Two years after Petra was voted among the New 7 Wonders of the World, my friend and I booked our one week trip to Jordan from a reputable travels and tours agency in the UAE. It was the last week in November 2009 when the weather was pleasantly cooler. The driver who fetched us at Queen Alia International Airport in Amman was a seasoned tour guide who spoke fluent English, and two other European languages. About 6 feet tall, extremely fit, and muscular ex-military man, we felt so protected wherever he took us! And he took great care of us during our entire holiday. His presence was a BIG PLUS, which led me to writing these very important tips.
DO Get a Guide: After our driver cum tour guide purchased our entrance tickets to the Siq, Treasury, City, and Monastery in Petra, he hired a licensed English speaking walking tour guide at the Petra Visitor Center to accompany us on our journey down the slopes. This guide informed us about the different stone carvings that we saw, the history, and purpose of each carving, which made us appreciate the journey even more. He offered to take photos of my friend and me as well.
DO Hike Early in the Morning: Although the weather is cooler in Autumn, you can easily get sunburned if you hike around noon time. Not only that, you’ll get easily dehydrated while hiking. Keep yourself hydrated by constantly drinking water. The lights are also perfect at this time for taking photos, so be sure you have extra batteries for your camera.
DO Wear a Proper Hiking Gear: The path from Petra Visitor Center to the Treasury via Siq is a combination of a sandy and pebble covered winding dirt road. Expect to trek your way on foot along the sometimes narrow 2.1 km canyon for about 30-45 minutes while enjoying the sight of colorful sandstone patterns adorning the rock walls that serve as sunshades.
DO Consider Taking a Ride: I only suggest this if you are physically-challenged to hike. There are four segments involved in visiting Petra, and three types of rides. (1) Visitor Center to Siq entrance – 5 minutes Pony ride – free+JOD5 or USD7 tip, (2) Siq entrance to the Treasury – 15 minutes Cart ride – JOD15 or USD21, (3) Treasury to the stairs of the Monastery – Donkey or Camel ride – JOD15, (4) Climb to 800 stairs of the Monastery – Donkey ride – JOD15. Agree on price first before taking the ride. If you are reasonably fit, just take a hike, you will enjoy it more.
DO Carry cash in JOD currency: Payment by debit/credit cards is only accepted in duty-free, hotels, and large shopping malls.
DON’T Get Duped: The pony ride from the Visitor Center to the Siq entrance is included in your entrance fee. However, you are expected to tip the pony’s owner. A JOD5 (about USD7) should be enough. Don’t pay more and don’t believe them if they tell you that you need to pay for the ride as well. If they insist, just say the Arabic word “bas”, meaning “that’s enough” in English language. If they hear you speak a bit of Arabic, that means you are not a novice, so they will leave you alone in peace.
DON’T Lose Your Temper: Stay cool when surrounded by young peddlers. Mostly ten-year old kids and above eager to sell their postcards and other stuff. Politely say no if you’re not interested in buying, and if they insist just walk away and ignore them. Don’t ever yell, or say angry words. This may result in them accusing you of harassment – a battle you will not win. So stay out of trouble.
DON’T Overexplore: It is so easy to get tricked by random people posing as tour guides once you get passed the Siq and the Treasury. Remember, the licensed guides should be hired from the Visitor Center not outside of it. I am saying this because it happened to my friends who visited Petra four years after I did.
DON’T Overstay: There are no lamp posts along the dirt road leading to the Siq, Treasury, City and Monastery. Morning tour guides in Petra will leave you on your own after lunch time. Needless to say, you should be out of these places before sundown. My friends who got duped by a fake guide to stay longer had to trek the pitch dark path to get back to their hotel. The scary journey took them about an hour instead of 30 minutes.
DON’T Leave Your Passport: There are military checkpoints everywhere. You need to carry your passport at all times. The checkpoints are for security reasons, don’t get alarmed.
Having said all these, I guarantee you will love Petra and all of Jordan if you book your trip and activities with a reputable travels and tours agency who will provide you with a dedicated driver cum tour guide while you are in the country.