Known because of its rich cultural heritage, wildly beautiful landscapes and also the heart-warming hospitality of its people, Oman isn't a country you might keep company with traveling on a budget.
After all, it shares borders with the Uae, where neighboring Dubai is renowned for its pricey attractions and experiences geared towards wealthy visitors. But when you're available to independent travel, it's easy to go backpacking in Oman or otherwise travel around on a tight budget.
A first suggestion: pick the right season for the trip – and don't even think of visiting in summer (June through August), even if cheap plane fares seem enticing. Because of the extremely hot days, you'll find it nearly impossible to spend them outdoors amid the nation's splendid natural beauty.
If you're already in the area, a car trip is the cheapest method of getting to Oman
Many travelers want to spend a few days exploring Oman after visiting the UAE, using its numerous flight connections. But the cheapest way to get to Oman from the UAE is by car.
Tourists can enter Oman through five land-border crossings with the UAE, of which two are in Abu Dhabi and one each in Dubai, Sharjah and Ras Al Khaimah. Since the borders are occasionally temporarily closed or open simply to residents, it is best to contact Oman's Ministry of Tourism before you decide to put down.
The drive from Dubai to Muscat takes approximately 4 hours. You shouldn't have any problems entering Oman through the border checkpoints so long as you satisfy the COVID-19 vaccination and PCR test requirements. Many nationalities can get a visa on arrival for Oman; otherwise, you are able to apply online in advance.
You'll need to inform your rental car company in Dubai about your intends to drive over the border, check that the insurance policy includes Oman and acquire a “No Objection Certificate” (NOC) – a document that states that you have the rental company's explicit permission to drive the car over the border to Oman.
Spend time outdoors
There's a high probability your trip will start in Muscat – and it is worth spending a day or two visiting famous sights like the Mutrah Souq, Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque, Al Alam Palace and also the Royal Opera House Muscat. Unlike its Gulf neighbors, however, Oman's true highlights lie beyond town, in its extraordinary landscapes.
Top things you can do in Oman range from the craggy limestone peaks of the Hajar Mountains, wadis (valleys) with turquoise pools and farms, cliff-top villages in Jebel Akhdar and the rocky Ad Dimaniyat islands encompassed by waters filled with coral reefs and tropical fish. Luckily, many of these places are free to visit or cost less than OR5 (US$15) each day in which a permit is needed.
Skip the tours and travel independently
Even if it's your first time visiting this area of the Middle East, it's easy to avoid group tours and travel around Oman without a guide, each of which could be add up quickly. Depending on your interests and just how many days you're visiting, you will have no trouble planning a trip centered on nature, adventure, culture – or a bit of it all.
The roads connecting the main towns are in excellent condition and also have signs in English. Should you find yourself lost or needing assistance, Omanis will probably walk out their method to help.
Along the way, if you are thinking about activities that are most effectively achieved with a guide, like the climbing the Jebel Shams summit, hiking through Wadi Shab or diving in the Ad Dimaniyat Islands, you are able to book a day trip or excursion so you obtain the most value from the experience while still allowing yourself the flexibility (and budget-friendliness) of independent travel.
Pack a tent and sleeping bag
Wild camping is free of charge and permitted all over the place on public land in Oman. The country is full of incredibly scenic spots, from white-sand beaches and plateaus with breathtaking canyon views to quiet fishing villages – all beautiful places to pitch your tent and sleep underneath the stars.
Camping in Oman is protected, which is why it is also popular with tourists from around the Gulf countries. It's not only for tourists, either: many families in Oman often go camping, especially throughout the cooler months from October to March. If there's a group camping nearby, expect if a person or two members (always men) stop by to talk, offer tea or perhaps freshly caught fish roasted on the bonfire. Hospitality is a method of Omani life.
Since it can get quite chilly while camping overnight and conditions may be windy around the beaches, bring layers to help keep warm. There is a risk of flash floods within the wadis, especially after rain, so keep close track of the weather forecast and warnings when and where you decide to setup camp.
Camping isn't allowed in nature reserves like Jabal Samhan and the Ad Dimaniyat Islands without a permit. Additionally, you're not allowed to camp at the Ras Al Jinz Turtle Reserve or around the Ad Dimaniyat Islands from May through October to protect nesting turtles.
Don't expect official campgrounds with toilets and showers – camping in Oman is for the self-sufficient. Tents, rooftop tents and camping equipment can be rented from operators like Nomad Tours and Active Oman or purchased at supermarkets such as Carrefour and Lulu Hypermarket in Muscat.
Assess your rental car options
Given the limited public transit in Oman coupled with affordable fuel costs (OR0.25 or US$0.64 per liter), renting a car will afford the most cost-effective method of getting around Oman. Keep in mind, though, that rental costs can vary widely depending upon the type of car you pick.
A 4WD offers maximum flexibility and convenience, allowing use of remote mountain villages and the desert, but it's much pricier at OR23 -96 (US$60 -250) each day, in contrast to renting a 2WD sedan at OR10 -20 (US$26 -52) each day. To reduce costs, consider whether you really need a 4WD.
If you intend on doing a few guided trips or staying overnight at places for example Sharqiya Sands or Jebel Akhdar, a sedan should suffice since many operators and hotels can select you up from the nearest paved-road-accessible town.
Choose locally owned accommodations
While you'll find plenty of international hotels in Oman even past the big cities, if you wish to save money on costs, pick hotel apartments and locally owned guesthouses instead. Though less fancy, hotel apartments are spacious and air-conditioned, come with kitchens you are able to cook in and can include modern amenities like TVs and wi-fi.
Smaller guesthouses come in villages and housed in traditional stone dwellings, which means they've loads of character. You'll also enjoy delicious homestyle meals. For any stellar example of the genre, make a booking at Misfah Guest House in Misfat Al Abriyyin.
There's a desert camp for everybody, but book well in advance
Many travelers visiting Oman for the first time are keen to spend a night in a desert camp at Sharqiya Sands – and rightly so. Few other experiences compare to watching the sun disappear behind rose-gold dunes and thousands of stars light up the night time sky. Unsurprisingly, they're very popular during the high season (November to March), so even if you otherwise love spontaneity, try to book your desert camp stay well ahead of time of the trip for the possibility of obtaining a better deal on rates.
Oman has a wide range of desert camps to select from, so you're almost certain to find something that suits your financial allowance. The greater luxurious ones, such as the Desert Nights Camp (beginning at OR75 or US$195 every night), have modern, air-conditioned rooms with private bathrooms and showers, and even tented villas with regularly. At cheaper camps such as Bidiyah Desert Camp (beginning at OR29 or US$75 per night), you may still have a great experience even with simpler amenities and food.
You can eat correctly on a budget
Outside of restaurants in international hotels, eating out in Oman isn't too costly. At cafeterias, coffee houses and small family-run restaurants, you'll find dishes from through the Middle East which are both delicious and easy on the wallet. To have an affordable breakfast or snack, visit neighborhood bakeries and select from sandwiches, savory patties, croissants and cakes.
Thanks to a huge migrant population from South Asia, you'll also find hole-in-the-wall restaurants serving affordable Indian, Pakistani and Nepali dishes like chicken gravy with paratha, biryani and momos.
If you're staying in a hotel apartment having a kitchen, look for groceries at supermarkets and cook meals to keep costs down.
Daily costs in Oman
Private room in a guesthouse: OR15 -30 (US$39 -78)
Basic accommodation for 2: OR15 -30 (US$39 -78)
Self-catering apartment: OR10-35 (US$26 -91)
Trains and buses ticket: OR2-25 (US$5 -65)
Karak chai: 100 -200 baisa (US$0.25 -0.50)
Shawarma or falafel sandwich: 50 baisa -OR1.50 (US$.15 -5)
Dinner for two: OR7-15 (US$18 -39)