Oman is a dry country. Non-Muslims are permitted to bring two litres of alcohol into the country at Seeb International Airport only (you can order the alcohol online). You are not allowed to bring alcohol into the country in private cars at land border crossings.
One of the most asked questions is what will be worn at the balls. Highland Dress or Trews or Mess Kit or White Tie and Tails or the local traditional dress equivalent Turbans not caps. No dinner jackets. Medals and tiaras encouraged. Women wear long dress and comfortable shoes for dancing and walking on sand at the Pink Ball.
Oman’s currency is Omani Rial, abbreviated as ‘OMR’. The Rial is pegged to the dollar and can be easily converted at the rate of 2.6 OMR to $1. One Rial is equal to 1000 baisa. Coins are in various denominations of 3, 10, 20, 50 Baisa and ½ Rial. Notes (Bills) are in denominations of 100, 200 baisa, ½, 1, 5, 10, 20 & 50 & Rials.
Smart casual is the best description for suggested dress code. Do carry a shawl for early morning and evening and especially in the desert it can be cool at night so a light jacket. Places of religious worship should be respected by covering shoulders and above the knee. It is strongly advised that you carry a hat or shawl if you’re going to be in the sun in the middle of the day. In the hotter times of the year, it is important to wear light cotton clothing and to keep your head covered when out in the heat of the day. (It’s very easy to dehydrate, so keep fluids up and consider carrying rehydration salts.)
In Oman voltage is 220 volts AC, 50 cycles, though some areas also have DC. Visitors are advised to check the voltage before using electrical appliances. Sockets are British. Most hotels now offer adaptors for your convenience.
Times of Oman
You must be at check in at least 2 hours before a domestic flight and an International flight. To enter all airports in Oman you will be requested to present your passport and a copy of your flight ticket.
You can exchange money at international airports where 24-hour exchange facilities are available or at your hotels or at ATM machines.
You can purchase Sim cards at the arrivals hall of the Muscat airport (Ooredoo, Omantel or FRiENDi mobile). Make sure your mobile phones are set to roaming before leaving the UK to avoid huge bills. You won’t be able to talk on Skype or WhatsApp in Oman as the ability is blocked, however do what the locals do and download IP Vanish VPN which disguises your location and therefore allowing you to use the above.
All hotels will have a hairdryer in the bathrooms. Smaller hotels will have a few available at the front desk.
Before traveling to Oman it is advised that you get vaccinations for tetanus, hepatitis A, typhoid and malaria.
It is important that you obtain good personal travel insurance from an insurance agent in your country. A suitable policy will include an unlimited amount for medical, hospital and additional health associated costs. Most policies cover loss of baggage, personal money (usually limited) delay and curtailment. Do make sure your policy covers you for unexpected cancellation of your trip in this unlikely event you will then be covered for financial cost.
You must be in possession of a valid passport, which will not expire for at least six months after your journey is due to end. It should have two clear pages for entry and exit stamps as well as your visa. A wise precaution is to carry a photocopy of your passport & visa kept separately, extremely useful in the event of loss or theft.
- Muscat is a fusion of old and new. Mutrah is a labyrinthine world of its traditional souq. Beneath stained-glass domes, a vast array of products dazzles with color and scent – leather slippers and bags, ornate, highly polished silverware, stacks of spices, highly decorated fabrics. No trip to Muscat is complete without a trip here.
- Nizwa is Oman’s best Souq. It is a veritable Aladdin’s cave, full to the brim with local pottery, precious metal jewelry and an exotic variety of dates, an Omani luxury. If you can, visit the nearby village of Bahla, where the pottery is made, for an even more impressive selection and to see it being created by the talented local craftspeople.
- Sur This traditional, seafaring town excels in craftsmanship. On its unspoilt beaches, you can watch the wooden dhow boats being built. Sur’s other technical specialty is musical instruments, also expertly crafted from wood such as the traditional oud.
- Salalah Visit the beachfront Al Husn souq, where the pungent, aromatic scent of the almost-mythical perfume frankincense will envelop you. Small packets of frankincense are available to buy, along with a gilded incense pot. While frankincense is everywhere, myrrh is a little less obvious, but you’ll find some if you explore enough perfume stalls.
- Haggling is part of souq culture – take your time to get your bearings and compare prices before entering into negotiations.
- Souqs generally open in the mornings and evenings, closing for several hours in the middle of the day.
- Frankincense quality varies: look for light colors and large clumps, as this indicates a high quality. You only need buy a very small amount, as a little goes a long way.
- Remember to dress modestly and respectfully – it will enhance relationships with the traders.
Taxis are 3-5 OMR (approx. $15) for a trip anywhere in the city. Be prepared to haggle. You can also use one of the new taxi Apps such as OTAXI. Marhaba Taxi is the Omani equivalent to Uber. https://itunes.apple.com/gb/app/marhaba-taxi-oman/id1194580527?mt=8 or download from the Apple Store.
Service charges are added to most bills, if they are not, 10% is typically sufficient. In hotels, tips are not expected, but are appreciated. For taxi drivers and gas station attendants, rounding up your bill and letting them keep the change is generally the custom.
IMPORTANT! With the opening of the new international airport on 21 March 2018, visa rules are changing and visas can no longer be bought upon arrival. A tourist E-visa can be bought online by going to: https://www.evisa.rop.gov.om/. A copy of your passport and a visa photograph will need to be uploaded. A thirty day tourist visa is 20 OMR (approx £38 or $52).
Visiting Places of Worship
Remove your shoes before entering mosques. Avoid taking leather goods of any kinds (bag, belt etc) and cigarettes into places of worship, as these are not permitted. Don’t wear shorts or sleeveless tops in places of public worship. Women are required to cover their hair.