Sunday, February 6, 2011

Driving to Muscat

The past ten days were brimming with activity, giving us fodder for new posts but leaving us no time to write them. In the last few days of January, Sam finished up teaching for the semester and rushed to submit his grades (though of course giving each paper careful consideration), as we both prepared for a quick trip to Muscat followed by a week hosting friends, Marcel and Anina, who were visiting from Switzerland (the same friends we visited in 2009).

Late last night we dropped Marcel and Anina at the airport for their flight home after completing a terrific seven-day itinerary together. We now have dozens of memories and hundreds of pictures to sort through, but before we get to that, we would like to offer a public service announcement to anyone who may be considering a drive from the UAE to Muscat.

The plan was to meet our friends in Muscat (they had been touring Oman the week prior) and drive them back to the UAE. Though we've driven to Oman a couple of times, we had never attempted the route between Abu Dhabi and Muscat before, so of course we turned to the Internet to help us find our way. Unfortunately, Google Maps cannot compute directions in this region, and though general (and spotty) directions were mentioned in a couple places, we could not find comprehensive instructions on any websites or blogs.

We pieced together our route as much as possible and left the rest to fate/instinct. While Sam drove, I decided to take detailed notes along the way and then compose this post for the sake of posterity. There are a few ways to get through Al Ain to the border post for non-GCC nationals, so I'm not claiming this is the only or even the best one, but it worked for us. So here they are, step-by-step driving directions from Abu Dhabi via Al Ain to Muscat, using the Al Khattam al Shukklah / Wadi Jizi border posts:

  1. Take Airport Road toward the Abu Dhabi International Airport.
  2. After you spot the Grand Mosque on your right, exit at E22 and take it all the way to Al Ain [about 1.5 hours roughly following the speed limit].
  3. Once in Al Ain, E22 becomes Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed street. Follow the signs through several roundabouts, making sure to stay on this road. 
  4. You will come to a light at Zayed bin Sultan street. Turn left
  5. At the next roundabout, exit right onto Shackboot bin Sultan street.
  6. At the end of this street, turn right onto Omar bin Khattab street. [Note about steps 4-6: we missed the sign for Zayed bin Sultan street and went straight through the light instead. We just turned left at the next street and it brought us to Shackboot bin Sultan and we were back on track. This part of town is more or less on a grid, so it's difficult to get very lost.]
  7. Take Omar bin Khattab street past the Al Ain Mall on your right, until it dead-ends into Al Khatam Street. Take a left; on a clear day you will immediately see the mountains in front of you.
  8. Follow the brown signs for Al Ain Sports Complex - they will keep you on Al Khatam Street until you reach the border (about 18 kms). [Steps 3-8 took about 30 minutes, following the speed limit in light traffic].
  9. Getting through the Khattam border took us about 10 minutes and cost 35 dirhams per person. This may vary depending on the number in the queue. Make sure you have your passport, driver's license, car registration and auto insurance to cover your stay in Oman.
  10. After exiting the UAE, follow the signs for Sohar/Muscat, about another 25 kms, to reach the Omani entry post, Wadi Jizi
  11. At Wadi Jizi you'll need to park and go inside. With a few groups ahead of us in line, this took about 20 minutes and cost us 25 rials, or 250 dirhams, for two people (the sign said 20 rials per person, so we're not sure how that worked out). [This is a good opportunity to use the restroom, which is clean, but make sure to bring your own tissue!]
  12. From the border take Highway 7 toward Sohar about 40 kms (30 minutes) until you reach Route 1, which is the coastal highway.
  13. Take a right on Route 1 (aka A'Seeb Street) and follow it all the way into Muscat. This takes a while (for us, about 2.5 hours), as the road is peppered with speed bumps, traffic lights, and roundabouts.
  14. From our apartment in downtown Abu Dhabi to our hotel in Muttrah, the trip took us nearly 6 hours, all inclusive.
Driving through the countryside is a great way to experience the local flavor of a place, not to mention being less expensive than flying from point A to B, but it can be intimidating to drive across borders of unfamiliar countries. We hope this post will encourage others to take up the challenge. Good luck!


  1. Since I visited Al Ain with you on my last day before you took me for the inevitable goodbye at the airport almost a year ago (next month), I can envision the drive up to the the mountain (on a clear day). I have to use my imagination for the rest. Seems impossible it's been almost a year ago!

  2. This is exactly what I was looking for! Thanks for documenting, cheers.

  3. Thanks! I also just got the google and mapquest failure to figure out the route. I had another question: any idea how to take the inland route thru Nizwa to Muscat, instead of the coastal route? Thanks.

    1. Sorry Amr, but we've never driven to Muscat that way. Best of luck if you do though! I've heard the market in Nizwa is quite nice.

  4. A word of thanks!
    Your clear directions really helped me on my journey.
    Once in Al Ain city limits, I discovered that a number of the roundabouts you mentioned have now been converted to intersections, but by generally following the compass in the direction you were writing about, I made it through Al Ain and to the border checkpost without a single wrong turning.
    Thanks guys.

  5. Thank you so much! Very helpful.

    I'm planning to drive from Abu Dhabi to Muscat but it seems difficult to find a car hire company that allows you to return the car in Muscat. Any suggestions?

    Thanks again

    1. dear,

      did you return the rental car ( rented in AD) in Muscat? What company? How was thedrive? Tnak you!

  6. thank you very very much this will definitely help me out when I get there.