Much to the dismay of many new arrivals, Oman does not have a comprehensive public transport network. But where public means of getting around is lacking, Oman’s good network of paved roads make up for it, with a duel-carriageway connecting Muscat to most major cities and towns, making driving relatively easy.
Most expats living in the country usually choose to own a car or have one provided for them, along with a driver, by their company.
Public transport in Oman
While public transport in Oman is not extensive, the state-owned National Transport Company and MWASALAT have been working in recent years to develop more transport services in Sohar and Salalah. There is a relatively good bus system in Muscat and between towns and cities across the country, but there is currently no train network in Oman, although plans have been put in place to develop a railway across Oman and a metro system in Muscat. It's important to check the official website for MWASALAT for the most up to date schedules and information.
Expats can enjoy an air-conditioned and safe long-distance journey across expansive deserts by bus in Oman with private companies such as the Gulf Transport Company or public services such as MWASALAT. Daily departures allow travel between Muscat and several towns and cities, including Nizwa and Salalah, as well as services to Abu Dhabi and Dubai.
MWASALAT city buses can be found in Muscat, these are red and serve major roadways in the city, while microbuses, locally known as baisa buses, are one of the cheaper alternatives. Baisa buses don’t clearly indicate their route so it’s worth asking the drivers, and learning a few words in Arabic can help with this.
Taxis in Oman
Taxis are one of the most common ways to get around in Oman for expats who do not have their own car. Both public and private taxi services are available, such as Marhaba taxis, other orange and white taxis and MWASALAT taxis. All offer reasonable fairs and Oman has recently introduced meters into taxis to ensure a reasonable rate.
Expats can download the Mwasalat taxi app to readily order their ride. It may be possible to find a shared taxi with multiple passengers splitting a bill.
Driving in Oman
Due to affordable petrol prices and low taxes on imports, expats will find that owning a car in the Sultanate is relatively cheap. It’s also possible to rent a car with a driver. Most expats in Oman own or rent a car and rarely use public transport.
While many roads are well maintained, expats should note that driving outside of main cities and off road may require a four-wheel-drive vehicle.
Expats are likely to be able to use their foreign driving license, though it is useful to get an International Driving Permit, which can be obtained in one’s home country.
Traffic drives on the right. Expats driving in Oman should note that traffic laws are strictly enforced. There is a zero-tolerance policy for driving under the influence of alcohol, on-the-spot fines apply for talking on a cell phone while driving, and speeding cameras are common.
That said, drivers in Oman are known for reckless and speedy driving, which may come as a shock to expats. It’s important to always follow the rules of the road, be aware of safety hazards and drive defensively.
Renting a car
A car may be provided as part of an employment package and, if not, expats can always rent a car out of their own pocket – at a decent price. Both local and international car rental firms operate in Oman and offer insurance. While the legal driving age in Oman is 18, drivers under 21 are unlikely to be able to rent a car.
Air travel in Oman
Oman’s main international airport is Muscat International Airport. New arrivals in Oman worried about how to get from the airport to their destination can easily take a taxi, a bus or organise hotel pick-ups.
Oman Air, the national carrier, and SalamAir, a low-cost, domestic airline, offer flights between Muscat International and the country’s other main airports in Salalah, Sohar and Duqm. Other airlines that fly in and out of Oman include Gulf Air, Emirates, Etihad and British Airways.
Sea travel in Oman
Expats can find high-speed ferry services in Oman for passengers, vehicles and cargo connecting with ports in Khasab, Lima, Shinas, Shannah, Masirah and Dibba. Locals and expats can also go take a boat trip or water taxi, but travelling by sea is more for leisure than practicality.
Cycling in Oman
If expats think they will be able to ride a bike in Oman, they may find it a challenge. The extreme heat means that few people go outside, even to walk, and the risk of reckless driving makes cycling dangerous. Still, bicycles can be rented in large cities such as Muscat, while certain times of the year offer cooler and more moderate temperatures.
Walking in Oman
New arrivals to Oman will find that it's mostly safe to walk around. While major cities are not walkable, certain areas with historic palaces and forts are nice to stroll around, and many regions offer hiking opportunities. The main thing to be careful of is the heat and the sun, which often renders walking unpleasant.