Oman’s natural attractions - wadis, deserts, beaches and mountains areas - make it unique to its neighbouring countries. A vast desert plain covers most of central Oman, with mountain ranges along the north (Jebel Akhdar) and southeast coast. The country's main cities are Muscat, Matrah and Sur located in the north, and Salalah in the south. Discover the palatial mosques and the contrast between old and new in Muscat. Take a 4WD to discover some of the country’s spectacular coastline and witness nesting green sea turtles on the beach. Explore the great expanse of Wahiba Sands, camp in luxury under a blanket of stars or cruise the scenic fjords of the Musandam Peninsula in a traditional dhow.
Oman Facts & Tips
Did you know?
- Oman was once one of the richest countries in the world: its wealth came from the trade in incense.
- The legendary city of Ubar controlled the frankincense trade. It is said that Ubar was destroyed, buried beneath the desert because its wealth led the people away from religion.
- A shrub called myrtus communis, or yas, has leaves which are used as perfume.
- Oman is traditionally known for breeding Arab horses.
- Bedouin women wear Omani burqa masks to hide their faces from strangers.
- A necklace known as hirz is often worn for protective reasons as it has compartments for carrying verses from the Koran.
- The tradition of lailat al henna is a female celebration on the eve of a wedding: the bride's hands are decorated with henna patterns which will last for a number of weeks.
- Omani men wear the long robes known as dishdashas.
- Omani men traditionally wear curved daggers known as khanja. Turbans are also part of the national dress.
- Tourists were only allowed into Oman at the beginning of the 1990s.
- The Sultan of Oman awards a prize every two years to the person or organisation chosen by UNESCO for the most significant contribution to the environment.
Visas & Passports
Australian passport holders travelling to Oman do not need a visa at this time, for a maximum stay of up to 10 days.
We require that your passport is valid for travel for at least six months from the date you are planning to return to Australia. Your passport must be valid to travel internationally and must be machine-readable. You also need to carry a valid return ticket on you.
Whether travelling on an Australian passport or the passport of another country, all travellers require visas for a number of countries, and it is your responsibility to secure what may be required before departing Australia. You can consult with your travel agent, but it is also recommended that you check the foreign embassy website for your respective destination as it can also provide you with useful information.
The Australian Embassy in Saudi Arabia is responsible for Oman:
Abdullah Bin Hozafa Al-Shami Avenue
Ph. +966 11 250 0900
Fax. +966 11 250 0902
The recommended currency to take to the Middle East is the US Dollar. Once there you will be able to change some into the local currency. Enusre you change a small amount into small denominations.
Whenever possible use ATMs when the banks are open (Mon – Fri) so that if a machine ‘eats’ your card you can then deal with it straight away. It is always advisable to carry a supply of cash in addition to your credit card.
We advise you to exchange some money into the local currency at the airport even if the exchange rate is not the best, this way you’ll have money to get a drink, snack or give a tip during those first few hours of arrival. Your guide will be able to advise you on the best places to exchange money.
The Rial (OMR; symbol OR) is the official currency of Oman. Notes are in denominations of OMR50, 20, 10, 5 and 1.
- The price of a cappuccino in Muscat is approximately 5USD.
- The price of an inexpensive lunch is approximately 7USD.
- The price of dinner in a moderately-priced restaurant is approximately 14USD.
- The price of a beer in a local pub is approximately 12USD.
The cuisine of Oman is fairly simple, but by using various marinades and infusing meat with spices, the result is a mouth-watering concoction that stimulates the taste buds. Chicken, fish and mutton are regularly used in dishes. A favourite drink is laban, a salty buttermilk. Yoghurt drinks, flavoured with cardamom and pistachio nuts are also very popular.
Oman is quite a traditional country so wild nightlife is not its specialty. Tourists are usually allowed to drink in their hotels and dedicated restaurants. The bars in the hotels vary from quiet café-type venues, through to British theme pubs and clubs with dance floors, something unheard of only a decade or so ago. Outside of the hotels, nightlife consists of eating out or enjoying a tea or coffee in the traditional tea or coffee houses.
Important: When dining at buffets (i.e. breakfast) please refrain from taking food away with you to ‘save’ for later! If you feel that you’ll need snacks between meals, pack some dried fruit, nuts, muesli bars etc.
If you have specific food allergies and/or preferences, we highly recommend you take every precaution before your tour, including carrying a small card with your food allergy listed in each language of every country you are travelling to show to table staff when ordering. Whilst we take all dietary requirements seriously, due to the serious nature of potential allergic reactions, it is your responsibility to be as prepared as possible.
Rain is almost unheard of in most of Oman, where the weather is hot and dry all year round. Inland temperatures in summer reach unbearable heights, and it is only slightly cooler on the coast, exacerbated by high humidity. The southern region of Dhofar has a slightly cooler and wetter climate, with a monsoon season between June and September when heavy rains fall.
Want to get out and explore on your own?
In Oman, public transport is somewhat limited to local buses and can be difficult to navigate, so the easiest way to get around in Omani cities and towns is by taxi. However, walking around the city centre is also a wonderful way of soaking up the local atmosphere.
When catching taxis, make sure you have small change on you and choose one with a meter, if it doesn’t have one then negotiate the price before getting in. We recommend you ask your guide or hotel staff the names of reputable taxi companies.
So, you’d love to bring home a special souvenir from Oman…
The Omani national symbol is the silver-sheathed dagger known as the khanjar. These vary widely in quality and cost, but almost every shop will stock several different models. Most of the modern ones are made by Indian or Pakistani craftsmen under Omani direction, while many are actually made in India or Pakistan.
Another reminder of the country's tribal past is the walking stick known as arsaa. This is a cane with a concealed sword in it, which can prove quite a talking point at home. Unfortunately, in many countries, it will prove a talking point with customs officials rather than friends and family.
Omani silver is also a popular souvenir, often made into rosewater shakers and small "Nizwa boxes" (named for the town from which they first came). Silver "message holders", often referred to in souks as "old time fax machines" are often for sale as well. Many silver products will be stamped with "Oman" on them, which is a guarantee of authenticity. Others will not, and will be the subject of many interesting stories explaining why the government does not in fact require stamping for authenticity.
The distinctive hats worn by Omani men are also commonly sold, especially in the Matrah Souk in Muscat. Particularly in the Dhofar region, frankincense is a popular purchase as the region has historically been a centre for production of this item. Myrrh can also be purchased quite cheaply in Oman. As one might expect, Oman also sells many perfumes made from a great number of traditional ingredients.
Please remember to always declare all your purchases with customs when arriving back in Australia.
- Men should refrain from wearing shorts while travelling in Oman.
- Another important precaution while travelling in Oman is that travellers can be imprisoned for acts of homosexuality or for using obscene gestures and language.
- Ammunition, liquor or pornography is not allowed to be brought into the Sultanate. But non-Muslim travellers are allowed to bring in one bottle of liquor while visiting the country. Travellers carrying video and audio tapes have to go through rigorous checking at the main land, air and sea entry points.
- You should also make sure that you accept food offerings with your right hand only.
- Another very important thing which should be remembered while travelling in Oman is that you should not take photographs of locals without their permission.
- Etiquette while dining in Oman is that guests usually are the first ones to eat while the host waits for their turn. This is considered a sign of respect. Men and women in Oman usually sit separately while dining. If the meal is served on the floor it is advisable to sit with your legs crossed or kneel while eating.
Celebrations & Public Holidays
Isra and Mi’raj, also known as The Prophet’s Ascension, is a holiday observed on the 27th day of Rajab (the seventh month of the Islamic calendar). This date marks Prophet Muhammad’s journey from Mecca to Jerusalem and ascent to heaven sometime around the year 621. Celebrations of Isra and Mi’raj include prayers during the night and many Muslim households will keep their lights on all night.
Eid al-Fitr, a multi-day holiday, marks the end of Ramadan, which is a month of fasting and prayer. Many Muslims attend communal prayers, listen to a khutba (sermon) and give zakat al-fitr (charity in the form of food) during Eid Al-Fitr.
Other national public holidays to be aware of include:
- New Year’s Day
- Isra and Mi’raj (date varies)
- Eid al-Fitr (multi-day holiday to celebrate the end of Ramadan – dates vary)
- Eid al-Adha (two-day holiday in the Summer months – dates vary)
- The Prophet’s Birthday (Sep-Nov)
- National Day (November 18th)
Known as Arabia's Jewel, the sparkling white capital city of Oman, Muscat, is topped with golden minarets in the middle of a maze of brown pleated mountains reaching down to the Arabian Sea. Well-manicured green lawns and trees line the streets of this bustling city and, during winter this is interspersed with a profusion of multicoloured flowers. Old Muscat has a quaint charm about it, with many forts, castles, mosques and towers dotting the landscape. Greater Muscat boasts high-rise business properties (but not too high), world-class highways, upscale suburbs rooted in traditional Islamic architecture, elegant mosques, large green parks, archaeological sites, museums and world-class hotels. It is no wonder that Muscat is increasingly becoming an attractive tourist destination among the world's travellers. Photo by efired.
Nizwa, the verdant oasis city happily mixing old and new, was the capital of Oman during the 6th and 7th centuries. One of the oldest cities of the Sultanate, this was once a centre of education and art. Nizwa has been an important crossroads at the base of the Western Hajar Mountains connecting Muscat, Buraimi, and the lower reaches of Dhofar. The Falaj Daris of Nizwa is the largest single falaj in Oman and provides the surrounding countryside with much-needed water. The city, famous for its historical monuments, handicrafts and agricultural products, has an expansive Souq showcasing a wonderful array of handicrafts-coffee pots, swords, leather goods, silverware, antiques, and household utensils. Photo by Jeremy van Heerde.
The Wahiba Sands lies in the eastern region of Oman. The sands stretch from north to south for 180km and east to west for about 80km, with high dunes, extensive woodlands and an unspoiled coastline. Some of the sand dunes soar a hundred metres into the sky. The Sands total land area is approximately 12,000 square kilometres with about 3,000 Bedouin of varying tribal origins including Janabah, Mawalik, Hikman, Amr and Wahiba. The sand consists of quartz, carbonate and ophiolitic grains blown in from nearby eroded rocks and marine sediments. The sand dunes are moving inland at about a rate of 10 metres each year. The mudflats and lagoons around Barr Al Hikman, inside the Wahiba Sands, are home to a large migrant bird population in the winter. Photo by Jeremy van Heerde
Ras Al Hadd
Ras al Hadd is a lovely village in the Al Shargiyah district of Oman. It is considered to be the last point in the east of Oman and is located in the conjunction between the Gulf of Oman and the Arabian Sea. Residents are mainly fishermen from the Al Oraimi tribe of Oman. Recent archaeological excavations by the British Museum, and by French and Italian teams, have been conducted at Ras al Hadd and the surrounding areas. Photo by Jeremy van Heerde.
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