Outside Muscat, Oman does not cater particularly well for the needs of disabled travellers, with ramps and disabled parking being the exception rather than the rule. New malls in each city are more accommodating.
Discounts are available for most items, in all shops other than supermarkets and Western-style chain stores. Haggle for taxi fares and souvenirs but don’t expect too much of a bargain.
Dangers & Annoyances
Oman is a very safe country with low crime rates and people who go out of their way to help strangers. Take the usual precautions regarding walking late at night in unlit, urban areas. Dangers are related mostly to road use and natural events; in particular, watch out for:
- high volumes of traffic accidents because of tailgating and speed
- flash floods that can appear at great speed coursing along wadis (don't camp in the bottom of a wadi)
- the isolation of many off-road destinations, and
- extreme summertime temperatures (particularly from May to October) which can quickly lead to heat exhaustion and heat stroke.
Embassies & Consulates
Consular sections of the embassy often close an hour or two earlier than the rest of the embassy, so try to go as early in the day as possible or ring first to check.
Australians should contact their embassy in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia (https://saudiarabia.embassy.gov.au/ryad/home.html).
UK Embassy Also looks after Irish nationals and handles emergencies for Canadian citizens.
Emergency & Important Numbers
To dial phone numbers from outside Oman, dial the international access code, Oman's country code (968) and then the eight-digit number you're trying to reach.
|Oman's country code||968|
|International access code||00|
|Emergency (ambulance, fire, police)||9999|
Entry & Exit Formalities
Visas (OR5/20 for 10/30 days) are required for most nationalities and must be applied for in advance. Applications can be obtained through Omani embassies abroad or, more easily, online through the Royal Oman Police website (www.rop.gov.om). The visa should be printed, ready for presentation at the immigration desk on arrival at the airport or land border.
Non-Muslims travelling by air can bring in two bottles of wine or spirits. It is illegal to cross by land from Oman into the United Arab Emirates and vice versa carrying alcohol. A ‘reasonable quantity’ of cigars, cigarettes and tobacco can be imported. It is illegal to bring in banned substances of any kind, and penalties for possession of drugs and/or weaponry are severe.
Visas are available online for many nationalities (OR5/20 for 10/30 days).
A visit visa, required by all nationalities except for citizens of Gulf countries, can be obtained by many foreign nationals – including those from the UK, EU, the Americas, Australia and New Zealand – online through the Royal Oman Police website (www.rop.gov.om).
Currently those with a Qatar or Dubai tourist visa may visit Oman without paying for an Omani visa if travelling on direct flights or overland from those countries.
Admission may be refused if you have an Israeli stamp in your passport. Visa regulations change frequently, so check the website for updates. Multiple-entry visas cost OR50 (valid for one year) and are good for three-week visits for bona fide business travellers.
A ten-day extension (OR5) on a ten-day visit visa, and a one-month extension (OR20) on a one-month visit visa, are available both from the ROP Visa Information counter at Muscat International Airport. No extensions on multiple-entry visas are available. Overstaying a visa incurs charges on departure (OR10 per day).
- Greeting and giving In Oman, the left hand is reserved for ablutions and considered unclean. As such, it should never be used for touching others or giving things.
- Public displays of affection Couples, regardless of sexual orientation, should avoid being overtly affectionate in public.
- Clothing Westerners are often seen wandering around supermarkets or hotel foyers in shorts and strappy tops but this is considered highly disrespectful to local custom. Both men and women should cover knees and shoulders in public.
- Driving It’s tempting when exploring off-road destinations to drive straight through the middle of villages. This is about as sensitive as taking a lorry through a neighbour’s garden at home. If you want to see the village, it’s better to park outside and walk in.
- Rubbish Litter has become a major problem as even a banana skin does not biodegrade in the hot, dry climate. Please don't add to this sadly ever-growing problem.
Free wi-fi is available in most hotels and cafes.
Driving offences (including crossing a red light, using a mobile phone while driving, and drink driving) result in heavy fines and even prison sentences. Drug use is strictly prohibited and has severe consequences.
All fines must be paid before departure, and passengers are not permitted to pass through immigration until they have paid their dues. Note that these are payable by credit card only – cash is not accepted.
Arresting police tend to be polite and helpful; in return they expect similar courtesy. Bribes are not expected or accepted.
Homosexuality is illegal in Oman. Visitors, however, are unlikely to meet with prejudice as room sharing is considered acceptable as a form of economising. Condoms are widely available. Global Gayz (www.globalgayz.com/middle-east) has more information relevant to LGBT+ travellers in the region.
Up-to-date maps are hard come by in Oman. The Ministry of Tourism desk at the airport offers a reasonably accurate free road map, also available from many hotels, but it doesn't cover many off-road routes. Online services such as Google Maps are becoming ever-more extensive in coverage and, in remote areas such as the Hajar Mountains, are helpful in picking up unmapped routes in satellite view.
ATMs widespread; credit cards widely accepted.
ATMs are widespread in Oman, even in small towns.
The most popular credit card in Oman is Visa, but MasterCard is also widely accepted. American Express is not accepted in many shops, and you may incur a fee of 5% for using it in some restaurants and hotels.
The official currency is the Omani rial (OR but widely abbreviated RO). One rial is divided into 1000 baisa (also spelt baiza and shortened to bz). There are coins of 5, 10, 25 and 50 baisa, and notes of 100 and 200 baisa. There are notes of a half, one, five, 10, 20 and 50 rials.
The rial is pegged to the US dollar and rarely fluctuates. For current exchange rates, see www.xe.com.
Moneychangers keep similar hours to banks but are often open from 4pm to 7pm as well. They usually offer a slightly more competitive rate than the banks, and most charge only a nominal commission per cash transaction.
Tipping in Oman is not as widespread as it is elsewhere in the region and is uncommon in smaller establishments.
- Hotels OR1 for baggage handling and room service; gratuity for cleaning staff is uncommon and discretionary.
- Restaurants In large hotel restaurants, 10% is expected if a service fee hasn’t been included in the bill.
- Taxis Tipping taxi drivers is discretionary.
Oman's weekend is on Friday and Saturday.
Banks 8am to noon Sunday to Thursday
Government Departments & Ministries 7.30am to 2.30pm Sunday to Thursday; closing at 1.30pm during Ramadan
Malls 10am to 10pm
Post Offices 8am to 4pm Sunday to Thursday
Restaurants 11.30am to 2pm and 5pm to midnight Saturday to Thursday; 5pm to midnight Friday
Shops 8am to 1pm and 4pm to 7pm Saturday to Thursday; 5pm to 7pm Friday
Sights 9am to 4pm Saturday to Thursday; many sights open on an ad hoc basis – timings change frequently.
It is important to be discreet photographing people, especially women, as it can cause great offence, especially in rural and remote areas.
Lonely Planet’s Guide to Travel Photography is full of helpful tips for photography while on the road.
Sending a postcard to any destination outside the Gulf Cooperation Council (http://www.gcc-sg.org) costs 150 baisa. Postage for letters is 250 baisa for the first 10g and 400 baisa for 11g to 20g. For parcels of up to 1kg it is around OR5.
Oman Post (www.omanpost.om) includes Matjar (www.matjar.om), a virtual mailbox company, offering courier services at competitive prices so that you can send all your online shopping in one consignment.
Public holidays in Oman are generally characterised by an exodus from the main cities as people drive home to their regional villages to spend time with their extended families. For the visitor, this means that roads are busier before and after the holiday, and public offices are closed. Shops and restaurants, however, remain open. Oman's sights (the best-known wadis and the Sharqiya Sands in particular) are also busier at this time – largely with expatriate visitors.
Islamic New Year Based on the lunar calendar.
Prophet's Birthday A one-day holiday in Oman.
Ramadan Not a holiday but shorter working hours are in force during this holy month, especially in government offices; many shops and all restaurants close during the day and open after sunset until late at night.
Eid Al Fitr A three- to four-day holiday at the end of Ramadan.
Eid Al Adha A four-day holiday following the time of pilgrimage to Mecca.
Lailat Al Mi’aj (Ascension of the Prophet) The exact date is dependent on the sighting of the moon – the date is never given until the last minute.
Renaissance Day (23 July) A day’s holiday is given to mark the beginning of the reign of Sultan Qaboos, generally credited for the modern rebirth of the country.
National Day (18 November) Marked by at least two days of holiday, camel racing, military parades and flags decorating the highway.
- Smoking A no-smoking policy is enforced in interior public places. This includes inside restaurants and on public transport.
Taxes & Refunds
Service and other taxes are added to hotel bills – most are quoted within the bill except at top-end hotels. Service charges are only included in top-end restaurant bills. VAT is due to be introduced on some purchases but there is as yet no way for non-residents to redeem this on exiting the country.
Phonecards are available from grocery stores and petrol stations.
SIM cards widely available and can be purchased on arrival at the airport and from shopping centres in Muscat. Try Omantel (www.omantel.om), Ooredoo (www.ooredoo.om) or Friendi Mobile (www.friendimobile.com).
Oman is four hours ahead of GMT/UTC. The time does not change during the summer. Not taking daylight saving into account, when it’s noon in Oman, the time elsewhere is as follows:
|Paris & Rome||9am|
|Perth & Hong Kong||4pm|
- Generally public toilets are something of a rarity, with highway service stations offering the best chance of clean amenities (the ladies' loo is generally kept locked – ask the petrol-pump attendant for the key).
- Smart new public toilets are beginning to put in an appearance – some in unlikely places, such as on the top of a sand dune in the Sharqiya Sands.
- Most accommodation types – even in tented camps – offer en suite bathrooms and almost all have Western-style toilets. Squat toilets (which local doctors advocate as being more conducive to natural bodily functions) are the norm in restaurants outside the big cities.
- Toilet paper is reserved for drying purposes only and is therefore not always available – using it for any other purpose than drying is considered a barbaric Western practice. Water (generally via a hose) is provided instead.
There are no tourist offices around Oman, but the Ministry of Tourism has an excellent website (www.omantourism.gov.om) that lists information in three categories: nature, activities and culture. Travel agencies and hotel receptions are other key sources of tourist information.
Travel with Children
Oman is a friendly and welcoming place for children. For younger kids, beachcombing, sandcastle building and paddling in shallow water make Oman a dream destination. That said, there are few specifically designed amenities for children, except for a park with swings in most town centres and fun zones in each city's main mall. Refer to Lonely Planet's Travel with Children for general details about travelling with children.
If you ask for an infant's 'cot', you will most likely get given a full size adult mattress as this is the meaning of the word in the local use of English. Specific cots for children are less widely available, particularly outside Muscat and if you ask for a child's bed in all but the top-end hotels, you'll most likely be given an adult-sized mattress.
High chairs are available in top-end restaurants and fast-food chains in Muscat. Kids are generally welcomed in the family section of all restaurants.
Safety seats for children under the age of four are now mandatory, although you wouldn't think it, given the number of local kids who ride on the driver's lap or with head out of the sunroof. Safety seats should be booked in advance with your car hire.
Nappy-changing facilities are available in hotels and malls in the big cities, but few (if any) amenities exist in the interior. Disposable nappies and milk formula can be bought in most supermarkets throughout the country.
Weights & Measures
- Weights & Measures Oman uses the metric system.
Women travelling alone are made welcome but it is still uncommon to see solo travellers outside the main cities. You may feel uncomfortable in the interior of Oman, particularly on public transport, eating in restaurants and when visiting public beaches. Omani men mostly ignore women out of respect, and it’s hard to meet Omani women.
Harassment is not a big problem. It helps, however, in addition to being culturally sensitive, to be discreetly dressed in loose-fitting clothing, and to wear shorts and a T-shirt for swimming.
To work in Oman, you have to be sponsored by an Omani company before entering the country (ie you have to have a job). Although it is illegal to work on a tourist visa, some expats take a short-term contract and hope their employer will arrange a labour card for them. The reality is a fretful experience best avoided.