Welcome to the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan.
Whether you have come to marvel at the wondrous antiquities, trek through stunning landscapes or simply relax and pamper yourself at resorts on the historic Red Sea or Dead Sea; you’ll find the centuries-old tradition of hospitality alive and well throughout the country.
To help you enjoy your visit, the Jordan Inbound Tour Operators Association (JITOA) has prepared this FAQ brochure on some recommended tips for touring Jordan.
Ahlan Wa Sahlan Brochure is Supported By Jordan Enterprise Development Corporation
The cuisine of the Levant is justifiably famous and relies heavily on fresh, locally grown fruits and egetables. The relaxed, sociable nature of the culture is reflected in the local habit of making meals leisurely occasions, with a lavish assortment of tasty salads and mezzah (appetizers) served family-style, with diners sampling a variety of dishes with freshly baked bread. Hummus, a staple of Middle Eastern cuisine, is usually prepared daily it tastes better here in its native home than anywhere else in the world.
Tasty local food includes sandwiches made with falafel or shawarma (meat slow-roasted on enormous skewers); mixed grills;Gallayat Bandura (pan-fried tomatoes, onions and peppers often prepared with cubes of lamb, chicken or egg), Kofta (ground beef topped with roasted tomato or tahina sauce), Sunniyah (pan-roasted meat or chicken roasted with potatoes, onions and other vegetables), Maglubah (literally “upside down,” a dish of rice, chicken and vegetables cooked together and then turned upside down onto a serving tray, along with bowls of yoghurt and fresh salad).
The traditional Bedouin feast dish is mansaf, typically served on an enormous tray with a steaming rice and lamb meat piled atop a wafer-thin piece of shiraq bread, and flavored with generous ladles full of a tangy soup based on yoghurt. To satisfy your taste, visit one of the Kingdom’s many sweet shops to try an assortment of hellwiyat, freshly baked desserts offering honey and pistachio fillings in a variety of tempting guises.
Although Jordan is a modest culture, traditional behavior and dress co-exist easily alongside modern manners. Jeans or long shorts are perfectly acceptable attire for both men and women, especially in the most popular tourist attractions.
If you would like to feel more at ease and put your hosts at ease, women should avoid wearing short shorts or tops which expose the midriff or cleavage. When your day’s program includes visits to mosques, churches or other sacred sites, modest attire is the most respectful.
If you plan on renting a car and exploring the country on your own, you’ll discover that most of the road signs are printed in both English and Arabic. Special dark-brown signs are posted to highlight tourist attractions. Be prepared for some variations in spelling. Since written Arabic does not use vowels, you can expect that transliterated place names will be spelled in a number of ways. Gasoline or petrol is called benzene in Jordan.
All the benzene sold in stations around the country now is unleaded, and comes in 90 octane and 95 octane ratings.
The fuel pumps serves both 90-octane, and 95 octane, and it will show the liters sold and price
in Western standard numbers. Remember there are 1000 fils to a dinar, so 24.050 means 24 dinars
and 50 fils (5 piasters), not 24 ½ dinars.
Make sure that your tour operator or rental car company has included insurance coverage in your contract. It is illegal to eat, drink, smoke or talk on a cell phone while driving in Jordan, and you will be ticketed for these traffic violations. Speed limits are strictly enforced, as are seat belt laws, and
all vehicles must carry a fire extinguisher.
Traffic fines are paid to the police officer on the spot (you will be given an official receipt). You must produce the vehicle registration and rental contract as well as your driving license when stopped, so make sure the registration is in the glove compartment when you take delivery of the vehicle.
Most Jordanian taxis are bright yellow. Taxis from the Aqaba region are green. Service taxis which follow a fixed route are white. As a tip, itis appropriate to round up the taxi fare to the nearest dinar.
For longer trips, you’ll want to negotiate the fare in advance; ask your hotel concierge for advice about a reasonable fare. Taxis waiting at cab lines outside the major hotels are often employed by a contracted taxi service for that hotel, and may have more rigorous standards of appearance and amenities than the passing cabs on the street. Thus you may pay a higher, non-metered rate for these cars. Remember, too (see money section) that Jordanian currency is numbered with 3 decimal places; if you see 1250 on the meter, this is 1.250 JD, not 12.50!
There are scheduled air-conditioned touring coaches on which you can book seats for trips between Amman and Aqaba, Amman and Petra. There is also an “Amman City Tour” bus service which provides a 24-hour bus pass to take a hop-on, hop-off trip around Amman.
To report lost items, contact the local police station or tourist police office. To report an accident or crime call 191 or 192 (police) or 199 (civil defense, including fire and ambulance services). To inquire about a telephone number call the post office information number, 1212.
Most rental car agencies will provide you with a 24-hour emergency number to use in the event of breakdowns or accidents.
While planning your trip, ask your Jordanian tour operator to provide you with their own 24-hour emergency number to use as needed.
As you’ll discover, Jordanians are hospitable people. You may well be invited by your guide, your driver, a friendly shopkeeper or somebody else you’ve encountered to visit his/her home for
tea or a meal, join a wedding party or the like. Don’t worry about imposing or intruding on a private family affair. If you’re invited, you’ll be made more than welcome.
The typical large extended Jordanian family gets together on many occasions, and new faces add a
pleasant festive note to the event. No “hostess gift” is necessary, but if you feel so inclined, a platter of sweets or a bouquet of flowers will be appropriate.
The Jordan Times, a widespread local English language newspaper, publishes a “Useful Numbers” section which includes telephone numbers for many hospitals, doctors and 24-hour pharmacies in Amman.
The ambulance/first aid emergency number is 193. In other parts of the country your hotel reception desk can help out in an emergency, and many hotels have a local doctor on call for their guests. If you discover that you’ve left home without some necessary medicines, you may find it available in a neighborhood pharmacy. Many non-narcotic drugs can be obtained without a doctor’s prescription from a licensed pharmacist.
The Jordanian dinar (JD) is divided into 1,000 fils, but you’ll usually hear people refer to “piasters” or “gursh,” and there are 100 piasters in a dinar. Paper currency is denominated in 1, 5, 10, 20 and 50 dinar notes. Coins include 1 piaster (copper), 5 and 10 piasters (silver), 25 piasters (6-sided copper pieces), 50 piasters (6-sided copper and silver pieces).
The JD is pegged to the US dollar at the official exchange rate of $1 = 0.708 JD. This is the rate you will receive if you exchange dollars to dinars in banks and most currency exchanges.
The bank windows at the airport and at land borders charge a small commission for the exchange (around 3%), while ordinary retail banks will give you the official exchange rate, which they
have prominently displayed. Hotels will generally charge a 5-8% commission for exchanging currency at their reception desks.
You may use many different foreign currencies in souvenir shops, restaurants and other facilities, especially in major tourist areas such as Petra. Be aware, however, that you may receive something less than the official exchange rate for these transactions. When you pay for gasoline, shop in regular retail stores and supermarkets, and purchase official government tickets for site entry fees, you must pay in Jordanian dinars. Most retail outlets, grocery stores, restaurants and hotels accept major credit cards.
Travelers’ checks are not widely accepted in Jordan and you will pay a large fee penalty for cashing them at banks or currency exchanges.
You will find ATMs outside most banks throughout the country. You will also find them at shopping malls, in the airports, on pedestrian malls and in other high-traffic shopping areas. Most have a cash advance withdrawal limit of around JD 200 per transaction.
Friday is the Muslim day of rest, and most businesses are closed on Fridays. Friday/Saturday is the official weekend when schools, most government offices and many private businesses are closed. Tourist sites are open seven days a week. Many retail establishments are also open seven days a week, although some may not open until after mid-day prayers on Fridays.
The essence of Jordan’s relaxed Mediterranean lifestyle is taking lots of time out to celebrate. During major religious feasts following Ramadan and the month of the Hajj, most government offices, many private offices and banks may close for 4-5 days. Tourist sites remain open throughout the year, even on the important feast days.
During the holy month of Ramadan, Muslims abstain from eating, drinking and smoking during daylight hours. Many restaurants, especially those not catering to the tourist trade, may close for during the month. Some restaurants only offer a special Iftar meal, which is the “break fast” meal served at sundown. Public shops also remove all alcoholic products from their shelves during the holy month of Ramadan.
In major hotels, alcohol is served during Ramadan only in special enclosed areas rather than in the public lobbies and restaurants. Check with your hotel concierge, guide or tour operator for specific guidelines. Especially in major tourist areas, restaurants are open to serve lunch during the month,
but outside dining areas are closed.
If you’re visiting Jordan during Ramadan, you’ll want to keep in mind that your driver, your guide, your waiter and other service providers may be fasting. It is considered good manners during
the month not to smoke, eat or drink in public areas. A more modest standard of dress would be appropriate throughout Ramadan as well.
There are many enjoyable aspects to visit a Muslim country during Ramadan. You’ll find that many hotels and restaurants offer special “Ramadan Nights” programs, with special areas decorated in a traditional Oriental style and offering plays, music, story tellers and other entertainment.
Many shops re-open a couple of hours after the Iftar and stay open late into the night; in the downtown shopping areas a festive holiday air is apparent. Many Jordanians will gather in public “Ramadantents” to enjoy all-night card games and special Ramadan pastries and drinks. Join the party!
We want you to have a safe and thoroughly enjoyable holiday in Jordan. The Kingdom is fiercely protective of its reputation as one of the friendliest and most secure countries in the region and indeed in the world. To this end, you will find that a number of hotels and department stores have installed metal detectors to screen customers.
Tourist police may be assigned to travel with tour groups. These policemen are there for your protection and their presence is an added assurance. They will not interfere with the program of your trip, nor with the guide’s performance of his/ her duties. The government of Jordan has long considered your safety its special responsibility, and you are not being charged, either directly or though your tour operator, for this special protective measure.
Traditional handicrafts and more contemporary creative endeavors are to be found in every corner of the country. Several NGOs including the Jordan River Foundation, Royal Society for the Conservation of Nature and Noor al-Hussein Foundation have established or helped local people establish handicraft workshops in rural areas to provide much-needed income and spread the benefits of tourism throughout the country. Many of the women originally trained by these projects have gone on to develop flourishing businesses themselves.
You will find many delightful examples of traditional crafts in the country, including weaving, ceramics, mosaics and the colorful hand embroidery.
Jewelry-making using silver, copper and the locally found semi-precious stones including malachite, turquoise, garnets and fresh-water pearls is a lively tradition of which you’ll find both traditional styles and modern designs. Weaving, handmade paper, soap- and candle-making provide useful and unique gifts. Personal care products made from the unique minerals of the Dead Sea can be found widely. Cold-pressed olive oil, dried organically grown herbs and spices and a variety of noteworthy table wines are among a few of the Kingdom’s many agricultural treasures worth seeking out.
If you want to be sure of buying authentic Jordanian handicrafts, question the shopkeeper about the origin of the item to make sure you’re getting locally produced items.
Bargaining is a time-honored tradition throughout the region, and can be a delightful part of the shopping experience. Some shops, especially those offering the products of social-development
workshops, are fixed-price shops. If not, settle in for a protracted and enjoyable negotiation over a steaming glass of mint tea. And remember—if you’re getting something for nothing, the deal is probably not as good as it seems. Shops which offer to ship goods around the world “free of charge” have already factored this into their price structure.
One other tip worth remembering—if you’re hunting for items such as Dead Sea products, spices or olive oil, Jordanians buy these items as well. Check out the local pharmacies and supermarkets as well as the large souvenir shops catering to the tourist trade!
Tipping is a customary and expected way of showing your appreciation for good service. Unless you have made prior arrangements with your tour operator to include tips in your tour price, it is customary to tip your tour guide, your driver and the porters who handle your luggage.
In hotels and many restaurants you will find that a governmentmandated 10% service charge has been added to your bill. This service charge goes into an establishment-wide “tip pool,” and is distributed to all employees from the general manager on down on the basis of job category and seniority. If you’d like to add a personal tip for your waiter, a cash tip in the range of 10% would be appropriate.
Some tour group programs have a standing practice to collect a “tipping kitty” from the members of the group. If your tour operator does this, you should receive a written list of what amounts are being collected and who will receive these tips. Tipping kitties will often include tips for the hotel and airport porters, waiters, Petra horse boys and Wadi Rum jeep drivers, and your tour coach driver. Tipping kitties usually do not include tips for your tour guide. As a general guideline, your tour guide
may expect a tip of 2-3 times the amount you have designated for the coach driver.
You should not feel obliged to tip washroom attendants. Unlike some neighboring countries, Jordanian government employees doi ng their jobs at borders, post offices, tourist offices and other facilities neither expect nor want tips for performing their duties.
JITOA supported its members to participate in the CBI’s “Export Coaching Programme (ECP)” for tourism to help them in taking part in international marketing training and developments programs to increase business with Europe.
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