Oman, Middle East
Mention Oman and the mind of a traveler will conjure up images of Arabian Palaces, impenetrable forts, stunning mountains, lush oasis’ and hospitality that is deeply rooted in Omani culture. One thing that the average traveler won’t think of is cheap Oman travel. Alas, it is now possible! After spending three weeks in the country in search of cheap hotels, food, and sights I can tell you this. Oman is definitely possible to travel on a strict budget. However, it is a country that takes precise planning ahead to be able to do so. Follow this guide, as Arabia is waiting!
Oman Travel Advice and Daily Expenditures
For my adventure through Oman, I can break my daily travel spending into a few simple categories. Everyone’s Oman travel budget will vary, but these are the standard things you will pay for excluding extras. This is also based on driving about 100km per day, and seeing a few sights.
Hotel in Oman – 50 – 60 USD per night
Camping or Couch Surfing – Free
Rental Car – 40 USD Saloon Car – 95 USD 4×4
Food – 30 USD
Petrol – 20 USD
Sights – 5 USD
It’s important to know your conversion of the Omani Rial when you pay for everything. This is because the Omani Rial far exceeds the US Dollar. It can be daunting when you go to pay for dinner and the bill only asks for 3 Omani Rial, but 3 Omani Rial is almost 8 USD! The current exchange rate for the Omani Rial is 1 OMR =2.6 USD. But it’s important that you get an up to date rate check using something like XE Currency Converter. They have a Mobile App as well.
Getting a Cheap Flight to Oman
These days finding cheap flights to Oman is never too difficult. It’s always important to book ahead, and you can look to my guide ‘How to Get a Cheap Flight Guide’ for additional help in that department. There are quite a few airlines that fly into Oman. Oman Air is one of the main carriers and you can visit their website here. This is quite a prestigious airline, but it’s also very affordable. The wonderful thing about Omani Airways is that there are no hidden fees.
The next airline is Emirates. This is great if you are flying through Dubai or Abu Dhabi. Honestly, I have never had an issue with Emirates. In my opinion, Emirates is one of the best airlines in the world. The only problem is that they are not usually too cheap. If you book months in advance though you can land super cheap deals for Emirates.
The third most popular airline is Fly Dubai. They often advertise too-good-to-be-true prices on flight search engines like kayak and Sky Scanner. Unfortunately, these prices really are “too good to be true”. Fly Dubai adds an extra charge for your baggage right at the end of the booking. Most cheap airlines do, but Fly Dubai tagged upwards of 100 USD on each flight (100 USD per connecting flight). Most of the Fly Dubai flights I looked at ended up being more expensive than Oman Air. Don’t scratch Fly Dubai off completely, just make sure you account for the baggage fees.
Couch Surfing in Oman
Oman is the first place I ever used Couch Surfing. I always thought the idea of showing up at some stranger’s house and expecting a free room would be awkward, and it would end up being an odd experience. Couch Surfing in Oman, however, was an absolute delight! I ended up staying at an Expats house in Muscat and a traditional Omani House in Nizwa and Sur. Not only was it a way to lower the cost of travel in Oman, it got me a very good in for seeing true Omani culture. Our Omani hosts also cooked us delicious Omani Cuisine, and when they were not working acted as a free guide for us!
If you’re interested in staying with the Omani’s and the Expat that I stayed with here are their details on couch surfing!
Camping in Oman
One of the best parts of Oman travel is Oman’s rules on camping. As long as you don’t camp in the city/town limits, or right beside a Wadi, you are essentially allowed to “wild” camp wherever you want.
This means wherever your 4×4 can make it, you can camp! Make sure to bring your own tent and gear, as buying it in Oman can be very expensive, and quite frankly, decent gear is hard to come by.
Camping here is a great alternative to Couch Surfing and expensive hotels. The weather here is mainly sunny and dry. It’s very easy to spend two nights camping, then one night in either a hotel or Couch Surfer Host. This way you get a shower once and a while.
Oman Hotels and Where You Can Find Cheap Stays
Oman hotels are not usually cheap, and to be honest, apart from the bigger centers you will not find many that fit the bill. I did, however, find a couple sweet deals while in Muscat and Salalah!
For both cities, I used Booking.com as Hostel Bookers doesn’t have a lot of options for Oman, but Booking does. In Muscat, I landed a hotel near Mutrah for 45 USD per night, and Salalah we got a two-bedroom apartment for 30 USD per night! Both of these accommodations were booked just a couple days before we arrived.
When we were in the smaller communities, for example, Nizwa, there was nothing for budget accommodation. The cheapest place we found had ‘budget’ in its name, but cost a minimum of 100 USD per night.
Costs of Food in Oman
This is one of the easiest ways to save money in Oman. There are a few rules to follow, but it’s very simple to cut costs on food here. First thing is to avoid eating in touristy areas like Mutrah. Here the prices are higher because they know that the majority of tourists in Oman, are not budget travelers.
Another great tip is asking the locals. Not all Omani people are extremely wealthy, and plenty will steer you in the right direction. Usually, the restaurants owned by Bangladeshi or Indians tend to offer Shawarma and even sometimes Omani cuisine for rock bottom prices.
If you want traditional Omani food, there is not a lot of option for budget eateries. Muscat has the widest range of Omani Restaurants like Ubhar. These two happen to be a minimum of 20 USD per person, but you’re in Oman, and it is definitely worth trying.
For cheap eats, a Shawarma, or Lebanese salad will cost about 1-2 USD at the cheaper restaurants. I even had some delicious Indian curries and Biryani for less than 5 USD per plate.
Entrance Fee’s in Oman
Another remarkable thing about Oman is how cheap the sights are. With the average entrance fee to a fort or wadi ranging from 3-5 USD, you can take in multiple sights per day and not worry about breaking the budget.
The majority of the sights in Oman tend to be free as well! All mosques that I visited had no fee as did many of the Wadi’s.
Car or 4×4 for Oman
This was my biggest dilemma while planning my trip to Oman. Every blog and travel website I read said that a 4×4 was a must, but I wasn’t being sponsored so I didn’t have the luxury of being able to have a 4×4 for the entire duration of my trip to Oman.
4×4’s in Oman are very expensive, they cost around 100 USD – 150 USD per day! Some cars that I saw, however, were as low as 30 USD per day. Everywhere says you need a 4×4 because of the roads…. but I don’t agree.
Yes, many of the roads do require a 4×4, but the majority of Oman can be visited by car. The remote dusty roads that need a 4×4 can be rented just for the day. For example, I visited Nizwa and the surrounding area in my Saloon car. For one day I wanted to go up into the mountains to visit Jebel Shams and Bilad Sayt. For this, my Couch surfing host drove us in his 4×4, but I could also have just rented a 4×4 for the day!
My advice, if you’re on a budget go for the saloon car!
Rent a Car in Oman
Renting a car in Oman is a must. If you come to Oman with the idea of taking public transport, think again. Apart from the bigger cities like Salalah and Muscat, Oman does not have a great bus connection.
If you choose not to rent a car you will be left to take a lot of taxi’s, and they are not cheap. A ten-minute taxi ride in Muscat cost me almost 25 USD! Renting a car is easy and driving in Oman is also not difficult.
The next best thing is petrol in Oman is cheap. Filling my car up cost me about 25 USD, the same price as a ten-minute taxi ride.
Renting a car also gives you the freedom to go where you want, when you want. This is important in Oman since everything is very spread out.
Shopping in Oman
I have read a few Oman Budget posts, but one thing they all leave out is shopping. Now, we are not all shoppers when we travel, but Oman is a bit of a shopper’s paradise. You’ll come across embroidered Kashmiri scarfs, heavenly scented frankincense, and Islamic art well worthy of that empty spot on your wall! Again like other things in Oman, shopping is not cheap.
The best way to save money on buying goods here is to haggle and bring a local with you. You might think that you got a good deal haggling in the Souq, but if an Omani is with you, he will tell you otherwise. When I went shopping with my Omani friend, he would also take me to places he trusts. Usually, I did not even have to bargain at this point.
Visa for Oman
So with most countries, the situation for visa’s does change often. For the majority of nationals now, when you arrive in Oman you will be required to purchase a Visa on Arrival.
The visa for Oman cost me 60 USD. Yes, it’s pricey! If you do not have USD on you the international airport does accept Visa and MasterCard, but you have to beg them to use it.
The Oman Visa gives you thirty days and can be extended.