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Traveling to Oman
Let’s cut to the chase: Oman needs to be on your bucket list. This country has tons of fun things to do, great infrastructure, stunning sites & incredibly kind people, so it’s definitely a great place to visit!
If you’re wanting to explore more of the Middle East but are wary of some of the current unrest in some countries, Oman is a great option. It’s not that big in the tourism scene just yet, but take our word for it that it will be soon! We spent 5 days here and honestly we didn’t want to leave.
Here’s what you’re gonna get with this blog:
- Answers to “Where is Oman?” and “Is Oman Safe??”
- Top things to DO in Oman
- Transportation in Oman
- Renting a car in Oman
- Currency in Oman
- Where & how long to STAY in Oman
- Oman visa info
- What to wear in Oman
- Best time to visit Oman
- Getting to Oman from Dubai
- & Oman travel tips!
Where is Oman located?
- Oman is located on the Arabian peninsula, and is the most southeastern country of the peninsula
- The country borders the UAE, Saudi Arabia & Yemen
- Oman is a coastal country, with much of the country bordering the Arabian Sea and Gulf of Oman
Is Oman safe?
Oman is the one country that has maintained its neutrality in the midst of the unrest everywhere else in the middle east. For that reason, it’s perceived as the Switzerland of the Middle East. In addition, it’s been named in the top 10 for safest countries in the world, according to the World Economic Forum’s Travel & Tourism report. We generally felt very safe our entire time there and never felt uneasy!
Top things to do in Oman
Oman is an awesome country to experience a diverse set of activities all in one vacation spot. For instance, there’s the capital city, amazing beaches, refreshing swimming holes, stunning mountains, and vast desert all in this one country.
Sultan Qaboos Mosque
Located in Muscat, this stunning mosque is sprawling and filled with beautiful prayer halls, gardens and stunning architectural details. It’s home to the 2nd largest rug and chandelier, just behind the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi, so in other words, it’s a total work of art.
Tips for visiting Sultan Qaboos Mosque:
- The mosque is FREE to visit, so don’t worry about getting your rials ready!
- It is open to visitors from 8-11 am every day except Friday, because it’s their holy day. Note that it gets incredibly crowded with tour groups, especially after 9/9:30, so go right at 8 if you want a more peaceful experience.
- Dress code: Both men and women must have long pants. Women must also have long sleeves and a head scarf, however if you don’t have the proper attire packed you can rent an abaya dress with head covering at the entrance for $5 USD.
Muttrah Souq in Muscat dates back to the late 1500s, which makes it one of the oldest marketplaces in the world. The souq (market) is filled with both Omani and Indian shops and goods.
It’s honestly the most chill and friendly souq experience we’ve ever had. All of the vendors are very kind & not super pushy, so you actually feel like you can breathe and browse.
Tip: some vendors close on the weekends, which are Friday & Saturday here, so be sure to go Sunday to Thursday!
Royal Opera House tour
The Royal Opera House in Muscat was finished in 2011 and is a stunning state-of-the-art masterpiece. The opera house is designed with screens on the back of each seat that translate the show into 3 languages, and both the stage and the box seats are moving platforms that shift depending on the performance.
It’s also home to the biggest organ in the world which has 4600 pipes and weighs over 50 tons.
The Opera House is open for tours from 8:30 – 5:30 pm and it costs $8 USD.
Note: if you want to go for a show they have a strict formal dress code! Women should be in long sleeve dresses below the knees, and men should be in a suit or at least a jacket.
This place is our absolute favorite spot in Oman, and certainly made for some of our best memories! Located about an hour and 45 minutes outside of Muscat, Wadi Shab consists of a hike through palm trees which leads to a series of stunning swimming holes.
It’s a pretty flat hike through the gorge, but some of the rocks are slick so make sure to wear tennis shoes or hiking sandals. Once you reach the swimming holes you can go for a refreshing swim from one pool to the next, and at the last one there is a waterfall and cave!
Tips for visiting Wadi Shab:
- Rent a car to get here, though a 4×4 is not required.
- It’s open from 7 am – 5:30 pm and was relatively crowded at 10 am but not unbearable at all.
- It costs $2.50 USD (1 rial) per person to take the boat to cross the river from the parking lot to the hike, but other than that this place is FREE.
- Pack water, sunscreen & water shoes if you have them, since the shallow parts of the swimming holes are very rocky and water shoes would’ve come in clutch!
- You’re “there” on the hike when you reach the 1st swimming hole, but for the best views and photo ops of this place you should keep hiking a bit and look back.
- Plan to spend 3+ hours here
- You have to leave your stuff to swim unless you have a waterproof bag, so don’t bring too many valuables.
- They didn’t seem too strict on swimwear dress code, but to be respectful Kylie wore pants and covered her shoulders until we got to the swimming hole.
About an hour outside of Muscat you’ll find Bimmah Sinkhole, which is a beautiful blue natural pool in the middle of a nice park. In addition to being stunning, the water is insanely clear and makes for a super refreshing dip in the pool! This spot is only 20 minutes from Wadi Shab, so it’s best to combine the two for a fun-filled day of swimming!
Tips for visiting Bimmah Sinkhole:
- Rent a car to get here, but a 4×4 is not required.
- It’s open from 8 am – 8 pm, however we showed up at 7:45 am and they let us in early no problem. We highly suggest going early – we had the place to ourselves for over an hour!
- It’s completely FREE to visit
- The park rules state no swimwear, so we stayed covered up until the sinkhole and made sure to re-cover ourselves after our swim before walking through the park.
- The parking lot is the first dirt turn-in after you u-turn off the highway, but it’s easy to miss so you should use the Here We Go app to navigate here.
- This is a great spot to play with a GoPro, so get it ready!
Yiti Beach is off the beaten path, however it was our favorite find of the trip. It’s a stunning beach spot nestled amongst the rocks and mountains about 30 minutes outside of Muscat, which makes it the perfect spot to spend an evening.
This place is an epic spot to watch the sunset. When we went the only other people there were locals having a picnic or camping for the night, so it was extremely peaceful.
Tips for visiting Yiti Beach:
- Use the Waze app to get there
- Aim to arrive well before sunset since it sets earlier behind the mountains
- It is easier with a 4×4 but not required
- The locals may want to chat with you, so be sure to embrace them. Also be sure to accept their offerings since it is rude in their culture to turn down an offering.
Nizwa Fort is another quick hour and a half drive from Muscat, in the opposite direction of Bimmah Sinkhole and Wadi Shab. Even though this spot is Oman’s most visited monument, it didn’t feel crowded at all! We loved seeing the beautiful Omani architecture here.
Tips for visiting Nizwa fort:
- Open from 8 am – 6 pm but go early, not for crowds’ sake but because it seemed like by 1 pm most of the surrounding shops and souqs were closing up shop.
- Costs $12 USD/person which is a little steep, but it’s worth it!
- You can climb to the top of the castle, so head up there to get the best photos
Eat at Kargeen
Kargeen is super cute restaurant in Muscat that’s nestled in the trees and gives us all the earthy vibes. They had a buffet authentic food to choose from and it felt like a little oasis in the city.
Note: not a very budget friendly dining option, for example the buffet was $20 USD per person.
Other things to do
Two other things to do worth noting are visiting Jebel Akhdar mountains & going on a desert safari. If we’d had longer in the country both of these were on our list!
Transportation in Oman
Your best options for transportation in Oman are:
- Renting a car
We’d actually suggest a combination of the two, which we’ll go into detail about below. Unfortunately, there isn’t Careem or Uber yet in Oman, and we didn’t see much in terms of public transit. It also isn’t a very walkable country.
Transportation from the Muscat airport:
Unless you rent a car at the airport, the only way to go is a taxi.
Note: Taxis are all cash only, so make sure to get some rials at the airport ATM. Also note that not all of the taxis are metered, so make sure to do your research and negotiate.
Transportation in Muscat:
A taxi is a great way to see the sprawling city of Muscat. It’s normal to hire a taxi for a full day, so we called one in the morning to take us to Sultan Qaboos Mosque and he then drove us to all the sites we wanted to visit. He just dropped us at a site and we would WhatsApp him when we were ready and he’d be there within 10 minutes (kind of like old school Uber).
This cost us $50 USD for the day (which we negotiated ahead of time), and it was nice to not have to worry about parking at each place with a rental car.
Transportation outside of Muscat: rent a car (details below)
Renting a car in Oman
Renting a car in Oman is the best way to see beyond Muscat, and there are tons of amazing sites within a couple hours drive that you won’t want to miss.
Things to note for renting a car in Oman:
- You ONLY need a 4×4 if you’re going to the Jebel Akhdar mountains or the desert. If you get a sedan it will cost you about $60/day plus fuel. A 4×4 costs about $140/day plus fuel, so to be budget conscious you should really assess what areas you’re trying to visit and whether a 4×4 is really necessary. We thought we needed a 4×4 and totally blew our budget for no reason.
- Google Maps isn’t great with turn by turn directions here (and isn’t aware of all the road construction), so be sure to download both the Waze and Here We Go apps. The Here We Go app doesn’t have all the landmarks/hotels but is pretty good and allows you to download offline maps so you can navigate without using data. Waze works pretty well in most areas, but the road names and highway signs almost never match. We ended up using a combo of those two to navigate around.
- Make sure to travel with your drivers license & not just your passport
- The infrastructure and roads are really well-done
- They drive on the right side of the road like the US
What to wear in Oman
Oman is a Muslim country so be sure to dress conservatively. Generally women should wear shirts that cover your shoulders and skirts/pants that cover your knees. If you plan to visit a mosque, women must wear loose fitting clothing and cover their legs, arms & head, so be sure to plan ahead. Men must cover their knees and shoulders at the mosques.
Dubai to Oman
Traveling from Dubai to Oman is super simple. We took a flight from Dubai Airport on Salam Air for $100 USD and it was a 1 hour flight. There is also a bus that goes from Dubai to Muscat that takes approx. 5 hours and costs about ~$15 USD.
Since it’s so easy to travel between the two, Oman is a great country to couple with Dubai in a trip.
Currency in Oman
The currency is Oman is Omani Rials, and it’s one of the most valuable currencies in the world (1 Omani rial = $2.6 USD).
It’s very weird being in a country where you multiply instead of divide to understand how much you’re spending. It also makes it harder to stay on budget because the numbers seem so small in Omani rial! (“Wow it’s so cheap! Only 5 rial!” …. $12 later…)
Where to stay in Oman
Muscat is a great place to use as home base if you don’t want to bop around hotels too much. It’s very centrally located for exploring Muscat and for the day-trips to Nizwa and Wadi Shab, and it has the most lodging options since it is the capital. If you are planning to go to Jebel Akhdar or the desert trip, you should consider staying the night there since both are about a 4 hour drive from Muscat.
We stayed at Al Murooj Grand Hotel and had a great stay. The room was very comfortable, the staff was super friendly & the food was incredible!
You do need a visa for Oman. You can apply for an Oman evisa online here for $13 USD. Once your evisa is approved it is emailed to you and all you have to do is print it and present it at the passport control at the Muscat Airport, or wherever you are crossing the border.
How long to spend in Oman
You need a minimum of 3 days to really do this place justice. We stayed for 5 days and would’ve loved 7-10 to really see the whole country.
You can do Muscat + Yiti beach in a day or two, Bimmah Sinkhole & Wadi Shab in a day, Nizwa in day, then spend some time in the Jebel Akhdar mountains and also on a desert safari in the south.
Best time to visit Oman
Oman has a very warm climate. Summers are May/June – August/September and get extremely hot, so October to April is the most pleasant time to visit. Even in their winters the temperatures are in the 70s & 80s (F)!
Omani people are incredibly kind, peaceful & giving, and the nature of the locals is really what sets this place apart.
We were so lucky to experience their kindness firsthand at Yiti Beach when a man came up to us while we were taking photos, brought us coffee and fruit, and invited us to join his family’s picnic.
It was an extremely touching experience, and this is only one example of the kindness we experienced in the country. The people here are always looking out for one another, offering what they have to give & just generally behaving as compassionate human beings. It is such a special culture to witness!
Oman travel tips
- Oman is not a super budget country like you’d expect in Southeast Asia. It’s by no means Dubai or Maldives, but things are not dirt cheap. We stayed in a nice hotel for $70 USD/night.
- Nearly everyone spoke English
- Pack sunglasses! The sun is insanely bright here
- Friday is their holy day, so many things are closed or have different hours. Friday and Saturday are their weekends, and Sunday to Thursday is the work week.
- Men and women are not supposed to show affection in public towards one another. No hugging or kissing, and even holding hands is only permitted for married couples. Be respectful if you’re trying to take couple’s pics or even just walking around town.
Kylie & Scott
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