It’s been 43 days, 35 minutes and about 12 seconds since I touched down in Jordan. And as you might be able to tell, I’m pretty good with numbers now. When travelling, it’s vital to seek those shortcuts through financial headaches; avoiding that sinking feeling as you stare into your empty wallet goes a long way to making your time abroad a success. So whether you’re counting the pennies for your next annual escape (which, lets face it, will be Jordan), or emigrating for the long haul; take a look at these money saving strategies and bank on me to show you a good time.
Venturing abroad tends to awaken a financial spontaneity that is otherwise suppressed when back home. In Jordan, don’t feel rushed to do the JD to English Pound conversion for that second shisha pipe you don’t really need. Being flippant when bargain hunting will get the shopkeeper nervous and prices will quickly tumble. Anyway, purchases are made even more confusing by the fact that Jordanian currency will not display any English markings and, unlike the Arabic written language, the numbers will read left to right. So get to know your Arabic numbers before you arrive; mixing up your denominators can lead to dire consequences.
While war is costly, fooling around with its instruments isn’t. In pursuit of the ultimate Facebook profile picture, it is wise to make a trip to the Amman shooting range. How better to garner online kudos than to take a ‘selfie’, AK47 in hand, with that curious-looking chicken you’re about to obliterate? Located approximately 10 miles outside of Amman, a day at the range will cost around 25JD, with discounts available for groups. In the likely event that you become hooked, there is a chance to continue the fun at home. Guns can be purchased through the Jordanian black market, otherwise known as the ‘for sale, Amman’ Facebook page. Displaying revealing outfits for women, unlocked phones and every type of man-made weapon under the sun, its lack of gumtree-style regulation is really starting to show.
Getting to know Amman by way of that original mode of travel, walking, is hands-down the best way you can use your feet during your stay. Exploring a foreign land at eye-level not only makes your experience more personal, but saves on the taxis too. Take a wander past the shop fronts of downtown; notice how sellers of similar wares have grouped themselves together, effectively creating commercial quarters within the city. And, if you have time, try to scale the dangerously steep hills in the city center. Nestled on top of the summit of one, there exists an orange-tree-sheltered courtyard and cafe. Basking in the rich scent of real Arabic coffee, you can catch your breath, flick through a book from the on-site library, or study the locally sourced paintings that hang indoors. So while public transport can be a thrill, it’s no substitute for exploring the city the way it was always meant to be.
Without having to fork out hundreds for that new skirt-hat holiday set from GAP, women can arrive in Jordan feeling to be the center of attention. Whether it’s because all Rihanna’s fanny thrusting has skewered the image of the western woman, or that arranged marriages still exist here, local men will gaze hopefully. Better still, women can enjoy inexpensive nights out here; fuelled by Jordanian liberalism and the presence of expats, Amman’s nightclub scene is steadily growing. Women get free entry into most clubs and are unlikely to be harassed; bar managers enforce a strict code of conduct. Good news for women, bad news for men. Those that own a penis must pay a 10JD entrance fee and there is to be no ‘getting with’ girls; any amount of heterosexual dancing is acceptable, but it ends there. If anything, all this testosterone-laden frustration will lead to more drinks being bought for you, in the hope that you remain a loyal disco partner.
It should be noted that the aforementioned activities are not likely to be found in your guidebook. But before I finish, it makes sense to briefly describe a couple that will be, and hence attract the largest tourist numbers. This should give you some frame of price-reference and let this article prove its worth.
First on the list is Petra: A UNESCO world heritage site, it is Jordan’s most visited attraction and for good reason. The ancient city, carved from red rock is something to behold, but the price arguably isn’t - your entry fee alone will set you back 90JD. That being said, to preserve such a vast site requires an equal amount of maintenance; so you can take pride in the fact that your money is going to a good cause.
After a healthy amount of fun and sunburn, travellers will often head on to Wadi Rum. If you like Star Wars, Bedouins, and desert trekking then this one’s for you. The camels provided aren’t quite as fast as pod-racers but it’ll still feel like you’re on Tatooine, sauntering across the dunes. A two-day experience will, again, cost around 90JD, but this hasn’t deterred travellers. Additionally, if you hold a Jordanian residency permit, one can gain entrance to the above for no more than 1JD. However the application process does involve taking an HIV test and I don’t know about you, but I’m quite enjoying the ‘ignorance is bliss’ mentality.
So there you have it; travelling in the Middle East can become an expensive affair. As of 2012, 1.2 billion JD was generated by tourism alone, so it’s no secret that Jordan does well despite the regional circumstances. However if sensibly approached, it’s still possible to return with fantastic tales and a healthy wallet; with any luck you’ll likely be planning a return trip very soon.