Let's plan your Oman Road Trip so that you see all the beauty the Sultanate has to offer!
Below is your step-by-step guide to start planning:
- when and where to go,
- renting the right car,
- creating your Oman itinerary,
- booking accommodations,
- what to wear,
- and getting ready to drive and travel.
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STEP 0 - ESSENTIALS to Plan your Oman Road Trip and itinerary
As you go through the following steps to plan your road trip around Oman, I recommend you keep the following in mind:
- Many amazing landscapes are very easy to reach so don't worry! No stress, keep planning
- Don't plan too much every day - you will get frustrated not to be able to stop as much since it is stunning everywhere
- Don't overestimate your 4WD capacity - if you plan on going off road, driving on sand is really an art
- But know that many amazing places don't require a 4WD
- I normally advise to rent the car after or before visiting the capital city but a car is also very useful in Muscat, since the town is spread out.
- Don't travel during Summer months, it is way too hot to get out during the day in North Oman
- I don't recommend crossing the UAE on land to get to Musandam from Muscat. The journey is quite a pain. Ferries or planes are better options.
STEP 1 - Decide when - best time to visit Oman
The weather year in the Sultanate of Oman can be cut into 2 main seasons. Oman has a reliable climate that is warm all year long.
Winter Conditions - October to April
- This is the touristic season as temperature get into the 20°C
- Temperatures are cooler and way more bearable than in Summer
- It can rain, mostly in January and February but those are short showers
- February and March are the busiest months - but considering the size of the land and the tourism level, you won't feel overwhelmed like Paris in Summer...
Summer Conditions - May to September
- It is not recommended to travel to North Oman during that period. Temperature can be unbearable above 40°C. You can't really visit the country during the day. All you could enjoy is shopping at night
- The only area you can travel to in that period is Salalah. Thanks to the monsoon the area is great and cooler. Even the locals travel there to enjoy some relief. But you have to love humidity...
- These conditions mean cheep hotel prices
Best time to see turtles in Oman
- Close to the town of Sur (2hours from Muscat), is a reserve for turtles to nest safely (see article)
- Turtles come nesting on the Omani beaches all year around. So you have chances to see them every morning and evening. Although during low season there can be days without sightings. This photo was taken in December
- You get the highest number of turtles in the reserves between August and October during breeding season. This is when you are more likely to spot babies hatching and making their way to the water
Other things to consider when choosing the best time to travel to Oman
- Oman is a muslim country. So do not forget to check the dates of the Ramadan during which you will not find restaurant or places to eat during the day outside of International Hotels
- The Muscat Festival is held in February with cultural and musical events
- In April, roses bloom in Jebel Al Akhdar, making the landscapes even more special
STEP 2 - Where to go in Oman - Map
Destinations in Oman Map
Below is a Map of Oman to get you oriented and help you decide where to go.
Introduction to the Omani regions
Muscat is the capital city of Oman. It combines tradition and modernity. One fourth of the Omanis live in this city which is spread out in several area between bays and mountains.
Places to visit in Muscat include:
- Magnificent modern architecture with the Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque and the Royal Opera House
- Traditional markets and Souqs
- Forts and Palace (from the outside) and Museums
- Long sandy beach
For more ideas, check my complete list of things to do in Muscat.
SUR + EAST COASTAL AREA
Landscape-wise, this is one of the most diverse areas in Oman. You can enjoy it all: sand dunes, beaches, mountains, forts and wadis... Easily accessed South of Muscat, if you only have a few days in the country this is the number 1 region I suggest you visit.
Things to do on the Eastern coast include:
- The town of Sur and the nearby turtle reserve
- The high sand dunes of the Wahiba Sands Deserts
- The many stunning wadis such as Wadi Shab and Wadi Bani Khalid
- Masirah island
NIZWA + INLAND
Called Hinterland, the area around Nizwa offers dry land in the valley but plenty of traditions. This is where the Imman used to live and contest the authority of the Sultan.
Places to visit in the Hinterland include:
- Majestic forts such as Nizwa, Bahla and Jabrin
- Ruins of old villages and Unesco listed Falaj irrigation systems
- The "green" mountainous area of Jebel Akdhar
- Jebel Shams, the Arabian Grand Canyon
SOHAR + NORTHERN COAST
The coastal area North of Muscat is a narrow plain between the Al Hajar mountains and the sea. It is one of the most fertile areas in Oman. The region is also called Al Batinah.
Highlights in the Sohar region include:
- Beaches including some covered with shells
- Fortifications including the famous Rustaq fort
- Fishing villages, farming area and palm tree plantations
The Musandam peninsula is probably the most famous land in the Sultanate of Oman. It is an area separated from mainland and close to Dubai, at the northern point of the Arab peninsula. This region is mountainous and surrounded by fjord-like khors with abrupt cliffs.
Things to do in the Musandam Peninsula include:
- The main town Khasab and its fort
- 4WD adventure in the mountains with views of the bay, petroglyphs and old villages
- Dhow cruising (traditional boat), watching dolphins, snorkeling, and camping on one of the islands
SALALAH + DHOFAR
The Dhofar region is the South of Oman, close to the border with Yemen. It is home to the second largest city in Oman: Salalah. The Dhofar is quite different from the rest of the country as it is isolated in the South and subject to the monsoon in summer (June to September).
Things to do in Dhofar include:
- Desert adventure in the Empty Quarter desert
- Stunning beaches
- Mountainous areas and green gorges
- The famous Frankincense trees are grown here
Ad Wusta is an empty band in the middle of Oman. Most people only cross this area to get from the North to Salalah. On the west side is the grand desert of the Empty quarter. Highlights of Al Wusta include:
- Caves such as Al Raki
- The Arabian Oryx Reserve also known as the Wousta Wild Reserve
STEP 3 - How long to plan for your road trip around Oman
The first criteria is, of course: How much travel time can you have...
If you have no flexibility on how long you can travel in Oman, you can jump to the next step.
If you have flexibility, here are a few driving distance to consider
- Muscat to Sur - 2h10
- Muscat to Nizwa - 1h35
- Muscat to Shannah port (for Masirah island) - 5h
- Muscat to Khasab flight time - 1h
- Muscat to Salalah - 10h drive without stopping or 1h30 by plane
From my experience and discussion with local tour guides, I think to really enjoy it you need at least:
- Muscat - 2 to 3 days (depending on your love for museums)
- East Coast and Sur - 3 to 5 days
- Nizwa and hinterland - 3 to 6 days
- Sohar and North Coast - 2 to 3 days
- Musandam Peninsula: 2 to 3 days
- Salalah and Dhofar region: 3 to 4 days
Of course it is always possible to dedicate a whole holiday to just one region. These are what I think a good number of days to grasp the areas and their variety.
STEP 4 - Book your flight
So now that you have chosen when to go, where to go and for how long, you are ready to book your flight.
However, first, check the Visa requirement for your type of passport.
Unless you are from a country that is part of the Gulf Cooperation council, there is at least a requirement for an eVisa.
You can check your visa eligibility on the Royal Oman Police website here.
The international airport is near Muscat.
Domestic flights are run to Khasab in the Musandam peninsula and Salalah in the South.
Starting your Oman road trip in Dubai
I think it is easier to fly in Muscat and start the road trip from there. Flight lasts 1h. However if you want to go by car consider:
- Dubai to Mascate - 420km - 4h30 (when not stopping)
- Border crossing can be long
- Make sure your car rental allows you to also drive in Oman (with insurance coverage)
STEP 5 - Hire the right car
Now it is time to rent your car.
4WD car or normal car?
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 - or to rent a 4WD or a day or 2 from the checkpoint)
- To get in Wahiba Sands (but you can also ask the camp to send someone to pick you up at the desert entrance)
Otherwise a 2WD car is sufficient. Even to get to Jebel Shams as it is paved almost all the way (still 7 km of dirt road towards the top but in good condition if it has not rained before).
However note, that even if you rent a 4WD, the insurance conditions for most companies nowadays do not cover offroad driving... It gets complicated to be a little adventurous.
I am sorry I don't have a solution for you here. This is your risk to evaluate.
Car rental in Oman
All the classic car rental companies are available in Oman. Here are a few tips to keep in mind when booking:
- RENTAL COMPANIES - When choosing the company, don't just look at price but consider age of the fleet, included mileage, 24/7 customer service, servicing availability...Foreign driver’s license or international driving permit are accepted for up to three months
- INSURANCES - Check all types of insurance and decide on the level of risk you are ready to take. For peace of mind, I strongly recommend the Gravel Protection one.
- Get a GPS - there are many signs and not that many roads but some locations are not always on it. 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 and 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 - Oman road trip from Dubai
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 but not the most fascinating, when it takes only 1h by plane
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.
STEP 6 - Create your Oman itinerary - 5 days, 1 week, 10 days...
Good to know when planning a road trip itinerary in Oman
When planning your itinerary don't forget to consider the following essentials:
- DRIVING TIMES - Always plan more time to go from point A to point B than what Google says. You will want to stop to admire the scenery, so if you plan too much you will feel frustrated not to be able to
- DAYLIGHT HOURS - You will always have 10 to 13 hours of daylight so you can cover a lot
- ROAD CLOSURES - Most roads are in excellent conditions. However after heavy stormy rain, mountain roads can be damaged. Be sure to ask for advice
- ACCOMMODATION OPTIONS - If you are booking yourself and not through a local agent, it is easier to find accommodation in the main towns via websites like Booking
- OPENING DAYS - Friday is the day to rest. Some attractions are closed or close early
Suggestion - 5 day itinerary out of Muscat
If you have only a few days, the book might be too much for you (although the GPS coordinates are still useful). So here is a suggestion for a 5 day itinerary around North Oman out of Muscat, with a good variety of landscapes.
- DAY 1
Drive to Sur - Bimmah Sinkhole + walk/swim in Wadi Shab + explore Sur
Night in Sur (see accommodation options) or choose to stay at the Turtle reserve for priority access to morning tour
- DAY 2
Early morning to see the turtles
Drive to Wadi Bani Khalid
Drive to Wahiba Sands
Night in a desert camp in the desert - for example the Desert Night camp or the Arabian Oryx Camp (both in the Al Wasil wadi of the desert)
- DAY 3
Sunrise in the desert
Drive to Nizwa
Explore the fort and the Souk
Night in Nizwa - see accommodation options
- DAY 4
Get in the mountain - choose between Jebel Al Akhdar or Jebel Shams
Stay at a resort at the top of those mountains - See the accommodations in Jebel al Akhdar (Al'Ayn) or the accommodation in Jebel Shams
- DAY 5
Drive towards the coast, Visit the Rustaq fort
Enjoy some beach time at Sawadi beach and collect shells
Drive back to Muscat
Night in Muscat - see accommodation options
Tool to plan your Oman road trip Itinerary 1 week, 10 days and more
If you are lucky enough to have more time, there is a wide choice of activities and places to see: mountains, coasts, wadis, desert, forts.....
I don't know which one you prefer. So here are my tools to help you plan you own perfect itinerary:
- Go through my 40+ articles on Oman
- Get my eBook with practical maps and structured information that have been designed to simplify road trip planning:
Be overwhelmed by the beauty, not the planning!
STEP 7 - Book accommodations
About the accommodations in Oman
The options are as usual: camping, minivan/motorhome, hostels, guesthouses, hotels
A few points to keep in mind:
- During peak season, accommodations in desert camps and Turtle reserve fill up quickly so book in adcance
- Some rooms in Guesthouses have share bathrooms – I have seen many reviews by people who were surprised. So when you book, check the details!
- Camping is also a great option to save money, stay closer to nature. But know that it is cold at night in the mountains, so be mindful of how you are willing to travel. There are not camping ground in Oman at the moment but wild camping is allowed almost anywhere! Check out my Wild Camping in Oman article for more information and advice.
- You can find some Airbnb accommodations in the main cities. However the offer is not well developped
Practical hubs to stay around Oman:
- CAPITAL - Muscat of course - Check out the accommodations in Muscat
- INLAND - Nizwa is a great place to stay, centrally located - Check out the accommodations in Nizwa
- EAST COAST - Sur is a beautiful town, more laid back than Muscat and with traditional boats - Check out the accommodations in Sur
- MUSANDAM - Accommodations are mostly in Khasab and on the coast near Khasab - Check out options
- SOUTH - Salalah is very centrally located to explore the region - Check out the accommodation options
- TRADITIONAL VILLAGE - A great place to spend the night away from the busy city is the stunning traditional village of Misfat al Abryeen and the Misfah old House
- DESERT - To stay in the desert, I have seen both camp in the Al Wasil wadi: Desert Night camp and Arabian Oryx Camp
- MOUNTAINS - It is also nice to spend the day up in the mountains to enjoy sunrise and sunset there - See the accommodations in Jebel al Akhdar (Al'Ayn) or the accommodation in Jebel Shams
- However you can of course find accommodations in between.
CONGRATULATIONS!!! Now all is booked
It is time to get Ready for this Omani Road Trip
STEP 8 - Get all the equipment you need - What to wear in Oman
BASIS - What to wear in Oman - dress code women and men
- This is a Muslim country so you should be respectful and over shoulders and knees. No need for women to cover their hair though (except in Mosques).
- It gets very hot near the coast and in the desert: long sleeve, trousers and hat are great to protect yourself from the sun - choose light fabrics
- During Winter nights in the mountains are freezing, you will need layers especially if camping
Oman Packing list - Essentials
- Hiking pants
- Comfortable shoes for the hiking
- Hat / something to protect your head (I love my Buff "head-sock" to protect myself from the sun and hold my hair)
- Sun glasses
- Tops covering the shoulders and some long sleeve T-shirt (white is great against the sun)
- Scarf to visit the Mosque (although you can normally buy/rent something there)
- Formal Dress if you plan on watching a show at the Royal Opera House
- Swim wear - Western style for International hotel pools - add a t-shirt and knee-length leggins or a swimwear covering more for public beaches and wadis (although touristic wadis tolerate western style)
- Gloves/hat and jumper for nights in the mountains
For all general packing lists, head to my checklist article if you don't want to forget anything.
STEP 9 - Get ready to drive in Oman
Below is a video to give you an idea of what driving in Oman looks like:
- Driving is on the right side of the road
- Speed limits 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...)
Roads 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
- Signs are also in latin alphabet
- Animals - In small town and in single lane roads and even sometimes on bigger road you can have camel or goats crossing unexpectedly. So keep focussed!
- Wadi crossing - You will often see red signs. 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 to evaluate the depth of water.
- Straight lines - The main danger and cause for the high number of fatalities in Oman are the straight road. Especially if your drive South to the desert. Make sure you plan plenty of stops and always have water and food in the car.
Check out my full article on Driving in Oman
STEP 10 - Fill your GPS with the coordinates
What I hate the most when traveling is wasting time. Turning around to find a place, missing an exit.
Sometimes it leads to adventure, but most of the time it just leads to frustration.
This is why I don't rent a GPS with the car. I have my own Tom Tom. This way I can use the MyDrive system on my computer to add all the hotel GPS coordinates as well as the carpark coordinates for all the attractions I would like to see.
This way I just pick the favorite and follow the directions!!!
NOTE - All the locations in my eBooks include the GPS coordinates of the nearest carpark, exactly for that reason.
Be overwhelmed by the beauty, not the planning!
STEP 11 - Get ready to travel in Oman
Most people in Oman, especially in the tourism industry, speak english. But of course like in any country, it is always appreciated when you try a few words in their language
- Peace be onto you - As-salamu’alakum
- Answer to above - Wa’alaykum as-salam
- Alternative to the above - Salam
- Welcome - Marhaban
- Please - Raja'an
- Thank you (very much) - Shokran (jazeelan)
- Excuse me (to ask for) - Min fadlik
- Excuse me (to pass by) - Alma'derah!
- I am sorry - A’tadhir
- Water - Ma
Currency in Oman
The currency in Oman is the Omani real.
What is different:
- Their equivalent to 'cents' are Baisa and they are counted in 100 - For example a price can be 2.250 i.e. 2 rials and 250 baisas.
- Also the bill for 500 baisas is not written as such, it is written 1/2 Half Rial
- Tipping is not customary. You can tip after an excellent service.
- As in most countries, tour guides are different and would expect tips if you have not booked directly with them
Food in Oman - what to expect
I must admit that I was a bit disappointed by the food in Oman. From what I have seen it is a mix of influence from other countries: chinese, indian, turkish...
You always get a salad with cucumber / tomatoes / carrots. A lot of the simpler restaurants served their version of fast food with noddles, sandwiches... And they often served frozen vegetables. I guess they cannot grow much so this is a problem to get fresh vegetables...
The best food was fish, fresh out of the water.
- Most shops offer fruit juice mixes, sometimes with ice.
- Sodas are also plentyful.
- For alcohol you need to go inside and international hotel or get a license in Muscat which authorize you to buy alcohol.
- Currency - The currency in Oman is the Omani real. Their equivalent to 'cents' are Baisa and they are counted in 100 - For example a price can be 2.250 i.e. 2 rials and 250 baisas.
- Wifi - The resorts all had wifi. However sometimes only in the common area. Isolated guesthouses may have wifi but it would be restricted to certain hours.
- Plugs: Oman plugs are a type G 200V (whatever you read on other sites, I have only seen G plugs).
- Tipping is not customary. You can tip after an excellent service. As in most coutnries, tour guides are different and would expect tips if you have not booked directly with them
- No special vaccine required
Want to see more of Oman?
- Best Things to do in Oman - read article
- Best of photos from Oman - Landscapes - read article
- Best Oman days trips from Muscat - read article
- Where to stay 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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