The easiest way to see the largest number of sights in the least amount of time is to arrange a 4WD trip. This is easily done on arrival at the excursion office at the visitor centre.
Rates for 4WD excursions are fixed and listed on a board outside the excursion office. The prices are per vehicle, not per person, so it can help with costs if you put together a group in Wadi Musa or Aqaba (not easy to do on arrival at Wadi Rum). Most 4WDs seat six people; some have bench seats in the back offering better views than the closed-in cabs, but they are fearfully cold or boiling hot in extreme seasons.
If you take the vehicle for a day, don’t forget to pack food and water for you and your driver. You can buy the basics of a rudimentary picnic in Rum village on your way into the desert.
It’s unlikely that anything will go wrong with your trip as the drivers are highly experienced in the desert terrain. Some of the vehicles, however, have seen better days, so if you are involved in a breakdown, try to avoid heated confrontation: the Bedouin take their responsibility towards visitors very seriously, and they will quickly arrange for a replacement – this is easier if everyone remains amicable!
You may be approached by the odd freelance guide in Rum village. Prices may be cheaper, but there are no guarantees regarding the safety or quality of the trip and, more importantly, it cheats the drivers waiting patiently in line for a fare. In addition, 60% of the profit from excursions goes back to the cooperative: someone who jumps the queue robs the community of that revenue. Rangers tour the Wadi Rum area, checking people have tickets. Entering without one is not only unethical, it is also illegal.
You can easily add on an overnight stay at a Bedouin camp (book in advance or ask at the visitor centre when arranging your vehicle). Your driver will simply drop you off in the afternoon and pick you up the next morning.
4WD Excursions Around Wadi Rum
When booking a 4WD excursion at the Wadi Rum visitor centre you can either hire a driver for a whole day (make sure you agree on the destinations before leaving), or you can select a destination from two prescribed routes. ‘Operator 1’ routes cover the central areas of Wadi Rum; ‘Operator 2’ routes cover outlying (and equally beautiful) areas. Distances are measured from the visitor centre. Maximum times are given below: you could rush round the main sights of Wadi Rum in a few hours, but the trip will be much more rewarding if you get out of the vehicle and explore each of the sights on foot, or simply sit on a dune or rocky outcrop and enjoy the peace and quiet. Drivers are assigned in strict rotation, so you may get a driver who speaks English and is knowledgeable about the desert or you may not. If you want a guide to accompany you, ask at the visitor centre or book one in advance.
Lawrence’s Spring, the Nabataean temple and Khazali Canyon are all included in Operator 1 routes longer than three hours.