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Get around in Oman

Posted by in on 5-16-13

By plane

Oman Air [3] is the national carrier and flies regularly between the two airports in the country (Muscat/Seeb, and Salalah). Air Arabia now offers flights to Salalah and Muscat from the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
By bus

There are regular, daily bus services connecting the bigger cities within Oman (Muscat, Salalah, Sohar, Sur and Nizwa). There are several, daily bus services from Muscat to Dubai. There is one bus a day from Muscat to Abu Dhabi. For details see the pages of the Oman National Transport Company [4].
By taxi

All Taxi drivers in Oman are Omani nationals as this is a protected profession. In Muscat there are call/telephone Taxi services. Whilst safe and generally turn up when you want them to the costs are comparatively high. Look for “Hello Taxi” and “Muscat Taxi” amongst others.

The orange-badged taxis are usually owner-operated, these are unmetered with negotiated fares before departure. If you get a very cheap price, then do not be surprised if the Taxi stops to add extra passengers unless you request for it to be private. You may ask for engaged, just say ‘engaged taxi’ to the driver, and you will pay for all the seats (4) and now have the taxi to yourself. Women must always sit alone in the back. This is for your own safety and comfort.

There are also mini-buses (Baisa buses), the principle is you share the bus or car with others and pay a lower price as a result. This is how women living in Oman travel if they must use public transport. Women should sit next to other women if there are any in the bus. Men should move to other seats. If they do not move immediately, simply stand at the door, looking at them expectantly. They will take the hint and move. Although this might feel strange to foreigners, it is expected behavior for Omanis. Not sitting next to a man will avoid any unfortunate situations of mixed signals.
By car

Ridin’ Dirty
Believe it or not, but it’s actually illegal to drive around in a dirty car in Oman. You may get stopped by the police who can fine you OMR10, although they are more likely to just tell you to wash your ride.

Driving around Oman in your own (rented) car is quite easy. A four-lane road connects Muscat and Nizwa and a recently constructed four-lane highway goes from Muscat to Sur (however, between Muscat and Quriyat it is still one lane each way through the mountains).

There are still large parts of the Sur – Muscat route that has no mobile phone signal. If you break down be prepared to wait it out. Or hitch a ride to the next town and find a mechanic to bring back to your vehicle.
A wadi near Nizwa

Lovely seaside camping can be found between Muscat and Sur. Best to take the paved route to SUR, then over to Wadi Shab to find your way safely into this coastal road. If you intend to drive in wadis (unsealed valley roads in river beds) a 4WD is highly desirable. You can never be sure how the road will be and if it starts raining the wadis will turn into rivers quickly.

If at all possible, hire a 4 wheel drive. There is spectacular off-road driving to be had in Oman, and you will want to veer off the tarmac again and again.

Since about 2001 Oman has been experiencing severe flash flooding annually. The force of the water rushing down the rock hard treeless mountains do push even landcruisers off the road and upside down. Beware. If you see dark clouds or rain starts. Find high dry ground, shelter and stay put. You can put a call into the local authorities to see if they can advise you better. The problem is the flash floods move quickly from town to town, it is easy to get trapped by washed out roads. Many wadi crossings have white and red poles to indicate when it is safe to cross the wadi in case of a flood. These are painted white on the bottom and red on top. If the water level reaches the red-painted part, do not attempt to cross, even in a 4WD.

If you managed to get a map of Oman regard it as how Oman would like to have the roads. Some roads might be drawn as well-built streets but are not even paved. Roads not being visible on the map might just end and may even be painted till the end!

Distances in Oman are relatively long. The problem is the limit of kilometres of the typical rented car of 200 – 250 km per day. Prepare to pay and negotiate for extra-kilometres. Monthly rates sometimes include unlimited kilometres.

Petrol in Oman is very cheap by European and even North American standards. As of December 2012 the price for regular petrol was approximately RO 0.120 per litre.

Since 2006, in order to try and limit the rather frightening road death toll, the motorways/dual carriageways are littered with speed cameras. In the centre of Muscat they are every 2 km, not all look like they are active – but be warned. According to locals, the tolerance on the speed cameras is 19 km/h.

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