Renting a car and driving in Oman: best tips and advice

Discover essential tips and advice for renting a car and driving in Oman. Navigate the roads with confidence and make the most of your journey with our tips.

After our travels in Jordan and Oman, we might have lost our hearts in the Middle East. Oman is a country full of diversity: from stunning architecture to breathtaking landscapes and everything in between. In our opinion, the best way to explore Oman is with a car during a road trip.

Many questions we get from our readers is whether driving in Oman is safe and asking for advice regarding (types of) rental cars in Oman. For instance, do I need to rent a 4WD for Oman? Are the roads safe? Do I need a car insurance? And so on. We had the same questions when we first travelled to this beautiful country, so time to share our experience about renting a car and driving in Oman. 

featured image blog renting a car and driving in Oman

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In general, driving in Oman is safe and enjoyable. While traffic can be heavier in the large cities, the roads across the country are often quiet and pleasant to navigate. Omani drivers exhibit friendly behavior and show consideration for others on the road. The roads are well-maintained, with many of them being asphalted, particularly those connecting the major tourist destinations. Upon arrival in Oman, there are plenty of rental car companies to choose from, all offering quality vehicles. While a 2WD is sufficient for exploring the main attractions, opting for a 4WD opens up access to some of Oman’s more hidden attractions.

Renting a car in Oman

There are many rental car companies in Oman to choose from. The main rental car companies, like Hertz,  Sixt, Europcar, Budget, Avis all have counters at the arrival hall in the international airport of Muscat. A huge advantage is that these counters are open 24/7, so even when you arrive in the middle of the night (like we did) it is still possible to pick up your car immediately upon arrival.

At the counters, the administration regarding your car rent will be taken care of. We highly recommend bringing both your international driving license and your normal driving license, so you don’t have any surprises. Additionally, a credit card on the name of the main driver is required for placing a deposit.

car mirror landscape when driving in Oman

Once the administrative formalities are completed, you’ll receive the car key and directions to the designated rental car parking area. Upon arrival at the parking area, a rental company employee will assist you in locating your assigned vehicle and will document any pre-existing damages. Make sure to make photographs of the car and even a video before you sign any of the documents. Also check the amount of fuel and make sure you bring the car back with the same fuel level as when you got it. In this way you don’t risk an extra service fee on top of the price of the fuel.

Whenever we travel and we need a rental car, we book through with free cancellation and insurance included. is a world leader in comparing prices and offers great deals. They have excellent customer service and their all-inclusive insurance can’t be beaten. We always take the insurance from them so we can travel worry free!

Check availability and compare prices

The price for renting a car in Oman depends on the type of car you choose. To give an indication, expect to pay about €400 for a standard 2WD for a week. A 4WD will cost double and start around €800 for one week. Prices vary of course, depending on the specific type of car, the season, the insurance, etc. 

When you arrive in Muscat in the evening, we strongly recommend booking a hotel nearby the airport. The Royal Tulip Muscat is a very good option, as it is located 14 kilometers from Muscat International Airport. That way, you can get used to driving with your rental car the next day and you don’t have to drive in the dark.

Royal Tulip hotel Muscat where to stay room
Royal Tulip hotel Muscat where to stay pool

When you return your car, just follow the signs back to the car rental area. There is excellent signage to help navigating back to the car rental return area. Keep in mind that with some rental companies you are responsible for returning a clean car, both on the inside and the outside.  Before we returned our car, which was covered in dust, we visited a car wash at one of the gas stations. These people do a fantastic job for only a couple of Rials. If you only did asphalt roads, chances are high your car is still clean. A quick cleaning job with some wet wipes should then be sufficient. 

Can anyone in Oman rent a car?

Anyone with a valid driver’s license can legally drive and rent a car in Oman. However, for foreigners, it’s important that their driver’s license has international validity. Most car rental companies in Oman require a minimum age of 25 years old, and it’s preferable to have held a driver’s license for at least one year. Contrary to common misconception, women are allowed to drive in Oman!

What type of car to rent in Oman?

Do you need a 2WD or a 4WD to explore Oman? This is the most common question we get. And the answer is relatively straightforward. It depends on the places you want to visit and the time you have in the country. The main tourist attractions in Oman, like most of the towns, wadis and Jebel Shams, are perfectly doable with a 2WD. So if you have only a limited amount of time to spend in the country, a 2WD will do the job. 

icon read on Read more: The 20 best things to do in Oman

camping spot wadi damm Oman

However, if you want to visit more remote areas or the mountains of Jebel Akhdar, a 4WD is necessary. For example, to visit Jebel Akhdar, you have to pass a checkpoint and you are only allowed to continue when your car is a 4WD. 

Another reason why a 4WD could be a good option is when you decide to camp in Oman. That way, you’ll be able to drive to more remote parts to pitch your tent. A great option if you decide to camp is renting a 4WD with a roof top tent. The perfect way to enjoy all the beauty Oman has to offer. The company we recommend if you are looking for a 4WD with a roof top tent is iDrive4x4.

icon rental car Check availability and prices for a 4WD with rooftop tent in Oman HERE

icon read on Read more: Everything you need to know about camping in Oman

What about driving in the Wahiba Sands?

If you are planning to spend a night in the Wahiba Sands, we recommend you book a stay in a desert camp. These camps offer a pick-up service and you don’t need to drive the car there. It’s tricky to drive in the desert. Your tires have to be deflated and it’s easy to get lost. In our opinion it is best to pay for a pick-up service and rent a 2WD. The cost of the pick-up service of the desert camp will not outweigh the costs of renting a 4WD. We wrote an in-depth travel guide for the Wahiba Sands, where we included our favorite desert camps and the cost of the pick-up service. 

icon read on Read more: Our travel guide for the Wahiba Sands in Oman

wahiba sands oman matthias walking

Can you go to Jebel Shams with a 2WD?

Yes you can. We drove a 2WD and we experienced no problems to reach Jebel Shams. The road is not entirely paved though, so you will have to drive a couple of kilometers on a gravel road. But as long as the weather is nice, driving on this gravel road with a 2WD should not be a problem. We were also surprised that at a certain moment, near the rim, the road was asphalted again.

If you are planning to go to Jebel Shams, we recommend renting a car with a high clearance and to be careful not to damage your car. But it is perfectly doable. We saw many locals and also tourist driving to Jebel Shams with a 2WD without any problems.

2WD and road to Jebel Shams in Oman

Can you go to Wadi Damm with a 2WD?

Wadi Damm is perfectly reachable with a 2WD. Although many 4WD cars continue their drive in the riverbed, you can park your 2WD at the parking lot near the river bed, where the asphalt road ends. From here, it is a short 10 minute walk to the entrance of Wadi Damm.

What about driving distances in Oman

Unless you decide to visit Salalah, distances in Oman are pretty doable for a road trip. Here are some examples of distances to important tourist attractions when starting from the capital Muscat:

  • Nizwa Fort: Approximately 165 kilometers (102 miles) southwest of Muscat. It takes about 1 hour and 45 minutes to 2 hours via Route 15.
  • Wahiba Sands Desert: Around 190 kilometers (118 miles) southeast of Muscat. This will take around 2 to 2 hours and 30 minutes to reach by car via Route 23.
  • Jabal Akhdar: Located about 170 kilometers (105 miles) southwest of Muscat, with a driving time of approximately 2 to 2 hours and 30 minutes via Route 21. Only doable with a 4WD
  • Jebel Shams: Approximately 220 kilometers (137 miles) southwest of Muscat, taking around 2 hours and 30 minutes to 3 hours by car via Route 21 and Route 32.
  • Sur: Situated roughly 220 kilometers (137 miles) southeast of Muscat, with a driving time of approximately 2 hours and 30 minutes  to 3 hours via Route 17.
  • Wadi Shab: Located approximately 150 kilometers (93 miles) southeast of Muscat, it takes around 1 hour and a half to 2 hours by car via Route 17 and Route 34.
  • Wadi Damm: Situated about 160 kilometers (99 miles) southwest of Muscat, with a driving time of approximately 2 to 2 hours and 30 minutes via Route 15.
  • Misfat Al Abriyeen: Roughly 170 kilometers (105 miles) southwest of Muscat, it typically takes around 2 to 2 hours and a half by car via Route 15.
  • Wadi Bani Khalid: Located approximately 203 kilometers (126 miles) southeast of Muscat, it takes around 2 hours and a half to 3 hours by car via Route 23.

The above distances and driving times may vary in function of where you start in Muscat, the traffic and the road conditions.  

featured image best things to do in Oman Birkat Al Mouz

How is driving in Oman?

Overall, driving in Oman is safe and enjoyable. The quality of the roads in Oman are very good. All vehicles drive on the right and overtaking takes place on the left. When someone is being overtaken, you often see the car move a little to the right so that the other car can pass more easily.

Empty road in rural area of Oman

The most dangerous thing when driving in Oman is definitely the speed bumps. There are many and the speed bumps are relatively short and high. So you really have to brake to avoid damaging your tires or car. Speed bumps are often indicated by a road sign and the speed bump itself often has yellow paint lines on it. But sometimes the color wears of from the traffic, so stay alert.

Note that in the historical center of Nizwa, the streets are extremely tight and traffic comes from both directions. We were in a little panic when we almost got stuck in Nizwa.  If you plan to visit Nizwa, your best option is to park at the large central parking lot just outside the gates of the historical center.

How to navigate on the roads in Oman?

Using your smartphone to navigate is the best option. Google Maps works really well and overall, the mobile coverage in Oman is good. We recommend buying a local SIM card when you arrive at the airport in Muscat, so you have mobile data to navigate. We experienced that Omantel has really good coverage in the country. 

portable wifi device from huawei
portable wifi device with Jordan sim card

We always share the mobile data on the SIM card by using a portable WiFi hotspot travel router. This portable device turns a local 4G/5G signal into a WiFi signal and allows you to connect your mobile devices as if you have your own WiFi network. So no need to buy two SIM cards or switch between phones. Just put the SIM card in the device and you’re set.

Gravel road with signage in Oman

If you don’t want to use mobile data for navigation, is a good option. Make sure to download the offline maps in advance. 

If you are using your smartphone for navigation, make sure to bring a phone holder so you can drive comfortably and safely. 

Along the roads, there is also clear signage. All signs in Oman have both the Arabic name and the Latin alphabet, so no worries  you won’t be able to read the road signs.

Driving rules in Oman

Oman driving rules aren’t very different from ours as they follow the international standards. The speed limits in urban areas are typically between 40-60 kilometers per hour (25-37 miles per hour), but keep in mind this varies depending on the specific area and road conditions. Keep an eye on the road signs to be sure. The speed limit on highways is generally 120 kilometers per hour (75 miles per hour). Again, speed limits can vary so be aware of posted signs. There are frequent radars, especially on the highway. So make sure you’re not crossing the speed limit since fines are high.

Goat in back of car at gas station in Oman
Street with clay houses in Nizwa in Oman

Our car in Oman gave an alarm if we crossed the 120 km/h speed limit, which was really handy.  Most of the time, the roundabouts in Oman have two lanes. When you are in more rural areas, where roundabouts are empty, you can drive in any lane you want. But if you are in a busy city like Muscat, make sure you’re in the outer lane when exiting on the first exit. Otherwise, stay on the inner line  and use the right turn signal before you exit.

Keep in mind that seatbelts are mandatory for all occupants of a vehicle and driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs is strictly prohibited. For safety reasons, using your mobile phone while driving is prohibited unless you are using a hands-free system.

Gas stations in Oman

Gas stations in Oman are pretty common. The main gas stations are Omanoil, Al Maha, and Shell. Prices don’t differ a lot across the gas stations. When we wrote this post (March 2024), one liter petrol costs 0.24 OMR (0.57 EUR/ 0.62 USD). So fuel costs are very cheap comparing to European standards. The gas stations in Oman are very service-oriented with staff often offering assistance in refueling and checking tire pressure. Many stations also provide amenities such as convenience stores, restrooms, car wash facilities, and small eateries. We did a car wash before returning the car, because it can get a little dusty in Oman. The service at the gas stations was excellent and very friendly!

Parking in Oman

As for finding a gas station in Oman, finding parking in Oman is also easy. Most important tourist attractions have huge parking lots, most of the time for free. The only place where it is more difficult to find a parking spot is Muttrah. We used the large free parking lot by the Muttrah Fish Market at the harbor and found plenty of space. 

car parking at the Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque in Muscat in Oman

We hope this blog posts convinced you that driving in Oman is safe and pleasant. In our opinion, renting a car in Oman is by far the best option to discover the country. It gives you a lot of freedom, the roads are in perfect condition and the distances are manageable.

Happy travels,

Matthias and Mieke

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