An interesting way to explore Oman is by rental car. Due to the vast desert landscape, many places in the country can only be reached by car. Make sure you travel well-prepared: plan your route before you leave, arrange your international driving licence and apply for a visa.
Plan your route
Oman has a surface area of more than 300,000 km². However, you do not need much time to visit the countryʼs highlights. The most famous sights are all found in the north of the country, just a few hours drive apart. It is advised mapping out your route before you leave, so that you know approximately how long your trip will take and which visa you will need.
The e-visa Oman comes in three variants: a visa for a stay of 10 days, a visa for a stay of 30 days and a multiple-entry visa, which allows you to travel to Oman several times within one year. As the sights in Oman are close together, you can visit the highlights of the country in as little as 10 days. Those who also want to visit the south of the country - for instance the coastal town of Salalah - or those who prefer to take more time, should apply for an Oman visa with a validity of 30 days. Are you going from Oman to one of the neighbouring countries - for example to Dubai in the United Arab Emirates - and then back to Oman? If so, it is best to apply for a multiple-entry visa.
Road network and traffic
Public transport in Oman is limited. Mini-buses only run between larger cities and tourist resorts. To visit smaller places, only transportation by taxi is possible. However, the country has a good and safe road network. Renting a car is therefore a good option for those who want to explore the country. Major roads are asphalted and well maintained. Signposting is in both Arabic and English. People in Oman drive on the right side, and generally drive calmly. Travellers should beware of camels and goats crossing the road, and sudden floods on roads crossing riverbeds.
Car rental in Oman
Which car is suitable for your trip depends on the planned route through Oman. For most routes, a regular rental car will do. If you want to drive off the paved roads, through the desert or the mountains, you should rent an off-road vehicle. For instance, Jebel Akhdar, a mountain range in the Hadji Mountains in northwest Oman, is only accessible with a four-wheel drive car, as the police only allow four-wheel drive vehicles to pass for safety reasons.
The minimum age for renting a car in Oman is 21 years. The British driving licence is also valid in Oman, so an international driving licence is not required. However, it is still recommended carrying an international driving licence when driving in Oman, just in case.
The best route for a round trip
The most obvious starting point for a tour of Oman is the capital Muscat. There are several international car rental companies at the airport where you can rent a car. Most travellers drive from Muscat to Jebel Shams, a gorge in the Hadji Mountains also known as the Grand Canyon of the Middle East. We recommend the Balcony Walk for a beautiful view of the gorge.
The next stop on the tour is Nizwa, one of the oldest cities in Oman. Here you can visit the fortress and the goat market, where buyers and sellers from all over the country come together and haggle. From Nizwa, you drive to Wahiba Sands, a desert area where you can spend the night in a camp in the desert. Animal lovers can continue to Ras al-Jinz, where you can see rare green sea turtles up close. The route ends back in Muscat, from where you can fly back to Europe.
Oman visa application before departure
Until 2018, it was possible to apply for a visa on arrival for Oman at a counter at the airport in Muscat or Salalah. Nowadays, this is no longer possible. Travellers have to apply for an Oman visa before they get on the plane. Fortunately, the visa application procedure is quick and easy. Tourists generally do not have to visit the embassy in London, but can apply for their Oman visa online.
To apply for a visa, fill in the digital application form and pay the visa fee. The costs depend on the type of visa you have chosen. Next, you provide a scan or photo of the passport and a digital passport photo of each traveller. Once these documents are approved, your application will be processed. The visa is granted on average in 7 days. If you are planning to travel to Oman in the near future, you can submit an urgent application. Urgent applications are approved on average in four days.