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.
How to travel from Dubai to Muscat by bus via the Hatta border?
Step 1: buy a bus ticket
First you have to buy a bus ticket from Mwasalat, Oman’s public transport company. We paid 55AED per person for a ticket. There are 3 buses a day in both directions:
• The Mwasalat bus from Dubai to Muscat departs at 7.30am, 3.30pm and 11pm.
• The Mwasalat bus from Muscat to Dubai departs at 6am, 3pm and 11pm.
From the airport we took a bus to get to the Dubai Mwasalat bus ticket sale office and after looking (and asking) around we found the tiny office. It was closed when we arrived but opened at 10am.
We bought a ticket for the 3pm bus and spent the rest of the morning in Café Nero near the World Trade Center metro stop. It was very convenient that we could leave our big luggage at the bus ticket office during our short trip into downtown Dubai.
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. From Ruwi bus station we walked to our hotel in Mutrah. You can read more about our accommodation in Oman in this post.
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.
Nevertheless, the bus is a pretty comfortable, easy and cheap way to travel from Dubai to Muscat. If you want know why you should visit Oman, be sure to check out my road trip itinerary. Read more about our Oman travel budget in this post. Traveling to Dubai instead? Be sure to check out my Dubai itinerary as well!
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.