Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Practical Tourist Visa Information in Oman

53 comments:
This post is intended to help travelers to Oman to understand the tourist visa process upon arrival to Oman. Information about how to extend a tourist visa is at the end of the post
(Last Updated: June  2016)

General Information:

Tourist visas are issued for ten days or for thirty days. For persons of Tier 1 countries or for GCC residents 'visa on arrival' are granted. Otherwise, one must apply at their local Omani embassy or consulate beforehand.

New 2015: See ROPs (Royal Oman Police) Visa Wizard - it's very helpful.

https://evisa.rop.gov.om/web/guest/voa/-/VisaWizardportlet/Start-again

Fees:

  • 30 Day Tourist Visa - 20 OMR - Extendable for 30 days (20 OMR)
  • 10 Day Tourist Visa - 5 OMR - Extendable for 10 days (5 OMR)
  • GCC Residents - 5 OMR - .4 weeks - Extendable for one week
  • Multi-Entry Visa - 50 OMR (with permission only) - 3 weeks entry at time, good for 6 mo to one year (not extendable)
  • Common Visa Dubai - No charge for 21 days if one has a valid Dubai stamped visa for at least 3 weeks. Not extendable. Must come directly from Dubai emirate through an airport or al wajaja/Hatta border or by sea. For Tier 1 countries only
  • Common Visa Qatar - One month visa, extendable one week. Must come directly from Qatar no third country stop over. Tier One countries only.
  • Passengers & Crew of ships. Free for 24 hours, 5 OMR per person for stops of 24-96 hours. 
  • Overstay Fee - 10 OMR per day up to maximum fine of 500 OMR

The "upon arrival" instant tourist visa is issued to persons of Tier 1 countries only (see end of post for full list, generally, EU+, USA, Canada, specific S. American and Asian countries, Australia/New Zealand). So, if your country is on that list you can obtain a tourist visa at the Muscat airport upon arrival. Otherwise, one must pre-arrange the visa which can be done through tourism company as sponsor, as relative/friend visit visa, and go through an Omani Embassy or upon requesting a three day transit visa (see 'notes' below for transit visa information).

Major Omani Tourism companies:


There are special exceptions for servants of GCC travelers. If you have a Dubai airport stamped tourist visa, your fee will be free as part of a tourism partnership with Dubai Emirate (be sure to note this at the Muscat airport).  There is a 10 OMR fee for each additional day a traveler overstays a tourist visa up to a maximum fine of 500 OMR. You may be asked to pay visa fees with a credit card and cash rejected at land borders. The airport entry prefers currency. Generally, it is best to have both available. 


Visit the Oman Royal Police website, www.rop.gov.om, for more visa options.

Visit the Airport Management Company for more info on on-arrival visas:
 http://www.omanairports.com/visaonarivals.asp


*UPDATE JUNE 2013The Embassy of the United Arab Emirates is pleased to announce that beginning June 1st, 2013, the Government of the United Arab Emirates will be restoring the previous visit entry requirements to the UAE, whereby regular Canadian passport holders will not require a visa to enter the United Arab Emirates (UAE).*

Arrival by Air: Muscat  


After being bused to the terminal from the tarmac, you will enter the immigration arrival hall.
  • Step One:  Buy a tourist visa at the Travelex Counter on the far left side of the arrival hall. There will be a line here. The cost is 20 OMR or 55 USD for 30 days and 5 OMR for 10 days. You can use a credit card or cash (major currencies, GBP, USD, EUR, OMR).  They will ask for cash only, but they do accept cards. It is a bit counter-intuitive to visit an "exchange counter" to purchase a visa, but it is a necessary step before entering the official  immigration line for non-GCC persons. 'On the spot' tourist visas available to citizens of Tier 1 countries (EU, Canada, USA, see list below in 'notes').
  • Step Two:  Present the receipt from the Travelex counter to immigration officer. The immigration officers are generally friendly and helpful. Most speak some English. Proceed through immigration to have a visa issued and your passport stamped.
  • Step Three: Baggage Claim. Retrieve your bags in the next hall. They will be put through security machine on the way out.  The ROP seems to be tightening security lately. There is a 'last chance' small duty free store on the way out of immigration area which sells a variety of alcoholic beverages not available for public purchase in Oman outside the airport. You may purchase two bottles or 24 beers. This is for Non-Muslims only.
  • Step Four: There are several ATM machines located in the arrivals section of Airport if you need to take out Omani currency. Be aware that currency exchange shops (even in the airport) do not change all currencies to OMR - only main currencies such as EURO, USD, GBP and locally relevant ones such as Rupees, etc. If they do change the currency, the rate will not be favourable. What I have found is that it is best to change your currency, for example, Korean Won, into USD or EUR before coming to Oman. Then, in Oman it is easy to change those currencies to Omani Rial at a decent rate.

  • Also, on the Exit out of the Arrivals Hall to the Parking, the local phone carriers Nawras (now Oreedoo) and OmanTel have offices set-up where one can buy prepaid SIM cards for about 2-3 OMR (5-8 USD) that work in most unlocked international phones. 
It may be advisable to bring a tourism book with maps included. GPS is handy if driving with out knowledge of the area. Muscat is a city made up of  'neighborhoods' spread out weaving in and out of a mountain range along the coast. When driving, one travels in the direction of the section of town or 'neighborhood' such as Qurum or Seeb when following highway signage.
   
When you see 'Muscat' referred to in a highway sign, it means the small section of the old city where some government buildings and the palace is located not the Muscat and surrounding areas referred to as the capital. Http://wikimapia.org/ provides a useful map of Muscat and regions in Oman; just search for Muscat, Oman.

If you need a map, try purchasing one in an Oman Oil petrol station, in a Hypermarket or at the airport's book shop. If by chance you drive through the Wadi Jizzi border post near Buraimi City, there is a tourism office inside the main building. The staff is friendly and can provide ample materials and some maps about Oman.


2011 - 2012 Taxis are not metered as of yet (rumored to be soon) and by law only Omanis can drive taxis (unlike Dubai). You should agree on price before embarking on the trip. Negotiation is expected and prices often start high for tourists. Do not pay more than 8 OMR (as of 2011- now more) to go to the farthest place in Muscat from the Muscat airport.



Update 2013* Taxi rates went up.
Taxi price update to various places around Muscat and beyond: 

Update 2016 - There are special taxi cars at airport - blue purple stripe on white. 
all fares start at 6 OMR about 15 USD. 

See: http://www.omanairports.com/transport.asp  The rates to major hotels vary from 6 OMR to 15 OMR (15 USD to 40 USD) from the airport. Frankly, it may be more cost effective to rent a car if one will need to hire a taxi often. When catching taxis outside of the airport, Oman is a place where it is necessary to bargain hard for the fare before the journey especially for foreigners  You may be able to negotiate a weekly taxi rate.  There is little to no public transportation. 


Arrival by Air to Salalah, As of June 2015, the new Salalah Airport was opened. 


And, as of Novemeber 18, 2014, the new Sohar, Oman airport was inaugurated (domestic only) which then ceased operations in June of 2016.


Duqm Airport.  Air Oman flies to Duqm. Book through http://duqmair.com/.

Arrival By Car 

Important: 
  • Your car needs insurance which covers driving in Oman to cross into Oman at the major checkpoints. This normally can be purchase near the border post for 10 OMR.
  • You might be required to use a credit card to pay the visa fees into Oman. (Wadi Jizzi, Hilli for sure. Hafeet cash may be ok) You will also have to pay an exit fee of 35 dhs to Exit the UAE.
  • 2016 - Most advisable to bring a credit card to UAE & Oman borders post AND to bring cash. Some border posts are only accepting credit cards and others request cash. There is no way to know what each border is accepting as the policies keep changing.
  • 2016 - The UAE and OMAN have started checking the car registration and insurance very frequently. You need this to cross the border in a vehicle.
  • 2016 If you are a foreigner and non-GCC resident, you will need to park and exit your vehicle at all border stations and enter a small trailer on the side of the road or large immigration hall - depending on the border - to be stamped out or to have new visa issued. The signage is not the best on smaller border posts.  
Also, if you manage to get in with out being covered you will be responsible for the cost of all damages if you have an accident. Not paying is a jailable offence. It is possible to buy temporary insurance at most borders from small insurance shops (10-22 OMR) located near the border posts or if renting a car contact the rental office.

Sometimes, border control will ask for a letter from the car rental company indicating the car has permission to cross the border and for a copy of the registration and insurance papers. Before driving between countries, ask the rental car company to issues these papers. It costs about 15 OMR for the insurance to drive temporarily in the UAE from Oman. Generally, if traveling by private car, one needs the car's mulkiyya (card designating ownership) to present to the border guards when crossing at UAE especially. 


What I mean by 'generally' is that sometimes I did not need to show these things and other times I did; use your own risk threshold. Most likely the UAE will ask for these papers. (You may get by without at Hili border, but not recommended.) If you are just making a visa run to/from Oman or UAE and U-turning at the border they may let you do this without insurance.


At all the border stations, your passport should be checked and your vehicle searched which normally consists of a quick look in the boot. You will receive a slip of paper indicating the number of passengers in your vehicle that you will need to give to the border control at the border post exit. If exiting the UAE, make sure the immigration officer stamps your passport with a green-coloured exit stamp. This involves entering the visa station. 


Otherwise, Oman will not issue a visa until you return to the UAE and get stamped out. Or, in a not so good scenario Oman does issue a entry stamp and then technically your UAE visa was never cancelled which could cause major problems if wanting to enter the UAE again and you may be fined for each additional day overstayed. The UAE is sophisticated in their immigration tracking and will find out even on a new passport. 


It is possible to walk across the borders. However, some have more distance between the Oman and UAE side than others. Also, one can take a taxi or bus across the borders.  

The easiest to walk between UAE and OMAN: 

1. Hafeet/Mezyad Border (500 m)

2. Al Buraimi (50 m between Al Ain and Buraimi, however, the Omani visa issuing post is in Al Jizzi is 45 km away)




Click to Enlarge: Map of land borders - Oman/UAE
The borders are open 24/7.

Approximate Driving Times:

1. Hatta to Sohar: 45-60 min / Hatta to Muscat: 3-4 hrs. /  Hatta to Dubai: 1 hr.
2. Buraimi to Al Ain: 10 min. / Buraimi to Sohar: 1 hr. / Buraimi to Muscat: 4 hrs. / Buraimi to Dubai 1.5 hrs. / Buraimi to Abu Dhabi 1.5 hrs. / Buraimi to Wadi Jizzi Border 20-35 min
3. Dubai to Muscat: 5-6 hrs., Dubai to Sohar 2-3 hrs., Dubai to Sur 6-7 hrs, Dubai to Salalah via Al Ain-Hafeet-Ibri-Haima: 1200km, 12-16 hrs
4. Note: When dealing with currency, 10 UAE Dirham make up 1 OMR (Omani Rial).
5. The exit fee out of the UAE by car is 35 dirham per visa holder.


From Al Ain, UAE to City of Al Buraimi, Oman
Al Hili Border : (Coordinates: 24°15'45"N   55°46'4"E)
Distance between UAE and Oman border station: about 45 km
One should use the Al Hili border crossing out of UAE. This is the border for expats into Buraimi. There is another border for GCC nationals (Al Madheef). This border is best used for those headed toward Sohar and coastal areas. If you are going to Ibri/Nizwa/the interior of Oman or you are making a visa run use the Mezyad/Al Hafeet border. Al Hili is an exit out of UAE only border. The Omani border station in 45 km down the road at Wadi Jizzi. You will receive and exit stamp (green-colored) from the UAE.
Hili Border, Al Ain, UAE

Also, one must pay a UAE exit fee of 35 Dirham and personally enter the immigration building if you are from the USA, Europe, etc to leave the UAE. In the 'exit' room, you can take a number and wait your turn. In the last few years, the Emirates has completely fenced off the UAE off from Oman. There is a long fence of several hundred kilometers separating the UAE from Oman which supposedly keeps out smugglers and absconders. The only way to cross is through a border.


Give yourself about 45 minutes to one hour to cross the border. Sometimes it is faster, but the UAE office gets backed up at times. The UAE border officers are professional and speak English; however, they seem to prefer polite behavior from visitors. The Gulf society has a strong cultural value of dignity which seems to supersede any job, law or procedure.


Afterwards, you will enter the Omani City of Al Buraimi. You are now in a kind of 'no mans land' because the Omani immigration check point of Wadi Jizzi  is about 45 Km down the road in the mountains toward Sohar. You will not receive an Omani visa until you reach Wadi Jizzi border station. At Al Wadi Jizzi post, you will need to fill out tourist visa application and pay the fee to obtain a tourist visa.


You must drive here to get a visa even if staying in Buraimi. Otherwise, one technically would not have a valid visa to stay in Oman and one is stamped out of the UAE. There are some backroads through the desert to avoid all of this (from Dubai through Madam toward Hatta), but taking these routes are at your own risk.



Photo Jizzi Border from Google Maps
Directions from Hili Border Post UAE to Wadi Jizzi Border Post Oman:
(Coordinates: 24°13'23"N   56°9'45"E)
Take note of directions out of Buraimi; it is not that straight forward or well marked if you havent been there before.  Once in Buraimi go straight at through immediate round that you exit into from the border to next R/A (Salam Roundabout) and make a left. At next R/A (AL Juma- there is a huge mosque here), go straight. Continue straight out of town. You will pass a McDonalds on your right and then many Gift Markets. The Buraimi Hotel will be on the left. Follow signs to Sohar and Jizzi. If you get lost, ask for sultan qaboos mosque R/A from here you can head toward the Mcdonalds and out of toen. 

You will pass through the new 'Buraimi Gate' You will head down a desert road into the mountains in the direction of Sohar. Continue straight until reaching Wadi Jizi border post. Park and go inside. Arrivals are to the right of the hall. You need a credit card here to pay the visa fee.

Al Jizzi Border Post (Tel +968 25668054)

From UAE - Fujairah/ into Shinas, Oman - 

Khatm Al-Mallah Border:
(Coordinates: 24°58'26"N   56°21'53"E)
Distance between UAE and Oman border station: about 1 km
Make sure you have insurance for Oman. Cross and pay the fee. The border has been under construction for at least two years. The UAE border has been issuing visas at the road stalls as one drives through. The Omani used to use a make shift walk-up counter in the road for visa issuing; however, there is now a small customs building that opened off to the side. There is about one km between the UAE check point and the Omani check point. There is often traffic and a long queue between UAE and Oman border points. Prepare for delay especially during Eid and on weekends even late at night.

From Dubai to al Hatta UAE, Oman Border

Al Hatta - Al Wajajah (Omani side border):
(Coordinates: 24°47'4"N   56°17'49"E)
Distance between UAE and Oman border station: about 8 km
This is border post station buses use into Oman from Dubai. Exit out of UAE (be sure to get green exit stamp). There are several buildings off the road on the Emirati side including Customs, Passenger Arrivals, Duty Free (perfumes and cigarettes) and an insurance shop. Expats need to visit the Passenger Arrivals/Departures building. After getting the proper passport stamps and paying the exit fee (about 40 dirham), proceed into Oman. Oman has a check point set up where they search your car going into Oman. 

Then, proceed about 8 km to the Omani border post and passport control. Approach Omani border station Al Wajaja. Park out front and go in building. The building houses restrooms and a small shop selling refreshments besides the passport control. Car insurance for the Sultanate is a must. Tourist Visa applications are located in the building by the back wall. A tourist visa will be issued for the fee. The customs officer will also give you a small paper indicating the number of people in your car, that you will need to give to the exit guard driving out of the border station.

If you are doing a visa run from the UAE to Oman to renew your UAE visa, these days there is a 10 day Omani tourist visa for 5 OMR (no need for the 30 day visa 20 OMR). This may be the best border to do a visa run from Dubai by car.


Omani Wajaja Border, Source: Google Earth

From Abu Dhabi to Hafeet/Mezyad Border

Oman Check Point:
(Coordinates: 24°0'48"N   55°50'47"E)
Distance between UAE and Oman border station: about 500 metres
Same requirements as other land borders. One may get an Omani visa at this station.  Use this crossing if planning to drive to interior Oman - Ibri/Nizwa and even to Muscat. The interior roads of Oman are much improved in the last couple of years making it a viable route to Muscat. The traffic is minimal on the Oman side until Muscat. Also, use this border if going to Salalah from the UAE.   This border is on the outskirts of Al Ain near Al Hafeet mountain (the only large mountain in the area if needing a landmark to drive toward). It takes about 30-45 minutes to reach from Al Hili area in Al Ain or 30 minutes from the Al Ain Hilton. It's about one hour from Ibri on the Oman side and four hours to Muscat. 

Look for signs toward Mezyad or Sinyayya (industrial area) on the Al Ain side. Otherwise, use Wadi Jizzi or Hatta to take the coast route to Muscat. Hafeet/Mezyad might be the best border to do a UAE visa run from Abu Dhabi and surrounding areas. If you can't get Omani insurance for your car, the immigration may let you take your car just for the visa run; otherwise, it is possible to walk between the border stations as they are about 500 metres apart. Remember if doing a visa run into Oman, visa for arrival for Oman is open to countries from Tier 1 only listed at the end of this post and does exclude India (as I get many questions about that).

Hafeet Border Post (Tel: +968 25662280) 

Truck Driver Backroad from Dubai into Oman

This route is for people that don't need visas but want to save time through border crossings. From Dubai head to Road 44 towards Madam. You will stay on this road heading toward Hatta border for about 45 min to one hour depending on your speed. Before you reach Hatta just after Al Roudha Mountain, there is a roundabout and a Shell station to the right. R/A Coordinates: 24°51'54"N   55°56'40"E. Labeled Al Moot Roundabout on Google Maps but also known as Mahdha.

Make a right at the roundabout and drive into Oman towards Mahdha. This is a desolate desert road with poor lighting. There will be an Omani checkpoint but no visas are issued. Continue on this road to the town of Mahdha; there will be a few turns along the way. At Mahdah, you can turn towards Buraimi or head towards the Wadi Jizzi station and on to Sohar. This cuts off time and distance if the main border posts are crowded.


Personal preferences. For a UAE visa run from Abu Dhabi, I like the Mezyad/Hafeet border. The border stations are close together between Oman & UAE, and if something really goes wrong with the visas/car- you are in Al Ain with hotels and shopping and even an airport instead of the middle of nowhere. 

---------------------------------------------------------------------
Tourist Visa Extensions
How to extend your tourist visa for additional 30 days.

*UPDATE 2013: The Omani weekend officially changed to Friday & Saturday instead of Thurdsay & Friday; therefore all operating days are changed from Sat-Wed to Sun-Thurs.* Also, please note that during Ramadan hours are reduced and most government services close by 2pm during the holy month.


Vocabulary: Tamdeed Tasheera - Visa Extention.  Khatim - Stamp. 


In Muscat

In Muscat, it is fairly straight forward to extend your visa (just bring your passport and credit card). Outside of Muscat at local police stations, you may need to bring a "letter" typed in Arabic explaining what you need. There are many "document clearing" shops that can do this for you.

1. At the Airport: There is an office in the "Departures Area" across from the Costa Coffee (The office is a glass window type against the far wall). It is open between 8 am - 1 pm Sun - Thur ONLY for visa extensions. 20 OMR fee (need credit card) for 30 day extension. 


2. At the main immigration office (maktab jawasat): Coordinates:  23°34'59"N 58°17'8"E

It is located near the airport but on the Golden Tulip Hotel side of the main highway. When you exit for the Airport (coming from Ruwi direction toward Seeb) cross the bridge (do not turn right to the airport at the signal). After crossing the bridge, turn right onto the service road. Go straight through first R/A and then make a left at the second R/A.

Travel about 400-500m and the police gate will be on your right. The passport office is the building behind. The first building is for resident cards. If you don´t speak Arabic ask an Omani in Dishdasha and turban where to go (they are probably company PROs waiting for employee visas and can direct you. The guys working at the info desk do not speak much English.) Open until at least 5 pm (Sun-Thur).  20 OMR fee (the immigration office requests you use a credit card) charged for 30 day extension. There is an application form to fill out. There is a special ladies room that is entered from outside the building at a side door. 



Visa Extension: Civil Status buildings (until 5pm) or Airport (before 1pm)


Other Cities

Go to the main police station. Ask for the immigration office ("wen maktab jawasat") and say that you need to tamdeed your tasheera (extend your visa). If you are extending your visa, do not 'stamp out' of Oman at the Police Station. Sometimes, you may need to have a typing service write up a letter or application before getting the extension  (town by town). Look for document clearing office and ask them to type a letter for you (1 OMR). Most immigration branches of police stations close early by 2pm. Even better if an Omani can accompany you to the police office. This is totally different that the Muscat experience for renewals. 

 Notes:

  • You cannot extend visas at the border posts such as Wadi Jizzi.
Tier 1 Countries - Visa issued upon arrival  
Source: ROP - Royal Oman Police
COUNTRY LISTING 1
European Countries
AndorraEstoniaItalyMonacoSlovenia
AustriaFinlandLatviaNetherlandsSpain
BelgiumFranceLiechtensteinNorwaySweden
BritainGermanyLithuaniaPolandSwitzerland
BulgariaGreeceLuxembourgPortugalVatican
CroatiaHungaryMacedonRumania
Czech Rep.IcelandMaltaSan Marino
DenmarkIrelandMoldovaSlovakia
South American Countries
ArgentinaColombiaUruguay
BoliviaEcuadorVenezuela
BrazilParaguay
ChileSuriname
Other Countries
AustraliaHong KongNew ZealandTaiwan
Brunei Dar al-SalamIndonesiaSeychellesThailand
CanadaJapanSingaporeTunis
CyprusLebanonSouth AfricaTurkey
French GuianaMalaysiaSouth KoreaUnited States

**Transit Visa (for non-Tier 1 country citizens who would like to stay up to three days).
TRANSIT VISA
Divided into two sections
Air transit visa:
To be granted by competent authority at air way passages to expatriate based on application submit by aviation carrier company entitle the holder to enter the country only once and resident for a maximum period of (72) hour provided that he should have enough money to cover his expenses and valid ticket to continue his travel .

Road transit visa:

To granted by Sultanate embassies in coordination with the competent authority and valid for two months, entitle the holder to going transit Sultanate territory to neighbour country through legal way passages identify by this authority during a period not exceeding three days provided that the expatriate is from nationality of neighbour country or holding entry visa to this neighbouring country. Fees: 5 Omani Riyals.

Required attachments:

Submit visa application form typed electronically, approved and stamp by applicant to the competent staff in the Sultanate embassy in UAE or Sultanate embassy in Yemen Republic and type in Arabic language for Arab nationalities and English language for non-Arab. Enclose copy of applicant’s passport valid for a period not less than six months.



 Tourist Visa Oman, Oman tourism, visas oman, coming to oman, arrival in oman, visiting oman, muscat visa, muscat airport visa, travel tips in oman, information muscat