Driving Off-Road Oman

Renting a Car in Oman

April 25, 2016

Renting a Car in OmanWith very few options for public transport outside of Muscat, renting a car in Oman should be high up on your budget list. While you can get by with renting a sedan in Oman, hiring a 4×4 could end up saving you some money if you make plans to camp a few nights. In this post I help you weigh your options for renting a car in Oman.

Independence

Firstly, we need to talk about what you will gain from renting a car in Oman, in case you are on the fence: Independence. Yes, it is great to hire a guide to handle all the driving as well as answering all the questions you have about the local culture and sights. But the down side is being locked into a set timetable that most likely is too packed to actually enjoy Oman.

Oman is a big country and large amounts of time will be spent transiting from sight to sight.  Having the freedom to pop over to a random village, stop to photograph a roadside mosque, or veer off-road to a spied beach for a swim is quite nice; and part of why Oman is so attractive.

Opening Doors

How to Park Like an Omani Local: A Visual Guide
One great thing about Oman is the tolerance to park your vehicle however or wherever you would like. Click here for my Oman Parking Guide.

While sedans are available for rent, and could take you to many of the sights you want to see; choosing a 4×4, or even better the venerable Toyota Land Cruiser, opens the door wide open to any place in Oman. Places hike the Hajar Mountians require a 4×4 for safe travel, but it doesn’t have to be a gigantic Land Cruiser.

Available in the rental market are small SUVs like the Nissan Xterra and Toyota Fortuner, alongside the workhorse big brothers, Toyota Land Cruiser and Nissan Patrol. Notice anything about the list? It’s Japanese all the way, and for good reason. The land of the rising sun makes solid 4x4s with proper 4WD systems that work well on the graded tracks and beyond.

It is important to rent a proper 4×4 because Oman is still a developing nation of four million people, and still developing its road network.  It’s difficult to understand that 45 years ago there wasn’t more than a few kilometers of paved road. So, it shouldn’t be surprising that many places are still only accessible by proper four wheel drive vehicles, albeit via a graded track. This just adds to the rustic charm that is Oman.

If you are interested in visiting Jebal Shams, Jebal Akhdar, Wahiba, Empty Quarter, Al Hajar Mountains crossings, and any of the desert camps; you are going to need a proper  four wheel drive vehicle.

Camping

The best thing about Oman is you can literally camp almost anywhere, and I have. But I never thought about how possible it would be for a tourist to camp in Oman with a rented 4×4 until I met a French couple one day at the beehive tombs near Bat.

I was really happy to see the independent tourists and we got to chatting a bit.  Since it was near sunset I was surprised to actually see the couple because there are no accommodations for about 100km, meaning they would have had to be doing some night driving.  So I asked them, “where are you staying?” They replied, “in the car.”

These guys had a rented Nissan Pathfinder, so they picked up some cheap foam mattresses and blankets from the Carrefour to lay down in the back compartment with the rear seat folded down. Voilà! Instant camper for two!

So, now this couple was able to see the magical sunset at the Bat tombs with the golden light hitting Jebal Mistal.  Something not many tourist get see because usually they have already been shuttled back at their hotels to get ready for dinner. Independent travel is truly the only way to do it.

Options

Renting a 4x4 in OmanThere are a number of different options for you to choose from based on your budget and needs. All the major rental companies are represented by local franchisees, and offer many options.

In the table below you can see the different advertised prices according to category: Compact Car (ex. Toyota Yaris), Midsize 4×4 (ex. Toyota Prado, Nissan Xterra), Large 4×4 (ex. Toyora Land Cruiser, Nissan Patrol).

Compact Car

While I do not recommend hiring a compact car, I do include it in the table for comparison purposes.  And I suppose one of you might decide off-road adventure isn’t your cup of tea.

Midsize 4×4

The midsize 4x4s have a wide range in price which I find strange for some reason. The range in prices is probably due to the range in engine sizes, as there are four and six cylinder options with some companies and not others. Mostly you will be finding a Nissan Xterra the best value, but the Toyota Land Cruiser Prado (a smaller Land Cruiser) will have a better ride on the rough stuff, larger fuel tank, and a bit more luggage space. Manual transmissions are hard to find or not available at all.

Large 4×4

Large 4x4s demand a large price, but definitely well worth it, especially if you are traveling with a group of four off-road.  The Toyota Land Cruiser is the dominate vehicle, but some companies offer Nissan Patrols or Mitsubishi Pajeros. Large 4x4s can be in huge demand between October and March, so “be sure to book a few weeks in advance,” says my mate at the Budget counter.

Some of the tour companies will hire Land Cruisers from the rental companies (or are affiliate companies already) and have the need for special features like a roof rack. Also, the oil industry has a need to hire Land Cruisers with special safety modifications like a rollover bar (PDO Spec). What this means for you is, it’s possible to hire a vehicle with unique features that meet your special needs or driving habits. You just have to ask the desk, or call ahead.

Do you prefer to drive a manual transmission? Do you like a diesel engine? Want to try and get a roof rack? The Large 4×4 category can have you covered with a little luck and a small amount of leg-work.

Finally, there are some great deals available like Europe Car’s unlimited mileage along with an available manual transmission Toyota Land Cruiser for 36 OMR/Day.  Sign up for that one!

Tips for Renting a Car in Oman

  1. Book in advance during the high season.
  2. Book directly with the company via phone.
  3. Negotiate! (while researching every agent offered something lower than what is listed)

What do you prefer, a manual transmission or automatic? Leave me a comment below:


Options For Renting a Car in Oman

CompanyLocal #Compact Car
(Day / Week)
Midsize 4x4
(Day / Week)
Large 4x4
(Day / Week)
KM Included
(km/day)
Al Maha+968 24603359contactcontactcontactcontact
Arabia Cars+968 9808278715 / 8440 / 25055 / 355200
Avis+968 2451034221 / 13754 / 35065 / 423200
Budget+968 2451081515 / 9145 / 30155 / 350200
Europe Car+968 2412116518 / 9343 / 22961 / 322unlimited*
Hertz+968 2462520015 / 9036 / 21648 / 280200
Nomadic+968 9933627315 / 9140 / 25946 / 308200
Sixt+968 2451022411 / 7533 / 21060 / 325200
Thrifty+968 9171024115 / 8040 / 21355 / 286200
Value Plus+968 2451029210 / 6030 / 180N/A200

D’s Notes For Renting a Car in Oman

CompanyNote
Al MahaLocal Company w/o airport desk
Arabia CarsMT Toyota Land Cruiser available for 55 OMR/Day
AvisMT Toyota Land Cruiser available for 55 OMR/Day
BudgetMT Toyota Land Cruiser available
Europe Car*Website says mileage is unlimited?!, and a MT Toyota Land Cruiser is available for 36 OMR/Day
HertzDiesel Toyota Land Cruiser available for 60 OMR/Day
NomadicLocal Company w/o airport desk
SixtNo Toyotas, Xterra for 33 OMR/day and MT Patrol available for 50 OMR/Day
ThriftyCrappy website
Value PlusGreat Prices

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16 Comments

  • Reply Cafer May 18, 2016 at 0020

    Why this web site do not have other languages?

    • Reply D. Michael May 18, 2016 at 1226

      Sorry, the target market is travelers to Oman which overwhelmingly understand english as one of their languages. What language would you prefer to see, maybe I can help you out?

  • Reply Arnold October 12, 2016 at 1153

    Thank you for the informative website. You have done a great job! We can’t wait to visit and experience Oman. I would greatly appreciate your advice on the following-
    1) do you know of any car rental companies that rent their 4WD and allow for off road driving. We do not plan on any car sports or bashing. We just want to visit the countryside but would like to make sure their insurance cover for it.
    2) May i know in your experience in travelling along the east coast of Oman –
    – say from Sur to Al Khaluf, I see a small coastal road running along the coast. Is it possible to drive our 4WD there comfortably? How is the terrain like?
    – if we were to travel further south down from Al Khaluf, does the coastal road continue? We do not want to reach as far as Duqm. But we just want to know if there are any sites worth seeing between Al Khaluf and Duqm? Again how easy are the roads?
    3) Are we allowed to camp along the coast? I read that the turtle sanctuary is protected and do not allow for camping. May i have your suggestion as to the nearest place to camp so we can visit the turtle sanctuary.
    4) Do you know how we can get to Masirah island cheaply? Do you think the local fisherman can charter their boats?

    Thanks again for your help.

    • Reply D. Michael October 14, 2016 at 1156

      Thank you for your questions.
      1) I can’t say for sure, check with Nomadic and al Maha first.
      2) The road is now paved. You can drive the full coast of Oman by tarmac road now.
      3) You can camp in Ras al Haad to the north. There are also beaches which are near the sanctuary that you must do a little searching to find. Have a look at Google Maps.
      4) I don’t fully understand this question because there is a reasonably priced ferry boat available. You can take a ferry boat to carry you, with or without your car. I suggest if you are going to take the car and camp on a beach. Don’t bother with a day trip, Hilf, the ferry terminal on the island, is not a place to visit. I suppose you can try to arrange a fisherman to take you without your car, but the ferry service is there so you might not have luck, then you will have no transport on the island. So, take the ferry with your car. Plan for 1 or 2 nights.

      • Reply Arnold November 1, 2016 at 1349

        Thank you for the suggestions. I am glad to hear the road is all tarmac now. We will probably drive up to the turtle reserve but not to the island.

        • Reply D. Michael November 6, 2016 at 1512

          That’s what I would suggest. The island is nice, but should be low on the list of things to do.

  • Reply forex October 20, 2016 at 1807

    Well said, 100 agree.

  • Reply Jay November 2, 2016 at 2300

    Hey very cool web site!! Man .. Beautiful .. Amazing .. I’ll bookmark your web site and take the feeds also…I’m happy to find a lot of useful info here in the post, thanks for sharing. . . . . .

    • Reply D. Michael November 6, 2016 at 1457

      You are welcome. Glad you like it.

  • Reply SDHopper March 21, 2017 at 0543

    The list of car rental companies is very useful! I plan to spend the first 2 days of my trip in Muscat. Do you think I should rent a car for those days or only when I plan to leave Muscat? I was worried about finding parking but looking at your post, it seems it won’t be as much of a problem as I thought.
    Thank you!

    • Reply D. Michael March 23, 2017 at 1348

      Hi SDHopper,
      Yes, parking in Muscat is spicy and you can almost park wherever you want, but be careful. There is more of a police crackdown on that sort of thing. Mainly in the popular areas where it gets congested like Muscat Grand Mall and Shati al Qurum. There is also now paid parking where there never used to be. The government is desperate for income and it keeps the riffraff out. So be careful with that.

      With regards to your specific question, it really depends on where you are going in Muscat, and where you are staying. If you are going to visit only one place in the day, then take a taxi. However, if you want to move around a bit more you will probably appreciate having a vehicle. Taxi drivers apply a “tourist tax” that far exceeds reasonable prices. This is the reason the taxi drivers do not want to install meters… They cannot rip off tourists and expats if they do. Figure an average of 5-10 rial per taxi trip in a private taxi, and you can do your math to see what is cheaper if that is important. The taxi ride will be higher if you are departing or arriving at a 5 star hotel.

      The government bus system is quickly improving, but it might not be good for you as a tourist because not every place is serviced in Muscat. Tourist sites of interest that are serviced by MWASALAT include: Old Town Muscat, Muttrah, Ruwi, Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque, Seeb City Center, Muscat Airport…

      If money is not a huge limiting factor then I suggest to hire the car for Muscat. It will give you great convenience, freedom, no hassle with the taxi drivers, and you get to feel more like a local. You could even pull up to a shawarma coffee shop and honk your horn for service like the locals! If you are staying at Bar al Jissah resort then hire a car.

      Let me know when you are in town, maybe we can meet up.

      • Reply SDHopper March 26, 2017 at 1915

        Thank you! I’ve rented a car and will plan to keep it throughout. I’m happy I saw your price list because it made me look around to find a better deal after my first quotes which were almost double!

        That resort looks gorgeous but way out of my budget. I’ll be at an AirBNB of some sort. I’m arriving tomorrow but think I’ll be leaving first thing Tues AM and then back in a week for a day in Muscat.

        • Reply D. Michael March 26, 2017 at 2321

          Double!!! These guys are very greedy sometimes. Glad it’s all working out. Will reply to your email.

  • Reply Gavin Smith July 20, 2017 at 0426

    Dear D Michael
    I am planning a fishing trip with two of my friends and we are interested in renting an RV/Motorhome. We intend to make our way along the coast down as far as Salalah, stopping off in between for some fishing. Can you recommend a rental company please ?
    Thank you.
    Gavin Smith

    • Reply D. Michael July 24, 2017 at 0915

      Hi Gavin. There is one company I know of. Oman Motor Homes. Note that you cannot bring a RV to most of the beaches along the coast. They are too heavy to go down the track and onto the sand. So a 4×4 and tent camping might be a better option for fishing along the coast. Good luck.

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