“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.
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.