Driving from Dubai – one of the world’s most extravagant and most over-the-top cities – to Oman is a road trip that can be enjoyable if punctuated by a few stops along the way. Most road journeys into Oman from Dubai end up in the city of Muscat. The inland region of Oman is pretty desolate and there is not much there but desert, yet if you take a road trip along the Dubai coastline and into Oman you’ll find many more places worth visiting.
The total length of this journey is just about 400 miles and will take you in excess of six hours to complete, assuming you do not stop. However, such a journey definitely requires a few stop overs to enjoy the sights and sounds of the Omani culture. Most travellers on a budget will use the reliable buses that run from Dubai to Muscat, and Lady and Her Sweet Escapes has written a comprehensive review on this service. Yet travel by car is also popular, and probably not as expensive as you think!
Your first aim should be to find the Sharjah-Kalba Road, which is a long highway taking you well out of Dubai and heads towards the UAE and Oman border. On this road you can decide to stay on this route and head for Hatta or alternatively branch off left and head down to the Fujairah on the Sheik Khalifa Bin Zayed Road. The Emirate of Fujairah is the fifth largest in the United Arab Emirates but only has a small population of around 150,000. Here you will see some wonderful mountains and a large farming community. The Emirate of Fujairah has plenty of rainfall, unlike other areas in the UAE, and this allows farmers to produce a wide variety of crops here.
If you opt instead to travel to Hatta, close to the border with Oman, you will find many more mountains along the way. The sheikdom of Hatta is slap bang in the middle of the Hajar Mountains where you will see reconstructed heritage villages – and it’s a popular place for residents of Dubai to escape the intense heat of their home city. To get to Hatta you will need to stay on the Sharjah-Kalba Road and not turn off down the Sheik Khalifa Bin Zayed Road to Fujairah. Coming out of Hatta you will need to get on the E44 highway which takes you over the border from the United Arab Emirates and into the Gulf state of Oman. This is the border you’ll need to drive through if you’re trying to work out how to get to Dubai by car as well.
As you head towards the coast you will find your route takes you onto the Al Aqat to Hatta Road, eventually you will see the Gulf of Oman Sea and at this point you’ll move onto the coastal road known at the Batinah Highway. The Batinah Highway will take you passed Shinas where you can see many distinctive Arabic style buildings and a port where several dhows still operate in great numbers catching fish and exporting them across the Gulf States. You will notice many more mountains if you look away from the coast view on your left hand side; this is something you will see plenty of when you travel through Oman.
The Batinah Highway begins to resemble something of a service road after a while with plenty of trucks delivering goods to and from the Port of Sohar. Here you will see some major trading with exports and imports coming in and out by huge ships from all over the world. But far more interesting is to just carry on down this road and stop off at the City of Sohar. Here you are just about 125 miles short of your final destination of Muscat and it is a great place to spend a few hours.
Sohar is where Sinbad the Sailor allegedly came from and has a population in excess of 140,000 people. It’s the ancient capital of Oman and has a world class port, several huge shopping malls, fish markets, bullring centres, a Sultan’s Palace, and of course some pretty nice beaches (where you can find even more fresh fish!). Continuing down the Batinah Highway, you will notice inland the huge Wadi Al Hawasnah and Wadi Bani Omar Dam. This may well be worth a picture or two and it would only take you off the Betinah Highway for about five miles. Once back on the coastal highway you will pass Barka where you may want to stop off and visit the two major resorts in this town of Al-Sawadi and the Al-Nahda.
The Betinah Highway eventually turns into the Muscat Expressway which will take you right into the capital and the end of your journey. There are three quarters of a million people that live in Muscat and plenty to do by day and night here. Be sure to get a picture of the Muscat Gate and visit the opulent Muttrah Corniche and do not miss the elegant Zawawi Mosque in Al Khuwair at night, for it is absolutely awesome!
But what if a long road trip is not your cup of tea? Flying for relatively short distances is a good – and often cost effective – way of getting from A to B in the quickest time possible. Of course you need to factor in time spent at the airport, but that’s often a lot more comfortable than driving your own car or hailing an expensive taxi from Dubai. Taking a flight from Dubai to Oman is perfect if time is short. You’ll miss the experience of getting a feel for the country on the way to Muscat, but if time allows you can always take some local trips from your base in Muscat (such as to Sur or to Nizwa).
Oman Air is the national carrier for the Sultanate of Oman, and run a number of scheduled flights to and from Dubai with a flying time of just over an hour. Oman Air has grown to be highly respected for flight punctuality, great in flight service, and general professional attitude. Flydubai is an airline which was formed with an intent to reduce the cost of air travel in the Emirates region, and it is very similar to the “no frills” airlines that have sprung up over the last 10-20 years or so in India, UK, Australia etc..
Oman was actually one of the last countries in the Middle-East that I visited. I don’t know why it took me so long, but I guess I was initially more excited by the glitz and glamour of Dubai and Abu Dhabi (and Qatar, to a lesser extent). Yet during my first road trip across the UAE border and into Oman, I realised that actually this was a beautiful, rugged country, with and I enjoyed experiencing its famous Omani hospitality. If you can, I would always advise driving into Oman from Dubai, as this way you can get the best of both worlds, rather than just flying directly to Muscat from, say, Europe. And once you are in Oman, you will marvel at the many things to add to your itinerary, and as such you should allow at least 4 nights here to experience the main sights.