UAE & Oman Trip: Day 1 Doha – Muscat: 4 countries, 6 borders, 1105 km!

Day 1 Doha – Muscat: 4 countries, 6 borders,  1,105km!

It’s like you participated in a world rally“, said my friend in reply to my status in Facebook.

We started the journey at 3.24 AM from Al Faisalya Gardens, Al Gharrafa, Doha. In that early morning, me and my friend, Taufiq, along with our families, cruising the sleepy Salwa Road toward Qatar/Saudi  border. When we arrived there 57 minutes later Qatar border was very quiet; only one two cars exiting borders.  After Fajar praying, and finishing a natural break, we proceeded to borders and finished all immigration related matters. It took us almost one hour to pass through Qatar and Saudi borders, even  in this low season early morning. Can’t imagine if it happens during high season!

Qatar border coordinate: 24 44’46.85″N 50 50’52.83″E

Qatar Border
Qatar Border

Turning left at the roundabout after Saudi border (whereas going straight leads you to Hofuf, Dammam and Riyadh of KSA,), we started driving through a stretch of 130 km dual carriageway leading to Saudi/UAE borders. The road is quite excellent; however this road section is unlit and therefore quite dangerous for night driving. No camera installed as I could observe, however we opted to drive just about 120 kph. There are fuel stations available in this road section so you don’t need to worry about run out of gas.

 

Petrol station right before Saudi border – opposite side (need to make U-turn): 24 08’17.67″N 51 34’10.43″E

Petrol station right after UAE border – opposite side (need to make U-turn) 24 07’33.98″N 51 37’52.47″E

 

Where would you go? A roundabout after Saudi/Qatar Border
Where would you go? A roundabout after Saudi/Qatar Border
Saudi Arabia Road to UAE
Saudi Arabia Road to UAE

 

Tips:  Try to fill your tank full at the last station in Saudi road. In addition to energy for your next 360 km of driving to Abu Dhabi, at least you can save few riyals from price difference (0.6 riyals vs 6.25 dirhams per gallon (or about 1.375 per liter) of Special (95) gasoline).

 

One hour twenty minutes later we arrived at Saudi border with UAE. Saudi departure process was simple and took merely few minutes. On the contrary, the UAE entry process was quite lengthy with visa on arrival form application, eye scan, and inspection.  Nevertheless, one hour we spent in those two borders.

 Saudi border with UAE: 24 07’47.84″N 51 34’20.20″E

UAE border immigration building: 24 07’35.73″N 51 37’13.53″E

Now the fun part, a driving of 360 km on a straight dual carriageway (Road E11) with only few curves. Some say, it can be completed within 3 hours. But in our case, 3 hour 40 minutes including lost in Abu Dhabi to find out direction to Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque. Speed limit in this particular road is 100 km/h. You will oftenly hardly notice the solar-powered cameras due to hidden in green belt or due to their low position. Mostly they are located near U-turn or near entrance to towns. You will pass the following towns: Al Hamra (+65km from border), Jebel Dhana (+115), Ruwais (+129), Al Mirfa (some 30km before Tarif), Tarif (+231), and Al Mafraq (+328). Al Mafraq is like an intersection where going straight leads you to Dubai, turns right to Al Ain (road E22) and turns left to Abu Dhabi.

A typical road condition from border to Abu Dhabi (road E11). Picture showing road near Al Mirfa City
A typical road condition from border to Abu Dhabi (road E11). Picture showing road near Al Mirfa City

 Petrol stations are normally present near small town along the road. What I can recall are at As Sila, Al Hamra, Jebel Dhana (5.1 km off the road), Ruwais (opposite), Mirfa (4 km off the road, and opposite), before Tarif (opposite), and after Tarif. Most petrol station normally have toilet facilities, mosque, and small juice stalls. Do not expect large international chain restaurants in petrol stations along this road.

Abu Dhabi

 

We stopped by at Abu Dhabi for about two hours; visiting Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, having Zuhr praying and a light lunch before setting off to Al Ain and then to Muscat. The mosque (cited is the second largest in Middle East) is still under finishing construction but that can’t hide the beauty within.

Coordinates Grand Mosque: 24 24’45.6″N 54 28’30.0″E

 

Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, Abu Dhabi
Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, Abu Dhabi

Abu Dhabi (Father of gazelle) is the capital of and the second largest city in the United Arab Emirates. Abu Dhabi lies on a T-shaped island jutting into the Persian Gulf from the central western coast and located less than 250 metres from the mainland and is joined to the mainland by the Maqta and Mussafah Bridges. With a population of just under 1.5 million, Abu Dhabi is the headquarter of numerous oil companies and embassies. 

Al Ain

Directions and road to Al Ain (E22) from Abu Dhabi is well signposted and we had no difficulty in driving towards the right track. Driving 160km of three-lane dual carriageway road to Al Ain was very enjoyable.  We arrived at Hili Border one hour 45 minutes later only to find out that the border was closed due to system down. We finally could pass through Hili Border with personal approach to Immigration Officer (see posting about Crossing 16 borders).

Road E22 from Abu Dhabi to Al Ain
Road E22 from Abu Dhabi to Al Ain

Al Ain (literally means The Spring) is the fourth largest city in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). With a population of 614,180 (2008 estimate), Al Ain is dubbed the Garden City of the UAE. It is located in Abu Dhabi Emirate, directly adjacent to the border with Oman. The freeways connecting Al Ain, Abu Dhabi and Dubai form a geographic triangle in the center of the country, each city roughly 150 kilometers from the other two

 

Al Ain has been continuously inhabited for more than four thousand years and Al Ain is considered central to the cultural heritage of the country. It is the birth place of Shaikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, the first president of the United Arab Emirates. Today, the name Buraimi refers to the Omani town whose urban area merges with that of Al Ain. Until September 14, 2006, Al Ain and Buraimi enjoyed an open border and functioned as one. On September 14, the UAE government closed the open border and required all individuals to clear immigrations both entering and leaving the UAE. Persian Gulf nationals cross the border at the main crossing whereas, expats are required to cross at either the Hili or “Intercontinental” border crossings.(Source: Wikipedia)

 Coordinates:

UAE Border Buraymi (Hili): 24 15’49.8″N 55 46’2.7″E

Al Ain Palace Museum: 24 12’54.0″N 55 45’38″E

Hili Fun City: 24 18’6.4″N 55 47’5.3″E

Hili Archaeological: 24 27’34.4″N 55 47’32.5″E

Al Ain National Museum: 24 13’00.8″N 55 46’29.0″E

Green Mubazarah: 24 6’14.3″N 55 44’57.2″E

Surprisingly, Oman border in Wadi Al Jizi is located 39 km (road towards Sohar) from the Hili border. When we touched Oman immigration building, my car trip meter indicated 808.1 km. Oman immigration process is less simple than UAE. No eye scan, no individual application form for children, and less expensive (only 3 OR for adult, children free).

 Oman Border Wadi Al Jizi: 24 13’27.9″N 56 09’41.1″E

When we’re ready to set off to Muscat via Sohar, it’s already 5.28 PM. Fortunately road to Sohar is well lit and it’s dual lane dual carriageway. There were two or three short road diversions on the road from the border to East Coast Highway but those were easily navigated. The road is excellent, thanks to Oman Government!

Road to Sohar from Al Ain. A short portion of the road is single carriageway.
Road to Sohar from Al Ain. A short portion of the road is single carriageway.

 

Oh by the way, as I drove to the last drive-in counter in Oman border, I was reminded by the immigration officer to clean my mud-painted car. He said that I could be fined if I drove a dirty car. At least before entering Sohar my car should be clean, he added. And here we go, as we approached east coast highway leading to Sohar, I parked my car on the empty area near road shoulder and we handwashed my car with the available water in the car, being looked at strangely by the passerby. What the heck are they doing? Fortunately, there was a nearby mosque with plenty of water we could use of. Fiuuhh. Yet, we spent about 40 minutes to clean all mud paint from my car.

 

But that is not the end, when we stopped at one Shell petrol station just before Sohar for dinner and refuelling, we saw one standing banner clearly, attractively written: FREE CAR WASH FOR EVERY DOUBLE PIZZA PURCHASED! That really made us so damn stupid! I wish…..

 

Sohar

 

Two hours from Muscat is the maritime stronghold of Sohar, named after Noah’s great grandson and famed for being the legendary home of Sinbad.  The coastal city of Sohar was once an important Islamic port and the largest town in the country. Sohar was also once a powerful trading hub and was known as the Gate to China because of its role as a jumping off point for Asian trade. The city is renowned for its copper deposits and an attractive region for tourists due to its clean, safe beaches and the plethora of archaeological features. Sohar is now playing a vital role as a commercial center and with the construction of a new industrial and container port, as a new hub for Gulf shipping. (Source: Wikipedia and Meet Oman 2008)

 Sohar Fort: 24 21’45.9″N 56 44’57.6″E

Recharged with dinner, we started to drive to Muscat at around 8 PM. That’s still another 230 km tough. The drive from Sohar to Muscat along the coastal highway is characterized by long straight beaches, a coastal plain dotted with palm plantations, and a string of forts and castles in the foothills of the central mountain ranges. But with the night driving, we barely enjoy the drive and rather focus on the road busy with pedestrian crossing in town, slow moving vehicles, overtaking or roundabout. If my whole body could tell it must have told me to stop and end the drive. This long drive at the final stage to Muscat, with only few percents of energy and focus, surrounding darkness and a piece of light, seemed bored me and made me started to be queasy. I don’t know.

 

When we finally saw luminous buildings scattered, we took a deep breath. Finally. But we’re wrong. The start of the luminous is As Seeb, the jewel of capital, another 40 km to Muscat. When my trip meter showed 1105 km that’s when we parked our cars beside Delmon Hotel Apartments where we stayed. What a journey. Four countries, 6 borders, 1105 km, 19 hours travelling, and 14 hours of them driving. Thanks be to God. We safely arrived. Alhamdulillah. I’d never driven so far and so long but I did it safely!

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UAE & Oman Trip: Crossing 16 Borders – A Step-by-step Process

Update 14 April 2012. See the latest update on Qatar-Saudi-UAE border crossing processes from my recent driving trip to UAE.

14 Dec 2010. Updated with UAE/Musandam Border based on information provided by reader. Thanks Shatha Mustafa for feedback!

Crossing 4 countries (Qatar, Saudi Arabia, UAE & Oman) and because of geographical location of Oman where some parts of the country is separated by UAE made us to deal with many borders. Total of 16 borders we had passed through excluding 1 accidental border passing! (see story about border blues in Al Ain later). Processes may vary from time to time, as I heard from my friend previously visited Saudi, and different countries has different process flows. Saudi Arabia border process is quite simple (due to pre-obtained transit visa), followed by Oman, and then UAE.

But one thing to be emphasized is be nice to immigration officer and they will be nice to you too. Some Arabic vocabulary and greetings would sometime make a border process smoother.

As for location, generally one country’s border is next to other country’s. However, in some cases they can be separated by as long as 39 kilometers.

The following are step-by-step border processes arranged in sequential order as we had passed through them.

A.      Border Qatar/Saudi at Salwa

  1. Exit Qatar

–          First counter vehicle paper check, produce istimarah and passports. When I asked exit letter for vehicle they didn’t need it. (Note: the vehicle is in the name of the driver)

–          Qatar immigration: all passport stamped. Ensure exit permit(vehicle export white paper) sought

–          Recheck of passport by Qatar immigration

2.    Enter Saudi (next 10 km from rest area before Qatar border)

–          First counter, produce Qatar immigration paper and passport. Park your vehicle in the middle lane, or right side. Have yourself eye scanned and finger printed. Eye scan/finger print for women is in a separate area. Children are not required.

–          Second counter, Saudi immigration, followed by customs. You must park your car in the inspection area and go out of the car to get a stamp from one of the inspectors.

–          Next buy insurance for Saudi at the check point after custom. The cost is 70 Saudi Riyals for 7 days.

–          Final check point: check of passports and collection of the white paper with stamps.

Total duration time: 54 minutes (Qatar + travel + Saudi)

B.      Border Saudi/UAE at Al Sila/Gheweifat

3.   Exit Saudi (Coordinate: 24 07’48.3”N 51 34’21.8”E)

–          You get a white paper for vehicle export, which is stamped at the various points through the border crossing. At the final checkpoint they keep the paper.

–          Saudi Immigration: Check and stamp passport.

4.   Enter UAE (right after Saudi Immigration)

–          Park your car and enter the white immigration building on your left to complete your immigration to UAE

–          Inside the building, go to one of the desk and produce your passport. You will get one visa application form for each pax. You don’t need to fill in “Travel with/accompany” section as your wife/children has their own form. Then adults go for eye scan in a room on the left side of the building. Make payment AED125 per member in a counter opposite immigration desk. The officer will post sticker on visa form. Go back to the immigration desk to have your passport and visa stamped.

Tips: Have passport information handy for filling in visa forms and have your wife to help fill in to speed up immigration process.

–          Drive your car to customs and park your car in the inspection area (in the shed like structure). Go get out of car to get a stamp. Observing us travelling with family they don’t even bother to touch/even ask about the luggage.

–          After customs (out of the shed), you need to buy insurance for UAE. There are four insurance agent counters right after customs on your left. Choose anyone. Insurance cost AED100 for 10 days (minimum)

–          Final checkpoint: check of passports and collection of the white paper with stamps.

Total duration time: 61 minutes (mostly occupied in UAE Immigration)

C.      Border UAE in Hili (Al Ain) & Oman

5.  Exit UAE (Coordinate: 24 15’49.8”N 55 46’02.7”E)

–          When we arrived at UAE border in Hili (near Hili Fun City), gate was closed and we dispatched to other road. We made U-turn and got back to location, parked our cars in front of shop and walked to the officer. We understood from the officer that system was down!

–          We stated our intention, in the most polite and innocent like way, that we were coming from Qatar and would like to go to Oman and therefore we needed to cross this border. They gave us direction to go to the portacabin office to meet another officer. We again stated our intentions and directed to another office to make payment for exit visa (departure fee).

–          Finished with payment (AED20 per pax), we got back to the immigration office and produced all passports and papers with departure stickers.

–          After passport stamped, we showed finished passport and papers to gate keeper and stated that we needed to get back to our cars and crossed the gate.

–          Gate keeper opened the gate for us while others could not do it! Yiiha…..

Note: This is we believe a special circumstance that may not be repeatable. Follow normal immigration process in the future. This situation also reminded us to act in the most polite and innocent way when dealing with the immigration officers.

Total duration time: 36 minutes (should have been shorter if system was not down)

6.  Enter Oman (located in Wadi Al Jizi, road to Sohar, about 39.6 km from Hili UAE Border. Coordinate:  24 13’27.9”N 56 09’41.1”E)

–          Park your car and enter the immigration building to complete your immigration to Oman

–          Produce all your passports to the immigration desk officer. You will get visa application forms for adults only. Complete application forms.

–          Buy insurance in nearby counter. Insurance costs us OR10 for 10 days.

–          Back to the immigration desk, pay OR3 per adults (children free).

–          Go back to your car, drive through drive-in counters. First counter, check all passport, visa. Second counter, stamp. Final counter, final check and collection of paper.

Total duration time: less than 40 minutes (

Note: As I drove a mud-painted car, I was reminded by the immigration officer that I should clean my car prior to entering Sohar, otherwise I could be fined. That’s what it called “Dirty Money” – fine for driving dirty car.

 TIPS:

Grab free Oman maps and travel guides provided by Oman Tourism Office at the corner of Immigration Building, just opposite immigration/insurance desks!

D.  Border Oman & UAE in South Al Ain (Hafeet/Mazyad). Coordinate: 24 01’33.5”N 55 50’47.3”E

7.  Exit Oman

–          You get a white paper for vehicle export, which is stamped at the various points through the border crossing. At the final checkpoint they keep the paper.

–          Oman Immigration: Check and stamp passport. Pay OMR2 for vehicle exit.

8. Enter UAE (right after Oman border post)

–          Park your car and enter the immigration building (on your right) to complete your immigration to UAE

–          Produce all your passports to the immigration desk officer. You will get visa application forms for all pax. Complete application forms. Adults went for eye scan.

–          Pay entry visa fee in a counter across the road.

–          Back to the immigration desk, produce all passport and visa forms.

–          Go back to your car, drive through drive-in counters. First counter, check all passport, visa. Produce istimarah and get white paper. Next counter, customs, where you must park your car in the inspection area and go out and get a stamp from one of the inspectors.

–          Buy insurance if yours is expired or you don’t have one.

–          Final counter, final check and collection of the white paper.

Total duration time: 1 hour and 17 minutes (mostly occupied by UAE Immigration and due to waiting time of another family travelled with us)

Note: You don’t need to fill in Travel with/Accompany section in the visa application forms. Otherwise you will be asked to complete a new one. Payment counter officer also reminded us that doing so will incur us another cost. This is not the case in Al Sila/Gheweifat border. To be safe, leave it blank.

E. Border UAE & Oman (Musandam) in Al Dara/Thibat. Coordinate: 26 03’01.4”N 56 05’14.2”E

 For this particular immigration process, not much I could remember, although it was pretty straightforward. So, don’t take my explanation for granted. If you happen to experience the most recent process, please do let me know.

When you approach UAE border you will see 3-4 gates in which one gate is dedicated for Visitor (non-UAE citizen/residents). You need to go to immigration building on your left to complete entry card (although you are exiting) and pay AED20 per passport. Then with this card, go to exit gate for stamp.

Not far from this gate is Oman/Musandam entry gate. In here, the process is very fast. What I could remember I went to one of the booth, got entry card (only for adults), filled them in inside my car and got back to the booth and paid only 2 OR per adult (children no need to pay). Then got all passports stamped and run into another checkpoints for insurance, stamp and luggage. If you don’t have Oman insurance you need to get one from a counter near Omani immigration booth (on your right if I am not mistaken).

From Shatha Mustafa on 14 Dec 2010:

We crossed Aldara border on November 19th, 2010 from RAK. We paid an exit fee, I can not remember the total fees. We had to park the car and enter the building. It took about 5 minutes to go through the process, we are a family of five and US passport holders. As soon as we exited the Omani border was on the right. It is a small temporary building. The visa was 20 OMR or 200 AED per each passport. We filled out the white forms. There was a small line and 1 serving window so it took about 45 minutes.
As soon as we entered Oman, the beautiful beaches with facilities were on the right. We stayed at the Golden Tulip Resort and took the diving tour located at the hotel itself. We had an excellent time

F. THE REST

The immigration processes for the rest of the trip are the same as previous ones.

UAE & Oman Trip: Accommodation Review

 

With very wide ranges of accommodations from sea bottom price to galaxy away one, UAE and Oman offer a long list of accommodation to pick. What left to do is to select accommodation that suits your budget and interests (location, type, facilities, etc.). You should not have a problem selecting an accommodation in big cities like Abu Dhabi, Dubai or Muscat, but you need to stretch a bit to find a suitable accommodation in smaller cities like Al Ain, Fujairah or Khasab. There is only 1 hotel available in Khasab (Golden Tulip Hotel Resort Khasab), for example, with online booking facility, making booking competition is very tight and price goes skyrocketing in high season. Similarly in Al Ain and Fujairah where each has 6 hotels available through internet bookings. Others may be available but do not accept online booking.

 

As we travelled with another two families, we put priority on booking an apartment in which we can share the rooms and common facilities. Summer promotion helps us in getting very affordable accommodation in good location and great facilities.

 

Booking Sites

 

We use http://www.booking.com and http://www.hotelscombined.com for browsing accommodation and placing bookings. The latter site combines many online booking sites and list prices from all sites. Booking.com is a pay-on-checkout site that secures our booking through blocking our credit card information. Please be aware with terms and condition in regards to cancellation (i.e. generally up to 48 hours is free of charge) and change policy, as well as hotel policy.

 

We also used http://www.tripadvisor.com and Google to understand review on selected hotels.

 

Delmon Hotel Apartment, Muscat

 

  1. Price: A 3-bedroom apartment for 2 days costs us 130 OR (or about 215 QR per night per family). The price is including breakfast and city tax and service charges.
  2. What’s in the room: Two bedrooms are equipped with bathtub and one with shower. Kitchen with refrigerator, microwave, and kitchen utensils provided. Seating areas with television  and dining table also provided.
  3. Location: The apartment is located in Wadi Al Kabir (“Big Valley) area. 6 km from Mutrah Souk and  9 km from Qantab Beach/Oman Dive Center (10 minutes drive). 5 minutes drive to financial and business district.
  4. Facilities: Restaurant (breakfast is limited to scrambled egg, sausage, baked beans, and Arabic bread with choices of tea/coffee, juices). Free internet access in entire hotel (however it was very weak in the room. Userid and password requested on Receptionist. Free private parking is possible on site. Free tea/coffee on lobby area.
  5. Opinion: Good values for money. Room is clean. Staff friendly and helpful. Quick checkin/out service. Location is not far away from point of interests.
  6. Contact: Al Wadi Al Kabeer. Al Gadeer St., Muscat. Coordinate: 23 34’43.5”N 58 33’53.4”E
  7. Alternative:
    1. Hala Apartment
    2. Al Shiraa Hotel Apartment
    3. Check booking site to select your preferred hotel

 

Delmon Apartment - Lobby area
Delmon Apartment - Lobby area

 

Inside 3-bedroom apartment
Inside 3-bedroom apartment

 

Hilton Fujairah Resorts *****

 

  1. Price: A double bed room for 2 days costs us USD175.04 (or about 319 QR per night). The price is including breakfast and city tax and service charges.
  2. What’s in the room: Shower.Television. Working desk. Seating areas with chair and table. Private balcony  overlooking hotel’s landscaped gardens.  Safe deposit box (enough to store 15” laptop). Coffe and tea making facilities. Mini bar. Iron.
  3. Location: Al Ghorfa Corniche Street, next to the Coffee Pot Roundabout, Fujairah.
  4. Facilities: 4 Restaurant and bars. Pay internet access (wired or wireless). Private beach. Outdoor cafes. Swimming pool. Playground. Lawn tennis. Spa & Massage. Billiards. Table Tennis. Volleyball court. Gym. Mini golf. Tree house. Business center. Shop. BBQ facilities. Free private parking.
  5. Opinion: Ideal for families and couples on holiday.  The wide range of activities available includes something for both children and adults. Room is small but bathroom is spacious. Excellent balcony.  Staff friendly and very helpful.
  6. Contact: Tel: 971-9-222-2411   Fax: 971-9-222-6541. http://www.hilton.com Coordinate:25 08’10.2”N 56 21’18.1”E
  7. Alternatives:
    1. Siji Hotel Apartment
    2. Emirates Springs Hotel Apartment

 

Hilton Fujairah
Hilton Fujairah

Shaded playground area
Shaded playground area

Golden Tulip Resort Khasab ****

 

  1. Price: A double bed room for 2 days costs us OMR117 (or about 585 QR per night). The price is including breakfast and city tax and service charges.
  2. What’s in the room: Shower.Television. Working desk. Seating areas with chair and table. Private balcony overlooking Musandam sea and fjords.  Safe deposit box (small)
  3. Location: Located in Khasab road, on your left. 3 km prior to entering Khasab town, just before Khasab public beach.
  4. Facilities: Restaurant and bar. Pay internet access (wired or wireless). Tour agent office in lobby.. Swimming pool. Gym. Table Tennis. Small children playground. Free private parking. Dive center.
  5. Opinion: Good summer deal. Excellent location along the mountainous coastline. Generous balcony with perfect view. Staff was very friendly. Breakfast was very basic. Peace and quiet.
  6. Contact: Phone: +968-26 730 777 Email: info@goldentulipkhasab.com http://www.goldentulip.com  Coordinate:26 12’48.2”N 56 14’01.2”E
  7. Alternatives
    1. Khasab Hotel, in Khasab town, near airport. http://www.khasabhotel.com
    2. Ezra Apartment, in Khasab town http://www.khasabtours.com

 

Golden Tulip Resort Khasab - Swimming Pool and Playground Area
Golden Tulip Resort Khasab - Swimming Pool and Playground Area
Golden Tulip Resort Khasab - Lobby
Golden Tulip Resort Khasab - Lobby

 

City Tower Hotel and Apartment Dubai

 

  1. Price: A 2- bedroom for 4 days costs us AED1600 (or AED200 per day per family as we share with other). The price is including breakfast and city tax and service charges.
  2. What’s in the room: One with bathroom inside, one outside bathroom. All with bathtub. Double bed room. Seating areas and dining area. Television. Kitchen and white appliances (refrigerator, stove, microwave, washing machine) and utensil provided.
  3. Location: Located in Bur Dubai, off Mankool Rd.
  4. Facilities: Restaurant and coffe shop. Free private parking (limited space). Roof top swimming pool and fitness center. Business center. Pay internet access AED25 per 24 hours.
  5. Opinion: We could get competitive price due to company rate with help of our friend’s friend. Good value for money. Room is OK except that one bedroom has outside bathroom. Fully equipped kitchen and washing machine is very useful for long stay. Parking is very limited. Check-in process was quite a hassle. Close to Deira and Dubai Creek.
  6. Contact:  Coordinate: 25 15’20.4”N 55 17’25.5”E
  7. Alternatives
    1. Check booking website as there are so many hotels and apartment in Dubai!
City Tower Hotel Apartment
City Tower Hotel Apartment
City Tower Hotel Apartment - Lobby
City Tower Hotel Apartment - Lobby

UAE & Oman Trip: Itinerary & Distances

“So little time so much to do……”

 With limited time already allocated for summer trip, the need for itinerary, estimated travel time and list of points of interest to be visited is quite essential. This will save a lot of time in destination. Most cities in UAE are about one to two hours away from nearby city making hopping from one POI to another POI is easily managed. This is somewhat different with Muscat. Muscat is about 500km away from Abu Dhabi via Sohar (in east coast) or 560km via Western Hajar areas. This requires few isolated days just for travelling time.

This is our actual itinerary that we ended up:

Day 1 – Doha – Abu Dhabi – Al Ain – Sohar – Muscat

Day 2 – Muscat

Day 3 – Muscat – Nizwa – Ibri – Al Ain – (New Schwaib) – (Al Dhaid) – Masafi – Fujairah

Day 4 – Fujairah

Day 5 – Fujairah – Khor Fakkan – Dibba – Ras Al Khaimah – Khasab (Musandam)

Day 6 – Musandam

Day 7 – Musandam – Ras Al Khaimah – Umm Al Quwain – Ajman – Sharjah – Dubai

Day 8 – Dubai

Day 9 – Dubai

Day 10 – Dubai

Day 11 – Dubai – Abu Dhabi – Doha

 

UAE & Oman Trip 2009 - Our Actual Driving Routes
UAE & Oman Trip 2009 - Our Actual Driving Routes

 

Determining Point of Interests

The easiest way to determine point of interest in destination city is to ask resident there. So if you have friends or relatives there, you’d better use them. If this is not possible, use the following tips:

  1. Browse Wikitravel (http://wikitravel.org/en/Main_Page )  as a starting point as well as specific destination http://wikitravel.org/en/UAE , http://wikitravel.org/en/Oman .
  2. Browse specific country tourism government agencies

              UAE Tourism http://www.uaeinteract.com/travel/

              Oman Tourism http://www.omantourism.gov.om/wps/portal/tourism

      3.   Check websites of any tour agents at destination offering city tour. There must be published itinerary for half-day, full day or more than one day. Pick any POI that you might be interested in.

      4.   Check trip advisor or virtual tourist for review of city, hotel or point of interests. http://www.tripadvisor.com , http://www.virtualtourist.com

      5.  Check maps, location of POI on online maps. You might want to save coordinates as well.

            Google Maps http://maps.google.com

             Wikimapia http://wikimapia.org

             Google Earth

 If you are travelling with groups of families, it is important to determine common interests first and then to cater/compromise on some individual interests. We found that going to POI that can serve the entire family member interests saved much time. Many missions accomplished in one go. For example, going to The Dubai Mall where children can go to Dubai Aquarium/Underwater Zoo, and adults to fashion shopping and electronic shopping.

Individual city POI will be explained later when we come to individual city travelog.

Distances

Listed below are selected city distances. Detailed distances can be seen on the attached distances table across UAE & Oman.

Doha (Al Gharafa) – Qatar border: 98 km – Saudi border (next 10km)

Saudi/Qatar border – Saudi/UAE border (Al Sila/Gheweifat): 129 km

Saudi/UAE border – Abu Dhabi (Corniche Road): 360 km

 

Abu Dhabi – Al Ain: 160 km

Abu Dhabi – Dubai: 145 km

Al Ain – Fujairah: 190 km (via Masafi), 193 km (via Hatta, Munay, Khor Kalba), 185km (via Maleihah, Shawka, Munay , Kalba)

Fujairah – Hatta: 72km

Al Ain – Sohar: 115 km

Sohar – Muscat: 230 km

Muscat – Nizwa: 175 km (Muscat – Seeb: 38 km, Seeb – Nizwa: 137km)

Nizwa – Ibri: 135km

Ibri – Al Ain: 160km (to border) and next 25 km to Al Ain city

Fujairah – Dibba: 62km

Dibba – Al Dara (UAE/Musandam border): 120 km

Al Dara – Khasab town: 50km

Driving Distances UAE & Oman
Driving Distances UAE & Oman

Note:

  1. Do not rely on distances in estimating travel time. Speed limit, city areas, road conditions (i.e. highway, single carriageway/double carriage way, mountainous areas), day time/night time and border crossing time, all affects travelling time. Better asking someone who had driven through that particular routes.
  2. UAE and Oman has very good network of road throughout their countries with very good condition, well maintained and properly sign posted and numbered. Nevertheless, travelling on dual carriage way is preferred than on single carriage way, as for travelling during day time.

UAE & Oman Trip: Preparation – Immigration, Documentation, Car

ATTENTION: Read post regarding expatriats barred from driving car under finance by bank out of Qatar unless fully repaid. New move based on circular from Qatar Central Bank.

 

Driving to UAE & Oman is not as difficult as one may imagine. What half needed is a proper planning. That’s including knowing what immigration and documentation requirements for each visited country prior to start the journey, and preparation for your car.

Saudi Transit Visa

You need a transit visa to cross Saudi Arabia to enter UAE (Fact: There is a road connecting Qatar with UAE through undefined borders among UAE, Qatar and Saudi Arabia, near Khor Al Udayd with Sawdad Nathil Police Post at the end, but that is not approved port of entry). This visa is to be obtained for all passengers.  A round trip transit visa can be arranged through agents (Note: Saudi Embassy does not deal with individual transit visa request). Transit visa is valid 30 days since date of issued and you have only 3 days from date of entry into Saudi to cross the border into UAE and vice versa.

It takes about 5 working days to get the visa and the charges are QAR125 (that’s what we paid to agent; official visa fee is QAR50).

Note:

  1. Allow sufficient time for starting your trip after your estimated time of visa obtained just in case you have some problem with visa. We had our friend’s family member was granted only one way visa whereas the rest are round trip visas. It took them 2 days to rectify causing them missing the first two days of our planned trip. We had many mistypos in names (i.e. missing one letter or doubled letter) but we were assured by the agent that it would not cause a problem. We did not have any problem with that mistypo.
  2. We were advised that Saudi Embassy closed on Thursday and Friday. Although we submitted all requirements to agent on Wednesday they were only processed on next Sunday.

Requirements:

–          Original passport, and copies of identification page and RP

–          Two passport size photographs with white background

–          No Objection Letter (NOC) from company for sponsored persons to obtain visa to Saudi. Dependants do not require a letter if travelling with the sponsor (head of the family)

–          Copies of vehicle registration card (istimarah) – if vehicle not in the name of the driver then NOC to be sought from either bank or company

–          Copies of driving license

List of Saudi Visa agents :

  • Al Kanz Co. (Tel: 4883713, Mobile: 5724414). Abdullah Bin Thani Street, Al Gharraffa. 100m from Qatar Airways branch, 200m from Hot Chicken. Coordinate: 25°19’36″N   51°27’47″E
  • Al Ihsan Khaleej Services (Tel: 4434535, Mobile: 5513959 – Ismail). Souk Asiri, 2nd Floor. Opposite Dana Center/Philipine markets. Coordinate: 25°17’16″N   51°32’14″E
  • Al Asayel Co. (Tel.: 4372784, Mobile: 5680914). Near Sana/VW Roundabout. Next to Mercedez Showroom. 
  • Al Medadi Co (Tel: 4313121, Mobile: 5284159) On B Ring 4 signals from Jaidah R/A
  • Al Afdaleya Co. (Tel: 4476161, Mobile: 5743382)
  • Al-RTG (Tel: 4580038, Mobile: 5891789) Near Salwa Road

Disclaimer: As telephone number may change without notice, I am not responsible for any inconveniences caused.

 UAE Visa

1.  Indonesia is not among 33 visa waiver countries. However, if you are GCC resident and have a high professional status such as company managers, business people, auditors, accountants, doctors, engineers, pharmacists, or working in the public sector, you and your families, drivers and personal staff sponsored by you, are eligible for a non-renewable 30-day visa upon arrival at the approved ports of entry. Otherwise, you need to get visa in advance from the nearest embassy.

Check UAE Immigration for details http://www.government.ae/web/guest/visa and the following site: http://www.uaeinteract.com/travel/visas.asp  as requirements may vary from time to time.

2. Entry Visa (On Arrival) Fee is 125 AED per person including children. Exit Visa (when you exit UAE) is 20 AED.

Oman Visa

–          A Single Entry visa has been introduced by combining the tourist visa, business visa and short visit visa which now cease to exist. Upon arrival at any air, land or sea terminal, the citizens of the some countries can obtain a one month visa after filling and presenting the visa application form. Indonesian is eligible to be granted visa on arrival.

 –          Enter the Sultanate if you are a foreign resident in an AGCC state:

 It is granted to a foreigner who is resident in any member state of the Arab Gulf Cooperation Council (AGCC), provided that his occupation is not of low grade. It is also granted to members of their families, relatives and those in their company as long as they enter together.

  This visa is valid for staying the country for four weeks, and is extendable for one week.

 It is granted at the entry point directly.

 Fees: RO 3 (now RO 5) – ( RO 1 for entering Musandam Governorate Only ). Read steep hike in Oman Visa Fees  here

 Delay fine : RO 10 Per day .

 Requirements :

 An applicant must have valid residence permit in an AGCC state.

They should be in an occupation approved for entry.

 Their passport must be valid for not less than 6 months.

Families, drivers, servants, attendants, and dependants of those residents are eligible for this visa , provided that they present their labour cards, and their passport are valid for not less than 6 months .

 All nationalities in AGCC states are eligible for this visa.

 Source:

http://wikitravel.org/en/Oman

http://www.rop.gov.om/english/HowDoI4.asp   (Royal Oman Police)

Passport

 –          Make sure at least 6 month validity and sufficient blank pages available

 Company

–          Ensure you get exit permit from company/sponsor. It is recommended to bring a printed copy of exit letter just in case system is down.

–          Ensure you get vehicle exit letter from company, if financed through company. It might not be looked at but just in case being asked in border. [Asked your Public Relation Officer/Immigration Officer in your company if you need this, just in case there is recent development; similarly if financed through bank, ask your bank. heard from  my friend that letter from bank is never asked provided that your car is under your name]

Car

–          Best to service your car before embarking

–          Consider applying mud paint to protect car from potential sand storm in Saudi Arabia area. Other alternative is to apply liquid dish wash soap. Normally they are applied on the front body including grill, side mirror shell, lower part of side body, rear fender, and front top body before sunroof. You can do mud painting yourself or have petrol station in Salwa road area to do it. DIY mud paint spray can could be bought in Carrefour automotive section for about 19 QAR. Depending on your car type, you need 4 or more cans for coating your car.

–          Consider bringing road emergency kit, ensure your car has good tires and a spare.

Mud Paint Spray Can
Mud Paint Spray Can
My mudpainted Mitsubishi Outlander
My mudpainted Mitsubishi Outlander

 Insurance

You are required to buy insurance at the border while entering Saudi, UAE & Oman for the duration of stay. The rate is 10 riyals/dirhams (or 1 omani riyals) per day per car. However minimum seven day insurance applies in Saudi and 10 days in UAE & Oman.

Insurance Paper  - examples (left to right: Saudi, UAE, Oman)
Insurance Paper - examples (left to right: Saudi, UAE, Oman)

Salik Tag in Dubai

Salik is like ERP (Emergency Road Pricing) in Singapore or toll in Indonesia. Salik has many gates, among others at the Bur Dubai entrance to Garhoud Bridge, on Sheikh Zayed Road after Mall of the Emirates on the way to Jebel Ali, at the Floating bridge, the second interchange (Safa Park) along Sheikh Zayed Road, and at Maktoum Bridge. There are no booth, and no need to stop as you drive through. Instead, you need to stick a tag to windscreen , which is read by radio frequency as it passes. It costs Dhs4 each time. Those that don’t have a card will be fined Dhs.50. You can get a salik tag from any petrol station in Dubai by paying 100 dirhams. You need to present your copy of istimarah and fill in application form. Before stick it on the car front windshield below the rear view mirror you need to activate it by calling number provided on the package (800 SALIK). You will be asked your Salik number, car number, chassis number, make and model, color, etc.

Signage of upcoming Salik Gate usually placed few kilometers before
Signage of upcoming Salik Gate usually placed few kilometers before

Speed Limits

Speed limits are usually 60kph to 80kph around town and 100kph to 120kph on major highways (note: speed limits from Saudi/UAE border to Abu Dhabi is 100kph). The speed limit is clearly indicated on road signs. Speeding fines begin at Dhs400 for being up to 10kph over the limit. Parking fines start at Dhs.100. No camera along 129km Saudi road, and some in Saudi/UAE border to Abu Dhabi (primarily when approaching towns/U-turn), and many (every 1-5km) in Abu Dhabi – Dubai road or Muscat – Nizwa. 

Customs Regulations

There are different customs regulations among countries; what prohibited and what allowed in certain quantity. Narcotics is obviously prohibited. No alcoholic drinks are allowed during journey through Saudi nor magazine with scantily dressed women or even any idols/statues. Potted plants might be required to send to quarantine which usually has a long queue of trucks.

Dealing with Border/Immigration Officers

Polite, patient, smile, nice and some simple Arabic greetings will do. Do not play any music or attending mobile phone while you are being serviced at any drive-in counters. Pull down all windows at the border crossing, to show your family members. Travelling with family in GCC country will usually make immigration process speedier.

Map/GPS

Get a good map of the visited country or updated GPS for the trip. Although you might still get lost in road diversions in Dubai 🙂 . Dubai map can be easily downloaded from internet. A good Oman map is hard to find in Doha but can be obtained later at tourist corner inside Oman immigration building. Publications from ExplorerPublishing offer good source of tourist information. However no single book from Explorer can offer you good sides of both worlds (map & tourist guide). It’s either good in maps or in guides. Alternatively, browse http://www.liveworkexplore for online information.

Be informed traveller! Buy maps or guides to facilitate planning
Be informed traveller! Buy maps or guides to facilitate planning

Currency

UAE & Oman has different currencies than Qatar. UAE currency is AED (Dirhams/Dhs) and Oman is Omani Riyal (OMR/OR). AED to QAR is almost the same, but OMR to QAR is about 10 (1 OMR = 10 QAR).

It is advised that you carry small amount of Dirhams and Omani Riyal although Qatari Riyals are welcome by most petrol stations and also at immigration and insurance counters. If you travel with family of four and plan to go to Muscat and Musandam you need at least 3000 AED on hand to pay for UAE visa on arrival (x3), Oman Visa On Arrival (x2), exit visa, salik tag, petrol and insurance. This assumes that all your shopping expenses paid by using credit card.

 Travelling with Groups

Travelling with groups requires a lot of coordination and constant communication. It is advisable to bring HT (handy talkie). Each of us (a group of 3 families) used one pair HT that each HT is adequate to cover 3-5 hours of travelling depending on the intensity of usage, with coverage up to radius 2 km. Not only useful for travelling, HT is also useful for quick coordination in a big mall, hotel, or large point of interest. If you have power inverter (convert car DC power to AC power) this will help in recharging one set while another is being used. The cost for inverter is as low as QAR150 for 110W AC power; I bought 400W inverter for QAR189 in Carrefour.

It is also recommended that you travel with no more than 4 cars. Above that will cause much waiting time and quite complex coordination. If so, try to separate into 2 groups. Pick trip leader who already knows the area and road or someone who has a GPS or good map.

Summer Road Trip: Plus and Minus

Many questioned us when we decided to take a trip to UAE & Oman by road during this summer vacation period. Why not in winter? Trip during winter is preferred; however we already have another agenda for winter that prevents us from travelling during winter. Nevertheless, road summer trip presents both advantages and disadvantages.

Advantages:

– Less traffic on road and in border. Therefore less driving risks and less immigration processing time (generally we spent from 45 minutes to 1 hour in borders when in winter or vacation period processing time might probably be more than 2 hours).

– Much cheaper accommodation benefited from summer promotion for low peak season(50% discount rate than in winter is not uncommon; when can you afford a double bed bedroom with breakfast in Hilton Fujairah Resort for only 320QAR or a sea-view double bedroom with breakfast in Golden Tulip Resort Khasab for only 558QAR? Normal rates are 700AED and 90OMR (900QAR) in Hilton and Golden Tulip respectively!!)

– Less crowded. Enable us to enjoy points of interest more comfortably.

Disadvantages:

Scorching heat. 40-47 C heat is bearable. Not really a challenge as we get used to in Doha except when added with high humidity like we had in Muscat. Once you step out of car you’re guaranteed to be fully sweating and wetted.

– Limited outdoor activities. Be outdoor limited only for photo stops or if necessary although we spent a full day dhow tour in Musandam. Otherwise, night time might be allocated for outdoor related activities

UAE & Oman Summer Trip 2009

We were out of country for summer vacation to Oman and UAE by road for the last 11 days. Right now, we are compiling all documentations and photos to enable us to share with you what we’ve got, what we’ve seen and experienced during the last 11 days of unforgettable trips.

Check back in the next few days as we publish stories and lesson learned about nice and small city of Muscat, sandstorm in Ibri, border blues, Fujairah, sandy beach, fjords of Musandam, surprising Dubai, and a lot more!