Almost everyone who visits Dubai visits one or more of the neighboring Emirates, but few take the trip from Dubai to Oman. There are several routes to pick from, a popular one being Dubai to Dibba because you can take advantage of the Gulf of Oman and experience some dramatic scenery. If you are visiting Dubai, consider the Dubai to Dibba route.
Let’s start with this is not a trip that I recommend you do solo. Don’t rent a car and head out. In my opinion, renting a car would be a massive mistake. Oman has one of the highest death rates from traffic accidents in the world. And, unless you’ve already got a visa for Oman, you will run into problems. The logistics alone are a huge reason why you need to book a tour of some form to take advantage of this trip.
Map of Dubai and Oman
We booked this trip through our hotel concierge, although there are now many options on Get Your Guide that you can pick from. If you try to book this through your hotel, there will be raised eyebrows. Not sure why, but I got the overall sense that sending tourists out of the Emirates and over to Oman to spend money is not exactly a goal for the Dubai tourism industry. I had to insist on them booking this for us, and it is not advertised anywhere locally.
If you do any research on this route, you’re going to get mixed opinions and views. Disregard this and go for it. If you’ve made it to Dubai, this day trip is something you will appreciate. If you’re a thrill-seeker or someone that likes to go off the beaten path, this is all you. Or, if you are a collect a country stamp type of person, this is for you.
So, let’s get into the details:
Oman, officially the Sultanate of Oman, is an Arab country that borders The United Arab Emirates, Yemen, and Saudi Arabia. The northern section of the Peninsula Coast separates the mainland and juts into the Strait of Hormuz. This region is separated from the rest of Oman by the United Arab Emirates. Oman is a Muslim country, and the Musandam region is often cited as beautiful as the Norwegian Fjords.
I’m going to assume you read my earlier advice and took it to heart. And that you are going to book a trip through a tour operator. If you don’t, good luck and let us know how it goes!
The tours start early, and it’s a long day out. You’ll be picked up at around 7:00 am and then make the usual rounds to pick up others joining you. Once the bus or van is full – off across the desert to the border.
FYI – The tour will also return you to your hotel.
Tours From Dubai to Oman
Crossing the Border
This might seem odd or funny, but this was one of the highlights for me. It’s a tad shady. First, you’ll stop right before the border to have your papers inspected. The tour operator on site will scan your passport, check all the details and give you the equivalent of a day pass, not an actual visa. Ironically, you provide all your information in advance, but it’s rechecked. Not a bad thing, this ensures your ability to cross the border. From there, your bus will proceed into the line at the border.
It’s as you would imagine – sketchy. Oman police are dripping in rifles and an excess of other military weapons ready for trouble should it occur. Once your buses turn arrives at the Oman border, an agent boards the bus to check that everyone’s papers are in order. It’s intimidating but exciting! They did not review every single passengers’ documents, it was random, but they checked at least half of the passenger’s paperwork. And, we had someone on board that was grilled in broken English about his previous travels. The Oman border control found his travels, either interesting or suspicious.
We passed through with no issues and on to Dibba port where the real fun begins.
Note: You cannot take any photographs while crossing the boarder
Riding the Dhow
Perhaps one of the most compelling reasons to take to this tour is to ride the dhow. A dhow is a traditional Arabic boat. The dhow is the generic name of several traditional ships with one or more masts common to the region.
Now, don’t get me wrong; you can ride a dhow in Dubai, but let’s be honest – everyone who’s been to Dubai has done this. The boats are the same; however, the landscape is dramatically different. Oman is known for having the most rugged and beautiful coastlines in the world. I’ll add they are also remote and then some.
As soon as the Dhow takes off, you start to see why people compare this landscape to Norway. One difference is the climate, Norway’s cooler, and while the water is piercing clear in Oman, it’s a Caribbean blue.
Imagine yourself relaxing on a fabulous traditional Arabic boat, in the middle of nowhere, seeing the mountains of Musandam for yourself. Better, imagine what this looks like when the sunsets. I caught many pictures with the Dhow in the background of the sun and cheesy as it might sound, the views are priceless.
You’ll cruise for an hour or so, and then you will pull into a cove where you will get to explore the beach, the water, and all the other traditions you would expect from a water-based trip.
Activities on the Dhow
Here is what to expect in terms of choices of things to do:
Snorkel the beautiful blue water
Speed boat blasting
Banana boat riding
Take the speed board to the limestone (white rock) and tour inside the caves
Sunbathe on the beach, or explore the beach
Jump or swing off the Dhow and splash into the water
We opted to explore the beach and admire the vistas; we did the caves, and Brian tried the hand line fishing.
You get to spend about two hours at the chosen cove, and then it’s time to return to the Dhow. Back on board, you’ll be treated to a traditional lunch that’s buffet style. The food was adequate but not spectacular. Don’t expect to be wowed; it’s not a feast. Add to this that there are people with many all over the world – all with different cultural norms. Creating a line, lining up (or bum-rushing) the line will be a factor. Some people tried to jump the queue. They were barging in as if there was not enough food for all. For me, this concept’s not new; I’ve experienced it all over the world. I simply remind all to get in line, and I’m firm enough to set the tone.
Food in hand, it’s time to lay back on the dhows cushions and take in the soon to be sunset. A quiet and calm trip, it’s not a booze cruise you would take in the Caribbean. Very low key with almost all people opting for the layout.
If you take a tour, you do not need a visa, and you will get a day pass subject to your return on the same day.
Before touring, you will have to provide copies of your passport, and you need six months left on the passport to be able to enter.
A copy of your copy of a passport must be sent at least 48 hours before the trip so that entry can be arranged.
This is important. You can’t arrange this trip the day before you need to book this at least two days (sometimes three) in advance.
Day trips from Dubai start at around $75 and go all the way up to $500. The cost depends on the tour you pick. Largely, the price is dominated by choosing a shared vs. private tour.
Tours provide everything you need, such as snorkeling gear, life jackets, water, etc. except sunscreen.
You can wear a bathing suit on the beach, other than this be moderate.
You do not need currency or cash, everything you need is provided on the boat.
This is a long day, at least ten hours. In our case it was twelve hours.
Non-alcoholic drinks are included, and you can buy alcohol on most tours if you choose.
Depending on where you dock, there is a chance the locals will be unimpressed by your arrival. We experienced this and it was comical. A love-hate relationship was exposed before our eyes and the locals tried to chase off the tour company.
Taking pictures of Arab Women is considered offensive and before you take a photograph of a local you must ask for permission.
Note: Some of the beaches have been littered by tourists. It’s sad to see and it’s the main gripe that people cite following this tour. It’s shocking to be somewhere so remote, barely inhabited and stunning yet dressed in trash. Unfortunately, this is a concept I’ve seen in several countries. If you take this tour, please do not leave any trash behind.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: How many hours is Oman to Dubai? To drive from Dubai to Dibba it’s approximately an hour and fourty-five minutes.
Q: Do I need a visa for Dubai from Oman? You do not need a visa if you take a day trip. If you do anything other than a same-day return trip you will need a visa.
Q: Does Oman speak English? Yes, some people do speak English but it’s not universal.
Q: Can I drive my car to Oman from Dubai? Yes, you can but it’s not recommended.
Q: How much does a visa to Oman cost? A 10-day tourist visa costs five to ten riyals which is approximately $1.50 – $3.00
Q: Can I go to Oman without a visa? Yes, if you book a day trip through a travel agency
The typical traditional Dubai tourist rarely leaves The Emirates during their stay. This is understandable. The Middle East has a reputation for volatility and this alone steer many away from considering branching out. I will tell you that if you use a reputable tour company and have paperwork in order you will be fine. The tour company will take great care of you, they will ensure that you cross and return with no problems.
Most important, you will have experienced something that few do. Lastly, if you get really lucky you’ll experience the debacle that takes place between those that live in mountains sounding the beaches and the tour operators.
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Nikki Webster is a travel writer who covers how to travel while grinding a day job, how to travel without breaking the bank, hotels, cruising, and off-the-beaten-track experiences. She is particularly fond of Florida and writes extensively about the state. She flies around 60,000 miles per year and has visited 54 countries, 50 states, and six continents. You can read all about her travels at www.britonthemove.com.