Being a broke college kid, money was a large concern of mine coming to Jordan, especially after seeing the conversation rates (the JD has been about 30 cents stronger than the USD the whole I have been here). Every time I converted 100 dollars, my heart would ache when I only got 70 JD back.
HOWEVER, there are ways to do Jordan cheaply. Luckily, food is cheap in Jordan. For about 70 qirsh (about 1 USD), you can get a giant falafel sandwich, which will keep you full all afternoon. For about 5 JD, you can get a large meal at a sit down restaurant in a nice area such as Weibdeh (including service fees and tax). The best thing about Amman is that there is amazing cheap food everywhere, so there is no need to go to a fancy restaurant and spend three times the money.
At the grocery store, majority of vegetables and fruits tend to be much cheaper than the US. For example, you can easily get over a week’s worth of groceries for just 10 to 15 JD at chain grocery stores like Carrefour. However, some items do tend to be expensive. Typically, imported goods are expensive. This means if you want a certain brand of pasta sauce, ketchup, chocolate, or cereal, expect to fork out the cash. Cheap local alternatives of many items exist though, so I tend to stick to those.
For non-food items, things like face wash, makeup wipes, shampoo, and medicine tend to be pricey. I recommend bringing some with you from the US. If you are used to a certain product or brand, you may not be able to find it in Jordan, so keep that in mind as well.
Besides groceries, majority of money has been spent on traveling. It’s important to budget money for trips to Petra, Wadi Rum, Aqaba, Wadi Mujib, and many others. It’s very popular for students to do weekend trips around Jordan, and even to bordering countries like Lebanon. Hostels and hotels can be very cheap, however, transportation and activities tend to be the most expensive aspect of it. For example, snorkeling in Aqaba will cost about 30 JD a person. Or going on a camel ride in Wadi Rum can be 20 JD. While these activities are extremely fun and worth it, they do add up and can make you go broke within a couple weeks. I found myself picking and choosing certain activities that interested me the most because doing everything was simply impossible.
As a whole, Jordan can be done cheaply, but the conversion rate unfortunately hurts the American wallet. So here is an overview of my main tips:
- Try to buy local goods and brands instead of imported.
- If you want cheap food, go for falafel at a small shop or stand. You’ll never pay more than a $1 US for a giant sandwich.
- Try shopping at local grocery stores instead of ones like Safeway and Carrefour.
- Transportation is very expensive to other cities in Jordan, so ask Qasid to help you arrange the ride. They can negotiate prices for you and hire someone reliable.
- Limit your water usage in your apartment. Jordan is a dry country and water is not cheap if you run out.
- Try to bring whatever hygiene products you will need from home because they tend to be pricey here.
- Always make sure your taxi driver is using a meter.
- Don’t be afraid to haggle prices because even if you think you’re getting a good deal, you’re probably still paying more than a local.
As I think of more, I will add to the list.