Travelling solo as a female in Jordan
Maartje Smit from Wanderlicious found herself crossing the border from Israel to Jordan in a sandstorm and completely on her own. The unique start of this journey through a country less travelled was the motto of her entire trip – travelling solo as a female in Jordan was different from everything else she has ever experienced before. Mango Verde was curious to find out about her story and how safe it is to travel Jordan alone as a woman.
I was in Israel visiting some friends and I thought why not cross the border to Jordan while here anyway?! Visiting Petra in Jordan has been at the top of my bucket list for a long time. I’m not sure of when I learned about it for the first time but as cliche as it sounds it was most likely from watching the Indiana Jones movies. Aside from the iconic images of the Treasury that I had seen on TV I didn’t know much more about Petra or the country of Jordan where this ancient city can be found. I walked around for 2 days and it was breathtaking. Some are world wonders for a real good reason. It was incredible.
2. How long have you been there and how did you travel (Bus, train, taxi, private driver, plane etc)?
I’ve been there in total only 2 weeks. Most of the time I stay longer in countries but I think I wasn’t really prepared for Jordan… I went on a scuba dive trip to Eilat and didn’t had all my stuff with me, when someone told me that in Eilat is the cheapest way to cross the border into Jordan I bought in a local shop some long pants and shirts and spontaneously crossed the border.
I traveled by taxi, from the border because there was nothing else. But s=after that only local busses. They say they don’t have but they have a lot and they are the cheapest ever! Just ask your hotel to write where you need to go in their language and your adventure begins!
3. Where did you stay and how did you secure your personal belongings e.g.passport, laptop etc.
I stayed in Hostels, the good thing about hostels is that you most of the time have lockers in your room. I always leave all my belongings at the hostel. Safe in a locker.
My friends dropped me off at the border and everything went pretty smooth on the Israeli site, probably because I was the only one there. They told me to cover my face and walk straight ahead. Off course.. I want to cross the border and there is a massive sandstorm, I couldn’t even see Jordan! But I did what I was told, I walked through the dessert, by myself, with my scarf covering my whole face and focussing that I kept on walking straight. And there it was in the distance a sign with welcome to Jordan! Yew! I made it!
The people were over excited to see me. Happy I covered my blond hair otherwise it would be probably out of control excited. I gave my paspoort at the customs officer who welcomed me to his country and asked me if he could come with me and show me around. No thanks. He handed me my pasport and was holding on to it while he was looking in my eyes, for, I would say, too long. I walked further to the gate where I needed to show my paspoort again. When I handed over my pasport he grabbed not only my paspoort also my hand. Seriously?! He was looking in my paspoort, looked at me and asked me the most inappropriate questions, I answered polite, got my pasport back and walked through the gate. And there I was, by myself in the dessert, in Jordan. No other tourist, actually no other people, no busses. Just me and 3 taxichauffeurs who off course wanted to bring me wherever I wanted to.
I don’t think they were official taxi’s but it was my only choice so I took one. I was telling him that I was messaging a friend what time I would arrive but that time I wasn’t travelling with a phone but with an iPod touch, and I was actually writing what er was around me and how the guy looked like, just in case something would happen… Welcome in Jordan! It all ended up ok and I loved Jordan, but I definitely struggled being a solo female traveller over there.
5. Did you make any safety precautions e.g. a self defense course, special safety items, securing your documents etc?
I did a self defence course when I was younger, a 10 day course what I guess taught me the basics. And I’m already travelling the world for 5 years, I build up some knowledge of human nature i guess. Just follow your guts instinct. If something doesn’t feel good, don’t do it. If there is a small street and it’s in the night, don’t go in there. If there is a group of people who look suspicious, or just one guy, walk around it… Simple as that. Nothing happend in all those years I’m travelling but in Jordan I was sometimes in situations that I did something what I otherwise never would do, but still I’m alive!
I think it is safe! Females should pack appropriate clothing. I traveled there during summer so it was hot! I attracted so much attention with my fair skin and blond hair that it was important to cover up as much as possible. Wearing loose, long sleeve blouses and pants, sunglasses and a scarf to cover my hair helped.
There were a lot of times that I was walking over the streets and someone just kept on walking next to me, like really close.. If I walked harder, he walked harder, slower, he walked slower. I really had to run and cross streets to get rid of them.
Also, especially in Petra… The ask you to marry you everywhere! Every men. I’m asked more then 25 times a day!
7. Have you ever witnessed violence against women, no matter if tourists or locals? Have you experienced violence in Jordan yourself?
No, not at all. Violence agains animals yes. And also the way they treat there children, it’s different then in the western world. But I never saw something bad happening by a women.
8. What do you like very much about Jordan and what not?
I like the big difference in what you see in other countries. It’s harder to travel in, less tourism and a real different culture. I like and dislike that at the same time. I like it when it’s 40 degrees to wear my hotpants, well… that’s just not the country to do that. That I don’t like, I like to be myself and I like to have more connection with the locals. It’s really hard in Jordan because they’re not all speaking English and it feels like they only wanna hang out with you for one reason…
Just be prepared that it would be different, you will not meet a lot of other travellers of the beaten track and you have to really dress up. But don’t be scared, you never walk alone… It’s so busy on the streets, nothing will happen to you only the guys can be really too much. There were some girls they didn’t even left the hostel without being on a tour. It’s not easy and I would maybe only recommend it to experience travellers.
10. From 1 (not safe) to 5 (very safe) – where would you rate Jordan in puncto travel safety/violence/crime against female tourists?
11. I give you some keywords and you tell me what comes to your mind first:
Food & hygiene —> Pretty good and clean
Nightlife —> No way! Almost not there and otherwise, almost only men go out. I would not recommend to go there as a solo female.
Public toilets —> ok
Hotpants —> not done
Local men vs female tourists —> You wanna marry me?
I’m Maartje, a Dutchie who left her home in April 2012 to explore the world slowly, thoroughly and never came back. I’m just a little obsessed with travelling, photography, scuba diving and enjoying life.
In the “Travelling solo as a female” series Mango Verde interviews solo travelling women all over the world. If you want to share your story, write me an Email!
You have questions or want to share your experiences? Put it in the comments below!