If by just hearing the name ‘Oman’ gives you goosebumps, travelling to the Arab country is something most of you will not even dream of. But then you’d miss an opportunity to understand and get under the skin of this under-the-radar country. A stone’s throw from Saudi Arabia and north of Yemen, Oman is an exotic and offbeat destination that makes adventure junkies nervous and adrenaline-pumped at the same time. Owing to the gradual internationalization of its neighbor Dubai, Oman is soon becoming a place to be for those who wish to escape the concrete jungle of cities and explore the most traditional Arab country.
In the face of modernity, Oman’s sleepy towns, spectacular mountains and wind-blown deserts easily make people fall in love with this Arab nation. Often misjudged for being in the vicinity of violence and terrorism in nearby nations, Oman in reality, oozes peace and tranquility. This travel guide has everything you need to know about ‘travel to Oman’, including practical information, travel tips, safety concerns, top experiences, attractions and cultural facts.
Where is Oman?
The sultanate of Oman shares its border with the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Yemen. Unlike its flashier neighbors, this Arab country is often overlooked by travelers despite having a distinct world of its own. Oman has been successful in retaining its Bedouin traditions and cultural roots that give it a strong sense of pride and identity. It’s a treasure trove of vast deserts, green-tinged mountains, golden-red cliffs, turquoise seas, lush green oasis and long coastlines that are a treat to one’s eyes.
Oman is an unusual travel destination where time seems to pass slowly. You can still see the handprints of time in its classical music, live goat and cattle auction, distinct culture, terraced farming villages, dramatic landscapes and basically at every nook and corner of Oman.
Religion, Myth and Reality
Almost 70% of the population in Oman follows Ibadi, a brand of Islam known for its hospitality and openness. Ibadis strictly adhere to Sharia laws regardless of place and time. Things like singing or dancing, wearing revealing clothes, disrespecting the royal family of Oman etc are frowned upon. Be prepared to end up in prison or paying a hefty fine when you do that. The constitution of Oman prohibits discrimination based on religion. You would be shocked to learn that Oman is the only Middle-Eastern country that scores zero on the Global Terrorism Index. From its fascinating culture to the peace-loving populace, the more you learn about the country, the deeper you’ll want to dive into the adventures it has to offer.
Is Oman Safe to Travel?
Oman is a modern country and relatively quite safe to travel. You’ll find the roads to be in good condition to travel. Talk about the crime rate, then Oman has the lowest crime rate when compared to its neighbors. It’s a great place to travel in the middle-east without worrying about theft, scams or inconvenience. Muscat has several fancy and renowned restaurants and food chains offering everything from a pizza, coffee, chocolates, Indian food to make you feel home away from home. There are bustling souqs to buy souvenirs. Even though Oman doesn’t have any conflict with its neighbor, you might want to steer clear of border areas of Yemen and Saudi Arabia as a precautionary step.
Is Oman a Safe Country for a Solo Traveler or Female?
Away from the chaos of Egypt and the instability of Iran, Oman is relatively a safe country for a female traveler or solo traveler. Oman is a place that will make you feel as if Arabian Nights fairytale has come to life. Being a conservative Muslim country, females are expected to dress up modestly to avoid unwanted attention. Apart from low crime rates, offenses against women are incredibly non-existent.
Best Time to Visit Oman
Exploring the richness of Oman during summers is a great bargain where you can avail attractive discounts on booking. May to October is the perfect time to travel the vastness of this magnificent land. However, you must be prepared to bear the heat of the country. High mountains during monsoon generally support a pleasant weather condition to tour the nook and crannies of the Sultanate.
Visa Conditions for Indian Travellers
The Sultanate of Oman has recently relaxed its Visa rules for Indian citizens under which tourist visa shall be provided to those who either reside in the USA or hold an entry visa to the USA, Canada, UK, Australia, Japan or any of the Schengen nations. The processing of Visa can take almost a week or two.
Do Omanis understand English?
Omanis speak quite fair English and understand it all the same. You won’t face any trouble exploring the depths of this otherworldly destination. It’s easy to communicate with locals and figure out your way around the place. Language is not a barrier in Oman.
Food to Try
Cities of Oman are well-equipped with international fast food joints. You can easily encounter tons of Indian, Pakistani and Filipino food restaurants owing to the high number of expatriates in the country. Locating a KFC or Mc Donald’s is not a tough nut to crack in Oman. The Sultanate of Oman does not have a strong food culture as you can find meat and rice in its typical dishes. Although Indian food served by the restaurants here is something that is bound to challenge your taste buds. Here are some traditional foods that must be devoured when travelling to Oman- Majboos (rice mixed with dry fruits that are cooked with spicy red or white meat), Shuwa (a marinated meat wrapped in banana leaves cooked in an underground sand oven), Mushaltat (flatbread stuffed with meat, spices, cheese and honey), Shawarma (spicy meat marinated sandwiches wrapped in pita bread) and Laban (interesting blend of yogurt and buttermilk).
Places to Visit in Oman: Top Attractions
Here are some top attractions in Oman that must be explored no matter what.
- Muscat: There’s so much to explore in the capital city of Oman. From witnessing the surreal architecture of Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque to Muttrah where the noise of fisherman selling freshest catch at amazing prices simply swirls your mind, Grand walls of the fortress to lively souks, Muscat is a place that will keep you occupied for as long as possible.
- Nizwa: Talk about small town with historical sites that oozes peace and tranquility and we have Nizwa to consider next. Nizwa is a place that will make you feel as if you have landed on the set of the tomb raider. Nizwa fort, souk, the ghost town of Al Hamra, eerie ruins and spike traps will take you on a roller-coaster ride that is worth experience once in this lifetime.
- Wahiba Sands: The ‘Sahara desert’ of Oman, Wahiba sands offer you a great escape from the chaotic cities. A place where you can enjoy amidst nature, go dune bashing, enjoy a camel ride, sleep in a local campsite, gaze the infinite stars in clear sky at night and whatnot.
- Wadi Bani Khalid: The entrenched valley of Wadi Bani Khalid encompasses several natural pools, a narrow ridge to swim and a cave to explore. It’s a perfect place to shot some insta-worthy pictures.
- Bimmah Sinkhole: This splendid natural formation is filled with turquoise water that is a perfect option for swimming and incredible instagram-worthy pictures. The sinkhole is believed to be created as a result of meteorite fall ages ago. Feel free to take a dip or two in the cold water of the sinkhole that provides relief in the scorching heat of summer.
- Hajar Mountains: If unspoiled beauty has an address, then it is the Hajar Mountain that will make you fall in love with nature. Set up a camp here and revel in everything nature has to offer.
- Sur: The seaside town of Sur provides a welcoming relief to you where you can recharge yourself in the serene environment of this tiny town. A morning tea alongside the sea will work wonders for you.
- Salalah: If you are all set to experience ‘the mummy’ like adventures (minus the mummies obviously), then salalah is a great place to begin your Oman travel. The place has oasis, lush rainforests, and quaint villages to explore if you can bear the scorching heat of the sun.
Guidelines to Follow When Vacationing In Oman
Oman is a country that demands respect in all spheres be it its values, tradition, history and heritage. There are certain guidelines expected to be followed by tourists visiting the Sultanate. You might want to go through these rules before planning your vacation in Oman.
- Drinking alcohol in public should be avoided when exploring the riches of Oman
- Public display of affection (PDA) is strictly a big no-no in Oman. Be ready to get punished when you ignore the rule.
- Traffic rules in Oman are pretty strict and failure to comply with these rules can cost you severe penalties.
- Oman is an Islamic country, so you are expected to respect local culture, traditions, law and religions at all times and everywhere you go.
- Eating, drinking, dancing, smoking, playing loud music etc in public places during daylight hours of Ramadan is forbidden and punishable by law.
- Swearing and making rude gestures (including on social media) are considered obscene acts.
- Photography in certain areas or government buildings is strictly prohibited.
- It is also advised not to photograph people without their permission or prepare yourself for what comes next.
- Import and use of e-cigarettes are illegal in Oman, you might want to steer clear of that.
- Remote-controlled flying objects or drones without a valid license is illegal in Oman and can result in severe penalties or imprisonment at worst.