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A large and attractive Visitors' Centre has been opened for the administration of the Protected Area of Wadi Rum and the neighbouring area. It is about 6 kilometers from Rum Village in the open desert close to the cliff named the "Seven Pillars of Wisdom" (see the left hand photo). This is now the normal terminus for tourist transport, and it is here that you should pay your entrance fee in the building in the centre photo. The phone number of the centre is +962.3.209.0600 and the fax +962.3.203 25 86, both from outside Jordan.
This entrance fee is fixed at 5JD at the moment. I understand that in spite of various rumours, it is likely to remain at this price for the near future. The offices close at 6pm, but the Reception office is open 24/24 hours, so you can still pay your fee even in the middle of the night!
You can see from the photo on the right that space has been left for opening shops or whatever. If you go right down to the bottom you will find a hall called (mysteriously) The Interpretation Hall. In fact this contains a most interesting exhibition of photos and general information about Wadi Rum, including the history, geology, flora and fauna, Bedouin population and etc. The photos are beautiful. Very few people indeed go to see this, there is no publicity or signposts whatsoever, which is ridiculous. I cannot understand why the posters exhibited have not been produced in the form of a booklet. In any case, try to find time to look at it, it is far more informative and interesting than the film which is shown in the adjoining hall.
The normal procedure is that having viewed the options, you then choose the tour that you would like to do (see the table below) and you go off with the next guide waiting nearby. If you have the name of a particular guide who has been recommended to you, he is only allowed to take you if he can show a written reservation (email or fax) dated 48 hours before your arrival. The reason given for this is that many hotels or operators in various parts of Jordan arrange "tours" with certain of the Bedouin, and take a large commission. The Bedouin who will receive only half of what you have paid (in some cases less) will give you the tour that fits the price he receives. This is unashamed ripping off, and is very difficult to circumvent. No reservations are currently accepted from any hotel.
If you have found a particular guide on the Internet, or if you have heard of somebody offering a programme that you like, you should have no problem provided that you have sent him a prior reservation as described above. If you want to go with somebody without a prior reservation it can be done provided that he agrees to pay a "fine" to the Bedouin cooperative. This fine is 20JD, which is not negligible, so please reserve ahead of time if you can.
You can also proceed to Wadi Rum Village, sleep at the Resthouse there and wander around by yourself. But you do have the problem of actually GETTING there: no provision has been made for tourists who wish to do this, and as I said, the Visitors' Centre is 6 kms from Rum. It is usually possible to hitch a lift from the Bedouin going there, but there are no guarantees about this.
The official programmes on offer for jeep tour are given below with their prices as of July 2008. These prices are those of the vehicle which will normally take up to 6 people. The price is split between the number of passengers. If several people can get together to take one together it therefore works out cheaper for you. You do have the difficulty of actually agreeing on the programme and therefore the price that all of you want to pay.
Warning : first of all no meals are included in the prices, and secondly by no means all the drivers speak English. They are DRIVERS and not guides. A night spent in the desert costs another 25JD/person, including supper and breakfast.
All this is pretty expensive. Although these prices are for the carload which means that they are spread between several people, they include neither food, nor water and most certainly not an overnight in the desert.
As you see, as you get further away the tours get progressively more expensive. If you want to see the Burdah Rock Bridge from the desert floor, it will cost you 750JD; the Barragh Canyon goes up to 80JD.
In every case, the prices given here are the prices of the vehicle only. The vehicle seats up to 6 people but the driver is a driver only and NOT a guide. He may or may not speak English: if he does speak English he may or may not talk to you about where you are going. Few of the older men speak much English at all.
These prices are officially fixed and you are not supposed to bargain. You can of course try to find a guide to take you "unofficially" for a lower price, but there are a good many controls out in the desert, and if somebody is found without the written confirmation from the Centre, then he is in trouble. Somebody recently paid a fine of 120JD for accepting tourists outside the Centre, and it is understandable that people are not enthusiastic about doing it again.
Now all of this is pretty expensive, and in fact if you can get in touch with a guide directly you can nearly always get a better deal - usually a considerably better deal, depending on the guide. I give some names in the page of "useful contacts", these are the people who will charge an honest price, usually for a longer trip with an overnight included.
These guides will also organise hiking and scrambling trips of any duration.
Here are the prices for camel trips. Again these are the prices for the camel and the guide only. Any food and an overnight when called for must be considered as "extras" at your expense.
Note that most camels will proceed at approx 4-5 mph, so you don't get really very far in one day, which is why the sites offered by jeep are not offered for the camels. If you want several days, you should negotiate and be sure how much you will be paying for food and sleeping, plus a handler to take care of the animal. Almost any of the guides at the Resthouse could organise a proper camel trek for you, but if you just want to ride around, there are plenty of camels on offer for an hour or two. You might like to look at the web page on Camels and Camel Trekking.
Please note also that these prices are for a camel led by somebody - invariably a small boy. It is usually far more enjoyable to go out with a guide mounted on his camel, but this is inevitably more expensive since you will be paying more for the guide and his camel as well as your own. If there are several of you, it is easier to absorb this extra price, and you can go further - and faster - and see far more. Don't worry about riding a camel, it is in fact pretty easy, much easier than riding a horse!
Horses are more expensive : generally 60JD per day. This price also drops if there are several of you, and should you opt for a trek of several days, everything is included in the price: all food, logistics and camping equipment. This applies to trekking inside Wadi Rum. See the page "On horseback around Wadi Rum". Get in touch with Attalah Sweilhin (phone/fax +9184.108.40.20608, mobile +962.795.802.108 email firstname.lastname@example.org) or with Saleem Ali at Jordan Tracks - (see www.jordantracks.com) email email@example.com mobile phone +962.795.298.046. See also below under "reliable contacts".
Hot Air Ballooning and Ultra Light flights
Bait Ali is the centre of the hot air ballooning which has resumed recently. The balloons are prohibited from going above the Wadi Rum massifs (considered dangerous because of the air currents), but Shakriya is more open and you still get the magnificent views. The ballooning is organised by the Royal Aerosports Club of Jordan in Aqaba, phone number 03-205.8050/51 mobile 079-574.1441. You can also get in touch with Bait Ali directly at www.baitali.com. I warn you that the price for a flight is 130JD per person.
A cheaper option are the micro light flights, which can also be booked through the Royal Aerosports Club or through Bait Ali. The price is 40JD for 20 minutes.