All you need to know before visiting Oman
The Sultanate of Oman is a country in the Middle East bordering the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and Yemen. The country is an absolute monarchy, ruled by Sultan Qaboos since the 1970s, and despite having an area almost four times larger than its most famous neighbor - the UAE - the country receives few Western tourists. But if you are wondering, "what does Oman offer?", the country provides a fusion of charms including architecture, culture and natural beauties that combine desert, crystal clear beaches and mountains. To complete it all, perfect roads make a road trips the ideal travel style to experience the highlights of the country. In this post you will find some practical information to plan your trip to Oman.
Visa to visit Oman
Citizens of almost all nationalities, including those of North American countries and European Union ones, need a visa to visit Oman. It can be obtained online, with a stay permit of 10 or 30 days, and the cost starts from 5 OMR. At the time of application, it is necessary to attach a copy of the passport and a photo; after that, just wait to receive the email with the approval of the visa (mine took 24 hours) then print it to present to immigration on arrival.
Language in Oman
The language spoken is Arabic, but English is widely used, including restaurants and souqs (local markets) found throughout the country.
Currency in Oman
The currency used in Oman is the Omani rial (OMR) and it is more valued than the US dollar and Euro - the currencies you will probably take to change upon arrival in the country. 1 OMR is approximately US$ 2,7.
When to visit Oman
The best time to visit Oman is from October to April, when temperatures are milder. From May to September the thermometer can reach 50 °C; regardless of the season, be prepared for low temperatures in the mountains of Jebel Akhdar and in the desert Wahiba Sands, where you will need to wear a nice sweater and/or a windbreaker jacket.
Religion in Oman
Islam is the main religion in Oman. The other religions found in the country, such as Christianity, Hinduism and Buddhism, are found primarily in immigrant communities.
Safety in Oman
The Sultanate of Oman has a very strict moral, religious, and legal code, and the punishment for crimes is severe. Therefore, traveling around the country is extremely safe, but - as with everywhere - precautions with personal objects such as wallets, electronics and documents is advised.
How to dress in Oman
Men and women in Oman dress conservatively - with the men usually wearing an ankle-length dress called dishdasha and the women wearing black and long garments known as abayas. For this reason, tourists should respect local customs: for both women and men, the recommendation is to cover the shoulders and wear clothes below the knee.
How to get around in Oman
If you only want to stay in the capital, Muscat, you can use the taxi service that is widely available. However, if you want to visit other areas or cities in the country, renting a car is the best option; you will have the flexibility to make plan your own route, stopping whenever you want. The roads are excellent, no tolls. We did not pay parking during the whole trip (we would have payed in Muscat, but we were in town on a weekend, when it was free) and fuel costs around 0,30 OMR per liter. But if you really want to explore the country with a tour agency check the prices at Zahara Tours, which was the company I saw most wherever we were.
Please note: if you plan to visit the Wahiba Sands Desert and the Jebel Akhdar Mountains, you will need to rent a four-wheel drive vehicle. We rent ours with Avis.
To get easily around the country, download the mapps.me app - which saves places and has an offline version, and provides suitable routes to all places whereas some areas Google Maps cannot find. To access the internet and find places easily, buy a SIM card with internet upon arrival at the airport (with prices starting at 7 OMR).
Where to stay in Oman
The best way to see the highlights of Oman is by staying in different cities, that is, forming different bases. My suggestion of places to stay in the country are: Muscat, Sur, Nizwa, Wahiba Sands and Jebel Akhdar.
Eating and drinking in Oman
The Omani cuisine full of flavors. When visiting the country, you must try: the Omani coffee (made with rose water, cardamom and saffron), dates, hummus (paste of chickpeas with olive oil, tahine, lemon juice and other items), moutabel (paste made with eggplant, tahini and other ingredients), halwa (a dessert made with toasted sesame seeds mixed with melted sugar), pita bread, seafood, fattoush (arab salad) and mint lemon juice.
Alcoholic beverage in Oman: only restaurants, bars and nightclubs are licensed to sell alcoholic beverages in Oman, but most places that have the same and sell the drinks are in hotels. So, you'll probably need to limit alcohol consumption only within your hotel's outbuildings.
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