14 Feb 2011
Join Date: Mar 2006
Gulf countries report
Here's some information about the countries I crossed around the Persian/Arabic gulf at then end of 2010.
Very easy from Armenia at Norduz. The Iranian officials are very professional and efficient. Car drivers empty their car and x-ray the bagages. I didn't, and nobody checked if I did or not. Carnet is stamped after a look at the chassis number. No insurance asked or any nonsense. A money change office gives reasonable rates.
Petrol is pretty cheap at 0.40$ / liter, available everywhere without any card, very simple. Locals pay 0.10$ with a rationing card of 60 liters / month, so you may pay less if a local lends you his card. But there were discussions about getting rid of the rationing.
- Language. Few people speak English, except int he larger towns. Farsi is understood by everybody, in addition to the local language (Kurd, Azeri, etc..).
- People. Extremely friendly and welcoming, it's not so difficult to be invited by locals (to sleep, to eat, to get petrol, etc..).
- Roads. Very good overall, the tar roads are well maintained, as well as the gravel roads.
- Police. Absolutely no hassle, they leave you alone. Except in 2 cases: when we were trying to bush camp (they came and pretended we'd be attacked by bears). And in the south east, were they required me to follow and escort. I only saw one speed trap on a motorway, but otherwise no problem.
- Cost. Camping is possible in a number of places, Iranians are crazy about picnics and set their tent almost everywhere. It's even possible to sleep in mosques. Hotels in big towns are not very expensive. Food is good and cheap.
- Exit. Took the ferry from Bandar Abbas to Sharjah (UAE). That was very time consuming, and quite expensive. But otherwise straightforward. See my entry in the shipping database for details.
- Visa. Got mine through key2persia, extremely easy, and although they don't give you much feedback all the papers were there at the consulate in Istanbul when I got there, and the visa was issued in 24h.
- Entry. Carnet required at the Sharjah port. Various papers had to be filled by different offices it took at least 2h and quite a bit of money (don't remember exactly). No insurance asked.
- Fuel. Petrol is cheap, around $0.35.
- Language. English is spoken everywhere. It's hard to even hear Arabic on the road.
- People. You meet almost only expats, Europeans, Philippinos, Pakistanis. The only UAE nationals you meet for sure are at the immigration.
- Roads. Excellent but often congested in Dubai and Sharjah. No tmuch off-roading to do, except to hit the dunes. There's a system of toll to get to downtown Dubai but with a foreign-registered bike you get away without playing it.
- Police. Not an issue, no hassle.
- Cost. Very expensive (except for fuel), similar to western Europe.
- Exit. There's an exit fee to pay (around 20$ I think) at the land border with Oman. They didn't seem to know how stamp out a carnet, I had to explin them, so you can probably get into the country overland without carnet (?).
- Visa. Free, just stamped in at the border.
- Entry. Entry from UAE on the coastal road. Visa issued on the spot. Insurance required, can be issued at the border post and paid in AED or US$ (2 weeks for 90 UAE or 3 month for 190 UAE, if I remember correctly). Didn't asked for the carnet.
- Fuel. Cheaper than in UAE, around $0.24. Many petrol stations, even between Mascat and Salalah.
- Language. English is quite well spoken, amost everywhere.
- People. Unlike UAE, one get to see and meet many Omanis. They're generally very friendly and welcoming. Many Indians as well.
- Roads. Very good network of tar roads. Very nice gravel roads in the wadis.
- Police. Mostly invisible, no hassle.
- Cost. Accommodation is nowhere near as expensive as Dubai (UAE), but it's very easy to camp almost anywhere, on the beach, in the wadis, etc.. many cheap Indians restaurants.
- Exit. Used the border post on the coastal road to Yemen. No exit fees. Didn't asked for the carnet.
- Visa. Issued at the entry. Recently increased from 7 OMR to 20 OMR.
- Entry. Used the land border with Oman. No carnet asked, a road tax was requested, I haggled down to 2 or 3€. No problem overall.
- Fuel. Petrol is cheap at around $0.50. Available everywhere.
- Language. English is not well understood/spoken.
- People. Very friendly overall, except for a few areas where a police escort is needed.
- Roads. The main roads are surfaced and good. Off-roading is difficult as the security situation is not good.
- Police. No hassle, but they keep a tight leash on you. Situation varies almost on a daily basis. At the end of 2010, Hadramout was OK, no escort needed. A police escort was provided for Mukhalla - Aden as I showed up on a checkpoint. Local police checked my passport as I stopped to overnight in a small town. Some permits needed to cross checkpoints between Aden and Sanaa and around Sanaa, provided for free.
- Cost. Quite cheap, although it's difficult to camp, because of the security.
- Exit. Took the boat at Mukhalla. Customs procedure was very easy and quick. Money asked, but I didn't give any. I had to wait 10 days for a boat, although you can get one the next day if you're lucky. I paid 200$ for 1 bike + 1 person. I used a fixer to facilitate the process, and his cut was probably around 50$ so 150$ would be the right price.
- Visa. Very expensive ($300-ish) and complicated, they just don't want tourists at the moment.
Tour d'Afrique - and then some - ADVrider