Oman, a country with absolutely great outdoors and fascinating people, should be a real paradise for adventurous, budget backpackers but, unfortunately, it is a surprisingly expensive destination.
Like all Gulf Monarchies, the Government has primarily focused on promoting luxury tourism, which means that budget hotels are practically non-existent and you won’t find any backpacker hostels, not even in Muscat.
On top of this, the public transportation system in Oman sucks, plus the cities are not walking friendly at all, so, during your journey, you will have to rely on either renting a car or taking a lot of cabs.
However, spending little money in Oman is very possible.
I actually backpacked in Oman for over a month, traveling from north to south and visiting everything in between, and I swear that I spent less money than in other backpacking destinations, such as Kyrgyzstan or Georgia.
In this post, I will tell you several tips for backpacking in Oman on a super low budget.
My 11 best tips:
In one entire month, I only took two taxis within Muscat (2.50OR-6.50USD each) and the 12-hour bus from Muscat to Salalah (7OR – 18USD).
Then, I hitchhiked back to Muscat through the coastal road and visited pretty much any spot in between.
I calculated it and, in total, I hitchhiked over 1,400km.
Seriously, hitchhiking in Oman is super easy and, during all that time, I think the maximum I waited for a lift was 20-25 minutes, and that was because I was standing on a road with very little traffic on a Friday, so most of the few cars that passed by were families and, if there are women inside and you are a man, they are unlikely to pick you up.
From trucks driven by Indians to wealthy Omanis driving extravagant 4×4, Western tourists and even Bedouins with their pickups, except for families, everybody in Oman is willing, and happy, to pick up a random foreigner.
Something you need to know about Omani people is that, on the one hand, they are really nice, kind and hospitable to foreigners and, on the other, many of them don’t work, or just work a few hours a day, so they have a lot of free time.
It happened to me several times – really, several times – that I was going in a completely different direction, yet, the Omani insisted in taking me to my actual destination, even if that involved him driving 60-80 additional kilometers, no kidding. Omanis are awesome.
I had similar experiences when I was backpacking in Pakistan.
Omanis are extremely hospitable so, when hitchhiking, expect Omanis to invite you to their house before you continue with your journey.
Telling them ”no” would not be polite, so always say ”yes”, but this also means that when backpacking in Oman, your plans will be constantly changed, thanks to the Omani hospitality.
You may experience this all around the country but it particularly happened to me when I was hitchhiking in Central Oman, the least visited part of the country and a land of Bedouins.
That inhospitable part of Oman is composed of a road several hundred kilometers long with absolutely nothing but desert and occasional tiny villages inhabited by Bedouins.
Well, there wasn’t almost a single Bedouin who didn’t want me to hang out at his place after dropping me off, which led to me having a very high heart-rate due to the 20 cups of qahwa (local cardamom coffee) I had to swallow in one single day.
That delayed my trip significantly but, if you want to enjoy the country to the fullest, go with the flow and don’t rush.
They are always so spread out that you will regret not having a car, even in the smallest village.
Fortunately, Omanis are aware of that, so hitching a ride in a city is as easy as when you are standing on a highway. I hitchhiked in Muscat, Salalah, Sur and all villages in between without any problem, always.
As I said before, in Oman there are no hostels and, for a hotel, you will pay a minimum of 25€ for a private room, usually a single one.
You may find some cheaper deals on Airbnb but it won’t be much cheaper.
Otherwise, apartment hotels are a very big deal in Oman and, if you are 2 or more people, they are great value-for-money.
During my 30-day journey, I did a few Airbnb and stayed in a few random hotels and always paid around 20-25€. However, I have to admit that all the places I stayed in were excellent.
In Oman, Couchsurfing is a big deal and you can find active profiles in pretty much any city and, if you send requests well in advance, you may also find couches in smaller towns and villages.
I did Couchsurfing in Muscat, Salalah, Sadeh, Sur, Bidiyah and Nizwa.
Moreover, since Omanis are really hospitable and treat all guests as honorable guests, if they accept you, most of the time they will be completely free, as they really want you to have the best experience, so they will show you around and, if you are staying with a family, the mother will cook some delicious local food.
My best experience was with Musab, a kind-hearted Omani from Sadeh.
I visited him during a national holiday, so we spent 4 days together with his friends visiting all around Dhofar province. From driving to the Yemeni border to visit his friend’s camel farm and loads of traditional food, every day, we had so much fun and today, I am glad to say that I have a brother in Sadeh.
Thank you, Musab!
Muscat is where the big Couchsurfing community is and, every weekend, they organize different outdoor activities, which usually involve going to the desert or camping at the many wadis (valleys).
Those events are a great way to meet open-minded Omanis and explore Oman on a budget.
Oman is a huge country only inhabited by 4.6 million people, which means that most of the country remains pretty wild.
From great wadis to loads of natural pools, outstanding mountains and 1,700km of coastline, Oman is known for its great outdoors activities and, since the country doesn’t really have a proper, nice nightlife, plus Omanis aren’t party people either, going camping on the weekend is a big thing here, and a great way to cut costs when backpacking around Oman.
Places like Jabel Akhdar, Jebel Shams and most wadis are easily reached by hitchhiking, no problem.
So yeah, do bring a tent.
I have to admit that I was not always able to find a Couchsurfing host, so when I didn’t feel like paying for an expensive hotel, I didn’t mind pitching my tent in one of the comfy palm gardens that abound in most cities.
Technically, I heard that camping in Omani cities is not allowed but nobody ever cared about my tent and trust me that I camped in quite a few places, including in the palm garden next to Nizwa Fort.
Controversially, in Oman, you can eat for cheaply, like very cheaply actually.
Nearly two-thirds of the population in Oman are from the Indian Sub-Continent (India, Pakistan and Bangladesh), so restaurants serving food from their respective countries are plentiful and, actually, in villages they tend to be the only option.
From daal to chicken curries, for just a few dollars, you can easily fill your belly with Indian food.
Moreover, restaurants serving purely Omani food, which usually consists of rice with chicken, meat or fish, are also inexpensive, usually 1-3USD more expensive than Indian food.
On the other hand, in Muscat and other big cities, the restaurants serving international food will charge you like a restaurant in Dubai or Western Europe.
Oman is one of the hottest countries on Earth, with summer temperatures averaging 45ºC , and the bad news is that summers last forever.
From May to October, day temperatures are nearly unbearable, so if you are planning to hitchhike, camping in cities and stuff like that, you should avoid backpacking around Oman during these dates.
Even when I came in mid-November, some days were disgustingly hot, especially in Salalah and Central Oman.
Like I said in the introduction, in Oman I spent less money than backpacking in Kyrgyzstan for example. How can that be?
Well, in Kyrgyzstan, accommodation is cheap, like 10USD per night, and you can go by public transportation everywhere.
However, despite being cheap, I still had to pay for it and, in Oman, since I was always hitchhiking and mostly camping or Couchsurfing, I didn’t have to pay for any of those things.
If you are a serious budget backpacker, so you will basically Couchsurf and hitchhike, besides the cost of the visa and the SIM Card, you will only have to pay for food and, for that, you can easily survive on 15USD a day
Don’t forget to check our travel guide to Oman.
As well as all our Oman articles: