How to plan the perfect road trip in Oman

JUAN MARTINEZ

March 20, 2024

How to plan the perfect road trip in Oman

I traveled to Oman twice on a road trip. Let me tell you how to start planning, and what the do’s and don’ts are for your next adventure.

I consider Oman the best country to get introduced to the Middle East and one of the best countries in the world to plan a road trip. Oman is not only one of the safest countries I’ve been to, but its variety of landscapes, cultural uniqueness, and comfort make it an excellent place to travel independently. I traveled to Oman a few months ago – again – and just like the very first time, I decided to plan a road trip and explore the country independently.

Now I’m back in Europe, and I still consider Oman a top destination for adventure lovers, and I still think there is nothing like a road trip in this country.

All road trips start with planning from home
All road trips start with planning from home.

Unlike the previous time, where I independently rented a car, brought my tent and a sleeping bag from Europe, and figured out a route while I was on the road, this time I went on a more “prepared” road trip. I used a company called Follow the Tracks. With them, I got a pre-arranged route, got accommodation pre-scheduled, and had some scheduled activities in between. It is still a road trip, but in a less spontaneous and more organized form.

Now, I want to tell you how you can plan a road trip in Oman as well and what aspects you have to consider if you want to do it.

Person at the top of Jebel Shams in Oman
A road trip in Oman gives you the freedom you can’t get from any tour.

Getting Ready: Preparing for Your Oman Road Trip

Research and Planning:

Do you want to see beaches, mountains, deserts, or oases? Before selecting the stops you want to add to your trip, it’s important to do some research and planning about Oman in general. Oman offers a great diversity of landscapes, and in less than 2 hours, you can be on a deserted beach with 30 degrees, or with 5 degrees at the top of a mountain.

But don’t worry. On a 7-10 day road trip, you will for sure experience all of this. It’s just not the time to start checking all of that. Start by determining how long you want to spend on the road and the distances you want to travel every day. Do you want to spend one night in every place, or would you like to do several nights in a certain spot? All of this will play a big role in your planning and later in your research.

My recommendation is to do a circular trip starting and ending in Oman’s capital, Muscat, cover anything between 100-200 km every day (maximum 200 km), and find a few key spots where you can spend the night. This will be enough for you to get a good glimpse of the country and explore as much as possible with the time you have.

| Tip

Get insurance for safe and secure travel in Oman!


Once you know how long you want to travel to Oman and how many days you want to be on the road, consult reliable travel resources, maps, and online forums to gather insights from fellow travelers who have explored Oman’s roads. I saw there are at least 50 blogs offering itineraries for Oman. Check two or three you trust and see what spots they mention. I will also mention a few spots later in this article.

Just like with any big trip I do, I rely a lot on Lonely Planet. Lonely Planet has a great article showing a few options for road trips in Oman.

I also added below a link to a small guide on types of itineraries. From traveling Oman without 4WD, to overland traveling.

Read more: The Best Road Trip Itineraries In Oman

Oasis in Oman
An oasis next to Snake Canyon in Oman.

Vehicle and Documentation:

Choosing the right vehicle is crucial for a successful road trip in Oman. Going for the cheapest vehicle is always intuitive, but keep in mind that any car that is not 4WD won’t take you much further.

In places like the mountain area of Jebel Akhdar, you will be stopped at checkpoints and be controlled if you really have a 4WD vehicle, and any of the dune areas in Oman, even trying to go in with another type of vehicle is a very dumb decision.

Besides these two areas, roads in Oman are in great shape. Highways are long and in perfect condition, and driving is even less chaotic than in some European countries.

NOTE: If you have a European driving license or a GCC license, you do not need an international driving permit.

Follow the Tracks Oman
This is the vehicle I had during my second trip to Oman

Renting a Car:

Renting a car in Oman is expensive. Expect to spend at least 150-200 EUR per day for a 4WD vehicle (with insurance). This is unfortunately the true cost of planning a road trip in Oman and you need to consider this cost as part of your budget.

To rent a car, all big companies are available and you can easily do an online booking at your favorite platform. You can also check straight the Europcar, Budget, Alamo, or whatever company you trust. For my first road trip, I rented a 4WD with Europcar and paid 900 EUR for the vehicle without insurances.

All my insurances were covered by my credit card.

NOTE: A small vehicle costs 30-50 EUR per day. However, as I mentioned, you won’t access many of the coolest spots Oman has to offer.

Follow the tracks vehicle in Oman
This is the Follow the tracks vehicle I had in Oman.

You can’t access the following places without a 4WD vehicle in Oman:

  • Jebel Shams
  • Jebel Akhdar
  • Any of the off-roads
  • Any of the dune areas

Highlights of Oman you can do WITHOUT a 4WD:

  • Muscat
  • Sur
  • Nizwa
  • Most of the Wadis (Oases of Oman)

NOTE: I heard about a few travelers who rented a small vehicle during their whole road trip and when they opted to go to Jebel Shams for one night, rented a 4WD car in Nizwa. The same for those who want to visit Wahiba Sands.

Renting a Car with Follow the Tracks:

As I mentioned before, I went with a company called Follow the Tracks. They provided Nissan and Mitsubishi 4WDs as part of the 7-day tour and the only additional cost was the gasoline. A 7-day road trip with Follow the Tracks starts at 2200 EUR per person. A bit expensive in my opinion, but it will take away the whole pressure of planning a road trip in Oman.

Check the self-drive tours from Follow the Tracks Oman here

Cooking equipment with a car rental
Make sure you rent a vehicle with cooking equipment and tents.

Weather and Seasonality:

Consider the weather and seasonality when planning your Oman road trip. Even though Oman is a country from the Middle East and the weather does not change drastically as in Europe or America, there are months in which heavy rainfall can affect your road trip.

The best time to visit, according to local guides, is during the cooler months from October to April when temperatures are more moderate, making outdoor activities and sightseeing more enjoyable. Be mindful of potential weather hazards, such as heavy rainfall during the monsoon season from June to September, which can cause flash floods in certain areas.

My last visit to Oman was in December, and I found the temperatures perfect for being outdoors and the climate excellent for a road trip.

Views of the villages in Oman
Views of the villages in Oman during winter.

Accommodations and Camping:

Oman is one of the few places in the world where free camping is allowed. This means you can simply bring your own tent, park your vehicle wherever you want, and spend the night there.

Of course, there are a few spots where staying overnight is better, and you can find more about them in other blog posts, as well as in the app iOverlander.

For those whose camping is not their preferred activity, Oman offers a range of accommodations, from luxury resorts to budget-friendly guesthouses and glamping options.

If you are not planning to do some camping, plan your accommodations at least a month in advance, especially if traveling during peak season, to secure your preferred lodging.

My top spots for free camping were:

  • At the top of Jebel Shams
  • Wahiba Sands
  • Wadi Tiwi
  • Shell Beach

NOTE: Do NOT camp in Ras Al Jinz. This spot has become quite popular as turtles come here to nest their eggs. Unfortunately, the arrival of travelers doing free camping has affected this very fragile ecosystem. Although there are signs that camping here is NOT allowed, a few travelers do not care about the repercussions of these actions and still do it.

Read more: How to get around in Saudi Arabia

Free camping in Oman is simply the best
Free camping in Oman is simply the best.

Internet Access:

Omantel and Ooredoo are the main internet providers in Oman. You can get a SIM card at the airport with plans starting at 10 EUR.

The cheapest of them is Omantel. However, I found the connection with Ooredoo a bit better.

These are some of the current plans offered by Omantel:

  • 4 OMR = 2 GB data + 500 MB social media – Around 10 EUR
  • 6 OMR = 3 GB data + 1.5 GB social media – Around 14 EUR
  • 8 OMR = 8 GB data + 2 GB social media – Around 18 EUR

My preferred option during my last visit was an e-SIM with Airalo . Currently, a 1 GB internet plan with Airalo is only 4 EUR and a 10GB plan with Airalo is 22 EUR – cheaper than Ooredoo and more flexible than Omantel.


Read more: Which e-SIM cards do I use when I travel abroad?

Practical Tips and Advice: Navigating Oman’s Roads with Confidence

Driving in Oman:

Driving in Oman is relatively straightforward, with well-maintained roads and clear signage, especially in urban areas. However, be prepared for occasional encounters with camels, goats, and other wildlife, especially in rural and mountainous regions. Exercise caution when driving off-road. Also, do not drive off-road if your vehicle is not suitable for this kind of environment. Your insurance won’t cover any damages.

Parking is free in most urban areas and big, chaotic traffic jams are rather uncommon.

Fuel and Supplies:

Stock up on essentials such as water, snacks, and fuel before embarking on your road trip, especially if traveling to remote areas where services may be limited. Keep an eye out for petrol stations along your route and fill up when necessary, as fuel options may be scarce in certain regions.

Check out every morning on Google Maps how many petrol stations are located throughout your day-trip and try to keep the gas tank always over 50%.

If you are planning to drive from Muscat to Salalah, keep in mind that large part of the road if fully remote and you need to be prepared to spend at least 500 km of nothingness.

Read more: Oman’s best kept secret.

Oman is perfect to experience culture
Oman is perfect to experience Arabic culture.

Navigation and GPS:

While GPS navigation is reliable in most urban areas, it may be less accurate in rural and remote regions of Oman. Consider using a combination of GPS navigation and logic to ensure you stay on course, especially when venturing off-road or into less-traveled areas. A few times Google Maps added a road in areas, where probably only horses can access to.

Internet connection is quite good in most areas. However, once you get off paved roads and cities, expect the signal to come and go – with some areas (such as Wahiba Sands) being completely isolated.

INFO: When doing a tour with Follow the Tracks, you will get an iPad with GPS that will guide you through the country. Keep in mind. You have to update this iPad with internet connection one time.

Emergency Preparedness:

Be prepared for emergencies by carrying a well-stocked emergency kit in your vehicle (which you will probably get from the car rental). Additionally, it is nice to bring a flashlight, a electricity convertor to charge your electronics in the vehicle and extra water and food.

Getting ready for a roadtrip in Oman
Water, sunglasses, and a cap are a must.

Exploring Oman’s Highlights: Must-See Attractions on Your Road Trip

Muscat:

Start your Oman road trip in Muscat, the capital city, where modernity meets tradition against a backdrop of rocky hills and azure waters. Explore the Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque, stroll along the Muttrah Corniche, and wander through the vibrant souks of Muttrah and Nizwa. Don’t miss a visit to the Royal Opera House Muscat for a cultural performance showcasing Oman’s artistic heritage.

Do you want to explore Muscat and have an unforgettable experience?

Muscat has many must-sees but traveling between them means taking cabs or hiring a self-drive car. Make things easy and benefit from a guide’s commentary!

Book it here and now

Views of Muscat from the Muscat fort
Views of Muscat from the Muscat fort

Jebel Shams:

Known as the “Grand Canyon of Oman,” Jebel Shams offers breathtaking views of rugged cliffs and deep gorges, making it a must-visit destination for outdoor enthusiasts. Hike along the rim of the canyon, marveling at the stunning landscapes and geological formations, or embark on a thrilling off-road adventure to discover hidden villages and ancient ruins nestled in the mountains.

Do you want to explore Oman’s natural sights?

Discover the terrain known as Oman’s Grand Canyon, a sky-high peak next to a valley!

Book it here and now

Views of Jebel Shams at sunset.
Views of Jebel Shams at sunset.

Wahiba Sands:

Experience the timeless beauty of the desert with a visit to Wahiba Sands, a vast expanse of rolling sand dunes that stretch as far as the eye can see. Take a guided desert safari or embark on a camel trek through the dunes, immersing yourself in the tranquility and serenity of the desert landscape. Spend a night under the stars at a desert camp, where you can enjoy traditional Bedouin hospitality and cultural performances around a campfire.

Do you want to spend two days in the desert on an exciting excursion?

Learn about Oman’s history and culture from a guide and experience the nomadic lifestyle at a desert camp!

Book it here and now

Wahiba Sands was a highlight for most of us
Wahiba Sands was a highlight for most of us

Sur and the Coastal Route:

Follow the coastal route from Muscat to Sur, passing through picturesque fishing villages, rugged cliffs, and pristine beaches along the way. Stop at the Bimmah Sinkhole for a refreshing swim in its turquoise waters, explore the ancient ruins of Qalhat, and visit the iconic dhow shipyards of Sur, where traditional wooden boats are still crafted by hand.

View of the town of Sur
View of the town of Sur

Salalah and the Dhofar Region:

Quite off-the-beaten track and way less visited than the rest of Oman, Salalah is quite an adventurous destination for those who have visited Oman already in the past, or are planning to stay longer than 2 weeks.

Salalah known for its verdant landscapes, frankincense groves, and monsoon season. Explore the vibrant souks of Salalah, wander through the UNESCO-listed Al Baleed Archaeological Park, and marvel at the natural wonders of the region, including the stunning waterfalls of Wadi Darbat and the white sandy beaches of Mughsayl.

INSIDER INFO:
The most practical way to explore Salalah is by flying from Muscat and planning an additional trip from there.

Going by vehicle can be quite exhausting and if you are not used to very long drives in isolated landscapes, it is not recommended.  

Read more: Tips for renting a car in Oman

Oman is still for me one of the best road trip destinations in the world
Oman is still for me one of the best road trip destinations in the world.

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