For a tantalising window into ancient Arabia – away from the glossy façade of the Emirates - Oman punches well above its weight. It feels inherently authentic, from the waves of sandy desert and remote Bedouin camps, to Muscat with its timeworn mosques and rich cultural heritage.
Omanis have a perpetually sunny disposition too, and you’ll always be welcomed with open arms in the most unassuming of places. As long as you respect the local laws (remember this is an Islamic country), your holiday to Oman will be exceptional, from its dramatic coastlines to the dusty interior. Turn up to any hotel (and there are some superb places to stay here), and you’ll be offered rich coffee and dates on arrival amid the distinct scent of incense. That’s the thing about Oman – the hospitality service here is flawless and they really know how to welcome travellers.
Refrain from offering money to strangers – this will be taken as an insult. Head to the markets and you’ll soon realise it’s a different bartering scene than in, say, Marrakech. Negotiation isn’t as flexible here – try knocking around 10% off of prices in Nizwa and 20% in the souks of Mutrah.
A guide to gratuities: we recommend around 5 OMR (Omani rial) (£10) for a guide, 3 OMR (£6) for drivers; 1 OMR (£2) for taxi drivers and porters. In restaurants, you’re looking at leaving around 5% of the final bill. It’s immeasurably easy to find the local currency, too, since local distributors are found all over Oman.
Before arriving in Oman, British nationals need to apply for an e-visa from the Royal Oman Police portal. If you’re travelling as a tourist, you can apply for an unsponsored visa. According to the current Foreign Office advice, Oman is generally safe and secure.
This Middle Eastern country is off-the-scale beautiful with adventures lurking almost everywhere. Our tip? Always stash your swimming gear and towel into your bag should you chance upon one of Oman’s glittering wadi waterholes or crater swimming pools. Wild swimming here is definitely worth seeking out but do your research before diving straight in: some wadis are prone to flash flooding, and never jump in naked – this being a Muslim country, you must wear swimwear.
Travelling by car is a popular option: the roads in Oman are generally in excellent condition. It’s not unusual to hitch-hike, nor is it uncommon to pick up locals: often they might invite you back to their home, ushering you to sit on one of their ancestral rugs and to drink tea. When you drink, shake the cup from left to right.
As a Muslim country, there are some key things to be aware of: always ensure you wear the appropriate clothing and avoid eating and drinking in public during Ramadan. If you’re taking a photograph of a someone, always ask for their permission.
Fascinating, surprising and enthralling – Oman will be an instant hit.