Traveling – it leaves you speechless, then turns you into a storyteller. - Ibn Battuta
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Ah, Jordan! How I loved you so. You’re such a beautiful country, full of history, culture, and some amazing places to explore – like the Dead Sea!
Of course, everyone knows about the Dead Sea. If you haven’t heard of it, you absolutely need to read this article because I’m about to show you such an amazing place! Do you see my header at the top of the homepage? That’s a picture I took from the Dead Sea!
Dead Sea Day Trip: The Planning
My friend and I actually planned to go to the Dead Sea together. We saw how much it cost some friends of ours that went a couple of weeks before our trip and decided to plan it out. There was no way we were going to pay that much. I don’t remember exactly how much it cost them, but I know it was way too much. Granted, they did stay the night at a resort, so that’s where most of their money went; but, my friend and I realized we didn’t need to spend the night to get the most out of our trip.
We decided that we wouldn’t spend money to stay at a resort, even if they did offer beachfront access. There were free beaches, but we just didn’t know where. After many failed Google searches, we decided we would just ask the locals when we got there. Thankfully, we were both students studying Arabic there, so we figured we could get by. By the way, you can download my free eBook that’s full of helpful Arabic phrases and vocabulary when you subscribe.
As for how we would get there, we were looking up different options when my friend (who I’ll name Lucy for the purposes of this article) somehow managed to learn that we could rent a car without Jordanian licenses. Our American driver’s licenses’ worked in Jordan! Awesome! We checked out a variety of car rental options, but ultimately decided that Budget had the best and cheapest option for the two of us. It was priced at 60 Jordanian Dinar, so that was roughly 30 each ($42.31 USD).
Keep in mind that Jordan is pricey, and is probably one of the most expensive (if not THE most expensive) Middle Eastern country.
Next up, we decided that we would picnic out on the beach since the restaurants there were expensive. This way, we would just have dinner there and not worry about lunch. We planned to take some sandwiches, bottles of water, fruit, and other snacks that fit into a lunch box. On the actual day of the trip, we packed an ice bag or two in there to help keep everything cool since it would be in the car.
Since we knew we would be going out to the Dead Sea by car, we looked up other activities. Our friends had told us that some locals informed them about Wadi Mujib, an awesome canyon full of natural water slides created by the rocks and stream! Interested? You can read more about this in my article, My Top 3: Hidden Gems in Jordan. We planned accordingly for this as well by borrowing a friend’s waterproof phone cover (Lucy used it since her phone was better quality than mine at the time, and we shared it to take photos) and by planning out our outfits (footwear, bathing suits, etc).
We ended up having to buy footwear meant for use in the water (those little water moccasins), but thankfully we found some for around 5 JD at Mukhtar Mall. However, if you have yet to go to Jordan but plan to visit Wadi Mujib, I would recommend buying the footwear in your home country. Preferably, something without holes like these water socks because the little rocks will get inside and cut your feet. You won’t feel it at the time, but you’ll definitely feel it later (especially if you plan to visit the Dead Sea AFTER like we did, which I don’t recommend.)
Grabbing the Rental Car to the Dead Sea
As I mentioned before, we decided to go with Budget Rent-A-Car. It was close to our apartment, and they had the cheapest option we could find at the time. That morning, we got dressed, grabbed our lunch and our wallets with our passports, driver’s licenses, and cash for the day. We pulled over a taxi and headed over to Budget. The taxi ride there cost us 2 JD.
[Side note: That taxi ride was the WORST we ever had. The cab driver was smoking and blowing cigarette smoke in my face (ew). I guess he was doing this to distract us from the fact that he turned off the meter during our ride to Budget. Thankfully, Lucy and I knew beforehand how much that ride would cost thanks to previously visiting a location next to Budget, but honestly – this guy! When we got there, he told us it would be 5 JD for the ride in Arabic. Our Arabic was pretty basic, so we were trying to tell him we knew it only cost 2 JD to get there, and he was throwing a fit and yelling and we were yelling back.
He threatened to call the police, and so we called some guy on the street and asked if he spoke English. Thankfully, he did. We explained the situation, he translated it to the taxi cab driver and added, “It’s Ramadan*, just let them go.” The cab driver didn’t practice Ramadan, so he said he didn’t care about it and wanted his money. We all rolled our eyes because none of us wanted to deal with this anymore. The helpful guy turned to us and said, “This guy is stubborn. Forget him. Just give him 2 JD, open the door, and leave.” So we did just that, and the guy yelled on as we entered Budget. To avoid these things, always make sure the meter is on, or you could just take an Uber, which is similar in cost and much more professional. We started taking Uber rides a lot more after that.]
*The Islamic holy month where Muslims, such as myself, fast from sunrise to sunset for 29-30 days. I wasn’t fasting that day, though, due to the trip.
Anyway – after that ordeal, we finally made it to Budget to pick up our car. I believe we reserved it for an 8:00AM or 9:00AM pickup. We provided the manager, a bilingual and amiable man, with our American licenses and, if I recall correctly, our passports. Right before Lucy handed over her credit card (she paid, and then I paid her cash for my half), I noticed that they had a deal posted on a small frame in the corner of the desk. A Ramadan special – one compact car for 25 JD! I quickly mentioned the deal, and the man said he would be happy to apply that to our rental that day. With the added driver cost (me), our total came out to 30 JD!
WHOOP! We just saved 30 JD! Split between us both, that was 15 JD each (or $21.16 USD).
The Trip to the Dead Sea
After signing off the documents, we grabbed our bags, packed them into our trunk, and headed off towards the Dead Sea. Lucy had the map open on her phone. She had taken screenshots of Google Maps and was navigating through the screenshots and listed directions. I was driving! That in itself was such an adventure!
Our trip took approximately one hour, and there were a few stops at checkpoints along the way. Thankfully, on the way to the Dead Sea, we weren’t required to actually stop and they just waved us through. However, this isn’t always the case (especially for men – women get more lenient treatment), so always prepare to have your passport with your valid visa ready. There are police cars posted along the way, so although I did (allegedly) speed, I don’t recommend it because it’s not safe (and the police). Also, click it or ticket, y’all. (Yes, back seaters, I’m looking at you, too.)
After an hour, we finally did see the Dead Sea and all the resorts posted up along the beachfront. Because of the directions we took, the Dead Sea was on our right side. We planned on visiting Wadi Mujib first, so we continued on the street and passed the resorts. I go into more details on how to reach Wadi Mujib in the article I mentioned earlier, if you’re interested. Now, I definitely do not recommend going to Wadi Mujib first as we did. Go to the Dead Sea first and then to Wadi Mujib later. The reason is the rocks got into our shoes through those little breathable holes and scratched up our feet. The salt in the sea made our skin burn like a mutha.
Accessing the Dead Sea
There are a few ways to access the Dead Sea for free. We found two ways, although you’re welcome to try to find the free beach that supposedly exists somewhere around there. You can also pay by staying at one of the resorts.
When we left Wadi Mujib, Lucy and I were soaked. The one item we forgot to bring was an extra change of clothes. Luckily for us, we found this quiet, private area off the side of the main highway. We were able to drive down there, undress (we had our bathing suits on underneath) and wrap up in our towels, and then we placed our clothes out on top of the car to dry. We had lunch while we waited. While we were there, we noticed that we could walk down and access the Dead Sea! We ended up hiking down some rocks and sand, but we managed to get to the water. This is where we discovered that our skin was burning thanks to those scratches, so we didn’t fully get in, but we still enjoyed it and took plenty of pictures.
In less than an hour, our clothes were fully dry, so we changed and headed back towards the resorts. It was at this point that we did get stopped at the checkpoint so, as I mentioned before, be prepared. We reached the resorts and walked around inquiring about a free beach access we had heard of. Nobody understood us very well, so we had zero luck in finding the free access point.
If you do know of one, please leave it in the comments for others to find!
What we ended up doing was going to the resort and “acted” like we belonged to get by the office staff. We thought we made it, but the beach access point requires confirmation of a room. Lucy told him that our friends had a room and were on the beach, but our phones didn’t work, so we couldn’t reach them (not true).
I really don’t recommend this because I was nervous the whole time and I don’t like lying, but we were able to get on the beach this way for at least 20 minutes. However, we were pretty disappointed. The resort beach wasn’t that great. It was probably just this resort’s beach because our friends told us their resort was fantastic, but I still don’t recommend doing what we did or even renting a resort if you’re planning to go for just a day.
What I do recommend is finding a free access point or going to that area off the highway. That was honestly so much better than the resort beach. It was private, the area itself was massive, and there were no rules. Of course the best part was that it was completely free, and that you can take your own food there and picnic, like we did.
Dead Sea Day Trip: The Total Cost
We had dinner at an overpriced bistro in the mall, which I also don’t recommend. It was pricey for a tiny piece of pizza and “premium” water. But, hungry and desperate, we went ahead and grabbed dinner there. I don’t exactly remember the price, but I want to say it was around 10-15 JD each after splitting the cost of the pizza and water.
I’m going to exclude the costs for Wadi Mujib, since that’s separate and not everyone will plan to go there (although you should while you’re in the area!) I also didn’t include the price for lunch since we packed ours and had already purchased these items with our other grocery items. This amount will vary depending on what you buy.
Budget Rental: 30 JD
Gas: 10 JD
Taxi (to and back): 4 JD
Footwear: 10 JD
Dinner: (about) 30 JD
Total Cost (2 people): 84 JD
Total Cost Per Person: 42 JD (about $60 USD)
Not too bad! Again, do take note that Jordan is expensive. No matter what, you will pay quite a bit of money. It is always possible to reduce the price further, however, and take the bus or some other method of transportation. For us, renting a car was better and provided us with the awesome experience of driving in Jordan! Overall, no matter the cost or the headaches, I absolutely loved this trip. I enjoyed myself, got to experience the beauty of the Dead Sea and Wadi Mujib, and bonded with my friend!
Have you ever been to the Dead Sea? Thinking about taking a trip there? Let me know in the comments!
Planning a trip to Jordan and the Dead Sea? Download my free eBook to learn some helpful phrases and vocabulary you can use while traveling the Middle East. It’s yours when you subscribe to my weekly newsletter, plus you’ll get updates on new posts!