Oman is a gorgeous country in the Middle East that has so much to offer. Recently, there has been an increased emphasis on expanding the tourism industry to diversify the economy. There is a lot to offer throughout Oman, and many will argue that there is possibly more to see outside the cities because of the varied, unique and breathtaking nature that can be found throughout the land. That, coupled with the large size of the country, make hiring a car a very good option.
Knowing handy information about car rentals, as well as useful information about the best routes for a road trip, will make for a great holiday in Oman. Before planning these steps of your holiday, you must apply for an Oman visa. There are 3 different types of Oman visas: a 10-day stay visa, a 30-day stay visa, and a multiple entry visa, which allows you to travel to Oman for an unlimited number of times in one year.
A good thing to note is that although you must be 21 years old to drive in Oman, the rules for hiring a car might be quite different. As with many countries, it is common here to be at least 25 years of age to hire a car at many companies. If you are younger than 25, but still qualify to drive in Oman, you may have to do some extra research into which companies will allow younger drivers to hire a car.
In order to hire a car, depending on where you are from, you may need an International Driving Permit or IDP. UK citizens can use their national driving licence officially. However, it is important to do the research for yourself to see if it is necessary as sometimes, at certain stops, officials may ask to see an IDP. If you find that you do need one, you should consider applying for this document around the same time you apply for the Oman visa.
Rules of the road
Most drivers from the EU and the UK will find that most driving rules are similar to the rules at home. However, for UK residents, it is notable that the cars drive on the right-hand side of the road. The speed limits are very similar to UK and European road rules, with highway speed limits at about 120 km per hour and open roads and city speed limits varying between 40-80 km per hour. The signs are in Arabic but are usually in English as well.
As most countries do, overtaking occurs on the left, and slower traffic keeps to the right. Seatbelt rules are quite thoroughly enforced. The speed limits are tightly monitored with radar control and cameras, and it is very much advised not to be rude or aggressive on the road because this behaviour will have consequences administered by the authorities. There is also a zero tolerance policy on drink-driving.
There are toll roads throughout the country, as the roads are quite well maintained. This can sometimes be a hassle in most travel circumstances, so be sure to ask at your car hire company if they have automatic toll readers. These toll readers allow you to comfortably pass through the tolls, and then you can pay for any tolls you encountered at the end of your journey when you return the car.
It is also wise to purchase a SIM card for your phone with data in order to reach hard to reach places safely and easily. The state provider is called Omantel and is known for having coverage throughout hard to reach areas of the country, and the Qatar based Ooredoo has more packages and pricing offers. The extra planning and costs of a travel SIM will make your road trip all the more enjoyable.
What kind of car to choose
The type of holiday you are planning is bound to impact the kind of car you should rent. It is almost considered a necessity to rent a 4 x 4 vehicle to traipse along the intense off-road areas of this beautiful land. And there is wondrous freedom to driving up to areas such as Jebel Shams in an off-road vehicle and spontaneously decide that the star gazing shouldn’t have to end, and you can just camp out on the spot. One of the unique highlights of this land is the freedom to camp in most places throughout the country.
This freedom is quite special, but remember that if your spontaneous travel leads you to crossing the border of the United Arab Emirates, you will need a multiple-entry tourist visa for Oman.
A more affordable option is to rent an economy car if you are simply interested in seeing certain cities and famous locations. The main roads are very well maintained, and many who don’t feel comfortable off-roading choose this option. Having a car to get you from one location to another, and simply hiring a driver or taking a tour bus to the harder to reach areas is a slightly cheaper option, and requires less knowledge about driving on the road in these areas.
It is vital to do research about driving through different types of terrain. For example, if you choose to go off-roading in the desert areas, which is a quite popular thing to do in regions like the Wahiba Sands, it is helpful to understand the risks and be prepared for them. This area is very easy to get lost in because of the vast sand dunes and openness of the area. Many choose to simply hire a driver because of this reason, however, it can be very tempting to want to experience this for yourself. So having access to satellite navigation is quite handy. It is also necessary to remember that you must deflate your tires to a certain pressure while travelling along sandy roads. Once you are back on regular roads, you must reinflate them in order to prevent a flat tire.
It is not advisable to wait until you arrive in Oman to hire a rental car. Sometimes cars can be sold out, especially specific types of vehicles. A good idea would be to secure a car rental at the same time that you apply for your Oman visa. The visa is usually granted within 7 days, and cost varies depending on the type of visa that you choose. It is no longer possible to obtain a visa on arrival in Oman, therefore it is necessary to apply in advance.