Oman surprised me with its remarkable originality, unknown landscapes and people’s kindness. It was a completely different trip to what I’ve expected. The whole idea was a bit crazy from the start when me and my frind Lya decided to meet in Budapest to fly to Dubai and take a bus to get to Muscat – capital of Oman. We’ve been traveling around Oman for 10 days, without any specific itinerary, unprepared and without hired transport. I have explored the country and everything I saw and learn was from the freestyle adventure rather than pre-organized trip. All the diverse information I gathered along this incredible trip, were wraped into this travel guide to Oman. The sultanate lay in the Persian Gulf and is one of the best places to experience traditional Arabia.
Where to stay in Oman?
Oman isn’t the cheapest destination so budget traveling is a bit difficult. The most expensive thing while traveling around the country is accomodation. You need to pay at least $50 for a single room in the hotel. There are no cheap guesthouses or backpackers’ hostels, so it is a huge change after Asia 😉 It is worth to spend some money to explore the country, as Oman is extremely fascinating and has much more to offer than I ever expected.
Is Oman safe to travel?
Safety plays a great part here too, as Oman is officialy the safest country in the Middle East and definitely the safest country I have ever traveled to. There is absolutely nothing you can be afraid of, toursits are safe and nothing dangerous can happen there.
Is Oman safe for female solo traveling?
I asked Nasser about crime rate in Oman. The way he was saying things so seriously was so cute “Ohh no crimes in Oman! Sometimes only small crimes committed by people from India or Bangladesh! But not Omani!’ There are lots of refugees from nearest countries. Sultanat even started to worry about the rising amount of foreign nationalities living in Oman. The same problem but higher scale faces Qatar and Emirates (specifically Dubai, Abu Dhabi). In Dubai the percentage of foreign people is higher than natives. That’s the consequence of bringing cheap work force into these countries. Oman is very safe for all tourists, there is almost zero crime rate. Nasser was laughing with me while I was carrying my huge camera everywhere. He said it’s safe to leave the camera on the beach and go for a walk. Even if you left it for few days, it would sit in the same place after your return. Nobody would take it. Omani people are very honest but also Police is highly effective – the thief would be caught within few hours. But the most interesting reason for no crimes is that actually nobody would buy stolen stuff.
Do and don’t in Oman – what rules to obey while traveling?
Oman is best place for safe travels whether you are alone or traveling with friends. But always remember to obey local cultural and religion rules. If you’re not sure you can always ask for an advice at the hotel reception. Omani people are extremely kind and probably won’t signalize even if your behaviour is inappropriate. But you will notice from the moment you land there are lots of cultural differences. There are separate sections for men and women in public transport. Don’t sit at the end of a local bus, it’s men’s part of the vehicle. You will probably not have the chance to eat in the same room with men, it is also very unusuall for woman to eat at the table in front of the restaurant on fresh air. I wasn’t aware of that but when I sat outside and started eating they almost flipped from their chairs! No short skirts are allowed and shoulders should be covered, no need to cover your face. You probably won’t be able to swim in your bikini at the beach. You’ll bring men’s attention immediately and this may simply turn out into not a dangerous but an unpleasant exeprience.
Transport in Oman – how to travel without a car?
We didn’t have a car and still went across the whole country. A good solution is Shared taxi – it’s a normal taxi but usually takes a maximum number of passengers allowed in the car. Don’t be surprised if during the trip some passengers will be getting out and others getting in. This is actually exciting to observe ordinary local people .. and it’s a great way of traveling! There’s one rule – agree the price before you get in! I usually spent around 3 Rial for 100-150 km.
How to get to Oman – Oman VISA.
Definitely the easiest and fastest way to travel to Oman is by plane. It is also pretty easy to cross a land border by bus traveling from Dubai. It was a pleasant adventure and all information to be found here: https://freestyletraveling.com/oman/
Tourist VISA to Oman for 10 days costs $12 and for 1 month $50 if going directly. If you are traveling by land from UAE no need to apply for visa in advance.
What makes Oman so remarkable?
I’d say two things make this country incredibly special – people and incredible natural wonders: red desert Wahiba Sands and river canions!
At some stage of the trip we reached Sur city, located at the seaside about 200 km from Muscat south direction. We met few local people who worked in our hotel who tought us lots of things about Oman country, its history and people’s traditions. Nasser still remains my dear friend, although we live in separate countires I know we meet again in Sultanat. Omani people are very gentle Muslims. they all appeared to be very protective and helpful whenever you needed something. Omanis often told me ‘you’re in my country, you’re my guest’ but they really mean it, it’s not just a cheap slogan.
When you travel around Oman, locals treat you as a guest /apart from Muscat city/. Exploring different parts of the country I always asked people about relations between men and women. They rules used to be very srtict but over last few years a lot has changed. Young people are braking traditional rules by going out on dates or by openly showing an interest to a girl in public places. Previously a man had an obligation to choose wife among his family members, which obviously meant too close blood bonds and might impact children health. When choosing wife, a man needs to pay a lot of money to the family of her. If she comes from his close family the price might be slightly lower. There is a lot of love stories when a man fell in love with a woman but had no money to pay the family. To save the love the girl secretly gave money to the man so he could present to her family. Traditions in small villages are just like everywhere else in the world. The honour of the family in small towns plays leading part among society. People notice everything and quickly transfer into rumors. One day a family arrived from the city to visit another family living in the village. The cousins from these two families met for the first time. After the family returned to the city it appeared that the young girl was pregnant. The cousin boy refused to marry her, blaming her for being immoral. She was treated as disgraceful harlot and as a panishment forced to marry an old, disguisting man. Sometimes if a brother finds out that his sister is unfaithful, he can do terrible things to her, even beat her or deface.
It’s possible to have two wives in Oman. It happens mostly because the first wife is usually chosen by the family and only the second one is a true love. It’s also possible to get a divorce in Oman. But it always results with a broken heart and honor of the first wife. It’s very common to have many children, 10,15 and even 19. We heard a lot stories about families that have 19 children! Hard to imagine that!
Oman is full of incredible aromas, it is mostly incense, which is used to aromatise houses, hotels and apartments. The frankincense tree aromatic fragrance is also used as a therapeutic ingredient. In our hotel there was always an aromatic tea and coffee downstairs in front of the reception desk. In Oman coffee is usually served with milk, lots of sugar and saffron, while tea sometimes with cardamom – my favourite taste!!
Traditional outfit in Oman – dishdasha and kumma.
All men in Oman wear dishdasha – traditional white outfit. Nasser had a light green stitch but he told me only because it was an official clothing from the previous hotel. Casual cap in Oman is kumma – Omani white cotton embroidered hat. There are different patterns of kumma. If it’s hand stiched it can cost even 1000 euros, because it takes months to embroider it. An official head wear is Mussar (turban). It can be worn over the kumma and the embriodery is called Tanjim.
There are hundreds of small tailor shops. There are hunderds of hangers with wonderful colorful fabrics. What’s interesting it is only men sewing or making a sewing pattern. I have never seen a woman working in a shop. I kindly asked if I can take a photo of the sewing man. The owner agreed but the employee was confused. Always remember while traveling, ask if you can take a photo, this is really a bit of respect we have to pay to other countries as educated Europeans. Never photograph a woman or a child. I saw an old shoemaker sitting on the street in front his tiny shop and he refused to be on the picture. Still in Oman most people feel enthusiastic in front of the lens, I was surprised how comfortable they feel. Sometimes I even though they feel special if I ppointed a lens toward them. And for me they all were very special.
The most popular woman outfit is niqab, a veil covering entire body and the face. It’s often black but easily available in different color versions. Omani burqa is a special black mask which covers the face of Bedouin girls and doesn’t cover the eyes. Hijab seen in public institutions and banks is a clothing covering body, neck and hair but not face.
Omani women are increadibly beautiful! Additionally they wear quite strong but nice make up. Their beauty is a mix of mulatto skin, tiny nose and amazing convex lips. They often wear henna tatoos on their hands.
There’s a big religious tolerance in Oman. You can obviously hear prayers from mosques, pealing out five times a day including early morning! Women are not allowed to enter mosques except Christmas time. But a lot of Omani don’t practice religion every day. They are proud of course to be Muslims and strongly believe in Koran but they are very normal and soft at the same time. Omani are very proud of their country. They admire the Sultan, who is a fantastic leader, taking good care of work places, economy of the country, prosperity, road infrastructure and provids free medical care for all Omani residents. When you travel around Oman you can see a lot of oil platforms with burning chimneys. Mubarak told me that Oman exports a lot of oil to Japan and South Korea.
Things you need to see in Oman – travel guide to Oman.
Sur – what to do there?
Any hotel in Sur is twice cheaper than across the rest of the country. Still remember shy but very charming smile that welcomed us at the reception desk. It was Nasser – the manager of the hotel.
It is always the people that make me stay longer in some places. So we did stay in Sur few days more than we planned, which gave us a great opportunity to know Nasser a little better. Nasser also had a friend Mubarak, an amazing and friendly man. After check in first thing we were looking for was a beach, we had few really long and tough days behind us and we were dreaming of warm sand and sea swim. Nasser said the first car trip is free and shortly took us to a nice, empty beach – where we hoped we can jump into the water. Not possible in Sur city! All city would be staring at us if we took our clothes off. Anyway, although that was asmall dissapointment, this was a beginning of one of the best travel adventures with our great companion. Nasser always enjoyed telling us where we should go and what’s worth visiting. He also told us a little bit about Omani traditions. He took us on a desert trip for a sunset, meeting camels and visiting Bedouin house, which is my favorite place from all our travels. One thing you need to be aware in Oman is horrible air conditioning!! 40 degrees outside and Siberian temperatures in every bus, shop or a hotel – there’s no way your body can handle this. It was just a first day and we immediately felt we have a cold, which ended up with hot ginger tea, along with lemon, sugar and kettle sent immediately by the hotel service. When I went to the nearest shop I even got a fresh ginger for free.
Muscat – capital of Oman. Although it is worth exploring Muscat night life and one of the most incredible mosques, you have to know this is extremely noisy city. After few days we were dreaming to leave this dusty place and travel to the countryside.
- Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque
- Al Ameen Mosque – which is to explore at night as it is covered in purple floodlight and the domes are yellow gold lighted.
Wahiba Sands – the red desert: https://freestyletraveling.com/wahiba-sands-desert-oman/
Hiking adventure to Wadi Shab and its secret cave and waterfalls: https://freestyletraveling.com/hiking-wadi-shab-and-secret-cave/
You can’t miss NIzwa and famous goat market: https://freestyletraveling.com/nizwa-goat-market/