Practical Tips for Visiting Petra (aka “The Important Sh*t You Need to Know”)
So you finally decided to take the leap and venture over to The Lost City of Petra, Jordan. Yay! It’s pretty safe to say you will not be disappointed. I recently visited Petra and it was one of my favorite places I have seen on my travels. Ever. Blown away is an understatement.
There are a few things I wish I knew before visiting Petra and which I think may be helpful in planning your trip. So I have put together this wee little blogpost with some practical tips for visiting Petra.
Practical Tips for Visiting Petra
The Visa Situation
First things first: to get into Jordan as a US citizen, you must purchase a visa on arrival. The cost is 40 JD ($56). You can purchase the visa right at the passport check counter. They do accept credit card or Jordanian dinars (JD).
1JD = ~1.41 $USD (ouch).
How to Get to Petra
Take the JETT bus from Amman to Petra for 10 JD one-way. The journey takes about 3 hours and 30 minutes including a 20 minute rest stop. The bus is clean and comfortable.
There is no online purchase system as of yet so you either need to call them within a week of your journey or show up early and try to get a ticket the day of. During peak season, it’s likely to sell out. There is only one bus a day.
The bus from Amman to Petra is at 6:30am and the bus from Petra to Amman is at 5pm. The bus leaves from Abdali Bus Station in Amman. The JETT office opens at 6am so make sure you are first in line if you are buying the morning of. (I would recommend buying a day or 2 before if you happen to be in Amman already).
Note: the online “booking system” does not reserve you a seat. They sent me an email saying I needed to call them within a week of the journey to confirm. I was traveling and couldn’t call so my seat was not reserved. I had to show up at 5:50am before they opened and hoped they weren’t sold out. It wasn’t peak season so I got lucky and got a seat.
Buying Tickets to Petra
Ticket Prices to Petra:
- 1 day non-accommodated visitor: 90 JD (i.e. if you come as a day trip without accommodations in Petra)
- 1-day ticket: 50 JD (with proof of overnight stay)
- 2-day ticket: 55 JD
- 3-day ticket: 60 JD
I have a feeling they are discouraging day trips and want you to stay longer based on those prices. What do you think?
You will need to bring your passport with you to purchase tickets at the visitors center. However, they did not ask for my passport for Petra by Night. They do accept credit cards, but not so much for Petra by Night. They sell the tickets right at the entrance, so you need to bring cash. (I’m honestly not sure if the visitor’s center is open at this time of night. So ya, cash is king).
How Long Do You Need in Petra?
I recommend at LEAST 2 days in Petra. At least! I was there 2 days (+Petra by Night) and it wasn’t enough. There is a lot of walking and hiking up hills so you gotta break it up and pace yourself.
Rome wasn’t conquered in a day. Don’t try to conquer Petra in a day. The main trail alone from the entrance to the Monastery is 8km! That’s 5 freaking miles.
Take a look at this map below. You will see the entry on the bottom right and the Monastery on the top left. Do you see how far away they are? Freakin far!
It takes about 1.5-2 hours to reach the Monastery from the entrance. That’s 3-4 hours just to do the main trail so keep that in mind. That doesn’t even account for all the millions of photos you are going to stop for.
Get there bright and early when it opens at 6am. You will have the Treasury to yourself for the first 10-15 minutes.
I recommend breaking up the main trail into 2 days. The first day explore the Treasury, Royal Tombs, Great Temple, and at least one of the 2 hikes to the top of the Treasury or the High Sacrifice. Then on day 2 take the long route to the Monastery, and all the other sites you missed on the main trail on the first day, plus the other hike.
For the most EPIC viewpoints in Petra, check out my article The Most Epic View in Petra (+ How to Reach Them).
Petra by Night
I’m sure you’ve seen the many awesome photos of Petra by Night. Some say it’s overrated, but I disagree. It was incredible and the highlight of my trip! There is something special about being there at night with just the lanterns lighting your path. It was magical, that’s the best way to explain it.
Petra by Night is only 3 days a week (Monday, Wednesday, & Thursday) and I made sure I planned my trip around that because I did not want to miss it. It starts at 8:30pm but keep in mind it takes about 30 minutes to walk to the Treasury from the entrance! The cost is 12 JD ($17).
Safety in Petra
The world isn’t a safe place these days, but we shouldn’t stay at home because of it. Unfortunately, there is a negative stigma tide to Middle Eastern countries, one very hard to shake.Yes, it borders Syria and Saudi Arabia. But Jordan is generally a safe place, minus a few areas here and there.
I was in Amman at night, rode the bus to Petra myself, and walked around the streets by myself. I went to Petra alone as a female and I felt completely 100% safe.
I never once felt uncomfortable, like I was in dangerous, or harassed by men. In fact, it is one of the few countries in the world where I never got catcalled. Not once! The Jordanian people were some of the kindest, most hospital people I have ever met and I felt super welcome and safe in their country.
Riding Horses/Donkeys/Mules in Petra
You may get exhausted from all the hiking and walking you will be doing in Petra and need a little lift. In fact, you will get hassled 20+ times a day for a “taxi” ride on a donkey/mule. They can be persistent so learn to politely, but firmly decline if you’re not interested.
If you do decide to take a ride, make sure to negotiate the price beforehand or they will for sure overcharge you. A horse ride from the entrance to the Siq is included in the ticket price. However, they do indeed expect a tip.
How to Dress in Petra
Make sure to dress like you’re going hiking all day, because well, whether you like it or not, you will be doing a LOT of hiking. Especially if you want the best views. Absolutely no flip-flops.
If you must get that shot in a cute dress, bring a change of clothes or wear them underneath. There are 3 bathrooms throughout where you can change. Or if you hike first thing in the morning, you can change on the mountaintop because no one is there!
I would recommend dressing in layers as it’s freezing in the mornings and evenings and scorching hot in the day. You are in the desert after all.
I would avoid wearing black as it picks up ALL the dust. I learned the hard way.
Note: while it is a super touristy area of Jordan and the dress code is not as strict, you still want to respect the Jordanian culture. (I.e. don’t dress like hoochie).
What to Bring With You to Petra
Bring small bills to buy water, coffee, snacks. I brought a 50 JD bill and not one person had change so I had to buy an expensive necklace to break change. The necklace sure is pretty though.
Bring sunscreen and lots of water. Also, bring some snacks as you’re going to be there all day and food is not cheap inside. There is also limited options.
Bring hand sanitizer as your hands will get super dusty throughout the day. You’re gonna be hiking in sand, dirt so if you’re a clean freak like me, don’t forget it!
Where to Eat/Drink/Snack inside Petra
There are 2 restaurants inside Petra. One is a fancier buffet that charges 17 JD (~$24) and another right across from it that looks like a rundown shack. This “shack” also serve a buffet which was actually pretty good for only 10 JD ($14). I ate at the shack and I was satisfied.
There are also many little cafes with coffee/tea and packaged snacks along the way. I stopped at so many because they had a nice views and I needed a break from walking in the heat. My favorite was the one right smack in front of the Monastery. They even accepted credit cards! (with a minimum 5JD purchase). Tip: order the coffee with cardamon, so yum!
Where to Stay in Petra
Technically there are no hotels in Petra. The town called Wadi Musa is where you will be staying, located right next to Petra.
For a budget hotel under $50, stay at Rocky Mountain Hotel. The hotel is located on top of a hill in Wadi Musa, a 5 minute taxi ride from the Petra entrance or a 30 minute walk down a very steep hill. The view at the top of the restaurant is worth it alone. The sunsets there are epic and the buffet food was actually very good. To check out current prices and pictures, check here.
The Sun will Make the Sites Look Different at Different times of Day
Wait, what? Depending on where the sun is in the sky, the red rock will appear a different color. When the sun is shining directly onto the rock, it turns a deep red color. In the shade it’s noticeably lighter so it’s a good idea to come back to certain sites and photograph them at different times of the day.
As you will see in the photo below, this is the difference of the colors of the Treasury at 6am (left) and 4pm (right). A HUGE difference, right?
I was told the sunlight at the Monastery is best around 1pm.
A Word on Travel Insurance
Make sure to get travel insurance in case something happens. You’re pretty much out in nowhere so getting to the hospital may cost you a fortune if you are uninsured. Most US plans will not cover you overseas so make sure to check in advance.
My go to travel insurance that I have been using for the past 4 years is World Nomads. I have made 3 claims and have been reimbursed without any hassle. I highly recommend them. This is an affiliate link, btw :).
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