Renting a car and driving in Oman is the best way to explore this part of the Arabian Peninsula. Oman has a very diverse landscape with beautiful wadis, mighty desert and mountains, beautiful off-road trails and much more. One of the major lacks of traveling through Oman is that there is almost no public transport, that connects important places. So, to travel, the only option is to rent a car.
Why rent a 4×4 car?
We really recommend renting a 4×4 car for traveling in Oman, as you will have all the freedom the destination has to offer. It is true that most must see attractions such as Bimah Sinkhole, Wadi Shab, Wadi Bani Khalid, etc. can be reached with a regular car, but Oman offers much more.
Oman is a destination that gives you total freedom with your 4×4 car. By car, you can drive to beautiful beaches, to the wadis, drive deep into the desert and take the many off-road trails that Oman offers. Wild camping will also be much easier with a 4×4 car, as it will allow you to drive to the most beautiful camp sites. You can read more about wild camping here.
Renting a regular car
Even if you rent a regular (2wd) car, you can see and experience much of Oman with a little ingenuity (and extra budget). To visit the Wahiba Desert and the Akhdar and Jebel Shams Mountains, you will simply hire a driver to take you to the places mentioned above. Prices for renting a driver to visit Jebel Akhdar Mountains range between OMR 20-40. The price depends on the rental time and your bargaining skills.
You will deffinetely also visit the Wahiba Desert on your trip. The starting point to visit is town Bidiah, where you will easily find a potential driver on the street. The price depends mainly on what you want. You can hire a driver to take you to the desert and come looking for you the next day. You can also arrange for your (4×4) vehicle to accompany you during your adventure. This will help you with any problems you may have, and will make your visit to the wilderness less stressful. They also offered us the opportunity to rent their car for a day and head out into the wilderness. Prices range from OMR 20 for drive to the desert to OMR 40 for escort and assistance.
Roads in Oman are generally well-marked, but you will need navigation. New roads are being built fast in Oman, which in practice means that a new road does not have to be charted. Navigation can show you one road while you are on the new one.
We used the mobile app Offline Maps and Google Maps to navigate. we recommend both, as we occasionally had a situation where one navigation indicated a route and the other did not find it. Offline Maps works without mobile internet. At home or at the point with wifi you just need to download a map of the country where you are traveling. We definitely recommend that you buy a local sim card upon arrival (5 OMR – 4GB). With sim card you will be able to use Google Maps, which, like Offline Maps, has proven to be a good way to navigate Oman.
There are many car rental providers. We recommend that you get and compare multiple offers before booking and finally choose the best one. When renting, you need to pay attention to what the rental price includes. Many providers will offer you a good price, but with limited miles, you will be charged extra for each additional kilometer.
A month before the trip, we sent a car rental request via email. We found a lot of contacts on the internet and travel groups on Facebook. We selected a local agency from all the offers, which gave us the best deal. We rented a Dacia (Renault) Duster, with 4×4 drive for 17 OMR / day, with a limit of 200 km per day. The price also included two chairs, a smaller cooling bag and an Omani mobile sim phone (for emergencies only). The price includes insurance, only in case of a car accident, it should cover the cost of 350 OMR (850 €).
Upon landing at the airport, we met with the owner of the agency and his wife, and arranged the necessary paperwork to pick up the car. You can pay for the car by cash or credit card (paying 1.7% of commision of the total). To pick up a car, you need an ID and an international driving license. At the end we checked and noted if the car was damaged or scratched on any place.
Car Rental Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org. We were very happy with everything and we recommend it.
Car rental rates
The price of renting a car depends mainly on what you want or what kind of car you need. Price also depends on the season and your bargaining skills.
Prices are flexible:
- prices for a 2wd car start at 10 OMR / day
- prices for 4×4 car start at 17 OMR / day for Renault Duster. For a larger and more powerful car, you will pay between 25 – 45 OMR / day, but you can also pay more, depends on the car you choose (Patfinder 29 OMR, Pajero 35 OMR, Land Cruiser 42 OMR)
Driving in Oman is quite easy and similar to ours as we are used to in Europe.
- the roads are nice and mostly new they drive on the right
- traffic rules are the same as elsewhere: mandatory use of a seat belt, no use of a mobile phone while driving, holding speed limits, etc.
- cities and landmarks are clearly marked on traffic signs, which are written in both English and Arabic. Places are marked with blue signs and interesting things to see are used in brown signs.
Speed limits must not be forgotten when traveling in Oman. There are an incredible number of radars, especially in Muscat, where they are placed at almost every kilometer. The limit on the highway is 120 km/h, on highways 90 – 100 km/h and in cities between 50 km/h and 80 km/h. Speeding fines start at 20 €. Some rent-a-car offices may also require you to leave a pre- payment for a possible speeding penalty.
You will have no problems with parking in Oman. Parking is payable only in Muscat area Mutrah). Price for parking is 0.1 OMR/h for one hour, on weekends (Friday and Saturday) parking is free.
Driving along the side trails of Oman can be one of the most beautiful experiences on your trip. Some places are only accessible by 4×4 car. These include the mountains of Jebel Shams, Jebel Ahkdar, Snake Canyon, Al Hajar, Wahiba Sands, etc.
The road to Jebel Ahkdar is paved, but you still need a 4×4 car. The starting point is monitored by the police, who checks if you have 4wd car. If they find your car inapropriate, they will not let you go through. The biggest problem is not the ascent, but the steep descent back to the valley is problematic, because brakes can get overloaded. There are many escape lines when descending to the valley for emergency stopping if there is some problems with the brakes.
A 4wd car is not required to climb Jebel Shams, but it is still recommended. The road is paved in some parts, and in certain parts is gravel and in our opinion, better to use a 4wd car to get to the top.
… And how did Dacia (Renault) Duster do?
Great… The price (17 OMR/day) was main reason to rent the Duster. To be honest, we didn’t expect much from the car, especially on more challenging terrain, such as driving through the desert and other off-road trails. The downside of the car is that it is not powerful enough, yet it has a great 4×4 drive. During the thirteen days of our trip, Dacia, despite the challenging terrain, did not disappoint and let us down. We drove a lot of off-road routes by car, but on the desert sand, it had little power. We recommend Duster for rent if you are looking for a cheap 4×4 car and you do not prioritize driving in the desert or in the dunes.
… some more information and tips:
- you will pay 0.21 OMR per liter of gasoline (0.49 €)
- you must lower your tires to 18 PSI (1.25 bar) before driving into the desert
- in the event of a car accident, call 9999
- for the perfect off-road experience, you can buy the book ” Oman Off-Road ”, where you can find 37 off-road routes through Oman. Each route includes a satellite image, recommended camping sites and important route information (such as road, slopes, difficulty). The book is very difficult to get and we saw it at Al Fair Shopping center in Muscat. You can also order it online on this page.