The Ultimate Guide to Travel in Oman

oman travel guide

Secluded beaches, dreamlike desert, endless horizons, elusive and beautiful stretches of coastline; Oman’s unbelievable landscape will leave you wondering whether you’ve found heaven on earth. The breathtakingly beautiful country of Oman is every explorer’s fantasy, an ocean lover’s dream, a historian’s playground, a culture vulture’s quintessence of a destination. The thousand-mile long coastal plain? Nothing less than spectacular. Musandam’s fjords and glacier-carved valleys? Simply unreal.

But Southwest Asia’s Arab state of Oman is much more than just unbeatable natural beauty. Dig deeper and you will find a world of exciting cuisine encompassing the most rousing spices, herbs and marinades; stunning cityscapes connected by incredible architecture; bright colours, textures and smells in the most awe-inspiring souks; and a nation of friendly faces, hospitable hosts and a truly exotic clash of traditional values and modern Arabian fashion.

Bordered by the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and Yemen, Oman is a hotspot of the weird and wonderful, a mix of Arabian philosophies, and a culturally unusual destination for adventure seekers. Read on to discover the magic of holidays in Oman.

Where to stay in Oman

Staying in Oman can be a luxury experience or it can be a budget-friendly trip. Like many destinations in Southwest Asia, Oman has a diverse hotel industry that can cater to almost any budget.  To the surprise of many travellers, it doesn’t have to break the bank. (But be sure to factor in high tax rates for more upmarket hotels or the cost of getting around and taxi services – as these won’t come cheap.)

With such a wide-ranging sphere of sights, wonders and activities, the real question is, ‘where to begin this magical journey of Oman?’ Most visitors to Oman like to explore the rich and interesting port of Muscat, the country’s bustling capital city – and this is certainly a fine place to start when creating your travel itinerary. Buzzing with bright lights, a nice choice of restaurants and up-market hotels, and humming with sparkling energy across the capital’s most coveted bars, Muscat is a home away from home for city slickers and luxury lovers.

Staying Outside of the Capital

North of Muscat, you will find the coastal region of Al Batinah, a serene stretch of beach running for over 300 kilometres from Barka to the Khatmat border. This narrow coastline is dotted with fairy-tale forts, sleepy fishing ports and a never-ending line of boats as you look into the horizon; the storybook view is concluded with the dramatic Hajar Mountains, which add to Al Batinah’s sleepy nature. Once the most cosmopolitan part of the country, Al Batinah now renounces as a much more peaceful destination for those who want to get away from the hustle and bustle of the capital city.

Even further North, in the Musandam Peninsula, is where you’ll encounter the sultanate’s most theatrical and vivid works of nature; tumbling mountains carved from the elements, the surreal and lurid ultramarine hues of the Arabian Gulf, and magnificent fjords which are best appreciated by the human eye from a leisurely fjord cruise.

For adventures of the South, explore the Shargiva region where golden sand dunes and turtle-nesting beaches make up the landscape, or Dhofar where the alien-like stony desert is juxtaposed with the subtropical city of Salalah and its plush green hills or beautiful bodies of water.

Wherever you choose to go in Oman, there is a realm of surreal phenomena, just waiting to be discovered.

When to visit Oman

In the summer months, Oman may prove to be too intensely hot and humid for most Western travellers. Humidity is at an all-time high in July and August, with temperatures reaching highs of around 50°C (122°F). Due to the extreme heat, May to September is the tourist off-season, and everywhere in Oman is hot and humid apart from Dhofar which endures the monsoon season during this time.

The best time to visit Oman is between the months of October and March, the most comfortable months being December and January when you can enjoy 30°C (86°F) daytime temperatures and cool, relaxed evenings without the stresses of a moist, humid atmosphere.

For those who want to brave the Arabian heat or Mother Nature’s unforgiving monsoons, June is a wonderful time to visit Oman, to celebrate the Salalah Tourism Festival which brings people together through sport, dance, music and art.

Things to see and do in Oman

Visitors to the magical state of Oman will never be short of something to do or something to see. With its culturally diverse clash of old and new and its dream-like landscape which captures nature’s every extreme, Oman is the epitome of pictorial pleasure to the exploring eye.  In addition to the unbelievable natural surroundings, Oman offers a word of excitement to stimulate the senses. Here are some things to see and do in Oman:

  • Beaches and Coastline – one of the prime attractions of Oman is its beautiful Oceanic views and its boundless coastline.  Whether you’re a self-confessed beach bum or you dream of romantic ocean-view picnics, make sure you wander down the sandy shore of Yitti, Seifa, Quiryat, Shab or Tiwi Beach.
  • Forts and Castles – this beautiful country is sprinkled with the most incredible architecture, including forts and castles, many of which can be found in the old capitals of Nakhal or Rustaq. Discover the Al-Hazm Fort, the Jibreen Fort or the Bahla Fort which is famous for its mystical tales of genies.
  • Fjords and Caves – Head up north to take in the fjords and glacier-carved coastline of Musandam. Or take an expedition down under for an exhilarating reconnoitre of Oman’s amazing circle of caves. Visit AlHoota Cave in Al Jabal Al Akhdar, Al Kitten Cave in the A’Dhahirah Governorate, Jernan Cave at the foot of the ancient Halfeen Valley, or Majlis Al Jinn Cave at the foothills of the Al Hajar Mountains.
  • Turtle Watching in Ras Al Jinz – with one of the most unique natural landscapes, this area of Oman is the only place for spotting protected turtles. Over 50,000 female turtles roam the Ras Al Jinz beach every single night to lay their eggs and the best time to witness such a phenomenon is between July and October.
Green Turtle, Ras Al Jinz, Oman
Green Turtle, Ras Al Jinz, Oman
  • Bird Watching at Al-Ansab Wetland – this famous wetland is recognised as the eagle capital of the world, and is also home to some of the most incredible winged creatures such as wading birds, atacama desert flamingos and spoonbills. Barr Al-Hickman is one of Oman’s many nature reserves and you will be able to spot over 200 different species there.
  • Driving Experiences in Oman – pump up the adrenaline with a 4 wheel driving adventure. Get lost in the moment at the Empty Quarter (north of Salalah) or take a leisurely cruise around Wadi Sahtan from the comfort of a Jeep.
  • Souks in Muscat – the famous Muttrah Souk attracts tourists all year round and just meandering through the narrow, winding lanes of this crazy, lively and colourful market is an experience in itself. Try your hand at haggling with the vendors and pick up some of the most exciting souvenirs.
  • Camel Riding across Sharqiya Sands – for a bit of Arabian magic, nothing is quite as enchanting is a camel ride across the desert. You can find day excursions for a quick taste of Arabia or longer trips for those who want the full experience of being a desert wanderer.
Wadi Rum, Jordan
Camels in Wadi Rum
  • Mud Baths – wind down at the end of your trip with a bizarre outdoor mud bath at Wadi Darbat in the Dhofar region. Join the locals in their traditional pursuit of bathing outside and be prepared to get muddy.

Need to know travel essential for Oman

Entry requirements into the country for UK and Ireland citizens include a visa application and the easiest way to do this is to purchase a tourist visa on arrival at Muscat Airport. For visitors staying for up to a month, visas will be £37 or if you need multiple entry visas, this will need to be applied for in advance.

Oman is a very safe country and violent crimes or petty crimes are both significantly lower than you would expect in the Western world. Albeit a safe tourist destination, it’s still important to extra careful and organised before you travel. So make sure you have sorted travel insurance and always take particular care with your bag or personal possessions in crowded areas such as in the capital city of Muscat. Visitors are also asked to beware of traffic. With driving speeds of either 60km/h or 80km/h for most roads and a frighteningly high number of traffic accidents and fatalities every single year, tourists will need to be extra careful when crossing roads or driving on the roads in Oman.

The easiest way of getting around is by taxi although you won’t have the luxury of a metered fare so be ready to negotiate with the taxi driver.  Most taxi drivers in the capital will speak basic English but outside of Muscat, you may struggle to find English speaking taxi drivers – so be sure to learn key basics of the Arabic language for quick and easy communication.

For LGBT travellers, it’s important to note that the Oman Government does not have a liberal view on same-sex relationships. Homosexuality is illegal, so public displays of homosexual acts can lead to imprisonment for both locals and tourists. Although there is a gay scene in the capital, this remains to be an extremely hidden underground movement.

Find out more here and here.

Food, drink and festivals in Oman

For food lovers, Omani cuisine can be a doorway to the most complex sensory delights. In the same vein, for food connoisseurs, Oman’s cafes and restaurants can be a confusing muddle of Arabian, Indian, Chinese and European cooking. It’s no secret that Oman’s food culture is essentially Pan-Asian piracy of the continent’s biggest staples, stealing elements from surrounding countries and cultures. Some may believe it to be a beautiful fusion. Others may criticise it for having a lack of identity. Whatever your view may be, there’s no reason that you shouldn’t come across some of the most wonderful flavours and heart-warming spices during your travels across Oman.

Typical Omani Dishes

Typical Omani dishes include Harissa which is a porridge cooked with meat, Kebab (usually beef or chicken), Mashuai which is a simple dish of spit-roasted Mackerel and rice, Maqbous which is a saffron rice dish with spicy meat, and Muqalab which is a dish of tripe and offal.  Unfortunately for the self-confessed sweet tooth, Oman is not known for its cakes and desserts but if you are feeling adventurous, try the traditional nutty, wheat-based Halwa which is something for the more acquired taste. Or if that doesn’t take your fancy, take to the national beverage which is the Omani Coffee, a coffee which doesn’t take much like the coffees we devour in the West and is usually served with spicy cardamom and cloves. You will also find a large selection of Lebanese cafes or Turkish eateries around Muscat and other areas on Oman, so despite what some may say about the country’s national cuisine, you will never be stuck for something interesting and different.

The biggest meal of the day in Oman tends to be during the day so save your evening appetite for delicious cocktails and after-dinner drinks if you’re staying in the bustling capital of Muscat. Upmarket bars such as Serai Pool Cabana, Marina Hotel Bar or Club Safari Sports Bar can offer both interior elegance and impressive drink menus.  Not surprisingly though, the price of alcoholic drinks is expensive and alcohol is also hard to find outside of the busy capital. However, Muscat does offer a lively nightlife with many bars serving a range of beer, spirits and cocktails.

Festivals in Oman

To get yourself fully immersed in the food, drink and celebrations of Omani culture, visit this vibrant and colourful country during one of its famous festival months.  The Oman Food Festival is a part of the wider Muscat Festival which runs from January to February, and this also pays tribute to the exciting industry of Arabian fashion through the commendable Oman Fashion Show. The Salalah Festival takes place from June to September and through sports, art and music, you can join locals in the celebration of the lush greenery that blossoms soon after the monsoon season.

Catch the end of Ramadan to celebrate an explosion of festivities across Oman during Eid Al Fitr and you can witness the wonderful feasts which are served up after the Muslim fasting. Or visit Muscat in November to soak up the beautiful evening lights which dot the city for National Day.

For travellers to Oman, there really is no calendar month short of spectacular when it comes to food, drink and celebrations.

Jebel Akhdar Mountains, Oman
Jabal Akhdar Mountains, Oman

2 thoughts on “The Ultimate Guide to Travel in Oman

  1. Hey Hugh,
    I just stumbled your website and read this article. Its just amazing. Lovely blog, great information, and beautiful pics!!. You explain every thing very well.Keep doing this.

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