19 Things You Need to Know Before Driving in Jordan

Slow travel hasn’t been my thing so far. I have a full-time job that I’m actually fairly great at and a home in a city I love with friends and family. This means I travel often but just not for long periods of times. So while I love getting a feel of local culture and traditions, I definitely have a smaller time frame to do so in. One thing I love doing to get a feel of a new place is actually to drive in it. It’s something most locals do (and excel at) and most places will come with their own customs and rules when it comes to driving. Driving yourself around in a new area is a great way to maximize your itinerary without the restraints of relying on public transportation. In Jordan it allows you to spend your time seeing the things you want to see, like the overlooked but worth visting Little Petra, instead of being tied to a tour itinerary. We just came back from 2.5 weeks in the Middle East and while we were in Jordan we chose to drive ourselves around instead of taking tours or public transportation. Now, you may heard stories about driving in the Middle East before and while most of them are true some of it is exaggerated. Driving in the Middle East is challenging and very different if you come from somewhere like North America but it’s completely doable. To help you along I’ve put together this list of 19 things you need to know before driving in Jordan in addition to some tips for driving in the Wadi Rum Desert and Amman specifically.

Quick Facts About Driving in Jordan

Driving in Jordan is done on the right side (like most of the world). You have to be 18 to drive a car and 25 to rent a car. The number for emergencies, which you’ll need to call in case of an accident, is 911. Wearing seat belts is a requirement and you may not use your phone in the car although this isn’t always enforced it’s a good rule nonetheless.

Speed Limits

Speed limits are fairly decent. On the highway it’s 120 km/h, in the city it’s 60 km/h and in less developed places it’s 80 km/h. It’s tempting go faster on the highway but you’re actually going to get stopped by this annoying beep that your car makes every time you go above 120 km/h. The noise doesn’t stop until your speed goes below 120 km/h so it’s a decent way to keep track. I tried tuning it out. Let me tell you, it doesn’t work. Just stick to the limit.

There are speed cameras and the police check points sometimes have speeding cameras as well so I’d highly recommend against speeding (not that I’d normally recommend it anyways). The logistics and potential extra fees of getting a speeding ticket in a rental car is absolutely not worth it.

Road Signs

All along the highway in all of the major cities (and the major sites), road signs are in both English and Arabic which makes it very easy for travelers to spot them and you won’t have to worry about having no idea what the sign says.

There’s some fun signs too if you haven’t driven in the Middle East before like those advising of camels. Definitely make for a chuckle the first time since it’s so different from what we have here in Canada!

Toll Roads

There are no toll roads in Jordan so you don’t need to worry about this. We did almost get tricked by somebody when trying to enter the area of Wadi Rum. They waived us down and said there would be a fee to keep driving. This isn’t the case!

License Plates

All rental cars start with the numbers 70 (it’s a good way to find your car in a parking lot in case you look track) and a good way to identify other rental cars. The most left part that has Jordan on it, is also yellow which is different from local plates. You can see the difference in the two pictures below.

Lanes

In most of the Western world, lanes are hard rules that you don’t break. You have to signal before changing lanes and you have to stay in your lane. In Jordan however? Most certainly not the case. Most of the King’s Highway is two lanes each way but there’s no rule about being faster in the left lane or only using the left lane to pass cars. One minute you’ll see a car going 140 in the left lane and 2 minutes later that same car is going 60 in the same lane. It’s difficult to figure out but luckily the highway is not very busy and you’re not going to run into problems with lane changes until you get into Amman. In Amman there’s pretty much no such thing as lanes. Majority of the roads we drove were supposed to be 3 lanes but you’d easily have it be 5 or 6 lanes across. The easiest way to deal with this is to be confident and assertive. Nobody’s going to let you go, you kind of just have to go (safely of course!).

Highways

Jordan has three main highways: Highway 15 (the Desert Highway) and Highway 65 (the Dead Sea Highway) run from the north to the south (and obviously vice versa). Highway 35 (the King’s Highway)  which runs between these two highways. It’s incredible scenic and the one we drove as much as possible. Pull over, safely!, and snap some pictures. It’ll be worth it.

Police Checks

The distances between places in Jordan are not very far. You can get from one end of the country to the other within the same day yet there are a fair amount of police checks on the way. They’re very subtle about waving you over so make sure that you slow down enough to see if they’re signalling you to pull over. We got waved over about 3 times. 2 of the times they just waved us through to keep driving but the 3rd time they actually asked for our passports and what we were doing in the country. I’d say it’s a hit or miss on getting pulled over (we passed probably a dozen stops we didn’t get pulled over into) but to be aware of them while driving.

Everyone who stopped us spoke English so it’s a great opportunity to ask about directions if needed as well.

Renting a Car in Jordan

Your car rental location will obviously depend on your itinerary but we decided to keep the car for the duration of our itinerary so we both picked it up and dropped it off at Queen Alia International Airport. If you’re super nervous about driving in Amman (which I don’t think you have to be) you can add Amman either at the end of beginning of your itinerary and then get the car accordingly. I would make sure to book with a reputable car rental agency as there’s been some issues, based on reviews online, where people were unhappy with the services at more local agencies.

While it’s a personal choice to rent in-person or book ahead of time, I would definitely recommend booking online ahead of time.

Gas Stations

I would recommend keeping an eye out for gas stations as they come and checking what your tank is like. We didn’t run into any issues with it but to be on the safe side we filled up anytime we saw a gas station and we had fallen below the half tank mark. The further out of Amman we got, the longer it went between gas stations so definitely keep it in mind while driving.

Gas stations in Jordan are typically serviced so do keep in mind you’ll be paying a tip as well and be very clear in how much you want to gas up.

While we did not run out of gas in Jordan, we have done so on a road trip in the United States and it was not great. In Canada all the tanks are pretty much automatic. You pay at the tank, pump your gas and then you go. But on this road trip in the United States you had to enter the gas station to pay and at 4 am when we needed to fill, they weren’t open. So it left us waiting in the parking lot until they opened up shortly after 6 am. All this to say that it’s better to be safe than sorry, fill up often rather than risking it!

Navigating

We have travelled in areas without GPS connection before so we always make sure to bring along both our GPS (Garman) and get a data sim card for our phone. While we make sure to download the maps for the GPS prior to a trip, you can’t always guarantee that they’re up to date. Similarly with your data on the phone, you can’t always guarantee that you’ll have a connection so having both with us ensure we minimize our risks.

I’ll add that you should take the time estimations on both the GPS and Google maps with a grain of salt. We very rarely got anywhere in the time it said we could and the day we were driving from the Dead Seas to the Wadi Rum Desert Camp we were staying at overnight, our trip was approximately 2-3 hours longer than we estimated it to be and our party had already set off to the camp and a guide had to come back for us. It’s a combination of things that slow you down here. The police stops, the speed bumps and the general road conditions add time to your distance.

Night Time Driving

I’d highly recommend against night driving. Like I mentioned above, when we drove to the desert the time was completly off and instead of arriving around 7pm we didn’t get there until closer to 10pm. The darker it got, the more we had to slow down and be careful and ultimately the more it delayed our trip in general. There was definitely some lights but nowhere near what you would be used to in North America or Europe.

Jaywalking

You would think that jaywalking would only be an issue in the city but it’s a problem everywhere. We’d be going 120 km/hour down the highway and a woman and her son would casually be crossing the highway. It was incredible. And it’s definitely something you need to be on the lookout for. It’s even worse in the city where people will cross the street before even looking to see if the street is empty. And there’s 0 point in being outraged because they will look at you like you’re an idiot for trying to stop them from crossing the street haha.

Speed Bumps & Potholes

Another thing to be very aware of on the highway are the number of speed bumps and potholes. The potholes are just a testament to the condition of the road. They’re something you have to try to avoid because they can cause serious damage to your car. Plus, if your passenger is sleeping it’s an incredibly awful wake up call. I would know, it happened to me far too many times. In regards to the speed bumps however, this was something brand new to us. In Toronto and in Canada in general speed bumps are more of a residential situation in order to get cars to slow down where more people will be walking and playing. In Jordan however, they were all over the highway and we’d come across one every 15-20 minutes or so. They’re not labelled (like no signs indicating that a bump is coming up) and they blend in with the actual road really well so it’s very hard to spot them coming. Just be aware that they’re there because going flying over a speed bump at 120+ km/h is not the funnest feeling in the world (or stomach!).

Traffic Lights

You’re really only going to encounter these in cities and they’re the ones you’ll have seen before with red, amber and green. Typically red means don’t go, green means go and amber means slow down or speed up (depending on where you are in the road). I don’t necessarily think this how locals interpret it however so if you’re going past a four way intersection do be very cautious.

International Driver’s Permit

We didn’t get asked for our international driver’s permit once but we had read online that the fees for getting caught with one were in the 100s of JODs and to us it wasn’t really worth the risk. We got our IDP at CAA who are the Canadian sole providers of IDP. It was only $25 CAD so definitely worth not being worried about being pulled over and getting fined.

Traffic

The only place we experienced traffic was in Amman – when we were driving along in the rest of the country it almost felt like we were the only ones driving at times. Of course this was paid back in full because we got stuck in a complete traffic mess in Amman with cars barely moving.

Driving in the Wadi Rum Desert

My tip for driving in the Wadi Rum Desert is actually not to do it. Firstly, you’re most likely going to need a 4×4. Secondly, there’s no connection what so ever so a phone GPS is of no help in case of getting lost. And while the Bedouin may know how to get around the 720 square km area, I sincerely doubt that anybody else will be able to. I tried to track how they were driving (and my husband even asked questions about it) and totally had zero idea on how they were tracking. We did notice some ‘landmarks’ like piles of stones arranged in a certain way or rows of stones. But I mean, to an outsider with no idea these all pretty much look the same. Now, I’m not saying it’s impossible. If you’re so inclined you can get a map in the visitors center and drive yourself around. You’ll see a fair amount of trucks driving around giving tours. If you’ve never driven on sand before I would suggest practicing doing that first as it’s different from other driving surfaces. I would also recommend bringing a shovel in case the tire gets stuck.

Driving in Amman

While we found driving around in Jordan fairly easy, driving in Amman is a whole other situation. We were actually advised not to do it by a couple of people we had met on the road and to take ubers instead but I was concerned about having to go back and forth so much and having to wait on the ubers. The police check situation doesn’t really apply in Amman but what does seriously apply are the lanes. There’s pretty much no order to it in Amman. People drove both ways on one way roads and turned around whenever they wanted to. 3 lanes turned into 5-6 lanes. The jay walking is also a concern in Amman (more so than anywhere else). And fair warning, Google Maps is very incorrect in Amman. Amman runs in a circle kind of system and for whatever reason Google Maps lead us wrong an incredible amount of times. If you miss your exit to the road you need to get to your best bet is to just go back around because the route Google finds will often make your route much longer than necessary. But, I point out all this for you to be prepared and not for you to be discouraged. Driving in Amman is possible – you just have to pay a lot of attention to it.

Do you like driving in places you visit? Have you driven in a country completely different from your own? Would you consider driving in Jordan? Let me know in the comments and pin this trip for your own upcoming trip!

Driving in Jordan

43 Comments

  1. March 7, 2018 / 3:33 am

    Great tips! I’ve always heard that these places are great for driving rather than taking a guided tour, so good to see some sensible ideas. Thanks

  2. Sarah
    March 8, 2018 / 9:05 pm

    Great tips!!

  3. June 13, 2018 / 8:00 pm

    Thanks for the terrific post

  4. Diego
    August 14, 2018 / 7:07 pm

    Thanks for the info, i’m goingo to Jordan and i have a week with a rented car (sorry, my english is really bad)
    Have the highways toll? and if it has a toll how is it paid? Credit card? cash?

    • Liliane
      Author
      August 22, 2018 / 8:14 am

      Hi Diego! No the highways do not have tolls! I hope you have a fantastic trip!

  5. Philip
    September 11, 2018 / 3:58 am

    Great info! I’m going for 12 days this October,. Do you recommend car hire in advance or locally after my few days in Amman?

    • Liliane
      Author
      September 17, 2018 / 9:33 pm

      I would probably skip it in Amman if you had more than a day. I appreciated having it because we had less than the day and it made it a lot easier getting around but if you have more than enough time to explore the city then I’d probably get it on the way out!

    • Waleed Meri
      November 16, 2018 / 3:51 pm

      NEVER NEVER NEVER NEVER NEVER use a big brand car rental company they are big scammers. I go to jordan alot and one time I got scammed at Eras/ACE car rental. They took the 400JD(approx. 630USD) initial deposit due to a scratch that was paid for already to fix. USE A LOCAL CAR RENTAL COMPANY they will have much better fairs and much less of a hassle.

  6. Marjorie
    September 25, 2018 / 3:01 pm

    I drove in Israel. From Jerusalem to Eilat. It was very stressful bc I was expecting lights at night and more of a less deserted scenery. It was pitch black on the road and definitely would recommend starting the journey during the day with enough sun for the ride. Lots of winding roads which also made me nervous. Should I expect winding roads in Jordan?

    • Liliane
      Author
      September 26, 2018 / 8:15 am

      Hi Marjorie! I think it would depend on where in Jordan you’re driving. We drove along highway 15 mostly and while it does get really dark at night I wouldn’t say winding roads is a major concern in Jordan!

  7. mousey
    October 27, 2018 / 2:11 pm

    Hi i’m looking at driving from amman to petra and then to the dead sea area.what kind of drive is it from amman to petra and how safe is the driving? I’ve driven around south east asia so I have some experience of driving abroad

    • Majikman
      November 12, 2018 / 11:48 am

      Amman to Petra isnt a bad drive. Long but once you are out the city its a pretty easy drive. Then to the dead sea area its about the same, a nice smooth ride. I have liced here 4 years now for work so im pretty use to the driving here.

  8. October 31, 2018 / 4:44 pm

    Thank you for your post! I will be visiting Jordan in a couple of weeks and I wasn’t sure if I would be able to drive around. But after reading about your experience, I feel much more confident! Wish me the best of luck! 🙂

    • Joan Ferreira
      January 29, 2019 / 11:15 am

      Hi Julia. We are two women visiting Jordan in March and would like to know whether you drove yourself and how you found the experience. Were you harassed in any way? We would pick up a car outside of Amman as city driving sound stressful. In our country we drive on the left hand side of the road so adjusting might take a day or two.

  9. Ciara
    November 22, 2018 / 8:50 am

    Hi there, really helpful post. Doing 3 days in Jordan; Amman, Dead Sea, Petra, Wadi Rum and back to Amman. Was going to drive but not so sure about driving in Wadi Rum now.
    I wonder do you know could you leave the rental car somewhere in Petra and get a guide to go to Wadi Rum for the night & back to collect the car the following morning?

    Thanks in advance 🙂

    • Liliane
      Author
      November 22, 2018 / 9:19 am

      Hey! You can definitely discuss leaving the car at the hotel in Petra where you’re staying but Wadi Rum has giant parking lots where we stored our car when we got picked up by our guide! It’s very easy to drive yourself TO the desert, I just wouldn’t recommend driving in the desert itself!

  10. Noor
    November 30, 2018 / 11:49 am

    Is it necessary to get an international driving licence? We have got a european licence (Spanish)

    • Liliane
      Author
      January 2, 2019 / 5:00 pm

      It wasn’t for us and we even got pulled over for a check and nobody inquired about it! You can check with the rental agencies for their requirements but we did not find it necessary.

  11. Keanan
    December 1, 2018 / 8:21 am

    Any recommendations for a good agency to rent from while driving north to south in Jordan?

    • Liliane
      Author
      January 2, 2019 / 5:02 pm

      I don’t think you can go too wrong – we typically go with the big guys and that works out well for us! I’d recommend renting something from the airport!

  12. Clay Smith
    December 21, 2018 / 6:00 am

    Hi, great article! I am an artist and wanting to stay in Amman. I want to drive to the Baptist site to make artwork using the River, also to make a film. My question is…how easy is it to drive OUT of Amman to the Baptist site? And then of course back into Amman. Thanks. X

    • Liliane
      Author
      January 2, 2019 / 4:57 pm

      Hi Clay! We didn’t drive towards the Baptist Site but we did drive out of Amman and south and encountered no real problems! It’s certainly easier than driving around the core I’d imagine. If you’re getting your car at the airport I’d suggest perhaps driving out from there?

      • Mr Philip Campion
        January 3, 2019 / 6:36 am

        We ended up dropping our car hire and availing of the services of driver and his car. it worked out very well and at a reasonable cost.
        His name is Rah’d. You can call him or whatsapp him if you want more information. You can tell him that you got his details from Philip: +962796835300

        • Liliane
          Author
          January 22, 2019 / 6:28 pm

          It’s important to do what’s most comfortable for you! I prefer driving myself but hiring a driver is obviously a good option too!

        • Joan Ferreira
          January 29, 2019 / 11:21 am

          Hi Philip. Interesting to read that you used the services of a driver and his car in Jordan. What did he do when you overnighted in different places? Did he make his own arrangements and who paid – was this included in his daily rate? Where all did you visit? We are looking at a two week visit to Jordan in March.

          • moe
            March 14, 2019 / 7:09 pm

            when is your visit start guys , i can drive u around amman and dead sea only

  13. Joan Ferreira
    January 29, 2019 / 11:24 am

    Thank you Liliane. Useful info here. We are 2 ladies travelling in Jordan for 2 weeks in March. Did you see woman drivers? Please could you share the name of the company you used to visit Wadi Rum. Did you sleep over of just visit for the day? Thanks

    • Liliane
      Author
      February 19, 2019 / 12:01 pm

      I drove and while my husband was beside me in the passenger seat I did see plenty of female drivers in both Amman and outside of so I don’t think that should be a problem in general.

      We drove into Wadi Rum (parked in the visitors parking lot) and we then got picked up from our tour guide there and taken to our overnight camp in the desert! Our tour was a full day tour the following day after which we drove ourselves to Petra. Our Wadi Rum experience was with Bedouin directions and we had a fantastic time with them!

  14. Tracey Fleming
    February 16, 2019 / 7:39 pm

    I will be in Jordan for 8 days in April 2019. From my reading, I believe I will hire a car when ready to leave Amman and do this trip solo. I have driven in several countries, and I know to be cautious. My questions are more around safety for a female solo traveler/driver. I like the idea of hiring a driver in the Wadi Rum dessert, and may do that. Also is GPS necessary or will a map do? Or do I need a local data plan? I typically don’t get those but may if needed. A good map and my google blue dot are about all I need. Any suggestions welcome.

    • Liliane
      Author
      February 19, 2019 / 4:24 pm

      I personally rely on data and GPS so I used both. We picked up a local sim card and brought our GPS from home but honestly, you’re pretty much driving the main highway so it’s probably doable without it. I did see plenty of female drivers around and in our camp in Wadi Rum there was a solo female traveler. She had nothing but great things to say about her experience in the country.

    • Mr Philip Campion
      February 19, 2019 / 4:32 pm

      When you get to Amman or before, consider calling this very reliable, helpful and trustworthy driver named Ra’d and ask him for a deal to drive you to amazing places:

      +962 7 9683 5300

  15. Valentino
    February 17, 2019 / 12:57 pm

    Hi, thanks for the useful tips! How about parking, was it easy to find places to park the car? Do you normally have to pay for it? Thanks

    • Liliane
      Author
      February 19, 2019 / 12:16 pm

      In Petra we parked at our hotel – this is probably the place I think you’d have the hardest time if you don’t have a hotel. Wadi Rum has a giant visitors parking lot and the little towns along the way were not busy at all. We honestly had a fairly easy time in Amman but we’re from Toronto so we’re used to snug parking and finding side streets!

  16. Ron
    April 6, 2019 / 6:34 pm

    I have driven 48 countries on the right side and on the left side of the road, about 120,000 miles total. Driving in Jordan is on a par with Tunisia, Morocco, Turkey or Greece. Just be mindful of police stops (have papers ready), animals and people on the road and soft sandy shoulders. Asian countries are the most challenging to a Western driver, particularly Sri Lanka.

    • Liliane
      Author
      April 11, 2019 / 8:52 pm

      I did find driving in Jordan to be very similar to driving in Greece indeed!

  17. Katarina
    April 20, 2019 / 4:40 am

    Thank you very much for the useful information. Can you please, tell me more about parking in Amman.
    Katarina

    • Liliane
      Author
      April 21, 2019 / 7:38 pm

      Glad it could be helpful! The parts of Amman that I assume most travelers will visit are fairly easy to park by! There’s street parking but you may have to look around a bit. The downtown core was a little bit harder and when we were around the I Love Amman sign it was almost impossible to find parking!

  18. jijibuggi
    May 26, 2019 / 1:15 pm

    Hi, my concern about driving in Jordan led me to your very helpful post. We are going in July. Group of 3 guys. I have a European driving license so will I still need the International driving permit ? We’re starting off our trip from Amman and driving all the way down to Aqaba and back to Amman over 7 days. I’m not too worried about the driving since I come from Malta and believe me, driving is crazy there 😁 However some people told me about being stopped on the roads in Jordan by dodgy people in dodgy areas. Should I be worried about this? Any suggested routes (apart from the kings highway) ? Suggested car rentals company, hotel stops? Thank you 🙂

    • Liliane
      Author
      July 11, 2019 / 3:45 pm

      Hi! We didn’t get stopped by any dodgy people at all while driving. The only incident that we had was when we pulled into the parking lot for Wadi Rum. We got there super late (like 11 pm) and a group of random guys stopped us saying we had to pay to enter. We were confused because we had reserved a stay in the dessert already so we had already paid. We told them no and drove on and nothing came of it.

      On the highway itself we did get stopped by the police but it was one of those random road side checks.

      I can’t comment on other routes as we pretty much stuck to Kings Highway for all of our stops.

      In terms of hotels, we stayed in convenient spots. We stayed in a hotel walking distance from the entrance to Petra. In Wadi Rum we stayed in the desert itself and parked in the giant entrance lot. Our first night we stayed by the Dead Sea and our last night we stayed right outside of Amman.

  19. Patricia
    June 2, 2019 / 3:28 am

    Thanks for the insight. I am avid traveller and I have been to Amman before and wouldn’t drive there. But as I am going to several areas I thought of renting a car and your blog helped me to decide yes! I am also from Toronto but living abroad now…so glad to see a fellow Toronto traveling

    • Liliane
      Author
      June 4, 2019 / 11:33 pm

      Hello fellow Toronto traveler!
      Amman was definitely a little daunting and I think if you’ve got enough time to use transit it’s definitely an easier option!

  20. Michael
    July 29, 2019 / 9:02 pm

    Hi,
    Wife & self will be in Aqaba only for 1 day (cruise).
    Main objective to visit Petra, also prefer to be independent. Not worried about getting a rental car or driving but think for the day a car with driver would be a better option. Does anyone have a contact for anyone offering this service, any advice appreciated, Thanks

  21. Maya
    October 29, 2019 / 7:54 am

    Hello,

    I`m from Amman Jordan and I would like to highlight few things about your article but first I`m more than happy you have enjoyed your visit.

    Now about the SPEED BUMPS….. we actually do have warning signs everywhere but sometimes they are placed in hidden spots, for example: behind a tree or under a commercial sign, now Amman is really small and for us we know where to expect a pump, so we don`t really feel like this is an issue but if it helps the pumps are usually found on streets with schools, sloped streets, police stations, curvy streets, residential areas but all of these areas have a speed limit of 60 km/h so it is not supposed to be a big of a deal.

    The other highlight is that not the lanes switch that causes the problem, it is the in-commitment to driving rules, simply when you are driving straight in a street and there is a driver that tries to exit a sub street he/she won`t pay attention to the straight walking car and this is very risky when you are speeding, so yes in Amman driving is crazy and tough but if you will ever need anything everyone will be more than happy to help.

    Finally, to really enjoy driving in Amman…. try to go for a drive Friday morning before 9:00 AM the streets will be mostly with minimum amount of cars and you will get to enjoy every minute.

    Thank you

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