We explored the Northern part of Oman on a 7-day self-drive trip. Our itinerary included impressive forts, stunning mosques, and an overnight stay in the desert. We enjoyed cool swim stops in the wadis dotted around the country, spent an evening watching green turtles nesting on the beach and we ate some incredible Omani cuisine. A road trip in Oman was the perfect way to see this country.
Oman is very easy to self-drive as the roads are wide, new and well planned. The roads are not overly busy and locals are considerate drivers. 7 days in Oman is the ideal itinerary to get a good taste of this beautiful country.
Oman is one of the safest countries in the Middle East and you’ll often feel like you have the place to yourself as tourism is still in its infancy here.
Petrol is cheap and public transport isn’t established here yet, so everyone has a car. Unless you are here on an organised small group tour such as this one from G Adventures, then having your own car is key.
Most nationalities can get a 30-day visa on arrival. There is a desk located on the right side, just before you go through immigration at Muscat International Airport.
Visa costs 21 OMR ($54 USD) and can be paid by cash or credit card. You’ll receive a receipt of payment for the visa, you can then proceed through immigration.
There are two ATMs located opposite the visa at the arrivals desk which didn’t charge any fees to make a withdrawal.
Should you hire a 4WD in Oman?
Many people recommended that we hire a 4WD for our road trip in Oman. Yes, they are double the price of a standard 2WD car, however, it really depends on what you’d like to see and do during your time here.
We wanted the flexibility of taking the car anywhere we pleased, so we decided to spend the extra cash and rent a 4WD vehicle.
There were a few places on our trip where we were glad to have spent the extra money on a 4WD. The road to Jebel Shams was quite steep and there is a 7km unpaved part with loose gravel. It could be done in a 2WD, but the extra power of our 4WD made us feel much safer.
We hired a Toyota Fortuner through Expedia car hire for USD $311 for 6 days from the Dollar office at Muscat airport. We had a limit of 200km a day included in our rental agreement.
Any mileage over this is charged at 6 OMR per 100 km.
You drive on the right in Oman. All roads are very wide and all street signs are posted in English and Arabic. The speed limit is usually 120km/h or 60km/h in urban areas. It’s a good idea to stick to the speed limit as there are many speed cameras set up along highways.
Fuel stations are everywhere and they all have attendants to assist you. You can pay by cash or card. Most will have a shop and some have toilets.
Petrol is cheap—0.22 OMR (0.57 cents) per litre.
Driving to Jebel Shams
Buy a SIM card on arrival or Buy an eSIM
Upon arrival, we bought an Omantel SIM card from the desk at the airport. There are a few different providers to choose from.
We paid 7 OMR ($18). Our Sim card included 2 GB of data (valid for 30 days). We chose a longer plan as we weren’t entirely sure if we’d stay in Oman a little longer, so we paid a few extra rials.
Most sim packs for 7-10 days can be purchased for 5 OMR. Make sure you turn off all your phone apps before you put the sim card in your phone so it doesn’t immediately use up all your data.
The data package is great and we used an app called ‘Waze’ to navigate us around Oman as our Google Maps app wasn’t ideal for directions here, the turn-by-turn function wasn’t good.
Try and download the Waze application before your arrival in Oman. You will certainly utilise it during the next 7 days in Oman.
The current exchange rate is 1 OMR (Omani rial) = USD $2.60. The rial is divided into 1000 baisa.
Many things can be purchased on a card here, however, it’s a good idea to always have some cash with you.
We used an excel spreadsheet to record all of our expenses whilst in Oman.
Our overall expenses in Oman came to a total of USD $998 for two people for 7 days. This includes accommodation, car hire, petrol, food, sights, and miscellaneous items.
This doesn’t include our visa or flights. Depending on where you are flying from, I recommend that you search Aviasales for the cheapest flights.
Food in Oman
We found local food to be quite affordable in Oman. In general, a shwarma with bread, salad, and hommus cost 1 OMR. Pepsi costs 0.20 OMR, a coffee costs 1 OMR, and a local meal of rice, meat, and salad costs around 1.5 – 2.00 OMR. Expect to pay from 6 OMR for dinner in a nicer restaurant.
They say that the water in Oman is OK to drink. You can also buy bottled water in bulk if you choose. We bought a big 6 pack of water from Carrefour and had it in the car with us, it cost 0.625 OMR for all six bottles.
What to Wear in Oman
As Oman is a Muslim country, this means that everyone should dress respectfully. Women need to cover both their shoulders and knees and men are expected to wear t-shirts and long trousers.
For the majority of our trip, I wore loose-fitting clothing such as long-sleeved light shirts and long light cotton pants. The only time we needed to cover our hair was at the Grand Mosque in Muscat.
If you’re female and you plan to visit any other mosques, you’ll need to cover your hair. We always travelled with light scarves in Oman, very useful and also cheap to buy in the country.
Inside the Grand Mosque in Muscat
Best time to visit Oman
Winter is the best time to visit Oman as the summers are extremely hot. We didn’t really have a choice on our trip to visit every country, so we visited in mid-May. It was also Ramadan during the time we visited. We experienced hot days, around 35-41 degrees Celsius, the nights were very warm too.
As with previous trips, we booked our accommodation on Booking.com. Prices in Oman are quite high for what you get, but there are some gems to be found. Remember that if you have a car, you can afford for your hotel to be out of town that little bit more.
We chose hotels that are comfortable which include ensuite, air conditioning, good WiFi, and free parking.
If you are on a tight budget, the cheapest option is to buy a tent and wild camp for free almost anywhere in the country. This is very safe and we’d certainly do it next time.
Our Oman Itinerary
Nizwa – 2 nights
Wahiba Sands – 1 night (desert camp)
Ras Al Jinz Turtle Reserve – 1 night
Muscat – 2 nights
Our road trip to Oman was for a duration of 6 nights/7 days and we covered a total of 1286 km.
When planning your itinerary, remember that as Oman is an Islamic country and the weekend is on a Friday and Saturday and many places will be closed on Fridays.
Our 7 Day self-drive itinerary in Oman
Day 1 Muscat – Nizwa (2 nights)
Distance: 178km Time: 1 hr 45 min
The drive from Muscat airport to Nizwa was easy, driving on great roads through the desert. We stopped at the Carrefour supermarket (located about 15min drive from the airport) as we wanted some food and snacks for the next couple of days.
Our visit was during Ramadan, so nothing is open during the day for food options. We went to the H&M store to pick up a few simple light shirts for our time spent here.
I’d describe Nizwa as a big town that is very spread out. It’s a good location to base yourself for a few nights and do some day trips from here. The fort and souq area are interesting, great to capture some photos of food and people.
Sights – Nizwa Fort. Cost 5 OMR ($13 USD).
Marty and I at Nizwa Fort
Day 2 (Day Trip to Jebel Shams – via Bahla Fort, some small villages including Misfat and al Hamla)
Distance: 210km Time: 4 hrs 18 min
We stopped at Bahla Fort in the morning. Cost 0.50 OMR each ($1.30 USD). Very impressive fort and the price is fair too.
Driving towards Jebel Shams, it’s worth your time to stop at Misfat al Abryeen. This is one of Oman’s oldest and most charming villages. We wandered through the small village with crumbling mud houses and striking coloured doors.
We found a small wadi (natural waterhole) where you could take a cool dip, the swimming sections are divided for both men and women.
Be sure to be dressed appropriately when visiting this village. There are signs everywhere to remind you to be respectful to the local people by dressing respectfully.