Last Updated on April 24, 2023 by Maggie McKneely
Want to visit Jordan with a tour group but not sure which one? Have you seen Exoticca’s enticing prices but are not sure they’re worth it? Check out my review of Exoticca’s 9-day tour of Jordan (and read to the end to save $200!)
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Review of Exoticca’s Jordan Tour
The last time I wrote a review about Exoticca, I said I would book another trip with them. And true to my word, I did just that. So, how did round #2 go?
If you’ve been following the blog for a while, you know that I prefer to do all of my own trip planning – booking tickets, reserving hotels, and doing trip research is almost as fun as actually traveling (I know, I’m weird). But when I went to Egypt, I decided to book a tour with an agency because I’d heard that Egypt is extremely challenging to do on your own. Exoticca had a tour with a wonderful itinerary for a shockingly affordable price and most of the reviews I saw online were positive.
My experience with Exoticca on that trip went so well that when I started planning a trip to Jordan, I decided I’d trust them once again. Currently working full-time while also in school part-time while doing 400 other things (including this blog) it’s also a major time saver to put the trip planning into someone else’s hands every now and then. So this time I went with their 9-day tour of the Hashemite Kingdom (the fancy name for Exoticca’s Jordan tour).
So am I glad I did another trip with them? OH YES.
Table of Contents
What is Exoticca?
First things first: what is Exoticca, exactly?
Exoticca is an online travel agency. They offer tour packages that include flights (for much cheaper than you can get on your own), accommodations, transfers, tours, and activities in countries all over the world. They do not themselves run tours (like Gate 1, for example), but partner with local companies in each location.
Exoticca acts as a middleman of sorts between you and the local tour agency that actually handles everything in-country. They work with a team of over 50 curators who are experts extensively familiar with each destination in order to create vacation packages that provide unforgettable and unique experiences. And because they deal directly with the local providers, they are able to keep costs low.
The Booking Process
My one complaint about my Egypt trip was Exoticca’s booking process. But in the time between writing that review and booking Exoticca’s Jordan tour, the booking process had actually changed slightly, and for the better.
When booking my Jordan trip, the process was mostly the same simple and easy process as it had been before. Once I chose my destination (Jordan) and which package I wanted, I selected which category of comfort I wanted. Exoticca offers “Charm,” “Superior,” and “Luxury.” Not all trips have all three categories; some only have two and a few only have one option. Charm is the most budget-friendly and Luxury is, well, the most luxurious. For Egypt, I did Superior because that was the cheapest option; the Exoticca’s Jordan tour has a “Charm” option, so I went with that this time.
Next, I picked the dates of our trip. Exoticca’s helpful calendar tells you the price differences between different dates, so if you’re trying to travel during the cheapest time of year, their calendar makes it easy to see when that is.
After that, Exoticca gives youthe option to add on any optional excursions, but you don’t have to make a final decision on that until 30 days before your trip. Exoticca’s Jordan tour has several optional add-ons and I didn’t finish deciding which ones I wanted until shortly before the 30-day window.
During the booking process, Exoticca is completely transparent about the price of the trip, so you won’t be surprised by any additional taxes on the final payment page.
The last step before paying is choosing your flights. My one complaint last time was how Exoticca handled booking flights. Before, you wouldn’t be notified about what your flights were until about a month before you were supposed to leave for your trip (STRESS for people like me who plan way in advance!). You also didn’t have the option to pick which flights you wanted, so you were stuck with whatever they booked for you.
Now, however, you get to pick your flights during the booking process! I don’t know if Exoticca saw my last review or if enough other people complained about this, but I’m very glad that they fixed this. Some flights, like direct flights, may cost extra than the base package price, but Exoticca is upfront about that and you have the option to pay for that if you want.
The final step is putting down your initial deposit. At the time of booking, you pay 60% of the trip cost and the final 40% is due 60 days before your departure date. Once you pay, you will receive an immediate email confirmation. Between booking and final payment, Exoticca sends multiple reminder emails, so there is no chance you will forget to either pay the final installment or book any optional trips you want to add on.
Types of Tours
Both my Egypt trip and my Jordan one were technically group tours. Exoticca offers a group tour option for all of their destinations. I say “technically” because, in Egypt, most of the people in my group ended up being friends of mine. And for Jordan, because my trip was the second week of December, there were only 6 people on the tour – the four members of my own family and another couple, which was basically a private tour. Exoticca’s group tour option is supposed to max out at 30 people, but I have not experienced a group that big. Maybe most people do end up in a group like that, but I’ve been very lucky so far.
However, if you are concerned about being stuck with a bunch of strangers for a week, Exoticca does offer a private tour option or a small group option for many of their trips.
The Local Tour Operators
Picking partners in the destination country is really where Exoticca shines. For Exoticca’s Jordan tour, they work with Jordan and Beyond Tours.
The trip got started as soon as we touched down in Amman, where an airport representative from the tour met us near the gate. He helped us get through customs, collect our bags, load them onto the shuttle, and then drove us to our first hotel.
The next morning, we were greeted in our hotel lobby by the tour guide who was supposed to be with us the whole week. As circumstances would have it, he was only with us for the first two days. Then he had a family emergency and had to take some time off, so he was replaced with another guide. We liked our first guide perfectly fine, but we lucked out with the replacement – Riad Zaki.
Riad has been a tour guide in Jordan for 37 years and it shows. He was extremely personable and knowledgeable, and the man seemingly knows everyone in the country. While we were in Jordan, there was a nationwide trucker protest going on that affected tour buses using the main highwy between Amman and Petra. Riad was constantly in contact with the police and other tour guides to make sure the situation impacted us as little as possible and to ensure that we never felt in danger (which we didn’t – we just felt like it was part of the adventure!).
In fact, we never had to worry about anything. My dad did something to his ankle while hiking around Petra, and Riad kept a close eye on him the rest of the trip, always making sure there was an easier alternative to whatever we were doing that my dad could participate in. Riad ensured that every transfer was taken care of, any issue we had immediately addressed, and every question was answered.
We became such good friends with Riad that on the last day, he invited us to his home in Amman for a meal with his family! This was not part of the regular tour, but a sign of how generous and kind both the Jordanian people and the tour company are.
As mentioned, Exoticca is a separate entity from Jordan and Beyond Tours, but they are proof that Exoticca does its research when choosing what local companies to partner with. If you, for some reason, don’t want to book through Exoticca (for example, you don’t need flights and are just looking for a tour in-country), you can book a variety of different tours in the region through Jordan and Beyond Tours directly.
Exoticca’s Jordan Tour Itinerary
Because Jordan is such a small country that is mostly uninhabited desert, you can see all of the highlights in 9 days. I didn’t feel like we missed out on anything important, but I also didn’t feel rushed.
We spent a full day in Petra and a full day and night in Wadi Rum. We spent time floating in the Dead Sea and visiting several Crusader and Byzantine castles that I’d never heard of. Visiting Amman’s historic sites is an optional add-on that I recommend because the Citadel is worth visiting.
We actually did all of the add-ons for Exoticca’s Jordan tour. In addition to the Amman city tour, we did Petra by Night and the Wadi Rum Stargazing experience. Neither of those are must-dos. It’s cool to see Petra lit up at night, but the show (yes, there’s actually a performance) is bizarre and not worth anyone’s time. Stargazing in the Wadi Rum is amazing because you can see so much, but it takes over an hour, which we were unprepared for, especially since it gets so cold in the desert in the winter.
I’ll post the full itinerary on the blog shortly, but as far as this review goes, I thought the length and time of Exoticca’s Jordan tour trip was perfect.
Exoticca Trip Insurance
Exoticca offers several different levels of trip insurance. The most basic, which automatically comes with each booking, guarantees a full refund if they have to cancel the trip for whatever reason (COVID, some kind of political or natural disaster in the destination country, etc). The next level allows you to cancel for any reason up to 30 days before the trip for trip credit with Exoticca. The highest level lets you cancel for a full cash refund. Every level gives you 24/7 assistance both before and during your trip.
Exoticca Quality Control
An important part of this Exoticca review is noting how the company ensures high quality while staying within budget. With such low prices, you might think that the quality of accommodations would be kind of meh. I can speak with experience that that was not the case in Jordan.
Three of the four hotels for Exoticca’s Jordan tour were phenomenal, even though we chose “Charm,” the cheapest comfort level. We stayed in a beautiful resort on the Dead Sea, a wonderful boutique hotel in downtown Petra, and slept under the stars in a Wadi Rum bubble hotel at Hasan Zawaideh Bedouin Camp. The only hotel that was questionable was our one in Amman. The food was unfortunate and it was a bit outdated, but it was clean and the staff were extremely kind and accommodating, so it was fine for a couple of nights.
When choosing hotels for their packages, Exoticca requires that they have a minimum of 3.5 stars (out of 5) on Tripadvisor. They also require that 65% of reviews left by customers be “excellent” or “very good.” That way you know you won’t be staying in any sketchy or completely rundown hotels.
Now that Exoticca has fixed the way they book flights, I only have one criticism. And it’s not even really a criticism, just something you should know. There’s not any ability to customize the itinerary. If there’s something you’d like to go see or do and it’s not part of the itinerary, you’re probably not going to be able to do it.
Normally, I hate not having control over the itinerary, but for this trip, the advantage of having a tour guide who knew the best things to do and places to go outweighed the ability to customize the trip, especially when I’m not nearly as knowledgable as a local. Plus, because Jordan is a small country, I really felt like we did just about everything major there is to do. Exoticca’s Jordan tour has a jam-packed itinerary!
I love the process of researching a trip and the flexibility of building my own itinerary, so if I hand that task over to somebody else, they had better do a good job. If I trust them to do it twice, that must mean they’re doing something right! And the fact that I only have one minor complaint of note for Exoticca’s Jordan tour is really saying a lot. The booking process was easy and smooth, the customer service was helpful, the local tour agency was AMAZING, and the price of the trip was a steal.
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