Visa run – UAE to Oman Hatta border

Bismillah, alhamdulillah.

As the rules currently stand in the UAE British passport holders can enter the country quite easily. They get a free visit visa which lasts for 60 days. If you would like to stay beyond this period then you have the option of getting a long term residency visa which lasts 3 years. You are qualified to get one if you find a job or purchase accommodation.

Like most other countries in the Middle East they still require being free from medical diseases such as HIV (AIDS), Hepatitis B or Hepatitis C. A criminal record check pass is also mandatory. The medical requirements are an unfortunate fact for may who have contracted this virus through no fault of their own. This does not apply to visitors, which always strikes as me as a very unusual health policy as its probably visitors who spread such viruses. If you wish to stay for longer than 60 days without the hassle of getting a residency visa you have one further option.

That is to do a ‘visa run‘. This involves leaving the country and going to the nearest foreign country and then re-entering the UAE. Obviously there is a cost to this exercise especially if you have quite a few people in your family. There has been some indication that this loop hole is going to be plugged but as far as I am currently aware this is still in operation. The Dubai government has good web portals where you should be able to get information, but sometimes finding the relevant information can be quite a task. So where can you go?

The closest foreign country and the cheapest one to get to is Oman, via the Hatta border. Below I have listed the notes I managed to jot down as I went on my ‘visa run‘. The information is based on a visa run done in late 2007. Hopefully someone will find it useful especially if they are doing the run for the first time. Though I must say there are plenty of fellow travelers most of whom speak English and you can usually work out what needs to be done without knowing everything before getting there:

21.15 Left Sharjah in our hire car. We had investigated getting insurance for the car before we left from Sharjah, but it was terribly expensive. we thought we would it give it a go at the border post.

21.25 Took Emirates high way heading to Abu Dhabi.

21.35 Turn off for Hatta porly sign posted exit was on the right but turns 270 degrees clockwise to join highway to Hatta then Oman E77. It reads: Hatta 82 kilometers Oman 90 kilometers. Dragonmart (Chinese market) and International city on the right.

21.59 It is Thurday night road relatively quiet three cars per kilometer. Two lane road. Street lights present. Fair number of roundabouts and u-turns.

22.02 Past some local shops.

22.04 Hatta 50 kilometers.

22.05 Bump in middle of road. Resmo restaurant and cafeteria. Street lights not working.

22.07 Driver of second car feeling sleepy.

22.09 Stopped at roadside restaurant but no tea avalable.

22.10 People jogging on the highway wearing shorts and white t-shirts!

2211 Place selling lots of pots and pans very big ones – they hav a small cafe selling tea. It is called Madaam. Nice carpets and cheap pans and pots. 65 Dirhams for nice big kettle – cost 150 in Jeddah airport. Extensive parade of shops furrher in Hatta 47 kilometeres

22.32 Wilayah Mahda. Street lights continued and speed cameras have changed.

22.36 Beginning to loose reception to Radio Sharjah.

22.40 Shell petrol station. Warning sign for camels.

22.42 Oman mobile network picked up.

22.43 Rocky landscape begins.

22.42 Entered Masfout, lots of carpet shops.

22.46 Diesel advertised. Hills getting taller.

22.48 Stadium in the middle of no where, 10 kilometers to Hatta.

22.51 Sign for service station. Shrubs and trees increasing in number.

22.53 Hatta sign posted right Oman straight at roundabout, Emirates co-op on right. First sign for Masqat.

22.56 Road becomes hilly.

22.57 Checkpost 300 metres.

23.00 Arrived at Hatta pasport section.

2319 We arrive at a portacabin office. Need to get out of car. It’s the first UAE checkpoint, passports are stamped with an exit stamp. We drive on in our UAE hired number plate car.  Road continues through no man’s land about 1 kilometer. First building on the right, easy to miss, insurance company and petrol station. It looks shut and as its the dead of night we decide to forget about getting car insurance and take a chance. If we need it we will come back but we can argue we are not really entering Oman. Small snack shop, last chance for food. I note a long queue of lorries, right lane for lorries and left lane for passenger vehicles.

Omani security guard waves us forward past the truck queue. A sign reads 30 percent tinted glasses are not allowed to enter Oman. Next stop is customs.
We switch lights off at customs and the officer gives a cursory check, peers into the boot. He then gives us a piece of paper and tells us to hand it over at the the exit point. We carry on the road, there is no sign of life. The single lane becomes two lanes and street lights appear.

23:50 We come to an open area with a white building in the middle. Road passing on the right and left and a big car park in front of the building. Some cars are parking while others head straight on to the side of the building where they stop and are handing over documents to a man sitting at a roadside window booth. The border post is called Wajaja.

The building is quite impressive and looks clean from the outside. We enter through a double sliding door into an air conditioned hall. The air conditioning is not as good as it ought to be but is acceptable. Its probably much warmer in the middle of the day.  It is quiet at the moment. There is a cash machine for Oman Arab Bank on the right hand corner as we enter and some 4 marble plinths acting as benches with a few indoor plants. Toilets wise they have male and female toilets and there is a ramp for disabled or wheelchair access into and out of the building. My wife reassures me the toilets are not in good shape, avoid them if you can. There are no food kiosks, machines or drink dispensers.  It’s a nice place for kids to run around, though there are lots of strangers around, it feels pretty safe.

We line up at booth 1. The sign above reads ‘Arrival visa, tasheerat al-qadimeen / cashier’. There are windows on either side but only one is open at the moment. A sign on the counter says we accept Visa. I searched for the paper which I was given when we arrived by the guard at customs. I panic as I thought I had lost it but alhamdulillah I found it. The paper had our car number plate and the country of origin written on it. One of my children asks, ‘Why is this taking so long?’  I reply blankly, ‘It’s a border’.

The queue is typically Middle Eastern, it is broad rather than long. We get to the front, I tell him the number of passports we have. They are charging 60 AED per passport and accept UAE dirhams. The guy takes our money and punches something into his computer and gives us some forms. We came armed with extra pens and quickly distributed the form filling chores and tried to fill everything as quickly as possible. We then slide back into the queue and patiently edge our passports in front of the officer, the clock ticks on.

00:55 am He eventually takes our passports, he asks us whether we would like to go back or enter Oman. He’s obviously aware of the visa runners, we say ‘Go back’. We get two stamps, one square the other round.

01:04 He takes the passports to the officers sitting at the window booth dealing with cars entering Oman.

01:12 We get our passports back.

01:14 Walked to the exiting Oman window booth and gave passports in – guy took them & said i need qaseemat khurooj ie a vehicle exit fee receipt 20 AED (2 omani). He points to a cabin situated further down the road, I walk over slowly until I arrive at the cabin which is 600m deeper in Omani territory. I give them the money and I get my qaseemat and walk back.

01:21 My vehicle ‘exit fee receipt’ is stamped. He writes on the card the number of people in the car, it must tally with the passengers so make sure it is right. He gets our number wrong and I show him the passports and he agrees and amends the number. We make our way back, the car park has an exit on both sides, one leading to Oman the other heading back. We meet the customs guard, I notice I have misplaced the customs document that we got when we came in. I think I left it with the guy at the border office post. The officer says we don’t need it.

01:44 The customs officer takes our vehicle exit receipt and gives the stub back. we carry on back to the UAE across no-man’s land to the welcome sight of the UAE border post. I look at the trip meter which we had reset when we set off, it reads: 115 km.

01:51 Back at customs he just waives us on. We stop at another portacabin a mirror image of the one we just left. I hand in the passports as the family stays in the car, he peers out and makes sure the number in the car match the number of passports. We get a new 60 day visa, he enquires why we are entering, I say for a visit. As the hush of the night gathers we exchange notes on wages in the Middle East.

02:01 Our passports are stamped and we get one final bit of paper.

02:04 We edge forward another 20 metres and hand the paper to a sentry standing with the barrier lowered and watching in puzzlement as the kids who have now got out of the car are ducking underneath and running on to meet our relative who had been waiting on the other side for our return. As i come to the barrier I note on the other side of the road two ladies driving a four wheel drive car seem to be doing the same visa run, they are alone and seem quite well practiced. I make a mental note that it seems very secure at this border point. We give our final piece of paper to the sentry and we have re-enter the UAE, alhamdulillah (thank God).