When we traveled the roads of America in the 1980s and 90s doing art shows, there were two songs we always sang—one as we left our home, and the other when we returned. On the Road Again was our leaving anthem, and we belted out Oklahoma! as we crossed the state line driving a cargo van and pulling a trailer, entering our state from the north, south, east, or west. Traveling was in our blood for fifteen years.
There are a lot of ways to travel in the US but also in Jordan, and that's what we'll talk about this week.
Only two generations ago, camels and donkeys were the principal means of transportation in Jordan. Now, they are only a memory as primary transportation. Occasionally, as you travel, you will see a free-range herd of camels and a donkey here and there but not often. Except for tourist photo-ops, the need for camels is reduced to race-animals for the wealthy and meat for cuisine. Yes, you’ll find camel dishes on the menu.
Donkeys are far less expensive than camels and still serve as short distance load bearers and travel in rural areas. But even there, few families own one. Now, you only see the multi-passenger car, truck, taxi, and bus—the motorcycle is an option for risky singles and doubles.
The king rides a Harley. See him in his younger days on a "Royal Tour of Jordan" video. As you might imagine, he cannot simple decide to go on a ride when he wants, but on his 55th birthday, the Royal Motorcycle Club made special arrangements for him to join them in a ride around Amman.
If you haven’t heard about drivers in Jordan, well—you are missing some wild stories that we can testify to ourselves. When we started talking to our friends about moving there, they were quick to tell us some crazy tales. Not being a world traveler, I can’t say much about other countries, but if these folks drove like this in the U.S., they would soon be bankrupt from all the traffic tickets.
You might want to choose the option of being a white-knuckled passenger in Aqaba’s little green taxis instead of taking the wheel yourself. As you can see, they are small.
Fortunately, about every fourth car is a taxi. Should you want to go down the street or to another city, call a taxi. They are inexpensive and often the most convenient form of transportation. For about 1.41 JD (Jordanian dinar, roughly one dollar) you can go anywhere in Aqaba. Regardless of your destination, first ask the driver about the fee until you are accustomed to the rates.
White “service taxis” have ride-fixed routes and are shared with other passengers. Private taxis are painted yellow, and they can be taken from ranks outside hotels or hailed in the street. Each city in Jordan has certain colors designated for their taxis.
Taxi meters are not always used at night, so it is advisable to agree on the cost beforehand. The same applies to long journeys.
Drivers are friendly, know the city well, and usually speak English. It is considered appropriate for a woman to sit in the back seat. Tipping isn’t compulsory, but it is customary to add about 200 fils (roughly 28 cents) to the price of the meter.
You will find this YouTube video very interesting. It tells about the first woman taxi driver in Amman. She found work there only a few years ago after her husband died and her son kicked her out of the house. The reality in Jordan is the oldest son inherits the father’s estate, and the widow is at his mercy. In this case, the famous Jordanian hospitality failed.
Since then, many women drive taxis. I can’t say whether the taxi you hire will have a man in the boot (trunk), like the video shows.
Hiring a van offers low-cost travel because the fare is shared with all the passengers.
If you are not in a hurry, try it, but be prepared to wait until all the seats are full.
Several bus companies offer service for individuals and groups. Regular tours in a fleet of modern, air-conditioned coaches will take you from city to city and can be reserved to take you to some of Jordan’s must-see tourist attractions. There are daily and weekly trips to various places including Petra, the Dead Sea, Ma’in Hot Springs, as well as Amman city tours.
I took this picture of a bus about a block away from Ali Baba’s restaurant in the background, where we had dinner.
Jordan has a growing network of roads, and renting a car can be a good way to see the country. You will need a passport, a valid drivers license from your country of origin that you have held at least one year, and a credit card. Driving is on the right side of the road. That makes it easy for us Westerners.
For our fellow septuagenarians, be advised Budget Jordan does not rent to those over the age of 70. However, this site, airportcarhire.com, says, “We welcome experienced drivers over 70 years of age. If you wish to hire a car and you are over 70 years of age or even over 75, we got the right car for you. In fact, you can rent a car up to 99 years of age with most suppliers when you book with us.”
Bad news for those under 21 and over 99 though. Ain’t no way anyone is going to rent you a car.
Road signs are in Arabic and English. Brown signs are designated especially for tourists. How thoughtful. Filling stations are plentiful in the major cities and on most highways (except the Dead Sea/Aqaba road). It makes good sense to have a full tank before any long trip. Keep in mind, Jordan imports every drop of gasoline. Right now in June 2020, it is the equivalent of $4.50 a gallon.
There are many car rental offices. Your hotel may also have one as a part of their service.
Here is a website that shows vehicle size, style, daily and weekly rental costs, as well as a map of Jordan, a directory of rental companies, and top tips for renting a car. And it answers several frequently asked questions.
The next website, tells more about a driver’s license, main road traffic rules and more. At the bottom left of the site, click the tab, “Jordan Road Traffic Signs,” to become familiar with them.
No doubt, a rental vehicle will give you great flexibility in your schedule, time, and destination.
When we arrived at the airport in Amman, we arranged for our host to pick us up in a rented Ford SUV and drive us back to his home four hours away. It was very convenient for us, but that day he spent eight hours on the road.
Ask a Friend
Someone who has a car and is familiar with your destination is a great option. If you pay for the gas or share the expenses in some other way, they can also share their knowledge and experience about the sights.
If your friend is Jordanian, however, he will be offended if you offer to buy the gas. Honor demands he pay. You’ll have to be creative to show your gratitude and generosity in another way.
On our trip, we were fortunate our expat host shuttled us to visit his friends and show us various places of interest in Aqaba. He also served as driver for our rental car while we toured on the week-long trip to Israel. He drove from the southernmost city of Eilat, Israel, on the border with Egypt, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia to Mount Hermon in the extreme north where it borders with Syria. Then we went from the Sea of Galilee to the Mediterranean Sea and back to Eilat.
We were so blessed to have this arrangement because we went at our pace, saw what we wanted, and stayed in our choice of accommodations. There is not a package trip that included all the things we did and saw. It was truly sensory overload.
Regardless of the travel mode you use, there is much to see in Jordan and many options to get you there. Learn all you can before your trip to have a much fuller experience.
Did you know that Jordan has more Biblical sites than any other country except Israel?
Actually, Moses, Aaron, and a few million Israelites spent two years in Saudi Arabia at Mount Sinai and thirty-eight years in Jordan during the Exodus. Was it at Wadi Rum they spent all that time? Several of Israel’s kings had occasion to be in what is western Jordan. John the Baptist and Yeshua with his disciples were also there several times.
Look for our future blog showing you where many Bible stories took place in Jordan.
Buy a Car
Once you make the move and think you’re ready to slip behind the wheel of your own vehicle, you will find both new and used vehicles available. One of the oldest international Ford dealerships in Jordan has a store and service center in Aqaba as well as other cities. Many other makes are also available.
Bring your own car
Should you decide to bring your own vehicle, be aware that there will be about a 74% duty plus assorted fees, and its age must be only five years old or newer.
Golden Eagle Aviation Academy in Amman is one of several helicopter transport and tour companies available. If you need a quick pick-me-up, try it. No doubt that will be exciting.
One of our retired Canadian friends in Jordan takes an exercise walk every day through his neighborhood. As far as we know, he has never experienced anything resembling a threat. Anita and I can attest to safety while walking in Aqaba.
On more than one occasion, we walked to a market center about five blocks away from where we were staying. Kids playing soccer in the street motioned me to join them. They kicked the ball to me, and I kicked it to another of the half dozen players in the circle.
A block farther, a man and his six-year-old daughter approached us. He shook my hand and motioned his daughter to do the same. After the “welcome, welcome,” he inquired why we were walking in a residential area. He said most visitors stay close to the market and hotel areas. We told him we were visiting friends and were headed to the grocery store. After a short, cordial conversation, we were on our way, and he and his daughter left in their car.
The sidewalks in residential areas are paved with various types of materials—mostly in shades of yellows and reds. The homeowners are responsible for their upkeep. Some do a good job. Others don’t. This makes it mandatory to watch for uneven, broken, or missing tiles.
The sidewalks have cut-out planting areas the homeowner is also responsible to maintain. Some of these are very nice, while others are overgrown so much that pedestrians have to detour into the street to get past.
Should you need a wheel chair, you should pick your path well.
Other Modes of Travel
For really short distances, take a camel or a donkey—if you can find one.
If you do, be sure to get a picture. It will certify you as a visitor to Jordan. For our
verification, we chose to bring home exotic aromatic spices to share with our friends.
Besides, we had no Dramamine for a dromedary ride, and we were certain to get seasick should we board one of those pitching and yawing ships of the desert. Just saying that makes me a bit woozy.
When you embark on your adventure in Jordan, most likely you will do just fine. Even if you hit a snag, not to worry. There will be a friendly Jordanian nearby, willing to go out of their way to help you.
Our plan—once we get settled—is to start a vlog and travel all over Ohio-sized Jordan. We will make use of many modes of transportation, I am sure.
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