Traffic Rules & the Law
Driving on the right hand side is a novelty for many when they first get into Oman. One actually gets used to it quite quickly. Generally the driving manners are poor and aggression on the roads is on the increase.
- Strict traffic rules are (sporadically) enforced in Oman. There are stringent penalties for violation of these laws, particularly regarding seat belts, speed limits and driving under the influence of alcohol.
- Visitors should not drive without a valid license. Visitors hiring rental cars are urged to ensure that the vehicle they are renting is adequately insured against accidental loss or damage.
- Always carry vehicle documentation (Mulkia and insurance papers) and drivers licenses as the police make random checks.
- Police must always be called in the event of an accident however slight it might be (this rule is being revised currently, but rather be safe than sorry).
Enquiries about traffic fines are available online at the ROP website. From here you can also pay the fines online using a credit card.
Note that a vehicle's license (Mulkia) may not be renewed for the following year unless all fines are paid.
Traffic signs are the language of the road. If they are well, understood and complied with, dangers will be avoided.
Before you overtake_ ensure that it is safe to do so, and don't forget to signal your indicators.
Driving out of the road without signaling to those behind you, may cause an accident.
Driving is an art, tact and decency. Drive in a civilized manner to avoid risks. Always comply with road signs and lines that prohibit overtaking. Turning or driving out of the road without signaling is a traffic offence. Be safe and comply with the traffic rules. Signal the proper indicator. A very minor mistake may cost very much.
For your own safety and the safety of others, slow down before you turn, and signal the proper direction indicator.
Off-road driving in Oman
Going off-road in Oman, either as a passenger or driver, is one of the country’s essential experiences. Driving off-road in the mountains (“wadi-bashing”) is mainly a matter of common sense, and knowing the limits of your vehicle – something that you only really acquire with experience. Going out with an experienced off-road driver is, of course, the best training. Whatever you do, always err strongly on the side of caution.
Driving on sand (“dune-bashing”) is a more specialized skill. The key to avoid getting bogged down is to stick to low gears and keep your revs up – but without revving so hard that you end up spinning the wheels and digging yourself in. Anticipating the terrain ahead, selecting the best route, working out which gear you need to be in and finding the correct gear-plus-revs combination is something of an acquired skill – particularly so when driving over large dunes.
Wherever you’re going, take plenty of water and, ideally, travel with another vehicle (this is particularly important in the desert, where you’re most at risk of getting stuck in dunes and needing to be towed out). And finally, check, if hiring a 4WD, that the insurance provided by the rental company actually covers off-road driving (not always the case).
The useful Oman Off-Road, published by Explorer, covers 26 of the finest off-road routes around the country in microscopic detail. Useful general points to remember include:
- In the mountains, be very aware of the hazards of rain: it can take just minutes for flash-floods to inundate wadis – if there’s any possibility of rain in rough or remote areas, turn back or get out of the wadi as quickly as you can. If you get stuck in a flash-flood, head for the highest ground in the vicinity. If the waters look like enveloping your vehicle, get out of it while you still can – floodwaters can rise with frightening speed.
- If you find yourself having to cross a flooded wadi, it’s a good idea to wade in first to test the depth of the water and strength of the current. If you decide it’s safe to cross, use a low gear and maintain a steady 5–10km/h and keep your revs up to avoid stalling (using the differential-lock or low-range settings available on 4WDs can be useful if you’re going to be driving through water for some time).
- If you get stuck on rocks, jack the vehicle up and fill in the gaps under the wheels with stones, creating a ramp to clear the obstruction.
- Driving on sand, you should reduce tyre pressure to between two-thirds and half of normal pressure. This creates a larger contact area between tyre and sand, increasing traction.
- When driving over large dunes, the key is to gain sufficient momentum before you reach the dune and then maintaining it all the way to the top. Stick to a low gear and keep your revs up – changing gears halfway up the side of a dune will cost you precious momentum. Ascending and descending dunes, try to drive straight up and down rather than at an angle.
- Always follow existing tracks (where they can be found) to avoid causing additional damage to the environment. These will also most likely follow the best route.
- If you do get completely stuck and can’t move your vehicle, it’s usually better (especially in the desert) to stay with your car rather than wandering off on foot in search of help, unless you know exactly where you’re going. A vehicle provides shade and is much easier to spot than a lone walker.