Why Visit and how to Backpack Oman on a Budget?
Oman is one of the most amazing places we have backpacked, but if this is not enough to convince you here are the reasons:
- It is the perfect country to visit if you are outdoorsy type
- You can camp literally anywhere and everywhere
- It is very different from what you are used to, Oman has preserved the old charm and traditions unlike its neighbours
- There are no skyscrapers and party crowd here
- Omani people are very friendly and open to visitors
- It is one of the safest destinations in the world to backpack
Is Oman expensive to travel?
The sultanate aims to attract tourists with a higher budget so it is not easy to travel the country on a budget but it is far from impossible.
We have managed to keep our expenses low by renting a 4X4 and camp most of the time. We cooked our meals on fire and slept in the car or in the tent next to the car.
So if you want, it IS possible to see this amazing place on a low budget.
The information we provide here is based on our travels in January 2015.
Rent A Car in Muscat and Go Off-Road
It’s important to know that public transport does not really exist in the country. Not having your own transportation will definitely limit the things you can see. So if you don’t drive or don’t have the money to hire a driver perhaps Oman is not your best choice.
We rented a 4WD from Arabia Cars for 30 OMR per day, for a few days only to check out Hajar Mountains. There is a police check-point on the way to Jebel Shams which you can not cross without a 4×4!
We slept in the car and it was the best solution to keep our expenses down. Than for the rest of our time we rented a saloon car for 15 OMR per day.
The main roads are in immaculate condition so if you don’t plan to go off-road you will be perfectly fine with a sedan. Driving off-road in the mountains is certainly a memory of a lifetime for us.
Book a car before arrival otherwise you can be easily left without one! International drivers licence is not required but you do need a credit card.
You Can Camp Anywhere in Oman
Camping is perfectly safe in Oman and the best way to save on accommodation. Also locals often make a fire and gather around it with music in the evenings just next to the roads.
Take a tent with you or buy one in Muscat.
Avoid camping in wadis (valley in Omani language) as it can be dangerous due to a phenomenon called flash flood.
- Make sure to set your tent further away from houses to be respectful with locals.
- The mountains can get cold during night so a sleeping bag is not a bad idea to have.
Where To Find Camping Equipment in Oman
Most likely you will fly into Oman, just like we did, so you will need some equipments. We bought a tent for 15 USD, a pot and some basic stuff at Lulu’s and Carrefour Hypermarkets in Muscat. They both have camping departments. You can find everything from tents, sleeping bags to foldable chairs and barbecue equipment.
If you are on a higher budget rent camping equipment with everything included for about 15 OMR/day
Check out Nomadtours for more information here.
Where To Stay In Muscat on a Budget
The Super Low Budget 5 OMR/person/night There is a camping place in Muscat at the marina called Capital Area Yacht Club Camping. Helpful staff, camping right on the beach, basic facilities, hot shower, restaurant. It was not so easy to find as there were no signs whatsoever. Here is a some information perhaps it helps:
- if you are coming from the airport expect to drive about 30mins on the highway if not more.
- drive through whole Muscat
- pass by the main port in Mutrah
- than pass by Old Muscat and follow the signs to Sidab
- just right after leaving Sidab there is an Oman Oil gas station
- after that gas station drive slowly and watch out for a facility called Capital Area Yacht Club on your left
- From the road you will see a gate only and maybe some yachts (it does not really look like a camping place but it is one)
- If you get to the Al Bustan roundabout that means you have missed it, turn back!
Cheap Apartment A cheap hotel room is hard to find in Oman. We stayed in the Amreen Hotel Apartments we paid around 60 EUR for a spacious apartment with kitchen. Bad quality for the price, not recommended but it’s close to the airport.
Don’t Miss Out on Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque
It is really a magnificent building, a must see when you are in Muscat. Make sure to start early and be the first one to enter the main attractions. Especially when visiting the Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque in Muscat.
The opening time for visitors is 8:30-11:00am every day, closed on Fridays! After 10am it gets very crowded.
Internet Options for Digital Nomads
We both work online so Internet is a must for us. We decided to buy a SIM card from the provider called Ooredoo and took a package for 5 OMR incl. 10GB data.
Other times we used WIFI in McDonalds, Costa Cafe etc. but it is only an option when you are in Muscat. Outside of the capital we had difficulties to find even a little coffee or local restaurant with WIFI.
Maps and GPS for the Road Trip
Once we started driving outside of the capital we found it quite difficult to find our ways. There are hardly any people on the streets to ask for directions. So make sure to get the Oman Off-Road from Explorer! We bought it in Muscat from Carrefour.
Another great idea is to use an application called maps.me. It’s free and works offline plus very up-to-date actually (we have been using ever since). It will come in handy if you want to do some adventurous driving.
The mountain region is absolutely stunning and it will be an amazing experience so don’t miss out on that one!
For a crazy mountain road drive choose the gravel road from Hatt to Al Rustaq across the mountains. It is an unforgettable and exciting experience with amazing scenery all the way.
Is Oman Safe For Solo Travelers?
We really had great experience and met only nice people. Omani people are lovely and super friendly. Many times we got asked how is our stay and what we think about their country.
I (Edith) was alone for a few days in Muscat and had to walk quite far to find an ATM . Within a few minutes I got asked if I needed help and locals offered a lift.
Generally said it is safe to accept this friendly gestures even for a woman travelling alone. Just follow common sense and even though be alert to be on the safe side.
In Oman you can find everything: mountains, beach, desert, cities and abandoned villages. So for landscape photographers Oman is paradise.
But if you are more into portraits and street photography it can be difficult.
In some other countries like Cambodia or Nepal it is so easy to make portraits of locals. In Oman we didn’t do any portraits, as locals didn’t want to be photographed and would say no when asked.
A Must See when backpacking in Oman: Nesting Sea Turtles
We went to Ras Al Jinz Sea Turtle & Natural Reserve to watch nesting turtles in their natural habitat. It was truly amazing and unique experience.
The natural reserve offers guided tours starting from 9pm but it is recommended to make a reservation! Call them or make sure to be there at least a few hours before, to secure a spot.
We were there off-season (as far as nesting turtles concerned) in January when the chance of seeing turtles is quite small.
We were told by the staff that you have to be very lucky even to see one and they can’t guarantee we will see any.
We were so happy to see eventually five green sea turtles coming ashore, laying eggs and also hatchlings making their way to the sea. The shiny planktons in the sea made it even more spectacular.
Also a must see: Old villages in Jebel Akhdar
Hopefully we helped you guys with our tips. If you are hesitant about visiting Oman, don’t be. It’s truly the gem of the Middle East!