Home Popular The Ultimate Dubai visa run guide – Bus, car or plane?

The Ultimate Dubai visa run guide – Bus, car or plane?

by Danni B
photo of bus in dubai going to oman for a dubai visa run hatta border run

Ok so firstly, you may be asking what a Dubai visa run is? A visa run is when you are coming to the expiry of your tourist visa in the United Arab Emirates and decide to visit the border and come back again in order to gain a new tourist visa. You may also need to do this when changing your tourist visa to a work visa or vice versa. So what’s the process? What is the best or cheapest method? And how do you exit via Oman for the Dubai visa run? I will answer all your questions below!

If you’re interested to visit Oman rather than just a visa run and want to know the process of going by bus to Sohar or Muscat, check out my other article here!

I would like to note, this process is not possible for all visa types. It will depend on what type of visa you are on. For example, with a British passport you get a 30 day tourist visa on arrival. So the below information will apply to British tourists. If your nationality also gets a 30 day extendable tourist visa (check here) then this guide will also be helpful. Other nationalities  get a 3 month non extendable visa which is usable over 6 months (check here). This process will not be applicable to yourselves.

Also please note! These rules are subject to change and while I try to keep this information as up-to-date as possible. It’s possible that I am not aware of every new change. Make sure to check with an immigration official or at the airport when arriving just in case.

COVID19 – Due to the current situation, it may not be possible to do a visa run. Residents currently need permission to leave the UAE and details are still being released about tourism. Will try to find out as much information as possible and update the article

What are your Dubai visa run options?

You have a few options if you want to do a Dubai visa run. That is crossing the border and coming straight back. I won’t go into travel options because there are loads if you prefer a trip.

Option 1
Driving to the border of Oman by car. Omani tourist visa needed.

Option 2
Taking a specialist service by bus to the border of Oman. Omani tourist visa needed. If there’s four of you or you’re a family, you can also hire a private vehicle.

Option 3
Taking a flight to either Muscat, Oman or another cheap destination. Bahrain sometimes comes up as the cheapest, you can use a flight search to but typically it’s Oman. No need to pay for a tourist visa unless you’re exiting the airport.

When do I need to do my visa run?

If you have checked and your passport is part of the 30-day visa on arrival program, then you get 30 days plus 10 days grace. However, the way it is calculated means for most people it is a 9 day grace. The day you land until midnight is classed as day 1.

So it is better not to risk it and do it on day 9 at the very latest. Also there have been rumours they may get rid of the grace period. Currently, the grace period is still valid. The fine for overstaying increased in 2017. This was done instead of removing the grace period. Overstaying is a 200 AED fine plus 100 AED per day. There is also an admin fee. From day one is approximately 350 AED.

You can also check how long your visa is and when it expires here! It currently includes the grace period on the portal as the expiry date.

What if I go before my visa expires?

Currently, if you exit during your 30-day visa. You are given a new 30-day visa since it is a single entry visa. This changed back in January 2018. They kept this now for over a year as the single entry visa (March 2019)

Previously it was a multiple entry visa. It is best to check when you arrive with the official issuing your visa. As it may vary by country and this will affect when you need to exit.

With the multi-entry system, you had to leave during your grace period otherwise you didn’t get a new visa. Or wait until after midnight to re-enter after the last day. This caused quite a bit of confusion and fines. It also meant serious date planning to stay long term and travel in the region. Thankfully! It’s been back to the single entry system for over a year now! So let’s hope it stays this way.

How much does the Omani visa cost?

The Oman visa is 50 AED (5 OMR) and valid for 10 days. The 10 day visa was reintroduced in July 2018. Previous, only a one month visa for 200 AED (20 OMR) was available.

There is a choice of applying online beforehand or applying on arrival at the border. The Oman government have stated they have no plans to make it mandatory to apply online before you reach the border. Personally, I choose to do it at the border.

You will need to pay for the Omani visa if you chose to drive to Oman or by bus. The only exception is the airport visa run.

Driving to Oman by car

If you have a car and don’t mind driving for over 3 to 4 hours, possibly longer with traffic. Then this will be the cheapest and best option since you will only pay for petrol. Plus your visa costs of course.

First, you have two key routes from Dubai. There is the Hatta route which is the most popular and you have the Al Dara, Ras Al Khaimah route. There is a small peninsula to the north of Ras Al Khaimah belonging to Oman.

Also please note on choosing the route – If you have any issue to do with your stamp and your last entry stamp was in Ras Al Khaimah. You will have to go back to Ras Al Khaimah to sort the issue out. However, if your work visa is being processed in Dubai and you crossed the Hatta border last, the issue is easier to sort out as they’re both Dubai authorities. As each Emirate has it’s own authorities and some use different computer systems.

From personal experience, I had one stamp showing up on the system in Ras Al Khaimah but wasn’t showing up on the Dubai system. So it can causes some issues and ended up with a lot of back and forth between Ras Al Khaimah and Dubai.

How long does each route take?

The drive is roughly 1 hour and 30 minutes from Dubai to the Hatta border crossing (via the E102) without traffic. It is then another 15 to 20 minutes drive between the passport control offices.

It is one of the key crossings for those driving to Muscat. So the border itself can be busy with queues. You will also see buses and tour buses.

The drive is roughly 1 hour and 50 minutes from Dubai to Al Dara and is a much quieter crossing. It is rare to see any buses here. So the extra driving time can be saved at the border crossing. Plus you save time since the passport control offices are closer to each other and do not require a drive.

The one downside is the Sharjah traffic with this route. If you plan outside of peak traffic hours, you can actually complete this route quicker than Hatta despite the longer driving distance.

For both, the total process can take anything from 3.5 hours to 5 hours. Depending on traffic and queues. Realistically, by the time you have stopped to have a quick bite to eat or a drink. It is likely to be closer to the 5 hours.

My personal preference is the Al Dara route. It is a nice drive along the coast and there are quite a few interesting places along the way. For those of you who drink, you pass by quite a few famous shops for alcohol runs.

Hatta also has some beautiful places to visit and is very nature orientated so both can make a lovely day out.

Doing the Dubai visa run by bus

If you do not want to drive, don’t have a car or simply want some company. The bus is a good affordable solution. It is slower typically than going by car since there are more people and the bus drives slower. Allow for 5 hours, though it can be longer.

The exit process and passport process is exactly the same as the visa run by car; which I will go into more detail below.

There are a few companies which offer the service by bus and one of the most popular is Go Tours which leaves from Dubai Marina Mall. You can book online for 150 AED.

They have AC and are comfortable enough. Also, it’s likely you’ll meet other people and get chatting on the journey. It’s fun to find out why other people are doing a visa run too and their Dubai stories.

Typically buses go the Hatta route however a friend took a service which went the Ras Al Khaimah route instead. *It seems most buses as doing the Ras Al Khaimah route recently.

If you’re a family or there is four of you needing to go together. You can hire a private car also by Go Tours for 550 AED. This works out to around 137.5 AED per person.

Hatta / Al Wajajah Route – What is the process?

Before we begin, with this route, you may be asked for car insurance which covers Oman. This will cost you extra if you do not already have it. More details below.

Also note: None GCC nationals are not able to take the E44 directly to Hatta. So make sure the navigation is set correctly. You will have to come off the E44 to the E102 and then later rejoin the E44. Typically this route comes up as default on Google Maps but always best to check.

First, you will arrive at a small kiosk where you need to pay your exit fee (35 AED). You can pay with cash or card. The Hatta crossing charges a small fee for paying by card. You are given a small card which you need to keep hold of.

Always check that your passport has been stamped! Also, keep your receipt in case of any issues.

With this, you walk into passport control to get your passport stamped. Here you will also need to pay any fines if you have overstayed. They will also take your Emirates ID if you are cancelling a residents visa.

*I recommend going to the bathroom here rather than the Oman border control as the bathrooms are nicer – Pro tip!

Once complete, time to get back in your car or bus and drive to another area. Here you have your car and luggage checked. This can take time especially if it’s a weekend. Once complete, you drive around 15/20 minutes to the Oman crossing.

Here you park and go into the Omani office to pay for your Omani tourist visa. They will stamp your passport at the same time. Again there can be a queue for the Omani visa. It can also be quite hectic since there isn’t a set queuing system. You are now halfway through your Dubai visa run!

Make sure to explain you will be coming straight back and they will give you an exit stamp at the same time. (Yes the officials know and understand what a visa run is). Also here you can stop for tea or coffee and snacks. As the Omani office has a little cafe and shop.

Now finished, time to drive to the other side and start heading back to Dubai. You must have your Omani visa and exit stamp to re-enter Dubai. So sadly no, you cannot save yourself 50 AED by not getting an Omani visa.

The same process is repeated going back. You go into the office again on the other side and get your new tourist visa. The only real difference going back into Dubai is the security checks are more rigorous.

Female officers lead women into a small room where you are patted down. They also check your luggage. Once you finish this final process, they will lift the barrier and your Dubai visa run is complete. Hurrah!

Also, there is a small Duty-Free shop in the Dubai office leaving Oman. Here you can buy snacks for the remainder of the trip. There are also some gifts and other items you would typically find in the Duty-Free.

How do I get Omani car insurance?

You may be asked to prove you have car insurance for Oman when doing the Hatta crossing. As you exit, you can pay a fee to gain cover however this costs around 100 AED for one week. It is likely to be cheaper through your own insurance company.

If it is a rental car, you will need to call your rental company and ask if the car has Oman insurance. This may have an additional cost depending on your rental company.

I wouldn’t recommend hiring a car only for a Dubai visa run since the cost for a single day can be quite expensive. Added with your petrol costs, it is likely it will be more expensive than the bus. If there is two or more of you however, then hiring a car for the Dubai visa run can make sense.

Also, you will need your car registration ID in addition to the paper proof of your car insurance. Some car rental companies may not wish to give the registration ID. Therefore if you have a rental car, it may be easier to go the Al Dara route.

Al Dara, Ras Al Khaimah Route – What is the process?

Oman car insurance is not required. This is due to the short distance between the border crossings. Also, I would advise avoiding peak traffic hours since Sharjah can be very congested. The process is similar to the Hatta, Dubai visa run. This is the best route to do an Oman / Dubai visa run in my opinion.

First, you park to the right and walk into the border control office. Here you pay your exit fee (35 AED). Again it is possible to pay by cash or credit card. Here I have never been charged a credit card fee, unlike Hatta.

If you plan to drive through to the Omani office (either it’s hot or you don’t like walking), you also need to give your car plate number. You’re given a small card and your passport stamped.

If you choose to drive through the barrier, you can park very close to the Oman office. It is approximately 200 meters between the two offices so it is easy to walk should you wish.

You go into the Omani passport control and pay your 50 AED (5 OMR) for your Omani visa. Same as Hatta, you must get your Omani visa and exit stamp in order to re-enter Dubai. Just tell the officer you will be heading straight back and they will do both stamps at the same time.

Always check that your passport has been stamped! Also, keep your receipt in case of any issues.

At this crossing, it seems to be rarer for none GCC people to use it or perhaps rare for lone white females? It definitely seems fewer people come here for a Dubai visa run. I’ve found the officials are a lot more chatty, especially the Omanis.

Often they ask where I’ve visited in Oman or tell me where to visit. The most common question is, “Have you visited Salalah?” The Emiratis are typically more serious. The Omani’s will often laugh and chat in Arabic to each other as they stamp your passport.

Finally, simply drive or walk straight back to the border. You are now at the back of the border control office. There are a few parking spaces, so simply park your car and walk towards the barriers.

Just before the barriers, you will see a door to your left. It isn’t that well signposted but it’s just before the barriers. Enter here and get your new visa on arrival. You are given a new small piece of card to show to security when exiting so keep hold of it. You also need to give your car number plate.

Once finished, simply get back into your car and drive or walk through the barriers. Show them your card and next you go to customs.

Customs will once again check your exit card and then also check your car. You get out of the vehicle and open your boot. Once finished your Dubai visa run is now complete.

As you drive closer towards the crossing you will see lots of cafes along the way since there aren’t any cafes inside the border crossing. It’s easy to stop and beep your horn for some Karak or to order a sandwich outside. They’ll even bring it to your car.

Doing the Dubai visa run by plane

So typically this is the most expensive option but is probably more comfortable than the other two. It also depends on what cheap flights you can get but typically Muscat is the cheapest. Previously flights were available for around 250 AED. In the past two years, I haven’t seen anything for less than 500 AED.

The process is the same as you would taking a normal flight. The only key difference is that when you get to the airport. Rather than queuing and paying for your visa. You simply follow the signs for connecting flights. You do not need an Oman visa or an exit stamp like when doing a land border crossing. So you save around 85 AED by doing it this way.

Once you’ve landed. You go through security and into the departures area of the airport. Often you will have only a short time in the airport before you’re back on the same plane. Once you land back in Dubai, simply head to passport control. Once you are through immigration, you have completed your Dubai visa run once again. Simple.

So which is the best or cheapest method?

The cheapest and best method will be your own car if you have one or currently hiring one but petrol prices have gone up. So check your miles per gallon and how much your car would use if you’re trying to save money. It’s also quicker typically and you have a lot more freedom to visit other places while you’re there. Both Ras Al Khaimah and Hatta have some amazing things to do and see.

The second cheapest method is the bus and is great if you don’t want to drive. The best thing about the bus is meeting new people. It also takes all the stress out if you’re doing it for the first time and means you will be more familiar if you decide to do it by car afterward.

My least personal favourite is by plane. Yes, it’s more comfortable sitting in an airport and on a plane but it’s expensive. Plus by the time you go to the airport, sit in the departures and do the flight. You haven’t saved any time. You also have to consider taxi costs based on your location. As the bus leaves from an easier location for most expats. Some people prefer this method but as a visa run, I like the car the best. Mostly because I can choose whether to make a day of it and visit some of the awesome places along the way.

So there you have it! The ultimate guide to the Dubai visa run via Oman! I see questions about this process weekly and sometimes daily. So feel free to give it share!

Want to know more about Danni B? Check out my story here! Or missed last weeks article on Living in Dubai – Most Commonly Asked Questions.

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