Oman has been on my travel bucket list for several years now. It’s somewhere I never imagined of wanting to go, and then I met a girl while backpacking through Jordan, that told me Oman was the best place she’d ever visited. She immediately piqued my interest. Anytime someone knows what their favorite place is with that much confidence… I have to go!
Shortly after that, I started researching Oman, how to get there, what to see, but my adventures pulled me away from the Middle East for some time. A year later, I would find myself sitting in a car, waiting for my hot air balloon to show me a stunning sunrise over Luxor when a lovely girl on Instagram sent me a message. She wanted to know if I was around and wanted to go to Oman with her next month.
And so the planning began. I started to learn that it wasn’t going to be very easy to get to Oman, I was going to have to take a few flights, even though I was simply traveling from Israel. I knew, however, that it would be worth it.
Oman is the oldest independent state in the Arab world. It occupies a very strategically important position in the Arab Peninsula, which has made it a conflict of interest for many major powers of the ancient world. In the 16th century, the Portugues seized Muscat and controlled the city until 1650. Oman has since taken control of the Persian Sea and built up its own, very strong economy.
While researching our trip, I was beginning to learn some fascinating facts about Oman and its history. I learned that since 1970, education in Oman has drastically increased and more than half of the students in Primary school in Oman are girls. I also learned that education is not required, but it is free for everyone. I was also interested to learn that healthcare is also free in Oman.
Qaboos bin Said al Said the Sultan of Oman during my trip, who recently passed away, was the longest-reigning leader in the Arab world, having taken the throne from his father in 1970. It’s thanks to Qaboos bin Said al Said that Oman has the freedom of religion, free education, and healthcare.
The currency is the Omani Rial (1 USD is 3.75 RIAL)
Quick Fact: Being Gay in Oman is punishable by 3 years in jail (considerably more lenient then it’s neighbor, Saudi Arabia) but that only happens in cases of public disturbance. This being said, there is a vibrant unground Gay scene in Oman and the Sultan, Qaboos bin Said al Said was gay. A fact that is well known throughout the middle east.
Drinking in Oman: If you are a resident of Oman, you can get a license to buy and drink alcohol within your own home. If you are visiting Oman, you can buy alcohol at licensed hotels. Drinking or being drunk in public in Oman is illegal and the official drinking age is 21.
Safety in Oman: Located between Saudi Arabia and Yemen might be cause for concern but there’s no need to worry about your safety in Oman. Omani people are considerate and extremely polite. Crime and violence is not in their nature and as a result, Oman is an extremely safe country.
Getting to Oman: The easiest way to get to Oman is by flying to Muscat. I flew from Israel, with a layover in Amman, Jordan, and Qatar. You can find direct flights to Muscat from London with British Airways.
Getting around in Oman: Getting around in Oman can be tricky. They don’t have a public transportation system in place to help tourists navigate the entire country. If you’re looking to explore more of the country, then you should have a rental car. Petrol is very cheap, considering the fact that Oman is an oil country. A tank of petrol often costs about $30 (USD). The rental car for seven days was 112 Rial ($300). I would recommend that you book your rental car in advance and pick it up from the airport.
Driving in Oman: Driving in Oman is a breeze. The roads are wide and people generally stick to their lanes. We had no trouble at all navigating the cities or getting to any of our destinations. You don’t need to rent a four-wheel-drive vehicle. If you are spending time in the mountains or the desert, people will pick you up and take you there. They drive on the right and we were able to rent an automatic transmission.
When should you visit: Oman is a very warm, dry country. I would advise that you don’t visit from June until August as temperatures reach 100 degrees Fahrenheit or 40 degrees Celsius. Rainfall is minimal, with the rainy season being the beginning of the year, January to March with an average of 1-2 rainy days per month.
Cost of Travel: There are ways that you can cut costs and save money in Oman but at the end of the day, it’s not a cheap place to visit. Hotels, Desert Camps, cabs and food are very expensive. However, as I said before, petrol is affordable, so if you have a car, you’ll actually be able to save money on transportation.
Another very popular way to save money while you are traveling in Oman is to use Couchsurfing. Oman as a huge Couchsurfing community with locals welcoming foreigners from all walks of life into their homes. They even have Whatsapp groups specifically for couch surfers to do trips around the country, meet up and find places to stay throughout Oman.
🏨 Double room: $70 a night
🍛 Lunch / Dinner: $10 – $30
🥭 Fruit snacks: $1.60 bunch of bananas
⛽ Fuel: $30 for a full tank (60L)
🚰 Drinking water: $0.50 for 1.5L
🚗 Transportation: $650 for 10 days
The Ultimate Oman Itinerary
Oman has a lot to offer and things are a lot further away from each other than you might at first think. This being said, how long should you plan to spend in Oman? I highly recommend that you spend a minimum of 7 days in Oman but, 10 days would actually give you a lot more freedom and time to explore this unique country.
Start by flying into Muscat and plan to spend the first two days exploring Muscat. I was immediately surprised by Muscat. It was a much bigger and more modern city than I expected. When you land at the airport, you will start by getting your visa. You can pay for it with cash or credit card (I used a credit card). They will give you a visa based on the exact number of days that you are staying, so make sure you have a plan or at least an exit ticket.
After you get your visa you head through the customs and they put it in for you. Then you can grab a sim card so you can navigate. We each got 10gbs and head over to get your rental car. If you’re not renting a car then you can also easily get a taxi from the airport. A taxi from the airport into Muscat will cost you about 10 Rial (26 USD).
Things to do in Muscat
There’s plenty of things to do in Muscat, you are going to make sure you give yourself plenty of time. We honestly didn’t spend enough time in Muscat, I wish we would have had one more day. When in Muscat, we stayed at the Chedi and lost a day exploring because we couldn’t get enough of their 103-meter long pool.
Places to stay in Muscat
Luxury: The Chedi, Muscat
Moderate: Centara Muscat Hotel
Places to see in Muscat
The Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque.
The Grand Mosque was my favorite place that we visited while we were in Muscat. I absolutely loved it and would go back to Muscat just to visit it again. Non-Muslims can visit from 8 am to 11 am, Saturday until Thursday every week. Make sure that you get there in plenty of time to explore and dress appropriately.
Al Alam Palace.
The home of the Sultan of Oman. Extremely colorful and unique to see where the Sultan lives.
Bait Al Zubair.
A museum in Muscat which has ancient weapons and replicas of hundred-year-old Omani villages in the desert.
Royal Opera House of Muscat.
The Royal Opera House is a stunning property where the Sultan himself loves to spend as much time as he can. Even if you can’t go to see a show, make sure that you walk the grounds.
Souqs in the Middle East are always a treat with affordable souvenirs, tasty treats, and fresh juices. One of the best things about a souq is walking through the colorful alleyways to interact with the locals and their wares. The Muttrah Souq certainly won’t disappoint.
Lunch at Kargeen Restaurant.
From the front, you would think you’d pulled up at the wrong place. But walk around back and you are transported to a world you only imagined inside Aladdin. Kargeen is full of antiques, from the hanging lights to the old fashioned telephones. They are a great place to grab lunch during your days in Muscat.
Dinner at the Ritz Carlton Beachside Restaurant.
Having a candlelit dinner, directly on the beach. It’s every girl's dream. We had dinner on our last night in Muscat at the Ritz and it was remarkable. Their food was incredible and their property was beyond words. Even if you aren’t staying there, make sure you set aside one night to have dinner with them at the Beach Pavilion Restaurant.
Once you’ve seen Muscat, it’s time to head off on your Omani road trip.
Road Trip Day 1 Sur
Your road trip should start with you driving south for about 90 minutes to the Bimmah Sinkhole. Make sure to take your swimming clothes because it’s always so hot in Oman and you are going to want to swim!
After a quick swim at the sinkhole, you can drive another 20 minutes to Wadi Shab. Wadi Shab is something that you can’t skip. It’s absolutely stunning. You park at the parking area and pay 1 OMR each to be taken across the river.
Bring water because it’s an additional 45-minute walk to the swimming point and then once there, it’s another 15 minutes swimming to the cave. You’re definitely going to want to spend half the day here.
(A Wadi is a valley, ravine or channel that is dry except in the rainy season)
After you’ve hiked back out of the Wadi you’re going to want to continue your drive to Sur where you’ll be spending the night.
Places to stay in Sur
Places to see in and around Sur
Sur is the perfect place to stay the night on your road trip through Oman. It was formerly a trading point with East Africa and it’s full of incredible architecture. The best thing to see in Sur is the lighthouse, the fort and a lot of local cultures that can be experienced at the local market.
Then after you’ve explored Sur, just 35 minutes away you can find a protected turtle nesting ground. You should come to visit for sunrise or sunset and you can stay at the Ras Al Jinz Turtle Reserve.
Days 3-4 The Desert
Heading into the desert was one of the top things that we wanted to do while we were in Oman. I wanted to see rolling hills of sand over the sunrise. Planning ahead is key when you want to go into the Omani Desert.
From Sur, you are going to drive to the Wahiba Sands, the stunning, rolling hills of the sand desert. You’ll need 4x4 if you want to get there by yourself however, the camps will come to pick you up so you don’t have to drive through the sands.
Not all desert camps are created equally and trust me, the good ones are not cheap.
Recommended Desert Camps
- Desert Nights Camp
- 1000 Nights Camp
- Arabian Oryx Camp
I would recommend that you spend at least 2 nights camping in the desert. This will give you the chance to truly explore the desert, see what life is like and stargazes under the unpolluted sky.
Days 5-6 Nizwa
From the desert, you will drive the longest leg of your journey to Nizwa. Nizwa has one of the oldest forts in Oman (and it’s absolutely stunning). The entrance to the fort costs 5 OMR (11 USD). While in Nizwa you should also visit the Nizwa Souq.
Places to stay in Nizwa
Luxury: Anantara Al Jabal Al Akhdar
Moderate: Golden Tulip Nizwa
Things to do in Nizwa
Visit the Nizwa Fort
This 1600's fort is stunning. It's somewhere that you really should see on your trip! You won't regret the long drive to Nizwa once you see it.
Bahla Fort is another thing you can't miss during your trip to Nizwa. This is another one of Oman's 4 historical forts found at the foot of the Jebel Akhdar highlands and it's the only one listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Falaj Daris Park
Falaj Daris is the largest irrigation channel in Oman (7990m in length!). It's also a UNESCO World Heritage Site which is now part of a huge park filled with flowers. It's a beautiful place to spend the afternoon.
Days 7-8 The Mountains
After the desert and Nizwa, you are going to want a couple of days to cool off in the mountains. The mountains in Oman are about 2000 meters above sea level and they are a great place to cool off. You're definitely going to need a 4x4 to get to the mountains, but like in the desert, your accommodation will come to pick you up.
Where to stay in the Mountains
Alila Jabal Akhdar - You won’t get enough of their stunning pool, I promise (and they will come to pick you up if you don’t have a 4x4 car).
After a couple of nights in the mountains, you can drive back to Muscat where you can either stay a few more days or fly out.
For more information about Oman visit https://experienceoman.om. And keep in mind, Drones in Oman are not allowed without a license!