Getting around Jordan
Royal Jordanian (www.rj.com) operates frequent flights between Amman and Aqaba. This is the only domestic air route in the country, and is something of a luxury – the road journey between the two cities is only around 4 hours. The flight from Amman to Aqaba takes less than 45 minutes. However, fares are not excessive, and the views out over the desert are an added enticement.
It’s easy to move around Jordan by road. Signage is generally good (and bilingual, in Arabic and English) and road quality is mostly high. Jordan is also small - few journeys between points of interest take longer than 2 hours.
You should always carry bottled drinking water with you in your vehicle, in case you are stranded in the daytime heat. Be prepared in winter (December to February) for heavy rain, fog and/or snowfall to block roads or hinder progress, especially in high-altitude areas around Ajloun, Tafila, Petra and Ras Al Naqab, as well as in the elevated western suburbs of Amman.
The highways are reasonable but the local driving style can be erratic. For most visitors, in most situations, a 4-wheel drive vehicle is not needed. If you intend to drive off-road in the deserts, in Jordan’s east and south, you are best advised to make contact with a local guide or driver in advance.
There are three main north-south arteries. From west to east these are: the Dead Sea Highway which goes from the Dead Sea to Aqaba through the flat Wadi Araba (mostly single carriageway); the King’s Highway from Amman to Ras Al Naqab over hills and through canyons (single carriageway); and the fast, straight Desert Highway from Amman to Aqaba (dual carriageway). Major highways also run north of Amman to Irbid and the Syrian border, as well as east to the Iraqi border.
Major international car hire companies and a number of local companies operate services in the main towns, including Amman and Aqaba; car hire is also available from hotels and travel agents. Drivers are available for the day.
In Amman all taxis operate a meter and can be hired for the day. A shared-taxi service to many towns on fixed routes is also available and can be hired for private use. Tips of around 10% are appreciated but not obligatory. Note that taxis often display the fare in fils rather than dinars and if you overpay by mistaking one for the other, no one is likely to correct you.
Very few Jordanians cycle, and this is reflected in the limited facilities for cyclists – and limited awareness of cycle safety among motorists. The mountainous terrain, extremes of temperature and conservative outlook among rural people all mitigate against long-distance cycling in the countryside. That said, it is not impossible: the best advice is to make contact with local cycle groups on Facebook, who can direct you to one of Amman’s few bike shops for guidance and supplies.
Buses are the main means of inter-city transport in Jordan – mostly small 15-seater minibuses, which ply between neighbouring towns as well as to/from Amman. These are small shoestring operations: the best advice is to ask around locally for where buses depart from, and how to proceed. Larger coaches follow a few major inter-city routes. Companies include JETT (tel: +962 6 566 4141; www.jett.com.jo) and Hijazi (tel: +962 2 710 1760).
Speed limits are 60kph (38mph) or less in built-up areas, 80kph (50mph) on country roads and 120kph (75mph) on motorways. Mobile radar speed-traps are common. Roadside ID checks have been withdrawn everywhere, but it’s still a good idea to keep your passport with you at all times. The minimum driving age is 18 years. The wearing of seatbelts for all car passengers is mandatory.
In case of breakdown, contact the Royal Automobile Club of Jordan (tel: +962 6 585 0626; www.racj.com).
National driving licences are accepted if they have been issued at least one year before travel. However, an International Driving Permit is recommended. Visitors are not allowed to drive a vehicle with normal Jordanian plates unless they have a Jordanian driving licence.
The area around the city of Aqaba is a duty-free zone. As you drive in or out, on either the Desert Highway (to/from Amman) or the Dead Sea Highway, you pass through border-style customs posts, and may be required to stop and declare high-value goods.
There are conventional buses and extensive fixed-route servis (share-taxis, most seating up to seven) in Amman and other main cities. The servis are licensed, with a standard fare scale, but there are no fixed pick-up or set-down points. Vehicles often fill up at central or outer terminal points and then run non-stop.