5 Things You Need To Know Before Driving In Oman

5 THINGS YOU NEED TO KNOW BEFORE DRIVING IN OMAN

Oman is a gorgeous country that offers the keen adventurer a fantastic variety of things to see and do. Quiet beaches, vast deserts and desolate mountains are just some of what awaits you in the Jewel of Arabia. If your plans entail experiencing the best of what Oman has to offer, then it’s time to start looking into transport options.
As there is little to no public transport, driving in Oman is by far the most popular and easiest way of getting around. It’s always important to get your bearings before putting yourself behind the wheel of a car in a foreign country. Basics like knowing what side of the road you will be driving on, whether your drivers licence will be accepted and any other general rules of the road (if they are different) are always useful to know before you go.
Driving in Oman is no different, except you will also need to take a close look at your plans to ensure you are prepared for the adventure to come. Do you have the right vehicle type? Do you know how to get to where you are going without relying on a GPS? Do you know what your tire pressure should be when driving on sand? If the answer is yes, then you are already a few steps ahead. If the answer is no – it’s simple and there is no need to worry – I’ve got you covered.

Here’s a look at the top 5 things to know before driving in Oman.

//VEHICLE HIRE

If you have made the decision to visit Oman and plan to explore outside of Muscat, chances are you will need to hire a car. My #4 top tip for planning a trip outlines that looking into this in advance helps you get the right deal and saves you time waiting at the airport. When it comes to Oman, planning in advance also means that you can ensure you get the right type of vehicle for your trip as well.
The easiest place to pick up a car is the new Muscat International Airport. You’ll have all of the international car hire companies available to you as well as some local companies – and you’ll get a mix of 2WD and 4WD vehicles to choose from. Tackling my Ultimate Oman Road Trip Itinerary? Be sure you are walking away with a set of keys belonging to a 4WD. We checked out my favorite car comparison website and booked a Mitsubishi Pajero.

Don’t assume because you have a 4WD vehicle, you’ll have free reign to do and go as you please. Getting off the pavement? Be sure to read the fine print of your rental agreement. Your extra adventure may actually be prohibited and you risk voiding your car hire insurance!

If your road trip plans see you venturing into one of Oman’s neighboring countries – Yemen, Saudi Arabia and/or United Arab Emirates – I’d also suggest reading the fine print of your rental agreement. Insurance doesn’t tend to cross the border with you, so an accident across the line could also get you into a bit of a trouble. Check with your hire company if you plan to explore more than just Oman.

//NAVIGATION

GPS systems are apparently not a massive thing in Oman. We expected to have one in our car and to our surprise, one wasn’t offered to us. The excuse we received was that they aren’t updated enough to warrant keeping them around. Luckily it’s relatively simple navigation around Oman.

The roads are nice (a lot of them brand new) and things were pretty well sign-posted. The signs tend to be in both Arabic and English and anything worth seeing can be identified by the brown tourist-specific signs dotted along the roads

I would suggest logging into Google Maps before you leave home or leave the airport to download the legs of your road trip. Doing so in advance allows you to use your phone to navigate your way around the country. There is however one small catch – the actual step by step voice guided functionality does not work in Oman.

You can put your destination in but don’t expect it to give you voice directions as you go. The blue dot representing your location will be visible as will be the map that you downloaded. Your mission should you choose to accept it? Keep them aligned. You’ll have plenty of signed to guide you so It really isn’t an issue.

One thing I would recommend is paying attention to areas where you need to make a turn or an exit. The interstates are long and sometimes these exits are spread far apart. If you miss your exit you may just end up driving another half hour until the next exit for you to turn around.

//HEADING OFF-ROAD

One of the most memorable parts of my trip to Oman was the driving – particularly when it came to going off-road in places like the Western Hajar Mountains and through Wadi Bani Awf. Navigating down car-width roads hugging precipitous canyon cliffs was one heck of an adrenaline rush. If you are considering experiencing the same, there are a few thing you should know before you go.
The type of car you hire will influence where you can/should drive. The only time you will run into any issues is if you want to take your vehicle into off mountains. For example, driving to Jabal Ahkdar on the Saiq Plateau? You’ll pass a police check point that will turn you around if you are not in a 4WD.

Interested in entering Wadi Bani Awf to check out the town of Balad Sayt or explore Snake Canyon? There isn’t a police check point, but you’ll need a 4WD. Making your way up to Jebel Shams to see Oman’s version of the Grand Canyon? The first 20km of the ascent is paved and the last 10k is windy, dirt paths. We saw 2WDs driving this – but slowly and in low gear. I’d say take the guessing game out of the equation and just get yourself a 4WD.

Planning on heading to Wahiba Sands? Driving in the desert can be fun and is one of the top adventures in the area. If you are staying at a desert camp and making the initial drive into the desert yourself, you’ll need to deflate your tires. Lowering the pressure helps expand the surface area of the tire as you drive, improving the traction and helps keep you from getting stuck.

Look to the manufacturers manual to determine the ppi level to reduce tires to. General rule of thumb is 18ppi and no lower than 15ppi. Just don’t forget to pump those tires back up when you are done – it’s dangerous to drive with deflated tired on paved roads. Gas stations are a dime a dozen in the area – all of which have free to use (and automatic) air pumps.

Don’t feel comfortable driving in these conditions but want the experience? No stress, park your car and let someone else take you. Desert Camps often can arrange picking you up from a set location and there are plenty of tour outfitter ready to take you on a mountain jeep safari.

//WATCH FOR SPEED CAMERAS

Abiding by the driving laws of the country you are road tripping through is a bit of a no brainer. When driving in Oman, it’s even more important to pay attention to the speed limit. It’s very easy to forget about speed limits when you are driving long, straight roads for hours upon hours.

There is no real thinking that is involved and if you are like me, you got lost into a sea of thoughts. Or in the case of Oman, you can get easily distracted by the surrounding natural beauty. Guess what happens? You stop thinking about the speed and next thing you know a bright flash startles you. Yup. You guessed it. That was a speed camera, and you mind friend area leaving Oman with a speeding ticket.

You will see signs all over the country warning you to abide by the speed limit and that speed is checked by radar devices. I kid you not, there are stretches around the country that have them dispersed ever kilometer. It’s the ones that are hidden that you don’t see that can be problematic.

Our 4WD was (annoyingly) fitted with a device that caused the car to beep if we exceed 120km/hour. I am pretty sure it’s what helped prevent me from leaving with speeding tickets. There are some pretty harsh consequences of speeding which include hefty fines and even jail time.

Keep your eyes peeled, follow the speed limits and you will be fine. If you have been blitzed but the radar, expect a letter from your car hire company upon your return.

//EXPECT THE UNEXPECTED

Self-driving in Oman is a fantastic experience, just use your head and you’ll have a great experience. One of the things I can’t recommend enough is to be stocked up with water and snacks. Oman is typically hot and dry – take care of yourself and stay hydrated. If you find yourself in a scenario where you are stranded then your preparation will be pay off until you see a passerby.

Also keep your eyes peeled for random animals crossing the roads. Over the course of our trip we came across quite a few camels, had to make way for meandering donkeys and dodged quite a few skiddish goats. Just be aware that you can expect these guys to sometimes appear on the main interstates as well. Certainly not where I expect to see wildlife back home.

Rain is rare in Oman, but when it rains it floods. Flash flooding is a problem and tends to be quite destructive. The lower lying areas of Oman, especially those in and around the mountains are the most susceptible. If there is a chance of rain in the forecast, the suggestion is to avoid heading into the mountains, entering Wadis or driving off paved roads.

You’ll notice signage near wadi crossings that help indicate how high the water along the road. Just because you have a 4X4 doesn’t mean it can go everywhere. Water too high? Don’t even think about driving through it.

Driving in Oman offers you the chance to independently see and experience the country in a way that you just can’t do on a hop-on hop-off bus.
If you aren’t into driving or feel you aren’t comfortable doing so in this terrain, you will of course have other options. Most tour outfitters in the region offer tours of the country that include private driver that will take care of all the work for you.

It is also common for visitors to base themselves in Muscat and book a variety of organised day trips with their accommodation. The latter means that you spend a lot of time in the car with minimal time at each site – but it can be done and is a great way of seeing snippets of the country without the driving.

If you are still deciding whether or not driving in Oman is for you, be sure to check out my Ultimate Oman Road Trip Itinerary to get a closer look at what there is to see along the way.

FOR MORE INFORMATION ON OTHER PLACES TO VISIT IN AND AROUND OMAN, BE SURE TO CHECK OUT DESTINATIONS // OMAN.

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26 comments

  • I have not been to Oman…yet. I find that this post really reminds me of the UAE as well as Doha. These are some of the same things I found I needed to keep in mind when in those places. My good friend went to Oman and another colleague actually used to work at a school there. Both completely rave about how amazing it is.

  • Thank you for these detailed tips for driving in Oman. Watching for speed camera and heading off-roads are great advice! I love road trip and would love to drive here one day.

  • Very useful tips while driving towards Oman. I too love driving towards Oman because natural sculpted rocks and curves of road are very beautiful. Looking out for Speed Cameras is great and useful tip.

  • This is very detailed. Personally, I don’t have a driving’s licence. Took lessons, but right before my exam there was a terrible accident right at the end of the alley leading to our parking lot, so I decided it’s not for me, not ready for it. Even if one’s careful, it doesn’t mean all the other traffic participants are. And like you said, there can always be something unexpected coming up.

  • Oman is a relatively underrated destination in the Middle East. But that makes it all the more attractive as many tourists do not head there as compared to the glitz of Dubai or even Sharjah. I was not aware that there is scarce public transport in Oman. That does leave self-driving as a feasible option. The landscapes and roads look awesome and seem to make for some great road trips. But yes when one is in a new place one always needs to exercise prudence and your pointers are great in this respect. The information about GPS is really handy for first time travelers to Oman who are planning to drive around.

  • The photos you took of this peculiar landscape would make me hire a car if I ever go to Oman. Funny that the voice guide function on Google Maps doesn’t work there, but it usually only gets on my nerves, so I wouldn’t miss it. I like the idea of speed control radars on every kilometer, we could use something like that here in Croatia!

  • I’m not sure if I would be brave enough to drive in Oman, but if I ever did then this is a really detailed guide ! -thanks. Good they have those speeding limits in place to protect those unwitting animals 😉

  • Road trip to Oman looks so interesting and fun. This is a great post for the first time travellers to Oman. Quite detailed one . Great work and keep it up.

    • Thanks for stopping by and checking us out. SOME of the roads are silky smooth – when you get it into gear and head out off road its anything but.

  • Gosh, Oman looks like an amazing place for a road trip! I’ve not ventured into the middle east yet, but it seems like there’s some great scenery to be found there. I hired a 4×4 in Australia and had a blast, so I need to hire one again 🙂

    • I’m sure there are a lot of places where driving a 4×4 can be fun. Oman is the perfect place for this sort of adventure. Time to start planning. 🙂

  • The landscape of Oman reminds me a lot of my home state of Nevada – lots of long roads in barren, desert landscape. But, these lands do have remarkable beauty, and, yes, you can get lost in your thoughts. You have some great tips for driving in this land. I was surprised that there are so many speeding checkpoints. Also, it is so important to know the laws for driving in a country, such as where off-roading is allowed.

  • Living in Dubai for 8 years I have driven to Muscat (and back) numerous times. It takes some 5 – 6 hours but never gets boring. And btw, I just love Oman Safe travels. Eva

  • Wow! This are some very useful and practical tips for driving in Oman. I’ve always thought that Oman is a great road trip destination and your post convinced me, Dom! Happy to read that it is safe for solo travel!

  • Exploring a place by car is one of my favorite ways to travel because of the freedom you have so I’d love to do so in Oman! Good to know about the GPS though, I would definitely use Google Maps. And wow, jail time for speeding! I’d be thankful for that beeping device, ha.

  • I’ve come across a lot of posts on road trips this week, and this is possibly the best of them. Alas, I don’t drive myself but reading this makes me realize the adventure I’m missing in not doing so. Heading off road sounds amazing and so does the Omani Grand Canyon. I’m used to meeting goats on my travels, but I’d never have thought about flooding in Oman. It must all make for quite an experience.

  • Great article! Very helpful tips, haven’t been to Oman yet, only the UAE, but would love to go there and do a road trip so these tips will come in handy, thanks for sharing!

  • It is definitely important to know crucial tips before renting a car in a foreign country. Knowing where you need to rent 4WD as to not be turned away by police is quite helpful. I do like the tourist guidance signs they have and that they are in English too. Interesting that the voice feature doesn’t work on Google Maps but they have speed detectors every kilometer! I don’t know why, but I found that to be odd. Are most of the cars there standard or do they have automatics too?

  • I’m missing a crucial info – may I hire a car as a woman and drive? That is not allowed everywhere in the Arab world.
    I would have preferred a 4×4 as well. Alone, if the roads are not so great!
    Susanne

    • Yes indeed. Women have been able to drive in Oman since 1970. These rules do differ across the Arab world and sometimes the attitudes of those differ from the actual rules as well (but I guess that’s anywhere). Afghanistan and Saudi Arabia tend to be the two countries where there is a perceived ban – neither of which is true. In Afghanistan, it is not illegal for a woman to drive but it is frowned upon so rarely happens. In Saudi Arabia, there has never been a ban on driving but the stickler comes with the granting of driver’s licenses. Not granting these to women obviously means they can’t drive – but this is changing as we speak, which is great for women’s rights around the world.

      Oman is one of the safest places in the world, but if you are travelling solo and feel more comfortable being accompanied there are plenty of options to get around. Your hotel can arrange or you can organise a private driver if you interested in a road trip vs. day trips. Happy Travels

  • Really useful tips, your adventure looks really cool. I’m surprised Oman was easy to navigate, I’ve always found it very difficult to navigate especially when you’re out in the open with little landmarks. Good thing the road signs have English, was that the case in all of Oman or just in touristy areas?

  • We love road trips and you gave amazing tips. It’s very important to choose the right vehicle you’re going to use according to the kind of roads you’re going to drive on. This is the kind of wise planning ahead that everyone should do, not only for a road trip to Oman!

  • These are great tips for renting a car in many places! But I often need a little extra encouragement to rent a car in foreign countries, so thanks for that! Especially helpful to remember the traffic cameras 🙂

  • Good tips, we also often rent cars in our travels, and it’s important to know what to expect. For instance, in Italy, we found our car scratched quite bad in a paid parking place from 2nd day of trip. We didn’t have to pay the repairs as we took a full insurance for our car, knowing how crazy drinving in Italy can be. Oman looks like a beautiful country with really lovely areas to explore, would like to visit some day.

    • A massive scratch in a parking lot? I’m sure the person didn’t even leave a note – I would be furious. But yes, getting that insurance up front means you don’t have the stress when you drop the car off. Here’s to hoping you get to Oman soon.

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