A Trip To Oman

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1. What’s it Like to Travel in Oman?

I wanted Oman to be exotic. To not feel like anywhere else we’d been before (a challenge after eight years on the road). Maybe not quite slap-you-in-the-face India different, but pleasantly bewildering Japan different.

When we arrived at Muscat airport it did feel unfamiliar at first. The locals wear ankle-length gowns—white dishdasha with turbans for men and black abaya for women. The bathroom featured squat toilets and was a hectic mess of women chattering in Arabic.

Then we walked into the arrival’s hall and were greeted with a Costa coffee and WH Smiths, two British chains that we rarely see outside the UK.

Oman is a modern, wealthy country. It may have only gained its wealth with oil money in the 1970s and been closed to tourists until the 1980s, but in Muscat you can now find Pizza Hut and Starbucks and supermarkets stocked with all our favourite British chocolates, alongside the shiny mosques, bustling souqs, and simple Indian cafes.

I was a little disappointed by this at first. Muscat felt so easy and not really the exotic destination I’d hoped for. Simon, on the other hand, took comfort in the familiar and happily gorged on bags of Minstrels and Toffee Crisp Bites, treats we hadn’t had for a year.

Despite its modernisation, Oman isn’t all chain restaurants and shopping malls, and we found that the further away from the towns we travelled, when Starbucks was replaced by basic coffee shops and goats grazed by the side of the road, the more we enjoyed it.

I find Oman harder to describe than other places we’ve visited, perhaps because we struggled to get under its skin on a short trip, perhaps because it has fewer obvious attractions than more popular destinations. I have no snappy answer to the question of what Oman was like, but here are our impressions after a 10-day road trip around the north of the country.

Where is Oman?

The Sultanate of Oman isn’t a well-known tourist destination so you might be wondering where exactly it is. Oman is located on the Arabian Peninsula and shares borders with the United Arab Emirates to the northwest, Saudi Arabia to the west, and Yemen to the southwest.

It’s Easy and Safe

We found Oman an easy country to travel in, but you do need a car as public transport is limited. Many people speak English; the roads are generally quiet, tarmacked, and in good condition; and crime rates are very low. We felt totally safe and never worried about theft or scams or experienced any hassle. Oman is one of the most stable countries to travel in the Middle East.

Muscat is not Dubai

Despite the big highways and shopping malls, Muscat is a low key capital with none of the glitz or skyscrapers of neighbouring Dubai. The city is very spread out between the jagged mountains and the sea. The fancy houses, upmarket restaurants, and long stretch of beach of the diplomatic area Qurum feel very different from the cheap Indian restaurants, busy shopping streets, and medieval forts along the corniche of Mutrah. There aren’t many major attractions but the Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque does live up to its name and is one of the best places to visit in Oman

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2. How To Travel To Oman

Oman is known for its high mountains, silky sand dunes, preserved fortresses, and breathtaking fjords. In T+L’s comprehensive guide, we’ll show you the easiest way to see the country’s labyrinth of landscapes.

DYLAN ESSERTIER NOVEMBER 11, 2016

Bordered by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to the west, Yemen to the southwest, and the United Arab Emirates to the northwest, the Sultanate of Oman—a historic seafaring nation of traders and fishermen—has only opened itself up to tourism since the 1980s. A visit to the country promises a glimpse at the beautifully preserved Omani culture as well as access to pristine natural wonders. Here’s what you need to know to expertly navigate your way through Oman.

When to Go

If you prefer cooler, pleasant weather, head to Oman’s north coast from October through April, with the best window being November until the end of February. During this time, you can expect a Mediterranean climate with daytime temperatures averaging 30°C (80°F). Although it may seem counterintuitive, when it comes to the south coast, the best time to visit apart from the October through April window is during the monsoon season, which runs from June through September and coats the mountains in a dense moisture that leads to a lush bloom of picturesque tropical vegetation.

Getting Around

Fly into Muscat International Airport either through the national carrier of Oman Air or the handful of Middle Eastern operators such as Emirates, Qatar Airways, and Etihad, which all offer flights with one plane change.

Once in Oman, there are domestic airports located in Salalah, Duqm, Sohar, and Khasab. Currently, there is no rail system. Public buses will get you to the main cities, but they offer limited routes to truly explore the country. To really experience Oman, you should either be accompanied by a local Omani guide (more on this below) or, if you’re set on exploring solo, international car-hire chains such as Avis, Budget, and Thrifty are available. Opt for a four-wheel-drive vehicle, which will be important for off-road exploration.

Visa

Foreign nationals must obtain a visa to enter Oman, which can be secured on arrival at Muscat International Airport or online through the Royal Oman Police (ROP) website. Currently, there are two types of entries available: Single-entry 10-day visa on arrival ($13) or single-entry 30-day visa on arrival ($51). We suggest checking the ROP website before planning your trip, as Oman’s visa regulations change frequently.

General Tips

  • When traveling to Oman appropriate dressing is key, especially in the more rural areas of the country. Women should have their arms and shoulders covered and wear knee-length skirts or pants, and carry a shawl to cover their hair when visiting religious sites.
  • It’s wise to always exercise sensitivity when taking photos.
  • It’s in your best interest to have a few Arabic words in your back pocket. Start by learning salaam aleikum, a common introductory greeting.
  • Alcohol is served and sold at the airport, in hotels, and in licensed liquor shops except during the holy month of Ramadan, when alcohol is not available in the country at all.
  • Don’t leave Oman without bringing home some traditional silverware, frankincense, and a woven Omani wool scarf.

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3. EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT VISITING OMAN

Oman is fast becoming the new “hot” destination in the Middle East for independent travelers that want to go out and explore for themselves.
Also with being one of the most liberal, diverse when it comes to nature and probably being the most peaceful country in all of the Middle East, so is it not hard to understand why more and more tourist is coming here.

The Omani government has officially said it will spend one billion dollars to improve tourist facilities over the next few years, so expect things to improve a lot in Oman.
A brand new international terminal at Muscat International Airport opened last week of March this year.

While Oman is a great travel destination so is far from being a backpacker friendly destination, Oman is one of the least public transportation friendly countries in the world, there´s no train, and public buses don’t reach the famous sites around the country.
So you only got two options if you want to explore Oman, rent a car or book a tour. 

HERE ARE 8 ESSENTIAL THINGS TO KNOW ABOUT VISITING OMAN.

VISA.

Oman did recently change it´s visa rules, while you’re earlier where able to get the visa on arrival will you know have to get an E-Visa in advance.  By 1 April (that´s when I arrived), where you still able to get the visa on arrival from a different counter, but the line with people waiting for that counter was extremely long so with an E-VSA will you be able to bypass that que and head straight to immigration. It will save you an hour or two.

The immigration queue takes typically between 5 to 30 minutes if you arrive during quiet hours, but if you arrive at the wrong time, (around midnight) can it take up to two hours(this is additional to the visa on arrival line).
I arrived 23.45 and had to stand about an hour in que, but while I was standing in line did more flights arrive, and que was in the end so long that it went around a corner.

A One Month Single Entry Visa is 20 Omani Rial (52 USD).  1 Year Multi-Entry Visa 50 Omani Rial (130 USD).

Entry will be refused to citizens of Israel. But having an Israeli stamp in your passport is not a problem for entry.

GETTING TO/FROM MUSCAT INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT.

There is now two new airport bus operating 24/7 between the airport and the city.
Bus 1A Runs between the airport and Mabelah Bus station, and bus 1B runs between the airport and Ruwi Bus Station. The price is 1 Omani Rial.

A Taxi to the area around Oman Grand Mall is 11-12 Rial. And A Taxi to the old part of Muscat and Mutrah is around  20 – 22 Rial.
Your best and cheapest option is to get a rental car, all the big car rental companies have branches at the airport, but you can get better deals in the city. But then you will have to pay for a taxi to the city center.

MONEY.

The currency in Oman is the Omani Rial (OMR).
One rial is made of 1000 baisa. The Rial is officially tied at 2.58 US dollars per 1 Omani. Making the Rial one of the most valuable currencies in the world.

Credit cardS is widely accepted, I paid all my nights at hotel and shopping in restaurants and grocery stores with my credit card.
ATM: Your best bet to find ATM´S if you want to withdraw money is inside shopping malls. I didn’t have to pay  ATM fee in any of the ATM´s I used during my visit, Bank Muscat and HSBC.

The currency from United Arab Emirates (AED) is also widely accepted around Oman.

NB. Upon my arrival at Muscat International Airport was ALL ATM´S out of service. All 5 of them. So you better bring some hard currency with you.

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4. Budget Travel in Oman: How to Explore Oman Without Selling a Kidney

JULY 29, 2018 byHIGHHEELSANDABACKPACK

Budget travel in Oman can seem like one of life’s great impossibilities. Oman has gained a reputation for being a notoriously expensive travel destination and as such the mention of Oman and “budget” in the same sentence almost looks like something of an oxymoron.

Since the country is a relatively undiscovered travel destination, its tourism infrastructure is not well set up yet. Notable historic sites, enchanting desert wadis and stunning wonders of nature in Oman are inaccessible by public transport. To marvel at the beauty that these desertscapes have to offer, the intrepid traveller must either hire their own method of transportation or organise a tour. A lack of international visitors and demand pushes up the prices of all of these things as too does the stereotypical visitor to Oman – typically someone wealthy with plenty of disposable income and who isn’t going to flinch and price tags higher than the usual.

Budget Travel in Oman: A Myth?

Fortunately, you do not have to be a rich sheikh or an oil company big wig in order to travel Oman on a budget. There are several tricks you can utilize in order to keep your travel costs as low as possible which I have broken down below.

Where deep and mystical pools of cool cleansing waters exist in the forms of paradisaical desert wadis and shimmer in hues of blue and turquoise amid an infinite sprawl of arid desert, Oman is a land of stunning natural beauty.

Oman’s largest cities can seem relatively nondescript; however the beauty of Oman lies off the beaten path – in the ruins, the natural wonders and the quaint mountain villages of the country. Oman is authentic, undisturbed Middle East and I would recommend visiting now before tourism really hits Oman and an influx of visitors causes things to change.

Getting to Oman on a Budget

Fortunately, it is not difficult to find cheap flights to Oman and a number of low cost carriers offer frequent routes to Muscat. Economy Middle Eastern airlines Pegasus and Salaam air boast direct flights from a number of major cities across Europe. It is completely possible to get a return flight ticket to Oman from within Europe for around £200 – £250.

You can also try travel hacking search engine features like Skyscanner’s “mashup” option. Such features are useful when it is not possible to get a direct flight from your current city as they combine different airlines together into one route to identify the cheapest option for you.

Visiting Attractions in Oman

It is very cheap to visit attractions in Oman. As a matter of fact, most of them are free! I visited towers and forts in Muscat and Muttrah and paid nothing, and even major draws and beautiful sites like Jebel Shams (Oman’s version of the Grand Canyon) have no entrance fees. The only thing I had to pay to enter was Nizwa fort which was abnormally expensive at 5 OMR (£10) entrance.

Money Matters

It’s important to understand the local currency when you travel anywhere and when you visit Oman, you should keep in mind that the currency (Omani Rial) is very strong. 1 Rial equals approximately £2/$2.50

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