Friday 19 June 2020

Jordan Trip

Jordan is my top three favourite countries to visit. Although Jordan is a small country in the middle east, it is packed with so many unique impressive attractions for tourists to explore: 
- Lost City - Petra (New Seven Wonders of the World and UNESCO World Heritage Site), Dead Sea (the lowest point of the earth)
- Jerash (thousand years old Greco-Roman city)
- Madaba (the oldest floor mosaic map cartographic depiction of Holy Land)
- Aqaba (beautiful red sea coastal city)
- Baptism Site of Jesus Christ (UNESCO World Heritage Site)
- Quseir Amra (1200 years old desert castle with beautiful colour painting on the wall which is UNESCO World Heritage Site)
- Wadi Musa (UNESCO World Heritage Site for both Cultural and Natural, landscape on earth most similar to Mars). 
Numerous movies filmed in this beautiful country, including Indiana Jones and The Last Crusade in Petra, Lawrence of Arabia and The Last Days on Mars in Wadi Rum, Transformers: Revenger of the Fallen and many other movies.

1. Is it Safe to Visit Jordan?

Yes, Jordan is a very safe country to visit. It is a peaceful land surrounding by war zone countries. Jordan is a middle east country, but no oil production.  Tourism is the main economy sector. Local people are very friendly to tourists. Jordan is a strong ally of the United States. The only areas in Jordan that the travelers should avoid are the borders with Syria and Iraq. Please note all major attractions in Jordan are far away from the country’s borders. 

2. Entry Visa to Jordan

Landing visa is 40 JD (regardless the age of the tourists) and it can be purchased from Jordan custom at the time of entry. Please note Jordan Custom accepts an international credit). I strongly recommend tourists to purchase Jordan Pass (Tip: Must Purchase Item) because it includes the admission ticket to Petra, most other attractions in Jordan and as well as Jordan entry visa. The charge of Jordan Pass is based the number of days visiting Petra (1 day for 50 JD, 2 days for 55 JD and 3 days for 60 JD). Here is link for Jordan Pass purchase website: Some tourists did not know this deal until they visited Petra. They will have to pay admission for Petra and other attractions again on top of previously paid entry visa fee to Jordan.

3. Best Time to Visit

The best time to visit Jordan is during the spring (March to May) and fall (September to November). At these times of year. the temperatures are cool enough to enjoy exploring Jordan’s iconic sites. The coldest months of the year are December and January, where the temperatures 5  - 10 °C. I traveled to Jordan in February 2019. The temperature varied crossed the Country (Amman: 12 °C, Dead Sea: 21°C, Petra: 14°C, Wadi Rum: 15°C, Aqaba: 27 °C). 

4. Travel Budget

Travel expense in Jordan is high amongst developing countries. However, it is still cheaper than traveling in most developed countries. The local currency is Jordanian Dinar is very strong (1 JD = 1.25 EURO =1.4 USD = 2 CAD). I recommend tourists to have minimum 60 JD per day for daily travel expenses. 

5. Flights

The flight fare is very expensive from North America, usually around $1400 CAD/$1000 USD). From China and other Eastern Asian countries to Jordan is expensive as well ($750 USD) with transfer in Hong Kong. The good news for North America and European tourists is the European budget airlines easyJet and Ryan Air started their route services from multiple European cities to Amman and Aqaba in 2018. The one-way flight fare is as low as 10 Euros for 5 hours from Southern or Eastern Europe.  I took advantage of this deal and did double dipping trip to visit both Europe and Jordan in 2019. I paid 43 Euros from Bologna, Italy to Amman and returned flight only paid 11 Euros from Aqaba to Berlin, Germany.  

6. Hotels

You may stay at hotels or Airbnb properties in the Bahamas. Book Airbnb from the link below will save you $62 CAD/$43 USD/41 Euros instantly for your first stay anywhere around the world:

Hotels are not expensive in Amman (Approximately 33 – 50 JD for a 2.5 star hotel). Hotels are expensive in Petra which double the price than anywhere else in Jordan. 

7. Credit Card vs. Foreign Currencies

Credit cards are not well-accepted in Jordan, except the only two international airports. Please prepared cash from your home country or find local currency exchange places in Jordan. 

8. Transportation Within Jordan

Jordan has no train services. No Uber service in Jordan (limited illegal vehicles running this service and Jordan police will ask you to walk back to the airport terminal when it is caught). Long distance bus, local mini-bus, car rental or hire private taxi drivers are the popular way to travel in Jordan. Jett is the main coach bus service provider in Jordan. You may travel from Amman city center to Aqaba or Petra with the local transporter Jett bus which provides very reliable ser­vices:  Bus ticket can be purchased online to pay with an international credit card. If you hire a taxi or private driver, you may negotiate the price with the driver. The charge really depends your negotiation skills and distance traveled. The daily price (including gas, mileage, driver’s time and other cost) varies from 60 JD to 110 JD depends on the car conditions. I managed to find a reliable taxi driver prior to my Jordan trip so I can see more attractions in Jordan during my 8 day trip. You may also find local taxi drivers when you are in Jordan. Many drivers will approach you for offers. Make sure to ask questions and confirm what is included and how much per day. Your hotels have designated drivers which usually charge very high price.

The following common routes for tourists to consider:

1) Amman Airport to Amman City Center: Airport Shuttle 3.5 JD (2019)

2) Within Amman City: tourist taxi 2 – 3 JD. Local people about 1 JD.

3) Amman City Center to Petra: Jett Bus 7.7 JD (as of 2020), only one departure at 6:30 am per day, so manage your schedule.

4). Amman City Center to Aqaba: Jett Bus 9.8 JD (as of 2020)

5). Amman to Jerash: local mini-bus 1 JD. Not easy to find the departure location. Ask hotel or Airbnb to write Arabic on the paper to show the taxi drivers.

6). Petra to Wadi Rum: local mini-bus 7 JD (no negotiation, the mini-bus is  usually packed with tourists). Ask your hotel or Airbnb to call the mini-bus for free pick up the day before your travel.

7). Wadi Rum to Aqaba: local mini-bus for 5 JD for tourists. Local people only pay 3 JD. Australian tourists and I negotiated with the bus driver and we finally paid 4 JD per person. A taxi driver offered us 20 JD per car for all of us, but we have four adults and one child, so we refused the offer.  

8) Amman to Dead Sea: Jett Bus for 10 JD. Kids under 2 years old free. Some taxi drivers are willing to take 20 JD for one-way trip. Booking taxi via hotels is expensive.

9) Amman to Madaba: mini-bus for 1.2 JD (2019)

9. Length of Visit in Jordan

A minimum of 7 days would be needed to see most major attractions for Jordan trip and save 1 - 2 days for Petra. I planned two day for Petra just in case it rains or sand storm occurs. One full day would be adequate to see the whole site of Petra. Please note: Jordan Pass Holders are required to stay for minimum 3 nights in Jordan. 


Trip Highlights 

Madaba: world earliest mosaic map cartographic depiction of Holy Land

The Church with mosaic map. It was packed with a large group of university researchers and professors at the time of visit. 2JD for admission. 

Mount Nebo: the most revered holy site in Jordan

Baptism Site of Jesus Christ (UNESCO World Heritage Site), 8JD discount admission ticket as an add-on item at the time of purchase Jordan Pass online. It is a very popular site because Pope Jon Pail II visited in 2000. 

Beautiful Sunset at Dead Sea

Dead Sea in the Morning

The best Embassy Suites I have ever stayed at Dead Sea Resort. 91 JD per night in February. The hotel is very fancy with nice swimming pools and gym. It was so quiet in February which is low season for tourists. The hotel has private beach for guests to explore the Dead Sea. You have an opportunity to try Dead Sea black mud on you for free.  I redeemed IHG points for free stay. The hotel has wonderful welcome surprise: dessert, snacks and drinks on the first night.

Amman Roman Theatre at the city Center is very impressive. Free admission with Jordan Pass. Numerous hotels and Airbnb close to the theatre. 

Folklore Museum (inside the Roman Theatre)

Jerash Roman City is extremely impressive. Must visit site in Jordan. 

Well-reserved Roman Theatre Inside Jerash Ruins

Amazing View of Jerash Roman City 

Nymphaeum in Jerash Ruins

The Temple of Artemis in Jerash

Impressive Aljoun Castle: Inside View. It is quite large inside with many rooms

Amman Citadel in the Early Morning

1200 years old Colourful Painting Inside Quseir Amra (UNESCO World Heritage Site). Numerous paintings on the walls which are very neat and impressive. 

Desert Castle Qasr Kharana, free admission with Jordan Pass

Inside View of Qasr Kharana

Umm Ar - Rasas (UNESCO World Heritage Site): 1500 years history. Floor mosaics in the church was built in 5th Century Byzantine period. The location is inconvenient for tourists, so not many people on the site at the time of my visit.

Umm Ar - Rasas, several large floor area. Here is one of them. 

Kerak Castle is a large Crusader castle located in al-Karak. It was built in 1142 by Ottoman Empire. When I arrived at there after 5 pm, it was closed already for the day (closed early during the winter months). I was very lucky that the guy looked after the gate let me in, so I gave him 2 JD tips. If you travel to see Kerak Castle on the way to Petra, please make sure to manage you time to visit there.

Defense system in Kerak Castle. It's large inside the castle with defense structures both indoors and outdoors. The view is amazing above the hill.

Inside the Kerak Castle. I recommend tourists to visit at least one castle in Jordan.. The admission is free with Jordan Pass. 

The Treasury as seen from Al-Siq right before the passage ends.

Petra is the most well-know attraction in Jordan. It has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1985 and it attracts over 1 million tourists every year. When I walked through the narrow siq, suddenly a massive impressive appeared in front of me. It is almost like the scene in the move of Indiana Jones The Last Crusade.

A close look of Al-Khazneh of Petra built in 1st Century AD. 

The Theatre was carved into the side of the mountain at the foot of High Palace of Sacrifice. It can accommodate about 4000 spectators, truly amazing structure.

A close look of Ad-Deir (The Monastery) where The Transformers filmed there.

The Urn Tomb (The Court) was constructed around 70 AD. High up in the facede there are 3 niches which give on to small curial chambers, but which has adapted in 446 AD to serve as a Byzantine church. 

The Silk Tomb is located to the north of the Urn Tomb. The tower dates back to the first half of the 1st century AD. It is one of the most dramatically colored tomb

The beauty of Wadi Rum can not expressed by words. As a UNESCO World Heritage Site for both natural and cultural, it is truly a must see attraction in Jordan. The landscape is very similar to the Mars, so numerous movies were filmed. 

Beautiful Landscape of Wadi Rum

The Rock (Cow) in Wadi Rum

Am I on the Mars? - Beautiful Wadi Rum in Jordan 

Beautiful Wadi Rum

The Bridge of Wadi Rum: My son and I

Aqaba Public Beach - Beautiful Red Sea

Useful Maps 

Monday 15 June 2020

Trip Planning

Trip Planning

Trip planning is exciting and very essential for budget travel. Self-guided tour gives you the flexibility to visit attractions without time limit. Also, it is cheaper than the tour organized by tour operators. I will use Europe as an example to demonstrate how to complete the trip planning for your family vacation.


1. Countries to Visit

All tourists have dream destinations in their mind. Some popular destinations (e.g., Rome, Paris, London, Athens, etc.) are very well-known. Even though Europe is not a big continent, traveling amongst different countries could be time consuming. It is important to group several countries together and to see Europe as much as possible because it is a long journey if you travel from Asia, Oceania, North America and South America.


The following useful tools for your destination selection:

1). UNESCO World Heritage Sites List

UNESCO has extremely strict assessment criteria for world heritage site selection. China, Greece, Italy and other countries have numerous historical sites over thousands of years, but not every site is recognized as UNESCO world heritage site. Every year there are numerous site applications submitted different nations, but only a small number was selected. UNESCO categorized world heritage into three types: cultural, natural and combination of cultural and natural.

2). New Seven World Wonders of the World

New seven world wonders of the world were selected from 200 existing monuments all around the world in 2007.Besides the new seven world wonders, this website also shows other 13 finalists.  It will help you to make decision on destination selection.


3). Gate1 Travel

Gate1 Travel is a very popular tour operator in USA and they offer escorted tours all around the world. The company’s website is attractive and user friendly. You may see what routes they offer for tours which will help with your own destination selections and self-guided tours trip planning. For escorted tours, you will receive $50 USD credit for your booking using the referral (Account#: 2873931, Name: Wei Chen) 

4). Recommendations Based on Activities

·        European Historical Sites: Italy (55 World Heritage Sites) and Grace

·        European Classic Palaces: France, Italy, Germany, Austria

·        Beautiful Island: Italy, Greece, Norway

·        Mediterranean Experience:  Italy and Greece

·        Shopping Trips: Italy, Spain, Portugal, Greece, Czech Republic, Hungary and other Eastern European countries.

·        Nature Scenery:  Norway, Switzerland, Ireland and Iceland.

·        European Cuisine: Italy, France, Spain and Hungary

·        Museums and Galleries: UK, Italy, France, Austria, Spain and Belgium

·        European Castles: UK, Germany

·        Wedding Photos: Greece, Italy, France, Czech Republic and Hungary

·        European Churches: Italy, Germany and Spain

·        Classic Small Towns: Austria, Germany, Czech Republic, France and Switzerland

·        Extremely Safe Nations: Austria, Switzerland, Norway and Denmark

·       Last Minute Trip: Belgium (the only European country offers 10-Journey card for 77 Euros, so you can travel across Belgium by train with amazing price).






2. Popular Routes:

1). France – Italy – Switzerland

2). Spain – Portugal

3). Austria – Czech Republic – Hungary

4). The Netherlands – Belgium – Luxembourg - France

5). UK – Ireland

6). Finland – Russia – Estonia

7). Denmark – Norway

8). Estonia – Latvia – Lithuania

9). Germany – Belgium – Luxembourg

10). Greece – Italy

3. International Flights

If you live in Asia, Oceania, North America or South America, international flight fare will take majority of budget for overseas trip to Europe. However, the good news is Europe has multiple low-budget airlines and extremely affordable train network within Europe. The great tip for your international booking is to find the cheapest flight from your home country to a European city. It does not matter what part of Europe you will fly to, then connect there to your destination by budget airlines (e.g., easy Jet, Ryan Air, etc.) or European train (as low as 9 Euros for international train with advanced booking).  For international flight, please use Google Flight to find the cheapest flight

List several cheap flights that I flew for the past few years:

1). May (KLM): Western Canada to Amsterdam for $639 CAD (or $450 USD) return flight including taxes. Then flew with easyJet to Prague for 31 Euro. 

2). February (Iceland Air): Seattle/Vancouver to London for $371 CAD (or $260 USD) return flight including taxes. Then flew with easyJet to Santorini, Greece for 25 GBP.

3) October (British Airway): Calgary to London for $324 CAD ($216 USD) return flight including taxes. Then flew with easyJet to Venice for 21 GBP.

If you live in North America, most seat sales for international flights flying to Dublin, London, Amsterdam and Reykjavik due to shorter flying distance. Then you can connect your next destination from these airports by checking which European budget airlines flying to. 

London Gatwick Airport:

easyjet provides route services from London Gatwick to the following locations for low price:Aarhus, Agadir, Alicante, Almería, Amsterdam, Ancona, Athens, Barcelona, Bari, Basel/Mulhouse, Belfast–International, Berlin–Tegel, Bologna, Bordeaux, Budapest, Catania, Copenhagen, Düsseldorf, Edinburgh, Faro, Fuerteventura, Funchal, Geneva, Gibraltar, Glasgow, Granada, Gran Canaria, Hamburg, Hurghada, Innsbruck, Inverness, Isle of Man, Jersey, Kraków, Lanzarote, Larnaca, Lisbon, Ljubljana, Luxembourg, Lyon, Madrid, Málaga, Malta, Marrakech, Marseille, Milan–Linate, Milan–Malpensa, Montpellier, Munich, Murcia, Nantes, Naples, Nice, Olbia, Palermo, Palma de Mallorca, Paphos, Paris–Charles de Gaulle, Pisa, Porto, Prague, Reykjavík–Keflavík, Rome–Fiumicino, Seville, Sharm El Sheikh, Sofia, Stuttgart, Tallinn, Tenerife–South, Thessaloniki, Tirana, Toulouse, Valencia,Venice, Verona, Vienna, Zurich

Seasonal: Ajaccio, Antalya, Aqaba, Bastia, Biarritz, Bodrum, Brindisi, Chania, Corfu, Dalaman, Dubrovnik, Enfidha, Figari, Friedrichshafen, Grenoble, Heraklion, Ibiza, Izmir, Jerez de la Frontera, Kalamata, Kefalonia, Klagenfurt, Kos, La Palma[citation needed], La Rochelle, Menorca, Mykonos, Östersund, Preveza/Lefkada, Pula, Rhodes, Rovaniemi, Salzburg, Santiago de Compostela, Santorini, Split, Tel Aviv, Tirana, Tivat, Turin, Varna, Volos, Zadar, Zakynthos


London Heathrow Airport:


Amsterdam Airport:


Dublin Airport:


Reykjavik Airport:


4. Train Booking

Europe has a huge network of high-speed train system in Western, Southern and Central and some part of Eastern European countries. The long-distance train’s price is as low as 9 Euros with advanced booking. Ticket sale usually starts 3 to 4 months prior to the departure dates, then after that train tickets are getting more expensive closer to your trip.  For example, I took the train from Zurich to Milan for over 5 hours journey from Italian train website and I purchased the tickets for 9 euros about 3.5 months before my journey. The Swiss train website shows 29 Euros for the same journey, so it is important to check both countries websites for the cheapest ticket. Another example, I booked Berlin to Munich train for 29 Euros about 4 months ago. I checked the ticket close to my departure date later and the price has gone up to 133 Euros. The only exception is for domestic train in Belgium. You can buy 10-journey card (self-filled in card) for only 77 Euros to travel anywhere in the country, so Belgium is very suitable for last minute trip to avoid expensive train tickets.

For short distance or regional trains, no discounts for early purchase, so you can purchase at the ticket office or machine on the platform.


The following websites for train booking:

Italy (2 websites): (private company with low price)








Czech Republic:


5. Hotel Booking

I recommend tourists to book a hotel or Airbnb property near the train stations for easy arrival/departure to next destinations especially you travel with luggage.

I have very positive experience with European Airbnb properties because the price is about 50% cheaper than hotels and also the apartments and houses are nice and clean, and you can experience local cultures. Book Airbnb from the link below will save you $62 CAD/$43 USD instantly for your first stay anywhere around the world:

I stayed at this one-bed room apartment near Prague train station for $33 CAD ($23 USD) including all taxes. The private apartment has everything you need (e.g., kitchen, utensils, TV, shower, washer, dryer, comfy bed, etc.). At the time, I checked the hotels near train station are all between 60 - 150 Euros.  

To book hotels, I recommend people to use expedia or because most European hotels are not a part of a chain, so you can find all hotels on these websites.  


6. Finalize Your Routes (an example) Based on Previous Searching

North America – Amsterdam (international flight on sale)

Amsterdam – Prague by easyJet (UNESCO World Heritage Site): 2 days Amsterdam and 3 days in Prague

Prague – Cesky Krumlov (UNESCO World Heritage Site) – Prague: day trip

Prague – Budapest by train: 3 days in Budapest

Budapest – Vienna by train: 3 days in Vienna

Vienna – Hallstatt – Salzburg by train: day tour in Hallstatt on the way to Salzburg and 2 days in Salzburg

Salzburg – Zurich by train: 2 days in Zurich

Zurich – Lucerne by train: 1 day in Lucerne

Lucerne – Milan by train: 3 days in Milan

Milan – Rome by train: 3 days in Rome

Rome – Amsterdam (51 Euros by Air Italia) – North America