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Rent a car - 4WD in Muscat Oman
Tuesday, 21 October 2008
During our stay in Oman in October 2008 we checked out the local car rental market in the area of Muscat. Looking at the add’s in local newspapers, internet and travel guides we found 32 local car rental companies in Muscat of which most do not have a website. While renting a car in Oman is not particularly cheap, rent a car can keep the total travel budget lower by using it to camp in the wild. Here you find an overview of the local players we found on the car rent market in Oman in October 2008.

Offroad safety in Oman - rent a car

First of all Oman is country for 4WD enthusiasts. Although there’s an excellent paved road network, most of Oman treasures are still on (maintained) graded mountain roads. For those unfamiliar with 4WD’s, Oman is not the country to start learning about how to use a 4WD vehicle. On quite a few of the mountain roads, low gear is absolutely necessary to get uphill or downhill without burned clutch or fuming brakes.
Roads can be so steep, a saloon car’s engine can stall in first gear or have wheels spinning on the gravel. On downhill sections, a saloon car in first gear requires continuous braking to avoid loosing control. Although a 4WD has a low gear, brakes are still very necessary to control speed downhill. For 4WD trucks like ours, going downhill on the steepest section requires exhaust brake, low gear and some braking.

In terms of car rent, decide whether to go for 4WD or 2WD saloon - with your budget and 4WD experience as the main factors. All cars are usually manual (stick shift) and equipped with A/C and have 200 Km/day of free mileage. The age of the cars varies from brand new up to 2 - 4 years old.

Rent a 2WD economy saloon car

The cheapest non-negotiated rate we found was 10 OMR / day for a 2WD, manual (stick shift) with 1.1 or 1.3 cc engine. The lowest weekly price was 9 OMR /day for a week upto 3 weeks. The monthly rate is highly negotiable and results in quite a few Rials saved. Examples are Toyota Yaris, Toyota Echo, Kia Rio, Nissan Sunny and Mitsubishi Lancer. The difference for the same price is space – The Mitsubishi Lancer has a lot more space than a Toyota Yaris.

Rent a 4WD car

The cheapest non-negotiated 4WD was 25 OMR / day for a Toyota Prado. The lowest weekly rate was 23 OMR/day with the same rental company. In this category there’s a lot less to choose from. Toyota Prado and Landcruiser seems to be the popular rental, however we’ve seen several Mitsubishi’s and Nissan’s also.
Negotiating will help specially when renting one of the less cheap cars in off-season. 

Local car rent companies in Muscat - Oman

Below for the list of the local car rent companies we found without website - the cheapest first:

  • Al Maha Rent a car :: +968-24603359 / +968-99467384 (mobile)
  • National Travel & Tourism :: +968-24660300
  • Al Maskry Rent a Car & Tours :: +968-24595241
  • Global Car Rental :: +968-24697140
  • ABC Rent a Car :: +968-24582663

A few others who advertised with small add’s in local newspapers:

We did not check Avis, Sixth, Thrifty and Europcar, they have websites will all info there. Experience is that these companies have better rates when checked locally iso through the website, specially when renting for several weeks.

Destination Salalah - rent a car

Salalah is a 2000 Km drive form Muscat minimum. To avoid paying the extra Km's above the 200 Km daily budget you'll need at least 11 rent days to cover for it. Probably it's a better deal to go by bus / plane and rent a car again in Salalah. The drive between Nizwa and Salalah is extremely boring - 8-10 hours of nothingness. In case you do want to drive to Salalah, a 4WD is a far better option by taking the coastal road from Sur to Salalah. At least you'll get adventure for the extra car rent days. 

Check your rental car before taking off

Most important check your rental before you take off with it. Check underneath for unusual damage, tires for deep cuts, windows for ‘stars’ and have a look under the hood. Tire damage is usually excluded from insurrance, meaning you’ll have to pay for it yourself when flat or totally damaged. In any case you’ll be cheaper off when letting it repair yourself.

Specially 4WD vehicles can have a history of off-road abuse. To be on the safe side, take it for a small ride with one of the rental staff with you. Check for strange ‘clunks’ on the joints when going through corners and see if the car can keep a straight line when braking (hard). Go through all low gears and back to 2WD. In doubt refuse the vehicle, specially when staff does not want you to see or test it before signing the car rent contract.

Additionally, a clutch in Oman has a hard life due to the steepness of the roads. The state of a clutch is hard to check and is sort of a risk of renting. Most likely returning with a 4WD with a faded clutch will trigger discussion. The price for an original Toyota clutch is comparable with the European market, the cost of workshop labor is a lot less though. For Toyota there is a market for fake (locally refurbished) clutch plates of lesser quality. Not surprisingly, it might be tempting for the cheaper rental agencies to install a cheaper fake clutch in stead of original parts. Risk increases with older vehicles with more miles on it.   

Car rent insurance in Oman.

Insurance in Oman is mandatory and is supplied with all rent a car contracts. Usually they charge 100 OMR (€ 200,- in October 2008) for accidents or body damage. Off-road usage is included, however check the small print for special sections of driving into wadi’s. Don’t be surprised if engine damage due to water intake is not covered by the insurance policy. As for example in Iceland - 4WD car insurance ends when crossing rivers.

For those who plan to camp out, Carrefour in Muscat has a camping gear section. It’s relatively close to the national airport, so it could be a first stop to get supplies and gear. There's an Internet cafe with WIFI access on the open parking lot. A nice place to spend the first / last night is the public beach at Bandar Jissah. Also check the mobile internet deal using GPRS/EDGE from Nawras.
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