Recently, we did something we had never done before.  We went for an extended trip to a very expensive country. Or so we thought we did. Oman was our first Gulf country, and all we heard before our visit was that the oil-rich countries of the region were not the friendliest places for cost-conscious travelers.  So, we had to prepare ourselves mentally that the trip would cost us more than our usual wanderings around Southeast Asia or Central America.  The reality, however, was a little bit more nuanced.  While Oman was not a cheap destination, the overall cost was much lower than what we expected and in line with some other places we visited in the past.  Today’s post is an attempt to detail what was expensive, what was not, and how to make a trip to Oman economically manageable.

What was expensive?

A 2-night stay in a desert camp ($150 per night plus 80$ transfer)

Overall, accommodations in Oman were not outrageously pricey.  With one exception.  For staying two nights at a camp in the Sharqiya Sands desert, we paid nearly $400.  Although there were ways to make the visit cheaper (for example, taking a day trip to the desert or staying only one night instead of two), we decided to splurge and not skimp on this experience.  Sharqiya Sands is a truly special place and traveling across half of the world to visit it, it made no sense to count pennies or cut the stay short. Two nights allowed us to enjoy the desert to the fullest and not to feel rushed.  The pleasant bonus was that the cost of the stay included meals, so we did save some money on food during these two days.


Organized Tours

Tourism infrastructure is still developing in Oman, and that’s why prices for organized tours are on the higher end.  For example, if we wanted to do a day trip to Nizwa from Muscat with a stop at Jebel Shams (“Oman’s Grand Canyon”), we would have to shell out about $400 for both of us.  Quite expensive for only one day of sightseeing. Likewise, a day trip to the desert for two people was listed at $300.  There are still bargains available if you search for organized excursions.  For example, in Muscat, we joined a dolphin-watching tour, which was well worth it and quite cheap, at $25 per person for two hours.

Taxi and Hired Drivers

Taxis and hired drivers are expensive.  And that’s why renting a car was the best decision we made.  Not only was driving in Oman easy, but it also saved us a lot of time and money.  If you do rely on someone to drive you around the country, it will cost you a small fortune.  Remember to always negotiate your fare.  You are in the Middle East after all, and bargaining is acceptable and even expected here.


What was cheap?


I do not know if it is possible to spend a lot of money on food in Oman but we spent very little.  I must add we love eating where the locals eat, and there were plenty of local eateries serving simple food at very reasonable prices. Considering that 40% of the country consists of foreigners, primarily from India and Pakistan, you can eat very cheap if you like Indian or Pakistani food (and we do!).  But even the mid-range restaurants serving Omani food were reasonably priced.  In Muttrah, we enjoyed a traditional dinner at Bait Al Luban restaurant, where Anthony Bourdain ate in 2018, and the bill was only around $60.  The food was delicious, and the portions were so generous that we even fed the local stray cats with leftovers.  The most expensive meal that we had in Oman was afternoon tea at a swanky five-star Al Bustan Palace, a Ritz-Carlton Hotel, and the bill was … $64.  Enough said.

Car Rental, Gas, Parking, and Roads

The car rental was cheaper than in some other countries where we drove, at approximately $30 per day.  Of course, what helped us to save money was renting a 2WD instead of a 4WD.  Although a 4WD gives you options to drive some steep mountainous roads and do some off-roading in the desert, a 2WD did the trick for us just fine.  The cost of gas was also lower than in Chicago, at approximately $2.50 per gallon.  And as we already wrote, parking was free, and the roads were free too. No tollways!


Most activities

What we love most about Oman is that once you rent a car, you can go anywhere and explore the country. There are so many things and places to see and experience, and most of them will cost you nothing to discover. For example, wadis are free to enter, and you can hike stunning canyons and swim in beautiful pools.  You can also park on the side of the road and explore the five-thousand-year-old beehive tombs or the ruins of the ancient city of Qalhat.  Although both are UNESCO World Heritage sites, you will not find a ticket booth and the places are free to explore.  And surprisingly enough, you will most likely be there just by yourself.   Atmospheric crumbling mudbrick villages, ancient irrigation system falaj (another UNESCO site), and hiking trails – we paid zero to experience essential Oman.  Watching the sunset from the hill overlooking the coastal town of Sur, while listening to the sounds of hammers of Pakistani workers manually building a dhow boat at the nearby boat factory, was free and one of my most vivid memories from the trip.


What was exactly as we expected?

Airfare to Oman

We knew that flying to Oman, an off-the-beaten-track destination for many people, would not be cheap. Initially, we wanted to visit Oman in December 2022, but the airplane ticket prices were out of control and over $2,000 per ticket.  So, when we found tickets to Oman for $1,400 per ticket, it felt like a steal. It was still a lot of money, but we felt ok paying so much for the opportunity to visit and explore our first Gulf country.


When we discovered that Airbnb was not a thing in Oman (we were able to locate only a handful of apartments on the app), we thought we would blow our budget on accommodations.  However, other than the desert camp, the cost of lodging was reasonable, with rooms, on average, priced at $60-70 per night.  Of course, the rooms were quite basic and spartan, but we are accustomed to no-frills accommodations. Hey, last year, in Grenada, we slept in a remodeled shipping container, so we are ok with simple rooms.

Museum/Fort Entrance Fees

 As stated above, if you have the wheels, most of the activities will be free of charge for you.  In those few places where an admission fee was charged (primarily, forts and museums), the cost was reasonable, with admission fees ranging from $3 to $15.


All in all, Oman is not a cheap destination that can be done on a shoestring.  However, if you are flexible and do not require luxury or are fixated on things to be a certain way, it is possible to travel to Oman without breaking the bank.  What the trip has taught us is that even the so-called “expensive” destinations can be explored without requiring a massive budget.  Now, we just need to wait to apply these skills when we visit Dubai, Switzerland, and the Maldives.

Oh … I almost forgot!  My hospital bill in Muscat was only $25 but that’s a story for another day.  Stay tuned!

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *