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The northern coast of the Arabian Peninsula is populated by the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and the nation of Oman. Oman was largely isolated form the world until the 1970s, so it still retains much of the charm that other countries in the region lack. Travelers who come to Dubai are often looking for a more authentic travel experience, which Muscat provides. Here is our ultimate guide to the Mwasalat Dubai to Muscat bus. [Note: In November 2015, the ONTC bus company was renamed the Mwasalat bus company. They are the same company, just a new name. However, you may still see references to the ONTC Dubai to Muscat bus and some of the older ONTC signs still exist.]
We are generally fans of getting out there and trying to experience as much of the local environment as possible. When I first discovered that I would be traveling to Dubai, UAE for work, I hit on the idea of also going to Muscat, Oman. My graduate school hosted many Omani exchange students. I have fond memories of studying and learning with my Omani peers and hearing stories of their country. I knew I needed to go to Oman. Here is our experience.
So, I did quite a bit of research on the Internet and found that we could take the Mwasalat bus from Dubai to Muscat. This would give us a chance to see much of the countryside as we drove through the desert of the Arabian Peninsula for nearly six hours. We also had difficult find good information on flights from Dubai to Muscat (more on that later). So, we opted for the Mwasalat Bus. The bus from Dubai to Muscat was driven by a driver who couldn’t figure out the nuances of the brake pedal. The bus would jerk forward and back giving us temporary whiplash. And the return trip from Muscat to Dubai was fraught with a bus breakdown.
Yes, it’s true. Our Mwasalat bus broke down. We had to pull into a kind of a bus lot while a mechanic took a look at the engine. Thankfully we weren’t too far out in the desert and thankfully we were close to a facility with a mechanic. However, the event made for a very memorable experience!
Tips for Taking the Mwasalat Bus Between Dubai and Muscat
A few tips on the Dubai to Oman buses if you decide to go that route:
Bus from Dubai to Muscat
The buses leave Dubai for Oman from the Mwasalat Bus Terminal in Deira. The terminal is located behind DNATA. We found the office/ticket window to have sporadic hours, so it is best to buy your tickets the day before – especially if taking the first or last bus of the day. If you are staying at a hotel in Dubai, you can also have your hotel concierge obtain the tickets for you, which can sometimes be easier. A one-way bus ticket from Dubai to Oman costs 55 AED (and 90 AED for round trip). The Dubai bus leaves for Muscat at 7:00am, 3:00pm or 11:00pm. [Note: As of 2018, the much-rumored Dubai to Muscat bus online booking tool has still not been implemented. At this time, online ticket purchases are still not possible.]
About the Mwasalat Buses
Temperatures on the bus very considerably (depending on if the air conditioning is on or not), so be prepared with short sleeves as well as a light jacket. It can also be very helpful to have some food and a bottle of water. The buses do not have toilets on board, so plan ahead!
The UAE-Oman Border Crossing at Hatta
The border crossing is actually completed in two steps. If you are heading from Dubai to Muscat, you’ll first cross what amounts to a custom’s inspection at the Hatta border station. If you are European or North American, this process is essentially a formality (a passport stamp – your UAE Exit Stamp) and then you are left to wait. Meanwhile, custom’s inspectors will go through baggage of the rest of the passengers, many of who will be Omanis as well as Indian, Pakistani, and Bangladeshi workers. It seems the main items of interest are alcohol, tobacco, and pork products. Best not to transport contraband.
The second stop is on the Oman side of the border crossing. Here, you will need to get your documents processed for Oman, including obtaining an Oman visa and Oman arrival stamp. Inside the border station, you’ll find ticket windows and lines to get your visa and passport stamped. The lines for the Oman border were surprisingly long. If you are from Europe or North American (what Oman calls countries on “List A”), there are two visa options. A 10 day stay costs RO 5 (Omani Riyals – the local currency). A stay of more than 10 days is RO 20. These are expat visas issued for overland travel (official details can be found here). The actual tourist visa is much more involved (you must present letters and also have two passport photos) and costs RO 20 (official tourist visa details can be found here). We were not expats, but we’re given the expat visa.
The Sohar Bus Stop
The buses between Dubai and Oman make one stop: Sohar. This is a kind of strip mall complex with toilets and a couple of fast food establishments – all serving roughly the same kind of food. There is nothing interesting to see at the Sohar, Oman stop.
Bus from Muscat to Dubai
The return from Oman to Dubai is the same in the reverse. Buses depart from the Ruwi bus station in Muscat. Tickets can be purchased inside the station at the ticket window. Given the potential for lines, it is best to buy your tickets the day before. Buses from Muscat to Dubai leave three times per day (6:00am, 3:00pm, and 11:00pm). You’ll make the same stop in Sohar and at the border.
I wouldn’t have traded the experience of the bus trip across the Lower Gulf desert for anything. But I wouldn’t repeat it again. Next time, if we find ourselves in Dubai, we’ll skip the adventures of the Mwasalat buses and fly from Dubai to Oman.
Tips for Flying Between Dubai and Muscat
Flights from Dubai to Muscat
Muscat to Dubai flights take about 75 minutes. At the time of writing this, last minute flights from Dubai (DXB) to Muscat (MCT) were less than AED 460 (less than $125) round trip on OmanAir. Flying works out to be between four to five times more expensive than the bus, but it is also six to seven times faster. If we were doing the trip again, we’d seriously consider flying. (Check current prices with OmanAir here)