Although only recently catering to the needs of travellers with disabilities, Muscat has become relatively accessible thanks to legislation that obliges minimum access to a range of facilities. This includes ramps at malls, lifts in most museums and hotels, handrails, specifically designed toilet facilities and low-floor Mwasalat city buses. Gaps left by nascent legislation and poor design are plugged by the overall readiness of Omanis to offer a helping hand.
Dangers & Annoyances
Muscat is a very safe city. Theft is rare, and people go out of their way to help visitors. There are, however, two dangers that visitors should be aware of:
- Oman has one of the world's worst records for road accidents, and in Muscat, pedestrians are seldom given right of way, even on zebra crossings. Consider taking a taxi rather than walking along the capital's busy highways.
- The heat is extreme from May to October, and it's easy to get dehydrated walking between sights or bus stops. Carrying water and wearing a hat helps.
Government Travel Advice
Although Oman is a safe country, the neighbouring region is troubled. The following government websites offer travel advisories and information on current hot spots.
Australian Department of Foreign Affairs & Trade (www.smarttraveller.gov.au)
British Foreign & Commonwealth Office (www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice)
Canadian Department of Foreign Affairs & International Trade (www.international.gc.ca)
Government of the Netherlands Migration & Travel (www.government.nl)
German Ministry of Foreign Affairs (www.auswaertiges-amt.de)
Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan (www.mofa.go.jp)
SafeTravel New Zealand (www.safetravel.govt.nz)
US State Department (http://travel.state.gov)
Embassies & Consulates
Emergency & Important Numbers
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All of the main cafes, coffee shops and hotel foyers offer free wi-fi. Even the new public transport service, Mwasalat, offers this service on city buses.
Homosexuality is illegal in Oman, and public displays of affection are completely taboo. Same-sex hand-holding is not as commonly seen as a sign off friendship in Muscat compared to neighbouring capitals, and the atmosphere is largely conservative.
Despite its illegality, there is a subdued underground gay scene in Muscat that should be approached with discretion. Check www.gayguide.net/middle_east and the gay-and-lesbian thread of Lonely Planet’s Thorn Tree bulletin board (www.lonelyplanet.com/thorntree) for more information.
Oman has two main local English-language newspapers and several radio stations:
The Times of Oman (www.timesofoman.com)
Oman Daily Observer (www.omanobserver.om)
Radio The local English-language radio station broadcasts on 90.4FM (94.3FM from Salalah); High FM (95.9FM) is Oman's most popular English-language commercial radio station and the BBC World Service (103.2FM) is also available in Muscat.
There are numerous banks with ATM facilities throughout Muscat, and moneychangers are to be found in all main shopping areas.
Many sights, government departments and banks close earlier during Ramadan. Restaurants mostly close completely during the day but often stay open much later in the evening. The official weekend in Muscat is Friday and Saturday, so curtailed hours are the norm on these days.
Banks 8am–3pm Sunday to Thursday
Restaurants noon–midnight daily
Cafes 9am–midnight daily
Bars and clubs 9pm–1am daily
Shops 9am–8pm Saturday to Thursday; some close 2pm–4pm
Souqs 9am–noon and 5pm–9pm Saturday to Thursday; 4pm–9pm Friday
Omantel and Ooredoo are the main operators. SIM cards (from OR2 with OR2 credit) are available from the arrival hall at the airport and in malls, supermarkets and corner shops.
Brochures and maps are available from the tourism counter at Muscat International Airport and in the foyers of many hotels. The Ministry of Tourism has a very informative website.
Travel with Children
Muscat is a safe and friendly city with a few attractions for children. Most malls have a themed amusement centre, typically open between 10am and 10pm, and costing from around 350 baisa per ride or OR3 entry.
- Children’s Museum Well-signposted domed building with lots of hands-on science displays. Free for children under seven.
- Ice Skating A good way to beat the summer heat. Sessions last 90 minutes. Women-only sessions on Monday from 9am to 6pm.
- Marah Land Set inside the attractively landscaped Qurm Park, this funfair with Ferris wheel is a local favourite.
- Oman Avenues Mall One of Muscat's most popular malls comes with 150 shops, a large food court open until 1am at weekends and Funtazmo World for kids.