I found myself between residency visas recently and needed to get a new tourist visa. My first tourist visa was issued when I returned from a trip to the UK and was for a period of 30 days. A quick internet search said that this came with a grace period of 9-10 days meaning that the 30 day visa is actually good for 39 or 40 days. I fully expected to get my next visa issued in this time however hadn’t counted on Eid and a few delays. Hence just after Eid my tourist visa had expired past the grace period and I needed to get a new tourist visa organised.
Whilst researching the route to Hatta and what insurances etc I would need I came across a few ‘Visa Run’ agencies who take care of the driving etc for you and at just 150/AED per trip (200/AED if you pay on the day) I decided to book this.
I choose to travel with Go Tours and here’s my experience.
I booked online a few days before I wanted to travel, paid on-line and immediately received an email confirmation along with cancellation details. There was plenty of information on the website to guide me through what to expect in terms of costs and the process plus some FAQ’s.
Day of Travel
Pick up was a 8.45 am at Marina Mall and the bus arrived a few minutes before. After a short delay, waiting for someone who got held up in traffic, we were off heading towards the Hatta border. Our transport for the day was a people carrier which was virtually full. We made one quick pit stop along the way at a garage before arriving at the border. The drive was fairly uneventful and the driver was friendly, knowledgeable and drove safely.
Note : Post Updated (see the second section) to cover the Dubai – Oman route via Ras Al Khaima rather than via Hatta..
The process is as follows :
Exit Dubai – Enter Oman – Exit Oman – Enter Dubai
Exit Dubai – (Dubai/Hatta Border)
If you are lucky and it’s quiet you can do everything from the car at the Border control Crossing (if not you need to go inside the border building and queue up).
Here’s what you need to do :
- Hand over your passport along with 35/AED in cash (exit Dubai payment)
- Wait for your passport to be stamped with an exit stamp and collect a exit sticker.
- When you have both of these you can then drive towards the Hatta border
If it’s busy or there issues which can’t be resolved in the car you will need to park up and go inside the Border Control building and join the queue at Immigration. Reasons you might have to go inside include overstay fines and/or queries on your passport.
Overstays (this could be from day 39 or day 40 onwards) the cost is 360/AED for the first day overstay plus an extra 100/AED for every day thereafter. Pay this in cash at the counter in the corner with a BANK sign above it, pay your fine then collect a sticker to say you have paid before getting a Dubai exit stamp on your passport.
There is an ATM there but it’s best to take cash just in case. You pay on the Entry side of the building so you will need to walk around the outside of the building to enter on the other side to pay.
BEFORE you get back on the bus join the queue and get your passport stamped with an exit stamp plus get the exit sticker.
Queries – two people on the bus had issues with their visa so couldn’t continue with the Visa Run. One person had entered via Abu Dhabi so had to go via Abu Dhabi for her renewal (the entry and exit point have to be the same), and the other one had queries with regards to her dates which needed a trip back to Dubai immigration. Both of these passengers were not allowed to leave Dubai and so had to remain at the Border control centre until we returned.
TIP : Take some extra money with you just in case you have to wait it out in the Immigration office. There is a small shop for snacks and drinks and also free WiFi.
Drive Towards the Oman border – a drive of ten minutes or so
Entry & Exit Oman (Oman/Hatta Border)
- When you arrive at the Hatta Border control, park up and go inside the building
- Complete an Immigration form and then join the Immigration Queue.
- Hand over the form, your passport, the exit sticker and 50/AED Oman Visa Fee (bring the right cash if you can).
- Make sure that you get the Oman entry and exit stamp in your passport
- TIP : There’a no free WiFI here, and technically you will be outside of Etitisat/Du phone range although I received calls I was unable to make any.
- There’s a reasonable size shop and coffee area here along with a few places to get lunch (They accept AED on a 1 AED= 1 OMR so no need to change cash).
- Once you have all of this you are free to drive back towards Dubai
Update : As of 24th April 2017 the cost of a Oman Visa has increased from 50/AED to 200/AED
Entry to Dubai/Hatta Border
- Drive back to the Border crossing and park up
- Go inside the Immigration Centre and join the queue
- Handover your passport and sticker to get a Dubai Entry Stamp for 30 days
- NB ” If you didn’t get the entry and exit stamp for Oman you will be made to return to get this done
NEW ! Dubai Customs Checkpoint :
After leaving the building get back in the car and drive towards Dubai, and drive towards the new Dubai Customs checkpoint which has recently opened. We got through this fairly quickly, but saw quite long queues for it earlier in the day so be prepared that you may have to wait at this point before you can continue your trip back to Dubai. (Aug 2016).
The roundtrip took just under six hours but could take longer depending on queues at the border crossing.
UPDATE : I did a second visa run trip today as my new Residency Visa is not yet finalised. The trip took just 4 and a half hours from Dubai Marina which was a fantastic time, we were in a slightly faster car than the previous trip and thankfully no delays due to passport queries.
I can’t recommend the services of Go Tours highly enough, they took all of the strain away from me, advised me of the process and helped when I had an issue at the immigration control. The service was as swift as it could be and I’m sure I will use them again.
Reflections : The only thing missing is a stop off at Hatta Fort hotel for an early breakfast or mid afternoon tea and an onboard coffee service … Go Tours VIP Service … On second thoughts maybe I’ll drive next time and have a bit of a StayCation or at the very least lunch on the way back.
Post published in July 2016 and updated August 2016 to reflect a second trip and covering Dubai Customs checkpoint.
- TIMING is EVERYTHING – if you exit before the end of your 30 days you will only be issued with a visa for the remainder of the 30 day period on entry. If you exit just 1 day after the 9 or 10 day grace period your minimum fine will be 360/AED. Your best time is between day 30 and 39 (do read the website for further information)
- RULES & REGULATIONS If you have to do the Visa Run, do check the latest news on Rules and Regulations as they do change time to time, these were correct as at July 2016.
- CHECK YOUR NATIONALITY – only 12 different nationalities can renew their tourist visa on a Visa Run like I did, however a lot more different nationalities can do the Visa Run with a CANCELLATION PAPER to cancel their residency visa and change it to a 30 day tourist one, or with an ENTRY PERMIT to change their tourist visa to a Residency Visa.
- PRIVATE TRANSFER If sharing a bus with others isn’t your thing you can charter your own bus and have a private transfer
- SIT BACK AND ENJOY THE SCENERY – there’s little else to do than watch the world around you and chill, take headphones if you prefer your own choice of music
- SELF DRIVE : If you choose to drive yourself the Expat route to Hatta is along the Sharjah/Kalba route (this avoids Oman land) as follows : turn left at the Al Madam roundabout and get onto the E55 heading to Al Malaiha. Turn into the Sharjah/Kalba Road (signpost – Shawka). Turn right towards Hatta onto theE44 after 25-30 k’s. This means you avoid Omani territory (source Gulf News – Visa Crossing to Oman However we went via Al Awir which seemed a bit more direct (see map).
- SNACKS/DRINKS You might want to stock up on a few snacks, drinks for the trip as there are no stops on the way back.
- AND FINALLY ... Don’t overstay .. I ended up paying a small fortune in overstay fines – if you are in doubt of your Residency Visa being processed on time, I suggest you do the Visa Run anyway – it’s a 6 hour and 150/Fee trade off compared to a minimum of 340/AED. Alternatively fly out and back and have a mini break on the amount you will have saved yourself if overstay fines.
Visa Run Via Ras Al Khaimah (RAK)
For an a post with details of doing the visa run on your own see here
Hopefully this will be my last Visa Run story! Not that I don’t love the guys from Go Tours, but really I am waiting patently to get my Residency Visa.
This time, when we all hopped on board our driver informed us that we would be doing the Visa Run via the RAK border as the Hatta Road was slow because of Road Works. The process is quite similar to the Hatta run except that you go out and back via the RAK Border at the far end of RAK.
Exit the vehicle and Enter the Immigration office. Hand in your passports then wait whilst they are processed. For our group this took about 10 – 15 minutes. We all cleared with no issues, but I assume if you have overstayed then this would be processed there and then like at the Hatta border (bring money, as I didn’t spot any ATM’s). Check that you have your exit stamp and a small piece of paper (possibly just one for the group) then exit the building and walk across to the Oman border – it’s about 5 minute walk away through the car park. Before you can leave Dubai formally you will be asked for the piece of paper you were given earlier, hand it into security then walk to the Oman Immigration Control.
Enter Oman Immigration
Hand in your passport to the Immigration guys. Tell them you are entering and exiting at the same time. They will process your documents then call you back to the window to pay your Oman entry fee (50/AED). Check you have both the entry and exit stamp, then walk back to the Dubai Immigration building – different side of the building. Enter the building, hand in your passport and wait until they process your entry stamp. Once this is done you can walk back to the Go Tours vehicle which was parked outside of the border area.
Note that as you walk across the border and back again, the Go Tours driver waits on the Dubai side of the border.
Reflections : The trip took about the same time, whilst there were no queues at the Immigration centers, we lost time sitting in traffic getting through RAK. On the plus side for me, it was good to go another route, the border control was swift with no queues, but there was no opportunity to grab a coffee and/or snacks at the Border so be prepared.
This is one that you could do yourself quite easily as there is no need to buy Omani Car insurance as you can walk across the border. Also you could easily stop off for breakfast or lunch on the way through RAK and make a day of it. I would stop off at one of the many cafeterias which lined the way as I’m often a street food kind of girl If I have to do a visa run again and decide to do it on my own, then this is probably my preferred route.
Note : Unfortunately this wasn’t my last visa run, you can read about my trip to Al Darba Border control by myself by reading my post here. Self drive.