Braving the Muscat-Salalah Road! Only for the Adventurous!

  Most people are wise enough to take a plane down to Salalah from Muscat and then rent a car from there.  I never learn.  This was my 3rd trip to Salalah by car; driving the 1040 km distance this time by rental car.  It’s a pleasant enough drive although some complain that it’s “boring” as there’s nothing but desert in all 4 directions.  Depends on which stretch of road you’re talking about.  There are actually 9 segments of road (barely passable as a “highway”), each with their own beauty and challenges.  The first stretch is Muscat-Nizwa which covers 174 km of trip.  Two bonuses of this highway are the smooth, well-paved road and the scenic mountains as one enters Nizwa!  The 2nd part is Nizwa-Adam which is only 56kms.  (There is always the fear of being stuck in the middle of nowhere without petrol, so I make it a rule to gas up at any petrol station I drive by if I have travelled more than 100 kms since the last one.) 3rd, Adam to Al Ghabah (this is where the excitement of the ride begins to fade off….time for COFFEE!)  which covers 119 kms.  Al Ghabah to Hayma (4th part) is another 199 kms.  After 4.5 hours of driving, it starts to feel like you’ll never make it to Salalah with another 491 kms (or 4 hours of driving) to go!  My mind fades in and out of images of me on a comfortable flight to Salalah and slaps to the face are occasionally necessary to keep this Canadian boy alert!  I’m not sure where the BAD STRETCH of road starts exactly, but there are ridiculously damaged segments of highway with signs promising “under maintenance” but those PERMANENT signs have been there for the past 3 years with no signs of any improvements.  200-300 kms of the road are so terrible, that you really have to make sure you have strong new tires to brave this adventure!  Here is a short video showing you just HOW bad I mean!  Sometimes you even get to experience a light sandstorm which is pretty cool to drive through!  Here’s a better idea of what most of the undamaged road is like.  Hayma to Al Ghaftayn makes up the 5th leg of the journey, lasting only 90 kms. Al Ghaftayn to Muqshin (6th) is even shorter at 65 kms.  Muqshin to Qatbit (7th) is another short stretch at only 64 kms.  Some visitors chose to shack up at the Qatbit Resthouse before moving on to Salalah the next day.  If at all possible, avoid it.  There’s nothing there and it’s a boring hole in the wall.  That’s why it’s best to leave Muscat nice and early so you’re not tempted to “give in” at Qatbit!  :-)  Qatbit to Thumrayt (8th leg) is a long stretch at 195 kms but no problem as the realization that you are indeed finally going to arrive in Salalah gets the juices flowing!  The most beautiful part of the drive (and well worth the 8-10 hours it took to get there) is the final (9th) part through the Dhofar Mountains coming in to Salalah.  Incredible!!…that is if it isn’t TOO foggy to see  due to the Khareef like on my drive in on this trip.  I arrived at the police checkpoint (at the start of the mountain range just before Salalah) at about 10:30pm.  This was my view for the next hour driving in:  On a positive note, it was SO refreshing to roll the window down and feel the COLD air of the Monsoon rains!  Salalah, oh là là!!!

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51 responses to “Braving the Muscat-Salalah Road! Only for the Adventurous!

  1. Wow Andy – I have been dreaming about doing that trek to Salalah for 2 years now. We have just put new tyres on Bits of Mishi – so maybe now is the time to brave the drive. However, the thought of being held up in a car with 2 little gremlins is not pleasant. Also, is there anywhere to pitch a tent, and will it be to wet? Keep us informed about your accommodation and experiences down there. Enjoy the cool and I will remain insanely jealous while I sweat it out in Al Ain again this summer.
    Cheers
    Mel

  2. Those “under maintenance signs” were there five years ago too when I last made the trek.

  3. Hi, Mel!
    It’s an awesome time to go, while the mist is still on the mountains! FYI, I did see a few tents at Wadi Darbat-a gorgeous place to camp! There are many places to stay, from the cheapest of cheap to the most luxury suites at Crowne Plaza. I’m back in Muscat by the way, but I have like 1,000 pics and dozens of vids to sort though. There will be nothing but Salalah coming out of this blog for the next little while! :-) All the best to you and the family in Al Ain!

    OPNO,
    Thanks for confirming just how old they are! They really do need to do some work on the Muscat-Salalah road!

  4. what’s wrong with the bus then? I used the overnight bus a few times, when Muscat based pastors helped out in Salalah…

  5. Well…..i went to salalah with my family 2 yrs bak…..it was wonderful…..my dad was the only driver…….it was a looooong drive……but worth it……… cuz when we reached salalah it was night and refreshing…….as clouds made their way into our car and raindrops fell on us as we put our heads out……thr was low visibility n it was AWESOME!!

  6. Pastor Sculler,
    There is absolutely nothing wrong with the bus system here in Oman! :-) I’ve heard good things about the service. I prefer having a car to come and go as you please though!

    Deebz,
    I agree wholeheartedly. “A long drive, but worth it!” Awesome indeed! :-)

  7. Hello Everybody, I would like to ask you how often there are petrol station on this road? Could you please write me that info into my mail address?
    Regards from Poland.
    Michal

  8. Hey Andy, I’m planning a trip next week to visit my parents down in salalah and your page had the bet info than any other thane slot man !

    • Sandeep,
      Wow! Thanks for the encouraging message, man! I loved my trips down to Salalah and it was fun posting what I could about such an enchanting place. Hope you had a great trip seeing your parents! :-)

  9. Hey, I ll be reaching Muscat airport on Aug 30 along with 2 of my firends from Qatar, Just wanted to know cud we rent a car from muscat to salalah for 4 day trip???? any idea how much it will cost??????

    • Yes, renting a car from Muscat to Salalah should be fine as long as you have a drivers license. It’s hard to say how much it will cost. When I rented a car to drive from Muscat to Salalah last August I paid 15 rials a day I think but the company I rented from had cars ranging from 10 rials to 20 rials per day depending on the year and make of the car. The owner tried to make me pay extra as he said the form I signed stated that I’d pay for anything over 250 kms/day. I refused to pay however as it was in Arabic and not in English and he never stated that to me. So I would definitely check if they charge some sort of mileage penalty before renting any car. I hope this helps!

  10. Hey … Noticed that right at the beginning of the journey you have made a patch of 176 kms sound as 285 …. My man … Muscat-Nizwa is 180 kms only, not 285 kms ….

  11. Dev,
    Good eye, my man! :-) The sign posted there messed me up. They are giving 2 distances: 1 from Nizwa to Muscat (176 kms) and another from Nizwa to Bureimi (285 kms). Thanks for pointing out my error. I’ve changed it. Thanks.

  12. Awesome road trip. i drove last week from Sharjah to Salalh via Al Ain – Ibri – Hayma – Tumrait – Salalh. The odometer totalled 1290 kms total.I cannot forget this trip in my life. The best is Route 29 from Ibri till Tumrai – 845 kms nothing on both sides except a petrol station at around 100-150 kms away. I will make it once again in July 2012 during monsoon.

    • Glad you enjoyed the trip! It sure is rough at spots though!

    • Hey Anonymous – Route 29 from Ibri till Tumrai.. can I ask a Q as you have been there this year. Was there a petrol station on that particular road?..

      I went down last year and the petrol station at Al Ghabah (Ghaba) was closed down..?
      so the nearest was at Adam or Hayma.
      cheers
      CD

  13. Hi Andy, is there a follow up piece to this?

    • Paul,
      No, there’s no follow up piece but I do try to drive down to Salalah once a year during the Monsoon season so there are other posts related to the highway from Muscat to Salalah if you search around the blog.

  14. Hi andy,
    will be arriving to muscat on 2nd july. can you pl. tell me if there are any buses from the airport to salalah directly. (andy i was googling for this information….and i have to tell you….your site is quite informative than the rest)
    thanks man!!
    P.S. can you mail me the information, if any

  15. and by the way, andy, is it advisable now to cross over to yemen…???

  16. Hi Satish,
    According to this website (http://www.omanet.om/english/useful/transport.asp) there are daily bus services from Muscat to Salalah leaving at 6am, 6pm and 7pm.
    I wouldn’t advise going over to Yemen with all that’s going on over there but that’s just my personal opinion. I hope you enjoy your upcoming visit to Muscat! :-)

  17. Hi Everyone:
    I am leaving for Salalah day after from Nizwa with my family. Heard the road and petrol pump situation is much better now. Will update soon as I reach.
    Suprio

    • Suprio,
      Would love to hear a more recent update. Get back to us when you can, please!

      • Hi Andy:
        The road trip was in fact better than I anticipated. My wife drove all the way (890kms) and covered it in 8.5 hours. The so called ‘boring stretch’ was quite interesting and different and we quite enjoyed it. The are several pumps along the road no more than 100 km apart, but they are quite crowded probably because everyone still tends to fill up at every station. We did however find it a problem to get clean toilets. The ones attached to the pumps are unusable but you can use the ones in the rest house in Adam (61km from Firq roundabout Nizwa), rest house in Al Gabha (183km) and Himah motel in Haima (384km). These also have restaurants but they don’t look very inviting, so its probably better to carry snacks and sandwiches. The journey is also quite scenic in places.
        Salalah is a big place and we managed to cover only the west part. The first day we took a local omani guide with his land cruiser and he took us to places we could not have known on our own. The next two days we went on our own and followed the map which was easy. We plan to go again this January to see the east part of Salalah.
        By the way we stayed at the Hilton which was a damper and no value for money.

        • Suprio,
          Thanks for getting back to us with this update. I totally agree with the idea of bringing snacks! Yes, there is so much to see and do in Salalah. I’m glad to hear you enjoyed both the drive and your stay in Salalah. Thanks again! :-)

  18. Hi Andy, I did the trip two years ago with my sister from London and my 7 year old son, the road was good and local advice I got was to fill up at every petrol station. (This was convenient to also stock up on snacks and even if my petrol tank was not empty we obeyed this simple instruction.)

    It was an easy trip, alternating the driving every 4 hours. My only ‘stress’ was not been able to see through the fog on entering Salalah just after the police check point, it was like pea soup and stressful. My FJ Cruiser however did the job well and indicated a drop of ten degrees in temperature.

    We had a lovely stay at The Marriot, which be warned is another good 45 minutes out of Salalah. A GPS is a must, the camels were awesome!

    • Kerry-Lynn,
      Glad to hear you enjoyed the trip down to Salalah as well. It must have been nice to alternate drivers! Entering the “pea soup fog” along the Dhofar Mountains was one of my favorite and most memorable moments! :-) My wife dreams of staying at the Salalah Marriott Resort Hotel someday. God willing!
      And yes, camels are awesome! ;-)

  19. It has always been a pleasure reading your blog…really fantastic feeling! All the contributors are doing awesome! Loads of information; credible, communicative and so easy to digest :) We are based in Salalah and I am writing now as we are planning to visit muscat this time by car! We will be grateful if our WHATs be answered; WHAT to do, see, stay (budget)…All the best again to carrying up the good work

    • Saulat Ali,
      Thanks for the kind words. SO glad to know you are getting some use out of this blog! :-) In fact, with people like you in mind I’ve created the “Tourists Sites” page (link found at the top of the page) for you to quickly be able to find what it is you’re looking for by clicking on Muscat (for example) and then seeing the sites available (well at least the ones I’ve visited and blogged about) and info on a few hotels we might have stayed at or visited. I hope this helps you out!

  20. Hi Saulat:
    I am from Nizwa so can’t advise much on Muscat. A visit to the Opera House is a must. Need to book in advance (www.rohmuscat.org.om)

  21. I found your comments very interesting as it appears that the road has deteriorated since the last time I drove to Salalah. That was in January 1989 and the distance from our house in Al Khoud (near Seeb) to Salalah was 1,012 km, which we drove in one day (0600 to 1630) with a couple of comfort stops. The road was absolutely perfect all the way and it was probably not long after it was laid. There were a couple of small sand dunes encroaching on the road at one point but that was all. On the edge of the absolutely featureless Empty Quarter, a tin can blown in the wind hit the side of our car. God knows where that came from. We stopped at Haima for petrol and coffee and at Qitabit for a curry lunch. There were only three men there and the Omani manager said he didn’t know how long he could stand the isolation. We found the overall drive interesting in fact probably because it was so unique. Where else would one drive on a tarmac road for an hour or more and never see another vehicle? While in Salalah, we stayed in the Holiday Inn, which was the only ‘western’ style hotel in Salalah at that time. One of the trips we did while down there was to the old city of Samaran, where Queen of Sheba was supposed to have her palace. Others were to Marbat and to the springs at Ayn Arzat. On our last day there we drove west to the Yemeni border on a road that was still being laid. We left just on sunrise for the return journey to Seeb and were amazed that at the top of the climb to the plateau there was still frost on the ground. We spent half an hour looking for geodes but had to get back in the car to warm up!
    my wife and I were back in Oman only last month and we made our first drive up to Maglis al Jinn, over the top and down the other side to Ibra – 60 km from Fins to ash-Shariq, which took us four hours in a Toyota Land Cruiser on ‘challenging’ roads up to 2,000m. We plan to go back again in a year’s time and I have already planned a route up Wadi bani Awf, over Jebel Akhdar and down to Niza. Wadi Bani Awf 28 years ago was a dusty wadi: last month we drove the first five km in on a brand new concrete road! Unbelievable!

    • John Stewart,
      Thanks for the detailed comment, describing your experience way back in 1989. Seems that we share the same feelings about the uniqueness and beauty of driving the Muscat-Salalah road. I must say that the road seemed to be much better when I drove it back in November of 2012. I think they have patched up the worst parts of the road I described! Like you said, it’s unbelievable how the roads (and so much more!) have improved. I think those who truly appreciate it the most are folks such as yourself who were here “back in the day”. Thanks for stopping in and commenting. It’s appreciated!

  22. Try the coastal road via Sur / Duqm…..totally worth it. Just ill up petrol every place you see but I didn’t hve a problem getting petrol all the way. In love with Oman.

    • derilize,
      Thanks for the update. I hope to drive that coastal road someday…Bought myself an extra petrol can so I’m all set! :-) Kind regards from another lover of Oman.

    • road is better than via nizwa one? and is it a two lane road and the distance could you advice.?

  23. Derilize
    I am very interested in doing the coastal road. Do you perhaps know if the road works from Shuwaymiya toward Salalah have been completed?

    Any
    Thanks for a well written and informative blogg.
    Cheers
    Christie

  24. Hi Andy,

    I regret for not reading your blog a year back coz i visited Salalah and didnt even see the major tourist spots. I drove in Nov 2012 all the way down from Dubai with my family (many people there in salalah told me that it was not the best time to see the place. They say June to August of the year is the best time) .

    However, I have a Dubai – Salalah trip coming up this Eid Holidays (From 8th August 2013) with my office mates and probably my family too. This time I dont want to make it a disaster!!. So, the first thing I did is to rent a car from Hertz (only few rent a cars allow oman border crossing and yes i have already booked it!!). The next best thing is that I found your blog. I have made a note of all your points and is planning well before the trip. Believe me man!! you have got the best blog out there in internet for a detailed Salalah road trip experience. I have planned for a 2 day stay in Salalah. I would appreciate if you can give me a NEVER MISS list of tourist places in Salalah. I have already made a hotel booking with Waves Suites Salalah Hotel (All others are already full!!).

    I would also love to know if any one out there are interested in joining us for the trip (The more the cars are, the better the trip will be). We will start from Dubai on 8th August 2013 (midnight) and will return back in Dubai on 11th Aug 2013 (Afternoon).

    I will update here on the road conditions and the trip details as soon as I return. For those looking for costs, here is a list of expected and incurred costs

    I) Car – Toyota Land Cruiser (Hertz Rent a car) – AED 424 per day (Rent) + AED 100 per day (for Oman Insurance) + AED 15 (they call it “flat Charge”) + AED 30 Per day (if you opt for super CDW which gives full cover of insurance in case of accident).

    ii) Hotel – Waves Suites Salalah (4 Star) – 1 Night Stay – AED 1860 for a 4 bed room suite

    iii) Expected Petrol Cost – AED 500 to 600

    iv) Visa Cost – AED 50 per person.

    Other expenses including food will be based on your choice.

    Thanks,
    Renjith

  25. Hi Andy,

    I been searching for something informative regarding road trip to Salalah. I am living in Sohar and planning to set off in early in the morning this coming Monday. I got my GPS sorted which would be handy. I am driving Toyota Camry hope it would be fine what do you suggest? I am the only driver to drive all the way.

    I have managed to found a cheap hotel Al-Nile Hotel which is on 18 November Street I will comment later by picture I can tell its a nice and clean hotel.

    People did post some terrifying stories regarding Salalah trips and some called it “Highway of Horror” but I would still love to take this chance and hopefully it pays off..

    • Hi Arshad,

      Just went there 2 weeks back from Dubai.. It was an awesome trip..We had two landcruisers.. However last year I went in a Kia Cerato too.. It is a little boring until you see the greenery of Salalah… the fog, the drizzling, the rain and the temperature is so welcoming… The best time is until end of August.. Wish you a good trip… We stayed in Waves Suites Salalah hotel, which was cheap, neat, silent and clean..

  26. Hi Renjith,

    Thanks for the reply. Well I have enjoyed the trip and things are lot better then what I have read here like the road to Salalah is much improved after crossing Nizwa. Lots of petrol stations all the way. I have loved my trip and stayed in Al Nile Hotel in Saadah very nice and cheap.

  27. Ahmad Zamri Zahidin

    Hi Andy,
    I drove from Salalah to Muscat in Nov 2012. The super bad stretch is between AlGhaftyan to Haima. Really bad. I did know there is another road to Muscat. On the way back from Muscat to Salalah, got to go thru the same horrible stretch.

    In Jan 2013, I drove again from Salalah to Muscat. This time around I went thru Marmul. From Salalah to Thumrait to Marmul to Haima. So, I bypassed the bad stretch. The distance is slightly more but worth it. Better road.

    AZZ

    • Hi Ahmad,
      Thanks for the info, especially about an alternate road to check out! If I ever get back down there (God willing), I’ll have to check out the Thumrait-Marmul-Haima stretch of road. I love exploring Oman so thanks for that!

  28. Planning a family trip to Salalah from Dubai in 4×4 in December. Need advice regarding the best route , tourist destinations and Hotels.
    Thank you

    • Niyas,
      I hope you made it down to Salalah and had a great trip. I obviously don’t have time to design an entire travel plan for individual families – I barely have time to post a blogpost now and then and keep up with the comments! :-)

  29. Hi Andy, have you taken the coastal road yet? We are thinking of heading to Salalah in August and on the way back we think we go to Duqm the first day, then make our way to Ras Al Jinz to see the turtles.

  30. hi andy thanks for the great sharing of the adventures!
    just a question do u have the contact of this himah motel ? phone number email ?that i too can make a booking. it seems to be a small one so havent even been able to search the details …
    thanks

  31. Hi,
    Just completed the trip, the roads are just fantastic. (some portions being repaired, but they have developed alternate roads.
    Took the direct route, not via Marmul.

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