Oman is the place to go if you want to see the Middle East in a unique way. You cannot see any high rises, busy cities, or more touristy locations, in contrast to Dubai, Abu Dhabi, or Qatar. It is a more relaxed vacation spot. Oman is calm, incredibly safe, and more of a destination for nature-based vacation than it is for traditional tourist activities.
Oman is both a traditional and liberal nation. Oman people are helpful to tourists and friendly. All we have to do is to respect their traditions in return and stick to rules of the country. When you are planning your Oman travel itinerary, remember that as Oman is a Muslim country the weekend is on a Thursday and Friday. Many places close on Fridays.
I've been travelling much throughout Oman for more than four years as an expat living here, so I can provide some insider advice.
Things to Know before you Go
Visa (for Indian Passport holders): For holders of Indian passports travelling to Oman, a prior visa must be arranged. This can be done through Travel agents or if you have any friends residing int eh region, they can arrange through their company.
Currency: Oman's currency is Omani Rial. 1 Euro ~ 200 INR
Best way to travel : Oman is a country which doesn't have extensive public transportation and there are no trains. Taxi services forms the backbone of transportation even inter-cities . It is easy to rent a car and go around. Driving direction is opposite to that India, things to be mindful of.
Accommodation : Hotels range from cheap to luxurious, and depends on the place you stay. Going into the regional area, your options are limited, so need to get bookings up front.
Language : Arabic is the national Language. English is widely understood as the nation has got more number of Expats. You will also find a sizeable Indian community speaking Malayalam, Tamil & Hindi
Food: You can find almost every cuisines in Oman. Indian food is predominant considering the number of Expats. Omani food. Omani food tends to be less spicy and served in quite large portions - whole fish are not uncommon at lunch in some local restaurants
Water: Interestingly, Oman experiences little rainfall, and the majority of the island's drinking water is either extracted from an underground aquifer or the sea via massive desalination facilities . Tap water is safe to drink, but most people use bottled water which is not expensive. I used to drink both depending on the situation
Wifi & Mobile data: Mobile data is not cheap and so is the Wi-Fi. Most of the accommodation provides free Wi-Fi which is good. It is better to get a sim card with a data plan going into the regional area, coverage is not guarnateed though
Credit Cards and ATMs: It was easy paying by card in bg restaurants and shops. You need to carry cash in case you are going to a street shop or travelling to the countryside.
What to Wear: The dress code in Oman is fairly liberal and contemporary. Once you arrive in the nation, there are no specific dress codes given to you. Always dress modestly by covering your upper body, your shoulders, and your knees with shorts or a skirt. Reiterating that they are quite modern, Omani people will only really request that you cover yourself when you are in a sacred space.
Safety: Oman is an extremely safe destination, even travelling to the regional area. Be cautious with the teens, they tend to do some extreme stunts for fun with the bikes and cars. Other than that travelling is safe
Best time to Visit
One of the first considerations when organizing a trip to Oman is the ideal time to travel.
There is no peak travel period in Oman and you don't see much of International tourists. March to October can still be hot and humid in the Northern part of Oman.
The ideal time to travel to Oman is actually in the Winter, unless you have a serious hankering for heat. From November to February, Oman experiences pleasant daytime temperatures and mid cold evenings.
Most of the sightseeing is restricted to the northern part of Oman. The Southern city you might be interested is Salalah, the only city which experiences rainfall and has got greenery. It has a bit of Tropical climate and resembles Kerala. It is more than 1000 km south of Muscat, the capital city. You might want to rethink about doing a road trip if you only in Oman for 3 days
On the official Oman tourism website, you may find out more information about other Key locations
How to get to Oman
Plenty of Options to fly into Muscat, the capital City. Flying time is 4 hours from Chennai. There are connection flights from Coimbatore & Madurai as well.
Oman is not expensive destination. Most of the tourist spots don't charge entrance fees and tours are not expensive as well
Accommodation starts from 25 Omani Rial (5000 Indian rupees) , you get a whole apartment. I would recommend this option rather than having a hotel room which is expensive and smaller.
Flights are the most cheapest part of the travel and the costs vary depending on the time of travel. Approx. economy return fares from Chennai will be 15,000~20000 INR per person
Where to Stay
Choosing a place to stay in Oman will be another important factor to take into account while organizing your vacation. If you are doing to Multi day trips and wish to stay in the desert camp, it is better to do some research and book it in advance.
Staying in Muscat, The most advised neighbourhoods are Al Khuwair (more restaurants/shopping) & Al Qurm (westernized area- beaches, gardens & party)
Muttrah is another interesting place to stay. it has s beautiful coastline with walkways and also the local markets, if you want to experience some culture
Ruwi is the old town and more crowded. If you are relying on public transport (only a few buses operate), then this is the place to stay.
How to Travel around Oman
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The most effective ways to get around Oman is to rent a car. It might be challenging to move around Oman without a car. The regional cities have public transportation available. But you'll need a car if you're interested in the deserts, mountains, or canyons known as wadis. As an alternative, you can use taxis to take short day trips nearby and go on Muscat tours. Prices are really reasonable.
Renting a car
One of the most convenient places to rent a car is Oman. The driving standards are generally decent, the roads are excellent, and the fuel is insanely cheap. Most of the top tourist destinations can be visited without a 4x4 in Oman, and much of the country is reachable with a standard car. However, having a 4x4 helps you can travel over the desert and mountains without worrying about your car getting stuck.
Prices varies and there is no standard prices throughout the year. Starting prices for a Hatchback is usually 15 OMR(3000 Indian rupees) per day and a full SUV will cost 30 OMR(6000 Indian rupees)
Must See Places in Muscat
1. Sultan Qaboos Mosque
Visitors can visit this magnificent, enormous, modern mosque for free every day . Friday mornings are reserved for prayers, basically anyone can pray and not restricted to any nationalities.
What I personally like about he mosque is that it is so clean and the architecture is masterclass. There is so much Garden space to take photographs and you can see photo enthusiasts trying to get their settings right. The lavishly decorated main prayer hall is equally stunning. I advise getting here early in the day as the organised tour groups start to arrive.
Both Men & Women are required to adhere to a strict dress code. Men need to cover up up to their ankles, half sleeve shirt is fine. Women need to wear long sleeves, floor-length skirts, and headscarves (If you don't have anything appropriate to wear, abayas are available for rental). Try it if you want to have a different experience.
2. Mutrah Corniche
Early in the morning is when the Muttrah corniche is busiest as people visit the nearby markets and stroll along the shorelines (well paved pathways are built now). If you are travelling with children, a garden and play area are nearby.
Ships can be seen docking in the port area as well as the esplanade being lit up at night. A picturesque location with white buildings, rocky mountains in the background, and a sea view. It is also lovely to watch the sun set. In the evenings, you can stroll through the market to buy some locally made souvenirs.
3. Al Qurm beach
This beach covers a sizable area and is located in Muscat's AlQurm Area. Large hotel chains including Crowne Plaza and the Hotel Muscat InterContinental have been constructed close by. Due to its proximity to restaurants and commercial centres, this beach is one of the busiest in Muscat. Walking enthusiasts can enjoy the beach's promenade before relaxing on one of the many chairs and umbrellas that line the shore.