Oman's incredible 1,700 kilometres of golden coastline means barely-touched beaches are almost too easy to find. So make the sand your sanctuary, relax and enjoy the gentle warm waters. The snorkelling and scuba diving is exquisite too; you won't have to go far to find coral teeming with clown and parrot fish, squirting sea cucumbers, and sometimes turtles and rays.
With awesome sand dunes rising to nearly 200 metres, Oman's vast deserts still include unexplored terrain. They make a truly iconic backdrop for camel treks and Arabian nights under the stars or enjoying a barbecue meal in a traditional Bedouin tent. Less relaxing but totally thrilling, dune bashing and quad bike safaris are guaranteed fun for adrenaline junkies.
Watched over by mountains and old forts, Oman's capital is a fascinating slice of Arabia's old and new. Explore the treasure trove of Muttrah Souq, its alleyways crammed with jewel-coloured lanterns and intricate jewellery. Gaze at the Sultan's Palace, picnic on Qurum Beach, and stroll along the waterfront on the crescent-shaped Muttrah Corniche, passing mosque domes and dhow boats in the harbour.
Oman's quiet villages can feel like places where time has stood still. This is where you will find the traditional, historic ways of Omani life, and see how people have adapted to the rugged mountains and arid deserts around them. Discover mud buildings, stone houses barely decipherable in the cliffs, mountain-slope agriculture, and remote villages only reachable by boat.
There are a number of carriers offering flights to Oman from the UK.
Direct Carriers: Oman Air offers a direct service to Muscat from London Heathrow.
Indirect Carriers: Emirates, British Airways, Etihad Airways, Gulf Air and Qatar Airways all offer indirect services with a stop over in the Middle East.
Departure Tax: An international departure tax of OMR3 must be paid when departing Oman.
No specific vaccinations required
Take lightweight clothes throughout the year, with a few layers for cooler winter evenings, trips into the mountains, and over-the-top air-conditioning. Women should cover shoulders and cleavage, and a scarf or pashmina is handy for covering the head when visiting mosques. Both sexes should avoid short shorts, sticking to those that fall below the knee; trousers are even better. There is no need to bring an electrical adapter; Oman uses British style sockets.
Cool, lightweight clothing in natural fabrics like cotton or linen;
A scarf or pashmina;
Trousers or shorts or skirts that fall below the knee;
Long sleeved cover-ups for evening;
Tops that cover upper arms, shoulders, and cleavage;
Comfortable walking shoes or sandals for exploring;
High factor sunscreen;
A wide-brimmed hat to keep the sun off your face;
The official currency is the Omani Rial. You can buy them in the UK and there are no restrictions on the amount you can take in and out of Oman. If you need to get cash when you get there, UK pounds are easily exchanged in banks, currency exchanges and large hotels.
All major credit cards are accepted in Oman. Cash machines are widely available and traveller's cheques are easily exchanged in the major towns and cities.
Tipping tends not to be expected but it is becoming more common. Add 10 percent to your bill in restaurants with licensed bars, but there's no need in more casual eateries.
June - August
Making good use of marinades, herbs, and spices, Omani food is lightly flavoured rather than spicy. Typical tastes include onion, garlic and lime, lamb, chicken, fish and mutton; usually served in generous portions. The two main religious festivals, Eid Al Fitr and Eid Al Adha, bring with them special dishes central to the celebrations. And succulent dates, served with rich Arabic coffee, are the perfect symbol of Omani hospitality.
Oman’s most famous dish, and certainly its most elaborate, shuwa is meat cooked for up to two days in an underground clay oven. Traditionally, whole villages prepare a cow, goat, or sheep with a marinade of herbs and spices like red pepper, garlic, cumin, and coriander, and wrap it in banana leaves. This prized dish is often served for the Islamic religious festival Eid.
Thanks to the rich pickings of the warm Indian Ocean, Oman has plenty of fresh-caught seafood. If you see this dish on the menu, it is your chance to try tender spit-roasted kingfish served on a bed of zesty lemon rice.
Halwa is a sticky sweet made from dates or sugar and fragrant rosewater, cardamom, and saffron. Lokhemat also makes good use of cardamom; these balls of flour and yeast are flavoured with the aromatic spice and deep fried, then served with sweet lime and cardamom syrup.
The amount you'll spend on holiday in Oman is likely to be less than you would pay in many destinations in the Middle East. On average, a three course meal in a mid-range restaurant will set you back around 10 Omani Rial, a bottled beer is about two Omani Rial, and a 1.5 litre bottle of water is around 20 Baiza (pence).
For men, the Omani national dress is an ankle-length, long-sleeved, collarless tunic called a dishdasha, usually white in colour. Traditionally, the dishdasha would be accessorised with a kind of turban called a muzzar, a cane or stick called an assa, and a ceremonial curved dagger called a khanjar. Women wear a dress worn over trousers and a headdress called a lihaf, all in vibrant colours. Traditionally, they would complete the outfit with wooden shoes and gold jewellery.
Omanis are very polite and formal in public, so be sure to make a proper greeting before asking a question or starting a discussion. In this Muslim country most people pray five times a day and observe dawn-to-dusk fasting during the month of Ramadan, when it is also against the law to eat, drink, or smoke in public during daylight hours.
When it comes to etiquette, keep the following in mind:
• Between members of the same sex, the usual greeting is a light handshake and sometimes a kiss on the nose or both cheeks. Placing your right hand on your heart after shaking hands is a sign of respect. There is little to no touching between men and women during greeting. Men should wait for the woman to initiate, if at all.
• Rather than getting straight to the point, use a more indirect communication style. Avoiding confrontation and saving face is very important.
• Silences are common during conversations.
• Men and women should not touch or be seen alone together in public.
• Men and women should avoid staring directly into the eyes of someone of the opposite sex. A simple smile can also be misinterpreted.
• It is common to see men holding hands as it is a sign of close friendship.
• Women should keep their arms, legs and heads, covered and avoid tight-fitting or revealing clothes.
• Always use your right hand to eat, give, receive, touch, or shake hands with another person. The left hand is considered unclean.
• Avoid pointing any part of your foot at another person, showing the sole of your foot or using it to move anything.
• Do not take photos of people without their permission.
• Everything stops during prayer times, which occur five times a day (4.30 am, 12 pm, between 2 pm and 4 pm, sunset, and an hour after sunset).
• It is illegal to use aggressive, obscene or abusive language or gestures in public.
• Homosexuality is illegal and punishable by imprisonment.
Oman has plenty to keep you busy, but perhaps the most surprising is the wealth of creatures to be found on land and in the surrounding waters. Nature reserves are home to leopards, oryxes, gazelles, ibexes, desert foxes, and wild cats. And thanks to its location at the hub of Africa, Middle East, and Asia, Oman attracts more than 400 birds throughout the year, including eagles from September to November. Whales, dolphins, turtles, and colourful tropical fish make Oman's warm waters their home.
Bird watchers flock to these wetlands, known as the eagle capital of the world, to see over 280 different species. Barr Al-Hickman, one of Oman’s 16 national nature reserves, is the best place to see flamingos, spoonbills, and wading birds.
Whale and Dolphin Watching
With 22 species off the coast of Oman, whale and dolphin watching is a regular activity year round. Keep an eye out for orcas, blue, humpback, sperm, tropical, melon-headed, beaked, and pygmy killer whales.
Five of the seven species of sea turtle make the treacherous journey to lay their eggs on Oman’s shores. They hatch 55 days later, when it is possible to watch the tiny turtles clamber to the sea. Breeding reserves include Ras al-Jinz and the Dimaaniyat Islands. July to October is the peak time for turtle watching.