Category: Green

The Jordan Pass Is A Great Way To Save Money In The Country (And Petra)

amman jordan flag

The Jordan Pass is one of the best discount tourist packages offered in the world but it’s not well advertised. Unfortunately, many travelers learn about the Jordan Pass after they’ve arrived in Jordan or spent $70 entrance to Petra, missing out on a lot of money and time savings.

The Jordan Pass is one of the best tourist discount packages, like Spain’s Granada Card, but in order to take full advantage of it, you’ll need to purchase it before you enter the country.

Includes Visa Entry

There’s one good reason, especially if you’re going to visit Petra, to get a Jordan Pass. But let me start with the obvious bonus all three of the Jordan Pass varieties come with: visa entry fee and shortened entry line at the airport. For Americans and Europeans, plus most other nationals aside from a few neighboring countries, a typical tourist visa costs around $50. The Jordan Pass starts at $99 (70 Jordanian dinar).

jordan pass

Additionally, you’ll get into a shorter line at the airport with a Jordan Pass (for those who already have valid visas) plus save at least 30 minutes from having to go through the process at an immigration desk. You can even save on paper (Jordan is refreshingly good at being green) by simply scanning your Jordan Pass at passport control.

Advantages Even If You’re Petra Only

A single-day entry ticket to Petra is 50JD ($70 USD). So, even if you just use a Jordan Pass to visit the country and see Petra only, it’s saved you $20 already (otherwise it’s around $50 for the tourist visa and $70 for Petra). In fact, the three different Jordan Pass offerings vary only by Petra entry days:

  • Jordan Wanderer ($99): 1 day visit to Petra, 40 other popular sites, tourist visa, digital brochures
  • Jordan Explorer ($106): Same, except has a 2 day Petra entrance ticket
  • Jordan Expert ($113): Same as above, except is a 3 day Petra entrance

Keep in mind to be eligible for the tourist visa entry fee, your trip to Jordan must be at least 3 nights (4 days).

Now you might be wondering who would want to visit Petra 2 or 3 times but it might surprise you that Petra is a lot bigger than most people expect. It’s an entire ancient town spread over dozens of square kilometers. Many travelers stay in town for a few days to explore Petra a section at a time due its size. Others, who only get a day ticket, arrive the night before so they can get in at 6am before the vast majority of the crowds. (It’s not too bad if you’re running late though, here’s how crowded Petra gets at peak hour.)

Plan For The Pass

A Jordan Pass is an instant money saver if you’re only going to visit Petra. You’ll cut costs on Petra and a tourist visa, but even those who are visa exempt or not planning on seeing Petra will likely save because the Jordan Pass includes 40 other sites as well. The Jordan Pass covers places like Wadi Rum you’ll probably want to see – just remember to keep the pass on your phone and ask any site you enter if you’re unsure.

Discount cards, like the JR Rail Pass for Japan, can be a great for your travel budget but Jordan Pass included, often have to be purchased in advance of your trip to make use of the full benefits.

7 Things That Will Surprise A First-Time Visitor To Petra

petra treasury

Petra in southern Jordan is one of the most iconic tourist sites in the world, made famous by movies like Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. It’s familiarity in films has narrowed Petra’s tourism marketing, giving many visitors a nice surprise when they arrive at the 9,000 year old ancient city.

Petra is not what you expect though don’t feel odd about it, you’re not alone. These are 7 things that surprise most first-time visitors to Petra.

1. It’s More Than The Treasury

petra great temple

Al-Khazneh (The Treasury) is what you may think Petra is. But Petra is more than a 45 meter (147 foot) tall Treasury; it’s an entire ancient city. Petra’s ancient ruins lie within at least a 60 kilometer (37 mile) hiking area, though you’ll probably only walk 8-16km (5-10 miles) of that to the major sites closest the entrance. Visitors on second and third trips to Petra often spend several days in the area to explore by foot or donkey.

2. The Treasury Is A 2 Kilometer Walk

Based on how movies portray Petra, you might be under the impression that the Treasury is a short walk from the entrance. In reality, the Treasury is 2km (1.24 miles) in through a series of impressive valleys. The valleys are very photogenic and much cooler than the exposed desert air starting at the Treasury and beyond.

indian jones and last crusadeIndiana Jones and the Last Crusade (Special Edition)

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3. You Can’t Go In The Treasury

Sorry, it’s not like in Indian Jones, the Treasury is only a big photo opportunity from outside with a sufficiently wide angle lens. (I was pretty surprised by this one.) As far as immortal knights, I didn’t hear of any either.

4. Get Your Tickets Before Jordan

jordan pass

I’ll be writing more about the Jordan Pass in the coming weeks, a sightseeing package like the Granada Card well worth the cost. A Jordan Pass, offered by Jordan’s Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities, also waives the tourist visa entry fee. The Jordan Pass is just slightly more expensive than a single entry ticket to Petra but to make the most of it, you’ll need to purchase before you get to Jordan.

5. Lots Of Walking, Little Food

ancient city petra

Just to see the Treasury you’ll have a 4km (2.5 mile) round trip walk to prepare for. To see the Great Temple, Royal Tombs, and simply nature being magic beyond that plan for a full day of walking. Bring liters of water in the summer – add a jacket in the winter, it can be surprisingly chilly.

Meal options are terrible as well in the site, so unless you’re good with potato chips plus an apple or two, bring your own food. People arriving on day trips should stock up the night before (you want to get in as early as possible), otherwise if you have time before the evening buses return to Amman, the nearby restaurants are surprisingly good.

6. Free Horse Rides Are Free But Not Really

petra donkey

Yes, you do get a free horse ride with your Petra entry ticket. You’ll also get intense hassling for a pricey tip resulting in very few people actually using the horses. Donkeys on the other hand are a bit better but be ready to bargain like a traveling pro and wait until you’re past the Treasury to get the most reasonable rates.

7. Crowded But Not

Despite being the most popular tourist attraction in Jordan, over the past few years instability in the greater Middle East region has kept the largest crowds away. To see Petra without people you can get in at 6am, for everyone else, take a look at the video below to see what Petra looks like on an average day.

Many of the people I met and spoke with shared how much more Petra was than they expected, much like the Great Pyramids in Egypt, making it one of the more popular tourist destinations that won’t disappoint you. Unless, of course, you were really hoping to see the Holy Grail.

Best Of The Balkans Few Visit: Photos Of The Belogradchik Rocks In Bulgaria

Outside of Bulgaria, few, even those in the neighboring Balkan countries, know about one of the most visually stunning natural formations in the region: the Belogradchik Rocks. They should be standard viewing for any visitor to the country (it’s a 4 hour drive from the capital Sofia) but less than 1% of the tourists visiting Bulgaria ever make it there.

belogradchik bulgaria

The site of a former sea, the Belogradchik Rocks are about 45 million years old; their formation likely began more than 200 million years prior. The Romans decided to build a fort into the rocks, later taken over by the Ottomans in 1396.

belogradchik fort

Although the 200 meter tall rock formations are reminiscent of Cappadocia in Turkey, Belogradchik’s rocks are the result of water erosion (not volcanic activity).

belogradchik photos

Getting to Belogradchik is fairly easy if you have a car and have downloaded some local offline Google Maps. The roads aren’t the best so you should be gentle on the gas pedal over the 120 kilometer (75 mile) drive.

belogradchik

Belogradchik’s stairs are steep, turn into ladders, though for those who make the climb, the views are impressive. In winters it can be icy though even in good conditions, you’ll probably be the only tourist around.

belogradchik madonna

The Belogradchik Rocks should be on every tourism poster for Bulgaria. What Hollywood has discovered (many movies are filmed across the country) – inexpensive, impressive landscape, lesser known – Belogradchik is only a tiny part of. There are many other cultural contrasts you didn’t know Bulgaria will surprise you with, as well as a big Comic Con annually, you probably didn’t know about either.

belogradchik drone

For those of you looking for off the beaten path, only 17,000 foreign tourists visited the Belogradchik Rocks in 2015. When you’re standing at the very top of the fort, overlooking the valley of rock formations, you’ll wonder how that’s possible. At the same time, feeling happy you’ve got it (mostly) all to yourself.

How To Take A Day Trip To Andorra From Barcelona

andorra

Most visitors to Barcelona, Spain, aren’t aware that they can easily visit the sixth smallest country in Europe by taking a day trip to nearby Andorra. A trip to Andorra is inexpensive, easily arranged, and can be a nice addition to your stay in Barcelona. Here’s how to get to Andorra, why you might want to go, and what to see while you’re there.

Morning To Night, No Flight

There’s no airport in Andorra at all, even in its capital Andorra la Vella, the primary destination for most day trippers. You could rent a car, which isn’t recommended during the cold months as the roads up to the highest capital city in Europe through the Pyrenees mountains are best handled by a driver who knows them well.

andorra bus

A better option is to take a bus, there are many servicing Andorra from Barcelona, and I can recommend ALSA. You can book in advance through their website and check schedules – basically buses leave the Barcelona Nord station in the morning around 7am, and return either in the afternoon around 3pm or 7pm, depending on your preference. A round-trip costs about 60 euro and when departing Barcelona, sit on the left side for a beautiful view of the Punta de Rialb lake, 80 minutes into the trip. (Depending on the route you take, it varies given the driving conditions.)

To Ski Or Not To Ski

Andorra is primarily a ski destination. Snowboarders and skiers who take one look at the mountains overlooking Andorra la Vella will immediately have visualizations surfing down them. For everyone else, a day trip still has a few good options. From the small bus station (here’s how to pin it on an offline Google map) you can grab a coffee with breakfast at the nearby Granja Tuite 42 cafe.

La Noblesse du Temps andorra la vella

From there, if you point yourself toward the La Noblesse du Temps Dali sculpture, you’ll pass through the shopping district if that’s of interest to you. Otherwise, head to the La Noblesse du Temps, and directly to its left you’ll see one of two tourism centers in Andorra. Ask for a map to Rec de l’Obac, a walking path that overlooks the entire city. The Rec de l’Obac is definitely a sightseeing calorie burner so the uphill walk is not for everyone. The scenery though is amazing as well as fresh air – both much more memorable than slightly sore calf muscles.

Small Enough To See

Andorra la Vella is only 12 square kilometers (5 sq. miles) in its entirety so you can see most of what a tourist looks for in one day with time to spare. I’ll have a longer post coming up with more recommendations of what to do in Andorra but even wandering around on your own its hard to miss much. In case you do finish up quickly or get a bit chilly, most tickets can be changed without charge at the ticket office at the bus station for a 3pm departure. Otherwise, be sure to make the 7pm back, or be prepared to spend a night in town.

The Best Vegan Restaurant In Belgrade, Serbia

radost vegan belgrade

It’s hard to call something the “best” but Radost Fina Kuhinjica in Belgrade, Serbia serves excellent vegan and vegetarian dishes in an ambiance that would make it a great health-food restaurant anywhere. Radost is part of the very popular trend in the Balkans toward healthy, vegan, sugar-dairy-free foods in countries whose national dishes are often meats soaked in butter topped with cheeses.

Plan For An Afternoon

Radost is hidden across from the Belgrade Fortress and not the easiest place to find whether or not you’re using Google Maps. The restaurant is tucked away in an apartment, putting the first expression on people’s face a rather blank, “uuhhh, is this the place” look. Once inside though, you’ll see a cozy, renovated, vegetarian restaurant that looks nice without feeling arrogant about itself.

The aroma of the coffee though will set you immediately at ease. Radost’s caffeinated menu is varied with teas of all sorts plus coffees to give you a good afternoon kick. Although they officially open at 2pm, Radost serves drinks about an hour before. Like many vegan-vegetarian restaurants around the world, they’re not always the most punctual. Good coffee makes waiting for the daily menu – quite varied throughout the week – a bit easier.

belgrade vegetarian

There are Tex-Mex options, both in vegetarian and vegan varieties, Balkan salads, veggie burgers, plus cakes of all sorts – with or without processed sugar, depending on your preference. Lentil soups, eggplant dips, as well as many other traditional Serbian foods that are vegetarian by default are tweaked to become vegan if requested.

Breaking Bread, Or Some Equivalent

Radost, located at Pariska 3, is open from around 2pm-midnight on most days. They also hold occasional events in the evenings, though I didn’t make it to any, a good opportunity for travelers to meet similarly meat-minded locals. Prices are a bit above the average for Belgrade (not uncommon for most specialty restaurants) but Radost is hardly expensive.

radost belgrade

From the best restaurant in Pristina to A La Sante in Tirana, these vegetarian restaurants aren’t fortified vegan outposts on the other side of lines drawn in the sand as in many places. Rather, vegan cuisine is becoming an ever growing part of people’s occasional diets in the Balkans. In Belgrade, Radost is introducing an elegant, health-food dining experience to locals who are going out for a vegan meal on regular occasion – whether or not they love steak too.

How To Get To The Top Of Tirana, Albania’s Mount Dajti By Cable Car

dajti ekspres

Albania’s capital city Tirana doesn’t have the reputation of being the most beautiful, but I ask you to try agreeing with that from the view atop Mount Dajti overlooking the city. Something more objective however is Tirana’s ad-hoc system for pretty much everything, including public transportation.

You can get to the top of Mount Dajti, just outside of Tirana, by taking the Dajti Ekspress, the longest cable car in the Balkans. There are a lot of options for getting there but only a few that make sense. Here are the best ways to get to Mount Dajti.

From Town To Base Station

Before you do anything, it’s important to make sure you have, or withdraw, enough cash for the journey as well as cable car. The credit card machine at the base station hasn’t worked in forever – show up with only a Mastercard and you’ll have to go all the way back into town.

et'hem bey mosque tirana

  • Cash To Bring – A round-trip cable car ticket is around 800 lek ($6.30 dollars) and the bus about 65 lek (.50 cents US). There’s a good cafe and restaurant up at the top that do accept credit cards but I wouldn’t rely on them, so bring extra cash to enjoy some food as well.

Head to the Et’hem Bey Mosque in the center of town. Looking at the Et’hem Mosque (with the clock town on the left) about 50 meters to the left is a bus station. You’ll see people waiting around, possibly a bus, or neither. Look for the Linze bus and confirm with the driver he or she is headed toward Dajti.

  • Dajti Cable Car Hours – From 10am to 7pm (winter); extended hours to 10pm during the summer months. The Dajti Ekspres cable car is open everyday except Tuesdays.

The trip from the bus station to nearby the cable car station is about 25 minutes. Go to the last stop – it also helps to sit near the front so the driver can let you know you’re at the right place.

Drop Off And Ready To Walk

From this point, you’ll have to walk about 10 minutes uphill following signs that aren’t very accurate. As you walk in the direction the bus was pointing when it arrived at the station, ask every few shops to make sure you’ve not gone off track. The shop owners are very helpful, often leaving their stores to give overly detailed instructions for the deceptively winding roads.

mount dajti tirana albania

Unless you’re arriving with a bicycle, get a round-trip ticket up to the top by taking the 3.6 kilometer (2.2 mile) Dajti Ekspres cable car. A lovely 20 minute ride, unless you have serious fear of heights, take in all of the views of Tirana on the way. After arriving don’t miss the countryside on the far side of Mount Dajti.

  • Meal With A View – Although the pizza is pretty good, be sure to get a seat by the window, even if there is a wait at Ballkoni I Dajtit, the sight is spectacular.

Above it, there’s a cafe that rotates 360 degrees, like this:

Other Options To The Top

Taxi is an option but you’ll have to negotiate your way there, expect to pay about $15 USD for a one-way ride. There’s also a shuttle which connects with one of the bus stops but since there’s no set timing information available, consider it the very leisurely (possibly uncertain) way up. Up, by the way, is the direction it’s easiest to go – finding a taxi nearby, especially close to closing hour means bus is likely the only way you’ll be getting back into town.

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About Anil Polat

foxnomad aboutI'm the blogger and computer security engineer who writes foXnoMad while on a journey to visit every country in the world. I'll show you the tips, tricks, and tech you can use to travel smarter. Read More


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