In most of the countries we’ve visited it has always been an experience driving with the locals but driving in Jordan was definitely one of the more unique places to drive. We really wanted to experience the countryside so we decided to rent a car on our way from Amman to Petra.
Self-driving in Jordan allowed us to go much more off-the-beaten track which we loved! Between driving the scenic Kings Highway, the rural roads and the fast freeway, we’ve put together a list of all the things you need to know about driving in Jordan!
Everything You Need To Know About Driving in Jordan
What side of the road do they drive on in Jordan?
Driving in Jordan is done on the right side of the road.
Do I need an international drivers license to drive in Jordan?
No, but kinda yes (confusing, we know). The rental car companies and Jordanian tourism board will tell you that you only need a drivers license from your home country. However, the International Driving Permit organization states that an international driving permit is required to drive in Jordan.
While we have obtained an IDP to drive in other countries, we didn’t get one for our trip to Jordan. We were never asked for it by our rental car company, nor by the police at police checks. However if you want to play it safe, you can get one before you head to Jordan. The cost is not much, anyway. In Canada we only paid $25 at BCAA. To get one in the US it is $20 at AAA.
Renting a car in Jordan
There are no shortage of rental car agencies in Jordan. You will find all the well-known international companies, such as Avis, Hertz and Enterprise, but there are a lot of local Jordanian companies as well. The international chains are more expensive so if you are looking to save a bit of money, check out the popular local companies instead.
We ended up going with Monte Carlo Rent A Car as they came highly recommended to us and the prices were much better than the international chains. Their cars aren’t brand-spanking new, but they are reliable, with working air conditioning. They have a large range of cars, from economy to luxury.
We went with a Nissan Sunny, which is the exact same as the Nissan Sentra we had back home in North America. The cost is about $45 USD per day, which is their mid-range option, but prices vary greatly depending which class of car you choose. We also made sure to add on the additional insurance after seeing the way people drive in Amman! You’ll understand once you read more below.
One thing that sold us on Monte Carlo Rent A Car was that they deliver the car to you if you aren’t picking it up at the airport. We were staying at a hotel in Amman and arranged for them to deliver us the car there since we didn’t need it the first few days in the city. All the paperwork was filled out at the hotel and we didn’t have to go back to their office. What was also nice was we were able to drop off the car at the Amman airport upon return.
We rented a GPS system from Monte Carlo Rent A Car. It was quite useful; even though we had data on our phones, we ended up in some areas without good cell reception and were thankful we had the GPS to rely on instead. Also, sometimes Google maps isn’t even that helpful when it comes to the smaller roads.
Rules for driving in Jordan
- Drive on the right
- Obey traffic lights and police
And that’s about it! No one really abides by the standard driving rules. When lanes are marked they really only serve as a guideline. The lines on the roads mean nothing as everyone just drives wherever there is space to fit their car.
There are big trucks and buses that you have to stay clear of as no one uses their indicators. Drivers change lanes without signaling and overpass on both sides. No need to use signal lights, but use your horn as much as possible. People park anywhere – even double-parked on a busy road blocking traffic.
Jordanians also drive fast and make risky maneuvers. I don’t know how many times we saw drivers passing on a blind corner – yikes! Surprisingly we never witnessed an accident – just some near misses but no one even seems to flinch.
Honestly, just copy how the locals drive (but maybe less extreme) and you’ll be fine. Even Louise, who doesn’t normally like driving anywhere she is not familiar, drove in Jordan and made out okay!
Driving in Amman
You will hear it from everyone – do not drive in Amman! I am an experienced driver and have driven all over the world – LA and New York traffic doesn’t faze me – but after seeing how people drive in Amman there was no way I wanted to drive in this city. They really do drive pretty crazy.
Monte Carlo Rent A Car was awesome. We had asked them to help escort us out of the city and they agreed. After dropping off the car to us at our hotel and doing the paperwork, the agent drove us in our rental car to the outskirts of the city, where he then got someone else to pick him up so we could continue on our way south. We totally recommend this as it saves you the stress of driving in Amman!
Driving out of the city of Amman was still tricky at first. Not knowing what to expect, we had to follow the GPS to get to the Kings Highway while dealing with all the traffic. Buses stopped randomly on the road to pick up people even in the middle of a busy road. And to make things worse it was a rainy and foggy day in the city.
Read more: One Day in Amman
Driving the Kings Highway
Once we made it to the Kings Highway there was much less traffic. It is only a one lane paved highway, but to get there we ended up on some gravel roads when we got a bit lost. This highway is a much slower route but very scenic compared to the newer main highway. It is actually pretty relaxing driving on it.
The speed limit says 90 km per hour but you have to be very careful of the potholes and the transitioning road conditions. You also need to be careful of the animals on the road and kids playing on the side.
Even though there isn’t as much traffic on the Kings Highway, you still have to be careful of the large trucks and tourist buses. We had to overtake many trucks and buses which can be tricky on a one lane highway.
Watch out for potholes while driving in Jordan
One thing about driving in Jordan is you will likely encounter some killer potholes! Road conditions are generally good but we did have to drive around a number of very large potholes. Be on the lookout for these.
Watch for random speed bumps while driving in Jordan
This one came as a surprise to us: the one thing you have to be most cautious of are the random speed bumps on the highway! They are often around the small towns where there are homes or farms close to the road. Rarely are they painted bright colors nor come with any warning signs. Instead they often blend into the road and can’t be seen until you are already too close.
We would be cruising along at around 90 km an hour and have to slow down really fast to avoid catching major air on these speed bumps. I may have bottomed out on the car a few times when I wasn’t able to slow down quick enough. Definitely pay attention on those long stretches of highway as you never know when and where you’ll find one of these unmarked speed bumps.
In some spots you will find rumble strips instead of speed bumps, as below.
Driving in Jordan in inclement weather
You may never encounter this while driving in Jordan, but while driving from Petra to Wadi Rum we got caught in a snow storm in the mountains! Luckily I felt comfortable enough to get us through the snow in our small car with regular tires. However we almost got stuck on a hill while following a tourist bus.
While going up the hill we didn’t have enough momentum and had to turn around to get a better running start. A few locals had come out of their homes and saw us struggling. They were super kind; told us to park and invited us into their house for tea as they told us it was too dangerous to go on. Sadly we declined their invitation and went against their advice as we didn’t want to miss our tour.
We finally made it up the hill and continued driving through the fog, wind, hail and rain and made it to Wadi Rum. We were grateful for a reliable car with a heater that worked, good windshield wipers and decent tires – oh, and insurance!
Filling up gas in Jordan
The fuel in Jordan is unleaded and either 90 octane or 95. When you arrive at the gas station you will likely have an attendant walk over to your car to greet you and ask how much gas you want (aka a Full Service gas station). You can either hand them over the cash or indicate you want “full”.
Don’t expect that they will be able to speak much English, though. We ended up just handing over the cash and the attendant filled up to that amount. A lot of gas stations accept cash only so make sure you have enough on you. However we did find a gas station close to the airport that accepted card.
Watch out for animals on the road
This is something we frequently encountered, especially on the Kings Highway and more rural roads. We encountered camels, sheep, goats and dogs roaming on and beside the roads. Be careful not to hit any! If you do, you will of course have to pay compensation to the owner. And that is not cheap.
Also, be patient. When there is a large flock of sheep in the road you may be waiting awhile for them to clear the way.
Road signs in Jordan
We didn’t have any issues with road signs in Jordan. On the major roads there were many directional signs in both Arabic and English. We did encounter some Arabic-only signs but it was mostly on rural roads.
The brown signs (sometimes blue) indicate a tourist site. Note that sometimes different signs will have different translated English spellings for the same tourist site.
You will also see animal crossing signs (helpful, as per our tip above).
Speed signs are circular with a red border. Stop signs are just like back home: a red octagon. Check out this chart for more examples of common road signs in Jordan.
Most of the signs are self-explanatory and we didn’t have any issues understanding them. There was only one sign we were confused about, that we kept thinking looked like a tea kettle, which turned out to mean an intersection was coming up ahead.
Driving through military/police check points
You may be stopped a few times while driving in Jordan. The first time we came across a check point it was somewhat alarming as the uniformed men were standing with large rifles and big army trucks. However as we approached they just looked at us and waved us through.
We came across a few more police check points and never once were actually stopped or asked to show any paperwork.
If you come across one, just remain calm, know where your rental car registration papers are and have your license and passport available.
Driving at night
Driving in Jordan at night is not really a good idea. Outside of the cities, lighting is poor or non-existent. Which is definitely not ideal when there are unmarked speed bumps, animals crossing and large potholes!
We only drove at night a couple of times. Once was in Wadi Musa (the town by Petra) which was well-lit and small so it was easy to navigate. The other time was driving from the Dead Sea to Amman airport. Since this is a popular highway route it was well-lit and in very good condition.
Expect to get lost and enjoy it
Even with directions and a GPS, we still managed to lose our way a bit but it all added to the adventure. Anytime we drove through the small towns, the locals who were out walking on the road or standing outside of their houses would smile and wave. We found ourselves on rural roads with no one in sight for miles and miles and then would come across a Bedouin family who would kindly wave at us. These were moments we savored.
Have fun driving in Jordan – it will be one of your best adventures yet! Let us know below if you have any questions!
And stay tuned for more of our Jordan guides – coming soon!
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