Greetings from the gulf! We have just returned from a lovely weekend trip to Muscat, Oman after a last minute decision to take a mini-trip instead of going to Al Ain for our last visa run. Jen and Matteo received their official entry permits for residence sponsorship on Tony’s visa and part of the process requires that we enter the country via airport or land border to activate residence and cancel the tourist visa. While this trip could have been avoided by going to the immigration department it would have cost about 1100 AED for the process. We decided to put that money towards a quick trip to Muscat to explore a new destination and finalize the residence process at the same time.
We booked a Thursday evening flight from Abu Dhabi to Muscat on Oman Air and departed AUH at 4:10p, which allowed Tony to still get in a full day of work before quickly coming home and heading to the airport. We arrived at the airport in time for a quick stop in the Al Dhabi lounge prior to boarding and enjoyed a quick drink while letting Matteo run around and play with the pillows in the chairs (terrorize the other lounge guests). The lounge was almost empty and it had a good variety of soft drinks, food, and a full bar. At about 3:30 we headed to our gate to board the plane.
The whole experience with Oman Air was pleasant and enjoyable in every regard. The flights cost a total of $370 for the three of us and we got excellent value for money. Both flights we had with Oman air exceeded our expectations (which are admittedly lower compared to US domestic economy class standards) as the planes were very new, had terrific in flight entertainment, and had complimentary snack boxes and beverages to boot. All of this on a 45 minute flight was a surprisingly nice offering compared to most domestic offerings on short-haul economy. The 737 we flew to Muscat was only about 3/4 full and the crew was pleasant, accommodating, and efficient.
We landed on time and headed to passport control with a brief stop to purchase our visa on arrival. Oman requires most non-GCC nationals to purchase a 10 day or 30 day visa on arrival. The visa cost 5 Omani Rial ($13) each for a 10 day visit visa and 10 OMR ($26) for a 30 day. At this point Matteo started to lose his good humor and was a bit cantankerous all the way through passport control which fortunately didn’t more than 10 minutes. We quickly picked up our stroller from the baggage claim then hailed an airport taxi. Taxi’s in Oman are not metered so its important to do a bit of research to get a good rate for your destination. A quick visit to tripadvisor will give you an appropriate taxi price for any Muscat hotel. We booked two nights at the Grand Hyatt Muscat, and we knew that drive should cost 8 OM. This was the rate we were offered at the airport (no haggling needed), and the cab ride was about 20 minutes through moderate rush-hour traffic.
Oman was celebrating their 45th National Day holiday weekend during our stay so the mood was jubilant and the occupancy rates were high which meant hotel rates were also high since there is somewhat of a shortage of hotels in Muscat during high season. The paid rate at the Hyatt was going for over $400 per night for a standard room but we were able to book a points + cash room for 7,500 Hyatt Gold Passport points plus $100 per night. We used one of our four annual complimentary diamond suite upgrades to secure a one bedroom executive suite that allowed us a ton of extra room and included a balcony with views of the Gulf of Oman and the Hajar mountains. The room was huge and offered us more than enough space, though the carpet and furniture were a bit dated especially if you were paying close to $700 per night.
The property was right on the coast with a beautiful pool that separated the two hotel wings. The pool was large, had a lazy river, and a swim up bar in addition to a few water features. Just a few steps outside the pool area the property offered direct beach access to the Gulf of Oman which was great for wading in the warm Indian Ocean or relaxing on the sand. The beach was full of locals in the evenings as the coast lined filled up with 5-a-side beach soccer matches, sand castle builders, and many families enjoying the gorgeous Omani weather.