There are a lot of things to consider when planning a trip to Jordan: How long and when should you visit? What should you see? Where should you go and how should you get there? Is it even worth considering a car rental and driving in Jordan?
If you’re up for the adventure and want the flexibility of exploring on your own, Jordan is a safe place to do that. You can easily rent a car, plan a road trip route, and explore Jordan on your own terms rather than with a private driver or group of fellow travelers.
In this post I’ll cover my best tips for driving in Jordan based on my past visits. You’ll learn the basic rules of the road, plus a few Jordan-specific tips and tricks to make driving in Jordan a breeze.
Tip #1: You Can Rent a Car in Jordan
As you’re planning your Jordan trip, you might assume you need to be on a group tour or at least have a private driver-guide. Not true!
You can absolutely rent a car and explore Jordan on your own. Jordan is safe for car renters, but of course, there are a few tips for safety and generally making life easier that I’ll cover in the rest of this post.
In terms of the details, here is the most relevant info you need to know:
- Drivers must be 25 years old to rent a car in Jordan
- You’ll need to show your driver’s license and passport as part of the rental process.
- You do not need an International Driver’s License to rent a car or for driving in Jordan.
- Car rentals in Jordan typically start from $18 per day (source)
The vast majority of rental companies are in Amman at Queen Alia International Airport; keep it simple and rent your car there. I always use Kayak to browse car rental options.
Tip #2: Check Your Petrol Levels
Once you arrive in Jordan and pick up your rental car, it’s a good idea to check the vehicle (like whenever you rent a car anywhere). In particular, pay attention to the petrol (gas) levels. There is no common standard for “how full” your car will be when you receive it (like there is in other countries), so you may receive a rental car that is empty! (The good thing is that you can also return it empty.) Once you know your petrol levels, you can plan for your first fuel stop.
Tip #3: There are Plenty of Petrol Stations
While Jordan itself is not an oil-rich country, they do live in a great region for it, so there is plenty of infrastructure to support fuel use in Jordan. Even tiny towns will usually have a petrol (gas) station.
That said, it’s always good to plan ahead to ensure you have enough fuel for the day. After your first day of driving, figure out how many times you’ll need to fill up each day. Then start your day with a full tank to ensure you don’t end up spending part of your trip waiting on the side of the road for a ride to the next town for gas.
Pro-Tip: When getting fuel, you don’t pump the gas yourself in Jordan. Just tell the attendant you want it “Full,” or hand out the number of Dinar you want to pay.
Tip #4: Seat Belts are Required…
…But only for front seat passengers.
I did a bit of extra digging on this rule to try and confirm, but yes: only front-seat passengers are required to wear seatbelts in Jordan. (Actually, they’re working hard to get to 100% compliance with this, as most people don’t wear a seatbelt at all.)
However, we know that seatbelts save lives no matter where you’re sitting in the car, and it’s a silly reason to risk your safety. Buckle up even if you’re in the back seat!
Tip #5: Drive on the Right Side
Though Jordan is a former British colony, you don’t need to learn how to drive on the opposite side of the road (and car) when driving in Jordan. (Thank goodness!) Yep, you drive on the right side of the road in Jordan.
Hopefully that’s all I need to say – just follow the “right side” rules of the road, and you’ll be in compliance with most Jordanian driving laws.
Tip #6: Speeds & Distances are Metric
While the side-of-road debate falls in favor of the American system, the Brits won the “speeds and distances” portion. In Jordan, speeds and distances are all in the metric system. This means you’ll need to acquaint yourself with speed in kilometers per hour (kph) and distances in kilometers too.
Here are a few helpful tips I’ve learned from driving in countries that use the metric system this way:
- 1500m is about one mile (so if you see the distance to an exit is 1500m, it’s roughly one mile)
- 100 kilometers per hour (kph) is roughly 60 miles per hour (mph)
- 60kph is about 35mph, 80kph is about 50mph, and 120kph is about 75mph (more on these below)
- If you’re traveling 100kph on the highway and the exit is 1500m ahead, you have about a minute to reach the exit
- If you’re traveling 100kph and the speed bump warning sign says 100m, you have about 10 seconds to prepare for the speed bump (more on speed bumps below)
Tip #7: Observe the Speed Limits
There are some common speed limits in Jordan, and you should observe them whenever driving in Jordan:
- In cities and urban areas, the speed limit is typically 50-60kph (30-35mph, so it should feel similar to city driving wherever you are from)
- In rural, less developed areas, the speed limit is typically 80-90kph (50-55mph)
- On highways, the speed limit varies from 100-120kph (65-75mph)
I like to put the speed in miles-per-hour as it helps me understand how fast it should “feel” when driving in these areas. All of this should feel very familiar if you have driven in other countries or your home country!
Tip #8: Be Prepare
d for Police Checkpoints
Police checkpoints are common in Jordan, especially once you get out of the cities onto highways between destinations. I remember being stopped on the way from Amman to Madaba, literally the first day we left the city.
Here are a couple of tips for police checkpoints:
- Slow down as you approach a police checkpoint, as they will wave you over and the wave can be easy to miss.
- If you do get waved over, the police may ask for your papers, or may just give you a cursory glance and wave you on.
- If the police ask for your papers, be prepared to show your passport and certificate of roadworthiness (a document provided when you rent the car). They may ask for other papers too, but typically this is sufficient.
Police checks are no big deal in Jordan; it’s an additional security measure to help control who’s moving around the country – which makes sense when you remember who Jordan’s neighbors are! (That would be Israel, Syria, Iraq, and Saudi Arabia.)
Tip #9: Lanes are Guidelines
I remember the first country where I experienced the “lanes are guidelines not rules” mentality – it was Chile. There, I quickly discovered that 1) there aren’t designated passing areas and thus 2) if I didn’t pass when I felt it was safe, I would be stuck behind the bus/truck/slow driver forever. I quickly learned to judge when the road would be safe to pass and make it happen.
The same rules apply when driving in Jordan: the lanes are there, typically two of them, you can use them however you see fit/feel safest, and other drivers will do the same. This may mean you need to yield if two approaching cars are taking up the whole road, or you need to use the shoulder a bit to pass a large truck driving down the center.
Tip #10: Watch for Speed Bumps
There are many unusual obstacles while driving in Jordan, but the biggest one is speed bumps. There are speed bumps everywhere! Sometimes they aren’t even well marked so you can slow down sufficiently for them!
Speed bumps obviously help slow cars down, but it typically means you need to slow down a lot beneath the speed limit to safely cross the bump. Failure to do so will be a teeth-rattling and potentially car-damaging experience. Better to stay alert and keep you and the car safe by always slowing down for the speed bumps.
Tip #11: Also Watch for Pedestrians
In addition to speed bumps, you also need to keep a particular eye out for pedestrians. Pedestrians always have the right of way in Jordan, so don’t be surprised if someone steps out at any point and expects you to slow down dramatically to accommodate that.
This happens in the cities, the towns, anywhere. Just be an attentive driver and give pedestrians the right of way.
Pro-tip: The other major road hazard is camels. (I love it!) While there are no official rules on camel right-of-way, the animals are huge and hitting one can damage the car, the camel, and yoou.
Tip #12: Aim to Drive During the Day
While it is safe to drive at night, I recommend driving in Jordan during the day whenever you can. As I just mentioned, there are plenty of road obstacles in Jordan that are hard to spot and accommodate even when the sun is shining; imagine coming across a speed bump or camel in the road once the sun goes down!
Jordan’s highways are not extensively lit, either, so there’s very little light to help you see unless you’re near a more developed area.
In general, just plan ahead to try and do your driving during the day so you don’t have to worry about it.
Tip #13: GPS is Key…
Having GPS queued up to help you navigate is a good idea in Jordan. Cell service in Jordan is generally pretty good, but if you’re exploring far beyond the cities or while driving the highways, you may find you have no service.
For this reason I recommend having an international data plan (or picking up a local sim for the biggest carrier in Jordan, Orange), but also saving maps/routes to your phone in advance each night for the next day’s driving. You can easily do this in Google Maps.
Tip #14: …But Google Always Underestimates
Speaking of Google, it pretty much always underestimates the driving time between destinations in Jordan. This is due to some of the issues we’ve mentioned already: police checks, speed bumps, camel crossings, and slow-moving trucks you can’t get around. It’s also because Jordan is primarily a country of two-lane roads, and many of those are twisty-turny and require more care while driving. Oh, and because there are plenty of roadside tea shops worth stopping at.
Give yourself an extra 30-60 minutes depending on how long the drive is each day, and you’ll be on-schedule instead of always “late.” (Really though, you’re on vacation, how late can you be?!)
Tip #15: Don’t Drive in Amman
For one final tip, I recommend not driving in Amman. First of all, city driving in Jordan (like everywhere) is totally different than driving the highways through rural areas. The rules of the road are different, there are way more cars, there’s a lot going on… It’s just a lot.
Instead, you can get around Amman easily by public transit or taxi. Let the locals do the driving while you enjoy the city.
Pro-tip: You also don’t need to drive in Wadi Rum. There are many tour operators there who are experts in desert driving, you don’t need to pay for the car upgrade and do it yourself.
Have any other questions about driving in Jordan? Let me know in the comments!