Thursday, December 8, 2011

Jordan Visit - part I: the rental car

Last weekend we headed off to Jordan with a group of friends to hike through Petra and float in the Dead Sea. Jordan is about a 3 hour flight from Abu Dhabi and with the National Day paid holiday, we could easily make the trip without using too much vacation time (and of course, deep flight discounts from Etihad help too! :)

Since Brian and I were staying an extra day to visit the Dead Sea and had a different flight home than the rest of our group, we decided to rent a car rather than share the mini-bus one of our friends had arranged for the group. We've rented cars all over the world and had a reservation with Budget so figured that would be easy. That was until we got through customs and realized there was no Budget Rental Car counter in the airport ... uh oh. We ended up asking Avis and they said that Budget didn't have a counter, but someone should meet us here in the waiting area. "They coming soon, sir." Yeah right, we started talking about Plan B and resigning ourselves to losing our reservation.

We really shouldn't have been so hasty to worry, though, as a few minutes later, a very nice Jordanian man came up to us holding one of those little signs with Brian Stoll on it. He was our liaison from Budget. After apologizing for being late, he ushered us to a nearby table to do the rental car paperwork.

Now at this point, I have to admit I was a little nervous. He had paperwork with the Budget logo on it and it looked official, but he was in jeans and a sweater and the whole thing just seemed a little dodgy. But, after reading through the contract and asking a few more questions, we were satisfied that this was legit and handed over our credit card.

Equipped with a couple of maps and assurances that Petra was "easy to find" (always the phrase of doom for us) we headed out to the car. And wow, what a car, dirty, dented and a long crack along the top of the front windshield. Looking around, however, we realized that was the normal state of the cars in the lot so off we went ... to get gas. The practice here is to give you the car on empty and then you bring it back empty (WHAT?!) Yes, so we've got the needle on complete empty and then are told the petrol station is "very easy to find".  oh boy

But once again, we worried unnecessarily because the petrol station was easy to find and we did get there before the car stalled from lack of gas. The station was a small, family owned place that was most likely a friend of the Budget agent (at least that's our theory to explain giving us an empty car).

After finally getting everything sorted, we drove the 2.5 hours to Petra (actually the town of Wadi Musa) and while not an exceptionally scenic drive, it was easy enough to follow and we made it without any trouble. Pics below are a few of the sights along the way.

Upon arrival, we checked into the Movenpick, which was the best hotel in town - probably a 3 star by US standards, but with 5 star service - extremely friendly staff and very attentive and helpful with the best made to order omelet chef I've ever seen. We met up with the mini-bus group about 30 minutes later when they arrived and it was clear that our rental car adventure was worth it. Tales of their driver nodding off, clapping (with both hands) while listening to music and trying to navigate a curvy road, and taking them to "the best place for souvenirs" on the way made us laugh, and feel better about choosing the rental car option. And, I'm happy to report that the crack in the windshield didn't cause us any trouble. ;)

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