The Best Road Trip Itineraries in Oman

JUAN MARTINEZ

March 28, 2024

The Best Road Trip Itineraries in Oman

Are you in camping mode, eager to explore as much as possible, or unable to rent a car? I’ve prepared road trip itineraries in Oman for each type of traveler.

After completing my second road trip in Oman, I decided to try something different. This time, I opted for a scheduled road trip instead of planning it myself – yes, they do exist. This experience made me realize that every traveler visiting Oman might have different preferences or needs. Unfortunately, most of the information available on the internet consists of lengthy itineraries based on personal experiences, without considering alternative options.

Instead of detailing exactly what I did in Oman, I want to share the various options I considered. Perhaps one that didn’t suit me would be perfect for you.

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.

A Road Trip in Oman in a Nutshell

Best Places to Visit:

  1. Muscat: Explore the capital’s stunning mosques and bustling souks.
  2. Wahiba Sands: Experience the mesmerizing beauty of the desert dunes.
  3. Jebel Shams: Marvel at the “Grand Canyon of Oman” and its breathtaking views.
  4. Sur: Discover traditional shipbuilding and pristine beaches along the coast.
  5. Nizwa: Immerse yourself in history at the ancient forts and vibrant markets.
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

Budget for 2 People:

  • 100-150 EUR per day: Expect basic accommodations, dining at basic restaurants or cooking, and moderate spending on activities and transportation. Unless you are free camping, this budget may not be enough for renting a 4WD.
  • 150-350 EUR per day: With this budget range, you can enjoy upgraded accommodations in basic hotels, dine at mid-range restaurants, rent a 4WD vehicle, and participate in free activities with entry costs.
  • Over 350 EUR per day: At this budget level, you can enjoy good accommodations (not luxurious), fine dining experiences, a 4WD vehicle, and activities such as snorkeling tours or canyoning.
Omanis are known for their hospitality
Omanis are known for their hospitality

How to Get Around Oman

Renting a Car:

Renting a car is undoubtedly the best way to explore Oman independently. The country boasts well-maintained roads and modern infrastructure, making it conducive to road trips. Most major car rental companies operate in Oman, offering a range of options from compact cars to rugged 4WD vehicles. Ensure you have a valid driver’s license and consider purchasing comprehensive insurance coverage for peace of mind.

Using Public Transportation:

While Oman’s public transportation network is not as extensive as some other countries, it still offers viable options for travelers. In Muscat, you’ll find a reliable bus system operated by the Oman National Transport Company (Mwasalat), serving major urban areas and connecting popular tourist sites. Additionally, taxis are readily available in cities and towns, providing a convenient mode of transportation for short distances.

Guided Tours:

For those who prefer a more structured approach to exploring Oman, guided tours are an excellent option. Local tour operators offer a variety of guided excursions, ranging from city tours of Muscat to multi-day desert safaris and cultural experiences in remote villages. Guided tours provide the convenience of transportation, knowledgeable guides, and curated itineraries, allowing you to sit back, relax, and immerse yourself in Oman’s beauty and history.

Roads in Oman for most part in great condition,
Roads in Oman for most part in great condition.

Best Road Trip Itineraries for Every Type of Traveler

An Overland Trip Around Oman

Unlike a traditional road trip where you rent a vehicle and travel exclusively by car, an overland trip involves utilizing various modes of transportation available in a country, such as public transport, hitchhiking, day rentals, or private taxis.

While public transportation may not be as extensive in the Middle East compared to regions like Europe or Asia, it is still more advanced than in some other parts of the world, such as the USA or remote areas.

Traveling overland in Oman presents its challenges, but with patience and a desire to explore the cultural and local aspects of the country, it is achievable.

Muscat

Getting around Muscat via bus is straightforward, with routes like A1 connecting Muscat Airport to the city center and route 4 linking the city center to Muttrah’s corniche area. Although buses may not offer the flexibility to make spontaneous stops, they provide reliable transportation within the city.

Mwasalat, a ride-hailing app similar to Uber or Careem, complements the bus service, offering additional flexibility when bus routes are not ideal.

Intermunicipal Trips

For overland travel between cities, using Mwasalat buses is recommended. Routes connect Muscat to destinations like Nizwa and Sur, both of which are easily navigable on foot. While bus travel is cost-effective compared to car rentals, it’s essential to note that buses may have limited departures each day.

The blog Lost Asian Guy did a great job in pointing out all intermunicipal buses in Oman, their prices and how long they take. This was the most complete guide for traveling with public transportation in Oman.

Day Rentals

Day rentals are popular among budget travelers in Oman. Many opt for smaller vehicles for general transportation and rent a 4WD for specific excursions, such as exploring Wahiba Sands or mountain areas. Local rental companies offer flexibility, allowing travelers to plan day trips according to their preferences.

Day Tours/Private Tours

Although backpacking culture isn’t as prevalent in Oman compared to other regions, several companies offer budget-friendly day tours. These tours provide opportunities to explore attractions like Wadis or engage in cultural activities. Travelers can book tours through local operators or online platforms such as Viator or GetYourGuide.

Sur is one of the most beautiful cities you can visit in Oman.
Sur is one of the most beautiful cities you can visit in Oman.

The Best Road Trip Without a 4WD Vehicle

Every travel blog, including mine, emphasizes the necessity of renting a 4WD vehicle. However, there’s a gap in articles discussing road trips where such a large car is not essential. Let’s change that.

Opting for a smaller vehicle can result in significant cost savings, with prices for small rental cars being up to 80% cheaper than 4WDs. If your priorities don’t include visiting the desert or driving off-road in the mountains, this is an excellent option.

Oman’s highways are well-maintained, and traveling with a small car should pose no problem for reaching any major city. Additionally, most Wadis (Omani oases) and cultural sites are easily accessible.

Places you can NOT visit with a 2WD/small vehicle:

  • Wadi Tiwi
  • Snake Canyon
  • Jebel Akhdar
  • Jebel Shams
  • Jebel Harim
  • Wahiba/Sharqiyah Sands
The pink lake in Oman is one of the places you can visit without a 4WD.
The pink lake in Oman is one of the places you can visit without a 4WD.

Highlights of Oman you can explore with a small vehicle:

Cities:

  • Muscat
  • Nizwa
  • Sur

Wadis:

  • Wadi Shab
  • Wadi Bani Khalid

Natural and Cultural Highlights:

  • Bimmah
  • Qalhat
  • Ras Al Hadd
  • Ras Al Jinz
  • Pink Lake
  • Seashell Beach
View of Wadi Shab. One of the spots you can easily go to without having a large vehicle.
View of Wadi Shab. One of the spots you can easily go to without having a large vehicle.

The Best Short Road Trip Itinerary

Planning a 3-day or 4-day trip in Oman offers an adventure for travelers with limited time in the country who want to explore beyond Muscat. This timeframe allows for exploration of Omani oases, visits to ancient villages, and even an excursion to the majestic desert.

Currently, there’s limited information available on road trips for 3 or 4 days, with most coming from tour operators offering group tours. These tours may mention many places but often overlook the long driving hours and limited time at each spot.

The best approach to planning a 3-day road trip in Oman is to take it easy and avoid the mentality of trying to see everything in a short time. Enjoy driving at your own pace, stopping at charming cafes and random viewpoints that catch your eye.

Following the coastal route is an excellent way to plan a short road trip, with refreshing sea air on one side and deserts, mountains, and oases on the other.

For travelers not returning to Muscat for the night, spending a night in Nizwa or driving south and staying around the Tiwi area are enjoyable options.

Note: For those driving to Sur or Wahiba Sands, expect to spend a full day driving back. A recommendation for a short road trip is to either use Muscat as a base for day trips or connect Muscat to other cities like Nizwa or Tiwi.

Sifah Beach is very beautiful and a great place for going swimming.
Sifah Beach is a very beautiful area located only 60km from Muscat and a great place for going swimming.

The Best Camping Road Trip in Oman

Oman and camping go together. During my first visit to Oman, I was fascinated by the idea that Oman allows free camping wherever you want. I took my tent and, with my partner at the time, we drove all over Oman without planning where to sleep.

There was a sense of freedom in this kind of adventure, and we loved it. That was 10 years ago, and Oman has not changed much since then. It is still one of the wildest and most culturally interesting countries in the world, and the charm of planning a camping road trip is still there.

Whether you rent a 4WD with overhead tents or bring your own equipment, be ready to go into the wild.

NOTE: Most vehicles that rent cars with camping equipment offer cooking equipment. This is very practical for a night snack or breakfast. In case you don’t have it, plan at least a way to get a morning snack before your day on the road begins.

Read more: Best tips for renting a car in Oman

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

The Best Route for a Camping Road Trip

A camping road trip is not complete without going off-road. The mountain area of Oman is perfect for this.

Jebel Shams is mentioned by every blog and is a highlight of Oman for a reason. However, you don’t have to take the highway road to get there. The Al Hajar Mountain Pass is one of the most scenic routes I’ve taken and is worth spending at least a day or two camping on top of the Arabian Peninsula.

Also, no road trip in Oman is complete without a night at the beach. Oman is probably one of the few countries where you can simply find a beach and spend the night there. It is probably the safest country on this planet, and I loved spending a night under the stars here.

I spent my first night in Oman at Al Sawadi beach—a beach known for its millions of pink seashells. Even though we knew free camping was allowed and Oman is safe, we still had our concerns. Around 8 or 9 PM, there were some families walking along the beach and some BBQ restaurants open to the public.
We wanted to have an early night and went to bed. Someone knocked on our tent and called for us. Concerned about breaking some rule or simply getting mugged, I prepared for the worst. It was a man who brought some food because he noticed we hadn’t cooked anything and we had been there for a while.
This is Omani hospitality in a nutshell and a story I will never forget.

Wahiba Sands is one of the most popular spots for travelers doing a longer road trip in Oman
Wahiba Sands is one of the most popular spots for travelers doing a longer road trip in Oman

The Best Road Trip for Slow Travelers

When it comes to 10-day, 2-week, or even 3-week itineraries in Oman, the internet is full of them. Even a few friends have their itineraries and blogs online, and I can totally recommend them.

There is nothing about places to go that I can tell you here that someone else hasn’t already said.

My recommendation if you want to plan a longer road trip around Oman is to not overschedule your route. Check what others recommend and keep them all as suggestions. Make your own route while you are on the road.

The beauty of Oman is how untouched it is and how every single stop can be turned into a magical moment. During my longer road trip in Oman, we were invited to drink tea a dozen times, got lost a few more, and found spots along the route that no guide probably knew existed.

This is one of the few places where not all beautiful spots are mentioned on Google Maps but are there for you to truly find them. Go out and find them.

Read more: How to get around in Saudi Arabia

Visiting Jebel Shams is a must. Unfortunately, a 4WD is required if you want to spend the night surrounded by the highest peaks of Oman.
Visiting Jebel Shams is a must. Unfortunately, a 4WD is required if you want to spend the night surrounded by the highest peaks of Oman.

The Best Road Trip for Those with No Time to Plan

Planning a road trip takes a lot of time. For the first time, it took me at least a month to get ready for an 11-day trip. Blogs, guidebooks, TikTok, and too many YouTube videos can be quite overwhelming.

For travelers who want to venture on a road trip but don’t want to deal with anything related to planning, the company Follow the Tracks might be for you. This was the company I used for my last trip, and I’m quite satisfied with the experience. You get a pre-arranged route that focuses on presenting the highlights of Oman, and you basically do not have to know anything before the trip.

You can also select if you want to stay in hotels, guesthouses, or do free camping during your whole adventure. It matches your budget, and you get to do some wild activities such as canyoning or dune bashing too.

The prices are higher than if you plan everything independently, but if you are a seasonal traveler who wants to experience something new and enjoy surprises, it can be quite a refreshing type of road trip to do.

Follow the Tracks tours start at 2200 EUR for a 10-day trip, and you can check their website to find out more information about it.

Now, what kind of road trip do you want to do?

Read more: Everything you need to know for planning a road trip in Oman

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

YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE

NEED MORE INSPIRATION

MY FAVORITE NATIONAL PARKS

Planning a Visit to Victoria Falls National Park

ZIMBABWE

Planning a visit to the White Desert and Black Desert in Egypt

EGYPT

Planning a Gorilla Trekking at Bwindi Impenetrable Forest

UGANDA

Planning a safari at Masai Mara Natural Reserve

KENYA

Planning a visit to Saxon Switzerland National Park

GERMANY