My father temporarily moved to Abu Dhabi to work on a project and I really wanted to visit him there since I had never been to the Middle East before. My friend came along and we decided to visit Oman as well since we heard so many great things about the country and its people. Oman exceeded our expectations in every single way!
Q & A
What would you have changed?
Unfortunately we both got injured over the summer. Had we not been, we would have stayed 2 days longer in Nizwa (and less in Muscat) and hired a local guide for a multi-day or multiple single day hikes. (omantrekkingguides.com) A highway is being built on the west side of the mountains between Sur, Al Wasil and Fanja (on the way to Nizwa). This resulted in travel times up to 150-200% of what Google/Waze estimated. Had we known in advance, we would have left Sur in the very early morning to be able to spend a couple of hours at the wadi and to be at the Al Wasil pick-up location by 3pm for our night in the desert. It was on average 93F/34C in Oman - except in the mountains (73F/23C). To make the most of the extremely hot humid weather, we should have adopted the local rhythm right away: get up really early, nap, go to bed at 10pm. Most activities/shops are closed between 11am and 4pm anyway....Read More
What tips would you give a friend?
If you don't mind tourists (mainly German & French) and you are willing to book all hotels in advance and at premium prices, visit Oman from Nov-March so temperatures are bearable. Otherwise, I would recommend going in October or April/May. Out of respect for the local culture, please dress modestly: cover your shoulders and knees at all times. We also chose to wear a scarf outside the hotel - it reduced the stares by immigrant workers a lot. Women travelling with men didn't notice men staring fyi. The Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque in Muscat is open from 8am till 11am only. Get there as early as possible because there is a lot to see. Respect the dress code instructions (hair, wrists, ankles covered) or borrow a cover-up. Also, there are local guides who try to get you to come inside a air-conditioned living room where they serve you tea/coffee/dates and teach you about their religion. Steer away from this tempting invitation till the end of your visit. We had to visit the mosque a second time because they had so much to tell.. ;) Install WhatsApp on your phone so you can communicate with locals (like guides). Apply for a travel visa here: https://evisa.rop.gov.om/. If you are a G1 citizen, you do not require a local sponsor....Read More
Driving in Oman is easy and we found all our destinations easily through Waze or Google Maps. There aren't a lot of cars on the road outside of Muscat. No need to get a 4x4 unless you want to drive in the desert and in the Al Hajar Mountains. We opted for a regular sedan (Rentalcars.com), got a local guide incl. 4x4 for a day trip in the mountains and paid for transit to the desert camp. Fuel is cheap (approx 20 USD for full tank) and the roads are in good condition. You could stay in Muscat the whole time and do day trips to the main cities/attractions but you'd be spending a lot of time in the car so I'd advise against it - definitely because you can find nice hotels for reasonable prices everywhere....Read More
Anything go wrong during the trip?
We got charged 45 OMR (116 USD) after we dropped off the rental car at the airport even though we returned with full tank and no damages (and I have pictures/docs to prove it). Make sure to put any hold on a credit card so you can dispute charges! At the Mutrah Souq, two different men tried to rip us off when exchanging money for street parking (need coins!) but failed because we memorized the arabic numbers and were able to point out their "error".
1) If you are not a good swimmer, buy a $13 inflatable snorkel vest (not life saving vest!) on amazon.com to help you float during your snorkel trip. I also used it in the wadis but because it is designed to tip your head forward it's easier to swim on your back. 2) Water shoes if you don't like little fish nibbling at your feet and you don't want to get your hiking shoes/sandals wet when wading through knee deep pools in the Wadis (which is inevitable for Wadi Shab for instance). 3) (Swim) T-shirt with longs sleeves + workout pants for sun protection/modesty 4) For the rental car: sunglasses, windshield sun shade, audio cable and USB charger, download a playlist onto your phone 5) Large ziploc bags so you can store away your wet bathing suits after visiting a wadi. 6) Adhesive bandages and disinfecting wipes 7) Bug spray if you stay near the beach 8) Very light rain jacket or clothing that doesn't become see-through when wet (the Nizwa area flooded just before we got there and we had rain during the afternoon & evenings) 9) To avoid a luggage charge on the plane from Dubai to Muscat, we only packed a small trolley and backpack each. 10) There is sand everywhere and it affects your skin, so pack some extremely moisturizing face lotion other than sunscreen....Read More
How was the food?
Try to get locals to take you out for breakfast & lunch so you can try local specialties. We had the most amazing goat with rice and some awesome sauces which we ate with our hands on the floor. Tip: sit on the plastic - not next to it - so they can easily clean up your mess afterwards ;) For breakfast we loved karak (spiced tea with milk) and what our guide described as "a sandwich with cheese and eggs" but is more like a non-sweet pancake with cooked egg pieces in cream cheese (see picture). It's super yummy! We ate camel for the first time. It's slightly chewy but since covered in spices, I couldn't tell the difference from chicken. Still.. glad I tried it. Restaurant recommendations: 1) Nizwa - Marsa Alsaiyaad Fish & Seafood 2) Sur - Zaki Restaurant 3) Muscat - Omani House Restaurant, Al Khuwair (local food, really good) > We used Google a lot for restaurant recommendations...Read More
My favorite colors are emerald green and turquoise. I was pleasantly surprised to see that these colors are used on all sorts of products in every day life: signage, packaging, pipes, house decorations, etc. My biggest surprise was to see the turquoise and royal blue tiles in the covered hallways along the grand mosque. The rose is the symbol of peace, it's not a romantic symbol. Keep that in mind when you receive roses from local men at the end of your whatsapp conversations ;) If you get a bouquet of roses though.. that's something else!
I booked all hotels via bookings.com and the rental car via rentalcars.com. I had no issues with my reservations. Make sure you carry enough local currency to pay for your hotels. Expense Summary per person ($ 2,800 in total): $ 1,200 Seattle-Dubai (Emirates) $ 200 Dubai-Muscat (Swiss) $ 52 Oman visa for 10 days + (which we got just to be safe) $ 250 Activities ($60 local Nizwa guide with 4x4, $90 dune bash, $80 snorkel trip) $ 250 Food & Drinks $ 150 Car incl. insurance & fuel $ 700 Lodging. Except for Grand Hyatt in Muscat ($210/night) and Nomadic Desert Camp ($244/night), we spent approx $70/night fyi....Read More