Tips and Must Do’s Before You Go

One of the most stunning and culturally rich countries in the Middle East, Oman has out-of-this-world scenery and is also a historical gem.

Think ancient cities with fascinating architecture, sweeping sand dune deserts, spectacular river gorges and canyons, staggering mountain ranges, and remote islands that have some of the most sparkling, crystal clear waters in all of the world. 

Oman is a country that dates back thousands of years to the origins of civilization, and amid the ever-changing states of the Arabian Gulf, Oman offers a breath of fresh air that harks back to a seemingly bygone age.

Unlike other Middle Eastern countries, overdevelopment and skyscrapers have not tainted its otherworldly landscapes, making Oman one of the best places in the region to experience the Arabia of yesteryear. 

It is also one of the safest and most stable countries in the Middle East – with a modern highway system and a tourism industry that has boomed within the last few years.

Oman has started to become so popular that many top hotel brands are bolstering their presence in a number of different regions, which makes it easier than ever for visitors to explore this naturally diverse and breathtaking country in all of its glory.

That being said, I was pleasantly surprised that Oman remains relatively under the radar and off the tourist-beaten-path. At many of the major tourist sights across the country we had the entire place all to ourselves, which certainly makes for a very unique and super enjoyable experience! 

Oman Travel Tips

After years exploring the Middle East, I recently came back and spent 6 days in Oman in October 2022, and here are my top tips, must do’s, and hotel recommendations, so that you can more easily plan your own bucket list trip to Oman. 

Alila Jabal Akhdar Resort in Oman

Don’t Only Visit Muscat — And Rent A Car

Renting a car to explore Oman is really the best way to go, but if you’re not able to do so,  then make sure you take day trips to other parts of Oman from your base in Muscat. Renting a car and driving in Oman is easy, as the highway system is modern and easy to navigate.

FYI if you plan to go into the mountains or into the desert then a 4×4 vehicle is a must! There is so much to see outside of the capital of Muscat, that in order to truly and fully experience and appreciate Oman for all of its natural splendor, renting a car or hiring a driver in order to explore all of the regions of Oman is definitely the way to go – if you can make it work with your travel schedule. 

Oman Is Expensive, So Save Up!

I was rather shocked at how much hotels, taxis, food and beverages, etc. cost in Oman compared to Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Qatar, etc. Yes, even compared to Dubai.

As there is not as much luxury hotel competition in Oman as in the other more popular Gulf states, prices in Oman are higher than what I was expecting. Make sure you account for this if you plan to stay at a 4 or 5 star hotel, and if you plan to eat and drink on-site at your resort.

Other than that, outside of hotels and resorts, the cost of food and bev, goods and services in Oman is more-or-less on par with the rest of the Middle East. Just keep in mind that  if you’re traveling on a budget and staying at a nice resort that you make sure to account for these extra expenses when planning your trip. 

Duty Free Is OK

Non-Muslim foreigners traveling to Oman are allowed to bring some alcohol into the country duty free.

As we were traveling from Dubai, we were able to bring 4 liters of wine with us, so that we could offset the price of the expensive drinks at our hotel. If you are a wine or cocktail enthusiast, then make sure to stock up in duty free before your flight to Oman.   

Winter Is The Best Time Of Year To Visit

Just like the rest of the Gulf, Oman is hot hot hot in the summer months (June to August). The best time to visit is October through May, when the weather is more temperate and mild. 

HOT TIP: For those looking to dive or snorkel with whale sharks in Oman – one of the countries most popular water activities – then make sure to book your trip between July and September.

Be adventurous! – Nature Lover’s Delight

You can hike wadis, river gorges and canyons, rock-climb and so much more . Oman is also excellent for scuba diving, snorkeling, and boating, since the country is also home to some of the most beautiful islands in the world.

In the desert, you can go dune-boarding, dune bashing, camel riding and camp under the stars. With all its wadis, mountains, beaches, oasis and deserts, visitors to Oman who seek adventure will definitely find it, no matter what part of the country they decide to visit.

HOT TIP: Make sure to pack appropriate gear such as hiking boots, water bottles, backpacks, waterproof dry bags, etc., based on the types of adventure activities you plan to partake in during your trip.   

Muscat Corniche

Book a Tour Guide For Cultural Sights

You’re really missing out on immersing yourself and learning about the rich culture and history, if you don’t hire a tour guide to visit the top cultural tourist attractions in Oman.

During our 6 days in the country, we hired a tour guide from Sunshine Tours Oman, and we are SO SO SO glad that we did! Being able to learn more in-depth information and being able to ask questions brought the history and culture of Oman to life, especially considering Omani history is not something you typically learn in a history class. 

Bring Appropriate Attire , Seriously

People in Oman are religious and have a deep respect for their traditions and culture. Although it is not expected for foreigners to wear traditional Omani clothing, visitors should make sure they dress on the conservative side.

Put more plainly, they shouldn’t show too much skin while outside of their hotel or resort. Personally, I wore longer dresses (knee length or longer) and I brought a scarf with me to cover my shoulders when visiting most tourist attractions. 

When visiting the wadis throughout Oman, there is dress code for women (ie: no bikinis or one piece bathing suits). Women are supposed to be covered in shorts and a t-shirt, so that most of their legs and arms are covered.

I was surprised by this, given that many Instagram influencers take photos in bikinis and one pieces, and I did not have the proper attire to go swimming. Keep this in mind if you plan on visiting wadis that are popular with both foreign and local tourists.

You Likely Won’t Need A Tourist Visa

In 2020, Oman passed a new law – in order to boost tourism – allowing citizens of 103 countries the ability to travel as a tourist for up to 10 days without having to obtain a visa.

This means US, UK, EU and Australian citizens can easily enter Oman and not have to fuss with getting a visa in order to visit. Hooray!

Try All The Omani Cuisine!

While you can find all types of international cuisine in Muscat, you shouldn’t miss out on trying traditional Omani cuisine. Spices take center stage in most Omani dishes, as do fish, lamb, chicken, rice, and vegetables.

Some of the most popular Omani lunch and dinner entrees are: Mashuai (tasty fish dish), Meshkak (beef, lamb or chicken kebabs), Majboos (traditional saffron rice, meat and veggie dish), Mushaltat (soft flatbread stuffed with honey, meat, spinach or cheese), Harees (savory porridge) and Shuwa (a meat dish marinated in various spices then baked in an underground sand oven for 1-2 days).

In addition, you won’t want to miss out on trying fresh Omani Dates, Kahwa (coffee with a dash of cardamom), Laban (a yogurt and buttermilk blended beverage flavored with pistachios or cardamom), and Halwa (a sweet dish made with brown sugar, honey, eggs and various spices, then flavored with rosewater, nuts, chocolate or dates).

Stay At Least A Week Or More

As you probably have figured out already, there is so much to do, see and experience in Oman, that staying for a week to 10 days is best.

Although the country looks small on the map, getting to all of the “must see” attractions and destinations takes time. You’ll want to make sure that you have enough time to get from A to B, and to not be too rushed, which is a good thing to keep in mind terms of planning. 

Wahiba Sands Deert, Oman

Go Shopping For Local Specialties

Shopaholics will love the variety of traditional Arabian textiles and products, both natural and manufactured, that can be found in the souks of Oman. While there are souks all over the country, the finest array of Omani goods under one roof can be found at the legendary Muttrah Souk in Muscat’s Old Town.

The souks at Nizwa and Salalah also offer an excellent selection – Nizwa in particular is known for its handicrafts, while Salalah is perhaps the best place in the country to pick up samples of the famous Dhofari frankincense. 

HOT TIP: Prices are rarely fixed in the souks, and bargaining and haggling is very much a cultural norm. And don’t forget to hit the ATM to get some cash before you go to the souk, as you’ll be hard pressed to find a stall that accepts credit cards. 

Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque Muscat

Must Do’s and Must See’s in Oman

You could likely live in Oman your entire life and not get around to seeing all of the fantastic landscapes and sights that the country has to offer. That being said, here’s a bulleted list of the top places to see in Oman to help you plan your own itinerary:

  • Muscat  
    • Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque
    • Daymaniyat Islands
      • Daymaniyat Islands are not to be missed! I booked my day tour with Cruise Oman, and this scuba and snorkel adventure was the highlight of our time in Muscat! And don’t forget, if you’re planning to visit Oman between July and September, you may be lucky enough to swim with whale sharks!
    • Old Town, Corniche and Muttrah Souk
    • Royal Opera House
    • Al Alam Palace
    • Mutrah Fort, Al Mirani Fort, and Al Jalali Fort
    • Bait Al-Zubair Museum
    • Amouage Perfumery
      • NOTE: This might be a little “touristy” for some, but if you’re really into shopping and into beauty and fashion, then the Amouge Perfumery is worth consideration 
    • Qurum Beach and Yiti Beach
      • NOTE: If you’re staying at a beach resort then there is no need to visit either Qurum or Yiti – I would just enjoy the private hotel beach myself
    • Nakhal Fort
  • Best Historical and Cultural Sights in Oman (Outside of Muscat)
    • Nizwa and surrounding area (1.5-3 hour drive West from Muscat)
      • Nizwa Fort
      • Nizwa Souk
      • Bahla Fort (UNESCO World Heritage site)
      • Jabreen Castle
      • Misfat Al Abreyeen 
      • Al-Ayn Beehive Tombs (UNESCO World Heritage site)
      • Al Hamra Village
      • Aflaj Irrigation System (UNESCO World Heritage site)
    • Sur (2.5 hour drive South from Muscat)
      • Qalhat (UNESCO World Heritage site)
      • Qurayyat
      • Dhow Factory
      • Ras Al Hadd Castle and Village
      • Sunaysilah Fort
      • Al Ayjah Lighthouse
      • Sur Corniche
      • Bilad Sur Castle
    • Salalah (1.5 hour flight from Muscat)
      • Salalah Souk
      • Land of Frankincense (UNESCO World Heritage sites): Al Baleed Archeological Site, Sumharam Old City (khor Rori), and Wubar Archeological Site
      • Sultan Qaboos Mosque
  • Best Mountains, Beaches, Waterfalls, Desert, Etc. in Oman
    • Nizwa and surrounding area (1.5-3 hour drive West from Muscat)
      • Jebel Akhdar and Jebel Shams Mountains
      • Wahiba Sands Desert 
    • Sur (2.5 hour drive South from Muscat)
      • Ras Al Jinz Reserve – turtles
      • Sur Beach
    • Salalah (1.5 hour flight from Muscat)
      • Ayn Athum Waterfalls
      • Mughsail Beach and Blowholes
      • Rub Al Khali desert
      • Fazayah Beach
    • Musandam (6.5 hour drive North from Muscat; 2.5 hour drive from Dubai) 
      • Musandam Peninsula and Fjords
  • Best Wadis (Swimming Holes, Ravines and River Gorges) in Oman
    • Nizwa and surrounding area (1.5-3 hour drive West from Muscat)
      • Wadi Bani Khalid
      • Wadi Ghul
      • Wadi Al Hawqayn
    • Sur (2.5 hour drive South from Muscat)
      • Wadi Shab
      • Bimmah Sinkhole 
      • Wadi Al Arbeieen
      • Wadi Dayqah Dam
      • Wadi Tiwi 
    • Salalah (1.5 hour flight from Muscat)
    • Musandam (6.5 hour drive North from Muscat; 2.5 hour drive from Dubai) 

Best Hotels in Oman

Six Senses Zighy Bay, Oman

You’ll find accommodations to fit all types of traveler’s needs and budgets, but here’s a list of the best-of-the-best hotels in all of Oman:

  • Musandam (6.5 hour drive North from Muscat; 2.5 hour drive from Dubai) 
    • Six Senses Zighy Bay – arguably the best hotel in all of Oman, Six Senses Zighy Bay is an IHG-affiliated resort that is literally heaven on earth! Unfortunately, Zighy Bay is one of the many Six Senses’ properties that is not currently bookable with IHG points 🙁
  • Muscat
    • Al Bustan Palace Ritz Carlton – I stayed here for 5 nights during my trip to Oman, and its hands-down the best Marriott Bonvoy property in the whole of Oman
    • Chedi
    • Shangri-La Barr Al Jissah
    • Kempinski
    • W Hotel – Another nice option for folks looking to blow some Bonvoy points on their trip to Oman
  • Nizwa and surrounding area (1.5-3 hour drive West from Muscat)
    • Alila Jabal Akhdar – You won’t be disappointed with your stay at Alila Jabal Akhdar, as the views from the top of the mountain are out of this world! Better yet, Alila is a Hyatt owned chain, so you can use Hyatt and Chase Ultimate Rewards points to book here!
    • Anantara Jabal Akhdar 
  • Salalah (1.5 hour flight from Muscat)
    • Alila Hinu Bay – The newest Alila in Oman, this beach resort looks utterly divine. And just like Alila Jabal Akhdar, you can use Hyatt and Chase Ultimate Rewards points to book here as well!
    • Anantara Al Baleed 
  • Desert Camps

Final Thoughts

If Oman wasn’t already on your bucket list, then I hope I convinced you to add it!

From breathtaking mountains, wadis, islands and deserts to ancient architecture, pristine beaches, beautiful mosques and so much more, Oman offers an incredibly wide range of experiences for all types of travelers. 

Oman is without a doubt the ultimate Arabian escape and still a hidden gem, where both luxury and simplicity blend and coexist side by side.

While Oman remains a relatively under-the-radar destination for now, as more travelers experience the country, it will likely become more and more developed and popular with the global jet set.

If I were you, I would go now while you can still enjoy one of the most beautiful countries in the world without all of the tourists and crowds!

Al Bustan Palace Ritz Carlton, Muscat, Oman