10 Things I Wish I Knew Before Going to Petra:
There is a lot of information on the interwebs about Petra, Jordan but from my perspective who, as a traveller ranges between over-prepared (check out these quick dry undies) to not at all prepared (I don’t remember the name of my hotel, have the address, or have access to the internet); here is a list of things I wish I knew about Petra before going to Petra. You can check out my complete post on Jordan )Amman, Petra, and the Dead Sea for a complete account of my trip.
- The Accommodation Situation
I stayed at 7 Wonders Bedouin Camp,which was its own wonderful experience and they offered pick up and drop off for a reasonable fee, but it was far outside of town and felt a little isolating for a solo traveller. The other guests were either couples or families and were not the most sociable. I would have preferred to stay in town. For the 2ndnight I stayed in the town of Wadi Musa. It was a bit far from Petra and as such I had to take a taxi back to the hotel. There are a number of budget hotels within walking distance of Petra that are good quality. Some friends stayed at Sharah Mountain Hoteland were very pleased with their choice for price, quality and convenience.
The dinar exchange is high,like the euro, and taxis are expensive. You can rent a car as it is easy to drive around Jordan. I took a mini bus from Amman because I was too late to take the coach bus there. Around Wadi Musa they will charge you more for taxis than getting around Amman hence, staying within walking distance. Petra entry fee is 50 JD for 1 day but only 55 JD for 2, I felt it was totally worth it but I know a lot of people who complained about the fee.
- Trouble in Paradise
The hotels in Jordan are generally very strict about unmarried couples staying together in the same room. If you do not have a marriage license, they will give you trouble. Although a friend told me that online bookings were easier to manage than walk-ins and usually larger chain hotels are less strict than smaller, independently owned lodging.
- The Season Matters
Obviously it’s important to check the climate before travelling but with Petra, the sheer size of it and the climbing up of hundreds of steps, makes it important to check the seasonal temperatures. Whether or not you can handle the heat of August or need the cooler temperatures of Autumn is a major consideration. I went in October and it was perfect, but a friend went in August and ended up with heat exhaustion by the end of the day.
There are a few little cafes throughout Petra where you can get some small bites to eat and restock up on water but if you don’t want to waste time stopping for food, bring snacks that are easy to carry and will give you energy to power up to the Monastery and back to the entrance at the end of a long, sweaty, dusty day. Once I reached the monastery I was more than happy to sit down for a fresh lemon mint juice and relax but I definitely could have used a granola bar or two along the way.
- Bathroom Breaks
There are not many bathrooms around Petra so take the chance when you get it. The reality though, is that it is so dry there that I barely ever had to go, even though I drank at least 4 litres of water throughout the day…where did it go?!
Petra is huge and there is a lot of climbing which can be very difficult for anyone with physical impairments or low level of fitness. There are horses, camels, and mules you can rent from the Bedouins but the animals are generally not well cared for; unless you really need help, try to practice climbing stairs and get your cardio up to par before going. Your sense of accomplishment will be greater and you’ll have the added benefit of ending the day with exercise endorphins pumping through your veins. If you’re like me, who is a regular gym junkie but lives in a flat area, your calf muscles will be screaming at you the next day. Further more, to see Petra without feeling rushed, opt for a day and a half instead of doing it all in a day. I spent the first half day exploring the upper areas and the High Place of Sacrifice. The second day I walked faster through the upper areas and explored the main part and climbed up to the Monastery. When I came back down, I took my time wandering around the sites off the main road and was able to just sit and enjoy the views and ruins. Another thing to consider is that if you are afraid of heights there are some daunting places and there are no railings to steady yourself.
- Getting Around
I knew about the history of Petra but I did not know specifics about the layout and features, I also didn’t stop at the visitor’s center or get a map the first day. Luckily some people I met on the bus had picked up a map and I was able to follow them around. I would never have known about the High Place of Sacrifice which was one of the highlights of my visit. At the entrance they may try to tell you that a guide is necessary; depending on personal preference you may opt for a guide but if you’d rather go it alone, know that a guide is unnecessary, you can absolutely wander Petra on your own, going at your own pace. The people at the information desk will provide you with a map and the crucial information you need.
- Battery Operated
This seems like an obvious one but do learn from my mistake, make sure your camera battery is FULLY charged before going in or take an extra battery with you, there is no where to plug anything in. I had stayed at a Bedouin Camp so I wasn’t able to charge my battery the night before either. My camera battery died right before I climbed 800+ steps to the monastery and my phone camera at the time was garbage so I missed out on a lot of wonderful shots. Luckily when I reached the top, some friendly tourists let me use their battery to capture a few images of the monastery.
- A little knowledge goes a long way
I have heard people comment about their visit to Petra, that they didn’t think it was all that interesting or impressive and while normally your opinion is your own and I respect that, in this circumstance I have to argue that those people are simply wrong! They must not have known much or anything about the history of Petra and therefore could not appreciate what they were seeing. I am by no means a history expert but to appreciate many historical sites you need have a basis of knowledge that will help you understand why it is a world wonder. Technologically speaking, the feat of carving such enormous and intricate structures out of rock with rudimentary tools is impressive enough on its own. Throughout my visit I would sit down away from the crowds (it was by no means crowded) and imagine what it must have looked and sounded like all those years ago when people actually lived there. Lucky me withmy imagination, I was rewarded with fascinating imagery! To those planning to visit Petra, I recommend doing a little light research so that you can truly appreciate where you are standing.
**Bonus: If you’re looking to go to the Dead Sea after Petra, there is no bus to get there. I didn’t have much time so I ended up hiring a driver for 60 dinar (2014), while everyone else was charging 70-80 JD. I lucked out and 2 women staying at my hotel needed a lift too so we split the cost. It was an awesome decision in the end because the scenery was unbelievably stunning; and the driver, Hussain, was so sweet he stopped and bought us fresh falafels, roadside cucumbers, and fruit and answered all of my questions with incredible patience and kindness. When I was there Hussain was driving for the 7 Wonders Bedouin Camp so perhaps you can get in touch with him through them or The Rocky Mountain Hotel.