The minute I knew I was going to Jordan, I knew I had include the ancient lost city of Petra, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, in my itinerary. What followed was a lot of after-work, late-night Google-frenzy research trying to find information to make for a picture-perfect trip to Petra, Wadi Rum, Jerash, figuring out how to go from Amman to Petra, where to stay, whether to get a Jordan Pass and what to do after I’m done exploring Petra.
One of the many well-preserved ancient treasures in the Middle East, Petra is a site well-worth planning and visiting when you are in Jordan!
To make the most of your trip to this world famous ancient city of Petra was built in 3rd century BC, I’ve rounded up some practical advice and things to know about your first visit to Petra so you can have an awesome trip. I’ve rounded these up based on tips I learned from other travel blogs, speaking with people I met during my trip and my own experience. If you have tips to add, leave me a comment below!
Is Visiting Petra Worth it?
Petra is such a well-preserved site that exploring it for a day made you feel like you were walking through history. It is a photographer’s and historian’s dream and as Petra was once a massive ancient city, the “points of interest” inside Petra are very well-spread out meaning that you often have these spots to yourself (barring a few must-photograph spots).
With so much history and an often long trek to get here, you can expect crowds even during the low season. Visiting Petra was one of the highlights of my Jordan trip and my biggest regret was not spending more time here! Its allure as one of the world’s most treasured sites resulted in being voted as one of the New Seven Wonders of the World in 2007!
While it’s not necessary to hire a guide (many can be hired on-site inside or at the Petra Visitor Centre), it’s really worthwhile to do some reading about the Nabateans and their history to give you more context to the site. I’ve included a Petra map with the points of interest here that you can save and access offline on your visit!
Is Visiting Petra Safe?
As a solo female traveller I felt Jordan was a safe destination as long as you take the necessary precaution and stay “street smart” – what I mean by this is not accepting free rides/guides/tours etc which is a very common thing to see in Petra, and Wadi Rum.
To the surprise of no one, Petra is a remarkably spread out site and while most areas are busy/crowded with tourists, vendors hawking their wares, and for-hire tour guides milling about, there are areas that can be isolated, remote and secluded with very little foot traffic which can make anyone feel a little nervous or apprehensive. I got lost twice because of the very limited signage trying to reach the Monastery (hence why it really felt like you’re walking through history) so having a map on hand and/or some type of hiking app could be a very good idea.
A good tip is to try to follow where the crowd is going if you plan on doing some hiking of your own or hire a trusted tour guide to not only take you to those sites but also share the history of the different parts of Petra!
What to Know Before Visiting Petra – 10 Travel Tips for Your First Time
1. Plan to Arrive Early
If I can share one advice for your trip and if there’s only one thing you take away from this post, is that you should plan to go to Petra early! Petra is one of the most visited sights in the world (especially since it was featured prominently in Indiana Jones) and you are guaranteed tourists no matter what season you go. Arriving early has another benefit: you can do the majority of your exploration before it gets too hot.
Petra’s opening hours are as follows:
- 6am to 6pm during the summer (Jun – Sept)
- 6am to 4pm in the winter (Dec – Mar)
Fortunately, the whole Petra Archeological Park is open at 6AM meaning that if you are an early riser, you can have Petra all to yourself by arriving early. Most tourist buses arrive at 10AM, so even if you have to have that extra hour of sleep, making it at 7:30-8AM still allows you a fairly tourist-free experience!
2. Pack your own Lunch / Snacks and bring LOTS of water!
Petra has become a tourist site filled with overpriced restaurants everywhere. There are small restaurants found throughout the park/city but obviously overpriced and the restaurants outside of the national park aren’t that much better either.
Your best bet is to get your hotel/hostel to pack you a lunch (Costs I’ve seen are around JD3-5 for a sandwich, banana/apple, cheese cubes, and some crackers). This is still a much better deal than what you’ll find inside Petra. Alternatively, you can do what I did – pick up a few essentials at the grocery store and pack it in your bag before you’re off on your adventure!
The biggest danger of hiking and exploring Petra is dehydration given how spread out the ancient city of Petra is and how much trekking / walking you’ll have to do – so pack more water than you think you need! There’s port-a-potty throughout the site and garbage cans so do your part in keeping Petra clean.
3. Allocate At Least 2 days for Petra
Petra is one of those places that the longer you stay, the cheaper it is. The folks responsible for Jordan tourism are very smart people – knowing their country borders some of the world’s most active conflict zones, they realize tourists will likely come only once. So to incentivize them to spend more and stay longer, they set up visa rules and Petra entry fees that get cheaper the longer you stay.
For example, at Petra, if you’re doing it as a day trip (arriving and departing on the same day), the entry cost is JD90 (C$180). If you visit for two days (and stay over for one night), the price goes down significantly – JD50 ($100). You get the gist.
Plus, if you plan to do the hike to the Monastery or High Place of Sacrifice, you’ll want a bit of a break in between! I opted to visit the Treasury and Monastery in one day so it was a bit of an exercise – way too exhausting and made me feel like I missed out on other areas of interest. I felt that one day was not enough to see all the beautiful sites in Petra but that was all the time I had in my itinerary.
4. Avoid the Horse/Donkey/Camel Rides
The people that runs these business will tell you the rides are included in your ticket. That’s true. But, once you get on the horse/donkey/camel/carriage, they will ask you for a ridiculous amount of tip, something like JD20-30/person (C$40-60) is quite normal.
It may not be obvious, but the fact is that these animals are treated cruelly and their conditions are very appalling. I’ll spare you the details, but if you look up animal abuse in Petra online, you’ll see what I mean. Challenge yourself, and hike the whole way up. You’ll feel so much better that way!
5. Protect Yourself from the Element
Whatever you can do to protect your head and skin from the sun because the elements can be incredibly unforgiving. It may be Jordanian “winter” but you are still in a part of the world where everything is very dry and very, very hot. The sun was blazing when I visited in October (Fall season) and there wasn’t a lot of places to seek shade. By the same token, be sure to bring a pair of sunglasses, sweater (in case it gets chilly as some parts of the hike is hidden between the rock formations)
6. Skip the Restaurant by the Monastery – Go for the Best View in Petra instead
If you make it all the way to the Monastery, you’ll see signs that will point you to the “Best View in Petra” or something similar (see signs below). I think you should enjoy yourselves here instead – the view is not crowded, definitely very unique and the money goes towards the Bedouins running the show!
7. Getting to Petra by Public Transit is Surprisingly Easy
I will admit that getting to Petra via public transit was far more challenging than expected. I am used to well-connected train, and bus systems, even if they are a tad bit uncomfortable and takes longer. Jordan tested my patience and stretched my resources to the limit, even if I wasn’t trying my hardest to be taking the least expensive transportation mode possible.
I found travelling to Petra, either from Amman or Wadi Rum, is going to be fairly expensive no matter what, so I highly suggest having a travel companion to shave the cost down a bit. Head over to the post I’ve put together about my experience taking the public transit options to travel to Petra from Amman and Wadi Rum to get a sense how to DIY your own trip.
Furthermore, travelling between Wadi Rum and Petra are easily doable using the tourist bus from Petra to Wadi Rum running daily departing at 6-6:30am. For more information about this bus, head over to this Amman to Petra or Tel Aviv to Petra post where I break down transportation options around Petra and nearby destinations.
8. Bring a Camera, and backup batteries/memory card
I don’t know about you, but to me, visiting Petra almost felt like a once-in-a-lifetime experience, mostly because the site itself is so old and fortunate to not have too much damage from human interaction until recently. However, the force of nature and increased tourism these days mean the architecture is declining faster than before. You’ll want to get some memorable snaps before all the cranes and construction takes over the site.
9. Plan to go during the Low Season/Winter Season
Petra is a unique architecture and it doesn’t seem like the interest in this incredible site will abate soon. You’ll want to plan your trip during the spring or fall season for two practical reasons: 1) the temperature is more forgiving and 2) there are fewer people and tourists around.
10. A Tour Guide is recommended but Beware of the “Jack Sparrows” of Petra
Petra is one of those places that I think feels a lot richer when you understand the context, scale and scope of its history. The best way to experience this is through a guide who can walk you through the significance of some areas and add value to your overall experience. I think a guide is worthwhile but I would caution against it if you are a solo female traveler unless you feel comfortable.
There are Bedouin tour guides throughout Jordan (Wadi Rum included) whose intentions for female travellers may not be honest or good. I personally have experienced it in Wadi Rum and felt very uncomfortable that I was ready to leave almost right away. If you are travelling as a pair or at least with one other companion, then I feel more comfortable in recommending it; otherwise, just be aware that this is a common problem for female travellers in Jordan.
What to Wear when Visiting Petra
Although there is no official dress code, Jordan is a traditionally Muslim country which means wearing something modest for both women and men (i.e. cover the shoulders/knees). I recommend bringing a light sweater or a scarf that can double as a headdress if you plan to visit in the morning as the site can get quite chilly and the different altitudes mean you’re exposed to different temperatures during the day.
Light cotton/linen clothing are best to keep yourself cool during the day as you explore the city. Hats/sunglasses and proper hiking shoes are highly recommended.
Where to Stay When Visiting Petra
Budget // Wadi Musa
Perfect for an authentic experience of sleeping in goat-hair tents like the Bedouins; camp is located 15 mins away from Petra.Book Here
Comfort // Wadi Musa
Located steps away from the Petra Visitor Centre, this is one of the best hotels with a fantastic location and views overlooking the Wadi Musa mountains.Book Here
Comfort // Wadi Musa
Another newly built hotel located near the entrance of the Petra archeological site (200m from the Visitor’s Centre); excellent value for the location.
Essential Reading for Visiting Petra in Jordan
- Cash is king – be sure to bring extra dinars and USD/Euros just in case you need to exchange them. ATMs are not very common but black market exchange houses are readily available
- Enjoy the Bedouin tea, especially the unsweetened version!
- Jordan’s Tourism Board website is a fantastic resource to plan your trip – it outlines the entry requirements to enter Jordan, border hours, and embassies for various countries
- Consider getting a Jordan Pass if you plan to stay in Jordan for longer than 4 days/3 nights; here is my review of the Jordan Pass
- Here’s everything you need to know to go from Tel Aviv to Petra including tips on border crossing and costs
- Here is a sample itinerary I did of my 6-day trip throughout Israel and Jordan
- Discover more of my travels in Jordan and Israel
Where to Next
- Make time to visit Jerash, home of the best and most well-preserved Roman ruins outside of Rome
- Here are the 11 must-see sites inside Petra that you can’t miss!
- Visiting Petra from Israel? Here’s a thorough guide on how to cross one of the 3 land borders from Israel!
- Visiting Petra from Amman and other sites in Jordan? Try the public transit or the JETT bus – economical and fun!
- Visiting Jordan was not cheap and here’s a trip budget report to show you how much a 4-day trip cost!