There is a brand new highway which will connect Saudi Arabia and Oman by road. Once it’s open, the road from Saudi to Oman will cut driving time by half. The border crossing between Saudi Arabia and Oman has not opened yet, so in the meanwhile those planning to drive from Riyadh to Oman must drive through UAE. A road trip from Riyadh to Oman is certainly doable and worth the trip regardless of the longer drive time.
Now that women can drive in Saudi Arabia the possibilities for women to explore and travel more freely are open! A friend of mine recently drove herself (and her 3 kids!) alone from Riyadh to Muscat in Oman. She might have very well been the first lady ever to make this journey alone, but that I suppose we will never know for sure. What is certain is that Erica is a very brave lady and I’m really happy to share her Saudi road trip story with you.
I hope it will inspire other women to take on the roads and you’ll learn practical information about taking a car out of Saudi Arabia as a female driver. The drive from Riyadh to Muscat took her a total of 16 hours with one stop at Abu Dhabi overnight.
Road trip Riyadh- Muscat by Erica Zentner
I sms’d my father in the early hours of the morning. “Am I doing the right thing?” Following a goodbye meal with friends I had begun to question whether driving from Riyadh to Muscat alone with three quite young kids was going to be as mundane as I had previously thought. I ran through the risks I had considered and mitigated against;
Risk 1 – not being able to get through the border with a car in my husband’s name – I was now in possession of a letter form Muroor (Traffic department) allowing me to drive the car abroad and an Istimarah (vehicle ownership document) which listed me as either a driver or a co-owner of the vehicle, we didn’t at this point know which, nor was it material to us (picture and more on this process below).
Risk 2 – There is some sort of emergency and I’m in the desert alone with the kids – I mused this could happen to anyone, male or female, in any case I was to travel with a special power of attorney in English and Arabic in which was specifically listed, crossing borders with the children and taking medical decisions in the absence of the father. I added to that the points raised by my friends
Risk 3 getting run off the road by a male angry with the change in status quo and
Risk 4 running out of petrol or having a blow out.
I resolved to travel under the cover of night in a cap and masculine sunglasses, carry petrol and a tire jack. Now sleepy I received a final message from my father; ‘Do what your heart tells you.’
A few days later at 3:30 a.m. I’m on the eastern ring road, with surprisingly chirpy children in the back carrying neither jack nor spare petrol (I guess my fear was tempered by the checks I did on the car at the garage) and mildly amused that I hadn’t in my planning realized that wearing a cap and sunglasses in the middle of night was a completely impractical idea. I am at this point, to anyone who looks into the car, clearly a woman, and excuse me if I reach the punch line too early – no one is batting an eyelid.
The sat nav directs us onto the Al Kharj Road, following which we bypass kharj stopping for petrol. From here it’s straight on until morning! Anyone who undertakes this drive should know that it’s quite important to fill up at most of the opportunities after Kharj.
I realize I have made my second error in planning as at this time in the morning the coffee shops are not yet open. Oh well, no matter, I can survive the journey on the three bags of snacks mandatory for any Saudi road trip. Second caution to those who are going to do the drive: know your body- it’s a long drive if you know you get fatigued then do share the driving with someone. My children are being delightful (the three of them doing this simultaneously makes this something of an auspicious day).
We are alternating singing children’s songs and pop songs with long bouts of silence looking out of the window. There are some fairly beautiful sights to see, the sun rising over the low foot hills of the desert, the large freight railway that runs parallel with the road for some way, the dairies and farms of Almarai which come one after another for miles seem simultaneously puzzling (for a vegan anyways) and awe inspiring (humans are incredible at organizing difficult things), the only other traffic on the road apart from occasional other private vehicles are the Almarai distribution trucks who drove more safely than many trucks I have seen in Europe.
There is plenty of time to think on this drive, I have been told by other expats who have driven it that it’s just sand the whole way – I wonder to myself whether they noticed the beauty in the sometimes gradual sometimes dramatic changes in the color of the sandy landscape. Later on there are many many camels, mostly chocolate brown ones, I see Qatari plated cars herding them alongside the roadside at one point we have to stop the car to let them cross. My kids love it. They are very visible from a long way away so weren’t really a hazard but I did notice sand drifts on the other side of the road and tractors pushing them back.
Then we arrive at the border. It is not an exaggeration to say that the border officials are delighted to see us, at customs and immigration they all comment and some congratulate on the fact that I am driving alone. We cross into the UAE without a single hiccup where we find officials are similarly delighted especially the female customs officer who does our screening in the ladies section.
A side note: far from the capital cities of either nation some officials seemed to be more comfortable speaking in Arabic, do learn some of the useful words (passport, insurance, drivers license and the numbers etc.) It goes a long way and I find myself wondering a lot whether we would be as accepting in our home countries of people who arrived to stay for some time and limited themselves to learning the words required to order food only.
The road from Gweifat to Abu Dhabi is well serviced with petrol stations, there are some hotels on this road if you find yourself tired after the long drive through the desert. We broke up our drive in Abu Dhabi at just shy of 900km and 9,5 hours from our starting point. If you make it this far I suggest rest a night and then carry on driving until Oman, which is another adventure altogether! We crossed to Oman at the Mazyad border post, but Khat am Al Shiklah is better to cross at except if you want to head for Salalah.
The entire trip took me two days, 9.5 hours the first day and 6 hours the second (we had a slow border crossing and then an extra half hour to get to the border we should have crossed at.
DOCUMENTS NEEDED TO TAKE VEHICLE OUT OF SAUDI ARABIA
-Letter allowing me to take the car out of KSA (this is uploaded on the absher system but only available to dependents who apply in person)
-Registration listing me as an authorised driver (this document was incredibly useful at the UAE and Oman side of the border to show I had some official standing with the vehicle)
-Special Power of attorney listing my children and their passport numbers signed by their dad (I didn’t need this but in my experience people are much more willing to act in unclear situations when they have the comfort of a piece of paper to rely on)
-Vehicle insurance card– adding GCC cover for a year before driving is a similar cost to one month at the border.
Process for getting listed on the Vehicle Registration Document
-go to muroor -take an Arabic speaker – car owner to write no objection in Arabic
-pay using the online system government payment system for a replacement card
-hand in old vehicle registration card collect new one
For international authorization – there is a small separate office which deals with this in the same complex, there are forms to be filled out and signed and the authorization is then signed by a senior police officer uploaded onto the system and a letter valid ONLY for six months is given. We did this first and this senior officer told us that we should do the in KSA authorization as well to avoid ambiguity in accident situations.
Erica is a yoga teacher in the Middle East, you can contact her by email:firstname.lastname@example.org
Have you done an all- female road trip in Saudi Arabia? I would love to hear about it! please send me your road trip stories to email: contact ( at) bluebaya.com
A Guide for expat and Saudi women how to get a Saudi driving license by converting your international license can be found here: Saudi Driving License for Women
For more road trip stories from Saudi Arabia check these out: Road Trips KSA
Hello there! I’m Laura, the founder of Blue Abaya- the first travel blog in Saudi Arabia, established in 2010. Travel has always been my passion- so far I’ve visited 75 countries and I’m always on the lookout for new adventures inside and outside of Saudi Arabia! Follow my adventures in Saudi and beyond on instagram: instagram.com/blueabaya