Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Travelling in Oman Cheaply

Muscat was signaled out a few years back for having the most expensive average hotel room cost in the world along with Tokyo by For those visitors who are looking for cheaper alternatives, here are some budget options.

Getting There (Hints)
Currency: 1 OMR = 1.57GBP = 2.60USD = 1.90EUR = 2.87AUD

1. Free tourist visa. If you arrive to Dubai first and obtain a Dubai tourist visa stamp in your passport, and then travel to Oman (without passing through a 3rd country) your tourist visa into Oman should be free as part of a tourism cooperation agreement between Oman and the Emirate of Dubai. A Dubai tourist visa is free for many nationalities. Otherwise, an Omani vistors visa costs 5 OMR for a ten day visit and 20 OMR (13USD & 55USD) for up to 30 days.

2. A bus is available into Oman from Dubai and costs about 6 OMR and it takes about 6 hrs to Muscat crossing at the Hatta border. It does not run frequently so plan ahead. or for schedule (subject to change) The bus stops for a break in Sohar, Oman and lets off in the Ruwi area in Muscat.

3. Fly Dubai offers cheap flights between Dubai and Muscat; the more irregular the hour the cheaper.

4. Changing money at the airport such as at the Travelex does not give the best rate. Use an ATM or a local money exchange shop. Oman is rather safe, so it is not such a problem to carry around cash.


1. Use websites such as:

A) to rent out local rooms and places for the short term at a reasonable rate.

B) Or, try out to find a host and stay for free.

2. Hotels

A) Some of the cheapest hotels in Muscat are located on the Muttrah Cornish. The rooms may be small and noisy. However, the traditional sook, Alam Palace, parks and a plethora of restaurants/coffee shops are near by. It is possible to reserve through websites such as but you may get a better rate to negotiate directly at the hotel. Naseem Hotel gets good reviews (about 35-50 USD).

B) Hotels which are labeled 'Hotel Apartments' also tend to be cheaper 15-30 OMR.

C) At times, especially in the summer, major hotel chains run promotions where five star room prices are cut in half.

D) Pick up a copy of the 'Entertainer Middle East' and take advantage of the stay one night get one night free at leading hotel chains as well as the restaurant coupons. They are available for purchase at the Book Shop in the Food Court at Qurm Centre City Mall.

E) Qurm: Qurm Beach Hotel. This hotel is cheap for Muscat (40-50USD) and is in a good location in Qurm just down from the beach and Qurm Shatti Street. Also, it's near the Crowne Plaza Hotel. However, it is local budget hotel and a place to crash. Rating from travel sites around 6. It's pretty much a dive.

L'Espace Bed and Breakfast. A villa turned B&B located very close to the beach (north of Embassy Row) is renting out rooms. Cash only, reserve by email. See website:

Beach Hotel Muscat. The best part of the hotel is its location; near (as in close walk) to the Shatti Qurm Beach, Jawaharat Shopping and restaurant complex and Intercon Hotel. The rooms are said to need some attention, but are semi-satisfactory. (70-100 for basic room USD) Rating from travel sites around 6.

F) Al Khawair: City Seasons Hotel in Al Khawair area. This hotel is not cheap, but if you are looking for something decent and up to international hotel standards, in a good location and would like to pay under $200, I would recommended City Seasons. (Rating 8+ by Agoda) It's good for business travelers. Or, pay a bit less and have something more standard but consistent at the IBIS or Waves Hotel near by., or

Wadi Kabir: Golden Oasis (45USD). It's OK. The rooms are a bit dated and dusty. Or, Crystal Suites (65 USD) is another option. The rooms are larger and more modern. Next to the LuLu's., or
Wadi Kabir is not centrally located. It may be better to stay
in Qurm or Muttrah where there are more activities for tourists.
  Jissah Beach Area: Oman Dive Center Resort - Beach Bungalows - Restaurant on premise.

G) Sohar: Atlas Hotel Apartments (50 USD). Otherwise, the Crowne Plaza Sohar, Beach Hotel, and Butterfly Hotel offer more expensive options. I would avoid the Wadi Hotel unless you want to be near Arabic bars (70-80USD).

H) Al Buraimi: Al Salam Hotel. (50 USD) Reasonable rates; relaxing coffee house. Probably the cleanest and best option in Buraimi. There are also some Hotel Apartments located behind the Al Ain gift market when first driving into Buraimi from Sohar. Al Massa Hotel and Buraimi Hotel are just grungy. Al Massa bath tubs do not look as if they have ever been scrubbed out, and pigeons have made a home in Hotel Buraimi's pool (but there is an outdoor sheesha bar around the pool).

If one needs something nicer, then one may need to head into Al Ain, UAE (10 minutes from Buraimi); however, you may get hit with an additional visa fee and have to go to Wadi Jizzi immigration station (40 km from Buraimi). Or, try the Crowne Plaza, Sohar located on the road to Buraimi about one hour away (no visa change necessary).

I) Sur: Al Ayjah Plaza Hotel (50-60USD). Sur Plaza Hotel (55-100USD)

J) Masirah Island: See AndyinOman's post,

*Note: The hotels listed are mostly local budget hotels and not luxurious unless noted. Oman is in the process of  'developing' tourism. Most of the hotel staff are workers from abroad (not Omani) on low salaries and sometimes lack the training or service one might expect or have become accustom to in other parts of the world. It's good to keep an open mind and go with the flow and not to compare everything with 'back home' or other places but take it in and enjoy the experience as is.

3. Camp out

A) Save a few nights hotel cost by camping out at well known tourist spots. It is possible to pick up a tent and sleeping bags cheaply at the Carrefour or at LuLu's. Some popular places to camp are in wadis such as Wadi Shab. Also, it is possible to camp on Yiti beach about 15 km outside Muscat after Qantab. After reaching Yiti Beach village, you go through the village to where it seems the road ends into some sand dunes. Over the sand dunes is where you will find a secluded part of Yiti beach.
23°32'4"N 58°40'46"E

B) The Capital Yacht Club & Oman Dive Centre offer inexpensive day rates for using their beach and shower facilities during weekdays. The weekends (Friday & Saturday) and holidays are more expensive.

Capital Yacht Club is located between Wadi Kabir and Muttrah Sook on Sidab Road near Bandar Rouda Marina. There is a gate upon entrance. It is just next to the entrance to the British Ambassador's house, but closer to Muttrah Sook. You can camp right on the beach at the Capital Yacht Club for 5 OMR a night (showers & toilets). Day rates 1 OMR weekdays, 3 OMR weekends.

The Oman Dive Centre is located near the Shangri-la hotel. It is off the same round about of  the Shangri-la. They have beach cabins but a bit pricey. However, on can use the day facilities for 2 OMR weekdays and 4 OMR weekends.

C) Other camping areas:

i) Al Sawadi Islands north of Muscat. At Al Sawadi beach, it is  possible to hire a local fisherman to transport and let you off at an island (5-6 OMR).

ii) Top of Jebel Shams. It may be a bit cooler do to the altitude. Bring all supplies (food & water) as there is not much for sale up there.

Getting Around

A) Unfortunately, Oman does not have much of a public transportation infrastructure and Muscat is quite spread out making the use of cars in one form or another a necessity.

Share a taxi. Taxis are relatively cheap but you must negotiate for a good price. There are no meters and most drivers add a 'gringo' tax for picking up foreigners. Taxi sharing on local routes and between cities is common and lowers the fare. Most taxis gather around Hypermarkets such as LuLu's and at taxi stands so it is possible to negotiate a share taxi to other cities from those places. It is best as a foreign female not take a taxi alone.

B) Rent a Car. Renting a car may turn out cheaper than taking taxis around.  Major brands have branches at the airport. However, it is possible to get better deal through a local rental shop. There are many mom and pop rental car shops especially on the service road between Qurm and Ruwi. Pay attention to the  mileage allowed and the deductible in case of an accident. You can negotiate anything at the mom and pop car rental shops. For major brands one must have a credit card to rent; for local shops it is not required. Petrol is really cheap around 30 cents a litre so 'it pays' to drive.

My preferences for car rental:

i) Al Maskari Car rental.

ii) Auto Rent. 12-15 OMR for economy car. Auto Rent is a larger brand, but reliable and reasonable in price. Operated by the Nissan Dealership of Saud Bahkwan Group in Oman.

iii) Email us: and we can arrange a local rental for about 9-10 OMR per day (25USD)

C) Hitchhike

1) Omanis are pretty helpful and sometimes will pick up foreigners and give them a ride. Also, if you need help they will most likely go out of their way to help you if you ask them or look in distress. Of course, there is a risk but it is less in Oman than say in most countries.


1) Eating in local coffee shops or restaurants is relatively cheap. An egg sandwich costs 200 beza or about 50 cents. One can find many shawarma, rotisseri chicken, rice, Indian and kebabs meals on the cheap. Food from hotels and Western restaurants are more expensive than in the West in general. Most coffee shops are 'to go'; the waiter will come the the car window to take your order, then deliver the food to your car.

2) There are many local supermarkets and smaller markets to buy food supplies.

3) Restaurant Suggestions:

A) Bin Ateeq Traditional Omani Food:
Each dining party gets their own room with Arabic style seating, a fan and TV.

B) Zanzibar Food Restaurant near the Wave (it's the knife and fork on the map)

C) Surf & Turf Grand Hyatt Muscat **NOT CHEAP** but probably one of the best restaurants in Muscat.

D) Turkish Restaurant in the shopping centre behind Radisson Blu Hotel in al Khawair for late night snacking.


1) Alcohol is served at hotels and some restaurants in Oman, but not for sale publicly in stores. Hotel prices are quite steep for a beer, but there are a few dives around offering beza beer (less than 1 OMR). As you leave the immigration arrivals area at the airport, there is a last minute duty free store where alcohol can be purchased. This shop is after the X-ray of luggage upon leaving the immigration area.


A) Hotel Golden Oasis in Wadi Kabir. Several bars including Sports Bar. Near the Post Office. 
(1 OMR Beer)

B) Just down the street from Hotel Golden Oasis is 'Sands Hotel'. The basement has two drinking chambers; one for smokers and one for non-smokers. (700 bz Beer)

C) Many of the Western hotels serving drinks are located in the Qurum and Al Khawair areas of Muscat. The drinks are more expensive but there is more of an 'expat' feel to the clientele frequenting those establishments.(5+USD per beer, 2.5 OMR)

D) Samaa Terrace Roof Top Bar (On top of the Park Inn Hotel). It's not open during summer (due to hot weather). The open air of the roof top is great. Sometimes, they run a ladies night promotion.

D) Ruwi has some cheap drinking places, but many cater to the South Asian expat crowd and have dancers.

E) Oman has been cracking down on drinking establishments by imposing regulations such as no live bands and not renewing licenses. Also, unless one visits one of the main expat bars at the major hotels, the bars tend to cater to almost all male customers. So, it may feel uncomfortable for a woman to drink there unless with a group.

Final Notes

1. Cheap Booking sites for air travel:

A) - Offers cheap airline fares. It is run out of Russia which caused me to hesitate at first. However, due to their 'cheapness' I went ahead bought a ticket from them on Air France and had no issues during my travel.

B) - For the best fares, one must set the country to United Kingdom on the upper right corner navigation. They use different consolidators based upon your location which gives different price results.

C) - This site is good for booking flights originating in the USA.

D) Norwegian Airlines: - Offers cheap flights to/from Dubai to European Cities and Florida, USA.

E) Indigo: - If you're flying East from Oman toward India or Thailand, Indigo offers reasonable fares.

F) Oman Air (Best Fares & Deals Page) - At times, Oman Air offers good deals on select destinations or hotel/flight deals in Oman.

2. Hotel Booking sites:

A) In Oman, it seems for the local budget hotels, it is cheaper to negotiate directly with the hotel. However, for the major and high-end hotel chains, the booking sites offer better rates.

3. Tour Companies in Oman:

A) Arranged tours tend to be expensive. However, people with a sense of adventure and a guide such as Off-Road Oman (available in Oman at Carrefour, Borders, etc) can do quite well driving around Oman to see the main sites and cities on their own. The roads in Oman are quite good and except for remote places, and one does not need a 4X4 these days to visit many attractions. English is widely spoken especially by the younger generations.

Useful Oman travel links:









'Wadi or Valley' OmanTourism.Gov


  1. I really like this post, thanks for sharing and i want to say that keep sharing this type of travelling news.

  2. I really like this post, thanks for sharing. Driving in the OMAN is a good idea given the fact that some areas can’t be accessed by public transport. Even if you were to rely on trains and buses, they are expensive. For more information related to this hire a car in oman, rent a car in oman please visit: