I will present my visit to Petra, Jordan in three parts: in this part I will discuss touts…and how to successfully navigate them. When it comes to exploring Petra, hiring a Bedouin to accompany you is not a bad investment.
How To Successfully Deal With Touts In Petra, Jordan
Note, I did not say avoid touts. Touts can be annoying, but you can use the competition to your advantage and the bottom line is that I am very grateful for the young men who helped to make my time in Petra even more special.
In years past, I was the type of traveler who would simply ignore touts, walking by people and refusing to respond as if they were not there. There’s some wisdom to that if you are familiar with a place and really know where you are going, but in a place like Petra you can really enjoy it even more with a helpful guide.
Any local Bedouin guide is “in cahoots” with all the young men who will surround you as you come out of the valley and stand outside The Treasury, the most iconic of ancient temples of Petra. One theoretical benefit to a local guide is to act an insulation from touts, but it’s all an extended family business in Petra and you will be mobbed whether you are traveling with a guide or alone, whether you are in a large group or small one.
The touts actually start all the way up at the entrance, where you’re offered a “free” donkey ride down the canyon, but that “free” ride will be used to try to sell you on taking the donkey all the way down to The Treasury or up to The Monastery.
You’ll get an offer for something like 80JOD to go up to The Monastery and back. You can hit back at 20JOD and settle on 30-40JOD instead. It’s an invigorating hike to The Monastery and I had no desire to take a donkey.
Outside the Treasury, there will be dozens of touts trying to get you to sit on a camel for a picture outside The Treasury. This time, we decided to get our picture on the camel… that cost 5JOD each. Well-worth it. Find a young person because they all have phones and will be better able to capture a great picture.
I met a young man named Omar who was dressed up like Captain Jack Sparrow (Johny Depp) from the Pirates of the Caribbean Franchise. He was very persistent, but also not overbearing. We decided to hire him (you can follow him here on Instagram and then request his help, if visiting Petra).
He got some great pictures for us and took us up to a vantage point from which we looked down on the Treasury. We paid him 50JOD for this.
When I came back to Petra on day three, I met Omar again and we walked all the way up to The Monastery together (I had also been up there at sunrise that day…talk about a lot of steps…).
He then took me to see some mosaics.
Then we climbed high above The Treasury and finally came to a little tent at teh top where I sipped mint tea and overlooked the valley below. What a cool moment and a place I would have no idea how to reach without a guide.
And finally Omar took me on the “Back Route” from Ad Deir to the main gate, which takes most people 4-5 hours but took us one. We were hauling…
I paid him 70JOD for this. He wanted more, but I felt this was more than enough for his afternoon and we departed on good terms. I do not necessarily recommend agreeing on a price beforehand. You pay what you feel is best. Don’t be pressured or intimidated. Also, don’t be suckered into surrendering 200JOD for an afternoon. That’s too much. You can push back. It’s part of the culture. You either push back or you will be taken advantage of.
Petra is the sine qua non of any visit to Jordan. I had an amazing time and am very thankful I had a guide named Omar to help me navigate it (who also served as a great photographer). You do not need to respond to the touts in order to have a great visit to Petra, but in this case I found hiring an additional guide was worth every JOD.
In my next segment, I’ll post a photo essay of what I captured over my three days of meandering through the ancient city.