Jordan // Aqaba and the southern desert //

Cut-price tours of Wadi Rum: a warning

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Numerous scammers – notably at cheap hotels in Wadi Musa and, to a lesser extent, in Aqaba, Amman and Dana – offer cut-price tours of Wadi Rum that may leave you disappointed. Here’s why.

Wadi Rum or Disi?

Unlicensed operators are not permitted to bring tourists into the Wadi Rum Protected Area, which is patrolled by rangers. This means that anyone offering cut-price tours of Wadi Rum – such as a budget hotel in Aqaba or Petra – will not be taking you into Wadi Rum*: they will, instead, drive you around the deserts of Disi nearby, and host you at one of the Disi tourist camps. There’s nothing wrong with Disi – it’s beautiful – but it’s not what you’re paying for. Yet these scammers will swear blind that you’re being taken to the real Wadi Rum – even to the extent of lying to you about which camp you’re in (we’ve had reports of tourists being dumped at one of the Disi camps by a driver who told them it was Bait Ali). Rum camps are invariably smaller, cosier, quieter and less commercialized than those in Disi.

Commission?

If you pay, say, JD25 to a hotel in Petra for a tour of Wadi Rum, it’s likely that at least JD10 of that will go straight into the pocket of the hotelier. That leaves JD15 for the man who’s actually going to drive you around – which means you get a very short tour. For comparison, the going rate for a decent tour of Wadi Rum booked directly with a reputable guide, including overnight camping, all transport, meals and facilities, is roughly JD40–60 per person. Pay significantly less than that, and you can be sure you’ll be short-changed.

Guide or driver?

At cut-price rates you are unlikely to be hosted by a guide – that is, someone who lives in Wadi Rum, speaks English and can explain the area and its sights to you. Instead you’re likely to get someone who can drive the car, but little else – probably friendly enough, but possibly not even Jordanian.

Being taken around the desert in a 4×4 is never cheap – why should it be? – and that’s even more true for somewhere as extraordinary (and fragile) as Wadi Rum. Out here, you really do get what you pay for.

*The Cleopetra hotel in Wadi Musa is an exception – to our knowledge, this is the only Petra hotel offering tours that genuinely do enter Wadi Rum.

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