The best way to visit Jordan independently is by hiring a car. Although there are buses, if you really want to explore the country, renting a car is the only way to go. Driving in Jordan is relatively easy to do, but there are definitely some things you should know before you go to help you drive in Jordan safely! After hiring a car for a week in Jordan we picked up some tips and tricks along the way, and sometimes learning the hard way that things don’t always work the way you expect! Here’s everything you need to know about driving and car rental in Jordan so you can explore this extraordinary country safely.
Advantages of Hiring a Car in Jordan
The main advantage of hiring a car is, of course, the flexibility to plan your own itinerary, and visit places you want to which aren’t necessarily offered on a tour of Jordan. Public transport isn’t the best in Jordan, and some of the places we visited would have been impossible to reach on public transport.
You can pick a car up at the airport and set off on your way almost immediately, without having to wait for a bus or pay over the odds for a taxi. You can also pack as much or as little into your car as you like, and not worry about your bags.
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Disadvantages of Car Rental in Jordan
Hiring a car can be expensive, especially if you are a solo traveller. Navigating the roads can be challenging too but having a travel buddy can help both of these issues. I was travelling in Jordan with a friend of mine, so we split the costs and while one of us was driving, the other was navigating and watching out for signs on the road.
Where to Hire a Car in Jordan
There are car rental places at the main airports in Jordan, and in the city centres too. It is probably best to reserve your car in advance if you know where you are going to be, to save time and make sure you can get the car you want. We used Rentalcars.com to book a car from Dollar Car Rental at Aqaba airport, which worked well.
If you are arriving in Jordan by land, check with your hotel if they have a car hire desk or if there is one nearby. At our hotel in Aqaba there was a place right across the street.
Hiring a car at Aqaba Airport was really easy; we had pre-booked and just turned up and handed over the paperwork. The attendant just took a copy of our passports, a deposit on my friend’s credit card, and asked us to sign the contract. We returned the car at Aqaba as well as our flight home was also from there, but if you are leaving or arriving from Amman you can also pick up or drop off hire cars in Amman airport and city centre too.
What You Need to Rent a Car in Jordan
Be 21 or Over
You need to be at least 21 to hire a car in Jordan and to have held your license for at least 1 year. Some car rental companies only accept drivers over the age of 25, whereas others may charge an extra fee if you are under 25.
Obviously, you need to have a valid driving license to hire a car in Jordan. Any additional drivers will also need a valid driving license.
You will also need a 1949 International Driving Permit to legally drive in Jordan.
At least that’s what it told us on our car hire contract, and that’s what it says on all official websites, but no-one asked to see that at all during our trip. However, I would still recommend getting one as they are cheap and easy to get. In the UK it is only £6.50 and can be done straight away at the Post Office, all you need is your current driving license and a recent passport photograph. In the US, you can get one from the AAA or the AATA for $20.
I highly recommend getting a car hire package which includes full insurance coverage, as you never know when bumps or accidents can occur. We ended up with a mystery dent in our car after we had left it parked on the street – we assumed someone had bumped into the car and driven off. Luckily, we were able to claim back the 140 JD charge from the insurance. Remember that as well as car insurance, you should also have travel insurance to cover you for your entire trip.
If you’re looking for travel insurance for your trip to Jordan, get a quote now from World Nomads.
When you pick up your hire car you will need a credit card for the excess or deposit amount. Some car rental companies may accept debit cards but not cash, so check with before you book what applies to your company. Make sure you have enough credit to cover the deposit and whatever else you will need to spend while you are away.
Although GPS isn’t mandatory, I highly recommend it. The main attractions in Jordan like Petra and the Dead Sea are well signed, but in order to find your accommodation and make sure you don’t miss any turns then you’ll need a GPS for the car. If you don’t get one included in your car hire, download maps.me for your phone with the Jordan country map which will include fairly accurate directions to wherever you want to go. Be warned though, the app does eat your phone battery pretty quickly so bring a portable charger with you as well.
Nerves of Steel
I’m not a particularly confident driver but seeing how the majority of Jordanians drive is enough to shock most people in the UK. As the British government travel website cheerfully states, “Jordan ranks 36th in the world for the number of deaths as a result of road traffic accidents” so you need to have your wits about you when driving in Jordan!
What You Need to Know About Driving in Jordan
Drive on the Right
In Jordan, they drive on the right-hand side of the road. For Brits like me, it might take some getting used to but if you drive on the right where you’re from then you’ll feel at home here.
However, on the highway don’t expect to always have slow vehicles on the right-hand side to allow faster moving vehicles to pass on the left. Sometimes that happens, sometimes it doesn’t.
Speed Limits in Jordan
Speed and distance in Jordan are measured in kilometres, and the speed limits seem to change frequently and often without signage. Watch out for police checkpoints and speed cameras, as fines can be issued on the spot. However, we realised that most local drivers don’t pay any attention to the speed limits.
Legally, the speed limit in Jordan 60 km/hour in urban and residential areas, 80km/hr on national roads and rural areas and 120 km/hr on highways. Keep an eye open for speed limit signs to tell you if/when it changes but be aware that speed limit changes aren’t always signed, especially when coming out of a lower speed area to a higher limit.
Emergency Numbers in Jordan
Hopefully, you won’t need them but in case you do, emergency numbers in Jordan are 190 for police and 199 for ambulances. The international emergency number 911 can also be used, which is probably more easily remembered if you have just been in an accident! If you do have an accident,
Driving Laws in Jordan
As well as sticking to the speed limit, wearing a seatbelt in the front seats is also obligatory. Don’t use your mobile phone (unless it’s hands-free) as you can get an on the spot fine. Don’t drink and drive.
Things to Bear in Mind when Driving in Jordan
Road Markings Often Don’t Exist
For those of us who are used to having clearly marked lanes on the road, dividing lines to show which side of the road you should be on, and any other useful road markings then you may be surprised at the lack of defined lanes here. Not that lanes are really a thing in Jordan, occasionally there are several lanes which appear at traffic lights only to disappear as soon as you cross, and everyone battles to merge back into one or two lanes. Even when car lanes are there, they are frequently ignored by drivers anyway, do don’t worry about it too much.
Right of Way Doesn’t Exist Either
At least it seems that way! Even on roundabouts, vehicles merging into the main road seem to get priority, or they will pull out in front of you anyway, so you need to try to keep your wits about you and avoid hitting them!
Nor Does Signalling
Signalling to indicate where you’re going apparently isn’t necessary either. I lost count of the times drivers in front of us would slow down and suddenly dive off to the right or to the left, or simply stop in the middle of the road. Don’t try to second-guess where the car in front of you is going, just wait for them to turn.
Watch Out for Speed Bumps in Jordan
My oh my there are a lot of speed bumps in Jordan. And most of the time they are not well signed at all. Sometimes you’ll get a sign to say there are speed bumps somewhere up ahead, occasionally with a distance included (which was usually inaccurate), other times you wouldn’t get any warning at all. Hitting a speed bump at 80km an hour is not enjoyable, and after getting caught out on the road from Aqaba airport to our hotel, we realised very quickly that this is a game we weren’t going to enjoy playing! Speed bumps often signalled that you are entering or leaving a town, but other times they appeared at random intervals and seemed to serve no purpose other than to rattle your suspension and your teeth, so keep your eyes peeled.
Police Checkpoints are Frequent
There are plenty of checkpoints all around Jordan, some of which are manned, and others appeared to be abandoned or temporarily not in use. These are usually signposted with red signs on the side of the road, but not always. Slow down and see if they expect you to stop. Some obviously require you to stop, for example coming in or out of the airport you will probably be required to stop and asked to open the boot of the car to make sure you’re not carrying anything you shouldn’t be.
Other times the police were too busy sitting around on the phone or smoking to pay attention to us driving by. Then on our last day in Jordan, we were flagged down three times! The car hire company will give you a license card and paperwork (kept in the glove compartment) to show the police if/when they do stop you, and they may also ask to see your passport and driving license, so keep them handy.
I do have to say that every time we were stopped the police were friendly and usually asked us where we were from before quickly waving us along, or one even started chatting to us about local football teams once he found out where we were from! Don’t mess with them and you’ll have a smooth ride.
Watch Out for Pedestrians
Pedestrian crossings are few and far between in Jordan, so people just walk across the road wherever they feel like it – even on the main highway with cars going at 100km+ an hour. People in Jordan don’t seem keen on using the pavements either, so you’ll see plenty of people walking in the road next to the pavement.
This can cause problems for drivers though, as in Jordanian law a driver is always considered guilty if they hit a pedestrian, so avoid that at all costs! If you’re involved in such an incident, you could face imprisonment and be liable for the payment of hospital bills and other compensation.
Hitchhiking also seems quite common here, the public transport in Jordan isn’t the best so don’t be surprised if various people try to flag you down. We didn’t pick anyone up, and I don’t advise you do either, but it’s your call if you’re feeling adventurous!
Look Out for Camel Crossings
Most of the livestock we saw on the road was roaming free without fences. This included a variety of animals from camels to sheep, goats and donkeys, as well as cats and dogs who could and would cross the road at any time. I have never seen a camel warning sign before, and we did spot a few camels too, including in the middle of the road!
Avoid Driving in Jordan At Night
If you can, try to complete your journey during the day. In the winter that will be more difficult, when we visited Jordan in November the sun set around 4.30pm and it was dark by 5pm, so you’ll need to plan your travel times accordingly. We ended up driving for about an hour in the dark on our way to our Airbnb in Petra, and the lack of street lighting made it more challenging than usual. As well as not being able to clearly see the speedbumps and turns in the road (cat’s eyes aren’t common outside of the highway), you are also at higher risk of hitting camels or people!
Petrol Stations Have Attendants
When you pull up to a pump, an attendant will come and fill up for you. You can pay in cash or by card. There seems to be a lot of new petrol stations which have been built recently, which are huge and easy to spot a mile away. It only took me a couple of days to realise that Jo Petrol was Jordan Petrol, not Jo’s Petrol….
When you return your hire car, make sure you fill up the tank if required – ours needed to be ¾ full which was a pain to estimate properly. If you’re a little low don’t worry too much, you’ll just be asked to pay extra when you drop the car off.
Check Your Car for Bumps and Scratches
Every time you get in the car after leaving it parked somewhere, make sure you check it over to see if you have any new bumps or scratches. We noticed a big dent in the car the day after it had happened, we can only assume someone drove into the car then drove away. If that happens to you, call the 24-hour car hire helpline and they can advise you what to do. We didn’t call and nearly ended up having to get a police report for the bump before we caught our flight. Try to avoid parking on the road if you can, at least if someone does hit your car in a car park it might do less damage!
A Note About Women Drivers
Although women are allowed to drive here, outside of the main cities we didn’t spot many female drivers. When people noticed that we were driving, we often got funny looks – especially when pedestrians strolled across the road in front of us. However, we didn’t have any issues at all driving in Jordan. If you are a solo female traveller driving in Jordan, I don’t imagine you’ll have any trouble either – although there were 2 of us, everyone we spoke to was friendly and respectful even if they were a little surprised to see us. Just remember to dress appropriately and cover your shoulders, cleavage and legs even while you’re driving in case you need to get out.
Do you have any other tips for car rental in Jordan? How did you find driving in Jordan? I’d love to hear your thoughts, please leave your comments below. I hope I’ve covered everything you might need to know about arranging car rental in Jordan, but if not please feel free to ask any questions you might have and I’ll do my best to answer!
If you’re looking for travel insurance for your trip to Jordan, get a quote now from World Nomads.
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