There is only one domestic air route, between Amman and Aqaba.
Royal Jordanian (www.rj.com) Flights twice daily (one way around JD52, one hour).
Royal Wings (www.royalwings.com.jo) A subsidiary of Royal Jordanian, offering expensive charter flights.
Cycling can be fun or sheer folly depending on the time of year. From March to May and September to November are the best times to get on your bike – you won’t have to battle the stifling summer heat or the bitter winter winds. Spare parts aren't always common in Jordan, so carry a spare tyre, extra chain links, spokes, two inner tubes, repair kit and tool kit with spanner set. Also bring a low-gear set for the hills and a couple of water containers; confine your panniers to a maximum of 15kg. If you don't want to bring your bike, the cycling outfit Bike Rush offers bike hire from its Amman shop (with delivery to your address too), as well as weekly vehicle-supported bike trips around the country.
It is not possible to get around Jordan by boat.
The two largest cities, Amman and Irbid, have efficient, cheap public bus networks. There are often no timetables available at chaotic local bus stations. Locals are always willing to help though.
Public minibuses are the most common form of public transport. They normally only leave when full, so waiting times of an hour or more are inevitable, especially in rural areas. Tickets are normally bought on the bus. Standing is not usually allowed, and some seat shuffling often takes place to ensure that unaccompanied foreign men or women do not sit next to members of the opposite sex. Locals signify that they want to get off by rapping a coin on a side window.
The larger air-con buses offer a speedy and reliable service, departing according to a fixed schedule. They don’t stop en route to pick up passengers. Tickets should ideally be bought a day in advance.
The national bus company JETT operates the most comfortable bus service from Amman to Aqaba. It also has services to King Hussein Bridge (7am daily) border crossing and Petra (6.30am daily).
Car & Motorcycle
Jordan is an easy country to drive in (with the exception of Amman), and there are some spectacular routes linking the high ground with the Jordan Valley below sea level. Indeed, there aren’t many countries where you can claim to be driving uphill to the sea, but if you’re on the Dead Sea Highway heading for the Red Sea, Jordan is one of them!
Strictly speaking, you don’t need an International Driving Permit (IDP) to drive in Jordan unless you plan on crossing any borders, but it may help to have one if you are in an accident.
What to do in an Accident
- Don’t move the vehicle.
- Find a policeman from the local station to attend the scene immediately.
- Get a police report (essential for insurance – Arabic is OK) and contact the car-hire company.
- If there’s a serious injury, call 911 for emergency services; you’ll be answered by English-speaking staff.
- Contact your travel insurance company at home and your embassy/consulate in Amman.
- If your own car is involved, your driving licence and passport will be held by the police until the case is reviewed in a local court – which may take weeks.
- Beware: drivers are always considered guilty if they hit a pedestrian, regardless of the circumstances.
Bringing Your Own Vehicle
If you are travelling with your own vehicle, refer to the following checklist of items to bring with you (contact your local automobile association for details):
- The vehicle’s registration papers and liability insurance
- Carnet de passage en douane (passport for the vehicle that acts as a temporary waiver of import duty)
- Specifications of any expensive spare parts, such as a gearbox, on board (designed to prevent car-import rackets)
- Spare parts and some mechanical knowledge for motorcycles
Royal Automobile Club of Jordan (www.racj.com) can arrange a carnet.
There are a number of checkpoints in Jordan, and drivers are expected to stop at these. Foreigners are often waved through without any fuss, though you may have to show your passport. As such, always keep your passport, driving licence, hire agreement or proof of ownership and registration papers handy.
Fuel & Spare Parts
Petrol stations can mostly be found on the outskirts of major towns and at some junctions. Along the Desert Highway (the only fully dual carriageway), there are plenty of stations. There are fewer along the King’s Highway and very few along the Dead Sea Highway. Unleaded petrol (khal min ar rasas) is only reliably available in Amman and even then at only a few petrol stations.
Garages with mechanics can be found in the outskirts of most towns. They can handle most repairs. Check with your car-hire company before letting them loose on a rental.
Four-wheel drives are only necessary if you’re going to remote parts of the desert, such as Burqu. You are highly advised to have prior experience of off-road driving before attempting soft sand: getting stuck in 45°C heat, for example, is a recipe for disaster if you don’t know what you’re doing. In Wadi Rum, it's easier (and more rewarding for both parties) to hire a 4WD with a Bedouin driver from the visitor centre rather than trying to go it alone in a hired vehicle.
If you're determined, 4WD vehicles can be hired from reputable agencies in Aqaba and Amman; they are far more expensive than normal sedans, costing at least JD150 per day.
Hiring a car is a great way of getting the most out of Jordan, especially if travelling the King’s Highway or Dead Sea area. Drivers over 65 years of age should check whether they are eligible to hire a car with each particular agency as some have upper as well as lower age restrictions.
There are many car-hire agencies in Amman (King Abdullah Gardens in Shmeisani is lined with international and local hire offices), a few in Aqaba and one or two irregularly staffed offices at Queen Alia International Airport and the King Hussein border with Israel and the Palestinian Territories. Most car-hire agencies outside of these areas usually consist of an office with one guy, one desk, one telephone and one car for hire (usually his!). The best deals are in Amman, where competition among agencies is fierce.
Daily rates run at around JD50. This usually includes unlimited kilometres, although many agencies specify a minimum hire of 48 hours. You can normally drop off the hire car in another city (such as Aqaba) for an extra fee. All companies require a deposit of up to JD400 payable upon pick-up (usually by credit card) and refunded upon return of the car.
Road maps are not provided by car-hire agencies, but child-restraining seats are generally available for an extra fee.
Most agencies only hire to drivers over 21 years old; some stipulate that drivers must be at least 26 years. It’s not possible to drive a hire car from Jordan into neighbouring countries.
Most car-hire rates come with basic insurance that involves a deductible of up to JD400 (ie in case of an accident you pay a maximum of JD400). Most agencies offer additional Collision Damage Waiver (CDW) insurance for an extra JD7 to JD10 per day, which will absolve you of all accident costs (in some cases a maximum of JD100 excess).
Insurance offered by major companies often includes Personal Accident Insurance and Theft Protection, which may be covered by your travel insurance policy from home. Read the conditions of the contract carefully before signing – an English translation should always be provided.
If you’re driving into Jordan in a private vehicle, compulsory third-party insurance must be purchased at the border from about JD40 (valid for one month). You also pay a nominal customs fee of JD5 for ‘foreign car registration’ (obtainable at the borders with Jordan and the ferry terminal in Nuweiba, Egypt).
The condition of roads varies; unsigned speed humps are common, usually at the entrance to a town but also across main highways. It’s important to note that the term ‘highway’ doesn’t mean dual carriageway in Jordan – simply a main thoroughfare.
Despite the small population and relatively well-maintained roads, accidents are alarmingly frequent.
If you’re driving around Jordan, read the following carefully:
- Signposting is erratic – generally enough to get you on your way but not enough to get you all the way to your destination.
- Most road signs are in English but are inconsistently transliterated (eg ‘Om Qeis’ or 'Umm Qais').
- Brown signs denote tourist attractions, blue signs are for road names and green signs are for anything Islamic, such as a mosque.
- Take care when it’s raining: water and sand (and sometimes oil) make a lethal combination on the roads.
- The Jordanian road system makes more use of U-turns than flyovers.
- Beware herds of goats and camels crossing all roads, including highways.
- Petrol stations are not that common, so fill up when you see one.
- Straddling two lanes and overtaking using the slow lane are common practices and it's not unknown for someone to reverse along a dual carriageway or travel the wrong way along a hard shoulder to reach the nearest turning.
Visitors from any country where road rules are rigorously obeyed may be shocked by the traffic in Jordan, especially in Amman. Indicators are seldom used, the ubiquitous horn is preferred over slowing down and pedestrians must take their chances. But anyone who has driven elsewhere in the Middle East may find the traffic comparatively well behaved. Provided that you minimise driving in Amman and take reasonable care, you’re unlikely to encounter too many difficulties.
Vehicles drive on the right-hand side of the road in Jordan. The general speed limit inside built-up areas is 50km/h or 70km/h on multilane highways in Amman, and 90km/h to 110km/h on the national highways.
Wearing a seatbelt is compulsory, though many Jordanians remain reluctant to use them. Traffic police are positioned at intervals along the highways.
Hitching is never entirely safe, and we don’t recommend it. Travellers who hitch should understand that they are taking a small but potentially serious risk. Hitching is sometimes used as a means of transport in Jordan in areas where public transport is limited or nonexistent, such as parts of the King’s Highway and to the desert castles east of Amman.
Picking up Hitchhikers
On remote routes like the Wadi Mujib stretch of the King’s Highway, where public transport is limited or even nonexistent, it’s common for Jordanians to pick up hitchhikers. If you're driving and choose to do the same, take the same safety precautions you would anywhere else. You shouldn't charge for the lift.
Yellow private taxis work like ordinary taxis and can be chartered for the day. In Amman most drivers use the meter – note that fares are displayed in fils not dinars. Outside Amman, negotiate a reasonable fare before you set off. Taking a private taxi in Jordan is generally safe for women but those travelling alone may prefer the anonymity of sitting in the back seat.
White service taxis (servees) run along set routes within and between many towns, as well as between Jordan and neighbouring countries. They are shared by more than one passenger and usually have writing and numbers (in Arabic) indicating their route. They usually only leave when full. They cost up to twice as much as a minibus and about 50% more than a local bus, but are quicker because they stop less often along the way to pick up passengers. To avoid waiting for passengers, or to give yourself extra room, you can always pay for an extra seat. In contrast to private taxis, female travellers are likely to be ushered into the front seat if the back seats are occupied by men: this is an accepted practice for local women as well as visitors.
There is no feasible service currently operating for visitors on the railways in Jordan.