Travelling in a foreign country can often be a daunting experience. Our Travel Advice tips below will help you prepare for your business or leisure trip in Muscat, and update you on vital health and security information, as well as local customs.
When to Go (seasons, events and local holidays)
Oman's Local Customs and Language (including tipping advice)
Value for Money Sightseeing
Health and Security (including Oman laws you should be aware of)
Muscat is in a beautiful region of mountains and has a lovely coastal view, but the heat and humidity of the summer can make it extremely unpleasant for visitors, especially those from more moderate climes. The best time to visit the city is between December to March. This is the time when temperatures will be much more mild and agreeable, and the risk of sunburn, heatstroke, and dehydration are greatly reduced. While it is still warm compared to other regions’ winters, it is cool enough to enjoy being outside and seeing the sights.
New Year’s Day (January 1)
Mouloud (Birth of the Prophet) (March 9)
Leilat al Meiraj (Ascension of the Prophet) (July 20)
Renaissance Day (July 23)
Eid al-Fitr (End of Ramadan) (September)
National Day and Birthday of HM Sultan Qaboss (November 18)
Eid al-Adha (Feast of the Sacrifice) (November 28)
Al-Hijra (Islamic New Year) (December 18)
Note: During Islamic holidays, banks and government offices are closed. The holidays and festivals are set according to phases of the moon, and dates may change yearly. To ensure that you enjoy the festivals you want, make sure that you check the date of the holiday before planning your visit.
Oman is a country that keeps its heritage very much alive. While it does have many modern amenities, Muscat is deeply religious. This is seen in all areas, including food, socialization, and even the festivals and events planned in the city. It is extremely helpful to know some common phrases, such as please and thank you, as well as common greetings, as well as to know the local customs.
While it is certainly possible to make a mistake in some aspect – for instance, a visitors from the West may accept an offering of food with his left hand – it is not a catastrophe if you apologize for your blunder. Omanis receive many guests, and the city of Muscat knows that not every visitor will be aware of the intricacies of its culture: for the most part, they are very forgiving. Perhaps the biggest area to make sure you are appropriate with is the relations between men and women. Public affection, even between married foreign nationals, is seen as taboo. Men should not touch women in public, women should not wear revealing clothing, etc. Take the time to learn these customs before your trip. It is a wonderful culture, and Omanis will appreciate the time and effort you make in showing your respect.
Muscat’s official language is Arabic, which is also widely spoken throughout the region. The city is diverse, and you will also hear smatterings of Swahili, English, Hindi, Malayalam, and several Indian dialects. Because of the large number of English-speaking tourists, many in the city will speak at least a little English, and it is the primary language used in business.
It is not customary to tip in Muscat, especially in less expensive establishments. Upscale restaurants tack on a service charge to your bill in lieu of a gratuity, though it is not for the wait staff per se. In general, it is appreciated if you tip someone who extends a courtesy or provides an extra service, such as a driver who carries your bag. In this case, a small tip of a few Rial Omani is welcome.
Visitors who gone to considerable time and expense traveling to Muscat will be relieved to find that there are several ways to save money while enjoying a world class vacation. The city is a treat for the senses, and you can enjoy much of it without spending a biaza. Marvel at the dramatic architecture. The city is built between rolling mountains and the dazzling sea. In the valleys are villages that look like they were carved there thousands of years ago. The entire vista is quite stunning. Building regulations in the city require that buildings fit certain criteria, so you will find dramatic domes and other wonderful examples of Arabic architectural design. Visit the Sultan’s Palace (you can’t go in, but it is still a gorgeous sight and good photo opportunity) or walk along the waterfront in the Corniche area, feeling the cool sea air on your face.
For very little money, you can watch sea turtles and dolphins in the sea. You can watch camel races, rock climb, or ride horses at the Oman Dive Center at Bandar Jissah. These are the adventures that make a Muscat vacation unique and thrilling. Visit the Mutrah Souk, one of the most famous attractions in all of Oman. Here you can practice your haggling skills, look through handcrafted treasures, and find deals on anything imaginable. Walk away with a beautiful, hand-embroidered shawl or a lovely piece of Bedouin jewelry. There is so much to see and do that you could have a full, exciting day and not buy a thing. If you are there during the many great festivals, there are always free events and cheap goodies to be had.
When visiting any foreign country, you should make every effort to sample the wonderful cuisine. Muscat has delicious, fresh, and healthy dishes that cost very little. A meal for two people can cost as little as 1 Rial, and there are a host of different restaurants in Muscat, Mutrah, and Ruwi where you can sample some of the best bread, hummus, and fatoosh in the city. The Arab explorer Ahmed bin Majid al-Najdi said in 1490, “Muscat is a port the like of which cannot be found in the whole world where there is business and good things that cannot be found elsewhere.” Luckily for visitors and residents alike, you can have these good things without spending a lot of money.
In many countries, it is safer to drink bottled rather than tap water. While water systems may be clean enough, storage tanks are often less sanitary. To be on the safe side, drink bottled water, even in restaurants, during your stay in Muscat. Brushing your teeth or boiling tap water for tea or coffee is usually very safe, though you can always exercise extra caution and use bottled. The food is prepared with the utmost attention to cleanliness and safety, but the combination of spices may cause foreigners some discomfort, mild vomiting or diarrhea, simply because they are not used to the cuisine. If this is the case, stick to a bland diet and stay hydrated until you feel better.
The beautiful Gulf of Oman is home to coral and sea snakes that may be dangerous if provoked. If you are going to swim, snorkel, or dive on your trip, make sure to avoid these threats – and make sure to know where to go for help if you are bitten. Ambulances are available in Muscat, and those needing emergency care will be take to Al-Nahdha Hosptial on Al-Nahdha Street (24.831.255). English is spoken here.
One last note: the heat can be oppressing, especially for the elderly, children, and those with respiratory problems. Make sure to stay hydrated by drinking plenty of bottled water – do not wait until you are thirsty. As a rule, carry a bottle with you during your outings. Wear sunscreen, and do take advantage of the siesta time. Omanis know how dangerous the hot weather and sun can be, so take their cue and enjoy some time resting inside during the height of the day.
In addition to the normal precautions one should take while travelling (such as protecting your wallet and travel documents, especially in large crowds), there are cultural differences that can present problems for foreign nationals. This is particularly prevalent in regards to women: while in this country, it is better for women to dress very conservatively, and avoid clothing that is tight or revealing. And “revealing” in Oman may not be revealing in other places. Shorts, even if they are relatively long, can be seen as too revealing, as are tank tops or sleeveless shirts. Women should wear a scarf over their hair when out in public and especially if visiting a mosque. Both men and women should avoid wearing shorts, unless they are at a resort. Loose, linen or cotton pants are cool and will not cause offence.
There have been instances in which women were attacked or assailed due to their dress, so to ensure that you will not be accosted, make sure to dress conservatively and keep in mind that this is an ultra-religious area. It also conveys the message that you respect the culture, and by return, the people of Muscat will appreciate your care in this matter.
Another note: foreigners should be aware that the law in Muscat and Oman in general is very strict. Offenses such as obscene gestures or language are punishable with prison sentences, and even acts of overt homosexuality are illegal. It is best, no matter what your persuasion, that you not engage in public displays of affection. Watch your language and gestures (though you may make some minor mistakes like pointing your feet at someone – just apologize and try to learn from the mistake).
As in many countries, be assertive when dealing with taxi drivers. Many will try to charge much more when they see you are foreign, unless you act like a very experienced traveller. Be aware that when the driver tells you how much it will cost to get to your destination, he is giving you the top price he hopes you will pay. Haggle this down, or you will end up paying much more than you should. If possible, ask a local how much a certain fare should be and which route is the best to take.
The city of Muscat receives travellers from all over the world, and its accommodations for disabled travellers are better than you will find in more remote regions of Oman. Most hotels were built after 1980, so access is not typically a problem with lodgings. Likewise, most of the public buildings in Muscat were built after 1980 and have fairly good access for disabled travellers. Seeb International Airport and its airlines are accessible, though you may have some difficulty in finding handicap accessible taxis and buses. You may need assistance getting in or out. If you do need assistance, the people of Muscat are by and large very friendly and happy to assist you.
Currently, Oman has no program allowing travellers to recoup sales tax upon their departure from the country. There is no sales tax on most items, though restaurants and hotels charge a 17 percent tax.
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PO Box 1998,Postal Code 114,Muttrah,Sultanate of Oman
Recently refurbished, this superb hotel enjoys a lovely beachside location on the edge of the delightful city of Muscat. Although it is conveniently close to the financial and business district, the hotel is an oasis of charm with stunning views of Al Bustan Bay. French,...
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PO Box 398 Muscat 114 Sultanate of Oman
The InterContinental Muscat encapsulates perfectly all that is Oman with its seamless blend of Arabian hospitality and modern facilities. Situated in 35 acres of luscious palm gardens between the imposing Hajjar Mountains and the flawless pale sand of the Gulf coast,...
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Shatti Al Qurm PO Box 951 Postal Code 133 Muscat Sultanate of Oman
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P.O. BOX 1455,MUSCAT,112 OMAN
The Crowne Plaza Muscat Hotel is both a leisure tourist’s paradise and a premier Muscat hotel accommodation spot for business travellers. The Crowne Plaza Muscat Hotel’s unique location - on top of a cliff and overlooking stunning beaches – is unlike any other in...
Exhibition Street, PC111, Muscat
The Golden Tulip Seeb Muscat Oman is just 1.5 km. from the Seeb International Airport and adjacent to the Oman International Exhibition Centre. Ideally located for all interior tours.All residents have access to private beach facilities, which is just across the road,... more