Oman essentials

Red Tape: The trickiest part of any trip to Oman is getting a visa, so you may decide either to apply for one before booking tickets or join an organised tour (in which case some of the work will be done for you).

If you are travelling independently:

1. Get an application form from the Visa Department, 167 Queen's Gate, London SW7 5HE (0171-589 2840), by personal application or by post (enclose a SAE).

2. Complete and return the form together with a letter from your employer, or a bank statement showing you have sufficient funds to sustain you in Oman. You will need to send your passport, plus a fee of pounds 30.

3. Wait about a week.

Getting there: Direct flights are available from Heathrow to Muscat on British Airways and Gulf Air, but fares tend to be high (around pounds 550 through discount agents). Fares are lower if you change planes. Flightbookers (0171-757 2444) has a fare on KLM of around pounds 400 return from numerous UK airports via Amsterdam; Techno Travel (0171-482 0414) has a fare on Kuwait Airways via Kuwait of pounds 439 including tax.

Tours: Jasmin Tours (01628 531121) offers nine-day four-wheel-drive tours for pounds 1072 per person. Cox and Kings (0171-873 5000) has 11-day tours for pounds 1875. In February 1998, ACE Study Tours (01223 835055) has a guided geographical adventure for pounds 2095.

Further information: There is no tourist office in the UK, but you can try calling the information officer at the Embassy of the Sultanate of Oman on 0171-225 0001. Lonely Planet's Arab Gulf States (pounds 12.99) is up- to-date and has a sensible 80-page chapter on Oman.

How to visit a small portion of Oman: Get a cheap flight to Dubai, then catch a local bus (fare pounds 1.50) to the town of Hatta. Although there are no border posts, a longish stretch of the desert journey passes through northern Oman.

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