The Poor Man's border crossing
Trip Start Jan 10, 2007
72Trip End Jul 03, 2007
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If you are a US national in the Emirates on a tourist visa, you have 60 days to stay; after that, you pay a fine each day you violate this. You can buy and extension for 500 Dhs, but most people prefer to fly to a neighboring country for a few days or a few hours for approximately the same price. You can also rent a car and drive to the border, or you can take a bus to Muscat, spend the night, and come back the next day. Or, you can go with a group of friends on a road trip to Oman, and this is where my lack of an ability to make friends starts to get annoying!
I mention this because my visa was expiring sooner rather than later; I had no money, no friends, no time, no driver's licence, and no easy way out of the country! I had to come up with something, and fast.
In doing so, I found quite possibly the cheapest and most adventurous way to cross the border that anyone has yet devised.
Here's what you do if you find yourself in this position: Take bus #16 out to the border town of Hatta; get off at the first bus stop you come to. Start walking to the border station, following the road which says "To Oman". Better yet, do what I did and was hitch a ride to the border, because it's several kilometers away. Once you check out, you also want to hitch a ride to the Oman border--there are about 10 km of no-man's-land between the offices. Most people making a border run will realize that you have to get an exit visa from the Emirates, an entry visa from Oman; then an exit visa from Oman, and an entry visa from the Emirates--but some forget. If you forget any of the four visas involved, you are stuck between nations, and have a large, non-national legal headache to work out.
One word of advice is not to try to go on foot when it's 108 degrees outside and you're not carrying water, which was what I would have had to do if someone hadn't offered to take me.
I was lucky. This Omani truck driver gave me a ride into Oman--insisting that I meet the rest of his family in the village across the border, which I declined in the interest of time--and he talked to the border guards and explained everything, which was good because I couldn't understand a word the guards were trying to say. He was good enough to take me back across the border into the UAE and leave me at a bus station back to Dubai, too. And that sure beats hiking in the desert without water!
Now, I know what you're thinking. You're thinking, You're an idiot for taking a ride from strange men as an American female in the Middle East! Now before you start to loudly expound on that to me, I want to tell you that you are probably safer doing this here than you ever would be in the United States. It's like when you leave your money somewhere, and someone comes up to you and says, You left your money. Nobody cares that you're American either. There are no problems.
How much money does this save?
Price of busfare: 14 dhs roundtrip
Price of Omani visa: 60 dhs
Hitchhiking across the border: priceless
Oh, I am good at working the loopholes, yes.
That said, Hatta is a beautiful town, much quieter than Dubai, and set in the hills and mountains of the desert. Before my phone camera died of low batteries, I snapped one shot, a picture of the legal limbo that is that dusky border land: