Travelling beyond Muscat or Nizwa can be a lonely experience. The interior has a low population and there are no tourist hang outs in the country. Meeting a backpacker is extremely rare and I have only seen half a dozen in the past 3 years. While Omani people are very friendly and hospitable, they are private and like to be left alone. You will be invited in for dinner etc but dont expect to stay with them for days on end. If you hitch a ride to the interior you need to be careful as you may get stuck there for awhile. On the whole, as with any country with remote interior, have a backup plan in the form of a vehicle, friend , food or map and compass.
Arriving at the Airport in Seeb, Muscat Oman
Arriving in the Seeb airport is quite straight forward until you enter the exit hall. You will be hounded by taxi drivers asking you for an amazingly high price. For a tourist 8 to 10 RO sounds fair within the limits of the city but an experienced person living in the country I know that 10 RO + is insanely high to pay. What to do ? The best possible thing to do (depending on luggage size) is dont get in one of the airport taxis , instead walk the five minutes to the main highway(directly across from the airport) and wait for a yellow and white mini bus aka Baiza Bus. They will take you to any area of Muscat for 1/20 of the cost that the taxi drivers demand at the airport. The taxi hawks at the airport will pull out an official looking paper with a price list (which they made on Microsoft Word) but dont pay attention to them. Just say 'Shukran, La Ureed' which means Thank you but I dont want. Walk the five minutes to the highway and the price difference bw the airports hawks and baiza bus will probably cover 60% of your first night hotel cost in Muscat. Hope this one helps and for me it is something that I do everytime I enter the country.
Taxis in Oman are expensive for tourists but if you know the game and live here they are not that pricy. Generally speaking, taxis around any city which may be Muscat, Nizwa etc charge between 1 RO to 2 RO from one end of the city to the other. This usually covers an area about 30 to 40 KM. If you are travelling around 150 to 175 KM then the price of a taxi is 6RO no matter what they tell you! Hold your ground and they will understand that you are familiar with the prices. If your taxi driver doesnt speak English then say "Kul Yoam theneen Rials" which means everyday it cost 2 RO and it almost always works.
Many tourists get taxis around the cities and towns but this is a very expensive option. The best way to get around Oman is by bus (city to city) . Every city is covered by bus and it rarely exceeds 5 RO. Just look for the castle looking bus stops because they all have timetables. If you are traveling in cities then Baiza Buses are the best way to go. They are white and yellow mini vans and they rarely charge more than 400 Baiza ($1 US) for lengthy distances. If you know the area of town you are going then you only need to tell the driver the area, he only takes you to general areas but this option is very cheap. For example, if you get a baiza bus from the Waterfront to Seeb in Muscat , it will only cost you 300 to 400 baiza for 40 KM. They are shared mini buses but are very easy to use. When you want the driver to stop hit the roof of the bus or say "Huna Zain" which means here is fine. Ladies use these buses as well and it is best for women to sit in the far back of the buses are in the passenger seat. Overall, it saves the headaches of bargaining with the taxi sharks and a great way to see Muscat.
The petrol kiosks in Oman are very modern and conveniently located at many towns. There is usually a convenient stall in the petrol kiosk where you can buy various food and drinks just like other countries. Needlessly to say, petrol is very cheap in Oman and the two major companies are Shell and Oman Oil
Cruising on a traditional dhow
One activity you should try in Oman is to take a leisure cruise on the traditional dhow, which is the boat which is used for fishing and transportation. The sunset dhow cruise is a very good option and you may be able to spot dolphins and other sea animals if you are lucky. I did not have enough time to take the dhow cruise but would really love to do so, maybe next time if I am coming back to the Arabia peninsula :)
In the desert areas of Oman such as the Wahiba Sands and the Empty Quarters, the camel is still a very important animal in the life of the Bedouins (nomads of Arabia), including a form of transportation. When you are in the desert areas of Oman, you will have an opportunity to take a ride on a camel to really have a good Arabic experience.
4 wheel drive vehicle
Because Oman is a rugged country and some of the attractions can only be reached via rocky roads, you need a 4 wheel drive to be able to reach these places. You can either get a guide to drive you around in a 4 wheel drive or you can self drive. The former is a better choice as the locals are definitely more familiar with the terrain and can offer you introduction to the various sites. 4 wheel drive rental will cost about 40 Omani rials or more per day.
Tour of Oman
If you require a tour of Oman and is looking for a tour guide cum driver, you can contact my Omani guide called Nabhan. It will cost about 80-100 Omani Rials per day including vehicle (therefore will be cheaper per person if you can get about 3-4 people). His handphone number is 968-99418395 and he is a very knowledgable, responsible and friendly guide.
Rent a Car
Oman is relatively new to mass tourism, so it does not have the infrastructure that some other Middle Eastern countries have (which could be part of its appeal!). This means that there are few options in regards to tours and guides. Renting a car is probably your best way to get around, and the majority of the roads are in good shape.
In 2001 we visited the United Arab Emirates.
The roads we took, passed often Omani enclaves.
From Al Ain, a twin town with the Omani Buraimi, to Hatta, we made a longer short cut of more than 100 KM through Oman.
In the Netherlands we got an itinerary with this short cut, without a really good description, but nobody in the UAE or Buraimi could give us more and better information about this route. So we had to find out and try out ourselves.
The sky was blue, no clouds, so no rain to be expected, we hoped, because we had to pass some wadis.
It was a stunning route. From Buraimi we drove to El Mahdah and Al Juwayf. Here the tarred road ended. For the real shortcut we had to take the sideroad to the right to Al Fay.
A normal car, the first one, with local people passed us into that sideroad. So that encouraged us, that we could drive this unpaved mountaineous road too.
And we made it to Hatta, because the weather conditions were good.
But, if you have any doubt about the weather conditions, don't take this road with a normal car.Related to:
- Road Trip
ceep and comfortable flight
We go to Oman with a Kuwait Airways flight. It goes first to Kuwait, there we change the plane and go to Muscat fia Dubai.
The whole flight whis this airline was very comfortable and friendly. And, the best, this was the cheepest flight we could get.
The number of paved kilometres in Oman are limited. Some of the coolest places to visit require climbing steep or rocky hills, going through foot deep water or just driving across the sand dunes. We had more fun with our 4WD truck than we ever imagined possible. It certainly was necessary for the places we visited.Related to:
- Mountain Climbing
- Adventure Travel
- Hiking and Walking
There are direct flights from the United Kingdom to Muscat. Reading the different web sites, it is confusing with regard to the visa and No Objection Certificates (NOC). I think some of the sites are a little out of date now, and as soon as I hear from the Omani Embassy in UK I will try to make things more clear for UK visitors. USA visitors seem to have less of a problem.
Not having been there for over 20 years, I expect an ordinary air conditioned car is OK for the coastal towns and larger cities. I was always amazed just how far a Mazda pick-up could get into the interior regions!. Even now I would expect to have a 4x4 vehicle for the really remote - and the best - areas.
Omani visa requirements
This tip was correct when we wrote it (Mar 2004) but apparently it's not uncommon for the requirements to change with no warning.
Also, we checked with the Omani government website and its advice didn't match with our experience, and that is also not uncommon!
A relative in Dubai is fairly certain that the exact requirements depend on the day you go!
We flew from Dubai to Oman (we had already entered Dubai for one night - we weren't in transit).
Visitors from the EU need an Omani tourist visa which you get at the airport. However, the visa will cost you 6 Omani Rials per person, and you must have exact money in local currency.
We'd been organised and got our money - but we didn't have small denominations. There is a Travelex bureau on the arrival side of the airport, but there is also a HUGE queue.
Our advice would be get your money before travelling, and the minute you get off the plane (if in a group!) get one person to join the queue for immigration, and another to grab the little blue forms.
Fill in the forms while you stand in the VERY slow queue. It took us two hours to clear immigration.
Also, be prepared to queue again on the way out - there seems to be a lot of staring at passports and computer screens involved in leaving the country (they disappeared with our passports for thirty minutes with no explanation, only to then return and say "No problem.")
Just relax and wait it out. It's worth it!
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