Getting Around Oman
Oman Air (www.omanair.com) operates domestic flights to Salalah and Khasab from Muscat International Airport. Oman is a large country so internal flights are an excellent way of visiting the far south (Salalah) and remote Musandam Peninsula in the north.
Oman has a fast and modern network of roads and motorways with good connections between Muscat and major towns. Principal routes run from east to west, connecting Muscat to Sohar, and from north to south. Sudden rainfall can cause flash flooding in dry riverbeds and roads that cross them.
Side of the roadRight
There are excellent roads in Muscat and between Muscat and other major towns in Oman. Unpaved roads open up less-visited parts of Oman for those with 4-wheel drive vehicles.
Oman has a mixture of expressways, dual carriageways and single carriageways. An eight-lane expressway, the Al Batinah Expressway, is partially open and expected to be fully open in 2017. Once complete, the route will connect Muscat to the new port of Sohar and the UAE border.
Many international firms have offices at the airport and at hotels in Muscat and Salalah. Most visitors can use their own national driving licence or International Driving Permit. The minimum age to hire a car ranges from 21 to 25 depending on the company. As distances are long, check if there is a daily mileage limit. There is excellent off-road driving, so you may want to hire a 4-wheel drive vehicle.
Few of the orange and white taxis are metered so you should agree fares in advance. Shared taxis and minibuses (baisa buses) are popular, especially with Omani women who generally sit next to other women.
The north is sharply mountainous, with few paved roads, so only suits the adventurous off-road cyclist. The south of the country can experience quite severe weather, with towns and cities huge distances apart, making finding food and lodging difficult and cycling a less attractive proposition.
Apart from taxis, the only way of getting around Oman is by coach or shared minibus operated by Mwasalat (mwasalat.om). There are regular daily services between the major cities.
The minimum driving age is 18. The speed limit on major highways is 120kph (74mph), reduced to 100kph (62mph) within city limits, and enforced by speed cameras. In built-up areas, speed limits are usually 60-80kph (37-50mph).
Traffic laws are strictly imposed. Heavy penalties are imposed for drinking and driving; 48-hour prison sentences are imposed if traffic offences are caused by driving under the influence of alcohol. Seat belts should be worn at all times. On-the-spot fines are imposed if caught using a mobile phone while driving. It is also forbidden to drive on the beaches.
If you are involved in a major road traffic accident remain with your car and call the Royal Oman Police on 9999. Further details are available at www.rop.gov.om.
The Royal Oman Police (tel: 9999) respond to emergency calls but many roads outside the capital area are infrequently used and waiting times are long. There are large parts of the Sur to Muscat road that have no mobile phone signal, so if you break down, you need to wait for help or hitch a ride to the nearest town.
Long-term residents need a local licence, obtainable from the police by presenting a national driving licence or International Driving Permit. Police passes are required for residents travelling to the United Arab Emirates.
Taxi or hire car are the easiest modes of transport. It is perfectly safe for women to drive around, although some may prefer to wear a headscarf to avoid attracting unwanted attention.
There are currently no rail services in Oman, but there are plans to construct a rail network connecting the country with the rest of the Gulf region. See www.omanrail.om for updates.
National Ferries Company (tel: 2449 5453; www.nfc.om) operates vessels from Muscat to Khasab, Lima to Khasab, Lima to Dibba, Shinas to Khasab via Dibba, and Shannah to Masirah.