Oman holidays

Experience Oman

Best Places to Visit

Muscat, surrounded by walls on the south and west, is a metropolitan city that has much to offer visitors. Dating back to 6th millennium BCE, it is situated in the Gulf of Oman, with stunning views of the mountains to the north and east. Old Muscat is a great place to visit for a real taste of Oman, running from Port Sultan Qaboos to Al Bustan Beach.

Oman's landscape is extremely diverse, from miles of uninhabited and rugged coastline to the huge sand dunes of the Wahiba desert.

Oman's beaches are a great place to relax, with several offering emerald green waters that are perfect for swimming. They are also excellent for spotting wildlife. Many of the beaches are breeding sites for several species of sea turtle, with Masirah Island one of the hubs.

Muttrah Souk is a lively market in Muscat that perfectly blends modern with ancient. It’s possible to buy pretty much anything here, from frankincense and spices, to silverware and toys. Haggling is expected, so visitors are sure to come away with a few bargains.

The second largest town in Oman is Salalah. With a temperate climate, it is a popular place for those seeking an escape from the sweltering heat found elsewhere in the country. The climate has given rise to a green, lush area that is ideal for walking. Frankincense trees grow across this area and are used in many traditional medicines.

The Wadi Bani Awf, found in Al Rustaq Wilayat, is an ancient wadi (gorge) that offers mountain streams and calm pools – each perfect for an afternoon dip.

Directly north of Muscat is the coastal region of Al Batinah. This area is famed for its quiet, golden beaches, lined with palm trees and quaint towns. Al Batinah is also home to Sohar, an expansive city that also happens to be one of the country's oldest. Visitors who want to get to grips with this part of Oman can spend an entire day driving a circular route, known as the Rustaq Loop. The Loop takes in a number of fascinating sites, including the imposing forts found at Al Hazm, Rustaq and Nakhal. In addition, the Loop winds its way through some of the area's most beautiful wadis, such as Wadi Bani Awf and Wadi Abyad, making it a popular route for tourists on Oman holidays.

Top Landmarks

The Grand Mosque in Muscat is an amazing example of modern Islamic architecture. The imposing prayer hall is breath-taking, playing home to a carpet that took four years for 600 workers to complete.

Nizwa Fort, built in 1668, has been astoundingly well preserved. The large circular tower was built to protect Nizwa and gives stunning views across the valley.

Nakhal Fort is another amazing historical site to visit on holidays to Oman.

Jebel Akhdar, commonly known as the Green Mountain, is a must-see. The Castle of Jabreen was built in 1675 as the sultan's summer residence and is known for its stunning rose gardens – producing some of the purest rose water around. The architecture is breath-taking, with painted ceilings and Islamic inscriptions carefully carved into the walls.

The Beehive Tombs can be found at Al-Ayn. A set of 21 tombs that were built in the Bronze Age have been excavated, and archaeological digs continue on this fascinating site. Together with Bat and Al-Khutm, they form the most complete collection of settlements from the Bronze Age in the world and have been named a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Al-Jalali Fort was originally built during the Portuguese occupation of the 1580s.

But as access to the fort is up a steep flight of steps, it was eventually made into a prison. Now it serves as a museum of Omani heritage. Although the interior is strictly for visiting dignitaries, during military events visitors can expect to see bagpipers and fireworks, which make for some stunning photos.

Entertainment

Although there is plenty of nightlife in Oman, it is a Muslim country and as a result, alcohol is only available in certain restaurants and hotels. Due to these restrictions, alcohol tends to be quite expensive, and drinking in public is strictly prohibited. However, there are still plenty of pubs and clubs to be enjoyed. Muscat has the best selection, with a number of English pubs tucked away inside the big hotels.

The Grand Hyatt Hotel is one of the best places to visit on a night out. Here, visitors will find a number of Arabic bars and a nightclub, all under one roof. Copacabana nightclub is also renowned for its western music and all-night dancing. Another great spot at night is the Marina Hotel, near to the Corniche in Muscat. The food here also comes highly recommended and is sure to delight those who are on package holidays to Oman.

For those visitors seeking an evening of culture, the Royal Opera House Muscat is the number one venue in Oman for musical arts. The Royal Opera House puts on a number of different operatic shows throughout the year and is comprised of a concert theatre, an auditorium, a cultural market and even a restaurant. With a musical art centre and many events on throughout the year, it's certainly a place to visit for an evening of entertainment.

There are cinemas in all of the big cities and most show Hollywood blockbusters. Although some films are dubbed, most are shown in English with subtitles.

Dining Out

Most of the local food in Oman is typically Arabic, which means food is packed full of spices. There's a real fusion of Arabic, Turkish and Indian in many restaurants, and standard portions tend to be substantial.

Seafood is very popular, with shark and whole seasoned fish commonly found on menus. Many dishes are perfect for sharing between groups.

Omani khubz, traditional Omani bread, is a must-try. However, It's nothing like the standard white loaf, with a paper-thin and crispy texture. It is cooked over a fire and eaten with most Omani meals.

Pakistani cuisine is also common, especially paratha. Similar to poppadoms, but twice the size, paratha are slightly thinner and a great snack or side dish.

Curry is a popular dish, and for those who like it hot, there are some exceptionally spicy curries on offer.

For desserts, the most popular Omani sweet is halwa. Often served with kahwa, Omani coffee mixed with cardamom powder and dates, halwa is a hot dish that looks similar to a bowl full of honey. It may not sound appetising, but the taste is similar to Turkish delight and it is well worth a try on Oman holidays.

Beach

With a massive expanse of coastline, Oman has many amazing beaches. A handful of the best beaches have been claimed by private resorts, but most are open to the general public. Aviation Beach in Al Azaiba is not the easiest to access, but it is a quiet spot and a great place to get away from it all. Qurum Beach is far more popular with the crowds and has many amenities, along with a number of water sports such as jet-skiing.

Romance

A romantic break is all about getting away from the crowds, and there is nowhere better to do this than in the desert. There are a number of resorts at Wahiba Sands desert, where couples can really escape into seclusion. Here, visitors can sip a cool drink and then lie back to watch the heavens put on a spectacular show. Holidays to Oman are romantic in every sense of the word.

Family

Many of the beaches in Oman are child-friendly. Bandar Jissah, a short drive from Qantab, has tide pools to be explored and calm waters which are perfect for paddling in. There are many amenities and even a children’s playground right on the beach. Muscat is also an ideal sport, as there are many child-friendly tours to enjoy and hotels with daily children’s activities. There’s also a wide range of western cuisine for young ones who are not ready to try the local dishes. Package holidays to Oman are sure to` keep the little ones entertained, no matter their preference.

Adventure

Visiting Snake Gorge and Wadi Bani Awf is a must for thrill-seekers. The sheer sided canyon has a number of natural flumes that slide down into plunge pools. Jebel Shams, the highest mountain in Oman, is the perfect place for hiking or mountain biking. It can be a tough ride, but the views make it worthwhile.

Our best deals in Oman

Need to know

Language

Arabic is the national language of Oman, but there are a number of other regional dialects. Balochi is one of the most common and has become a language in its own right, although this tends to only be spoken in north-west Iran. Another derivative, Jibbali, is spoken in southern Dhofar. Urdu is also spoken in some areas. Most Omani citizens speak some English, and a few speak it fluently. Swahili and Malayalam are commonly spoken too, depending on the area of Oman. In the tourist industry, English is widely spoken, so unless tourists stray off the beaten track, they shouldn’t encounter any major language barriers. However, it might be worth investing in an Arabic phrasebook, which can be particularly useful for shopping and dining in restaurants

Currency

The official currency is the Omani rial (OMR) and there is 1,000 Baisa to 1 OMR. Foreign currency can be exchanged at most airports, but the money exchange offices found throughout the country tend to have the best exchange rates. There are ATMs in many cities and towns, although not all of them accept foreign cards. Credit cards are accepted for large purchases, but not all restaurants and shops have credit card facilities, so it’s best to carry cash as well.

Visas

For visitors from the EU and the UK, a single-entry visa can be obtained at any airport or sea terminal on entry. This allows for a 30 day stay and the fee is OMR 20. The fee can be paid in rial, pounds sterling, euro or US dollars. It is also possible to obtain a 10-day visa, which costs OMR 5. A valid passport with at least six months until expiry is required. UK Emergency Travel Documents are valid for entry to and exit from Oman. However, these must have at least six months' remaining validity to be accepted. On leaving Oman, both residents and visitors must have their passports stamped. Failure to do so can cause delays and even prevent passengers from boarding booked flights. Passports must be legal and valid.

Climate

Hot, dry and subtropical, the climate of Oman experiences little rainfall and plenty of sun. Temperatures are high, with maximum temperatures of around 35°C during the summer months. While cooler, this only makes spring and autumn more pleasant for many travellers, as the temperatures are that bit more bearable at around 30°C.

Watch out for sandstorms during spring and summer, created by the hot, dust-laden wind: the Shamal.

Main Airports

The main airport in Oman is Muscat International Airport (MCT), situated in the capital of Muscat. This is where virtually all international flights arrive, although a small number land at Salalah Airport (SLL). Muscat International Airport is much more accessible. Obtaining a visa tends to be significantly quicker here, too.

Flight Options

A lot of carriers serve Oman. Many fly to Muscat's airport from London-Heathrow, while others fly from Manchester. For those who have flights with connections, many have a layover in Dubai. Average flight time from London to Muscat is around 7 hours, 30 minutes.

Travel Advice

Direct flights can be more expensive, whereas having a changeover in Dubai can make the fare significantly cheaper. Prices tend to rise during the peak season, from November to March, but travelling outside of this time can mean uncomfortable temperatures. Booking early can help to reduce fares.

Other Transport Options

It is possible to enter Oman by land from the United Arab Emirates. There are a number of crossings, such as Wadi Hatta or Ras Al Khaimah to Bukhara. Border crossings are easy, but anyone wanting to bring a car into Oman will have to provide proof of ownership and insurance.

Getting Around

Domestic flights run daily and there are numerous bus services available. However, the bus service only extends to the main cities. By far the most popular way to get around is by car, with rentals often cheap and easy to arrange. The road network is extensive, although some rural routes are not as well maintained as those in the city centres.

Bus

The Oman National Transport Company runs the bus service across Oman. There are daily services connecting the biggest cities of Muscat, Salalah, Sohar, Sur and Nizwa. However, buses tend to stick to the main routes, so it's often difficult to reach the off-the-beaten-track places. Many buses all have air-conditioning and toilets on-board, and some even have Wi-Fi.

Air

Although flights aren't the most common way to get around, some local carriers have daily flights between the country's two airports, Muskat International Airport and Salalah Airport.

Car

There are a number of international car hire chains in Oman, but there are also many local agencies which often have great deals. Rental is cheap and although insurance is included, always double check. It is best to hire a four-wheel drive as although many of the main roads are in a good condition, some rural roads are nothing more than dirt tracks. Many roads signs are written in English and petrol is reasonably priced, with fuel stations available even on small roads. Driving is on the right.

MAP

OMAN`S WEATHER TODAY

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MONTHS

AVERAGE RAINFALL (mm)

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MONTHS

FACTS

  1. Oman is one of the longest-inhabited places on Earth. Humans have lived in what is now known as Oman for at least 106,000 years.
  2. For those unaccustomed to the blistering summers, winter is the best time to visit Oman when the climate is more akin to temperatures found in the Mediterranean.
  3. Tipping waiters and taxi drivers is not a common practice in Oman.
  4. Some of the world's finest horses are bred in Oman.
  5. The oldest monument in modern Oman is the Muscat Clock Tower.
  6. One of the most important crops in Oman is the date. The fruits are often served with coffee.

FACTS

  1. Oman is one of the longest-inhabited places on Earth. Humans have lived in what is now known as Oman for at least 106,000 years.
  2. For those unaccustomed to the blistering summers, winter is the best time to visit Oman when the climate is more akin to temperatures found in the Mediterranean.
  3. Tipping waiters and taxi drivers is not a common practice in Oman.
  4. Some of the world's finest horses are bred in Oman.
  5. The oldest monument in modern Oman is the Muscat Clock Tower.
  6. One of the most important crops in Oman is the date. The fruits are often served with coffee.

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