Thinking of heading to Oman, but not really sure where to start? Well you’ve landed in the right place for a broad overview of the destination, as well as all the key things to know. From where to stay and what to do, to practical points such as visas, currency and the best time to go. So read on to find out more!
History of Oman
Oman is a peaceful and lesser known country in the Middle East, wedged in between the UAE and Saudi Arabia. It stretches out along the eastern corner of the Arabian Peninsula, and lies just south of the Tropic of Cancer.
Oman is a country that tends to remain neutral in regional and global political affairs. Its leader, Sultan Qaboos is known to be good friends with the British Royal Family and he is considered to be a peacemaker in the region. Oman’s culture reflects the Sultan’s ethos of respect, tolerance and openness towards all religions and backgrounds.
Before oil was discovered in the region, the Omanis relied on sea trade and they established an empire that stretched from Arabia down the east coast of Africa to Zanzibar, where they bought and sold spices such as frankincense. In fact, legend has it that the Queen of Sheba actually lived in Oman, and Sinbad the Sailor set sail from Oman. Many of the tradesmen sailed on traditional wooden boats called dhows, which are still used today.
Muscat, Oman’s capital, is home to over half of the Omani population.
Oman Travel Guide: Useful information
How to get to Oman?
The main entry point is Muscat, home to a brand new international airport that opened in 2018. This shiny new airport features traditional mashrabiya designs and can accept the biggest jets in the world.
Carriers flying direct to Muscat include British Airways (from London), and of course Oman Air from London, Manchester and dozens of other key airports around the world. Oman is just a seven or so hour flight from the UK.
Oman visas and entry requirements
British nationals need a visa to enter, which can either be obtained on arrival or in advance as an e-visa. A 10-day visa is 5 Rials (£10.60) and a 30-day visa is 20 Rials (£42.55).
How to get around Oman?
For longer hops, such as Salalah in the south, the best way to get around is by internal flights, such as on Oman Air. Oman’s landscape is dominated by the Hejar Mountains, offering vast rocky terrain – which although beautiful and moon-like, can take some time to navigate.
There are no trains in Oman, so the best way to get around is on four wheels, whether you opt for the public bus services, private taxis or tours or of course, hiring a car.
When is the best time to go to Oman?
Oman is swiftly becoming a popular winter-sun spot for UK and European travellers seeking warmer climates in the months from October to March. It’s mild, warm and pleasant in the winter months. However, it does get very hot in the summer months – over 40c! So avoid the months of June-August if you’re not a fan of extreme heat!
The best time to visit Oman is between October and April. I went in January, which was warm but not too hot. It was perfect for swimming in the wadis and the sea, but also very comfortable for walking around the sights of Muscat. Note that if you head up into the mountains, you will find temperatures a notch cooler – particularly at night. You may also experience some rain in Oman – something we don’t typically expect with the Middle East but the southern portion of Oman actually has a full monsoon season during the summer months!
Currency and language
The currency in Oman is the Omani Rial, which is approximately one rial = £2GBP.
Arabic is the official language but English is widely spoken.
Customs and safety
To respect local customs it’s best to wear clothing that covers the knees and shoulders, similar to other Arab countries in the region. Swimwear such as bikinis and swimming costumes are fine around private hotel pools and beaches.
Drinking alcohol is permitted in Oman, in licensed areas. Most hotel bars and restaurants will serve alcohol but it won’t be freely sold on the streets.
I travelled Oman with another female friend. We found we felt perfectly safe and at ease everywhere in the country. On paper, Oman is one of the safest countries in the world – but its reality is also very pleasant. We didn’t get hassled at all and found men and women to be very friendly and warm towards us.
Best Places to Visit in Oman
Muscat, the starting point for most trips to Oman, is a treasure trove of historic and cultural sights, but it also serves as the gateway to some of the region’s best natural attractions and UNESCO heritage sites.
Oman is also the home of some of Arabia’s best adventures. from towering sand dunes, hidden wadis, green oases, huge mountain ranges and an underwater world, just waiting to be discovered. One of the best things about Oman is the sheer number of things you can do and see, even in just a week! Read on to find out more!
Exploring old Muscat is a unique window into the real Arabia – unaffected by modern ways of life. Hours can be spent getting lost in the Mutrah Souq – one of the region’s oldest markets, or taking in some of the city’s beautiful architecture, such as the Royal Opera House. And of course, the stunning Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque. Or perhaps the stop to marvel at the striking Masjid Al Rasool Al Adham, a blue-domed Shia mosque from the 15th century.
Local traditions are well and truly alive in Muscat, with many describing Oman as one of the most welcoming and friendly countries on the Arabian peninsula. Perhaps pause for a cup of Karak chai (a sweet cardomom tea) and you may find yourself in conversation with one of the friendly locals.
Did you know tall buildings are prohibited by law in the city, allowing the city’s past to be clearly visible on every corner?
A walk along the Mutrah Corniche – a wide promenade that stretches alongside the Gulf of Oman on the northern edge of Muscat – is an excellent way to get a feel for the city’s scenic waterfront.
Contributed by Eva from notscaredofthejetlag.com
One of the highlights in Muscat is a visit to Mutrah, the “old part” of the city.
Start the day with a visit to the famous fish market at the north end of the corniche. It is easy to find – just look for the modern looking market hall. It shows off the diversity of the marine life in Oman’s waters.
Next, stroll along the corniche to the Mutrah souk. There are different parts of the souk, focusing on gold, souvenirs, etc., and it is fun to get lost in the little alleys. Most shop owners will let you look and shop without much hassle, just make sure you haggle for the best price. It is part of the game and can be really fun.
If you are up for a short climb, head up to Mutrah Fort next, which offers amazing views of the bay and the town. It was built in the 16th century, a time when Oman was occupied by the Portuguese.
For the best sunset views head to the Marina Hotel. They have a great rooftop terrace with expansive views over the bay. The seafood here is highly recommend and they do serve alcohol.
Visiting this wadi was easily my favourite thing in Oman. The setting is truly stunning, and we lost hours swimming, chilling and climbing across the rocks here. Upon arriving at the Wadi Shah car park (clearly signposted from the road), the first step is to take a short boat ride across the river. It is too deep and wide to swim, so don’t try. From the docking point, it’s about a 45 minute hike through the canyon to the main swimming part of Wadi Shab.
The hike is fairly straight forward and you can’t really take a wrong turn. But beware – it can get slippy and is very narrow at points. It is definitely advisable to wear sturdy, proper shoes. The swimming in the wadi is the true highlight of this experience. It’s warm, calm and a complete dream to swim in. It was an especially quiet day when we went and I couldn’t stop marvelling whilst bathing in the azure waters whilst gazing up at the rocks surrounding us. Magical!
Why not join a local tour, such as one of these:
Bimmah Sink Hole
The Bimmah Sink Hole is one of the easiest natural wonders to get to from Muscat. Although I do recommend visiting, I found it fairly underwhelming as an attraction and would suggests travellers don’t need to spend too long at the sink hole.
Located just 1.5 hours from Muscat and 55 minutes from the town of Sur, it is very easy to get to as it is signposted off the main highway and located not too far from the nearest car park. It is also an easy place to visit following a day at Wadi Shab, as it is then on the way back to Muscat.
The sink hole is surrounded by a well maintained park, with clean toilets, a children’s playground and covered picnic bench areas. You could easily spend a few hours here, and many Omanis do, especially on the weekends.
Contributed by David at The World Travel Guy
If you’re looking for one of the best Oman forts near Muscat, check out the 13th century Al Rustaq Fort. No Oman trip would be complete without a visit to this one!
Al Rustaq Fort is one of the largest and most well known forts in the country, and also one of the most impressive looking. The fort has three floors, complete with a weapons room, mosque, prison, and four 20 metre (65 foot) tall towers.
It’s well worth a climb to the top of the fort since you get amazing views in all directions, but do bring some water with you. The walk up to the top of the fort can be extremely hot, especially later in the day.
The fort is located in the town of Rustaq, about 130 kilometers (80 miles) from Muscat. You can reach it in about 1.5 hours of driving from Muscat, or there are also Rustaq day tours that include a number of popular sights like the Rustaq Fish Market and Souq, An Naman Castle, Thowarah Hot Springs, Nakhal Fort, and of course the Rustaq Fort. This fort has an entry fee of 0.5 Omani Rials ($1.30 USD), but most tours seem to include this in the price.
Whilst the deserts of Oman reach high temperatures in summer, the wild frontier region of Dhofar, of which Salalah is the capital, transforms into a tropical idyll. This is because of the arrival of the annual Khareef monsoon, which brings cooling rains and pleasant temperatures to the region. Salalah is flanked on one side by the stunning Mughsail Beach, and the grassy canyon of Wadi Darbat on the other side.
Salalah is also a great location in Oman to explore one of Oman’s oldest exports – Frankincense. This is still harvested today in the ancient groves at Wadi Dawkah and are well worth a visit.
Perhaps considering a day tour, such as this Full-Day Dhofar Tour with Lunch.
Jebel Akhdar in the Al Hajar Mountains
Located not too far from Muscat, a journey here offers sweeping views in every direction and glimpses of authentic Omani villages. The Al Hajar Mountains is the highest mountain range on the eastern Arabian Peninsula, and Jebel Akhdar is the second highest point in Oman. Home to dozens of small picturesque villages, and an interesting variety of flora and fauna, it is an excellent place to visit for hiking and exploration. Although so much of Oman is barren, Jebel Akhdar, located at over 2,000m above sea level is unique – at this height it receives enough precipitation to support all kinds of local crops, from olive trees and apples, to apricots, figs, pears and pomegranates. And if you happen to visit in April or May, you’ll see fields of pink as the Damask roses come into bloom.
Jebel Akhdar offers plenty for those keen to hike or enjoy adrenaline-filled activities such as rock climbing and cave exploration.
Why not consider a tour, to maximise your time in Jebel Akhdar, such as this one:
Contributed by Veronika from travelgeekery.com
Nizwa is a beautiful historic city in Oman and once used to function as its capital. Nowadays, it’s the country’s fourth largest city and the centre of a province called Al Dakhiliyah in Northern Oman.
It has a beautiful historical heart full of mud houses. You can find one of the biggest traditional Omani fortresses there, featuring a wide circular tower.
Nizwa is also famous for its vibrant market. There’s a large market hall where you can buy anything from fresh fish and seafood to everyday items. The date section featuring different types of dates and date products is especially interesting for a foreign visitor.
If you can, make sure you’re in Nizwa on Friday morning. It’s when the goat market takes place. It’s a truly fascinating sight. Local buyers sit in the middle of a round arena and goat sellers walk in circles around them, showing off their goats. Tourists are welcome to observe the whole performance.
Nizwa is located in a valley and its surroundings are beautifully green. Oman’s sophisticated system of irrigation channels that takes water from the mountains to the valleys below is even inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage list. One such channel, falaj Daris, brings water to Nizwa.
To see Nizwa and the beautiful sights around such as Jebel Akhdar, the village Misfat al Abriyeen, Jebel Shams, Hajar Mountains, Bahla Fortress, Jabreen Castle, and beehive tombs, it’s recommended to rent a car in Oman.
The Daymaniyat Islands
Located just a short boat trip away from Muscat, these islands are a chain of nine uninhabited islands just off the Gulf Coast. Dotted with calm, shallow coves and pristine beaches, the islands are home to a stunning array of wildlife. From sea turtles , to sharks and migratory birds, it’s a fantastic location for closeup encounters.
Check out this excellent day tour here for a trip to the Daymaniyat Islands:
The Musandam Peninsula
The Musandam Peninsula offers a sublime landscape similar to the fjords of Norway. The jagged peaks of the Hajar Mountains rise from the turquoise sea, leaving narrow inlets of water in between – a sight to behold. Its capital, Khasab, is home to the stunning 17th century Khasab Fort.
Is one of the least visited areas in Oman, but easily one of the most beautiful. Interestingly, it is entirely cut off from the rest of the country by the surrounding United Arab Emirates, but is an island area of Omani Territory.
The main way to see the Musandam Peninsula is on a dhow cruise and the snorkeling and diving here is particularly good. Why not visit on one of the below tours:
- Dolphin Watching Day Tour with Snorkelling from Khasab
- Half-Day Dhow Cruise with Snorkelling
- Musandam Fjords Private Overnight Dhow Cruise
Madha, aka the ‘Omani Donut’
Contributed by Iris from mindofahitchhikercom
Madha is a little bit hard to explain without the use of a map. North of mainland Oman, but south of the Musandam Peninsula, it’s another part of Oman while completely surrounded by the United Arab Emirates. And oh, inside the territory of Madha is a small area of land called Nahwa that’s also part of the UAE. Therefore, Madha is the ‘Omani Donut’ and one of the world’s most interesting exclave-enclave complexes.
Less than a hundred years ago, the village elders were asked which ruler they wanted to follow. They could choose between one of three Sheikhs of the not-yet-united emirates of Fujairah, Ras al-Khaimah, and Sharjah, or the Sultan of Oman. The Nahwanis chose Sharjah and the Madhanis chose Oman.
Though there is a small airport, there are no public flights to Madha. The easiest way to get here is by driving. When the main borders between Oman and the UAE are open, you can make a stop in Madha on the way to Musandam. There are no border checks in or out and it’s a popular place for Emiratis to have dinner. Driving through the donut hole to the other side is also possible, but the road quality decreases after the town of Nahwa.
Though it’s difficult to fit Madha in on a regular Omani itinerary, this topographical oddity is a good sidequest when you’re also willing to include a bit of the UAE’s east coast.
Contributed by Alex from justgoexploring.com
For an authentic Arabian desert adventure, don’t miss a trip to the Wahiba Sands.
The Wahiba Sands is a large area of sandy desert in eastern Oman. Technically, this is the eastern edge of the Empty Quarter (Rub‘ al Khali), a huge expanse of desert that spreads across Saudi Arabia, Oman, the UAE and Yemen.
It’s an incredible place – empty, peaceful and beautiful. Here you’ll find an endless sea of sand dunes, dotted with the occasional camel and the tents of nomadic Bedouins.
You can spend the night in a desert camp, where you’ll enjoy traditional Bedouin hospitality, food, and world-class stargazing. It’s a little pricey, but definitely worth it for the unique experience.
There is a range of different options, ranging from “budget” (though still not exactly cheap) to luxurious. Desert Wonders Camp is a great option for budget-conscious travellers.
Most camps will pick you up from Bidiyah (a small town on the edge of the Wahiba Sands) and drop you off again afterwards, so there’s no need to have your own 4WD.
The easiest way to get to the Wahiba Sands is to hire a car, either in Muscat or Sur, and leave it overnight in Bidiyah (your desert camp can organise secure parking). As well as being far more convenient, having your own car also allows you to explore more of the country as part of a wider road trip through Oman.
Due to its remoteness, it is pretty difficult to reach the Wahiba Sands using public transport. It is sometimes possible to catch a bus to Bidiyah, though these are fairly infrequent and they don’t always run.
Where to stay in Oman?
There is no shortage of amazing hotels in Oman. A large number of these are concentrated in Muscat and surrounds, but some truly amazing hotels are also sprinkled across the rest of the country. Here’s my pick of the best:
Possibly one of the most beautiful hotels, the Chedi is a stylist pick on the beach in Muscat. It is also home to the Middle East’s longest swimming pool, a 103-metre-long expanse lined by palm trees and black double day beds. The spa here is exceptional as is the kids club.
Rooms start from £337 per night. Book here for the Chedi Muscat.
Situated in the heart of Muscat by the Corniche, this hotel is a great base for city sightseeing. It offers a range of hotel guest rooms, alongside 45 serviced apartments, so you can opt for self-catering if you prefer.
Rates start from £68 per night. Book here for the Avani Muscat.
Jumeirah Muscat Bay
This newly opened resort is a one of the best places to stay in Oman, offering a luxurious stay just 40 minutes from Muscat. Tucked away in the stunning cove of Bandar Jissah, this exceptional resort has all the amenities for a relaxing Oman escape.
Rates start from £470 per night. Book here for the Jumeirah Muscat Bay.
Six Senses Zighy Bay
Another world-class coastal resort, the renowned Six Senses Zighy Bay, located in the dramatic Musandam Peninsula is a village inspired luxury enclave. Offering an immersive, wellness experience, this is the ultimate in luxury in Oman.
Room rates start from £1,326 per night. Book here for Six Senses Zighy Bay.
Barceló Mussanah Resort
Located on the beachfront in the south of the Al Batinah region in the heart of the Gulf of Oman, around 45 minutes from Muscat, this resort has a stunning private beach as well as four pools and a huge gym. Rates start from £134 per night. Book here for the Barceló Mussanah.
Alila Jabal Akhdar
Firmly positioned as one of the best hotel’s in Oman, this mountain retreat offers world-class panoramic views from the stunning accommodation as well as jaw-dropping infinity pools.
Rates start from £520 per night. Book here for Alila Jabal Akhdar.
DusitD2 Naseem Resort
Located on the Jabal Akhdar, Oman’s highest mountain range at an altitude of 2,000m, the DusitD2 Naseem Resort is a stunning contemporary resort on the Saiq plateau with modern features and a local touch. . This resort is perfect for families searching for a holiday of fascinating culture, beautiful nature, action and adventure. It offers an array of recreational activities including a kids club, playground, games room, and an arts and crafts room. The spa and wellness offering here is also excellent, with unique experiences to enjoy such as Tibetan Singing Bowl.
Rates start from £119 per night. Book here for DusitD2 Naseem Resort.
Alila Hinu Bay
The Alila Hinu Bay is a luxury beachfront resort in the stunning town of Mirbat. The resort showcases a contemporary fusion of local architectural traditions, combined with a modern flair – and nearby is excellent fishing too!
Rates start from £337 per night. Book here for Alila Hinu Bay.
Arabian Nights Resort and Spa
This desert eco-resort is located in Bidiyah and includes a range of villas and luxury tents. In the evening, guests can enjoy bonfires and outdoor dining. In the day, they can partake in an array of outdoor desert themed activities.
Room rates start from £205 per night. Book here for Arabian Nights Resort & Spa.
Shangri-La Barr Al Jissah
My personal favourite is the Shangri-La Barr Al Jissah, a mammoth resort just 40 minutes or so from Muscat airport. The lazy river here is the best and days can easily be spent enjoying the stunning scenery, as well as the excellent F&B offerings throughout the property.
Room rates start from £239 per night. Book here for Shangri-La Barr Al Jissah.
Other top accommodation picks covering all price ranges
Best value stay:
- Hilton Garden Inn Muscat (£68 per night)
- Park Inn by Radisson Muscat (£56 per night)
- Wyndham Garden Muscat (£51 per night)
- Sheraton Oman (£90 per night)
Great value mid-range stay:
- Millenium Resort Salalah (£96 per night)
- Rotana Salalah (£91 per night)
- Crowne Plaza Muscat (£173 per night)
- Crowne Plaza Salalah (£153 per night)
Best luxury stays:
- Al Bustan Palace, A Ritz Carlton Hotel Muscat (£426 per night)
- Anantara Al Jabal Akhdar Resort (£528 per night)
- Anantara Salalah Al Baleed Resort (£372 per night)
- Kempinski Muscat (£248 per night)
- W Muscat (£258 per night)
Oman Travel Guide
So that rounds out my travel guide to this beautiful country, covering all the best places to visit in Oman.
I really hope this is useful for you if you’re planning a trip to Oman.
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Disclaimer: This guide to the best things to do in Oman is based on a personal trip to Oman, as well as contributions from other travel bloggers. There was no involvement from any local companies or the tourist board.
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