This post was updated in March 2019
When we decided to visit Oman as the 3rd country of our Big Trip I looked into several ways of getting to Muscat, the capital of Oman. We could fly directly from Sri Lanka but tickets were quite expensive so we decided to fly to Dubai instead and travel from Dubai to Muscat by road.
The added bonus would be that this way we qualified for a free visa for Oman… Unfortunately the free visa didn’t happen, but more about that further on in this post.
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How to travel from Dubai to Muscat by bus via the Hatta border?
Step 1: buy a bus ticket
Where can I buy a ticket for the bus from Dubai to Mucat?
Bus tickets can be bought at the Mwasalat office in Dubai (Mwasalat is Oman’s public transport company). You can find the office behind the Dnata (see map below). The nearest metro stop is Deira City Center.
The office is very small and can be difficult to find, however, if you ask around people will point you in the right direction.
Unfortunately you cannot book a ticket for the bus from Dubai to Muscat (or vice versa) online.
I’m not 100% sure about the opening times, when we arrived a little after 9am in the morning the office was closed, but when we returned after having breakfast nearby the office was open (around 10am).
How much does a bus ticket from Dubai to Muscat cost?
We paid 55AED per person for a one-way ticket (a return ticket is 90AED).
If you travel from Muscat to Dubai the price is 5.5 Omani Rial for a one-way ticket and 9 Rial for a return ticket.
What time does the Dubai-Muscat bus leave?
There are 3 buses a day in both directions.
From Dubai to Muscat:
- The Mwasalat bus from Dubai to Muscat departs at 7.30am, 3.30pm and 11pm.
- Departure across the Mwasalat office (Port Saed 10 street, behind the Dnata building).
From Muscat to Dubai:
- The Mwasalat bus from Muscat to Dubai departs at 6am, 3pm and 11pm.
- Departure from Al Athaiba station in Muscat.
On the Mwasalat website you can find the the bus time table (route 201).
Pro tip: we left our luggage at the bus ticket office to explore Dubai for a couple of hours before our bus departed.
Step 2: board the bus 30 minutes before departure
You must be at the Mwasalat bus ticket office 30 minutes before departure. Put your big backpack in the luggage space of the bus and hop aboard. Someone from the bus company will come and check your ticket.
Now sit back and relax. Keep your fingers crossed for light traffic in Dubai, in our case it was very busy which added at least 1 hour to our travel time.
Step 3: the Hatta border, U.A.E. side part 1
After 2 hours you should arrive at the Hatta border, but it took us a lot longer. At the U.A.E. border you have to get off the bus and pay 35AED exit fee per person. Get back on the bus and KEEP YOUR EXIT FEE RECEIPT!
Step 4: the Hatta border, U.A.E. side part 2
The bus will drive a little further and stop at U.A.E. customs. Get off the bus again, take your passport and exit fee receipt with you. Inside the building you must get your U.A.E. exit stamp after which you can hop back on the bus.
Step 5: the Hatta border, Oman side part 1
Again the bus will drive on a little before stopping at Oman customs. Well, actually the Oman luggage checkpoint. At this checkpoint you will have to take all your belonging off the bus and present them to an Omani police man (if you are male) or police woman (if you are female). They will give your luggage a superficial check, but the real test is when all the luggage is lined up and a dog is led around the luggage to check for drugs.
Presuming this goes smoothly all luggage can be loaded back on the bus, only 1 more step before you are in Oman!
Step 6: the Hatta border, Oman side part 2
Now this is where it went wrong for us because of 2 reasons:
1. We crossed the border on Thursday evening, which is the start of the weekend in Muslim countries. In hindsight I knew this, but it hadn’t occurred to me the border would be extra busy on the evening before the weekend…
2. We were supposed to be given a free 3-week tourism because we had arrived from the U.A.E. via Dubai airport. On the Lonely Planet forum you can find more information about this common visa facility. However, the Oman customs officer refused to give us this visa because he said we didn’t have a U.A.E. sticker, only an entry stamp.
This was true, we had only been given a sticker on our first visit to Dubai a month before. After arguing with the guy for 15 minutes he blankly refused and we had to pay 20 OR each for a 1 month visa.
I later sent an email to the Dubai immigration office and they stated that the sticker we had been given on our first visit was valid for 90 days and therefore we should have been given a 3 week tourist visa for free. Ah well, this was about the only thing that didn’t go smoothly during our time in Oman.
Anyway, after buying our visa and getting our stamps we got back on the bus which continued to Sohar and finally to Ruwi bus station in Muscat.
Please note that the last stop in Oman is now in Al Athaiba, not Ruwi. A taxi from Al Athaiba to Muscat city center costs around 5-6 rial
I heard the bus from Dubai to Muscat usually takes around 6 hours, but it took us 9 hours because of the traffic jam in Dubai and the long waiting time at the Hatta border.
Update april 2018: many thanks to reader Liyana for providing updated information about the border crossing between Dubai and Oman.
On the bus, I was surprised to note there were working USB charging spots in the back of each chair, which was helpful. The bus was super nice, though cold with the air conditioning!
Although there are no bathrooms on the bus, there were bathrooms at each border crossing, and at one of the stops before departing Dubai. For the return, at one of the stops in Oman, the driver would allow a bathroom break if requested.
As for the sticker originally needed versus simply the airport entry stamp into Dubai – now the sticker isn’t needed- the stamp will suffice! There is an online e-visa application for Oman, as of March 2018, but not needed if you flew into Dubai airport.
The last stop in Oman is now in Al Athaiba, not Ruwi. A taxi from there to Muscat costs around 5-6 rial (I asked someone inside the station, who helpfully directed me to a taxi). The trip took about 7h to Muscat, and 8h back to Dubai.