When you enter the UAE you are given a 30-day tourist visa stamp in your passport. For what seems like many expats here, you are likely to go over that 30 days before obtaining your permanent visa, so you will have to exit the country and re-enter to obtain a new tourist visa. It is very common to go to Oman to do this, and I’ve heard nothing but good things about visiting the neighboring country.
Matt’s employer essentially had him make plans for our visa swap, so we scheduled a short flight to Muscat and stay for one night. We missed that flight (the one day I don’t pressure Matt to leave early!). It is Etihad policy to check in at least 1 hour prior to departure, no matter the destination. We were in line to check in more than an hour beforehand, but when actually checking in we missed the cut off by minutes, and they do not bend the rules here. Rather than book the only later flight and haul our toddler through the airport again well after his bedtime, we decided to just drive to Al Ain to cross the border. I had read up on this, and figured it’d be easy, but we managed to find and try the least efficient border crossing.
Al Ain is just over an hour drive from Abu Dhabi, on a nice highway, parts of which are lined with palm trees, and views of sand dunes – quite pretty at sundown we discovered on our way back. There are a few border crossings in Al Ain and you need to make sure you don’t go to the GCC crossing if you are not a GCC national. I believe the more common, fastest, border post to go to is Mazyad Border Post, south of Al Ain. HERE is a good post about going that route.
We didn’t go that route. We went to the Hili border crossing in Al Ain. Be aware that if you go through Hili and into Al Buraimi, Oman that you need to drive 40km into Oman to receive your Omani entrance and exit stamps. As that is a roughly 40 minute drive, this is definitely not the most efficient border crossing for a visa swap. But if you’re up for a little drive, go for it. This was not what we planned on doing, but where we ended up, and in the end it isn’t difficult as long as you know where you’re going. Al Buraimi is a small town and once you’re out of it and on the highway toward the border post, there is not much to see but rugged, rocky, sandy mountains in the distance (though, this is an interesting view in and of itself).
Let’s go through the entire process:
When you first arrive to Hili and cross through the first UAE gate, you will park and go into an office to receive your exit stamp. This costs 30 AED ($8). Drive and loop around that office building and take the paper slip they give you and hand it to the person at or before the next gate. They will usher you through and on your way to the Omani gate.
There is a lane for GCC Nationals, and Other Nationals, but no one met us at the Others lane. We went through the GCC lane and told them we needed our stamp. Be aware that English may not spoken as easily as it is in the UAE. It was difficult for us to get directions from the Omani guard at this gate, but everyone was nice and tried to be helpful.
Once into Oman you will need to drive through Al Buraimi to get on the road to the border post 40km away. You enter right away into a roundabout. Take the first exit and continue down a main road lined with businesses. At the next roundabout you will take the third exit (essentially going left), follow that to another roundabout where you will take the second exit (going straight through). Stay on that road until you get to the border post, in about 30-40 minutes. The highway/freeway that takes you to the border post is on is labeled “7” on Google maps.
The Oman border post can’t be missed as it intersects the freeway (not to be mistaken for a large gate that also is built over the freeway that you will pass first), so you pull off towards the left into the parking lot. Inside, to the right, is the counter where you fill out and turn in the visa paperwork, and there is an ATM located to the left, as well, if you need to pull out Omani Rial to pay for the stamps.
The Omani entry and exit stamps cost 5 rial ($13 / 48 AED). After you get them you will just turn around and head back to Al Buraimi and the Hili border crossing. You will enter the first (Oman side) gate and go to the UAE gate where they will have you park again at the same office as before (where you obtained your UAE exit stamp), this time in order to get your new 30-day visa. Once you obtain that, you drive around like the first time and the person you hand your new slip of paper to will direct you to the UAE entrance gate and you will be allowed back in the country – back into Al Ain and on your way.
Good luck! Again, for quicker border crossing and visa swaps, go to the Mazyad Border Post (new link there for a person to hire to take you, see the other link in the beginning of the post, too). Another popular option is to go up by Dubai and over to the Hatta Border Post.
Really, there is no reason to do what we did. But if you find yourself at the Hili border post…