“So how was your first day” – I asked L as he beamed a smile at me.
“Ahh it was great, I went downtown and it was cheap too, only cost 7JD to get there” he replied
“7 JD! You got robbed! That’s over twice the price” – I angrily retorted
He looked quite dejected at having overpaid for something he had imagined he got a good price on. That’s the trouble with being new somewhere, you don’t know if what you got was right or overpriced. Taxis are always a pain no matter where you are, even in places where they should be seemingly cheap and reasonable. And being a new traveler getting around cities and even countries is often times intimidating and difficult. Even locals sometimes get cheated as well if that is at all comforting. Spending a few months in Jordan taught me a few things in terms of how to use the taxi system. Maybe this will help you some before I forget it all.
First There are two types of taxis in Amman. There are the regular taxis and the Service taxis.
Service taxis drive a specific route and you pay a set price depending on the destination. The advantage of service taxis is if you are by yourself you’d pay less than you would for a full price fare. Disadvantages are that you need to generally wait for the taxi to fill up before it goes (certain routes are easier than others due to popularity). Often however if there are about 3 people in your group it might be cheaper to take a regular taxi then trying to navigate with a service taxi. Service Taxis are white.
Regular taxis work as you expect, you enter tell them your destination and then you pay the fare. Regular taxis start at 25 Kirsh (there are 100 Kirsh in 1 JD) and then you are billed based on distance and time. After 9pm they raise the starting price to 30 Kirsch and the prices are slightly more as well per km / time. Regularly taxis are generally yellow, there are some white regular taxis but they tend to be a bit more expensive since somehow they are more “luxury”.
Dealing with Taxi Problems
Negotiate the price up front. I can’t stress this enough. Don’t go to your destination without making sure either A) they turn on the meter or B) you negotiate a rate that you are ok with paying. You don’t want to deal with the hassle (not that it won’t happen anyway) when you get to the destination.
Ask to the use the meter. Heck I would recommend insisting on using the meter. Refer to the Arabic phrase section for useful words in regards to this.
If you start moving and they refuse to give you what you want. Just tell them to stop and get out. Sometimes they will then give you the correct price or turn on the meter, but if they won’t you need to go and find a taxi that will. You don’t want to deal with fighting the price at your destination if you can avoid it. Sometimes they won’t stop and they will keep “trying” to tell you the price is higher. Just be insistent on your price. If you get to the destination and you didn’t agree to a higher price or they didn’t let you out, pay the price you insisted upon (the next tip helps with doing this).
Have small change. It is really important to have small change. Mostly you will find that breaking large bills can be very problematic for taxis (and a lot of other small businesses). To make matters worse, most ATMs will end up giving you 50JD bills so you will spend a good deal of your time trying to break bills down into smaller ones. Having exact change will make your life easier if they don’t give you back the right change (which is eventually bound to happen). You will also feel like the cleverest person by having a huge wallet full of 1 JD bills. Quite possibly the only instance you’ll feel that way in such a situation!
Don’t be afraid to complain. The majority of the taxi drivers I had were honest. There have been several bad ones though, there are always going to be a few who try to cheat you. I found I had good luck if I was persistent and refusing to move until they gave me my change back. Depending on how much it is, depends on how long you want to fight the situation though.
And if other things fail. I found decent luck if that really they are cheating you badly and they won’t give you a change. Threaten to call the police. I found this to be fairly effective as honestly the taxi driver doesn’t want to deal with the police for a matter with a tourist. I wouldn’t go about using this every time, and you may have to actually follow through on your threat (but I don’t know anyone who actually had to call the police personally).
Other things of Note
If you are a guy, you are expected to sit in the front passenger seat. It is courtesy. Women generally sit in the back of the car (which is likely better for you anyway). In a service taxi however you will often see the woman sit in the front passenger seat so she doesn’t have to sit next to a guy in the back seat.
Half the seat belts don’t seem to work. So being that guy sitting in the front can often umm pretty well suck. I’ve been in lots of near collisions but Alhamdulillah (thank god) I have not been in any actual collisions. I still can’t figure out the whole thing with Arabs and not wearing seatbelts but it seems to be very common across the middle east.
Sometimes it helps to lie if you are a woman. I have not experienced this myself as no taxi driver would be so bold with a guy in the taxi as well. But I’ve heard lots of stories from female friends of mine of inappropriate questions asked of them. I’m really sorry this is something that happens, but it is important to be aware of and keep your wits about you. Lying about being married or having a boyfriend or any other things might help you out here a bit.
Certain places or times are very busy. Such as Thursday afternoons almost anywhere in the city. You may end up having to pay higher prices or find taxis who just don’t want to go in the direction you are heading. Just one of those facts of life.
If you are offered food, you are generally expected to refuse it. Honestly you’ll probably want to anyway. I can’t tell you how many half eaten sandwiches, or half drunk cups of coffee I’ve been offered. It is cultural expected for them to offer you something if they are eating/drinking, but it is also anticipated you are going to say no anyway. If you say yes they are going to be obligated to give it to you. Save yourself from an awkward situation.
Useful Arabic Words / Phrases
Knowing what to say or how to communicate is going to be immensely important while being in Jordan or Amman in this instance. Not all taxi drivers will know English or other languages so even a few basic phrases will help you with navigating this large city. I’ll do my best to phonetically spell these phrases (if you want them in Arabic too I can do that, but if you know Arabic then this guide probably is no use to you). If you know a better phonetic spelling please let me know.
Greetings and Requests
assalam-alaikum – The universal greeting. You basically should get used to saying this in almost every situation from when you enter a taxi, a store, a room, etc.
inshallah – You will hear this often, both for taxis and otherwise. It means basically if god wills it. Don’t be nervous if when you ask your driver to go somewhere and he says Inshallah. It’s perfectly normal.
bide / bidna – I want / We want. Useful in probably a lot of situations
lo samhaat – excuse me. A pretty good phrase to know generally. If you are addressing a woman make sure to say lo samhaati
wakif – stop (imperative). This is useful but a bit harsh. Use either the next phrase or in conjunction with it.
allah ya’ateek al-‘aafiya – may god give you good health / well being. It is used in a lot of situations, you will eventually hear it in your time in Jordan. Often it is also how people tell the taxi driver to stop as well.
Paying for Things
- bil-i’daad – with the meter (best to ask when you get in the taxi when he asks you for the price).
- gadaysh / bikum – how much (price). In colloquial you’ll hear gadaysh more often.
- hisaab: bill / invoice. (ex. gadaysh al-hisaab : how much is the bill/fare?)
- dinar: Dinar (one)
- nos: half (ex. dinar wa nos) 1.5 JD (jordanian dinar))
- dinar-ain: two dinars
- dinaaneer: 3 – 10 dinars (used with number like thalaath (3) dinaaneer)
- thalaath (3), arba’(4),chams (5), sit (6), saba’ (7), thamani (8), tisa’ (9), ‘ashr (10)
Use above 10 (11+) with dinar (ex. hid’ashr dinar (11 Dinar))
- hid’ashr (11), ithna’ashr (12), thalata’ashr (13), arbata’ashr (14), khamsta’ashr (15), sit’ashr(16), saba’ta’ashr (17), tamata’ashr (18), tisa’ta’ashr (19), ashreen (20)
There are plenty of counting , number posts around the internet, don’t want to get too involved into counting here.
- right – ala yameen
- left – ala yasaar / ala ishmaal
- straight ahead – dughree
- turn – lif (such as lif ala yameen / lif ala yasaar )
- next to – bijanib (ex. bijanib McDonald’s)
- close to – gareeb min (gareeb min al-jaami’ah (near the university)
- far from – ba’eed un
- north – shimaal
- south – janoob
- east – sharq
- west – gharb
- airport – mataar
- bridge – jiser
- church – kanesa
- citadel – qala’a
- city – madinah
- downtown – wasat al-balad (although it literally means center of the country)
- embassy – safaara
- gate – bawaabah
- here – hunna
- hospital – mustashfa
- hotel – funduq
- library / bookstore – maktabah
- mall – mall ( not a trick one, just in case you would think it should be something else!)
- market – souk (ex. Souk Abdali (great place to go shop for cheap clothes)
- mosque – masjid
- mountain – jabel (lots of neighborhoods are named for mountains (ex. jabel amman))
- museum – mat-haf
- office – maktab
- park – hadiqah
- pharmacy – saydaliyah
- police station / public safety office – mirkaz alaamin
- post office – maktab al-bareed
- restaurant – mat’am
- square – saha (ex. Paris Square, although oddly they generally use Paris Circle (duwar baarees) for taxis)
- street – shaari’a (ex. shaari’a rainbow – rainbow street)
- there – hunaak
- traffic circle – duwar
- first – owal (ex. duwar owal – first circle)
- second – thaani
- third – thaalith
- fourth – raabi’
- fifth – khamis
- sixth – sadis
- seventh – saabi’
- eighth – thamin
- traffic light – ishaarah
- tunnel – nafaq
- university – jaami’ah
I most certainly missed things that would be useful. If you know of any suggestions, changes, or questions please do feel free to ask! Questions and comments will make the guide better for others looking for help too.
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Just stumbled upon your wonderful blog………….what an ocean of information it turned out to be! Thanks!!!!
My wife, our adult son and myself – a party of three – are planning a visit to Jordan from 28 October to 5 November, 2017. Can you kindly guide us about how cold it is likely to be in the touristic places like Aman, Daed Sea, Petra, Aqaba and Wadi Rum ? Should we carry some woollens or a light jacket, or will we be OK in shirts?
About taxis – we would like to catch taxis for getting from one of the above places to the other. Please guide us – should we hire a taxi for the complete 9 days? Or should we take taxis from one point to other as we go along?
Any reliable and not too expensive taxi operator that you could suggest?
Much love and warm greetings from India…………..
Hi, I’m not sure if you’re still following this thread but wanted to enquire about the maximum number of people a taxi would allow to be seated within.
We are 5 adults (3xMen, 2xWomen – same family) and would like to know if a cab only allows 4 people per car or whether if all 5 of us can fit, the cab driver wont mind?
That seems to be on a per-taxi basis. They generally are only supposed to allow 4 people to sit in there, but usually you can find ones that will allow 5. Sometimes they might try to get more money out of you as well.
Hi! It might be a bit late and hopefully you will see this very soon, your guide is very helpful, I have two questions though!
– Do you know if any Service Taxis go to the north of Amman – specifically the University? – starting from downtown?
– Driving 10 km, what would be the expected price for a normal taxi, if its possible to convert it that way – and if I would have a group of 4, we just divide that price, I guess?
Thanks in advance, Im going in two weeks, very excited! 😀
Yes there are services taxis, behind where the arab bank is near the street also where all those gold shops are.
Hmm ya depends on where you are going though with the taxi. Often it also depends on how likely the guy is going to find fares to return with as well. Where are you planning to go? You can just divide the price ya with the 4 people.
bryan flake says
That is a great idea to negotiate the price up front. I am going overseas for a vacation in a few weeks. I’ll be travelling via taxi for the duration of the trip. Since I will be in a place of different customs, it is important to know how to evaluate and pay for taxi services.
Thanks. GLad it is helpful to you!
Hey! Are there any private taxis to take you to your workplace/university everyday? Or is it just better to strike a deal with one of the taxi guys?
I haven’t really found the need to strike a deal w/ a regular taxi. It can’t hurt to try this but you generally won’t get better than the meter so it might not be that valuable unless you live somewhere that doesn’t get regular taxi service. Generally its so easy to find taxis on the street that I don’t worry about it.
Great post! Really helpful with the Arabic phrases. I head to Amman Thursday and was trying to figure out a cheap way from the airport to my couchsurfing destination. Do you happen to know if it’s cheaper to grab the airport bus and then a shared taxi from the 7th circle, where I hear the airport bus stops? Or grab a shared taxi all the way? I’m headed to King Abdullah Park area.
you might not have luck getting a shared taxi from the airport all the way to your destination. It would certainly be cheaper to take the bus into the city and then take a shared taxi although I can’t be for certain how long exactly that would take. It all really depends on your budget vs. time which is the best for you. How much luggage are you going to have with you? I always hated getting to / from the airport personally. How long are you spending in Jordan overall? I hope you have a wonderful trip there Erika!
Hey Ay, thanks for your quick response! Luckily time is on my side, since my budget is a bit tight for taxis. I’m traveling with a backpack that I could potentially put on my lap if I’m sitting. It’s a 60L. I will be there for a month or so. My schedule is open as I’m not sure where to after Jordan. Thanks for your advice!
That’s a great amount of time there. I was there a bit over 6months during that trip, it was wonderful. There is a lot to see. Do remember that Petra is rather expensive (entrance ticket) so that can be a budget buster but its worth visiting for sure! If you have any other Jordan questions feel free to ask.
6 months! That would be awesome. Thanks for the Petra advice. I will have to fit that into my budget as I do want to visit for a couple days. Thanks again! Cheers
Are you just going to be traveling around in the month or have other things planned too? You will have a wonderful time. It is definitely worth the visit. I would also recommend going to Wadi Mujib if you get the chance too.
Great insight, thanks for sharing!
Thanks Ayngelina! hope you found it useful. Have you been to the mid-east before?
Andrew Graeme Gould says
A really good run down on the ins and outs of using taxis there, and this should be very useful for anyone visiting. Those service taxis are the equivalent of what are called colectivos here in Chile — but the seatbelts do work, and it’s compulsory to use them.
Great photo opening this post, too!
Thanks! The photos oddly enough was from my first day in Jordan! I realized it worked very well for the post 🙂 Ahh usable compulsory seat belts is definitely great! Once my taxi almost hit a ambulance. I didn’t know if that would have been fortunate or unfortunate in terms of how accidents go.
Eman Jaloudi says
This is really impressive! l, as a Jordanian, admit every thing that’s been said out here is true. So, before coming to Jordan, you guys make sure you pass TAXI 101 😉 even though this is not the case about Jordan, it’s somethings you would find anywhere you go, as you have mentioned.
Ha thanks! I will make sure to offer my course to all comers 🙂 You are right though you could use it anywhere…although many of the phrases perhaps not, but many of the general be safe and pay smartly type things.
Dana Carmel @ Time Travel Plans says
This is such a comprehensive guide – thanks for sharing it!The Arabic phrases are especially helpful. I think it’s funny that drivers say “inshallah” after asking them to take you somewhere. But it’s good to know that’s the norm. I love how hospitable Middle Easterners are. Coming from the U.S., it’s so refreshing!
It is an incredibly hospitable place. I really enjoyed my time there and look forward to exploring more of the region in the future…inshallah. Haha you know though you’ll find yourself making that part of your normal dialog when you are in the mid-east. It can sometimes be frustrating because someone will say oh sure inshallah and you wonder if they mean that they are going to try or maybe if it just happens on its own 🙂
This is a fantastic article with good advice. I think most of the information is valid in any country. I love your Arabic glossary as well.
Oh Certainly a lot is useful no matter where you end up going. I tried to gear it towards Jordan particularly with the Jordanian Arabic phrases.
please do you have any info about studying over there and how easy would I find speaking their language because I was given admission into world islamic science and education university. amman