Planning on driving in Oman? Preparing for a self-drive road trip?
This guide will tell you all about
- car rental on Oman,
- road conditions,
- safety tips,
- off road options,
- traffic and road signs,
- speed limits
With a video to help you visualize. All you need to feel reassured to plan a road trip in Oman.
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How difficult is driving in Oman? - Short answer
Generally speaking, driving in Oman is quite easy. There are recent roads in excellent conditions connecting all the major cities and touristic places.
And road signs are also in latin alphabet making it easy to navigate.
VIDEO - Driving in Oman
Let's start with a short video to show you what to expect in Oman when driving through towns or villages, on the main roads, in the mountains and off road. It also show you some of the dangers you should be aware of.
As you can see, self drive is a great option to discover Oman as driving is easy and generally safe.
Car Rental in Oman
Self drive: the best option
Public transportation options are limited.
Private guides are really expensive on long trip.
Considering the low price of petrol and the quality of the roads in Oman, I think self drive is definitively your best option.
Don't worry, as you have seen in the video before, driving in Oman is very easy. The roads are modern and in good conditions. There are a few things to be aware of but generally it is really safe. Like everywhere you have some crazy drivers (especially with taxis) but mostly people are quiet and calm.
How to rent a car in Oman
All the classic car rental companies are available in Oman. Here are a few tips to keep in mind when booking:
- Foreign driver’s license or international driving permit are accepted for up to three months
- Get a GPS - there are many signs and not that many roads but some locations are not always indicated. Plus inside Muscat it would allow you to focus on the traffic instead of the map.
- Compare car rental prices on Discovercars.com - one of the best customer-rated comparison sites!
- Choose the car and company you prefer
- Consider their full coverage option - I always take it for peace of mind!
- Book early to have a large choice of vehicles!
Renting a car in the UAE and driving to Oman
You can also add Oman to a trip to the Emirates. You can travel from Dubai to Oman by road. It is an easy drive.
If you have rented your car in Dubai or Abu Dhabi and want to take a side trip to Oman, first make sure the rental agency allows it. Then take the extended insurance to cover your time in Oman. Proof of insurance will be requested at the Omani border.
But apart from that, you can drive straight through the border showing your passport at both borders. Plan 5 hours to get to Muscat from Dubai.
What car do you need in Oman - 4WD or 2WD?
It depends on where you go. You need a 4WD if you want:
- to go off road
- to get to the mountains of Al Jabal Al Akhdar (but you can arrange to park at the entrance and have someone from the hotel pick you up) - road is paved but steep so 4WD is mandatory (checkpoint)
- and Jebel Shams (strongly recommended to have a 4WD but not mandatory)
- To get inside the dunes of Wahiba Sands (but you can also ask the camp to send someone to pick you up at the desert entrance)
Otherwise a saloon car is sufficient.
And always check what the insurance covers or not (in some countries, even if you rent a 4WD, you are not covered for off road).
Planning your Oman itinerary
Need help planning your Oman road trip itinerary? Check out my eBook to facilitate planning with my selection of the best places to see and practical maps:
Be overwhelmed by the beauty, not the planning!
Driving times around Oman
Driving Rules, Road signs and speed limits in Oman (+ Royal Oman Police)
Driving rules and speed limits in Oman
- Driving is on the right side of the road
- Speed limits in Oman are enforced. There are many radars plus cars start beeping over 120 km/h. Speed limits are clearly indicated. However you will always have locals overtaking you at high speed. Just let them go and enjoy the scenery.
- Be respectful in any case, to not make any gesture even if the other driver is behaving dangerously
- Do not drink - Zero-tolerance policy for driving under the influence of alcohol
- Do not use your cell phone while driving - on-the-spot fines apply (but like everywhere people still do it...)
- In case of accident, leave your car where it is and call the Police on 999 (emergency number)
Road signs and Traffic signs in Oman
- Roads are modern and in really good conditions between main cities
- Streets are paved and in reasonably good conditions in cities
- One difficulty is when you miss the exit, then it can sometimes be a pain and a long time until you can turn around. (I had a 30 min detour because of a missed exit...)
Points of interest and towns are clearly indicated on road signs. The Traffic signs use latin alphabet as well, so you can easily find your way!
Cities are on blue signs while points of interests are on brown signs.
Traffic signs in Oman are typical, nothing drastically different.
Speed is measured in km/h, and signs are according to the ISO (European) system.
The numbers are in dual language with Arabic numbers at the top within the same sign.
Also note that there are speed reducers absolutely everywhere in towns and main roads, before crossing, turns, wadi river beds etc... They are bright yellow.
Don't forget to slow down, it gets uncomfortable otherwise.
Stopped by the Royal Oman Police
There are frequent checkpoints by the Royal Omani Police. Just present your passport, driver license and insurance documents. Be respectful and all is fine.
They may check what you have in the car as it is not allowed to carry alcohol without a specific license.
I encountered them twice during my trip. No issues.
Self Drive Oman - Safety tips
Self driving in Oman is generally safe. Just make sure you are aware of the following points.
The main dangers on the Omani roads you should be aware of are the following:
In small towns and on single lane roads (and even sometimes on bigger roads) you can have camels or goats crossing unexpectedly. So keep focus!
Most of the times, the roads are straight so you can see them ahead. But still pay attention and slow down as you approach them, because they can abruptly change their mind and run anywhere.
The main danger and cause for the high number of fatalities in Oman are the straight roads. Especially if your drive South to the desert. Make sure you plan plenty of stops and always have water and food in the car.
The long straight lines can make you loose focus or make you sleep. Stop frequently and stretch your legs.
You will often see those red signs on the Omani roads.
This is were the road is over a wadi or dry river bed. Most of the time there is no problem, but in case of heavy rain, use the red pole (after the red sign) to evaluate the depth of water. Be reasonable.
Finally make sure you check the weather conditions. Do not drive in a wadi if heavy rains are predicted and be careful also after those big storms as the roads may have been damaged.
In case of accident, leave your car where it is and call the Police on 999 (emergency number)
Roads in Oman - examples
You have seen some roads in the video at the top of this article, but below are some pictures and description for you to better grasp what driving in Oman is like.
Roads in Omani cities
Generally I found it quite easy.
The main difficulties are in the old neighborhood of Muscat, where the roads are not as large and where people come shop. I don't have any pictures during traffic jams. For example Muttrah, where the Souq and Fish market are, gets really busy and driving is very very very slow. Be patient!
Main roads in Oman
Driving on main roads in Oman is really easy.
They are paved and quite recent so still in good conditions. Most of the time you have really good visibility.
Lanes are large and traffic not heavy.
You may cross path with some crazy drivers, just stay on the right and let them be.
Some side roads through wadis and small villages (for example wadi Tiwi) might not be in very good conditions. But it is generally not difficult because there is no traffic and you can drive in the middle. Just drive slowly.
Oman Mountain roads
If you stay to classic destinations in the mountains, the roads are paved.
To Jebel Akdhar, you must have a 4WD. There is a checkpoint on the road leading there, so you can't cheat.
This is due to the steep ascent. On the way down there are many safety exit points.
To get to Jebel shams the 4WD is not mandatory but strongly recommended. The road is paved except for 7km. When I was there the dirt road was in great condition and not difficult. But rain can change it it in few hours!
The main danger while driving in the mountains is the scenery. You get distracted!
Where to stay in Oman?
- Muscat - capital city - see best rated accommodations
- Nizwa - to explore the forts and hinterlands - see best rated accommodations
- Sur - for the turtles, beaches, wadis... - see best rated accommodations
- Wahiba Sands - for the experience of sleeping in the desert - see best rated accommodations
- Salalah - the explore the Southern lands - see best rated accommodations
- Khasab - to explore the Musandam Peninsula - see best rated accommodations
Off-road driving in Oman
You can drive off road in Oman either:
- on mountain tracks (for example on the Salmah Plateau)
- in the desert sand dunes (for example in Wahiba Sands)
- in the wadi river bed (for example in Wadi Nakhr)
Classic rules of off road driving apply:
- Don't go unless you know how to drive 4WD
- Check your vehicle before going
- Adapt the tyre pressure (at the desert entrance there are many shops where you can get help)
- Always bring food and water with you
- For wadis, do not go when heavy rains are expected
Want to see more of Oman?
- Best things to do in Oman - read article
- Best of photos from Oman - Landscapes - read article
- Best forts in Oman - read article
- Best Oman days trips from Muscat - read article
- Planning a road trip in Oman - read article
- Best Things to do in Muscat - read article
- The impressive Wadi Shab - read article
- The Bimmah Sinkhole - read article
- The desert of Wahiba Sands - read article
- The Ras Al Jinz turtle reserves - read article
Planning a trip to Oman?
Check out my travel guide to help you plan:
Be overwhelmed by the beauty, not the planning!
And keep track of your own trip!
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