Trip to Jordan - Dec 28 - Jan 4, 2019
Highlights: Wadi Rum, Jerash; Okay-lights: Petra, Dead Sea, the driver, the hotels; Lowlight: Aqaba.
Wadi Rum was by far the main highlight of the trip that absolutely exceeded our expectations. The place is indescribably beautiful, and the Aicha Memories Luxury Camp had the best accommodation and the best food of the entire trip. Jerash was the second favourite – quite surprisingly!
Azzam was an excellent, professional driver. He was particularly courteous towards the end of the trip. He couldn't answer some of our questions, not sure if it was due to lack of knowledge or lack of English, but generally his service was very good. Usually we drove in complete silence, no talking or music. Azzam didn't quite follow the timings and itinerary we were given in Vamoos (e.g. we didn’t go to the Karak castle, but we went to Mount Nebo and a church in Madaba instead), perhaps for the better? I also had to remind Azzam to take us to Hejaz Railway.
Overall, we would have liked more information, particularly on things to do and things not to do, and especially when we were left alone. E.g. in Petra – what routes to take, what sights to see, which routes are more (or less) strenuous, is the ride with horses included in the ticket or not (because every Bedouin was shouting a different thing), can we trust the Bedouins to take us up to various viewpoints, how about the camel and the donkey rides, how much should we pay them, etc. I also only later found out that Petra opens earlier, so it would have been nicer to start the trip earlier to avoid the crowds or perhaps even see the sunrise.
Aqaba was a disaster. When we arrived at noon, we were too late to go on any boat trips that day, and we didn't have enough time to do the trip the following day since we had to leave at noon again. And yet snorkelling was in our itinerary, so I'm not sure how we were meant to fit it in. Worse was that we were not advised by In2Jordan that the public beach is not advisable for tourists. We were harassed at the public beach by the locals (note: we were dressed!), and even after we left the beach 10 minutes after entering, we got followed by two scary local guys for a good half an hour until we finally managed to lose them. Our hotel told us we could pay extra to enter a private beach of another hotel nearby, but with 1 hour left to sunset, it was not worth it anymore. Surely if the point was to relax by the sea, the agency should have informed us of these crucial details in advance of the trip, i.e. don’t go to the public beach, note the prices of private beaches (or, ideally, book a hotel with a private beach) and note timing of snorkelling trips while planning itinerary. Finally, leaving Aqaba for New Year’s Eve was also a bad idea, since the hotel only had a really badly organised evening with an overpriced buffet where not a single dish was nice, and we didn’t feel too safe going out in the city in the dark. So, it would have been more memorable, had we spent it in Wadi Rum.
Small note regarding Jordan Pass: I explicitly asked which pass to buy, since the Wanderer (the cheapest) covers 1 day in Petra, and the Explorer – 2 days, and we had 1 afternoon in little Petra and 1 day in “main” Petra in the itinerary. We were advised to get the Jordan Explorer pass, but we could have bought the cheapest pass since little Petra is free of charge… It’s not a huge amount of money, but still, In2Jordan / Carmen should have known better.
Regarding other hotels: the Hayat Zaman 5* hotel in Petra was very atmospheric and we expected it to be the best, but it was the only hotel in the entire trip without air conditioning or wifi in rooms. At the reception, they told us about a 24/7 pool, but the pool hadn’t been cleaned or used for months and the whole area was locked; the food was very good though. Regarding other accommodation, hotel in Madaba was very poor (looks and food wise), but the staff was lovely and helpful; the Dead Sea hotel was clearly catered for large tourist groups and generally only had bad food.
Overall it felt like the itinerary was more suited for large tour groups than a family except for the time we spent in Wadi Rum, and we missed the added value of getting that insider information by booking from a local agency as opposed to doing it ourselves. Still, we enjoyed it greatly, bar the issues I’ve mentioned above that made the trip ever to slightly more tiresome than it needed to be.