What do you mean it isn’t dirt cheap?

Posted in Travel at 17:54 by RjZ

Petra, Jordan

I could see his point. The Jordanian hotel employee is sick of people complaining about how expensive his country is. Many of his guests come here from Egypt, whose economy survives on tourism and where the U.S. dollar, along with European and Japanese currencies, is strong. Young people, traveling for several months at a time are disappointed and shocked when hotels and tourist attractions have the gall to cost just as much in Jordan as they do in their home countries!

“It’s not that bad,” he continued. Food is cheaper and this is a clean, organized country, not Egypt! He was right about that; there was really no reason for us to complain. Dinner was a delicious, homemade, all-you-can-eat affair for all of 3 USD and it was delicious to boot. Even though entrance to the ancient city of Petra weighed in at over $50 for a three day ticket, it really wasn’t unreasonable. Jordan is no back water third world country. He knew just how much things cost in the states (I recall he’d even lived on the east coast briefly) and was insulted that tourists naturally assumed this was some Jordan would be a bargain like its poorer neighbor.

Too bad I only figured out what the flaw with his argument was after returning to my room. None of us really begrudge the Jordanians for having an economy similar to our departure point, it’s just that we might not have flown so far in the first place if we’d have known how expensive things would be when we arrived.

Our new Jordanian friend assumes that travelers from rich countries are, themselves, rich and what the hell are they doing complaining when things aren’t dirt cheap? The reality is that we’ve spent the bulk of our discretionary income just getting to these beautiful destinations and there’s precious little left over for $50 entrance fees and $20 shuttle rides.

I am thrilled to have been able to travel to Jordan. As a start, I’ve wanted to see Petra as soon as I discovered it wasn’t just an Indiana Jones movie set. The friendly, helpful people and beautiful countryside we’re an appreciated bonus. Eventhough it’s unquestionably worth the expense, if it weren’t for the centuries old ruins, the similarity with Utah desert is uncanny and I didn’t necessarily need to travel thousands of miles just to see Utah when I live only a few hundred miles away and I can camp there in the wilderness for free.

The point is, for many travelers, destinations like Egypt and Jordan are only possible because they’re not as expensive as home is. When you’re frequenting a backpacker’s hotel such as the one near Petra, you don’t meet people who are traveling on their trust funds. Most fellow travelers I’ve met have given up jobs or put lives on hold in their passionate attempt to see and understand as much of the world as they can. And they’ve had to manage on a set budget that’s usually less than a few thousand dollars (USD equivalent) for their months to years long, once in a lifetime, journey. Our hotelier can complain all he wishes that we really have no right to expect bargains just because we’re in the middle east, but he should also know that we have beautiful countries at home and the only reason we’ve come so far is to make our fixed vacation incomes stretch.

It’s a big world out there, and some of us want to see as much of it as possible. I don’t see any reason to ashamed of bargain hunting. I guess I’ll be more careful about complaining when I don’t find one.


  1. erin said,

    June 13, 2007 at 21:30

    and yet you have to see the point that no matter how much you’re stretching your vacation dollar, at least you have vacation money to spend. right?

    stretch your money and complain all you want; that’s you’re right. but realize that some people don’t even take one vacation never mind multiple. the luxury of multiple lifetime vacations is exactly that, a luxury. and because of that you ARE rich compared to many in this world.

  2. RjZ said,

    June 14, 2007 at 11:29

    Oh, I agree. Each of us who has the great fortune simply to have been born in a country with a higher per capita income has a greater chance to visit more beautiful places. In Indonesia, we met a guy who get’s the equivalent of $50/month and can live just fine on that…but he sure isn’t going to travel to Jordan anytime soon on that salary.

    Flights are a globally fixed cost, while local activities such as food and rent are not. Saving 10% of your Swiss Francs means you could travel anywhere in the world. Saving 10% of your Indian rupees, even if you make a load of them, is going to make international travel a challenge.

    Still, while I do understand that by virtue simply of my birthplace, I am richer than much of the world, that doesn’t make me rich enough to afford travel in Dubai or Hong Kong. Our contact in Jordan is annoyed that we don’t seem to know we’re so rich. I learned my lesson not to complain about it, but maybe he ought to learn his lesson: he ain’t so poor!

    Lastly, spending money in poorer countries goes a long way not only toward valuable cultural exchange, but also toward spreading around some of that wealth.

    Getting irritated about the differences in incomes as we both did doesn’t help much at all!

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