During our 10 days stay in Jordan, I couldn’t miss a visit to the Dead Sea – famous salt lake bordered by Jordan and Israel.
As Wikipedia states:
“As of 2019, the lake’s surface is 430.5 metres below sea level, making its shores the lowest land-based elevation on Earth. It is 304 m deep, the deepest hypersaline lake in the world. With a salinity of 342 g/kg, or 34.2% (in 2011), it is one of the world’s saltiest bodies of water– 9.6 times as salty as the ocean – and has a density of 1.24 kg/litre, which makes swimming similar to floating.”
The data from 2019 are not accurate any longer, the Dead Sea surface shrinks every year and in few decades it may be possible that all the water will dry out (some experts predict it may happen by 2050). This fact motivated us even more to admire this natural wonder and dip ourselves into mineral rich salty waters.
The Dead Sea is situated around 50 kilometers away from Amman and is an easy one day trip from the Jordanian capital.
Most of Jordanian visitors I’ve read about travel around the country by rented car and I was not sure if coming by public transport is possible. I found many questions about Jett Bus service between Amman and Dead Sea after Covid pandemic. On the website it is not possible (as for May 2023) to book a ticket and there is no much information about the route.
However, when we arrived to the Jet Buss office in Amman, we asked about the service and managed to buy the tickets. As of May 2023 there was only one departure per day at 8:30 am from Abdali Station with one return at 5pm.
I can’t say the price of the ticket, however I paid 50 JOD for all my buses around Jordan, which means that the price was not high.
If you plan to travel around Jordan by public transport I generally recommend going to the Abdali Jett Bus office and make your all reservations at once. Popular connections such as trip from Amman to Petra can be sold out if you come to the station at the last moment. Some routes which you can’t book on the website are available in their office, for instance there is a daily connection between Petra and Wadi Rum which I think is a very interesting option if you want to see the desert after Petra. Alternatively, if you land in Aqaba you can go to their office in the city center and make your arrangements there, in both places the staff speaks English and is very helpful.
Even if your tickets are bought, it doesn’t mean that you don’t have to do any research in advance. In fact going to the Dead Sea means staying in one of the resorts with access to the shore or to the public beach which still has the entrance fee.
When going by bus, the driver expects you to know where you’re heading and we saw many people confused what to do since they thought there is one final destinations at the shores of the Dead Sea.
A small scam: In fact, Jett Bus provides good quality buses and is the most touristy public transportation option but it doesn’t mean that there is no small traps waiting for unsuspicious tourists. Depending on your travel experience you may be more or less surprised by them. In my opinion the scam is rather obvious and mild, I almost expected the driver to announce the end of the trap after few minutes of playing it;)
In our case it involved bringing the tourists to the selected resort with beach facilities and access to the Dead Sea shore and making impression that this is the final destination and if one came to see the Dead Sea now is the time to get off since this resort is the right place for it. The hotel had of course an understanding with the driver and in reality offered higher prices for access to its facilities and also tried to charge extra for lunch options. Some people got disoriented and nervous. After few confusing moments, the scam ended and the driver continued to other resorts, dropping people close to the gates of hotels of their choices.
This was the moment where you needed to know where exactly you’re heading. The point was to stick to the statement that you already have an arrangement (even if you don’t since you can pay the entrance fee at the arrival) for a particular resort and want to be dropped there. The driver will remember to which resorts to come back for your return to Amman.
Having said that though, I fully believe that if you got off at the suggested resort, you would have access to the hotel facilities and to the Dead Sea shore, however, it would cost you more than stay in other resorts or the price vs quality value could be worse than in other hotels. Since you expect to have a nice experience I suggest choosing the resort on your own to make sure it corresponds to your needs.
Another small scam was stop in souvenir shops which were selling items for very high prices. The same products could be bought in Amman 4 times cheaper (at least), and in general I recommend Amman for souvenir shopping since the selection and prices are much more reasonable than in other places. The advantage of such stops was a possibility to use the toilet however I don’t recommend making any purchases there.
What if you don’t want to use a public bus to get to the Dead Sea?
The most flexible option is to have a rented car, you can also get an Uber to the Dead Sea from Amman, note however that Uber is not working in the Dead Sea area so you won’t summon another one back, however there always should be taxis available, at least close to the big resorts. Alternatively, you can organize your trip entirely with taxi, ask your hotel if they could arrange it for you.
Another important aspect is that you don’t need to come back with Jett Bus the same day. If you want to stay overnight in one of the hotels, just purchase your ticket for another day.
So you booked your Jett Bus ticket, are aware of expensive souvenir shops and the driver stopping in an overpriced resort. It’s time to choose the one you really want to spend your day in!
So how to choose the right resort then?
First of all, you need to decide whether you want to stay overnight or come back in the evening. The resorts are normal hotels and offer a traditional stay for the guests. Most of the facilities are offering luxurious stays and are 4 and 5-star hotels and are quite pricey. Some people want to stay few relaxing days enjoying the Dead Sea and are determined to book for at least one night, a relatively huge demand means that the service does not necessarily work up to the standards required for the number of stars of the facility. For good quality and better value for money you can opt for the hotel in Amman and come to the resort for a one day trip to only use its outdoor facilities (pools, and the beds, showers, pots with mud on the Dead Sea shore) for a much smaller price (daily entrance fees are starting from around 20 JOD).
The best way to decide which resort to choose is to perform a good Google search and read the current prices and opinions about the facilities.
I chose the Dead Sea Spa Resort and liked my experience there. The entrance fee was 20 JOD per person, and I had access to the hotel pools, showers, sun beds and umbrellas, at the beach there was also a huge pot with the mud to cover yourself in it to nourish your skin with minerals.
I had to pay a small fee to rent a towel and since the area was very secure I didn’t decide to rent a locker. The Dead Sea spa Resort is a 4* hotel and had 5 pools (maybe more but I found only those). The pools were well-maintained and enjoyable but not very big so if you want to have more luxurious facilities you can opt for a day pass in 5* resort. Since you can’t swim at once for more than 20 minutes in the Dead Sea, you may want to use pools to refresh a bit before another dip in the salty water.
I didn’t use the service of the hotels below but they are worth checking for current pricing and facilities provided, note that some hotels allow the access to the pools and the shore only for guests who stay overnight so read well the conditions. In case of doubts don’t hesitate to contact the resort (another reason why is best to search a bit in advance).
For a 5-star experience, check:
- Mövenpick Dead Sea Jordan
- Dead Sea Marriott Resort & Spa
- Kempinski Hotel Ishtar Dead Sea
Before departure check the current rates for the daily pass, if you want to stay in the hotel overnight, make your booking in advance. If you want to use only outdoors facilities, make sure that the hotel offers it, if I remember correctly Kempinski didn’t have daily pass offer.
Another option is a public beach called
- Amman Beach
Even if this is a public place you still need to pay the entrance fee since you will use the facilities (such as mud pots). The entrance fee is (in 2023) 20 JOD (but I read somewhere sometimes is 25 JOD). I read opinions that the beach can get crowded and it’s not that well maintained and opted for the hotel facilities for the same price. However, if you don’t want to bother to search for hotel resorts and just look for simple facilities like mud and secure descent to the water, then Amman Beach can be an easy and hassle-free solution.
There are more budget options like:
- Mujib chalets (3-star hotel)
- Ma’in Hot Springs
But there are a bit further from the main hotel area. If you go by Jett Bus you may want to make sure when purchasing your tickets if these places are served by the bus.
Some visitors opt for “going wild” and enter the Dead Sea in unprotected area which is not part of any official beach or resort. You don’t need to pay any entrance fee in such case and people appreciate the solitude and privacy in such places without crowds, surrounded only by nature. Before deciding on such option, I suggest checking such places very well in advance, note that since the water level decreases every year, the descent to the Dead Sea may be difficult, sometimes even dangerous. Search for verified spots where also locals go. Lack of facilities is also problematic, high concentration of salt can be damaging for your skin and it is important to take a shower after every bath. The official facilities offer also already collected mud, you will need to do it all for yourself often going to not secure places. Finally, the last but not least is the cultural aspect, in the local unofficial beach especially women can have a bit too much attention if they will wear bikini or “Western” style swimsuit, it’s unlikely you’ll get any weird looks/comments in the private beach.
In general I think, it’s much more comfortable to use the private facilities and pay the daily pass fee to just focus on your experience. Afterall, you don’t dip into the Dead Sea every day afterall and the expense is worth avoiding the hassle.
What should you take with you to the Dead Sea?
You chose your resort/beach, you figured out the transport so it’s time to pack for the trip! The Dead Sea is very different from sea, oceans, rivers and lakes and you need to take it into account!
- Bring old swimsuit which you won’t regret getting damaged (mostly losing color). The salty water is not very friendly to textiles, and covering your body with natural mud may substantially decolor your garments. Be ready that you won’t be able to fix your swimsuit even after many washing cycles.
- Bring the aqua shoes to protect your feet. Since the level of water lowers, you will be exposed to the short walk through the rough shore. Also, injuring your feet before dipping into salty water will make your bath very painful (imagine salt put on the open wound, it’s the same effect).
- Bring the soap and shampoo to rinse all the salt after the day filled with salty baths. If you keep the salt on your body too long, it will unpleasantly dry your skin. Follow the rules so the baths have beneficial effect for your body and not a damaging one.
- If you book one day entrance to the resort, you won’t be able to bring food or drinks to the premises except water. Bring few bottles of water since the Dead Sea is in the middle of a desert and the temperature you actually feel is higher than the indicated one in the weather prediction.
- In case you spend your day in the resort, you can bring your own towel if you don’t want to pay extra for rental. Know however, that the towel can get very dirty from the mud, so be ready that you may need to throw it after the trip.
Do’s and don’ts when bathing in the Dead Sea:
- Note that due to high concentration of salt in the water, the maximum time for a single bath is 20 minutes. Get off, rinse the salt and wait a bit before you repeat the experience.
- Benefit from the skin nutritious Dead Sea mud collected and placed in special pot on the official beaches and in the resorts. Cover all your body and hair and wait until it dries on your skin. Then dip to the Dead Sea for maximally 20 minutes.
- Rinse your body well after each bath.
- Few days before don’t shave your body and be careful to not to catch any injuries. Contact of the damaged or irritated skin with salty water is very painful.
- Always swim on your back and be careful to not to flip on your belly. Due to high concentration of salt it may be difficult to get on your back again. In extreme cases people drown in the Dead Sea when having their face down to the surface.
- Don’t swim with a jewelry since it can get damaged because of high concentration of salt.
- Avoid getting the water to your eyes.
- The last one is my own experience and it concerns application of suntan cream. Since the mud is supposed to be protective against sun and one wants to apply it to bare skin to absorb all minerals, I didn’t put suntan on my body believing that the mud will be enough. However, when I dipped into the Dead Sea part of the mud rinsed off and my skin was exposed to the sun. I also have impression that the mud is not as effective as modern suntan creams nowadays so I recommend to use it before and after every bath.