Getting there & away
The Iranian shipping company Valfajre-8 has twice-weekly services (usually Sunday and Thursday at 9pm, but you’ll need to be there at 4pm to go through the formalities) between Bandar-e Abba in Iran and Sharjah’s Port Khalid (Dh160 economy, 10 to 12 hours).
UAE border posts that are open to non-GCC citizens include those at Al Darah (at Tibat, for Musandam), Wajaja (Hatta), Khatmat Malahah (near Jebel Hafeet) and Al Hilli (Al-Ain–Buraimi) Passport Controls. During research, we were informed that only GCC citizens could cross at Gheweifat to Saudi (even if you’re only transiting).
Officially, if you’re eligible to receive a visit visa on arrival at airports, you should be able to at border posts. The best advice is to cross the border during business hours. If the posts are not staffed and you don’t get a visit visa you will have to leave the UAE within 48 hours or be liable for a Dh100-per-day fine.
To travel to Oman, use Al Darah, Wajaja and Khatmat Malahah Passport Controls. At the UAE post, there is a Dh20 exit visa processing fee and a Dh60/OR6 visa fee at the Omani entry point. For reasons not adequately explained to us, at the new Al Hilli Passport Control (Al-Ain–Buraimi, where a border post has just been established and formalities introduced in early 2007), travellers are required to purchase a visa for Dh200. As many Emiratis live in Buraimi and many Omanis work in Al-Ain there is a lot of movement across this border and hence long delays. A new integrated electronic system is being established nationwide, being trialled at the Wajaja (Hatta) border post at the time of research, which authorities promise should speed up formalities everywhere.
Oman National Transport Company (ONTC) runs buses from Dubai via Hatta to Muscat and vice versa. Buses leave from the ONTC office (04-295 9920; DNATA Car Park, Deira; 9am-9pm), located near the Caravan Restaurant, two to three times daily. The schedule varies on demand, so call ahead. The trip takes approximately five hours and costs Dh60/100 one way/return. Buses have televisions and toilets on board. Note that this is the only bus company that non-GCC citizens can travel on. The others should not sell you tickets (they don’t stop at the border for a start).
Dozens of bus companies have services to Jordan, Syria, Lebanon and Egypt via Saudi Arabia and Jordan, but officially, non-GCC citizens should not be travelling on these and the bus companies are not allowed to sell you tickets. Saudi transit visas are required and at the time of research these were not being given to non-Muslims.
If you hire a car in the UAE, you will need to take out extra insurance (usually Dh500 per week) if you plan to take it into Oman.
If you are eligible to collect a visit or transit visa when you arrive, entering the country is simple. Proceed straight through the immigration desk or border post and get your passport stamped. If you are entering on a sponsored visa you’ll need to go to the clearly marked visa collection counter at the airport when you arrive.
Dubai and Abu Dhabi are the country’s main international airports, though an increasing number of carriers serve Sharjah as well. There are also small international airports at Fujairah, Ras al-Khaimah and Al-Ain, primarily used by charter flights. There is no departure tax when leaving by air.
Emirates Airlines (www.emirates.com) is the Dubai carrier and Etihad Airways (www.etihadairways.com) is the UAE’s national carrier. Both have an excellent reputation for service and safety, flying to destinations throughout the world. A ‘no-frills’ airline, Air Arabia (www.airarabia.com), was established in 2003 in Sharjah. It flies to Gulf, Middle Eastern and Asian destinations.