One of the 7 new wonders of the world, Petra is, quite simply, an amazing, must-see travel spot.
A veritable bucket list item in fact!
If you weren’t already inspired, no doubt Instagram has had you marvelling at pictures of this sensational ancient city, buried deep in the desert and known about only by the local Bedouin people for hundreds of years.
Termed as the rose-red city, Petra was undoubtedly the highlight of my time in Jordan – no mean feat given the plethora of other amazing things to do and see in this small Middle Eastern country.
From the stunning views, epic structures and fascinating sense of mystery it pervades, despite being well-discovered and visited these days, Petra can still wow you.
Yep, it certainly wowed me… and then some!
And I’ve now got the full lowdown to help you revel in this ancient treasure for less with my top tips for visiting Petra on the cheap.
Let’s get stuck in…
- 10 Bucket List Things to Do in Jordan
- Solo Female Travel in the Middle East – What to Expect
- 3 Best Jordan Itineraries
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Why You Should Visit Petra?
I thought I’d start this guide off with a quick intro to Petra to fill you in on why this Jordan attraction is an absolute must-see during your time here.
For must-see, it is!
Some 2,300 years old and situated across over 250 sq km, this remote desert city is one of the 7 ancient wonders of the world.
Perfectly carved into the arid mountainous landscape, this huge architectural feat is thought to have been created by the impressive Nabataean Arabs empire and home to 30,000 people during its heyday.
Referred to as Sela in the bible, Petra then lay “lost” for hundreds of years before being excavated in the late 1800’s.
For this reason, it’s often to as the Lost City.
But lost no more, for Petra is now very much on the travel radar!
Located down in the south of Jordan, you need to allow between 1-3 days to visit this huge archaeological complex, where you can enjoy seeing the incredible facades of this ancient city (don’t miss The Treasury and the Monastery), the fantastic walking trails and amazing desert views.
The Visitor Centre is a great place to pick up a map and get a better idea of the site layout – this will help you work out how to spend your time in Petra, including where you want to be at sunset and sunrise to catch the most magical light.
When to Visit Petra?
There’s no question in my mind that the best time to visit Petra, and Jordan in general, is during the spring or autumn seasons, when the weather is warm and dry, but not too hot.
This will allow you to get the most pleasant experience from your time there, especially if you want to enjoy some walking.
Just be aware of any major holidays during these times however, especially Easter holidays or European school holidays, as the crowds will be much bigger and prices much higher at these times.
How to Get to Petra?
Most people access Petra by flying to Jordan’s capital, Amman and then taking a bus, or guided tour, to Petra.
As always, I use Skyscanner to find the best prices – Royal Jordanian are a safe airline I’ve used many times, otherwise, British Airways and Air France have regular flights too.
When it comes to Jordan tours that include Petra, check out these brilliant options and compare their itineraries, prices and dates to find your perfect trip.
And now we come to the best 6 ways to save money when you visit Petra…
#1 Buy the Jordan Pass
Buying the Jordan Pass is a great tip when it comes to seeing Jordan on the cheap full stop.
But when it comes to top tips for visiting Petra on a budget, then the Jordan Pass really comes into its own.
Put simply, the Jordan Pass is a digital ticket that, once purchased, allows you to visit a ton of the country’s attractions for free.
It also includes the cost of your single entry visa to Jordan (although do check if your passport is included) and for this reason, it’s well worth buying the Jordan Pass online before you arrive into the country.
Given that the entrance to Petra for 1 day comes with a steep 50 JD entrance tag (cue
GASPS heartache), buying a Jordan Pass that gives you a 1 day entry ticket for Petra + your Jordan visa (normally 40 JD) + entrance to a whole heap of other Jordan attractions, it’s a no-brainer money saving purchase at 70 JD.
You can also buy an upgraded Jordan Pass for 75 JD, which allows you 2 days in Petra + all the other benefits, again easily helping you to offset the 55 JD fee for a 2 day standalone Petra entrance ticket.
#2 Spend 1 Full Day There
Personally, I actually opted for the Jordan Pass that included the 2 day Petra option (the Jordan Explorer Pass) and was really glad I did, as this place is huge and definitely requires 2 days to take it all in, especially if you’re photographing and videoing it like a crazy blogger!
That said, if you really want to visit Petra on the cheap, the best thing to do would be to save the extended entrance fee and just spend 1 full day here.
And I mean 1 FULL DAY!
Trust me you’ll need it, so plan to get there early and leave late because you’ll want many an hour to walk, snap and marvel at this desert stone city.
The best way to give yourself a full day, therefore, is not to day trip from Amman, like many do, but actually to reach Petra the night before, stay there and then rise at dawn to begin your mammoth day.
Ditto, you’ll be so pooped at the end of it all that I wouldn’t consider returning to Amman either, and advise instead you opt to stay a second night in Petra before moving on elsewhere (namely to Wadi Rum – see #7).
#3 Stay in Wadi Musa
Just to be clear, you can’t actually spend the night in Petra itself, so will need to book accommodation in the surrounding area.
The main town near to the site of Petra is called Wadi Musa – a small local village with bus connections to both Aqaba and Amman.
I actually spent 3 nights in Wadi Musa – because I wanted 2 days to see Petra – and selected the excellent Petra Gate Hostel as my accommodation of choice.
Offering both dorms and private rooms, and well-located in Wadi Musa, it was a great choice with friendly staff and excellent free wifi.
Find the best rates for Petra Gate Hostel here.
Slightly cheaper, although with mixed reviews, is the Valentine Inn, which you can book here.
The other option if you prefer a more local feel, is to stay in the Bedouin village, which is located on the other side of Petra to Wadi Musa.
Here there are plenty of homestays or home rentals available in Bedouin-owned houses and apartments.
It is also possible to access Petra for free via the village and a sneaky back route, but you didn’t hear it from me and I’m not advocating that you do this.
#4 Don’t Take a Guide
My 4th important tip for visiting Petra on the cheap is to not take a guide and do it alone.
Honestly, it’s easy to navigate the site and with free maps available at the entrance, which mark all the main sites, plus the top walking trails, Petra is totally easy to manoeuvre solo.
Of course, taking a guide will increase your understanding of what you’re actually looking at, but between Google and my Jordan Lonely Planet Guidebook, I managed perfectly well!
#5 Skip on the Tours
In the same way that you don’t need to take a guide in Petra to enjoy it, you also don’t need to take a tour here either.
Jordan is a very safe and easy country to travel in and honestly visiting Petra alone, or working as a team with other backpackers, is totally manageable.
Public minivans can be caught to Wadi Musa from both Amman and Aqaba, otherwise for a little more, Jett Bus provide a comfier bus option that still comes in way cheaper than a tour.
Walking from Wadi Musa to the entrance of Petra is easy and, as I’ve already explained, there’s some good budget accommodation options in and around the site you can easily book online too.
#6 Pack Appropriately
My next tip when it comes to visiting Petra on the cheap is to come prepared for your time here.
What I mean is bring snacks, lunch and plenty of water with you.
This will definitely help you keep costs down as you won’t have to fork out so much while you’re in the ancient site of Petra itself.
There’s tons of supermarkets in Wadi Musa where you can pick up supplies, so being prepared is also easy.
In addition to staying fed and watered, you’ll want to bring a sun hat or cap with you to Petra, as well as sunscreen and some good walking shoes – you’re going to cover a lot of ground.
Ideal for visiting Petra, are a pair of lightweight runners, like these New Balance ones, which I found perfect for my time there.
You’ll also want a good day pack to keep all your stuff in and keep your hands free and, as always, this super featherweight Kompressor from Marmot is my go-to for travel, because it folds down to nothing and is super durable and comfortable.
You’ll also want a good camera for Petra.
Here the budget goes a little out of the window, but really, when it comes to snapping one of the world’s most photogenic places, your phone just ain’t going to cut it!
Find out why I always recommend the Sony A6000 Mirrorless as the best travel camera here.
And I would never head off anywhere without my trusty Anker Portable Charger, which keeps my phone and camera batteries full all day, every day!
This means no matter how many pics or videos I might take in Petra, I can rest assured I’m never going to run low on battery.
Also, bring layers!
Petra can be cold even when the sun is shining, mostly because the wind whips through here and, in true desert style, temperatures plummet as the sun gets lower.
Ensuring you have a good lightweight, windproof jacket with you is a very good idea therefore.
This North Face one is perfect.
If you want to spend longer in the Petra area, then check out this awesome Jordanian cooking course my friend Sally over at Passport and Plates experienced in the region care of A Piece of Jordan.
#7 Combine Petra Trip with Wadi Rum
Close to Petra, and the 2nd best Jordan attraction in my opinion, you can’t visit Petra without making time for Wadi Rum too.
And it’s great to know that the best prices for this desert adventure can be found in Petra itself.
Sadly Wadi Rum can’t be visited without a tour (I mean this is the desert right?!), but don’t book your trip in Amman.
Instead ask at one of the budget accommodation places, like Petra Gate Hostel, in Wadi Musa and score an awesome deal.
I paid 40 JD for my Wadi Rum tour through these guys, which included a full day safari jeep tour, return transport to Wadi Rum Village (where the bus will drop / collect you), 3 great meals and an overnight stay in a beautiful Bedouin Camp deep in the desert.
I was actually travelling with some French guys at the time who hadn’t booked a tour and just rocked up to Wadi Rum village hoping to bag a bargain.
Unfortunately, having not arranged anything, they actually ended up paying double what I did, simply because there weren’t any other people also waiting to fill up the jeep.
So, you have been warned!
Sometimes it pays to be organised!
And if you want to be super organised and book a tour to Wadi Rum in advance of your time in Amman even, then check out these great tours that include Petra and Wadi Rum and run from 2-3 days for some great prices.
Jordan Travel Mini Guide
When to Visit Jordan?
Spring and autumn are the top times of year to visit Jordan.
Learn more in this article I wrote about the best time to visit Jordan.
How Long to Visit For?
I think 7-10 days is the perfect amount of time to visit Jordan.
This will allow you to spend 1-2 days in Petra, see all the other main sights at a casual pace, or throw in some of the less travelled parts too if you like to travel fast!
Learn more in my perfect Jordan itinerary post.
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Travel Money for Jordan
When it comes to paying for things in Jordan, you want to ensure you’re not being charged overseas transaction fees or getting poor exchange rates when using your card abroad, which is why I always take my Wise Card away with me wherever I travel.
The easy way to spend abroad with real exchange rates, no markups and no sneaky transaction fees (plus it saves you the hefty ATM withdrawal fees in Jordan too), you can use your Wise card just like a debit card here… and it links easily with Google and Apple pay – sold! Get yours here.
SAVE IT TO PINTEREST!
So those are my top tips for visiting Petra on the cheap.
Have you got any more to add to the list?
Please let me know them in the comments box below…