How to avoid scams when visiting Jordan : our lexicon
13 May 2019
For sure, Jordan is a beautiful, hospitable country, and is an exceptional destination for a travel. Scams are rather rare. Expats and people usually feel safe, provided of course to respect some simple rules. Common law cases are rather (very) rare.
Why? Because the Bedouin tradition and the tribal factors greatly contributes to regulate criminal behavior.But out of 9 million people living in Jordan, yes, there are also some swindlers.
What are the most common scams to avoid when traveling to Jordan? To make the search easier, we decided to sort them out in an alphabetical lexicon.
Scams are certainly an integral part of travel experience. So, let’s keep calm when it happens (it will, eventually), and let’s laugh at it afterwards.
Remember that here in Jordan, there are magic words..Among them, the word “Shourta” (police), incidentally slipped to your interlocutor, may have a magic power: that of making him calm and docile.
Most important : compared to the handful of scams listed below, you will litterally find dozens of locals happy to help and welcome you, should you have any difficulty during your visit here…Ahlan wa Sahlan !
This search engine should help you easily find the information you are looking for (keyword).
What? There are A LOT of rental agencies. Scams here are the same as anywhere else in the world. Here’s an overview:
Car condition : when returning it, you are billed for a scratch which was unseen (not existing?) when you took the car.
Full tank : you are given a car with an incomplete tank; and you just get told that you can return the car in the same situation. Of course, when you return it, another agent comes, and charges you for incomplete tank.
Gear and accessories : no spare wheel, or deflated spare tire, or flat tire. No jack.
Where? When? : Amman. occasionnal.
What to do? Classic traveler tips. Make a real inventory, especially if the agnt insist on not doing it. Just take pictures on your phone, including the dashboard. When you return your car, categorically refuse to pay if it is obvious that the scratch is not due to a failed maneuver. Check the safety equipment, especially the spare wheel in good condition. Return the car if you are not satisfied. After all, you can afford to lose 30 minutes for a safer trip, can’t you?.
Fines (on the road)
What? Speed control. On the road, or highway, police with binoculars stop you and tell you that you have committed a speeding ticket. But you are absolutely certain that you were not driving too fast.
Where ? When? Just about everywhere on desert Highway, and more than often on Dead Sea road. Scarce.
What do to? First, know the speed limits: 110 kph on the desert highway, 100 kph on the dead sea road, excluding special portions. Desert Highway is currently limited to 60 kph on sections under construction. NOBODY complies with this speed limit there…so there is usually no control on those parts.
There is nothing to do to avoid it. The ticket can be paid later. And the fare is 10 JD per 10 kph. No matter how good your arguments are, they will not take their toll on the bedouin’s pride. Unless you are fluent enough in arabic in order to negociate, just grumble, and pay the 10 or 20 JD fine, and enjoy your travel, it is not a big deal.
Gas station / gasoline
What? They don’t fill gas your tank with the amount corresponding to what you ordered – and paid for. In fact, the pump is not set at zero. Variation: the pump attendant starts pouring from a pump, then changes pump to finish your full, making unverifiable the amount of the first pump …
Where ? When? Aqaba, wadi Araba. rare.
What to do? Prefer to pay a round sum (20, 30, 40 JD), rather than a full tank. Place your car so that you can have a look at the pump dial, and make sure that the pump attendant sees you looking … React immediately if you observe a pump change.
What? Heartbrakers. the subject is delicate … and love is love. But in Petra, there actually are some heartbreakers, and all of them look like Jack Sparrow. Private tour of the site outside opening hours, captivating night under the stars … Once a stable relationship is ongoing, you will be encouraged to help financially your lovebird left behind.
Where? When? Petra. we have some examples.
What to do? Let’s make it clear : one manages his/her sentimental life as he/she intends to fo. We just observe that Petra disappointed enamored women do actually exist. One just has to stay lucid when a love affair is developping: is it really a sentimental relationship, or extortion attempt?
What? Horses at the entry. Guides make you believe that horse riding down to Siq is included in the price. Variant: you are offered an unreasonable price (some tourists have paid 50 JD one way – I’ve seen it). Variant: The one with whom you negotiated the price is not the one you pay down, making the negotiation impossible, except to go back up.
Where? When? Petra. frequent.
What to do? The prices of carriages are explicitly written on a sign at the entrance: 20 JD to go to the Treasury from the visitor center. For the little horse ride to Siq, the normal price is 3 JD, 5 JD if you really want to be generous. When you have agreed on the price with the negotiator, make sure your guide knows the price. Best option: bring a negotiator and guide both by your side by stating the agreed price with the 2 of them. So that both of them know, that you know :-).
What? They make you think that the service is not included in the bill. This happens invariably if you ask the question, or the waiter just whispers innocently to you, when you are handed the bill. In fact, he is trying to make you give … an extra tip ! 🙂
Where? When?: cities (observed in Karak, Amman, not frequent.
What to do? In Jordan, the service is necessarily included on the note that is presented to you: it is legal. On the bill, note 10% of “service charge”, plus 7% of “sales taxes” (ditto the hotel, the rest). It is therefore normal to pay 17% more than what you ordered. All the rest is just a bonus. However, nobody would blame you if you still leave a tip in addition to that, eh!
What ? taxi fare scam. You get in a cab without getting agreed on the fare (Experienced traveler, do not laugh, yes, some people do that). Arrived at destination, the taxi announces an exorbitant price, or in any case a higher price than what you are ready to pay. Variant: on a long journey, the taxi asks you to advance the money for the tank of gas. Variant: If you pay with a bill, the cab driver pretends that he doesn’t have the change.
Whre? When? in Amman, and between major touristic places (Petra-Aqaba-WR). Occasionnal.
What to do? Like anywhere in the world, you must ALWAYS agree on a price before you start any costly activity with a local, or get in a taxi. Unless you are ok with that, you do not have to pay for gas. In town, force the taxi to put the taximeter on, and get off immediately if he doesn’t want. For an intra-urban race, the fare must NEVER exceed 3 JD.
Wadi Rum (guest thieves)
What? You book and negotiate everything with someone, often on tripadvisor or booking, The manager makes contact with you, and you agree to an appointment, often at the visitor center or at Rum rest house. When you show up there, someone makes contact with you, posing as the brother or cousin of the guide, appointed to welcome you. He pretends to call the camp … And he takes you to another camp, but you do not even realize it. This scam is not so serious: there in wadi Rum, all guides originate from the same tribe … and all know each other very well. None of them would risk really bothering others.
What? Where? Wadi Rum, a sole example as far as we’ve been told..
What to do? Not obvious … Ideally, you should make sure that the person who is picking you up actually belongs to the camp with which you have booked. Ask to speak to the person with whom you exchanged when booking. Once at the camp, make sure it matches the place you have booked (on photos, and see next scam: unexpected camp). If this is not the case … “shourta”! (In Wadi Rum, it is located at the Rum visitor center).
Wadi Rum (unexpected camps)
What? Unexpected camps. Because you are lazy (who’s not…) , you book your stay online (trip advisor or booking). Then someone contacts you directly on the phone (whattsap), to agree on a direct arrangement, excluding tripadvisor. Most of the time, it is ok, as it avoids leaving a commission to a big money maker company… But if you leave tripadvisor or booking.com, you also leave the rules and guarantees that govern them … And eventually, you get assigned a camp different from the one you booked, obviously more rustic and less fun than you expected. Why? because some camp manager sometimes mutually help themselves, so as not to lose customers. And if they can save a little money in the process, so much the better.
Where? When ? It happened to us with “Oasis Bedouin camp”, which we definitely not recommend. Rare otherwise
What to do? Probably not canceling his booking trip advisor. or, by choosing realy well quotated camps to avoid any confusion (which raises the question of letting also a chance to more modest camps…). By checking immediately on the spot that the camp corresponds to the one that you saw on picture while reserving …