Without doubt worthy of Petra inclusion in the 7 Wonders list as anyone who has been fortunate to visit can confirm. The walk along the Siq is punctuated with curious carvings and freezes, all the while building up to that climax: the first sighting of the Treasury.
Most visitors will have seen the building in the famous Indiana Jones scene, but the initial view invariably leaves them momentarily staring in awe (before reaching for the camera and reeling off several hundred pictures). The rest of the huge site offers many more impressive experiences and is worthy of at least two and possibly three days in order to see it comprehensively.
But !!!! Why is the entrance price to Petra for Foreigners so extremely high?
Yet the admission fee set by the Petra park authorities is so far in excess of the other sites that it deserves some scrutiny. Is it because the site is so large? It is not as large as Angkor Wat and yet a three day pass there will cost a mere £25.
Is it because of the unique nature of the site? Each of the other places listed above can claim to be equally unique. Petra is special, but so is Angkor Wat, the Mayan sites of Central America, the Taj Mahal, etc etc.
But then I thought, wait this is one of the new world wonders. Maybe I am overreacting. Perhaps all sites of such historic importance have such a steep entrance fee. So here are the entrance fees for foreigners in the following world wonders:
Machu Picchu in Peru: 40$ with 50% off for students.
Taj Mahal in India: 15$
Chichen Itza in Mexico: 12$
The Colosseum in Italy: 12$
Great Wall of China: 14$
Christ the Redeemer in Rio: Free
The price of the Petra entry tickets was raised gradually in 2010, to the current level. These new prices are criticized by many as being controversial and discriminative.
Also, there is now a distinction between day trippers and overnight visitors. The lower price that overnight visitors pay is supposed to encourage people to spend more time in Jordan.
Almost everybody will be asked to justify their stay in Jordan at the time of ticket purchase, either by showing their passport or by evidence of a hotel stay.
The admission prices that day-visitors have to pay make Petra one of the most expensive tourist sites in the world. Allegedly the extra income will be spent on improving the facilities and services at the Petra Archaeological Park.
Taken for a ride???
Visitors now have to pay for additional services like guiding and horse riding - even if they don't wish to use them.
Defending the steep fees, Visit Jordan argued (via their Twitter feed) that the fee to Petra is justified as it includes a horse ride and a map. The map is free at almost any site, while the decision to make the horse ride a compulsory purchase seems to be little more than a collusion with the horse owners that in my view is deeply damaging to the tourist experience. The horses we saw on the trail in 2009 looked less than healthy, and at the entrance to the Siq we witnessed tourists arguing with the horse owners about the tip that was expected from them for the short ride for which they already had paid 7JD (£6). Is that the image that Jordan Tourism wants to promote? Can we realistically expect this hassle to change with the new fee structure?
Putting these points aside, many people have no interest in taking a horse when the easy 15 minute walk is a preferable option. By denying this choice to tourists are the Petra Park authorities cynically exploiting the fact that people will pay whatever they’re told to pay having travelled so far to reach Petra?
‘The funds are going to improve the service to future visitors’ is another defense. But why should today’s visitors pay such a high price for those coming in five or ten year’s time? And what evidence or accountability will there be in how these extra funds are actually channeled to improve the visitor experience? The visitor experience was hardly great in 2009 (thank goodness that Petra is so impressive that it does itself justice) and the fees were already high then. What hope now for the visitors of 2013 to see some benefits of the recent price hike?