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Travel Guide – Oman

ALL YOU WANT TO KNOW ABOUT OMAN

Oman is embodiment of fantasies about the mysterious, beautiful Arabia from One Thousand and One Nights.
Oman with its breath-taking landscapes and mysterious monuments of history definitely represents a part of this realm.

QUICK FACTS


Some of the important facts about Oman

Sultanate of Oman
HM Sultan Qaboos bin Said
Muscat
Salalah, Nizwa, Sur, Sohar, Duqm
Total Population is 4.7 million
Omani Riyals (OMR)
GMT + 4 hour
220-240 Volts
+968
.om
metric

OMAN


Oman is a naturally beautiful and geographically diverse country that has stunning beaches, rugged mountains, hot deserts and fertile green regions all wrapped up in a friendly package that has for many decades welcomed visitors from far and wide. Omanis are proud of their country and welcoming to visitors, making it a top destination for tourists from all around the world.

COUNTRY FACTS

Oman is situated in the southeastern part of the Arabian Peninsula. It is surrounded by the sea on two sides, the sea of Oman to the northeast and the Indian Ocean to the southeast; it has joint land borders with Saudi Arabia to the west, Yemen to the south, and the United Arab Emirates to the north. Oman’s territory includes the tip of the strategically important Ra’s Musandam, which juts into the Strait of Hormuz. Oman’s part of the peninsula is separated from the rest of the country by the territory of the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

The Sultanate of Oman is the second-largest country after Saudi Arabia on the Arabian Peninsula, with an area of about 309,500 km2; it is predominantly desert, including stony plains and areas of sand dunes; the largest of these are the sand dunes of Rub’ Al Khali (or Empty Quarter) in the west and Al Sharqiyah sands in the east. The Sultanate of Oman commands a coastline stretching for about 3165 km from the furthest point of the southeast on the Arabia Sea and the mouth of the Indian Ocean, to Musandam in the north; it then overlooks the strategic Strait of Hormuz at the point of entry to the Arabian Gulf.

Northern Oman is dominated by three physiographic zones. The long, narrow coastal plain known as Al-Baṭinah stretches along the Gulf of Oman. The high, rugged Ḥajar Mountains extend southeastward, parallel to the gulf coast, from the Musandam Peninsula to a point near Ras Al Ḥadd at the easternmost tip of the Arabian Peninsula. Much of the range reaches elevations above 1,463 m (4,800 f); Jebel Shams (“Sun Mountain”), at an elevation of 2,980 m (9,777 f), is the country’s highest point. An inland plateau falls away to the southwest of the Ḥajar Mountains into the great Rub Al Khali (“Empty Quarter”) desert, which the sultanate shares with Saudi Arabia and Yemen.

The southern region of Dhofar (Ẓufar) is separated from the rest of Oman by several hundred miles of open desert. Dhofar’s coastal plain is fertile alluvial soil, well watered by the southwest monsoon. Wooded mountain ranges, rising to about 1,500 m (5,000 f), form a crescent there behind a long, narrow coastal plain, on which the provincial capital of Salalah located. Behind the mountains, gravel plains gradually merge northward into the vast Rub al Khali desert.

Oman has a number of islands located in the Gulf of Oman and the Arabian Sea, the biggest of which is Masirah.

Climate

Oman has a desert climate with an average annual rainfall of 100 mm, declining to 50 mm in the interior. In the mountains rainfall can rise to 350 mm. Summer winds in sandy desert areas can cause heavy sand and dust storms. There are periodic droughts and periods of heavy rainfall, which can cause temporary floods.

The climate generally is hot and dry in the interior and hot and humid along the coast. Summer temperatures in the capital of Muscat and other coastal locations often climb to 43 °C (110 °F), with high humidity; winters are mild, with lows averaging about 17 °C (63 °F). Temperatures are similar in the interior, although they are more moderate at higher elevations.

The southern region of Dhofar is favored by monsoon winds that bring a considerable amount of rain during the summer. As Dhofar is dominated by this summer monsoon (Khareef), Salalah’s climate is more temperate than that of northern Oman. A rainfall up to 640 mm (25 in) has been recorded in the rainy season from late June to October. While the mountain areas receive more plentiful rainfall, some parts of the coast, particularly near the island of Masirah, sometimes receive no rain at all within the course of a year.

Oman has a rich diversity of flora and fauna, typical of a desert environment. The Arabian Oryx, gazelle, antelope, Nubian ibex, Arabian Tahr, wild rabbit, bustard, striped hyena, black hedgehog and leopard are examples of rare wild animals. More than 400 bird species have been recorded and among them many migratory birds visit the coastal areas and islands regularly. The reefs provide a habitat for a vast array of marine wildlife. On the reefs some 108 types of corals can be found.

The official language is Arabic. Urdu, Baluchi, and several Indian and African dialects are also spoken, especially in the cities of Muscat and Matrah.

English is taught as a second language and is widely spoken. Almost all signs on the road, restaurant menus, and generally anything publicly written, would be available in both Arabic and English.

The state religion is Islam.

There is a small community of Indian Hindu citizens and there is reportedly a very small number of Christians. Non-Muslims, the majority of whom are non-citizen immigrant workers from South Asia, are free to worship at churches and temples, some of which are built on land donated by the Sultan.

The Basic Statute of the State allows for the freedom to practice religious rites as long as these rites do not breach public order.

Oman has limited water resources. The country is dependent on groundwater and its limited rainfall (of around 100 mm annually) for about 65 percent of its water supply. The remaining 35 percent comes from desalinated seawater. While grazing lands, land for agriculture, and wildlife have always provided the mainstay for food production, the marine environment and fishing were the most important resources in the coastal parts of the country.

Oil and gas are the most important resources of national income. Among the member states of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) Oman has small proven oil reserves, but more important are its gas reserves. Other resources include copper, chromite, magnesium, gold, coal, industrial ores and raw materials for building materials such as sand, silica, marble, and limestone.

Agriculture, Animal Husbandry, Fishing, Industries such as cement and chemical production contribute to the country’s economy.

Tourism in Oman has grown considerably recently, and it is expected to be one of the largest industries in the nation. Oman has one of the most diverse environments in the Middle East with various tourist attractions and is particularly well known for Cultural tourism.

There’s very little public transport in Oman except the bus services in and between main cities. If you are to really see anything of the country you’ll need your own transport, either by signing up for a tour, hiring a guide-driver, or renting out a self-driven vehicle.

Taxis are widespread, but without taxi meters, so your bargaining skills are essential

There are no mainline railways in Oman

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.

HOW TO GET THERE

Getting to Oman is easier than you might think. Muscat International Airport is accessible by short flights from neighboring Abu Dhabi and Dubai, and nearby Qatar, as well as from a number of popular Asian cities. There are many direct flights from major European cities to suit almost any traveler.
A second international airport can be found in Salalah in the south of the country. This airport receives air services from Muscat as well as regular direct flights from Doha, Dubai which increase during the Khareef (Monsoon) season and from some European destinations during the winter
In Musandam in the far north of Oman, Khasab Airport is serviced by daily flights from Muscat International Airport operated by Oman Air.
New regional airports are being built at Sohar, Ras al Hadd and the increasingly important port of Duqm.

BEST TIME TO VISIT

Generally the period between September and May is the recommended time to visit Oman. The winter months (October/November to February/March) are pleasantly temperate by contrast; with an almost Mediterranean climate and daytime temperatures rarely climbing much above 30°C, this is the best time to visit Oman. Evenings and nights at this time of year can be pleasantly breezy and even occasionally slightly chilly especially up on the cool heights of Plateaus and other elevated spots in the mountains.

During the summer months (May to September) almost the entire country is scorching hot; from May to July the thermometer can often nudge up into the 40°C. Visiting during this period is best avoided, with the exception of Salalah, where temperatures remain bearable thanks to the annual khareef which descends from June to August or early September. It’s a memorable time to visit the area, even if accommodation gets booked solid and prices go higher.

HOTELS & RESORTS

Oman is home to a vast array of hotel and resorts of varying styles, budget and levels of comfort. There are international hotel brands operating in Muscat, in Salalah in the south and some emerging regional locations like the mountains around Jebel Akhdar, Duqm at the East Coast and Musandam in the north.
Tourism development continues at a relatively conservative pace, ensuring the Sultanate retains its charming sense of place and authenticity.
Whether you’re looking for high luxury, a Bedouin-style desert camp, a traditional guesthouse or a boutique wilderness resort, Oman has something to suit.

VISA

Do not forget to obtain your visas to travel to Oman! You should apply your Visa either in advance or receive it upon arrival at the airport or at the borders, depending on the origin of your passport. The list of countries whose nationals can acquire visa upon arrival can be found on the website of Royal Oman Police. If your country is not on this list, this means that you need to apply for your visa before you come to Oman. Contact the embassy of Oman in your country or the nearest country that has an embassy to learn about the visa requirements. Tourist Visas are issued with the validity of either for 10 days or for one month.

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.

WORKING HOURS & WEEKEND

The Banks are normally opened daily during the morning 08:00 – 14:00 and closed Friday and Saturday, so plan ahead if you need to have hard currency. Major shops and supermarkets are usually open from 09:00 – 13:00 & 16:00 – 23:00 during weekdays (Sunday – Thursday). And only in the evening during the weekend (Friday and Saturday)

In Oman the weekend is Friday and Saturday. The first working day of the week is Sunday.

MONEY EXCHANGE & CREDIT CARDS

There are several Money exchangers in main cities and they keep similar hours to banks, but often open from around 16:30 to 20:00 as well. They usually offer slightly more competitive rates than the banks, and most charge only a nominal per cash transaction.

Visa, Master Card, American Express… All major credit cards are accepted in main hotels, stores, and most shops but in traditional souks, cash is the most preferred means for transaction.

TIPPING

A tip of 10 percent is considered the norm at hotels and restaurants and service providers. It is not normal to tip custodians of museums, forts and such like.


To help you, we’ve posted answers to some of our most frequently asked questions below. If your particular question isn’t there, don’t hesitate to contact us directly at info@alfawaztours.com

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

Yes! Crime and terrorism is low and nonexistent. Oman is a very safe destination. So, Oman is one of the safest places in the world to travel to.

Casual and comfortable lightweight clothing that covers the shoulders and knees is recommended when in public in Oman, even if evenings from late October to March can be a bit chilly. It is advisable to take warm clothing to wear at night in the desert or the mountains. Swimwear is fairly relaxed in the hotels however modesty is required when swimming in public places like swimming holes, public beaches, lakes and wadis.

IS IT EASY TO GET AROUND?

Yes. Oman can be explored by a wide range of convenient transport methods including taxis, rental car, 4WD with driver/guide, long distance buses and ferry services as well as domestic air services operated by Oman Air.

Not necessarily. You should rent a car if you want to travel and explore the country on your own. Other transport options include hiring a guide, booking a tour, using the taxi network, or taking the bus.

One week should be a good amount of time to see some sights and relax a little. Of course this depends on what you want to see and do.

Winter. The closer you can get to the winter solstice the better for temperature. November and February are good months as the temperature isn’t too hot.

Although Oman is an Islamic country, independent restaurants are permitted to apply for a license to serve alcohol. International hotels and luxury resorts typically serve alcohol.

Like in many countries around the world, drinking in public is not permitted, and being intoxicated in public is unacceptable socially.

No, not always. Summer in most of Oman can be very hot, but it is a dry-heat without the high humidity. And the summer around Salalah in the south also offers cooling respite.

Outside of summer, Oman’s weather is very fine with winter (November to March) being absolutely lovely across the country. If you’re in the high mountains during winter you might experience a frost or even a dusting of snow, so pack appropriately

Omani cuisine reflects our rich ethnic and tribal mix. It’s a blend of flavors from the Arabian and Indian subcontinents.

Many hotels serve international cuisine, but if you would like to try something more authentically Omani, look out for qabooli (a hearty dish of rice, nuts, raisins and mutton or beef), harees (meat stew, thickened with wheat) and shuwa (tender, lightly spiced, slow-roasted meat).

Classic Omani sweet delicacies are dates and halwa, a soft blend of sugar, semolina, ghee, saffron, almonds and fragrant rosewater. Both go perfectly with khawa. This is an aromatic black coffee, flavored with cardamom and poured from a metal coffeepot.

Absolutely. The Omani people are by their nature even more polite, respectful and welcoming of solo women travelers. We often hear women expressing their delight at being warmly embraced and welcomed by local Omani women and their families who have invited them into their homes for a traditional coffee and sweat treats.

Yes, and Yes. The state religion of the Sultanate of Oman is a less widespread form of Islam known as Ibadism whose doctrine places great importance on pacifism, tolerance and leniency. Ibadism is only found in Oman, Zanzibar and some smaller enclaves in Tunisia and Algeria.

Non-Muslims are absolutely welcome to visit, and have historically been able to freely practice their own religions openly in Oman. There are several churches of various denominations, temples and places of worship around Oman.