Arabic is the official language, although English is widely spoken and understood. Business meetings can conducted in English, and road signs usually are in both Arabic and English. English is also often taught in schools as a second language. Local Omanis who still have ties to East Africa, particularly Zanzibar, also speak Swahili. Due to the large expatriate population from the south Asian subcontinent, Hindu and Urdu are also widely spoken. Using English to get around, especially in touristic and urban areas, such as Muscat, Sohar or Salalah, is relatively easy. However, it is recommended that official communication with government offices is done in Arabic.
Although Omanis are known to be hospitable and tolerant, it is still recommended to err on the conservative side when visiting the sultanate. Local customs and religious considerations should always be observed. It is customary for the host to pay in the event you are invited out for a meal. It is also customary that the guest be the first to eat. Handshakes are an acceptable greeting, but businessmen should wait for the woman to extend her hand first.
Traditionally, Omani men wear a simple, ankle length white robe called a dishdasha, with either a kummah (woven cap, worn daily) or a mussah ( turban, used for special occasions and as more formal headwear). Women’s dress varies in each region, but generally consists of a long dress and a headscarf. There are no restrictions on expatriate dress in Oman, although modesty is recommended, and business suits are the norm for Western business men and women.
The Omani rial is pegged to the US dollar at OR1:$2.6008, and is the world’s third-highestvalued currency unit after the Kuwaiti dinar and the Bahraini dinar. One rial is comprised of 1000 baisa, also written baiza. Banknotes are issued in denominations of 100 baisa, 1/2 rial (the equivalent of 500 baisa), 1, 5, 10, 20 and 50 rial notes – each having a distinctive colour and size. ATMs are common, and major credit and debit cards are widely accepted.
Nationals of 69 countries, including Australia, Canada, the EU, UK and US, can easily obtain a one month visa on arrival. Visa costs are fixed at OR20 ($52) for one month or OR5 ($13) for 10 days, and can also be extended upon official approval. Visitors of selected nationalities who arrive from Dubai or Qatar can receive a free three-week visa that is extendable by one week. A fine of OR10 ($26) per day is imposed for staying beyond the validity date of a visa.
Oman’s electrical outlets are 220-240V, 50 Hz. British-style three-pronged plugs are used in a number of facilities. However, most electrical equipment is of the European two-pronged type.
The international telephone country code for Oman is +968. There are two main mobile phone operators, Omantel and Ooredoo, which offer both fixed-line and mobile services. Mobile virtual network operator licences have also been awarded to other mobile resellers, like FRiENDi, Renna Mobile and Samatel. All operators offer SIM cards that can be activated within minutes after purchase. Internet hotspots can be easily found in coffee shops. The mobile operating companies also offer prepaid mobile internet, which guarantees immediate web access over the 3G and 4G networks. This is a simple, relatively inexpensive and time-effective solution, as it generally takes several months to get either a fixed-line or broadband connection installed.
Taxis are the most commonly used means of public transportation in the sultanate. Taxis are usually not metered, so it is important to agree upon the trip’s price beforehand. The airport taxi service prices are set to different areas around town.
In a bid to align itself with the international working week, the public and private sectors have adopted a Sunday-to-Thursday working week. Banks and government offices are open 7. 30AM-2.30PM, while private firms tend to operate 9. 00AM-5.00PM. During the Ramadan holiday, restaurants are closed during the day and working hours modified.
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