The day started out good. I was picked up at my hotel on the Dead Sea for an on time departure at 7:30AM sharp. The drive to Petra along the Dead Sea was quite lovely. May driver was a nice man and had a lot of information about the history of the sea and surrounding area. We reached Petra in about 2.5 hrs, which was about what i expected. My tour guide promptly showed up and off we went into Petra. That's when things went downhill a bit. My guide seemed like he was in a big hurry.. constantly looking at this watch and rushing through the park. I asked him to help with with photos a couple times and he seemed a little annoyed. Every time i stopped to take a photo he kept walking.. even stood in my shot on several occasions. He was a nice man and seemed very knowledgeable but the experience felt very rushed. I think i would've done better had i been on my own. Upon return to the car/driver about, 4.5 hrs later, we set off for home. My driver questioned whether i wanted to add this or that to my excursion, which i politely declined and made it very clear that I wanted to get back to the hotel so i would have time to swim in the dead sea before the beach closed. But instead of taking the same scenic route that we took in the morning he took a different route that added over an hour to our commute time. He even stopped at a restaurant to eat lunch. I mean I was in Petra for 4.5 hours.. couldn't he have eaten lunch during that time? I explained to him again i wanted to get back to swim so we got back on the road after losing another 30 minutes. By the time we got back to the hotel the beach was closed and because i had a super early flight the next morning i missed my opportunity to swim in the sea. This was a MASSIVE disappointment that could've been avoided. He was a nice enough guy, but I would certainly expect a driver to be more attentive to the requests of his clients, particularly when the client is paying top dollar for a personal excursion. Bottom line, Petra was awesome, but I honestly feel like with a little planning I could've done better had I rented a car and did the whole thing myself.
Our driver promptly picked us up at our hotel at the arranged time. He was very courteous and communicated clearly in our native language. The drive took about two and a half hours. We connected with a local guide at the entrance to Petra. He grew up there and was quite knowledgeable of the area. After our guided tour we opted to climb up to the monestary, which is quite strenuous, but well worth the effort. Overall this was a great experience and all of the arrangements were executed without any problems.
This is an excellent package highly recommended. Both our driver, Bashar, and our tour guide in Petra, Omar, were wonderful!
Some suggestions for travelers:
- This is a great package if you only have a very short time in Jordan we only spent 2 days total, one in Amman itself, the other on this trip to Petra, but if you have enough time, you should really stay closer to Petra than Amman, because all the travel will eat up your time there. You really do need a FULL day inside to see the whole site.
- Your time with the Petra guide is limited don't spend all your time taking photos! Listen to your guide and ask questions while you've got him, and take most of your photos on the way out. There's only one way in or out of Petra, so you'll pass everything at least twice.
- You'll need to eat while you're inside the site if you're concerned about food quality, there is a very nice restaurant inside the site that serves authentic local food with Western standards of cleanliness. It's the Crowne Plaza-branded restaurant at the far end of the valley, just before the steps ascending to the Monastery. It's a buffet, and it's really nice. There's both indoor and outdoor seating - the indoor area is air conditioned, and the outdoor area is shaded by a huge tree.
- The horse ride advertised isn't exactly included - you're still expected to tip the Bedouin who give the ride. You can get horseback rides, horse chariot rides, camel rides, and donkey rides inside the site from the vendors there, but everyone expects tips.
- There are Bedouin vendors throughout the site trying to sell things to you always tell them an unambiguous NO until the time arrives when you're prepared to give them a unambiguous YES. Be VERY FIRM. Do not ever say maybe later or not now or anything like that, because as far as they're concerned, the only thing worse than you not buying something from them, is you buying the same thing from someone ELSE, since they're all independent. You can always say yes later, but until it's yes, now, it's no, always.
- Tip both the driver and the tour guide. After researching what appropriate tips were, we decided to be generous and gave the guide 20 dinars and the driver 30 since he stayed out later than planned with us.
Here's a recounting of our experience:
Bashar made two helpful stops on our way to Petra: we made a bathroom stop about halfway at a nice restaurant/tourist shop, and another stop closer to Petra in Shobek, where he pulled over on the side of the road to show us Shobek Castle built by the Crusaders in 1115 AD and meet a wonderful local named Mohammed, who was very hospitable he offered us food and tea for free and showed us his Smallest Hotel in the World. We wound up chatting with him and his family for a while, and in the end bought some souvenirs from him - among other things, he hunts for ancient coins he's got a metal detector, identifies them, and sells them. Then, we were on to the main event!
Because of the stops, we didn't actually enter Petra until almost 11am, at which point Bashar arranged with us where we would meet him afterward, and introduced us to our guide, Omar. Our tour with Omar lasted about 2.5 hours, and took us from the entrance to the far end of the valley, just past the ruins of the Petra Marketplace. The history of Petra was really fascinating, and we really liked Omar - especially because he defended us from the Bedouin vendors trying to sell us things, but he was also very informative and knew his stuff! I won't spoil it, since you really have to experience it for yourself, but rest assured that it's worth it. Once the official tour was over, Omar left us and we ate lunch, and 2 of the 3 of us decided to make the optional 800-stair trip up the mountain to the Monastery. It was totally worth it - do it! There are lots of spectacular views on the way up. The round trip on foot to and from the Monastery is about an hour and a half, and you can make it faster by taking a Bedouin donkey ride. Note that it's considerably tougher going than the rest of Petra, and since it's quite the hike, the crowds were much sparser at the top, so it's possible to get photos of yourself in front of it without other tourists in your photos. Because we made the trip up to the Monastery, we did have to rush a bit to get out of the site by nightfall which for us, in mid-November, was about 5pm. There were a number of things in Petra not on the tour that we didn't get to see close-up and would like to have spent more time exploring.
On our way back, we asked Bashar to stop briefly at a tourist shop to get some more souvenirs, which he was happy to do. Since we got to Petra late, and left Petra late, we didn't get back to our hotel until about 8pm, meaning that instead of 10 hours total, we took 12.5. We had had a great time and felt a little bad keeping our driver out so late, so we made sure to tip him very generously.
Recommend spending the day at least in Petra. Our tour guide was with us for 2 hours and made sure we had all necessary arrangements for getting up to the Monastery and ultimately back to our meeting spot with our driver. Beware of the tons and tons of souvenir and trinket hawks throughout.