Travelling in Jordan is generally easy. Jordanians are friendly, easy to approach and almost invariably helpful towards guests. English is widely spoken, especially in tourism hubs like Wadi Rum, Petra and Aqaba, and it is generally safe to walk around towns day or night. Key practicalities are sketched out for visitors below.
Visas are required by visitors of most nationalities to enter Jordan. Wherever you arrive in Jordan one month tourist visas will be available at immigration desks before the passport control points costing 40JD. Aqaba is an exception: most vistors entering Jordan through Aqaba's land, sea or air borders - with the exception of its Wadi Araba border with Eilat - do not need visas if they will exit via Aqaba too. Visitors who purchase a 'Jordan Pass' before arrival also do not need a visa, wherever their arrival point, provided they will stay in Jordan over three nights. Available online, the Jordan Pass costs 70JD and covers entry to Petra and over 40 other attractions, making it a money-saving investment for anybody who will visit Petra.
Phone & internet
Getting online is easy in Jordan. Good, solid WIFI is available in most accommodation and there is strong mobile connectivity in big towns. A local Jordanian SIM card is the best option, with Orange, Zein and Umniah the three main companies. All offer different packages for internet and calls, most of which must be recharged when credit finishes or at the end of each month after buying. SIMs can be purchased at official stores in Jordan's airports and small, independent mobile phone shops sell SIM cards in all big towns too. You must show your passport and visa, so keep it handy. Coverage is extremely limited in the desert, but Orange has the best reception across Wadi Rum and other wilderness areas of southern Jordan.
Comprehensive travel insurance is recommended for all hikers on the Wadi Rum Trail. In the event of emergency hospital treatment being required, medical bills can be extortionately, ruinously, high. The best option is to buy a specialist outdoors insruance policy covering at a minimum hiking, scrambling, rock climbing and abseiling and perhaps 4x4 travel and camel riding too. Make sure it includes an air rescue component and generous medical allowances and read the small print carefully, to ensure all these activities are covered at altitudes up to 2000m. Hikers will reach a maximum altitude of 1854m on the Wadi Rum Trail. Remember to buy coverage for any other activities you may do like snorkelling or diving.
Pharmacies are easy to find in big towns and stock a wide range of medication which can usually be purchased over the counter without a prescription if required. There are no pharmacies in Wadi Rum but it has a small medical clinic. This is open for paid consultations on simple ailments every day except Fridays and Saturdays and it operates 24/7 for emergencies. The best hospitals near to Wadi Rum are found in Aqaba, with the Islamic Hospital and Prince Hashem Bin Abdullah Military Hospital the best according to locals. Medical bills for treatment in private hospitals like these will always be high so insurance is strongly recommended. Good dentists can be found easily in Aqaba and other big towns.
As with any country, Jordan has its own norms and customs. Misunderstandings are tolerated amongst outsiders, but it is good to know a few things before travelling. Religion is a sensitive topic and should not be joked about. Only talk about it in the most respectful way. Women should cover hair in a mosque and everybody must remove shoes. When entering a home or a Bedouin tent remove shoes and stand up and shake hands to greet people when others enter. Men and women should exchange verbal greetings. Interactions between opposite sexes are restricted in Bedouin society. When eating use your right hand; the left is considered unclean. When sitting, never allow your soles to face someone. Kneel or sit cross legged.
Renewing a visa
Visitors who want to extend a one month tourist visa can do so for an extra two months free of charge at a government office in Aqaba known as the 'Markaz Amn el Medina'. If visas are not renewed a penalty of 1.5JD per day overstayed will be charged on departure from Jordan. The process for renewing a tourist visa is straightforward and usually finished within a few hours. A paper application form is completed and you will need a photocopy of your passport ID page and last entry visa to Jordan. Visitors registering to renew their visa for the first time will usually be required to make a set of fingerprints at a nearby police station. Fingerprinting is a simple, routine process that is usually completed within half an hour.
Money & payment
Jordanian currency is the Jordanian dinar or JD and each JD is divided into 100 piastres or 'qirsh'. Wait until you arrive to exchange money. Exchange rates are better. Foreign exchange counters operate 24/7 at Jordan's airports. ATMs are widespread in big towns but most charge 4JD per withdrawal and many travellers will have a daily cash withdrawal limit. Credit and debit cards can be used widely in bigger towns but rarely in remote destinations like Wadi Rum. Wadi Rum is primarly a cash economy and no ATMs are found in the village so withdraw everything needed before arriving. Tips or 'baksheesh' are not always expected but will be appreciated, including on hikes. When happy with a service, tip 10-15% of the total cost.
Vaccinations for Hepatitis A, Tetanus and Rabies are recommended for travel in Jordan. Check all of your vaccinations are up to date, getting any boosters that may be required. If you have not been vaccinated against Rabies be aware it is usually administered as a course of three injections given over one month. Even then be aware that it will not buy total immunity; it is a pre-exposure vaccine that buys time to get to a hospital. Whilst non vaccination is compulsory hikers visiting remote areas should consider all, especially Rabies. Dogs can be aggressive near remote desert camps and several attacks have been reported against people walking Jordan's hiking trails in the last few years, with some requiring treatment in hospital.
Women travellers face extra pressures in many parts of the Middle East. Sexual harassment seems less of a problem in Jordan than some neighbouring countries like Egypt but it is not uncommon and can come in many forms from uncomfortable, lengthy stares to catcalls, declarations of love or surprise marriage proposals. Generally it's best to dress conservatively, covering arms to the wrists and legs to the ankles. Some women say wearing a headscarf helps. Stories abound of women being tricked into relationships - especially around Petra - so caution is advised in measuring the motives of any suitor. Most women in Wadi Rum have positive experiences and should not be unduly concerned about hiking with a male guide.
Safety & security
The Middle East is often represented as a place of danger and whilst parts of the region have seen serious unrest over the last decade or so Jordan has stayed almost entirely trouble-free. It has long been one of the region's safest, most stable countries and travellers here should not have any more concerns than they would in Europe or the USA. Hikers in Wadi Rum should consider themselves in one of the safest parts of all; alongside Jordan's security forces, Bedouin tribes watch and control their lands closely and add an extra level of intelligence and protection, considering it a duty to keep their guests safe. Street crime is extremely rare and it is generally much safer to walk around Jordanian towns than towns in the West.