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I'm half juggling the thought of a few weeks in the Middle East (I need to collect a 'Y' and an 'O' for my country alphabet). I've looked at flights that may go into Dubai or Qatar from NZ, and then in theory I'd travel around by land.

However, I know almost nothing about land-based travel there (which hasn't stopped me in the past). Are there trains? Buses? Is it reasonable to travel like that there as a solo backpacker? And what's the safety aspect like on the ground in countries like UAE, Qatar, Oman and Yemen?

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I entertained the idea to spend some time in Dubai as well, considering I have to change planes there anyway. I talked to a friend last week who lived for several years in Al Ain, a city in the UAE on the Omanian border.

It seems the UAE are okay for travelling by yourself, but a city like Al Ain with a population of over 370,000 and a possible gateway into Oman has no cheap places to stay. Only 5 Star hotels, way over our budget.

Getting over into Oman is possible but takes some time and you need a four wheel drive and a local guide to cross the desert. She said the desert is dangerous unless you travel in a group.

There are no trains in the area, but some long distance buses. You can go from Muscat in Oman to Dubai (5h) and Abu Dhabi (6h). The Lonely Planet for the Arabic Peninsula also mentions a bus from Muscat to Mukhalla in Yemen (6h) but I don't know whether that is still running considering the situation in Yemen right now. (I was in Eastern Turkey a few weeks ago and all buses to Damascus had been cancelled.)

Overall I get the idea, that the infrastructure for independent budget travelers does not exist in the area.

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I heard that there are no budget hotels in Oman either, but wild camping is permitted. Most people seem to hire a car there, make sure they have enough food and water and camp when they get tired. It might be costly for a solo traveler though. –  Grzenio Jan 11 '12 at 13:58

Just came across this question. If you fly into Qatar, it is land locked with Saudi Arabia. The only way to get into Saudi Arabia is with a transit visa. I lived in Qatar so I had a residents permit which made the transit visa easier to obtain. You do this through local agencies, I got my first one at the Saudi Arabian embassy after 7 trips but now they've farmed out that work. A friend of mine was able to get his father a transit visa but his father had to be in Qatar for about a week before it was processed and it may have made a difference that he was traveling with somebody with an RP.

There is not much of public transportation that I came across. However taxi's are relatively cheap compared to western countries. Air Arabia is a local airline based out of Sharjah (North of Dubai) this will help you move around a little more. Your big obstacle is Saudi Arabia, it's not an easy place / next to impossible to enter.

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