Written by Mathu Jennings (Kalamazoo College), Student Correspondent CET Jordan: Internship, Fall 2019
Everyone who has spent time abroad knows starting a new life in a different country can be expensive, even if some things are generally cheaper. From bag restrictions to duties, you can expect to spend the most money in the first two weeks. Here are some tips to save money while getting situated in Amman.
1. Cell Phones
CET provides each student with a Zain SIM card that will work in Jordan; make sure your phone is unlocked. I did not check my carrier’s strict activation policies so I had to buy a new phone when I arrived in Amman. If your carrier does not allow different SIM cards and you do not want to buy a new mobile, CET will provide you with one. However, the phones they provide are obsolete and can only make basic calls and texts.
2. Gym membership
It is important to get a gym membership right away; if you are into that. If not, it is still a good idea because you will probably get sick and working out will help your immune system fight the new bacteria in your body. In Amman, gym memberships can be expensive sometimes toppling over thirty dinars per month. However, there are options close to both apartment buildings that offer discounted student prices. I recommend Troy’s Gym; they charge 45 dinars for a 3 month student membership. You can not beat the price and proximity, plus, it is co-ed.
3. There are some “extra” costs
There are some extra costs, but you might not notice them. If you do a little bit of reading, you will realize that you need to pay a 40 JD visa fee to enter Jordan. CET also charges a 70JD/100USD housing deposit that you will have to pay at the official orientation. CET makes this information clear, but you can not just skim the documents like I did. Read every detail and you will be better prepared for these fees.
4. Buy groceries instead of eating out
Some restaurants in Jubeiha are very aesthetically pleasing, but you will pay extra for the eye candy. Going out to Bab Al-Yemen or Hollywood Cafe is nice, especially when chatting with new friends, but it can put a dent in your wallet. An alternative option is to buy fresh food from Jubeiha markets. There are some awesome options on University Street where you can buy snacks, bread, meat, fruit and vegetables. Instead of paying five dinars for one dinner you could pay ten for a week’s worth of groceries. If you do not know how to cook, then it looks like it is time to learn!
5. Souq al-Juma’a
Everyone who travels for extended periods of time knows the struggle of trying to fit your life into three or four bags. Do not do it, you do not need to. Contrary to what the internet says about clothing prices in Jordan, there are cheaper options that leave you with more interesting clothing than the fancier stores. Souq al-Juma’a is a thrift market open Thursday and Friday. It is located directly off King Hussein Street (GPS: 31°57’35″N 35°55’3″E), although any taxi driver will know the place once you mention in. My friend bought five dress shirts and a pair of “well-loved” jeans for only eleven dinar. You can also get kitchen supplies, groceries, tools, accessories and prepareds street snacks.
6. Do not get ripped off
Because you are a foreigner, some Jordanians may assume you are made of money. I personally have not gotten ripped off yet, but I have heard from locals that this can happen. The most notorious example is a taxi driver not turning on their meter making the fee seem like a haggle match; you will always get overcharged. The simple way around this is to say “شغل العداد لو سمحت”، or Shughl al-’adad low samaHt (turn on the meter please). Another example was my friend buying a new phone. He asked for the price of a Huawei mobile and it was 60 JD. In the adjacent store the same phone was 200 JD. Do not get me wrong, you will probably not get ripped off, and locals are not out for your money. I suggest getting a general idea for prices before coming; do some research, ask some non-incentivized locals. If the price does not fit, try to haggle it or just leave.
7. Alcohol (this goes for your whole experience, not just the first week)
Let’s be honest, many college students in the US drink underage; be careful drinking in Jordan. Alcohol in Jordan is not illegal, however, it is frowned upon, and public intoxication is illegal. Besides these barriers, alcohol is extremely expensive in Jordan because there is a 300% tax on drinks. You can get cheap options, but your stomach will pay the deficit. So, if you rarely drink in the states, then maybe you should refrain from drinking in Jordan; your mornings and wallets will be much happier :).
Make sure that you save money while getting situated in Amman instead of tossing a chunk of your budget away at the beginning.