The following post on packing tips for Jordan was submitted by Katie Doyle. See all packing list posts here.
My sister and I share a few strong aspects of our personalities: we love travel, we’re very independent, and we rarely pass up a good meal. When she decided to study abroad in Jordan, I knew immediately that I would pay a visit. The trip finally came around in October, a time of year when the weather was pleasant; although it was sunny, the heat wasn’t unbearable. It even rained for a few days during my two-week stay—something that doesn’t happen very often in the desert.
This trip to Jordan came at the tail end of a year-long working holiday in New Zealand, so my packing was haphazard at best, and excessive at worst. The greatest thing about carting a year’s worth of stuff around the world with you? You have absolutely no reason to panic when your checked luggage gets left behind in somewhere like Qatar for a few days because you were able to fit basically everything you need for those days in your carry-on backpack.
I had never been to the desert before and I was fortunate to have my sister as a resource before arriving in Amman (look out for Pro Tips given by Meg throughout this post). This made things like getting my tourist visa at the airport, finding a taxi cab into the city, and making sure my luggage eventually arrived at my hotel a whole lot easier. Our mom also met us there for a week, so I put in requests with her for the few items I didn’t have with me, like a light cardigan to cover my shoulders.
Here are a few packing tips for your trip to this ancient desert country:
Dressing for the Sun
If you’ve read previous articles I’ve written for HPL, you have probably noticed that my unusual sun allergy often informs my packing lists. Before my New Zealand friends understood my malady, they would just laugh at my concern about experiencing the desert sun for the first time…until they saw my skin, in all its red-itchy-bumpy glory after a week camping in the New Zealand bush, during which I COVERED myself in 100SPF sunscreen, to seemingly no avail.
So, I was the most nervous about my solar exposure as I boarded the plane in Auckland and embarked on my adventure to the Jordanian desert.
The sun surprised me, though. It was nowhere near as strong as I expected. It was perfect weather at that time of the year (October): hot, but not too hot (but I did make myself up my daily water intake quite a bit, which helped me overcome jet lag). Keeping in mind the country’s more conservative culture compared to New Zealand, on most days, I wore variations on the same outfit: flowy pants and a v-neck tee or loose-fitting top.
Bare legs and/or shoulders are not acceptable in most parts of the country, although it is very liberal compared to its Arabian neighbors; for instance, my mom, sister, and I didn’t wear hijab as it is normal to see women in Jordan to go out in public with uncovered hair.* The capital, Amman, is known for its freethinking neighborhoods such as the one near Rainbow Street, atop one of the city’s many hills.
We visited two resort areas, and I wore short-sleeved shirts or tank tops with cardigans over my bathing suit when not directly sitting on the beaches of the Red Sea or the Dead Sea. The nutrient-rich mud found on the shores of the Dead Sea is also a good way to protect your skin from the sun! The wide-brimmed hat my mom brought over for me wasn’t really necessary because sunglasses + sunscreen did the trick.
*Pro Tip: Jordanian women often dress very fashionably, especially in cities, and their eyebrows are always on point. Long tights or leggings are a must for hiking, working out, or general wear as shorts are not acceptable.
>>Read more about how to pack for conservative countries.
Shoes for the Sand & the Sights
Petra, Wadi Musa, and the Dead Sea are just some of Jordan’s popular places to visit. Despite the rain, we did a lot of walking around outside. I brought gladiator sandals and Teva Refugio sneakers. More intense boots weren’t needed, as most desert camping and other activities were cancelled due to the weather.* We did have a great time exploring the ancient city of Petra, where giant carved buildings jutted out of the mountains (Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade was filmed there).
Cities like Amman and Wadi Musa have many hills, so comfortable footwear allows for exploration of their maze-like streets and circles, or diwars.
*Pro Tip: For lengthy stays, bring sturdy footwear that will withstand the desert; white cloth shoes won’t hold up.
Paper, Plastic & More
Cash is king in Jordan, whether you’re in a cab, at a market, or in a museum. I changed money during my layover in Melbourne, so I had plenty for when I arrived. Banks in the city easily change money, although some tourist-friendly restaurants in Amman don’t accept credit cards. If this policy isn’t apparent and you only find out when the bill arrives, don’t worry: there are plenty of ATMs in the city that accept foreign cards and you can settle your bill by returning with cash.
A smartphone came in handy when looking up hotels, bus stops, and restaurants. I didn’t have a Jordanian SIM card, but I was able to get free wifi in many places. If you’re there for a long stay, it’s worth looking at purchasing an internet dongle for more continued access.*
I also relied heavily on my phone for taking pictures, as my DSLR camera was too awkward to bring along when walking through Amman or to other tourist sights—as it would be if I were focused on shopping or sightseeing in New York and didn’t want to worry about having too many items on my person. A phone is much more portable and discreet, easily fitting in my cross-body bag.
*Pro Tip: Screenshot important things like boarding passes or directions, just to be safe.
Water is scarce throughout the country. Bottled water is widely available and cheap, but water for showering* and washing is usually very limited.
*Pro Tip: Bring dry shampoo as a quick fix to freshen up.
Ladies, toilet paper isn’t necessarily a given in restrooms, even in places like the university. It’s a good idea to put a pack of tissues in your bag, just in case.*
*Pro tip: Bring hand sanitizer to go with the TP.
Lastly, the food is delicious! We enjoyed falafel, grape leaves, and other “staples” like Nutella-stuffed bread. Don’t miss the street food in Amman and Madaba.
Question for HPL readers: Has anyone done Couchsurfing in Jordan? I sent out a few requests before my trip, but ended up staying in a hotel. I’m curious to hear about your experiences, so please leave your thoughts in the comments!
About the author: Katie is a writer and videographer who chronicles her travels on Where in the World is Katie Doyle? from wherever she happens to be. A winter in France, a summer on Cape Cod, with road trips and fishing expeditions in between—she’s up for anything and will tell you the story about it later. Check out www.kadoyle.com and follow @katie__doyle.