Visiting the ancient city of Petra is an archeologist’s dream come true. Immaculately preserved ruins, beautiful history, and thrilling artifacts, this is the place where the most important discoveries of the Middle East have been made. It also doesn’t hurt that the most famous archeologist of them all discovered it. Or at least Harrison Ford did. Viewing Petra as a tourist is an entirely different ball game.
Getting to the ancient city comes with its own set of challenges. There are basically two ways of getting there. First, you can fly into Tel Aviv, Israel (no, you don’t need a visa with an American passport). It is recommended that you stay a night there, then make your way to Eilat, the southern-most city in the country. You can either rent a car and make the five hour drive on your own, or take an Egged bus from the central bus station. Be sure to arrive at the bus station in plenty of time if you choose the latter option because it is an absolute nightmare to navigate. The third option to get to Eilat is to fly there, though it is more costly and requires a bit of an airport shuffle to get there. Still, there are several flights a day, and at an hour’s time in the air, it is worth choosing this option if you are in a rush. Book a cheap hotel in Eilat and enjoy the lovely beaches and incredible aquarium.
You can also elect to fly into Amman, in which case your journey into Petra will be easier because it will not require any additional visas. You can catch a JETT bus from the central bus station in Amman, which will get you to Petra in about four hours. Alternatively, local buses run from within the city between 9 AM and 4 PM. These are minibusses that do not depart until they are full, so be prepared to wait.
Well done, you’re now halfway to Petra. Next, make sure to book spots with a private tour group so that you can travel across the Jordanian border without any hassle. Desert Eco Tours is a good and fairly affordable option. You can choose from a variety of packages such as 2 to 7-day tours of Israel and Jordan. The tour company will collect you from your hotel in Eilat and take you across the border all the way to Petra. You will need to pay $50 for a visa at the Jordanian border.
If you refuse to book with a group, it’s your funeral. You will need to take a taxi from Eilat to the Aqaba border. A mass of cabs will be waiting to take you to Petra. Be very careful not to get ripped off: insist upon a fixed price into the city, without which you will get charged through the nose for a journey that should cost around $100.
Finding accommodations in Petra itself is an easy enough task. However, young couples beware! Most hotels and guesthouses will not rent rooms to unmarried partners and will usually demand a marriage certificate. Do not try and fool your host that you are married, they have been at this for a long time and see right through you. However, you have another, more folkloric option. Many Bedouin communities will rent you space in their tents on the edge of the city. It is hardly luxurious but is certainly an experience. Make sure to pack a pair of thermal underwear to wear at night as it can get mighty chilly.