While renting a car and driving yourself around Jordan may seem like a good idea, supposedly allowing you to maximise your time and be flexible in your visits, the challenges of driving in Jordan can negatively affect or even ruin your vacation.
Driving in Jordan requires strong concentration and an awareness of your surroundings, as well as loads of patience and stress management skills. It is only a matter of minutes and, while you are comfortably driving to cross an intersection, that a pedestrian will casually jaywalk out of nowhere.
Universal driving rules such as having to signal before changing lanes, or using the correct lane to overtake are very seldom respected and do not apply most of the time. The general rules are more of an abstract concept subjected to one’s confidence and assertiveness; it may seem to foreigners that there is this mysterious language that only Jordanians speak through secretive nods and eye contact.
Lanes (when they exist) are only paint on the street, and the sad fact is that no one takes them seriously. Foreign visitors are often unaware of these unwritten customs and are more likely to get into a car accident. Traffic accidents are a real health issue in Jordan and every year they are ranked among the four most common causes of death in the country.
Adding to the general reckless driving there is the language barrier. While all signs on the main roads and tourist sites are written in both English and Arabic, the names of the secondary roads are not translated into English. Moreover, the actual names of the locations listed on official maps and google maps do not correspond to the names used in everyday language, therefore if you get lost, asking directions might be challenging.
The road conditions are another problem. Over the past few years, the government has invested plenty of public funds in road construction and renovation, however, the general state of the roads remains poor. Most roads, including and especially highways, have plenty of potholes that can seriously damage your vehicle. This can be dangerous, especially during the winter season when the frequent storms can flood the road in a matter of minutes.
Additionally, the harsh landscape, and steep and dangerous roads in some of the most important touristic sites, such as in the Dana Reserve, Ma’in and Wadi Rum desert, make driving challenging not only to outsiders but also for Jordanians not familiar to the area. Driving in these areas is highly inadvisable unless you are an experienced driver looking for some white-knuckle adventure.
If you are not willing to go through the dangers and stress of driving in Jordan, hiring a driver is a safe and convenient option. Private tour operators offer competitive rates as compared to car rental companies.
Hiring a private driver will cost you only a little bit more than renting a car and you will not have to worry about getting lost or keeping up with unknown driving conditions and customs. The drivers hired by private tour operators are usually among the most experienced and skilled drivers in Jordan.
They have many years of experience driving tourists around Jordan and they know every little corner of the country, as well as secret places where to eat or enjoy an amazing panoramic view. Traveling with a real Jordanian by your side is also a great opportunity to get to know more about the heart-warming and welcoming Jordanian people and their culture.