Backpacking Oman

Looking for important travel information while backpacking around Oman? Here you will find information on working in Oman, entry visas, Oman hostels, and much more.

Table of Contents

Facts About Oman

The Sultanate of Oman is located on the eastern edge of the Arabian Peninsula in the Middle East. The country has a stable political, economic and social situation, which is enhanced by the favourable relationship it has with its neighbouring countries. Although Oman is not often seen as being a major port of call for many backpackers, the country is safe and accessible, enjoying a temperate climate, making it an ideal place to visit.

The country offers a stunning contrast of desert, mountains, busy metropolises and beaches, making it attractive to many different types of traveller. Oman has a rich culture and history which is apparent in its architecture and inhabitants’ way of life. Islam plays a prominent part in the lives of the Omanis, and therefore women are advised to keep their clothing modest in respect. Although the country is modern and western customs and ideals are taken into consideration by many, you may find that you cannot drink alcohol in many public places.

Currency –  Omani rial (OMR). 1 rial is made of 1000 baisa.
Time –  UTC +4
Language –  Arabic, although most Omanis will speak excellent English. Swahili is sometime spoken in Southern Dhofur region, and Hindi is understood in some areas. Area Code – 968

Climate

The climate in Oman varies from region to region, with the costal areas being hot and humid in the summer months, and the inland being drier. Between May and September there is a strong southwest monsoon in the far south, but in other parts of the country rainfall is usually low and the climate is more even and temperate. Temperatures can reach real highs throughout the year, with 40oC not uncommon. May to August are the hottest months, so it would be best to travel to the country between September and April.

Things to do and see

Although the capital Muscat is referred to as one city, it is actually made up of three smaller cities that have grown together to form one area: Muscat, which is the location of the royal palaces; Matrah, which houses the Matrah Souq; and Ruwi, the industrial part of the city.

If you’re looking for history, the Al Jalali and Al Mirani forts are located on Qasr Al Alam Street. They were originally used as prisons when they were built during the Portuguese occupation, but they are now used as museums. Muscat’s Grand Mosque is the third largest in the world, and well worth a visit to see the largest handmade Persian carpet in the world and the outstanding crystal chandelier housed there. The Matrah Souq is a maze-like market which sells everything from fish to handicrafts. The Qasr Al Alam Royal Palace is the office of the ruler of Oman, Sultan Qaboos. It overlooks the harbour, and although visitors are not allowed inside it is worth travelling to the palace just to see the spectacular views it offers.

Salalah is seen as the second city of Oman, and is situated in the Dhofar region of the country. This area is famed for its production of frankincense, which you will find being sold virtually everywhere. The must-sees for this city are Sultan Qaboos’ palace and the ah-Hisn Souq, but bring your bargaining skills to this market or better still a local who can let you know what the real price should be. Salalah also makes a good base from which to travel to the ancient city of Zafar.

Al Wusta is the central coastline of the country, but do not expect this to cater for beach visits. Remember that Oman is an Islamic country and therefore it is not respectful for women to sunbathe in public.

The desert interior of Oman is known as the Empty Quarter. You will find some companies offering camel rides or tours through this area, otherwise it remains relatively untouched. Camel racing is a popular sport in Oman and is well worth a look if the opportunity arises.

Oman is dominated by coastline, and with the crystal clear waters of the Arabian Sea and the Gulf of Oman this is an excellent spot for scuba diving. You will find many companies throughout the country that offer trips, courses and snorkelling opportunities. The waters can also be used for sailing and boating excursions, and turtle watching is a popular activity.

The vast mountain range of Oman makes it an ideal spot for hiking and you will be able to find companies offering tours or guides to show you more of the area. If you are confident hiking without a guide make sure you tell someone where you are going, take an up-to-date map and any appropriate safety measures.

Travel

Getting into the country
Nearly all international flights arrive into Seeb International Airport (MCT) in Muscat, although some regional flights land at Salalah (SLL). There are no regular boats that bring people into the country, although the port at Muscat is used by cruise ships. The main road entry is from the United Arab Emirates, and when you leave the country you will need to pay a departure tax of 20Dh whether leaving by car or on foot. Entering the country this way is extremely easy, and the border crossing and roads are both trouble-free. You will need to prove that your car is insured in Oman, and have all appropriate documentation and money to obtain a visa. A border crossing is also available from Yemen, but this is a much more challenging experience. There is a crossing into Saudi Arabia, but this is not advised as it enters the Empty Quarter.

Travelling around the country
Buses are a good way to travel around the country as they are cheap, in good condition and provide a good service. Regular buses can be caught between the major cities. For routes and timetables see The Oman National Transport Company website.

Hiring a car is another good option as you get to see more of the country this way and the main roads are in excellent condition. There are a few old dirt roads which make an interesting experience but probably only advisable if you have a 4X4.

Accommodation

Although there has been a recent surge of up-market accommodation to appeal to wealthier visitors there is not a shortage of budget accommodation in Oman. You will not, however, find many backpacker hostels. The cheapest accommodation will be guest houses or homestays which are more common in major cities.

Muscat
Qurm Beach House
Way 1622,
Tel: 564 070,
Fax: 560761

Asas Oman Hotel Apartments – this is one of the cheapest places in the capital and would be useful if you wanted to stay in the city for a longer duration. Tel: (0) 92 25714, asasoman@omantel.net.om.

Novatel Seeb Muscat – this is the cheapest place to stay in Muscat but the price is reflected in the character and quality of the rooms.

Salalah
Holiday Inn Salalah – one of the cheapest available in the city at a reasonably good standard. Tel: (0) 235 333.

Sur
Mecure Sur 3m – cheap and cheerful accommodation in the centre of the city, 411 Sur P.O. Box 908

Muttrah
Al Hadow Hotel – exceptionally cheap accommodation opposite the Oman House, Tel: (0) 799 329

Sohar
Sohar Beach Hotel – Bed and Breakfast is available at this well equipped hotel for a reasonable price. Sallan Road, 321 Sohar, Tel: (0) 843 701

Health care issues

Hospitals are of a good standard in Oman and are well equipped with medicines and qualified doctors. There are public hospitals like The Royal Hospital of Oman, (P.O. Box 1331 Seeb, located in the Al Ghubra area of Muscat) and private like Muscat Private Hospital (Tel: (968) 24583600, Fax: (968) 24501521, Email: info@muscatprivatehospital.com).

Emergency services are also available from this private hospital: Emergency Services (ER): 24583792 or Extension 3792 24-hours 24583790 or Extension 3790 24-hours

Although the public hospitals are of a high standard it is recommended that you take out medical insurance before you travel so that you are able to be seen in a private hospital. In general hygiene and health standards are equal to those of the the west so you should not have many health issues to worry about but insurance will mean you are covered for any unforeseen circumstances.

The main health complaint from travellers stems from the heat and dehydration. Make sure you do not spend too much time in the sun and drink plenty of water. If you travel to desert areas be aware that there may not be any shade for long periods of time so take a hat or some other form of shade. The tap water in Oman is drinkable but many prefer to drink bottled water instead. It is advisable to have inoculations against Hepatitis A and B and Typhoid before you travel. Malaria is not rife in the country and most people do not find it necessary to take precautions against the disease. However, if you are going to be staying in places of high humidity or dense vegetation and are prone to getting bitten it may be worth taking suitable tablets.

Useful Links

The British Embassy, Mina Al Fahal, Muscat 166. Tel: 24609000 (Switchboard), 99200865 (out of hours emergencies). Open Saturdays to Wednesdays 0730 to 1430.

Entry Visas for Oman

You will need a visa in order to enter Oman, but these are issued on arrival. They last for one month and cost around 6 Omani Rial. You can extend your visa by submitting your passport to the Omani Police in Muscat.

Foreigner Work Permits in Oman

To get an employment visa for Oman you must be over 21 years old but under 50 years old. Working visas are only given at the request of your sponsor, who must be a local company. This means that it is very difficult just to turn up in the country and get a job. Usually a position needs to be sought before you travel to Oman. The position you apply for must be the same as the one stated on the employment visa making it impossible to change your job once you are in the country. To be sponsored by a company you must be able to prove that you can do the job better than any current resident of the country. Visas are issued by The Ministry of Social Affairs and Labour.

Listed below are useful websites advertising jobs in Oman:

How to Say Common Arabic Phrases

Arabic is the official language of Oman

Meeting People

English
Arabic
yes
na’am
no
laa
thank you
shokran
you are welcome
ala eirahib wa eisaa
please
min fadilak
excuse me
ann eazinak
hello
ahalan
goodbye
ma’a eisalama
Good morning
saba’a aikair
Good night
laila tiaba
I do not understand
Ana laa afham
Do you speak…?
Hal tatakalm…?
english
alingli’zia
What is your name?
Ma ismok?
Nice to meet you
Sorirart biro’aitak
How are you?
Kaifa halok?
good
taib/ bikair
bad
saia/ mosh bikair

Directions

English
Arabic
map
karita
left
shimal
right
yam’ain
straight on
lilamam
far
ba’aid
near
karib

Methods of Transport

English
Arabic
Where is…?
Ain…?
How much is the fare?
Bikam al ogra’a?
ticket
tathkara
A ticket to…, please
tathkara wahida min fadlik…
Where are you going?
ila ain anta thahib?
Where do you live?
Ain ta’issh?
train
kitar
bus
autobees
underground
metro
airport
matar
train station
mahatit al kitar
bus station
mahatit al autobees
underground station
mahatit al metro
departure
al mogadara
arrival
al oso’ol
parking
mokaf

Time

English
Arabic
What time is it?
Kam al sa’aa?
today
al youm
yestarday
amis
tomorrow
bokira

Accommodation

English
Arabic
hotel
fondok
room
korfa
reservation
hagiz
Are there any vacancies?
Hal togad koraf fadia al laila?
No vacancies
la togad koraf fariga
passport
gawaz safar

Places

English
Arabic
post office
markaz barid
bank
bank
police station
kissam shorta
hospital
mostashifa
chemist
sidali’ia
shop
maha’al
restaurant
matiam
museum
matihaf
church
kanisa
square
meedan
street
shari

Shopping

English
Arabic
How much does this cost?
bikam?
I will buy it
Sa’ashtariha
I would like to buy…
O’reed ann ashtary
Do you have…?
Hal aindak…?
open
maftouh
closed
mogilag
postcard
kart barid
stamps
ta’wabia
little
kalil
lot
kathir
all
kol

Meals

English
Arabic
breakfast
iftar
lunch
gadaa
dinner
ashaa
vegetarian
nabati
cheers!
fi sahitak
The bill please
El fatora min fadilak

Drinks

English
Arabic
drink
sharab
coffee
kahioa
tea
shai
juice
asir
water
ma’a
beer
bira
wine
khamr

Food

English
Arabic
meat
la’him
fish
samak
vegetable
kodrawat
fruit
fawakih
potato
patatis
salad
salata
dessert
halawia’at

 

Oman Hostels

Hostels are a cheap form of accomodation, and so they are essential to backpackers and other budget travellers.

Sorry, no hostels have been registered for this country yet.

There you have it, the ultimate Oman backpacking guide. We hope you have found all the information you need for backpacking around Oman.

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