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Oman

Getting around

Hitching

Hitching is possible but inadvisable as most roads outside the capital area have low volumes of traffic. Bear in mind that you may often get left between towns while the driver turns off piste to his or her village. You therefore need to be self-sufficient enough to survive the hottest part of a day – even a night or more in some parts of the interior – without any prospect of an onward or return ride.

Always carry water and avoiding hitching off-road. It is the custom to offer the driver some remuneration.

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Car & motorcycle

Car

Road signs are written in English (albeit with inconsistent spelling), as well as in Arabic, throughout Oman. Helpful brown tourist signs signal many sites of interest. Petrol, all of which is now unleaded, is widely available. Al-Maha petrol stations usually have modern, well-stocked shops and clean toilets.

Hire

International car-hire chains in Oman include Avis, Budget, Europcar and Thrifty, but dozens of local agencies offer a slightly reduced rate. Rates for 2WD cars start at about OR14 and 4WD vehicles at OR35. Always carry water with you (a box of a dozen 1.5L bottles costs OR1.500 from petrol stations) and a towrope (OR4 from any large supermarket). If you buy three ‘freezer packs’ at the same time (600 baisa each), they will keep your cool box cold for a day, even in summer, and you can ask hotels to refreeze the packs at night.

Insurance

Check the small print on all car-hire documents to see if you are covered for taking the vehicle off-road.

Responsible driving

Before heading off over uncharted territory, it’s worth asking if you really need to be the person who scars this piece of desert. It’s better, generally, for your safety and for the environment if you stick to previous tracks.

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Bus & tram

Bus

The intercity buses are operated by ONTC (24 490046; www.ontcoman.com), which has daily services to/from most of the main provincial towns for OR5 or less, with the exception of Salalah, which costs one way/return OR6/11 from Muscat. Buses are usually on time, comfortable and safe. It is worth making reservations for longer journeys. Tickets are available from the bus driver.

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Local transport

Taxi & microbuses

Oman has a comprehensive system of cheap but slow long-distance shared taxis (painted orange and white) and microbuses. Oman’s shared taxis and microbuses do not wait until they are full to leave. Instead, drivers pick up and drop off extra passengers along the way.

To visit certain places of interest, you’ll often have to take an ‘engaged’ taxi (ie private, not shared) – generally four times the price of a shared taxi as you have to pay for all the seats. Bargain hard before you get in and try to avoid hailing a taxi from a hotel.

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Air

Besides Seeb International Airport in Muscat, the only functioning airports are at opposite ends of the country in Salalah and Khasab; both these handle domestic flights only. Four new airports have been approved, however, at Sur, Sohar, Adam and Duqm, which will help open up the country for visitors.

The national carrier is Oman Air (24 707222). It services the domestic airports, as well as a selection of Middle Eastern and subcontinental destinations. Oman has a 50% share in Gulf Air, which services all Middle Eastern cities and many long-haul destinations.

The only domestic flights currently available in the country are on Oman Air between Muscat and Salalah (one way/return OR36/72, 1½ hours, twice daily at variable times), and between Muscat and Khasab (one way/return, OR24/48, 1¼ hours, on Thursday at 8.55am and Friday at 2.30pm). Tickets can be booked through any travel agent.

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