Getting there and getting around Oman

Oman’s main gateway is Muscat International Airport (MCT), which offers service to most major Middle Eastern and European cities. There are no direct flights to Oman from North America; it’s usually most convenient to fly through Dubai, Doha, Bahrain or a major European city. Emirates, Qatar Airways, Gulf Air, Oman Air and Turkish Airlines are among those that offer connecting service. The airport is located on the western edge of the capital city; if your hotel doesn’t offer a free shuttle, you can reach the downtown via blue-striped airport taxis, which operate on a fixed, prepaid rate, or one of the microbuses that depart from the opposite side of the footbridge that spans the highway outside the airport.

A colorful sample of the many wares available at Mutrah’s souk, or market. Credit: Lon Abbott and Terri Cook. A colorful sample of the many wares available at Mutrah’s souk, or market. Credit: Lon Abbott and Terri Cook.

The most convenient and flexible means of exploring northern Oman is by renting a vehicle. The airport offers a good selection, including four-wheel-drive vehicles, from major international companies. A four-wheel-drive vehicle is necessary to explore the Jebel Shams region and some of the most spectacular wadis in the Hajar Mountains. Leaving paved roads behind is a serious undertaking; websites such as timesofoman.com offer important safety tips to read before you start. Road signs are posted in both Arabic and English, and gasoline is relatively cheap and widely available.

Dune bashing is a highlight of any visit to the Sharqiya Sands. Credit: Lon Abbott and Terri Cook. Dune bashing is a highlight of any visit to the Sharqiya Sands. Credit: Lon Abbott and Terri Cook.

During the winter high season, it’s a good idea to book accommodations ahead of time, especially during the holidays. Omani hotels range widely in price, services and quality; options tend to be more limited, and the prices higher, compared to the U.S. Except for a few desert camps, there are no real campgrounds, but wild camping is allowed outside of urban areas as long as you’re discreet. A four-wheel-drive vehicle is often necessary to reach suitable sites.

Oman’s currency is the rial, which is divided into 1,000 baisa. ATMs are common in urban areas, but it’s a good idea to stock up on cash before you leave the cities. Most desert camps and rural accommodations do not accept credit or debit cards.

The weather is typically sunny and mild during the winter and, outside of the high-elevation regions, scorching in summer. The best time to visit is from November through March. It’s best to organize tours ahead of time, especially to the popular Ras al-Jinz Turtle Reserve and the Sharqiya Sands.

Terri Cook and Lon Abbott

Terri Cook (www.down2earthscience.com) is a science and travel writer based in Colorado and an EARTH roving correspondent. Lon Abbott is a geology professor at the University of Colorado at Boulder.

Sunday, May 6, 2018 - 06:00