The main challenge for first time drivers is Amman. If, like us, you have the car delivered to your hotel, you’ll be responsible for getting into, and then out of, the city in one piece. I won’t deny it’s a challenge, but I have one simple tip for you….don’t look back whatever you do!
It is necessary in Jordan (especially on Amman’s city ring roads) to ignore the advice and lessons you were given when learning to drive in the UK. etc We’re often taught to be road aware, and to ensure that you mirror, signal then commit to the manoeuvre. In Jordan – the rule is simple…just manoeuvre and forgot everything else.
Each and every driver looks just one way – that’s forward. By ignoring what’s going on behind and around you, you focus on the vehicles in front and the spaces they are creating and the speed they are going. If you move into the path of another – let them tell you (by a honk and friendly wave) opposed to you worrying about it. It’s simple, and one you get used to it you’ll find it really works if not a tad crazy. You are free of any Western road constraints in the sense that you can move when and where you want, providing there is a space in front of you to move into.
This is really only relevant advice in Amman’s city centre – a complex of ring roads circling the city centre. The most inner ring road is compact, with each concentric ring road widening to cover more and more of the city. Once you’re off the city roads, you’ll find the traffic dissipates significantly and on many occasions you’ll have long stretches of roads to yourselves.
Amman – Jerash – Petra;
Petra – Wadi Rum;
Wadi-Rum – Dana;
Dana – Wadi Mujib – Madaba – Dead Sea;
Dead Sea- airport.The main road which you’ll inevitably find yourself on is the Desert Highway. A modern and comfortable road stretching pretty much from one end of the country to the other. We travelled it most days to skip from place to place and hardly met any other traffic. Traveling along the Desert Highway you traverse a range of terrain – from the outskirts of towns to wide open desert. Abandoned forts line the desert landscape and small market stall holders are scattered along the sides of the roads selling watermelons fro refreshment. At several points on the trip, the scenery and driving experience reminded me of our American Road trip across Nevada some years previous, it provides the same feeling of openness, exploration and escape.The Desert Highway is not to be confused with the King’s Highway – the older highway which traverses the country at a much more sedate and speed defying manner. The King’s Highway will undoubtedly be much more scenic and cultural, but it’s difficult to travel, and for speed and distance the Desert Highway is perfect for the time starved tourist.
To be honest I have little to say about petrol stations – I do not recall them featuring much on our travels so they must have been abundant and located where needed, as they never became an issue.
To navigate Jordan we used a combination of a Jordan Road map (give to us by our car hire company) and google map directions which we’d printed out in the UK. We’ve never hired a GPS on our travels yet, and we certainly did not need one in Jordan, mainly because, outside the city of Amman there are very few roads. On the occasion that you’ll take a wrong turn you almost always know the one other road you should have taken as they are few and far between. What’s more, all signs are in Arabic and English and are plentiful, easily highlighting major towns, cities and tourist sights.
It is common to be stopped by Police, especially when you are approaching borders. This is nothing to worry about – just ensure you have your passport to hand (in the car with you) and you’ll be on your way in no time. The officials we met were very professional and very courteous, one, on the way to Petra, even provided directions for us. They’re mainly interested in your documentation, where you’re travelling and staying. In fact, I had a number of encounters with the Dead Sea patrol when I was driving the car alone up and down the highway to become accustomed to it…Ali was extremely ill at our Dead Sea hotel and I needed to get use to the car before driving us to the airport the next day for our return flight. It was the first time I’d driven the car and I was nervous about venturing out onto the roads alone. It was extremely daunting to have the hotel gates closed and locked behind me – it was just me, miles of tarmac and the Dead Sea patrol point. I did a u-turn around the patrol point at several times after driving up and down the Dead Sea highway and had no choice but to explain to the patrolmen why I was literally driving round and round in circles. They were very amused and sympathetic, and waved madly then applauded every time I approached and circled them and their crossing point. Being so close to the Gaza Strip / Israel border, this was no mean feat for them to be so accommodating and it helped me no end to get accustomed to the car. I felt very safe.
We never drove at night – not for any specific reason, but because we always arrived at our destination before sunset – largely because the Jordanian sunsets area thing to behold and we never wanted to miss an opportunity to witness one. I do imagine that road lighting might be minimal in the evening, and you do run an increased risk of hitting camels or other livestock on the road, which can be both dangerous and costly, so it’s best avoided anyway.
The only ‘dodgy’ driving moment we had was on our through the outskirts of Amman on Easter Sunday. We pulled up at traffic lights behind a tank (yes a tank!). The army personnel decided to have a bit of fun with us and turned the barrel of the gun to face our car. I thought that was us, dead and gone. My heart stopped and ad I not been paralysed with fear I would have screamed. Of course, they meant no harm, but for the look on my face alone I dare say it was worth their while!
Photos from our trip to Jordan are available in our online gallery.