If you’re looking for tips for traveling to Oman you’ve come to the right place! We’ve just returned from a fantastic few weeks in Oman and there is so much to share about this overwhelming, historic, and mesmerizing country at the tip of the Arabian Peninsula.
Oman is a country that has staggering natural beauty, secular government, and has managed to hold on to its historic cultural roots while their neighbors blast forward into the modern world. It’s a country well worth a visit, but let’s note some basic Oman travel tips first.
Head to the Mountains!
There are several ways to beat the heat in Oman, but our favorite way is to head for mountains. The Al Hajar Mountains are a famous mountain range in Oman that sit over 2000m high and can provide a welcome relief from the oppressive heat and humidity found along the coastline. It’s a rugged landscape of ocher mountains filled with orchards, villages, caves, and expansive wadis. Those orchards supply local specialties like pomegranates and rose water.
Wadis or canyons may be the most impressive sights of the region and can offer some very promising hikes, either along their rim, through the floor, or on the sides. One of the most unique ways to explore the wadis here is through Via Ferrata.
Via Ferrata or “Iron Way” is a climbing route that is lead by fixed bolts, ladders, and lines. It’s a non-technical way to experience rock climbing and anyone can do it safely, as you are harnessed at all times. There are two places in Oman where you can do Via Ferrata. It doesn’t matter how you chose to explore these mountains, but they are a must-visit while in Oman.
We were able to take part of this Via Ferrata experience while staying at the beautiful Alila Jabal Akhdar hotel. Located in the Al Hajar Mountains, this was by far our favorite stay in Oman. Alila Jabal is situated right in the heart of the rugged mountains, overlooking a massive canyon that look out to Oman’s highest mountain.
Besides the Via Ferrata, there are plenty of hiking trails around Alila Jabal, as well as a luxurious spa for when you get back from your outdoor adventures. The food here is also top-notch Omani cuisine – easily the best we’ve had in Oman. Our whole experience in the mountains of Oman made our time in the country amazing.
What to Wear in Oman?
Oman is still a very conservative country. Most Omani men wear a dishdasha or a long white robe that covers their legs and arms. To finish off their outfit they will often wear a kummah, the traditional Omani cap. Women commonly wear an abaya and a hijab to cover their head.
While visitors do not need to dress in the local garb it is a good idea to dress modestly. Women should avoid skimpy clothes and men should generally wear shorts that come to at the least the knee. Furthermore, women should not visit local beaches in bikinis, save that for the resorts. We both opted for airy long pants and a technical long sleeve shirt, or t-shirt on particulary hot days.
Is It Safe to Travel to Oman?
Oman is one of the safest countries in the world! It has one of the lowest crime rates in the world for industrialized nations and it only beat out by countries like Japan and Singapore. The homicide rate in Oman is 0.5 per 100,000 compared to the USA at 5.3 per 100,000 and the United Kingdom at 1.20.
To drive this point home, even more, Canada and Norway have higher violent crime rates than Oman. So, it’s very safe to travel in Oman and visitors can expect nothing, but the famed hospitality of the Omani.
Take a Step Back in Time
Scattered throughout the country and mountains are abandoned villages. These “ghost villages” so to speak are famed for visitors and a great number of them attract photographers and the curious. As Oman’s economy began to boom from oil and the modern era these old villages were abandoned for modern homes with electricity and A/C. Now, these old stone buildings sit abandoned on hillsides and within modern towns.
It’s an unreal setting as most are built along hillsides for ventilation and made from stacked rock, clay, and straw. The most famous of the abandoned villages is Al Hamra which lies at the foot of the Hajar mountains. The community of homes dates back four centuries and some buildings reach up to three stories.
Watch Out for the Donkeys and Camels
Oman is filled with wild donkeys and camels probably two of the most stubborn animals in the world. In all our time driving along the roads we saw a countless number of these guys including one donkey in the middle of a four-lane highway.
It’s a good idea to be cognizant of the animals when driving around the roads, especially at night as camels can be deadly when struck at speed. Of course, it’s not like they’re hiding around every corner!
What is the currency in Oman?
The currency of Oman is the Omani Rial which can be divided into 1,000 baisas. One Omani rial is equal to $2.60 U.S. one of the strongest currencies we’ve come across in our travels. You can find paper notes for 100 baisas, 500 baisas (1/2 Rial), 1 Omani Rial, 5 Omani Rials, 10 Omani Rials, 20 Omani Rials, and 50 Omani Rials.
We pulled out around 100 Rials when we arrived for our 10-day trip. This was more than enough for the two of us as everywhere accepted a credit card for payment. Cash comes in handy for the random ticket to attractions, gratuity at hotels, and buying products in the souks like Frankincense.
How Expensive is Oman?
We were a bit shocked at how expensive Oman could get. As mentioned above the Omani Rial is one of the strongest currencies in the world, and this means prices can really add up. Don’t like the currency fool you! When something says it is 2 OMR it is not $2 USD (more like $5 USD). This means Oman can be a really expensive place to travel if you are always eating at nice restaurants, staying in the best resorts, and doing all the fun activities you can.
So if you are not careful your trip to Oman can really add up. However we were able to find budget accommodations for under $100/night, eat at local restaurants for under $5 a person, go shopping for local souvenirs, and fill up our car full of gas for less than $20.
Buy Jesus the Gift of Frankincense
I never understood what Frankincense was in the story of Jesus of Nazareth. My assumption was that it had to be something of value. It wasn’t until our trip to Oman that I learned about Frankincense since it is the origin. In ancient times Frankincense, literally incense, was considered sacred throughout the East for rituals, temples, and spiritual events.
The incense is produced from the sap of trees found in Oman and is closely tied to Omani culture. You can find frankincense in markets around the country, but we chose to pick ours up in the historical souq just outside Muscat, Mutrah Souq.
Eat Some Spicy Omani Cuisine
Oman is a bit of a melting pot when it comes to its cuisine. You can find influences from Africa, India, Persia, and the Mediterranean. There’s a wide variety of spices used in the food such as saffron, ginger, and nutmeg. Many Arabian specialties are easy to find here, with the wonderful addition of seafood.
Enjoy the Coastline
Oman has long ties to the sea with ancient fishing villages along the coastline and a vital historical port. However, it’s a lot more than just some history as the coastline is breathtaking and for largely pristine. The pristine coastline has made for some fabulous beach resorts such as the Shangri-La Al Husn or the Al Bustan Palace. To top it all off there is some world-class diving here with pristine coral reefs waiting to be explored.
Oman is Not One Big Desert
The vast majority of Oman is arid; however, Salalah feels like a world removed. It’s the capital of the Dhofar region of Oman and lies in the far south. The city is subtropical and during Khareef (rainy season) it turns into another world. Frequent rains lead to waterfalls, rivers, and a verdant landscape.
Other amazing destinations include the wabis along the coastline. The most famous is the Wadi Shab. It’s a mesmerizing sight from the valley’s floor. As you walk along the valley floor you climb cross back and forth over the river before finally swimming along into a cave and waterfall where you can go cliff jumping. The natural beauty is serene and there’s plenty of adventure too!
Drink The Delicious Qawha
Omanis are big-time coffee drinkers and it plays an integral role in their culture. It’s an important sign of hospitality and meant to be given as a welcome to guests. A welcome gift that is greatly appreciated when it is as delicious as qawha.
In the brewing process cardamom, cloves, and rose water are added for an extremely aromatic cup of coffee. You drink the coffee black from small cups and then pair with dates for sweetness. It was easily one of our favorite aspects of visiting Omani culture.
Savor the Omani Dates
Speaking of dates and coffee. Oman is famed for its dates and it’s common for many Omanis to have their own palm trees or date farms. You can find the trees all throughout the country and they provide an ample supply of the delicious fruit.
Find Peace in the Empty Quarter
The Empty Quarter or Rub Al Khali in Arabic is a desolate stretch of land that encompasses much of Oman. It may not be home to much of anyone, but for the adventurous, there are plenty of camps and day trips to explore this fascinating natural wonder. The most popular region to explore the massive sand dunes and star-filled nights is in the Wahiba Sands.
Should You Rent a Car in Oman?
Oman is a beautiful country and its coastline has a lot to explore. However, public transport is almost non-existent and most touristic destinations are best visited as a day trip or one overnight. To maximize your time in Oman we’d recommend picking up a rental car.
With that being said there are several things to keep in mind. Pick up an IDP (International Driver’s License) that has your details translated to Arabic. You will need to be a defensive driver in Oman. They drive very fast and aggressive in Oman, and as a result, they have the second-highest per capita of driving-related deaths in the world.
That being said this is well known and they have enacted speed cameras across the highways so do not speed. Interestingly enough rental cars have a warning system when you exceed 120kph, the maximum speed limit in the country.
Do You Need 4×4 Rental in Oman?
If you want to head out to the desert or the mountains in your own vehicle you’ll need a 4×4 rental. Not only is this advised, but it’s the law with police checkpoints verifying before you leave the main highway. One of the biggest highlights of Oman are the mountains inland
How Much Does Gas Cost in Oman?
The average price of fuel in Oman is around .200 Rial ($0.50) per liter. This is affordable by international standards around the world. Not only is it affordable, but fuel stations are pleasant with gas station attendants, clean facilities, and plenty of snacks/drinks for the roads. We’ve become accustomed to getting raked over the coals when we head to the pump in foreign countries, but it was a nice surprise in Oman.
What is the Language in Oman?
Arabic is the official language of Oman and it is widely spoken. However, Oman you can find a number of different languages spoken in Oman such as Hindi, Swahili, Bengali, and Baluchi. Many of these other languages come from foreign expats.
What’s the Weather Like in Oman?
Oman and most of the Gulf States are well known for their fearsome summer heat. The element that we did not expect was the humidity. In our minds these desert states along the coast we’re all dry deserts, but since they sit along the coast they’re prone to extreme humidity. It was over 30C with 80% humidity when we visited in October, there was no relief other than the mountains and ocean.
Quick Oman Travel Tips
- Language – Arabic. However, with good education and a strong tourist industry English is widely spoken.
- Currency: Omani Rial
- Visa: E-Visa System,
- What to Pack: Pack for desert temperatures. Light, loose, and conservative clothing works best here!
Where to Stay in Oman
As mentioned at the beginning of this post, the Alila is one of the most high end and beautiful hotels in Oman. It’s certainly not a cheap stay, but it’s located in a special place in the world and will transport you back in time to the mountains of Oman.
Shangri La Al Husn
The Shangri La Al Husn is one of the most luxurious properties in Muscat. It’s about a twenty-minute drive away from downtown Muscat and lies in the perfect position on the coast. It’s an ideal location for a quick city break for Omanis and a great vacation spot for international travelers who want to experience the turquoise waters of the Gulf of Oman. You can read our full review here.
Plan and Pack for Oman
Just throwing this into your bag is going to make packing for Oman a breeze. A Shemagh is the perfect travel accessory for both the men and the women travelers out there. This can be worn for just about anything. It will keep you warm, cover your face, protect valuables in your backpack, and even double as an eye mask the shemagh has tons of different uses.
It’s perfect for anyone heading into the Sahara wanting to keep the sand out of their face. I would personally recommend buying this before you land because once you travel to the desert there will plenty of touts willing to sell you a cheap one at an exorbitant price.
Skin cancer is for real! Don’t forget your SPF when traveling around Oman. We recommend ordering some online before leaving the house as you will need it underneath the sun in the summer.
We highly recommend getting an eco friendly sun cream that does not contain harmful chemicals.
Make sure to protect your eyes from the sun. There are a lot of options for sunglasses and everyone should own at least a pair. It’s best to make sure they do have UV protection for the health of your eyes.
We made our first investment in quality polarized sunglasses with a pair of SMITH Optics Lowdown 2. Truthfully, not everyone needs to invest $150 in a pair of sunglasses, but they do make a huge difference from the crappy $10 ones.
Most hotels will provide you with a towel, but for those times when they may not I like to have a backup travel towel. I like to travel with a microfiber towel because they are light and fold up small, and they also don’t cling on to sand our dirt. Here are a few of our favorite travel towels.
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