Living in Oman?
Transportation in Oman
Oman’s International Airports and Their Upgrades
Most expats coming to live in Oman arrive by plane at one of the two significant passenger airports. Both airports are operated by the Oman Airports Management Company (OAMC).
Muscat International Airport is the gateway to Oman for the majority of foreign residents. Its current terminal serves flights from 27 countries, mainly from the Middle East, East Africa, South Asia, and Europe. In 2016, about 12 million passengers used Oman’s busiest airport. To handle rising passenger numbers, an immense extension of the airport has been built, with test flights in operation since December 2017. Once fully operational, the new Muscat International Airport is prognosed to handle over 20 million passengers annually.
The airport, which is also the hub of the national flag carrier, Oman Air, is located in the district of Seeb. It is connected to the metropolitan area by mini-bus, 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 Oman Air — and focuses on domestic flights to Muscat, as well as some international connections, predominantly in the Gulf region. However, Salalah is currently being transformed into a bigger international airport to cope with the rising number of passengers and to develop the region into a tourist hotspot.
There’s Only Limited Public Transportation
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 intercity bus, operated by the government-owned company Mwasalat. These buses are normally air-conditioned and relatively comfortable, although they aren’t a very fast way to travel. Muscat’s main bus depot is based in Ruwi, with daily connections to places like Sohar, Nizwa, Salalah, or even Dubai.
Local public transportation in the Muscat metropolitan area is continuously being developed to deal with increasing levels of traffic. The seven local bus lines are also operated by Mwasalat, with buses running every 15 to 20 minutes from six in the morning up until midnight on some routes.
You can also use white-and-orange minibuses and baisa taxis. It’s customary to share your ride with other passengers. So if you book an “engaged” (non-shared) 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. Ask other expats or your Omani friends about common taxi fares to avoid paying too much 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.
Driving in Oman — Up for a Challenge?
Due to the lack of a comprehensive transportation system, many expats and Omanis alike 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 — the highest in the Gulf region — so driving as risk-aware as possible and having a good automobile insurance policy are indispensable. As a visitor, you can use a foreign driver’s license or an international driving permit for up to three months to drive legally in Oman. After receiving your residence permit, you will have to get a local license within the next six weeks.
Nationals of “approved states” can convert their valid driving permit into an Omani one without having to sit any tests. 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:
- copies of your passport and resident card
- completed license replacement form (with your sponsor’s stamp and signature)
- the original license, a copy, and an official translation
- blood group certificate
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 an eyesight test and possibly even a health exam. They need to take a driving exam as well. Please get in touch with the Royal Oman Police for further details.
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