Budget Travel in Oman 2021: Explore Oman Without Selling a Kidney

 Budget Travel in Oman
Budget Travel in Oman

Budget travel in Oman can seem like one of life’s great impossibilities. Unfortunately, Oman has gained a reputation for being a notoriously expensive travel destination.

As such the use of the words “Oman” and “budget” in the same sentence almost looks like something of an oxymoron. However, rest assured, it is extremely possible to explore Oman on a budget.

The combination of stunning nature and the ability to free camp anywhere your heart desires, along with the warm, welcoming nature of Omanis makes Oman a perfect untapped backpacker’s destination. Those who say that Oman is not suitable for budget and extreme budget travellers have clearly not done their research.

This comprehensive guide to budget travel in Oman runs through the average prices of travelling to Oman. Additionally, it provides a handful of travel tips to aid you in making your adventure as budget-friendly as possible.

Falling in Love with Oman

Travel Oman on a Budget
Travel Oman on a Budget: Behold the ethereal beauty of Jebel Shams

Oman is a land of stunning natural beauty. It is no coincidence that the tourism board chose the phrase “beauty has an address” as their tagline.

Oman’s largest cities can seem relatively nondescript. However, the beauty of Oman lies off the beaten path.

The country’s highlights are its crumbling, sunbleached ruins, its shimmering wadis, and its quaint mountain villages. These quaint settlements seemingly transport you back in time to a Middle East that existed before the oil money and shimmering city lights.

Oman is authentic, undisturbed Middle East. You should consider visiting now before tourism really hits Oman and an influx of visitors causes things to change.

Oman is Still New to Tourism

 Budget Travel in Oman
Budget Travel in Oman: Meeting locals enables you to save money and get off the beaten path.

Gorgeous Oman has only just begun to capture the attention of the most intrepid of adventurers. It remains a relatively undiscovered travel destination. As such, its tourism infrastructure is not well set up yet.

The majority of notable historic sites, enchanting desert wadis, and stunning wonders of nature in Oman are virtually inaccessible by public transport. To marvel at the beauty that these desert-scapes have to offer, you must either hire your own method of transportation or organise a tour.

A lack of international visitors and demand pushes up the prices of all of these things. So too does the stereotypical visitor to Oman. Historically, your typical traveller to the region would be someone wealthy with plenty of disposable income. They are not the type that are going to flinch ay price tags higher than the usual.

Budget Travel in Oman: A Myth?

Budget Travel in Oman
Budget Travel in Oman

Fortunately, you do not have to be a rich Sheikh or an oil company big wig in order to travel to Oman on a budget. There are several tricks you can make use of in order to keep your travel costs at a minimum.

Search For Cheap Flights and Travel Deals

Oman on a Budget
Oman Holidays: Having an ornate, intricately decorated door is something of a status symbol in Omani culture.

Getting to Oman on a budget is easier than you think, Fortunately, it is not difficult to find cheap flights to Oman.

A number of low-cost carriers offer frequent routes to Muscat. Economy Middle Eastern airlines Pegasus and Salaam air boast direct flights from a number of major cities across Europe. It is completely possible to get a return flight ticket to Oman from within Europe for around £200 – £250.

You can also try travel hacking search engine features like Skyscanner’s “mashup” option. Such features are useful when it is not possible to get a direct flight from your current city. They combine different airlines together into one route to identify the cheapest option for you.

Tips for Getting to Oman on a Budget

A handful of tips and tricks for finding cheap flight deals to Oman are provided below. A lot of these things are common sense. They are good practice measures to follow wherever in the world you are travelling to.

  • Check flight deals across a number of different search engines

  • Mix and match the best routes with different airlines using Kiwi

  • Be flexible with your travel dates and search by month on Skyscanner to find the overall cheapest day to fly

  • Consider travelling only with a carry on to minimise luggage costs

  • Prebook your transfer from Muscat International Airport to your accommodation

Check Your Visa Requirements

Until winter 2020, citizens of almost every country required a visa to enter Oman. However, nationals of 103 countries are now exempt from requiring a visa if they intend to be in Oman for less than 10 days. This is great news for budget travel in Oman.

This includes nationals of 41 European countries (including the UK and Ireland), Americans, Canadians, New Zealanders, and Australians. To qualify, you must be able to show proof of a hotel reservation in Oman, evidence of travel insurance, and an onward flight ticket.

It is possible for most nationalities to remain in Oman for at least 30 days as a tourist. If you plan on spending longer in Oman, you can apply for a 30 day evisa online in advance.

This costs 20 OMR (approximately $40). You should check your government’s travel advice before booking your trip.

Visiting Attractions in Oman

Travel Oman on a Budget
No Oman tour is complete without a trip to the Nizwa fort
Budget Travel in Oman
Budget Travel in Oman

It is very cheap to visit attractions in Oman. As a matter of fact, most of them are free!

You can explore fascinating ancient towers and fortresses in places like Muscat and Muttrah and pay nothing. Even major draws and beautiful sites like Jebel Shams (Oman’s version of the Grand Canyon) have no entrance fees.

The only thing that you have to pay to enter is Nizwa fort. This is abnormally expensive at 5 OMR (£10) entrance. However, the fortress – with its boobie traps and panoramas over the city, is well worth your time.

Hike and Immerse Yourself in the “Great Outdoors”

Most Omani attractions are free to enter. What is also free is exploring quaint mountain villages, towns, and abandoned settlements. For instance, Misfat Al Abriyeen, Fanja, and Al Hamra.

Hiking, and attempting to conquer the various trails that twist and turn through the country’s natural scenery is a great way to explore Oman on a budget. There are more than 20 designated hiking trails in Oman, and there is something for every fitness level and ability.

A selection of scenic trails are detailed below. All are of course, completely free.

  • Hike the foothills of the Hajar Mountains

  • Jabal Shams summit trek

  • Wadi Dibba

    Smuggler’s Bay hike, Musandam Mountains

  • Wadi Shab, Al Sharqiyah trail

  • Wadi Damm

Understand Omani Currency and Money Matters

It’s important to understand the local currency when you travel anywhere. When you visit Oman, you should keep in mind that the currency is very strong.

Oman Boasts a Strong Currency

Omani Rial is the legal tender in Oman. 1 Rial equals approximately £2/$2.50.

However, this obviously fluctuates. You can use currency exchange websites like xe to check the specific up-to-date exchange information.

As of 2020, Oman was ranked as having the third-highest currency in the world. Kuwaiti Dinar came in first, with an exchange rate of approximately $3.27 for 1KWD against the dollar.

Bahrain Dinar came in second. Its exchange rate sits at $2.66 for 1BHD. The fact that Oman has such a high rated currency is one reason that budget travel in Oman is often seen as an impossibility.

Exchanging and Withdrawing Money

Try and purchase some Omani Rial before you embark on your trip. This will make life easier for you when you land in Muscat, and you don’t have to hurry around looking for an ATM.

You can also withdraw cash locally in Oman. You will not be short of opportunities to do so. However, keep in mind that outside of Muscat, Nizwa, Sur, Salalah and other major towns and cities, ATMs are fewer.

Currency exchange offices can also be found in major Omani towns and cities. Do not exchange currency at the airport, and try to avoid doing so at hotels and in touristic areas like Muttrah souk.

Their rates will not be at all competitive. It is always preferable to withdraw money at ATMs rather than using a currency exchange.

Using Credit and Debit Cards

Budget Travel in Oman
Budget Travel in Oman: Exploring Oman independently is perfectly safe and opens up more opportunities for you to explore than travelling as part of a tour.

Most major credit and debit cards are accepted in Oman. You will find ATMs everywhere. They are joined to local and international bank branches, and at standalone ATM sites.

The vast majority of businesses in Oman have point of sale facilities and accept card payments. This includes hotels, restaurants, tour companies, supermarkets and retail shops.

You should keep in mind, however, that some ATMs may charge you for withdrawals. Furthermore, it is important to understand whether your own bank will charge you any form of foreign transaction fee for using your card overseas.

Don’t forget to contact your bank or card issuer prior to your trip to notify them that you will be going overseas. you should also note that ATMs in Oman may impose smaller daily withdrawal limits than you may be acustomed to.

Oman Tours and Tour Companies

Budget Travel in Oman
Oman Holidays: Anyone can appreciate the beauty of Muscat’s magnificent Grand Sultan Qaboos mosque, regardless of their religion.

Some Travel Bloggers may tell you that you are better off paying for a place on a group tour in order to experience Oman. Remember that those Travel Bloggers likely had their trip sponsored by said tour companies.

Consider Independent Travel

It is better to travel to Oman with an open itinerary and a rough idea of what you would like to see and do. Then, aim to meet Omani locals or fellow travellers to explore with once you arrive.

This Oman itinerary enables you to see Oman’s main highlights in a short space of time and without breaking the bank. This will save you a small fortune as week-long or fortnightly Oman tours charge heavily inflated prices.

Going it alone will also give you the opportunity to make Omani friends and receive a unique insight into the culture that you just cannot obtain by following around a busload of tourists from site to site. If you do decide to book a guided tour for a day or so, shop around before committing.

Are Oman Day Tours Worth it?

Budget Travel in Oman
Budget Travel in Oman: Exploring abandoned villages and towns in central Oman.

Private day tours in Oman can cost anywhere between £150 and £400 depending on the specific agenda. Of course, if you did this every single day, it would soon add up and make your trip very expensive.

However, as a one-off, a day tour to visit a place that is tricky to get to independently, or to an area where you would learn a lot from having a knowledgeable local by your side can be a wonderful experience. Places like Wadi Bani Khalid, Wahiba Sands, and Bimmah Sinkhole can be hard to get to alone.

It is better to treat yourself, pay for a day tour, and have that experience than miss out. After all, it’s not every day that you get to go to Oman.

Suggested Oman Day Tours

A handful of reputable Oman day tours are detailed below. Many of these start from just $30 per person and are a good option if you want to explore Oman on a budget but with the aid of a local.

Post an Event on Couchsurfing

Couchsurfing is renowned for being a platform that budget travellers use to stay with locals for free. However, it is much more than that.

It may come as a surprise to hear that Muscat has a thriving Couchsurfing community. Locals and expats meet regularly to go for tea or embark on hikes together around Muscat and beyond.

You could consider posting a meetup/event on Couchsurfing to see if anyone wants to join you in heading out to a specific place. Then, you can all chip in for the cos of a car rental, gas, etc.

Since the Omani Couchsurfing community is so active, you are very likely to find someone that wants to join you. This is particularly the case if you are travelling during the “peak” season (Spring/Autumn) when most international visitors head to Oman.

Couchsurfing and Meeting Locals in Oman

Budget Travel in Oman
Budget Travel in Oman: Hang out with locals while in town. They are more than happy to show you their beautiful country!

If you have never heard about Couchsurfing, it is time to get involved. It is your ticket to both making friends and gaining local knowledge when you travel.

There are many friendly Omani and expat CS members in the Omani capital that are eager to show international travelers their country. Female travellers will also be pleased to see that there were a few female Omani couchsurfers which is something that I seldom ever find.

Thanks to my new found Omani Couchsurfing friends, I was able to get to places in the city that I couldn’t have otherwise found by myself. If you want to completely eliminate your accommodation costs in Oman, you can consider staying with a local through Couchsurfing.

Exert basic common sense when finding a Couchsurfing host in Oman as you would anywhere else in the world. Always check past references and reviews.

Renting a Car in Oman

Budget Travel in Oman
Budget Travel in Oman: The Nizwa friday goat market is a fascinating site to behold.

The best way to get around Oman independently is to rent a car. This rings true for travel within Muscat and Oman’s other large cities, as well as inter-city travel.

Public transportation around Muscat runs infrequently and does not cover all parts of the city. Though links between cities are beginning to be developed, they run only between large cities and do not have services to tourist sites or towns.

The price of renting a car in Oman can vary significantly depending on the specific option you choose. You may choose to rent a 4×4 or a regular saloon car.

Renting a 4×4 in Oman

Many tour and car rental companies in Oman insist that you must have a 4×4 to navigate Omani roads since the country’s landscape consists largely of deserts and dirt roads. It all depends on you and your itinerary.

To get to some of the sites like Jebel Akbar and Jebel Shams, it is imperative that you have a 4×4 since dirt tracks make the route inaccessible for regular vehicles. There are even policemen that operate in these regions that will stop anyone trying to access the sites without a 4×4.

Of course, opting to rent a 4×4 really bumps up your travel budget. However, it will give you a little peace of mind when venturing off down dirt trails and rocky roads.

If you are able to meet other travelers via sites like Couchsurfing and meetup, you can all split the transportation costs. Of course, it is also not so expensive if you are travelling in Oman as a couple or a group, rather than solo.

Alternatively, you could rent a saloon car. Then when visiting sites that require an off-road vehicle, you could either hitchhike or walk the rest of the way when the road ends.

Costs: It will cost approximately $100 per day to rent a 4×4 in Oman.

Renting a Saloon Car in Oman

Renting a saloon car in Oman is certainly the more economical option. As outlined above it can cause some minor hindrances to your travel plans but there are ways and means around that.

Costs: It will cost approximately $30 per day to rent a saloon car in Oman.

Additional Fees to Be Aware of for Car Rentals

It is important to note that you will be allocated a certain number of miles to use when renting a car in Oman. If you exceed this allowance, supplemental fees quickly accumulate so check the fine print and review a number of Omani rental companies before making a decision.

One major benefit of driving in Oman is that gas prices here are very cheap. You can purchase a litre of gas for around 0.25 OMR.

That converts to around 60 cents! Being close to the source in an Arabian oil country certainly has its perks!

Hiring a Private Driver in Oman

Perhaps you can’t drive, or you feel uncomfortable at the prospect of driving around in the desert and that’s completely fine and understandable. Upon arrival in Muscat, you will be faced with plenty of options for hiring a driver.

Again, shop around as quotes can vary significantly. As with anything in the Middle East, it’s okay to haggle on this. It is expected that you would not take the first price quoted.

You can expect to pay anywhere between £150 – £200 per day to hire a private driver in Oman. That is not cheap.

However, if there is a group of you, or you are able to recruit fellow travellers to pitch in and share the cost then it isn’t bad. Particularly when you consider that you will get to see something that you really want to see that is otherwise inaccessible.

Getting Around Oman by Public Transport

If you plan only to visit cities in Oman, then you are covered by public transport. Buses run (infrequently) between Muscat and Nizwa as well as Sur and Salalah. Tickets are cheap, and the buses are airconditioned and modern.

Domestic flights from Muscat and Salalah are low cost when purchased in advance. It is not uncommon o find a return ticket for less than £60.

Eating in Oman

Budget Travel in Oman
Budget Travel in Oman

Eating in Oman is relatively inexpensive. The majority of restaurants and cafes are owned and operated by migrant workers – predominantly from the Indian subcontinent or neighbouring Yemen.

You can find sandwiches and small snacks for just a couple of dollars. Additionally, delicious Indian curries or simple Arabic dishes (like the national Omani lamb “shuwa”) will never set you back more than 5 or 6 dollars.

It’s quite difficult to find authentic Omani food since Omanis do not work in the services industry. Of course, you can order the national dishes at restaurants. However, since the dishes are prepared by foreign residents, your Omani friends will tell you that there is a slight difference in taste to what they eat at home.

There are a handful of Omani run restaurants in Muscat and Nizwa. Be prepared to pay upwards of £20 per person for the experience of dining here.

Muttrah is a very touristic area and restaurants here should be avoided unless absolutely necessary. You can wind up paying £10 for simple shawarma.

Shopping in Oman

Budget Travel in Oman
Budget Travel in Oman

Shopping and browsing the labyrinth-like passageways of Oman’s souks and marketplaces means only one thing: haggling. The first price that you are quoted in Oman is always inflated so never accept it straight up.

As a general rule of thumb when travelling in the Middle East, try to push for 30% of what the Vendor is requesting. Then, you will meet somewhere in the middle. Consider taking an Omani friend with you that will know the going rates and help you.

For souvenirs, spices, fabrics, and other interesting Arabian goods, venture into the souks. However, you should avoid the Muttrah souk as it is artificial and touristic. Nizwa souk is a good place since it is actually frequented by locals.

Budget Accommodation in Oman

Accommodation in Oman was previously restricted to luxury hotels and resorts. Fortunately, the country is expanding its accommodation options to welcome the more budget-conscious traveller.

Homestays and Airbnbs are Available in Oman

Today, Oman accommodation options also include home stays and Airbnb’s. You can also couchsurf to eliminate all accommodation costs – just make sure that you check your host’s references beforehand.

The costs of renting apartments and rooms in Oman may still be a little more than in other countries. However, they are not sell-your-kidney-in-a-black-market-to-fund-your-trip expensive.

You can find rooms on Airbnb in Muscat and Salalah from as little as £15, and apartments from £30. Nizwa is a little more expensive.

There were very few hotels and apartments for less than £100 a night. However, if you are open to renting a room from an Omani local, you can expect to do so for between £20-£40.

There are no hostels in Oman at present. However, this is set to change in the future as tourism to the region grows.

Hacks for Reducing Accommodation Costs in Oman

There are a few tricks that you can use to get your accommodation as cheap as possible when planning your budget travel in Oman. Some ideas are detailed below. These techniques can be implemented wherever in the world you travel.

  • Use a hotel booking site with loyalty discounts like Booking or Agoda

  • Book your hotel on the day of travel when properties slash their prices

  • Travel in the shoulder or off-season

  • Stay a little out of town (if you have a car)

  • Sign up for Airbnb here and get £45 off your first booking

Free Camp in Oman

One great thing to know if you are trying to expore Oman on a budget is that free camping is possible anywhere. If you have a tent and a sleeping bag, you are free to set up camp wherever you like and sleep beneath the stars.

Exploring Oman is all about immersing yourself in nature and there are few better ways to do this than by camping. There are a number of stores in Muscat that enable you to rent equipment if you do not have your own.

Fins beach, Jebel Akhdar, Sharafat al Alamayn, and the Wahiba Sands are among the best places to camp in Oman. Free camping in a country that you are travelling to for the first time may sound daunting.

However, Oman is very safe. In fact, a report by the World Economics Forum detailed that Oman was among the three safest countries in the world. According to the World Terror Index, Oman has a score of 0.

Oman is a very safe country with laws enforced by strict rules. Petty crimes are extremely rare here, and violent crimes virtually unheard of.

Even solo travellers can feel comfortable camping here. You will often see Omani families and couples out camping for the weekend as you make your way around the country.

Final Thoughts on Visiting Oman on a Budget

Have any questions or queries about travelling Oman on a budget? Let me know in the comments below!

I travelled solo through Oman in 2018 and it was one of my best travel experiences to date. I am more than happy to assist you if you have any concerns about planning your own trip.

Disclaimer: My trip to Oman was not sponsored and I paid for everything myself. This Budget Travel in Oman guide may contain affiliate links.

This means that if you choose to make a purchase through any of the products contained within this page, I will make a small amount of commission at no additional cost to you. This aids me in keeping up with the costs of running this blog. Thanks for your understanding.


Melissa Douglas

Melissa Douglas is a British Travel Writer and Blogger based in Athens, Greece. She writes for numerous high profile travel publications across the globe - including Forbes Travel Guide, Matador Network, The Times of Israel and The Huffington Post.

1 thought on “Budget Travel in Oman 2021: Explore Oman Without Selling a Kidney”

  1. Hi, I’m planning a road trip from Dubai to Oman over the long Emirates Day weekend, with five year old twins and my son, in his car. We want to break the journeys in to short sessions for the children, with running around time, maybe starting with the zoo in Al Ain before heading to Muscat over the mountains. Did you see places that would be fun for kids, like accessible forts, or places to swim? We are not on a shoe string, but wanted to avoid having to join tours where possible. All suggestions welcome!

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