Oman Quick Facts
Times to Visit
If you are interested in visiting the capital of Oman or any other region expect the southern part of the country, then the best time to visit is between November and March. This is the winter season of Oman, where the temperatures are wonderfully pleasant in the low twenties with clear skies . If you would like to visit the southern part of Oman (Dhofar), the best time to visit would be between July and October during the Monsoon season where large areas are covered with lovely greenery.
Oman observes the holy Muslim month of Ramadan, where eating and drinking is not allowed in public and most businesses and offices would have shorter working hours, and nothing basically gets done. The time of Ramadan changes from year to the next, except if you are planning on exploring natural attractions, you should try to avoid coming during the month of Ramadan.
How To Get here
There are direct flights to Oman from all major flight hubs in the Middle East, Europe and South Asia. An easy alternative to visit would to be to fly to Dubai and then take a coach from Dubai to go to Muscat. A direct flight from Dubai to Muscat takes about 45 minutes, a coach takes about 6 hours.
Nationals of many countries around the world can acquire their entry visa to Oman upon arrival at the airport or at the borders. The list of countries whose nationals can acquire visa upon arrival can be found on the website of Royal Oman Police at this link. If your country is not on this list, this means that you need to apply for your visa before you come visit. Contact the embassy of Oman in your country or the nearest country that has an embassy to learn about the visa requirements.
Arabic is the only official language of the country; however, English is widely spoken. Almost all signs on the road, restaurant menus, and generally anything publicly written, would be available in both Arabic and English. Many of those who work in the service industry are foreigners from South Asia who primarily communicate in English. Official posts, such as those at the airport, would have Omanis who would speak a lower level of English, but still generally enough to get the message across.
How To Dress
Oman is one of the more tolerant Muslim countries in the region, but it is still conservative. Women are NOT expected to cover their hair, but it is socially not acceptable to show cleavage or thighs in public. Public display of affection should also be avoided. At public beaches it is not appropriate for a woman to wear a two piece swim suit or for a man to wear a speedo, instead women should go for a one piece swim suit and a men should go for a board shorts. At private beaches attached to hotels, it is acceptable to wear bikinis for women, but usually not thongs.
The local currency is the Omani Rial (OMR). 1 Omani Rial is equivalent to almost 2.6 USD. 1 Omani Rial can be divided into a 1000 Baisa. Money exchangers in Oman buy and sell all major currencies. Shops in Oman will not accept Dollars or Euros, even the touristy ones. The only currency that is occasionally accepted is the Emarati Dirham. ATM machines are found almost everywhere around the capital, and are commonly found at petrol stations and major shopping areas in other cities around the country. Cards are also accepted at all major supermarkets, petrol stations, and medium and high end restaurants.
Muscat does not have a good public transport system. There are a lot of taxis that can be hailed from the street, but none of them are metered. You will have to negotiate the price of your trip before you get in to avoid arguing about it at the end. Most taxi drivers speak a little bit of English. If you are going to a famous attraction in the city they will be able to get you there if you say the English name, if you are going to a place that is not famous, you will have to describe the closest known landmark for the taxi driver to know where it is. Even though all roads in Oman have way-numbers, almost nobody ever uses them except those who have access to a navigation system. Do not expect a taxi driver to know how to get to a place by telling the way-number. The second public method for commuting around the city is to use what is called a “Baisa Bus”, these are small white mini buses that charge a 100 baisa per roundabout it crosses.
The best way to explore the city is to find a taxi drive and try to negotiate a deal for a whole day service. If you are going to spend more than a couple of days, it would be a good idea to rent a car. Roads in Oman are in an excellent conditions and traffic rules are generally well respected, the way people drive can be a little bit aggressive, but not too challenging.
The weather in Oman is hot and humid in summer, and cool and sunny in winter. If you are coming in summer you should avoid walking under direct sun between 1pm and 4pm because it can get extremely hot.
Oman is one of the safest countries in the world. Street crimes practically do not exist. There are no pickpockets or scam artists in any of the markets of Oman. However, it is not uncommon for some Omanis and expatriate workers from South Asia to stare at expatriate western looking women when they are walking on their own in a market. This might make some people feel uncomfortable, but rest assured that nothing will happen. The people here can be a little bit too friendly with toddlers, if you are carrying a baby with you, do not be surprised if random people try to play with the baby or even kiss it on the hand or the cheek.
Working Hours and Time Zone
Muscat is in the GMT+4 Timezone, the same as Dubai. Working hours for government offices is from 7.30am to 2.30pm, while businesses start around 8am and finish by 4pm or 5pm. Shops open sometime between 8am to 10am and close late in the evening around 9pm or 10pm. Certain shops, such as the shops in Souq Muttrah, also close in the afternoon between 1pm and 5pm. The working week in Oman is Sunday to Thursday. Friday is considered the holiest day of the week, so the majority of shops will not be open before 1pm during this day. You should be aware that working hours differ a lot during the holy month of Ramadan as the government and businesses tend to have a shorter working hours and the shops do not open during day time, but remain open until very late in the evening.
The electricity voltage in Oman is 220 volts. Oman uses Type G British standard electricity socket outlets. You might need a converter and/or an adapter to use electricity sockets in Oman.