Thinking about traveling to Oman? This travel guide to Oman comes to us via Sarah who lived and worked in Oman for a year. This is one of many Mini Travel Guides, in which we dip our toes into big-time travel with a few choice tidbits and musts.
Oman is a beautiful, peaceful and often described as sleepy, sultanate in the Indian Ocean. It is a curious mixture of traditional Islamic values and a very real desire for western gizmos and gadgets.
It’s capital city is Muscat which is undoubtedly the most western of all it’s cities and which is full to the brim with the kind of shopping experiences you’d expect from most capital cities around the world. Fashion stores such as Mango, Zara and H&M are very popular here. The only difference being that those funky little outfits are more often than not hidden from public gaze by the fabulous and sparkly Abeyas the ladies wear here.
Must go in Oman
Muscat is well worth a visit itself. The above mentioned shopping experiences exist alongside the more traditional middle eastern Souq situated in Muttrah on the Corniche (next to HM The Sultan’s yacht/ferry). It also has beaches galore (with great opportunities for snorkeling with tropical fish and turtles), parks, a traditional Heritage center in Qurm and the rather stunning Grand Mosque which is the only mosque non-Muslims can visit.
The site of Nizwa fort which is a world heritage site. It explains the history of Oman’s agriculture and is a stunning fort in and of itself. It is truly beautifully restored and is an excellent visitor destination. In Nizwa there is also another Souq boasting locally made and imported goods which is perfect for buying presents for people back home.
An experience all of it’s own, there are a variety of ways you can choose to visit here as many packages exist. If you only have the time for an overnight stopover then fear not – there is still plenty you can see and do in that time. A typical overnight package includes: a visit to a Bedouin home, Dune bashing as the sun sets and a traditional Omani meal under the stars followed by a bonfire and Sheesha. In the morning you awake to a lovely breakfast and a session of Camel Trekking. Then a spot of Dune bashing as you head back to your car and onwards.
Must do in Oman
Just blissful. Sitting on a traditional wooden Omani dhow surrounded by blue seas and blue skies is just heaven. And if you’re lucky you might well see some dolphins too!
Must eat in Oman
Eat at the Shangri-La or Al Bustan Hotel. Another truly blissful experience at these 5 and 4 star hotels which shimmer and shine in the sunshine.
For a more traditional Arabian experience a meal at Carjeans in MQ in Muscat cannot be beaten.
Cultural Tips for Travel in Oman
Omani people are the most friendly and relaxed people you can imagine. However, as with any Muslim country there are certain rules and regulations. Generally you should:
- Cover up, especially during the day time. On beaches and at night clubs and pubs the rules are more relaxed but for general day-to-day life you should be covered to below the knee and down to the elbow with no low necklines.
- Be careful as a lady traveler about being too friendly with men you don’t know. Common sense really anywhere, but the men here are not used to having women speak openly to them if they don’t know them. Wires could get crossed.
- The best time to visit Oman is actually between October and April. The temperatures at this time range between 25-35 degrees. The rest of the year we are baking at over 40 and 50 degrees each day.
- Also, avoid visiting during Ramadan. Opening hours for everything here are effected by Ramadan. Also, no food or drink can be had or sold between sun up and sun down. This is (believe me) very difficult for a newcomer to the Middle East to deal with. Also, during Ramadan Oman is entirely dry – no alcohol allowed.
Travel on the cheap in Oman
Travel around via Baisa buses. These are little white mini buses with the most bonkers drivers in the world. They will however only charge you a few baisas to get wherever you’re going. Oman doesn’t have a bus service (yet) so this is there instead.Eat at Indian restaurants with the white plastic chairs. You pretty much can’t go wrong. The food is delicious and cooked to perfection by actual Indians from India!
Any tips or tricks to share for Omani travel? Questions for Sarah?