Oman travel guide
Camel treks, desert camping and 4-wheel drive safaris through mighty canyons are just some of the adventures awaiting visitors to Oman. From frankincense plantations and atmospheric souks that speak of vanished centuries to gleaming modern cities and 5-star hotels fronting on to perfect beaches, Oman is everything you would want from Arabia.
What marks this desert kingdom out from its neighbours is a complex history of interaction with the outside world. From the ports of Muscat and Salahat, Omani traders roamed across the Arabian Sea, pushing back the borders of the Portuguese empire in Africa and founding trading outposts as far afield as Zanzibar and Mozambique, before aligning with the British after the abolition of slavery.
The result, thirteen centuries later, is an outwardly conservative, but strikingly open Islamic society, with a firm belief in the importance of its own traditions but a strong acceptance of other cultures. Many regard Oman as the most welcoming of all the Arabic nations; this is a place where foreigners are invited to sit and sip tea and eat dates out of genuine hospitality, rather than as a preamble to selling souvenirs.
The ruling sultans have taken great pains to preserve the traditional crafts and customs of their ancient civilisation, and the cities of Oman feel much more historic and lived-in than the skyscraper cities appearing elsewhere in the Gulf. The borders of Oman are guarded by a staggering 2,000 desert fortresses, most meticulously restored. It’s easy here to feel transported back to the days of Arabian Nights.
Along the coastline, enigmatic dhows still sail from port to port, while rugged wadis (river valleys) snake into the interior, studded with date-palm plantations, dramatic rock formations and hidden pools. Beyond, immaculately tarmacked highways cross the desert to neighbouring Yemen, Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates, though many chose to fly to avoid endless drives through barren desert scenery.
More than anything though, Oman is a place to feel safe and at ease. The Omanis are gracious hosts, and visitors will find traditional Arabian hospitality and Islamic culture at its very best.
309,500 sq km (119,499 sq miles).
4,654,471 (UN estimate 2016).
10.6 per sq km.
Sultan and Prime Minister Qaboos bin Said Al Said since 1970.
Sultan and Prime Minister Qaboos bin Said Al Said since 1970.
Last updated: 22 April 2018
The travel advice summary below is provided by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in the UK. 'We' refers to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. For their full travel advice, visit www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice.
There may be protests and demonstrations in the region in response to military action taken by the US, France and the UK in Syria, following the chemical weapons attack in Douma on 7 April. You should follow local media and be alert to local and regional developments that might trigger public disturbances. You should avoid any demonstrations and follow the instructions of the local authorities.
The British Embassy has received reports that some travellers are being redirected to other border crossing points when trying to use the Hatta crossing to cross the UAE/Oman border. If you’re planning to travel by road across the UAE/Oman border, you may wish to consider taking an alternative route and allow extra time for your journey. For more information, contact Immigration directly on (Oman) +968 26849924.
Most visits to Oman are trouble-free.
You should maintain a high level of security awareness and take care in public places and on the roads. Avoid large crowds and demonstrations.
Terrorists are likely to try to carry out attacks in Oman.
Piracy remains a threat in the Gulf of Aden and the Indian Ocean.
If you’re abroad and you need emergency help from the UK government, contact the nearest British embassy, consulate or high commission.
Safety and security
If you are a visitor you can drive a rental car using your UK driving licence (both parts must be shown). If you are applying for residence in Oman you can also drive on a UK driving licence until your residency permit is issued. After that, you will need to apply for an Omani driving licence within 6 weeks of receiving your residence card. Residents may find that a UK driving licence is not deemed valid for insurance purposes if an accident occurs.
Driving is on the right. If you are involved in a major road traffic accident you must stay with your vehicle and call the Royal Oman Police (ROP) on 9999. If you are involved in a minor accident, it may not be necessary to call the police, but you must follow the procedures set out on the ROP website. You must keep a Minor Road Traffic Accident form in your car. You can get one from the ROP website or from your insurance company. Car rental companies are responsible for keeping forms in their cars.
Driving can be dangerous outside Muscat; there is a risk of hitting wandering camels and goats on the road. Rainfall can cause sudden and severe flooding in dry riverbeds and on roads that cross them.
The standard of Omani roads is generally good. Driving standards in Oman are not always as disciplined as those in the UK, and the rate of traffic accidents in Oman is significantly higher.
The Omani authorities strictly enforce traffic laws, and there are strong punishments for traffic offences, including fines of up to OMR3000 or jail sentences of up to three years. Seatbelts must be worn by all passengers in a vehicle, and child car seats are mandatory for all children under 4 years of age. It’s illegal to use a mobile phone whilst driving. There’s zero tolerance towards drink-driving. Speed limits are clearly posted on major roads.
Excursions to the desert and mountains can be dangerous unless you are in an adequately equipped 4x4 vehicle. Always travel in convoy, take a supply of water and a mobile telephone (or satellite phone) and leave a copy of your travel plans with friends or relatives. You should also make sure you’re insured.
Many areas of the Gulf of Aden are highly sensitive. Vessels entering these areas have been detained and inspected, and there have been occasional arrests. You should make careful enquiries before entering these waters or visiting ports. You should also consider how regional tensions may affect your route. Vessels operating in the Gulf of Oman, Northern Arabian Sea, Gulf of Aden and Bab El Mandeb regions may be at increased risk of maritime attack.
Recent piracy attacks off the coast of Somalia and in the Gulf of Aden, highlight that the threat of piracy related activity and armed robbery in the Gulf of Aden and Indian Ocean remains significant. Reports of attacks on local fishing dhows in the area around the Gulf of Aden and Horn of Africa continue. The combined threat assessment of the international Naval Counter Piracy Forces remains that all sailing yachts under their own passage should remain out of the designated High Risk Area or face the risk of being hijacked and held hostage for ransom. For more information and advice, see our Piracy and armed robbery at sea page.
The safety of tourist boats may not be up to UK standards. Make sure life jackets are available for all passengers.
There’s a possibility of unannounced demonstrations throughout the country. You should avoid all demonstrations.
Developments in the Middle East continue to have an impact on local public opinion. You should be aware of local sensitivities on these issues. Follow news reports and be alert to local and regional developments, which might trigger public disturbances.
Terrorists are likely to try to carry out attacks in Oman. Attacks could be indiscriminate, including in places visited by foreigners.
Terrorists continue to issue statements threatening to carry out attacks in the Gulf region. These include references to attacks on western interests, including residential compounds, military, oil, transport and aviation interests as well as crowded places, including restaurants, hotels, beaches, shopping centres and mosques. You should maintain a high level of security awareness, particularly in public places.
There’s a heightened threat of terrorist attack globally against UK interests and British nationals, from groups or individuals motivated by the conflict in Iraq and Syria. You should be vigilant at this time.
Find out more about the global threat from terrorism, how to minimise your risk and what to do in the event of a terrorist attack.
Local laws and customs
Local laws reflect the fact that Oman is an Islamic country. You should respect local traditions, customs, laws and religions at all times and be aware of your actions to ensure that they don’t offend, especially during the holy month of Ramadan or if you intend to visit religious areas. Women should dress modestly in public areas. Clothes should cover the tops of the arms and legs, and underwear should not be visible. You should not wear swimming attire in public areas, except on tourist beaches or swimming pools. Women wearing shorts, or tight-fitting clothes, are likely to attract attention.
In 2018, the holy month of Ramadan is expected to start on 15 May and finish on 14 June. During Ramadan, Muslims fast from dawn to sunset. Eating, drinking, smoking, playing loud music and dancing in public places during daylight hours of Ramadan is strictly forbidden and punishable by law, including for non-Muslims.
Reported cases of sexual assault against foreign women are low. Personal attacks, including sexual assault and rape, are relatively rare, but do happen. Female visitors and residents should take care when walking or travelling alone. You should maintain at least the same level of personal security awareness as you would in the UK.
Hobbies that involve cameras and binoculars like bird watching and plane spotting may be misunderstood - particularly if you are near military sites, government buildings and airports.
The use of bad language and rude gestures is considered an obscene act, including whilst driving or on social media. Public displays of affection may get you into trouble with the police.
Carry a copy of your passport, or your Omani ID if you are a resident, at all times for identification and keep the original document in a safe place.
If you are subject to a travel ban, involved in legal proceedings, fraud, bounced cheques, have unpaid debt or are a child subject to a custody dispute, you may be prevented from leaving the country. You could be fined and/or detained if you overstay or fail to extend your legal residency. You can be fined up to OMR10 per day up to a maximum of OMR500 for overstaying.
Foreign nationals must pay all outstanding debts and traffic fines before leaving the country. If you haven’t paid fines before you leave you may experience delays or be prevented from leaving the country. You can pay fines at the airport.
Importing drugs and pornography into Oman is illegal and can lead to imprisonment.
The penalties for drug trafficking, smuggling and possession, of even residual amounts, of drugs are severe. In some cases, the death penalty could apply. There is no distinction in Omani law between ‘soft’ and ‘hard’ drugs; both are treated with equal severity.
Licensed hotels and restaurants sell alcohol. If you live in Oman, you can get a licence to drink alcohol at home from the Royal Oman police. It’s an offence to drink, or be drunk, in public. The legal age for drinking alcohol is 21.
Flying drones or remote-controlled flying devices without a valid licence is against the law.
It’s against the law to live together or share the same hotel room with someone of the opposite sex to whom you aren’t married or closely related.
Homosexuality is illegal in Oman. See our information and advice page for the LGBT community before you travel.
The information on this page covers the most common types of travel and reflects the UK government’s understanding of the rules currently in place. Unless otherwise stated, this information is for travellers using a full ‘British Citizen’ passport.
The authorities in the country or territory you’re travelling to are responsible for setting and enforcing the rules for entry. If you’re unclear about any aspect of the entry requirements, or you need further reassurance, you’ll need to contact the embassy, high commission or consulate of the country or territory you’re travelling to.
You should also consider checking with your transport provider or travel company to make sure your passport and other travel documents meet their requirements.
British nationals need a visa to enter Oman. You should apply for an e-visa before you travel. Applications can be made through the Royal Oman Police portal. If you’re travelling as a tourist, you can apply for an unsponsored visa. For all other visas, please follow the guidance on the portal.
Your passport should be valid for a minimum period of 6 months from the date of entry into Oman.
Yellow fever certificate requirements
Check whether you need a yellow fever certificate by visiting the National Travel Health Network and Centre’s TravelHealthPro website.
UK Emergency Travel Documents
UK Emergency Travel Documents are valid for entry, exit and transit in Oman however they must have at least 6 months’ remaining validity. Residents and tourists will need to get an exit stamp before leaving. This can cause delays and may prevent you from leaving on your booked flight. Check your passport carefully to make sure it’s legal and valid so that you don’t need an Emergency Travel Document.
Travelling with medication
Some prescribed and over the counter medicines available in the UK are banned substances in Oman. If you are travelling to Oman with prescription drugs, carry a copy of the prescription. For further information, check with Oman’s Ministry of Health well in advance of travel.
The border with Yemen remains open, but you may experience delays, before being considered for entry into Oman. The Omani border authorities may ask for proof of onward travel out of Oman before allowing you to enter the country. You’ll also be expected to be able to cover the cost of accommodation, insurance and onward travel. The UK government’s ability to help is limited.
While Oman’s climate is generally dry, heavy rains do fall, usually in the winter. Flash floods can cause injuries and deaths. Cyclones from the Indian Ocean do occasionally make landfall in Oman in the summer months. Check local weather forecasts and seek advice about travelling conditions particularly if you are considering any off-road travel or adventure tourism, including to Wadi areas (dry riverbeds).
Visit your health professional at least 4 to 6 weeks before your trip to check whether you need any vaccinations or other preventive measures. Country specific information and advice is published by the National Travel Health Network and Centre on the TravelHealthPro website and by NHS (Scotland) on the fitfortravel website. Useful information and advice about healthcare abroad is also available on the NHS Choices website.
Healthcare facilities in Oman are similar to those in the UK. British nationals are required to use the private healthcare system. Visitors who don’t have travel insurance or the means to settle any charges may be prevented from leaving the country until the debt is paid. Make sure you have adequate travel health insurance and accessible funds to cover the cost of any medical treatment abroad and repatriation.
If you need emergency medical assistance during your trip, dial 9999 and ask for an ambulance. You should contact your insurance/medical assistance company promptly if you are referred to a medical facility for treatment.
The heat can be extreme and deaths have occurred due to dehydration and heat exhaustion. When hiking in Oman be sure to follow marked hiking trails.
Travel advice help and support
If you’re abroad and you need emergency help from the UK government, contact the nearest British embassy, consulate or high commission. If you need urgent help because something has happened to a friend or relative abroad, contact the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) in London on 020 7008 1500 (24 hours).
Foreign travel checklist
Read our foreign travel checklist to help you plan for your trip abroad and stay safe while you’re there.
The FCO travel advice helps you make your own decisions about foreign travel. Your safety is our main concern, but we can’t provide tailored advice for individual trips. If you’re concerned about whether or not it’s safe for you to travel, you should read the travel advice for the country or territory you’re travelling to, together with information from other sources you’ve identified, before making your own decision on whether to travel. Only you can decide whether it’s safe for you to travel.
When we judge the level of risk to British nationals in a particular place has become unacceptably high, we’ll state on the travel advice page for that country or territory that we advise against all or all but essential travel. Read more about how the FCO assesses and categorises risk in foreign travel advice.
Our crisis overseas page suggests additional things you can do before and during foreign travel to help you stay safe.
Refunds and cancellations
If you wish to cancel or change a holiday that you’ve booked, you should contact your travel company. The question of refunds and cancellations is a matter for you and your travel company. Travel companies make their own decisions about whether or not to offer customers a refund. Many of them use our travel advice to help them reach these decisions, but we do not instruct travel companies on when they can or can’t offer a refund to their customers.
For more information about your rights if you wish to cancel a holiday, visit the Citizen’s Advice Bureau website. For help resolving problems with a flight booking, visit the website of the Civil Aviation Authority. For questions about travel insurance, contact your insurance provider and if you’re not happy with their response, you can complain to the Financial Ombudsman Service.
Registering your travel details with us
We’re no longer asking people to register with us before travel. Our foreign travel checklist and crisis overseas page suggest things you can do before and during foreign travel to plan your trip and stay safe.
Previous versions of FCO travel advice
If you’re a British national and you have a question about travelling abroad that isn’t covered in our foreign travel advice or elsewhere on GOV.UK, you can submit an enquiry. We’re not able to provide tailored advice for specific trips.