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Oman Guide & Travel Advice

Getting there

Oman Air offer daily direct flights between London Heathrow and Muscat. British Airways also have a regular service from London Heathrow to Muscat although this flight does touch down once en-route in Abu Dhabi. Emirates via Dubai or Qatar Airways via Doha are the best indirect options.

Flying times from UK

A direct flight from the UK to Oman takes around 7 hours.

Time zones

Oman is +4 hours ahead of GMT.

Visa requirements

All British Citizens travelling to Oman must obtain a valid Omani e-visa prior to arrival in the country. The visa can only be acquired online direct from the Royal Oman Police portal. Full details of the Omani e-visa are available on https://evisa.rop.gov.om/. Please note that if travelling as a tourist you can apply for an unsponsored visa.

Do's and don'ts

Women should wear loose clothing that covers their arms and shoulders. Skirts should reach below the knee but trousers are preferable.

Women should cover their hair and should carry a shawl to cover up in conservative areas. Keep beachwear for the beach.

Men should wear trousers but thigh length shorts are acceptable.

Be prepared to discuss your country and other personal details like your age, marital status, children and work. Omanis also like to talk about why you are visiting Oman and what you think of their country.

Always ask permission before entering a mosque.

Money

The currency used in Oman is the Omani Rial (OMR) which is divided into 1,000 basia. Coins and notes are used and each have two faces, one written in Arabic script and the other in Roman script. Pound Sterling is easily exchanged in Oman and this can be done in hotels, banks and bureau de change outlets. Larger shops and restaurants accept bank cards like Visa, MasterCard and American Express but cash will be needed in souks or when purchasing smaller items. ATMs are reliable and can be found throughout the country.

Tipping

Tipping is not expected but if you wish to leave a tip then 10% should be given in restaurants. A guideline for tipping your drivers and guides will be advised prior to travel.

Food and drink

There is a wide variety of different types of food on offer in Oman from Arabic and Indian to European and other international dishes. Food in Oman tends to be a little less spicy than typical Arabian food, however, it is well flavoured with marinades, herbs and spices. Garlic and lime are also used and expect large portions. Chicken, fish and mutton are common ingredients. Some typical dishes include Shuwa, meat seasoned with herbs and spices and cooked in underground clay ovens for up to two days, Maqbous, a saffron flavoured dish with red or white meat served mixed with rice, Lokhemat, cardamom flavoured flour and yeast balls with a lime and cardamom syrup and Halwa which is similar to Turkish delight and sometimes flavoured with nuts, rose water or chocolate. Rice accompanies most meals and is served in various ways, sometimes steamed, often mixed with meats and vegetables. Breads can be plain or seasoned with sesame, thyme, garlic or dates.

The most popular drink in Oman is Khawa – a strong, bitter coffee which is made from freshly ground coffee beans and cardamom powder. It is served in tiny cups without handles and without milk or sugar, however dates and nuts often accompany coffee. Serving and drinking coffee is an Omani tradition of hospitality. Fruit juices such as mango, orange or pomegranate are also mixed and served in long glasses. A yoghurt-based drink known as Laban is also common and is made from yoghurt and buttermilk.

Holidays, festivals and celebrations

Events which are celebrated in Oman are mostly centred on Muslim festivals and feasts, with dates changing each year. A few of the most well-known include Ramadan, Eid al-Fitr which marks the end of Ramadan and Eid al-Adha. National Day celebrates the birthday of Sultan Qaboos on the 18th November and formal celebrations include camel racing, traditional dancing and fireworks. The Omani flag and images of the Sultan are erected all over the country.

Shopping

Oman is most famous for scents and fragrances, with natural products, such as frankincense and myrrh, as well as perfumes and Bulkhoor. Bulkhoor is made from perfumed wood chips soaked in oil that contains musk, frankincense, oud and sandalwood. Frankincense and other products are burned on charcoal in specially designed burners which are made from wood and metal or brightly coloured pottery burners. You can buy the boxes of small charcoal briquettes from pretty much anywhere on which to burn the fragrances like incense. As well as perfumes and oils, Oman has some incredible handcrafting traditions including metal work, pottery, clothing and walking sticks. You can find an amazing range of traditional Arabian products from curved daggers known as ‘Khanjars’ to beautiful and elaborate Bedu Jewellery. You can find most of these items in ‘souks’ – a market or bazaar and one of the most famous is the legendary Muttrah Souk in Muscat. Prices aren’t fixed and so bartering is common and expected.

Suggested reading

The Rough Guide to Oman is an excellent book and contains up to date travel information on the country. For a personal perspective try Rory Allen’s ‘Oman – Under Arabian Skies’ which describes his experiences in Oman in an easy to read, humorous narrative. Other interesting books include the classic ‘Arabian Sands’, by Wilfred Thesiger, ‘Oman: Stories from a Modern Arab Country’, by Stig Pors Nielsen and ‘A History of Modern Oman’, by Jeremy Jones.

Health

Your doctor is the best person to advise you on staying healthy whilst abroad but current recommended vaccinations are Hepatitis A, Typhoid, Tetanus and Diphtheria. Yellow Fever is compulsory, but only if you have visited an affected Yellow Fever area within 5 days prior to your arrival. In some instances anti-malarial tablets may also be needed. For current information on health advice you may wish to visit the Medical Advisory Services for Travellers Abroad (MASTA) Web Site on www.masta.org.  The NHS ‘Fit for Travel’ website (www.fitfortravel.nhs.uk) is also a useful resource.

Travel advice

For current information on Oman the best resource is the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice) which is a comprehensive resource and updated regularly. We would also recommend visiting the Safer Tourism Foundation website (https://safertourism.org.uk/) before you travel and will be happy to address any questions or concerns you may have.

Oman Holiday Ideas

Oman Holiday Review

We are now back in the UK, having enjoyed a wonderful trip to Oman. The itinerary worked out very well and the scenery in Oman was stunning.  We thoroughly enjoyed all the interesting places we visited. Our driver/guide – Mohammed – made the trip exceptional. Mohammed was calm, kind, helpful, informative, spoke very good English and was a joy to be with. Many thanks again to yourself, for putting together our itinerary at quite short notice – it was really great trip.

JM - Oman - January 2017

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