of-photos-that-my-tripod-toppled-over-with-my-phone-face-down-straight-into-the-rocky-ground-which-cracked-my-screen(protector), we decided to move on to our next stop – Ajloun Castle.
It was just after midday and the skies were turning a bit dull, it was atmospheric. I thought it was fine as our next stop is a castle anyway, and I suppose the interior is more interesting?
Similar to Umm Qais, we have not seen a lot of tourists around.
Ajloun reminded me a bit of Warwick, which we visited last Summer – I thought, very British. Or I could be just imagining haha! We roamed around, took some photos and after an hour, we proceeded to our last stop. Jerash!
We were reading our guidebook whilst on car, in addition to the little research prior to our trip. Jerash is considered one of the largest and most well-preserved sites of Roman architecture in the world outside Italy. And is sometimes misleadingly referred to as the “Pompeii of the Middle East” or of Asia, referring to its size, extent of excavation and level of preservation.
It was already around 2pm when we arrived in Jerash, and the skies were still grey. As Jerash is probably the best of the 3 locations for the day, we were really hoping for a blue sky and some sunshine.
Thankfully, we had a bit of a clearing and had a nice sky including during sunset! Jerash is quite big, and we managed to get around most of the area for 1.5 hours! We ended our day with a buffet (late lunch) in Jerash (cost us 5 JOD each). It was worth it!
DAY 2 – Mount Nebo, Madaba, and Dead Sea Day Tour
Cost: 50 JoD for a car with a driver
Second day felt easier than the first day. We started at 9am after our breakfast and went straight to Mount Nebo. I knew there wasn’t any hiking involved despite the destination being a ‘Mount’, so I was just wearing sandals rather than trainers. I thought it’s also apt as we are going to be ‘swimming’ (or shall I say ‘floating’) in the Dead Sea later that day.
We didn’t stay long in Mount Nebo; after wandering around the area, we then headed to Madaba, stopped over at a mosaic shop, but we didn’t buy anything. We then moved on and visited St. George’s Orthodox Church (1 JoD entrance fee).
After a few minutes, we decided to carry on and go to our next stop – Dead Sea! On our way, we were a bit surprised when our driver asked us where specifically we wanted to go for a swim (‘float’ rather). We immediately said Amman Beach as that’s the place we know that is publicly available, we thought the answer should be obvious. We didn’t realise (at least we have not read) that the beach is closed for public due to the pandemic! However, there are a number of private resorts that we can book, and our driver happily assisted us to make the reservation. Our driver made a call and reservation with Oh Beach Hotel and Resort; booked for our entrance with buffet lunch @ 25 JoD each (it would have cost 30 JoD if we have not made a reservation).
The Oh Beach Hotel and Resort is massive, but then again felt so empty and quiet; I thought we were the only ones in the Resort! But later on we saw a few other people, potentially only there for a day trip same as us.
It was midday when we arrived – Phil and I decided to go for a ‘float’ before taking our lunch.
Prior to our trip, I was already closely monitoring the weather – whilst it appeared to be dry, I was a bit worried that we will have a very cloudy or gloomy day, especially on the day that we were planning to visit the Dead Sea. Thankfully, the weather wasn’t as bad – it got sunnier later when we went back to the shore to after our lunch at around 2pm.
I did want to try the mud mask (it cost 3 JOD per person), so I gave it a go and tadah! :D
After about 10 minutes with this mud mask, I then washed off the mud in the lake. Phil pointed out that I still got mud on my forehead so I tried washing it off and then accidentally running the saltwater down from my forehead into my eyes! God, it stings, I thought I’d go blind! :p So I hurriedly got out of the water and washed my face off with fresh water and that’s it, I don’t want to float anymore.
It was 3pm anyway, and we agreed with the driver that we will start cleaning up and leave the resort at around 3-ish. And then off we went back to the hotel and called it a day.
DAY 3 – Roman Theater + The Odeon, Temple of Hercules, Amman Citadel
Cost: None, covered by Jordan Pass
Day 3 was the sunniest we had when we were in Amman. After the previous two days of activities, we thought to have a more relaxing day on Day 3, exploring around Amman by foot. Our hotel is conveniently located, with the following tourist spots at walking distance: Roman Theater, Temple of Hercules, and Amman Citadel.
We first walked into the Odeon (see below), which is a 500-seat theater standing next to the bigger Roman Theater.
Below is the Roman Theater, a 6000-seat 2nd century Roman Theatre. We climbed the steps until the topmost level and from we were standing, we can see the Temple of Hercules above the hills.
Afterwards, we made our way up to the Temple of Hercules, taking a challenging route, i.e., we decided to take a shortcut that we ended up taking a path that led into a private property and then having to climb up using a makeshift step ladder! We made it to the top anyway. :)
There is a café near the Temple of Hercules where we decided to have a quick break and use their wifi. It was quite a hot day and we thought to have some cold drinks before we carried on wandering around, exploring more of the Amman Citadel.
We’ve seen several other tourists around, probably more than the previous 2 days. So, there were some moments that we had to wait for others to be done with their picture-taking, before Phil and I can have a people-less background in our photos.
Our day was a lazy one, admiring the lovely view over the city of Amman and enjoying our last day in the city before we carry on with our next leg of the adventure!
Overall, we had a great stay in Amman and I think the 3-day stay is just about right!
DAYS 4 to 6 – DANA, PETRA, WADI RUM
We had pre-booked our tours for the 2nd leg of our Jordan Adventure with Jordan Horizons Tour Company (JHT), after weighing some options. We thought JHT provided the best rate and inclusions, as well as enough flexibility to allow us to start and end our tour on different locations, i.e., start in Amman and end in Aqaba.
Cost: 356 JoD for 2 people (US$502 for 2)
- Accommodation in Petra (not included in our tour package although there is an option for JHT to include the accommodation in the quotation): Venus Hotel
- Places to Eat: (Venus hotel I believe serves dinner as well, you might just need to inquire how to reserve.)
- Al-Mehbash Restaurant – We tried their chicken dishes (Turkish Chicken and I think the other dish was Shish Tawuq) as well as falafel. All were good and reasonably priced (albeit more expensive than what we got used to in Amman)!
- Petra Night Restaurant – We tried their Mansaf and Musakhan Chicken; both were very good. But I found this restaurant a bit pricey, but I guess still ok because of its location.
DAY 4 – Dana Biospere Reserve and Little Petra
This place is probably not in the usual itinerary when visiting Jordan but when I read this blog, I was really keen to go on a hike and visit this place. Given that Dana is somewhere between Amman and Petra, we thought to make a stop and spend some time in Dana for a bit of a hiking adventure on our way to Petra! Prior to the hike, we did some research about various walking trails whereby we can do it by ourselves and not needing a tour guide, and we came across a number of options. The best one that fits with the amount of time we had and our arrangement with our driver is to do the Wadi Dana Trail. We did not do the full 16km end-to-end trail (Wadi Dana Village to Feynan Ecolodge); rather what we did was walk part of the trail down and after an hour and a half, walk back up to the village.
The place looked really awesome – it looked like some of those canyons in the US national parks, although I’ve only seen them in photos.
The walk back to the village was tiring due to some steep parts of the trail. This is why when doing the full Wadi Dana trail, the starting point is to descend from the Dana Village. But anyway, it was all worth it, the views were stunning!
After this hike, we decided to move on and drive to our hotel in Petra. Whilst on the drive, our main driver suggested visiting Little Petra, which is less 20mins from our hotel. It wasn’t initially in our plan but because we had some time (and it only cost an additional 25JoD), we thought why not?!
It was almost 3pm when we arrived in our hotel in Petra – we just quickly checked in and off we went to visit Little Petra. We didn’t ask for a tour guide, so Phil and I just freely roamed around, exploring the area, and climbing boulders in the hope of catching the sunset.
Phil wasn’t in a great mood for the most part because I made him angry when I threw a bit of a tantrum over a photo that was not as I expected, i.e., didn’t have sky in the background. :p Below are photos of expectation vs. reality. 😊
I guess we had different perspectives! 😂 Ok, maybe I was a bit OA with my reaction, so I felt really bad for misbehaving. This wasn’t the only time that I pissed Phil off over a photo – happened again the following day in Petra.
Anyway, we only stayed until around 4:30pm in Little Petra and we drove back to the hotel, slowing down along the way to capture the sunset. It was a good way to end the day – although someone was still very unhappy with me. :/
DAY 5 – Petra Archaeological Park
The Rose Red City and one of the New7Wonders of the World. I mentioned earlier that we have been wanting to visit Petra; apart from wanting to tick the list, we thought it’s a lovely place to explore based on the photos we’ve seen before.
You know what, it didn’t disappoint!
We started off very early at 7am, our tour guide in Petra (part of our tour package with JHT) met us in our hotel lobby. Our hotel is conveniently located, probably 2-3 minutes away from the main entrance to Petra, by foot. So, it was easy to get to. After checking our Jordan Pass (and passport) at the gate, we were then ready to do some exploring.
As we were so early, there weren’t a lot of people going into Petra – there was no crowding and it’s easy to take some photos (I mean lots of photos)! Our tour guide basically explained the history of Petra, etc. as we were walking into the Siq (main entrance) until we reached the most iconic rock-cut façade, the Treasury or Al Khazna! The views and rock formations going that we saw as we made our way to the Treasure were really amazing.
We stayed by the café in front of the Treasury probably until 9am, admiring the colour of the façade as the sun made its way up, casting light towards the façade. And then we continued exploring the other parts of the park – that’s when we realised how massive the area is!
Our tour guide was with us only until about 10am, leaving us as we made our way up to the Monastery, or Ad Deir. This Monastery is another iconic monument and the largest in Petra and can be reached by ascending a nearly 800 step path (around 40 minutes walking time) from the Basin.
After reaching the Monastery and admiring its magnificence, we proceeded to and climbed up one of the viewing points nearby, where we had a view of the stunning valleys of Wadi Araba and the gorges along with the semi-arid territory immediately around Petra.
We roamed around the park for quite a while as there was a lot to see! I can understand why it’s one of the New 7 Wonders of the World – there’s more to it that the iconic façade of the Treasury that we often see in most travel books!
The place is so awesome, and I hope the photos I posted here (out of the many I took) justify my statement! :D
It was almost 3pm when we exited the site and on our exit, we went to the reception to buy tickets for ‘Petra by Night’, which cost around 17 JoD per person. We went back to the hotel and rest for a bit before going out again for dinner.
After dinner at around 8pm, we went back to the gate to queue for the ‘Petra by Night’ show. There was reasonably a number of people who were also queuing with us – I could only imagine the crowd if it wasn’t off season and if there isn’t a pandemic, maybe it would have been manic!
Everyone gathered in front of the Treasury, where some musical (instrumental) performances were showcased from around 9-10pm. The area was quite filled up with a lot of tourists and it was a great night – everyone sitting in front of the Treasury, admiring the show whilst drinking the complimentary tea, and taking photos of the façade with the many lit candles in front of it (the Treasury).
We felt it (the Petra by Night show) was a good way to end the night in Petra. 🧡
DAY 6 – Wadi Rum
Valley of the Moon, also, Mars on Earth! I was quite excited about this place, next to Petra. I knew of some friends who have previously visited the place and they loved it more than Petra. So, I was kind of keeping my hopes high.
We checked out of our hotel in Petra, then waited for our driver who arrived at around 9am. After Wadi Rum, we will spend the night in Aqaba, our last stop in Jordan, so we carried all our stuff into the car. Our driver drove us to the starting point for the Wadi Rum desert tour, where we were met by another driver of a 4×4 jeep, the vehicle that we used for the tour around Wadi Rum.
We stopped by several interesting sights within Wadi Rum – like the Petra Archaeological Park, the dessert is massive and looked equally stunning. To us, it almost felt like Ha Long Bay in Vietnam, featuring thousands of rock formations in various shapes and sizes. Except that these rock formations are sticking out from beneath the desert land rather from under the sea!
We spent around 4-5hours in the desert, including having lunch in one of the camp sites within the desert. Our driver gave us some options of extending our stay in Wadi Rum, i.e., book for another jeep tour for the sunset, and have dinner in the desert while stargazing. It sounded very tempting and I am pretty sure stargazing would be fantastic in the desert. But we thought it’s best that we just proceed to Aqaba as planned.
I was initially wondering why I hadn’t considered booking an accommodation in Wadi Rum for that night but then I realised we had opted to stay in Aqaba (at least 2 nights) to make sure that we are in the city to allow us sufficient time to book for / get a PCR test before our flight.
So, by around 4pm, we were in our hotel in Aqaba. Our driver assisted us in making the booking for the PCR test in Aqaba, which was very helpful!
DAYS 7 and 8 – AQABA
We planned to take our exit flight from this city because it’s very close to Wadi Rum. As we had been out and about in the last 6days, we thought we will just chill and have a lazy time in Aqaba. Therefore, we didn’t have any specific itinerary or plans in Aqaba.
- Accommodation in Petra: Lacosta Hotel
- Places to Eat:
- Khubza & Seneya – a few steps from our hotel, so we had our dinner on both nights here. We tried their chicken dishes (Chicken Lemon and Garlic, Chicken with Vegetables) and Meet with Hummus (I forgot the name). These were all good choices and highly recommended!
- Joy House – café where we stopped for coffee and milkshake
- Brizo Coffee House – café where we stopped for coffee and milkshake
DAY 7 – Ghandour Beach, Aqaba Fortress, and Aqaba Revolt Flagpole
We started our day by getting a PCR test at around 9am in the lobby of the hotel. I was a bit skeptic as the person who administered the test didn’t even introduce himself to us and did not state which hospital or laboratory he is working with. But anyway, we got our test results later that day, after 5-6hours, and the test result (which by the way showed negative for COVID) showed that the test is done by Marka Specialty Hospital. It was accepted in the airport so I guess this was a reliable laboratory.
Our hotel did offer some options for going to a private beach resort (Berenice Beach Club), which had a fixed timetable. I would have wanted to go but Phil wasn’t too keen. So, we ended up just walking along the public beach (Al-Ghandour Beach), stopping by at some points of interest like the Aqaba Fortress and Arab Revolt Flagpole.
Afterwards, we spent some chill time in a cafe called Joy House, admiring an ongoing air show. We were wondering whether there’s some special event going on as we also noted there were quite a number of people, who looked like VIPs, when we were by the Arab Revolt Flagpole. And we have seen the Arab Revolt flag being taken down. Anyway, I can’t find an answer.
Later that day, we went back to Al-Ghandour Beach for the sunset. It was a good way to end our relaxing day in Aqaba.
DAY 8 – Ghandour Beach, Random ‘Malls’ and Ancient Islamic City of Ayla
Another lazy day in Aqaba – we were quite tempted to use the hotel’s gym to make the most of our stay! :p After our late-ish breakfast, we packed up our stuff to be ready for check out. Our flight is not until 8:30pm, so we still had a full day to spend in Aqaba. Upon check out, we left our luggage and backpacks at the reception. We then went out looking for a shopping mall, walking for more than 30minutes, but all we found are some food grocery shops. 😊 So we decided to head back to the hotel for a bit. Went out again to explore the Movenpick Hotel area and visiting the Ancient Islamic City of Ayla.
Then we took another break in a nearby café (Brizo Café), getting some milkshake. After which we decided to have our last walk by the beach before we head back to the same restaurant as the night before (Khubza & Seneya) for our early dinner.
The hotel receptionist assisted us in booking for a taxi to the airport, which we scheduled for a 6pm pick up. Usual taxi rate to the airport is around 13 JoD, but because I managed to befriend the receptionist (a fellow Filipino), she arranged for a discounted fare for us (we were only charged 10 JoD). I guess a good end to our Jordan trip! Hahaha.
Was the trip worth all the hassle and stress, specially with all the COVID restrictions and PCR testing that we had to go through? My answer is a very big YES. Overall, we had enjoyed our time in Jordan – the stunning points of interest, the food, the friendly people, and the fact that it was off season and therefore not busy / crowded. I agree that Petra deserves to be part of the New7Wonders of the World; it really is a wonder, can you not tell from the photos above?!
International traveling in time of pandemic? I guess with the ever changing COVID restrictions and the numerous PCR / lateral flow tests (which is necessary but can be very costly and sometimes worrisome) involved, international traveling is more worth for longer trips (at least a weeklong trip). These days, it’s too costly and unreasonable to do long weekend or short-trips internationally. And we are quite limited as to destinations because some countries require quarantining on arrival (like my country). I guess, I’d take any chance I could get to be able to travel again, of course COVID restrictions permitting.
For now, we can only continue to stay safe and hope that at some point, the world will heal and we can explore more freely again. ♥️