Travelling through Oman is not suitable for all travellers. Travellers are forced to accept a little bit of luxury. More about it with some hints for visiting Oman offroad in the article with Vláďa Váchal.
VIDEO: Oman Offroad (1/2)
VIDEO: Omán Offroad (2/2): Lost in desert
Oman: stories of thousand and one night
Oman popularity is on increase. However, some people imagine Oman as something only a little bit different from Egypt. Is there a difference?
Do not compare Egypt to Oman. Definitely no. Oman is a country where you can experience a real Orient culture – what’s more in an acceptable level of luxury and safely. There are people on a street with traditional clothing, so ‘orient style’ is everywhere around you.
Moreover, there is a lot of Indian culture too. The people from India do the jobs what Oman people don’t like to do. Therefore to find a traditional Oman restaurant is not a piece of cake. When it comes to cuisine, it is more like an Indian or Pakistani style. Traditional Oman one I found in the capital only.
At the beginning, you ‘ve mentioned, that the country is really safe. Tell me more about that.
It is one of the safest Arabic countries. It is a sultanate. Geolocation also helps – one side of the country is guarded by a ‘neverending desert’ and the border with Yemen is highly guarded by an army. There is no need to enter the danger zone at the border. In my opinion, if you think about the safety of Oman, think about the country in itself, not only the border with Yemen. Otherwise, you won’t get to experience the real Oman Orient.
How did you travel through a country?
Oman is a unique country. Travelling the country is most comfortable by car. Roads and highways are made well. There are only a few bus lines and to travel by taxi is more expensive. Forget the train, there are no railways. Aviation? Yes but mostly between Maskat and Salala (one of the biggest ports on the Arabian peninsula). So only a reasonable way, thinking about price/value seems to be to rent a car.
How much differs the car rental price from European prices?
It depends on a type of a car. For Oman definitely a car worth renting is offroad 4×4. You can miss half of the unique experience when you don’t have an offroad. For example, we paid 1300 USD for 10 days. Of course, it is more than in Europe but it’s worth it. And don’t forget, you can share the costs in a group (onboard 2-4 people). I have some other advice, speed measuring on Oman roads is so precise! There are cameras every two miles. Max driving speed is 110 km/h, so it can easily happen that you drive faster. 🙂
So how about you. Did you speed?
Of course, I have speeded. I paid the fine during the car return. I got a bill with a detailed report saying where it was, speed and amount.
According to Numbeo, Oman is not a low-cost country or is it?
Yes, it is more expensive. They have a weird currency. One Rial is about 2.2 USD. Some goods is not cheap, some is super expensive. So the country is not for low budget travellers – hitchhiking to remote areas is more difficult and these areas are definitely worth seeing. On the other hand, the accommodation was surprisingly good. You can find cheap accommodation through booking.com or haggle a good price directly at the hotel. We got a gentleman price of 30 USD for three people for a night (in a small non-touristic town).
So we ‘ve talked about culture, what else can we find in Oman?
The Oman exceptionality is in nature and a way of exploring nature. With an offroad car you drive into mountains, sometimes dried mountains, sometimes fresh green because of oases. The landscape differs depending on the season (rainy and dry). Driving through water, where red pole markers show you the drivable way, is a really unique experience.
There are lots of breathtaking Vádýs – places with periodic floods. There are small lakes surrounded by palms waiting for your bathing. Just imagine driving on rocky roads, parking in nature and hiking a mile for bathing. These oases are definitely like from fairy tales. One of the most famous is Vádý As Shab, where you hike through water cascades.
Does somebody take care of these places?
Probably, but in a different level of care as we are used to in Europe. I ‘m not judging if it is better or not, but I was disappointed because of pollution in nature. And that is a really sad story. Lots of places miss rubbish bins – probably the biggest problem of Oman. More I ‘ve traveled, more I ‘ve realised that touristic places of Oman don’t know how to handle with this issue.
Is it enough to have a car and a guide book for discovering Oman?
The best guide book is Oman Offroad. It is available in book shops at the airport. There are about 40 trails by car or on foot, including GPS information, to reach the best places in the country. There are details like narrow roads, dangerous turnings where it is required to use sound horn. And of course, you can find there a desert trip – 140km to an old petrol station. If a traveller doesn’t wanna reach the station, there is a camp in the desert after 20km and it is quite good to stay overnight there.
7 excellent tips to get ready for a desert road trip
- Have a rope for pulling a car.
- Have a spade for digging the car out of sand.
- Something (knife/scissors) for bush cutting (bush helps you get out of sand).
- Take some extra fuel.
- Don’t forget a tent for desert camping
- Water. Take water and food for at least 3 days. FYI: Most of the time you are in an air-conditionned car, so, despite the fact you are in a desert, your water consumption is the same like your average daily amount. Don’t forget, sometimes it is also good to wash the hands etc.
- And release air – deflate / pressure from tires. When you can pull the tire easily by a finger that is enough for desert driving.
About the desert driving … it is not always dune crossing. There are tire prints tracks so you can follow the desert highway. The road sometimes disappears, splits and conflates to get lost into the middle of nowhere.
Navigation works but the signal is poor. Our GPS was poorly working. Therefore was effective to use all available sources like a map, a compass, a navigation or desert road tracks.
How often did you meet a car, if ever?
In total we met 4 cars. One of them helped us to get back on a ‘road’ because we had got stuck in a dune. The driver showed us a trick, the right way to get out of the sand – shift the first gear, full speed and the car jumped out of the sand. This trick has helped us many times.
The traffic is not heavy, but from time to time you can meet a car. There are weird buildings made of iron, wood and plastic around a sandy road. There live the whole family sometimes. I was surprised, there are goats outside but they have aircon inside. I don’t understand this lifestyle but they look happy.
A traveller Mgr. et Mgr. Vladimír Váchal. His passion is Iran and Persian language. He translates from/to Persian languages and organises expeditions to Iran country.