Information & Facts
The business world in Oman is minute, with a small core of families controlling most of the country's industry and trade. As in most of the Middle East, it is preferable to conduct business face to face and develop good working relations built on trust and friendship. Hospitality is important and visitors will be treated with respect; it is a good idea to have a basic idea of Omani customs and attempting to speak some Arabic will be appreciated. Business attire is usually formal with suits and ties the norm; women in particular should dress modestly. English is spoken widely. The working week is normally from Saturday to Wednesday, with some businesses open on Thursday mornings, and hours can vary. Most businesses are open from 8am to 1pm and 4pm to 7pm.
Oman's climate is mainly hot and dry, particularly in the scorching barren interior where summer temperatures can soar to 130°F (54°C). On the coast humidity can be high during the summer months. Milder temperatures and a more temperate climate are found in the southern Dhofar region, which experiences heavy monsoon rains between June and September each year. In general the rest of the country experiences low and irregular rainfall. The best time to visit Oman is from late September to early April, when daytime temperatures are not too scorching.
The international direct dialling code for Oman is +968, and the outgoing international code 00, followed by the relevant country code (e.g. 0044 for the UK). City/area codes are not necessary. The country has GSM 900 mobile phone networks in operation. Internet cafes are to be found in Muscat and Nizwa and email is available in most city hotels.
Oman is a predominantly Muslim country and visitors should respect religious sensitivity, particularly in the matter of dress and public conduct. Women, in particular, should wear loose fitting clothes that cover most of the body. Eating, drinking and smoking in public during the holy month of Ramadan should be avoided, as it is forbidden by the Muslim culture. Homosexuality is illegal in the country. Importing obscene publications or videos is subject to severe penalties. Alcohol is available only at licensed hotels and restaurants and penalties for driving under the influence of alcohol are drastic. The legal blood alcohol level in the country is close to zero.
Travellers to Oman do not have to pay duty on 200 cigarettes and 2 litres/2 bottles of liquor per family, provided they are non-Muslim visitors. Meat products officially require an Islamic slaughter certificate. Videotapes for personal use may be confiscated and sent to Ministry of National Heritage and Culture for verification. Prohibited items include dates (including shoots of date palm), coconut, ornamental palm trees and parts thereof. Also prohibited are firearms and toy weapons, swords or knives and flammable material, obscene reading material and non-canned foodstuffs from cholera-infected areas. Items of value may be exempted, subject to an assessment by a security officer.
Electrical current is 220/240 volts AC, 50Hz. Plugs with rectangular, 3-pin flat blades are used.
No vaccinations are required for entry to Oman, except for yellow fever for those entering within six days of having been in an infected area. Visitors should ensure they are up to date on all routine vaccinations. Avoid mosquito bites, as dengue fever may be a risk, and there is a small risk of malaria in remote areas. Brucellosis is reported, particularly in the south of the country. Health and medical services in the country, particularly Muscat, are of a high standard, but are expensive for foreigners (Oman nationals receive free treatment), so health insurance is recommended. Food and water in Muscat is considered safe, but bottled water and precautions with unpasteurised milk are advised outside of the city.
The official language of Oman is Arabic, but English is widely spoken. Hotel staff often also speak German and French.
The currency of Oman is the Omani Rial (OMR) divided into 1,000 baisa. Notes come in denominations of 50, 20, 10, 5 and 1 rials, and 500, 250, 200 and 100 baiza. Foreign currency and travellers cheques can be exchanged at banks, exchange bureaux, hotels and at the airport. Outside banking hours, moneychangers operate between 4pm and 7pm in the evenings and at weekends. US Dollars are recommended. American Express, MasterCard and Visa credit cards are readily accepted in large shops and hotels and by an increasing number of traders in the souq. Most banks in cities and towns have ATMs.
All visitors (except those with Gulf Co-Operation Council passports) require a visa to enter Oman. Visas can be obtained on arrival. All visitors require a passport with spare pages valid for six months (or a year for a multiple entry visa), onward or return tickets and all documents needed for the next destination. Gulf States nationals need only their National Identity Card for entry. Visitors with visas for Dubai and Qatar do not need a visa for Oman.
Like all the Gulf States, Oman is considered to be under a high risk of indiscriminate terrorist attacks, particularly against Western interests, therefore vigilance is necessary. Crime, though, is not a problem for visitors, although common sense precautions should be practised. Rental and company vehicles have been vulnerable to robbery in the southern areas of Thumrait, Marmul and Nimr. Women are advised not to wear shorts or scanty clothing in the towns to avoid risk of sexual harassment. It is advised to carry a copy of your passport at all times.
A service charge is usually added to bills, however a "little extra" is appreciated, as the service charge usually never makes it to the attendant. A general rule would be 5% additional to service charge, or between 10 to 15% where service has not been added.