Oman at a Glance
Transportation in OmaniStockphoto
Unfortunately, driving conditions on Muscat’s roads aren’t always as inviting as this empty street in front of the Old City Gate!
Most expats coming to live in Oman arrive by plane. There are actually 130 (mostly tiny) airports spread across the country, but only two significant passenger airports.
Muscat International Airport is the gateway to Oman for the majority of foreign residents. Its one terminal – Terminal 2 is under construction – serves flights from 27 countries, mainly from the Middle East, East Africa, South Asia, and Europe. In 2012, about 7.5 million passengers used Oman’s busiest airport.
The hub of the national flag carrier, Oman Air, is located about 32 km from Muscat’s city center, in the district of Seeb. It is connected to the metropolitan area by mini-bus, private (rather expensive) taxi services to several international hotels, and rental car companies.
The country’s other major airport is based in Salalah, in the southern province of Dhofar. It only serves five airlines – especially Air India and Oman Air – and focuses on domestic flights to Muscat, as well as international connections to Dubai and India. However, Salalah is currently being transformed into a bigger international airport to cope with the rising number of passengers.
At the moment, Oman does not have a rail network or, indeed, any major railway line. The best way of traveling between larger cities is taking an inter-city bus. These buses are normally air-conditioned and relatively comfortable, although they aren’t a very fast way to travel. Muscat’s main ONTC bus depot is based in Ruwi, with daily connections to places like Sohar, Nizwa, or Salalah.
Local public transport in the Muscat metropolitan area is limited to white-and-orange minibuses and baisa taxis. It’s customary to share your ride with other passengers. So if you book an ‘engaged’ (private) taxi, this will be more expensive.
There are no fixed taxi fares in Oman: You negotiate the price at the beginning of the journey. Tourists and newly arrived expats often run the risk of paying an above-average fare since they don’t know the usual rates for a specific journey. So, ask other expatriates or your Omani friends about common taxi fares to avoid being overcharged on a regular basis.
Lastly, a note to expat women: Taking a bus or taxi on your own shouldn’t be a problem at all. However, women usually sit in the back of a car alone or next to other women on a bus. So don’t be surprised if you remain the only passenger on the backseat of a taxi, even if the other seats aren’t occupied.
Driving in Oman
Due to the lack of a comprehensive transport system, lots of expats use the car for their daily commute. If you aren’t lucky enough to have a company car and driver, you have to throw yourself into the fray.
Oman has a high rate of traffic accidents, so driving as risk-aware as possible and having a good automobile insurance policy are indispensable. To drive legally in Oman, you can use a foreign driver’s license or an international driving permit for up to three months.
Nationals of the so-called “approved states” can convert their valid driving permit into an Omani one without much ado. Please contact the Royal Oman Police for an up-to-date list of these countries.
To switch your driver’s license, you need to be at least 18 years of age and must have held your current license for over a year. Bring along the following documents to the police:
- your passport and resident card
- a license replacement form
- the original license, a copy, and an official translation
- a no-objection letter from your visa sponsor
- proof that you have passed a vision test
Expatriates whose license was not issued in one of the approved countries have to follow a more complicated procedure. They must prove that they are medically fit to drive via a health exam and an eyesight test. Moreover, they need to take a driving exam as well. Please get in touch with the Royal Oman Police for further details.