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.
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.
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.
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.
Bus and Beyond
The intercity buses are operated by ONTC which has daily services to from most of the main towns for under 5RO except for Salalah which cost around 13 RO return from Muscat. Buses are usually on time (en shallah) and it is worth making a few reservations before heading out for long journeys.
New road in the direction of Yemen
West of Salalah, after Mughsayl, the mainroad is passing by a spectacular mountaineous landscape.
This new road of about 80 KM, a highly technical achievement, is constructed by a British firm in four years with the help of hundreds of roadworkers. At the 1100 M high plateau of Jebel Qamar, it's possible to park the car and enjoy the breathtaking view.
Our Omani driver was very proud to show us this road.
This road gave the possibility to reach Yemen this way. During our visit the border was not open yet, but our driver said this could change vey fast.Related to:
- Road Trip
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
Renting a car
Most people that go to Oman end up getting a tour with Marks Tours or Zaharas tours based in Muscat and Salalah. I heard they are good tours but they are about 10 times more expensive than renting a car in Muscat. Most people dont know the difference but if you go to a local dealership you can rent a car for about 10 rials a day (30 $) with unlimited gas and insurance and you can rent a SUV for about 20 rials. Marks Tours etc charge about 70 rials a day per person to see some sights (70 rials and up). So make sure you bring your drivers license preferably an international license and you will save a ton of money!
Europe and the Middle East have good air access to Oman, with flights available on most larger carriers between Oman and European/Middle Eastern capitals and other major cities. There's a departure tax of around US$8. Entering or leaving by land means travelling between Oman and the UAE as the border with Yemen is not open to travellers. There's daily bus service between Muscat and Dubai.Related to:
- Budget Travel
getting around oman
Oman Air has daily flights between Muscat and Salalah, and regular services to Sur, Khasab, Dibba and Massirah Island. Intercity buses serve most main provincial towns daily.
Renting a car in the sultanate is easy but not cheap. Its better to use Oman's comprehensive system of service taxis and microbuses. Drivers will depart when they have a few passengers, expecting to pick up and drop off other passengers along the way; it's a very cheap way to get around providing you're in no particular hurry. You can also take a taxi or microbus 'engaged' (ie, privately) by paying for all of the seats in it. Only Muscat has a local bus system.
Muscat Airport is 40km west of the city. There are car rental agencies at the airport and taxis and buses are available.Related to:
- Budget Travel
- Road Trip
- Arts and Culture
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.
I traveled to Oman by Gulf Air. This was my first experience with this airline. They have flights from Johannesburg to Bahrain - connecting to Muscat.
It is worth stopping in Bahrain - very good duty-free.
Although we had a few hiccups (passenger was off-loaded because of bad behaviour), it was a satisfactory experience.
Oman road signs
We don't need a special course to drive on the main roads in Oman .
Road signs are numerous and very clear.
From sand dunes to kamel crossing..
The main fact is to have some water with you in case you have a problem with your car, as it
might be very hot during the day.Related to:
- Budget Travel
- Road Trip
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.
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