A trip to Jordan: Visiting Petra for the first time

Petra is one of the 7 new wonders of the world. And it had been on my bucket list ever since I was a little girl. And it was more impressive than I could have ever imagined it. However, there is a lot to say about Petra, and that’s why I wrote some pieces of advice and information for visiting Petra for the first time. I tried to put together all the answers to the questions I also had before visiting. So here it is!

Jordan is a beautiful country and has many interesting and fantastic sites. Most places are what we call ancient and will impress you even if you are not into history.

Petra is definitely the most famous site in Jordan. Of course, there are so many other things to do and places to visit. That is why you need at least 1 week to get a taste of Jordan. And during that week, you will have to spend 2 days at Petra. That is my recommendation.

As I mentioned before, when writing about some essential travel tips about Jordan, if you plan to visit most of the tourist places, including Petra, then you have to get a Jordan Pass. It’s the most convenient option. And you don’t have to pay for the visa.

Please keep in mind the following BEFORE arriving at Petra. You will get less annoyed knowing this info. 

Buy the Jordan Pass to visit Petra

Make sure you buy and print your Jordan Pass before you arrive in Jordan. You will need to show it almost everywhere. They stamped it everywhere. But I guess it should work if you show it on your phone. I admit I saw people showing the Jordan Pass on their phones. But that wasn’t my case, so I don’t know if it works everywhere.

Read more on Essential information about the country of Jordan for first-time travellers!

Petra is an ancient city. Even today, archaeologists don’t know much about the civilization which built it. The purpose of some of the rock-carved temples is still unclear. It is a city of Bedouins, and the nomad population lives in those areas. They have been around for a long time; you will see them all around Jordan.

A first-time travellers' guide to Petra, Jordan

The best times to visit Petra

Petra is a large, ancient city. It involves walking a lot, climbing rocks (if you wish to explore that), and standing in the sun for countless hours.

May I mention that it gets crowded no matter what time of the year you decide to visit? Well, I can’t blame the crowds of tourists because Petra is one of the most Instagrammable places in Jordan. This is one of the seven wonders of the world!!!

Even so, I visited in mid-November, and it was bearable. During the day, it was 25 degrees, maybe more in the sunlight. The mornings and evenings were chilly.

Depending on the day, hotels can be fully booked, as there are many buses full of tourists. I recommend finding accommodation in advance. It is pricey no matter what, so just book it in advance and find something you like. 

TIP: Arrive as soon as it opens (6 am) or at least before 8 am. 

I recommend Sunset Hotel. I stayed there after an unfortunate event with Petra Nights Hotel and Oscar Hotel. I don’t recommend any of them either. Petra Nights Hotel overbooked and took us to Oscar, which was just the worst place you would book. Ever. Just don’t! 

Many others recommend going in March, as the temperatures are also good for exploring. In November it was perfect for me, just make sure you bring plenty of water and comfortable shoes. 

Explore Petra however you want, at your own pace. On the first day, you will just start to understand what this place is, and on the second day, you will explore more. It’s like trekking but easier. I climbed everywhere in my sandals. It is possible! 

How do you get to Petra?

The best way to visit Jordan is by car. Renting a car is a common thing, and many tourists rent cars straight from the airport (I did that, too). So it will be crowded at the counter! Book your car online before getting to Amman.

Read more on My 7-day Jordan road trip itinerary

Pay attention to the traffic. Most places aren’t so crowded, and you will do just fine. But the cities tend to be busier.

Amman is the crowdest city in Jordan, and for an inexperienced driver, it can feel a bit too stressful. I read on men’s blogs that they don’t recommend driving in Amman, but I don’t feel the same. I don’t recommend it to beginners, but otherwise, it is fine. The problem is the traffic and that it will take a long time to get anywhere in the city during peak hours. 

Outside Amman, there is nothing to worry about.

The roads are excellent, the signs are in English, and there are many speed bumps and police checkpoints to ensure nobody drives too fast.

The police stops cars randomly. Each time I slowed down, they saw we were tourists, and they told us to go, without checking anything. The police checked our passports only once, and we were stopped around ten times in 1 week. Usually, the police were friendly. 

A first-time travellers' guide to Petra, Jordan

The Bedouins of Petra

The ‘locals’ of Petra, the Bedouins, are making a good living, thanks to the massive number of tourists. This is how tourism is good for the people, helping the locals and the economy. I might add that some are making a nice and steady income. More than other Western tourists are making. That is why I ask you to pay attention and don’t fall for everything you are offered.

However, you should always take care of where you are and what you do. There are also small scams like overcharging for souvenirs, donkey rides and so on.

A first-time travellers' guide to Petra, Jordan

From the moment you pass the ticket checkpoint, you will be invited to get a horse ride. The men offering it say it is included in your ticket. Even if you choose to do the ride, in the end, you will be asked for a donation. Trust me, even if you try to hassle, you will not get a good deal. These people know their business better than any outsider ever will.

Like everything else around here, nothing is for free. If it’s too good to be true, probably it’s not. And whatever the case, don’t forget that nothing comes for free at Petra.

You will be asked countless times to buy souvenirs, to take a look at the shops, to make a donation for their families, to take a donkey/horse/camel/carriage ride. Please, please don’t encourage these practices.

As I read on other travel blogs, and I also saw it with my own eyes, most animals are treated badly. They are harsh with their animals. Some even have open wounds. I saw donkeys and camels afraid of their owners. I saw pain. I saw brutality.

As an animal lover, it was hard for me to witness this, and it made me sick. I wish people would pay more attention to these things and not just jump on the back of a tired donkey just because they are on holiday in the Middle East. I wish people would stop being so blind to cruelty.

A first-time travellers' guide to Petra, Jordan

What to wear and bring with you while visiting Petra

As I mentioned before, if it’s not July or August, it can be a bit chilly in the mornings. But nothing too bad. In November, I had 10 Celcius degrees at 6 am, but by 11 am, there were more than 20 °C degrees. So bring something light, that you can easily carry with you later when the heat strikes. 

Because it is sunny most of the time (and Jordan is a Muslim country, but tourists from Petra don’t really care), I recommend wearing some loose summer clothes. Cotton shirts, long sleeves to protect you from the sun, and medium to long pants, preferably cotton. There is a reason why Arab people wear what they wear, and it’s not just religion. 

Other items to bring with you: Plenty of water, sunscreen lotion, sunhat, sunglasses, comfortable shoes, and snacks. 

Nobody will search your backpack but don’t make it too heavy because it will be a long day. But because I don’t want to support using animals for carrying goods, I prefer to bring my own and not buy anything.  

A first-time travellers' guide to Petra, Jordan

And one last thing. Bring snacks for the kids and for the many dogs and cats. Bring small cups and bring water for the animals. Water is hard to find here, and we can all help a little. 

A guide to visiting Petra for the first time! #Petra #Jordan #roadtrip #MiddleEast #travel
Iulia Vasile

Iulia is a travel expert, blogger, engineer, freelance copywriter, and a curiosity-driven personality. She sees travel as the ultimate tool for self-improvement and personal growth, and that's the main topic of her blog, Juliasomething.com.

View stories