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Transportation in Jordan

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Transportation in Jordan

“Wadi, Wadi, Wadi,” the conductor called out as I approached the minibus that he was dealing tickets for. I looked at how he was looking at me, and I knew then that I was going to be in for a struggle.

There are two prices for transportation in the touristed stretches of Jordan: the tourist price and the real price.

The tourist price is usually two thirds more than the real price. But I know that, with a little gumption, iron will, and wit, I, too, can be treated as a regular piece of human cargo and only have to pay for the seat space that my butt will occupy.
—————————-
Wade from Vagabond Journey.com
in Jordan- April, 2009
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Before taking minibuses or taxis anywhere in most regions of the world, I ask around to find out how much the ride should cost. Once I have a good idea of the price that I should pay, I am not generally disposed to fetching out much more. I watch what my fellow passengers pay on a bus, and I pay the same as them.

I will not allow someone to be dishonest just because I am not from their country.

When leaving Amman I asked at the hotel how much the minibus fare to Wadi Musa/ Petra should be. I was told 3 dinars. I confirmed this price with the taxi driver who gave me a ride to the bus station. 3 dinars is the price to get from Amman to Petra, and 3 dinars is what I planned on paying.

At the station, I tried to get on a minibus, but it was full and I got kicked off. I waited for the next bus, which was said to come in one hour, with the bus conductors.

“The bus to Petra cost 3 dinars, correct?” I tried to confirm with one of the conductors.

He held up five fingers.

“Five dinar.”

“No, three,” I countered as I held up my choice quantity of fingers as I laughed as though it was evident that the conductor was trying to pull a fast one on me.

He was.

As I waited for the bus, I figured that I would have much better chance of getting the real price for the ticket if I befriended the conductors. There were two of them and making their acquaintance was not difficult: I have tattoos and they had tattoos.

I caught them staring at the black lines and odd shapes that cover my hands and fingers, and this was enough for us to became quickly acquainted.


Tattoos on the bus conductors.

They pulled up at my shirtsleeves and I tugged at theirs. We “ooohhhhed” and “aaaahhhhed” at each other’s decorated skin.

When the bus came, I got on and paid three dinars. The conductor took my money with a smile and a wink.


Tattoo in Jordan.

This scene has been played out in various different scenarios in my post-Amman travels through Jordan: I confirm with multiple sources how much a bus fare should be and the conductor tries to charge me more because I am a foreigner.

Tourism often relies on the fact that tourists travel in bubbles and cannot communicate with anyone outside of the infrastructure that has been set up for their use. I am not afraid to talk with people, and I do not trust anyone that has anything to do with taking my money in a tourist area. It is not that I think right off that they are inherently dishonest people, it is just that I know they deal with hundreds of people daily who are in their country for such a short period that they have no idea how much things should cost and are willing to pay the requested price.

There is also the myth that surrounds tourists that states that they care very little for money as they have an endless supply of it. This may be true, but I doubt it. Even the wealthiest of temporary travelers do not like being ripped off.

But many of them seem to be monetarily provisioned enough to sustain the rip offs.

I am not.

I am poor and I cannot afford to pay double the going rate for everything that I consume. I would rather put time into negotiating for the best prices that I can get than running out of money and having to go home. If I were on a one week vacation to Petra and had worked all year saving up money for this trip, it would be stupid for me to waste time thinking too much about money. It is my estimate that 95% of the people at Petra fall into this later category.

It is my impression that tourists travel to the other side of the world to have a good time. Fighting about a dollar here and two dollars there is not contingent with these goals. I do not blame anyone for paying the tourist price to ride on Jordanian minibuses. 5 dinars is only around $7.50. If I worked all year in the USA for a one week vacation, I would probably not fight over paying an extra three dollars. But I don’t work all year long at jobs that pay decent wages and I am not only traveling for a week: the three dollars that I could save by negotiating with the minibus conductors is two meals for me. This means a lot when you add up how many times a day I am able to pinch my nickles and dimes.


Minibus full of passengers in Jordan.

I am able to keep traveling because I take the time to ensure that I am not paying more than what I have to for anything.

But I also cannot blame the bus conductors for their double tiered pricing scheme. It probably works 90% of the time, and an extra three dollars for them a few times a day is a good deal of additional cash.

But I cannot pay into it.

It is ironic when perpetually traveling the world becomes a perpetual struggle to save money that is vastly more agitating than working jobs to make money. The term “travel and leisure” is a gross oxymoron. I once read the following quote somewhere:

“If traveling is enjoyable, you are not doing it right.”

As Chatwin directly pointed out:

“The word travel comes from the root travail.”

The struggle is part of the joy of traveling. If traveling the world was easy, it would be boring. Give me hard times, make me exercise and tone my wit, force me to make rapid fire decisions that have my very life, limb, and time hung in the balance. The traveling that I love is that which makes me work my muscles and come out a little stronger each and every day. Being greeted by the sneer and glinting crocodile eye of a crooked bus conductor is just the formula I need to strengthen my instinct, wit, and resolve in the great game of world travel.

I do not know of a game that I would consider fun that is not challenging. Traveling is the most challenging game I know.


Minibus in Jordan.

Transportation in Jordan

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Filed under: Jordan, Middle East

About the Author:

Wade Shepard is the founder and editor of Vagabond Journey. He has been traveling the world since 1999, through 76 countries. He is the author of the book, Ghost Cities of China, and contributes to Forbes, The Diplomat, the South China Morning Post, and other publications. has written 3048 posts on Vagabond Journey. Contact the author.

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