Preparing for Petra: What You Should Know Before You Go
We’ve all been there - visiting that breathtaking destination, discovering the new land, but once you returned home, you realized there were somethings you wish you had done or known before going.
Whether that was spending an extra day, packing warmer clothes, touring that off-the-beaten-path desert monument, or even trying out that authentic Jordanian restaurant - you might have a few regrets.
It’s nothing to be ashamed of. In fact, it’s an easy fix. That’s what happened to Addie Scoggin after she visited the ancient country of Jordan. It wasn’t until she had the historical Petra staring back at her that she realized there were quite a few things she wish she'd have known beforehand.
Here, Addie shares her 6 most important travel tips to make your stay even better than hers.
1. Set aside time to feel excited, but more importantly, to prepare for Petra
I think I made the excuse: "I’m too busy at work.” This is a weak excuse that traps even the most seasoned of travelers.
The thing is, you deserve to not only think or prepare for Petra but be excited for it. I thought I would find the time to do pull out clothes or research climate, culture, and history, but guess what? I didn’t. If I’m a betting woman, I’d bet that I’m not the only poor soul who sacrificed big, expensive travel to catch up on work tasks before takeoff. I mean, I literally drove straight from work to the airport just so I could make my Jordan flight!
In my opinion, Petra is worth leaving behind your work. In hindsight, I shouldn’t have let that pile of papers on my desk steal my precious attention from getting excited, doing research, and planning my trip. Big takeaway: You deserve free time to get excited, pick out appropriate clothes, and do research on Petra.
2. Research more!
I’m piggy-backing off the first piece of advice. If you don’t allow yourself some time to look up Petra’s history, then you’ll literally walk by an unassuming dried-up riverbed called Wadi Musa (Moses’ River) and have no idea. Yes, this oddly specific tale is my own reality.
Could you imagine how many more pictures I would've taken had I known this was Moses' river and old stomping grounds? Plain and simple—if you’re not researching, you’re really taking some risks.
Since returning from Jordan, I've had to really take it easy on myself.
“Why?” you ask.
As harsh as it sounds, I hated how I let myself make excuses instead of researching historical and biblical landmarks that scholars believe date back to 9000 B.C.
Newsflash: This isn’t Disney World. You can’t just board the plane and figure it out along the way. 9000 B.C. is just the start of your historical timeline. Don’t be like me and cram-read in the backseat of long car rides. Ugh!
3. Check the Travel Advisory (even if you think Jordan is safe)
“How safe is Jordan?” you ask. Let me put it this way: I didn't think twice about going. But if I’m being totally honest, travelers, especially women, cannot operate like that. I met a few solo female travelers at Little Petra Bedouin Camp (a camp about 10 minutes from Petra) who were exploring Jordan alone but still felt fairly comfortable. A Dutch lady told me Jordan is known as "a safe haven in a region of conflict," which is something I had never heard before.
It’s true that Jordanians exercise lots of tolerance to host waves of (sometimes brazen and insensitive) tourists, yet natives have displayed ample hospitality towards me, its guests, and even refugees. I believe Jordanians work hard to keep tourism alive and to protect coexisting faiths safe in their country.
Regardless, it's a good habit to check the U.S. travel advisory anytime you leave the states or honestly, wherever you’re from in the world. While Jordan is safer than its neighbors, Syria and Iraq, see what potential risks lie ahead. In fact, four days after I left Jordan, the U.S. travel advisory was bumped up from level 1 to level 2, meaning exercise increased caution (at the time, it was due to terrorism and armed conflict near the Syrian and Iraqi border).
Don’t let this scare you from visiting Petra; it just means to be ready to see heavily armed border control officers. No need to feel uncertain based on its geographical location.
4. Reducing Petra to a day trip is a common mistake
Doing Petra in a day requires considerable stamina. I allotted myself a full day of exploring this World Heritage site, thinking I was young and agile enough to cover the many miles between each site. If I’m being frank, it's worth dedicating two days to make the most of Petra and preferably visit one day in the early morning (like what I did) and one day in the later afternoon into the evening for a haunting “Petra by night” show.
5. Plan for all-day hikes (and don’t dress for the Gram)
Some people are hardcore “do it for the Gram.” That’s all and well, but I’m not one of them. In fact, I’m not usually one to judge, yet I couldn’t help but shake my head at the women dressed in dangerously chunky heels and short, tight clothing, as if they had no idea it was both a Muslim country and incredibly steep, uneven terrain.
Petra spans over 37 square miles through canyons, up mountains, and along riverbeds. You will feel fatigued, no matter what shape you’re in. Do your body a favor and wear comfy clothing; don't be that guy.
If you totally, completely underestimate the amount of walking and hiking it takes to navigate Petra, many tourists resort to donkeys, horses, and camels. I was frequently passed by these animals carrying elderly (or the aforementioned women) on very narrow paths making the climb up vertical cliffs look effortless.
I kept wondering, should I bite the bullet and just hop on a donkey? I didn't--but later wished I did--if not to save my feet, at least to experience a donkey ride.
6. Water, water, water - and food
Thankfully, I visited in late November-early December, which is perfect for skipping the crowds avoiding an unforgiving sun. As an extra precaution though, carry water, food, and Jordanian dinars.
You’ll want to eat and hydrate often because you’ll be walking so much. In case you're wondering, you can find water, food, and all kinds of souvenirs within Petra. However, operating hours of these shops and restaurants are hit or miss, plus your food options are sometimes limited or supplies run out.
7. Enjoy the City of Stone!
I’ve romanticized Petra for a long time; now it’s your time. I’m certain that this World Heritage site will impact your life. Nowhere else quite compares to the rich history or Nabataean civilization. Visit Petra for yourself and give the trip it’s due respect: don’t skip over important history.
By Addie Scoggin
Petra really is one of the best places to see in the Middle East, and you won't regret booking a trip here. If you have any tips to share for visiting Petra let us know in the comments section below.