Getting Around Oman - Travel Safety Tips

Planning a trip to Oman? Whether it's a self driving road trip or mixing it with the locals on public transport, here's a few tips on how to get around safely.

Photo © GettyImages/Gabriel Vonas/Eye Em

Despite the Royal Oman Police taking steps to bring poor driver behaviour under control by enforcing laws and driver safety campaigns, Oman still has an issue with traffic incidents. In 2016, there were 6279 accidents had dropped compared to 4219 in 2015. However, there were more fatalities in 2016 with 692 people losing their lives. 

Omani Traffic Laws

Partly to combat the high rate of traffic accidents and largely because Oman tends to do things in a well organised logical fashion, the traffic laws in Oman are quite comprehensive and very strictly imposed. Speed cameras are placed every 2 kms in Muscat, but there's a very generous tolerance of 11.8 mph!

Normal rules such as driving with your seat belt on, not talking on a mobile phone and driving under the speed limit all apply, and Omani police are getting better at enforcing those laws.

Driving in Oman

The road conditions in Oman tend to be comparable with first world western countries, although in some parts of the nation they tend to be not so great, much like anywhere else you go. Camels and goats however, may be a driving hazard that you are not used to, they do stray on some of the roads, especially around Muscat after dark. So be aware of the local wildlife because hitting a camel is a lot like hitting a brick wall and will do similar damage to your car.

If you're driving out of major urban centres, you should take a little extra care. After it rains the roads are notoriously slippery, and sudden rainfall can lead to roads being washed out as severe flooding occurs in normally drive riverbeds and flows over the roads that cross them.

Other environmental hazards such as soft sand and a weird salty crust called sabkha, are all things to be aware of. All of these things can lead to loss of control on mountain roads, which is not a lot of fun wherever you are.

Traveling Offroad in Oman

When travelling to the desert you will need to take well equipped 4x4 vehicles and travel in convoy with other cars equally stocked with extra water, petrol, food and a mobile telephone with plenty of charge. Let your friends or family know exactly where you plan to be heading and how long you intend to be, so they can contact assistance if you're unable to do so yourself.

Road Rules in Oman

Roundabouts are commonplace, but a little weird. Drivers on the inside lane always have right of way. If a driver on the inside lane is flashing their high beams at you, they're telling you to let them get off the roundabout.

But no-one will gesture rudely at you or shake their fist. Even a gentle tut-tut is unheard of – because road rage is illegal. Showing any kind of anger, even mild irritation will get you reported to the police!

Omanis want drivers to be nice – and clean – it's illegal to drive a dirty car. You need to keep it washed and buffed or face a fine (and the indignation of those with spotless cars).

Public Transport

Can't be bothered washing a hire car? Take advantage of the public transport and let someone else do the driving (and waxing). There are public buses and coaches operated by MWASALAT offering a safe, clean and efficient way to get between Oman's cities and towns, plus there is also a Muscat to Dubai service. It is recommended to book if you are planning to take a long bus ride. Make sure you have some Omani Rials ready to pay the driver.

Taxi Services in Oman

Oman actually has excellent taxis. They're safe, well maintained, and the drivers aren't trying to practice stunts while taking you to your destination.

Orange-badged taxis however, are owner operated and while this does not mean they're less safe, it does mean that the price is negotiated up front and does vary. It also means that the taxi may stop to pick up other passengers. However, if you want to the taxi all to yourself, just let the driver know.

Piracy Risk in Oman

If you're going out to sea on either a tourist vessel or privately renting, be aware of where you're going, many areas around Oman are sensitive in relation to security, and border disputes.

The Islands of Abu Musa and Tunbs in the southern gulf are matters of contention with Iran. Iranian officials often like to inspect vessels, for American spies, or just because they're bored.

Piracy does occur off the coastal areas of Saudi Arabia and Yemen.

Before heading onboard, make sure that there are enough life jackets, for all their love of rules, the Omanis haven't picked up on this Titanic-like issue.

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1 Comment

  • Sarah said

    Was this article funded by the Omani government? No, jail time for accidentally running a red light and fines for not keeping your car spotless are in no way “logical” or justified. Who honestly thinks that over-the-top punishments will keep people from making mistakes while driving? If they want to prevent traffic deaths, they might start with improving ambulance services.

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