Similar to other GCC member states, Arabic is the official language of Oman, although English is widely spoken and understood. Using English to get around or conduct business in the capital, Muscat, or other hubs such as Sohar or Salalah, is relatively easy. Locals do appreciate the exchange of salutations in Arabic, but are very accommodating to non-Arabic speakers. Having historic ties to Zanzibar and a large Asian subcontinent population means that Swahili, Hindu and Urdu are also widely spoken.
English is often taught as a second language and road signs will appear in both English and Arabic. However, it is recommended to send any official government correspondence in Arabic.
Omanis are renowned for being very friendly and accepting of Western culture, although it is of course recommended that the visitor be respectful of local customs, values and religion. Therefore, it is best to err on the conservative side when unsure of local customs. Handshakes are acceptable and widely used in business situations; however, businessmen should wait for the woman to extend her hand first. In social situations it is customary for the host to pay for the meal and allow the guest to eat first.
Oman’s currency is the Omani rial (OR) and is pegged to the dollar at OR1:$2.589. One rial comprises 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. ATMs are widely available across Oman and credit cards are commonly accepted.
Taxis are widely available along the main highway and in popular tourist areas. Airport taxi prices are set and vary depending on the destination. City taxis are easy to hail, although they are not metered and a price should be agreed upon beforehand. Buses are new to Muscat and bus terminals are easy to spot around town. Car hire is available at the airport or through car rental offices in Oman’s cities.
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, including FRiENDi, Renna Mobile and TeO. All operators offer SIM cards that can be activated within minutes of 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.
Oman’s electrical outlets are 220-240V, 50 Hz. UK-style three-pronged plugs are used in a number of facilities; however, most electrical equipment is of the European two-pronged type.
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 extendible by up to one more week.
Both the public and private sectors observe the Sunday-to-Thursday working week. Banks and government offices are open 7.30am-2.30pm, while most private sector companies’ official hours are between 9.00am and 5.00pm.
A variety of dress styles can be found in Oman. Men wear a simple, ankle-length white robe called a dishdasha, with either a kummah (a woven cap, worn daily) or a mussah (a turban, used for special occasions and as more formal headwear). Women’s dress differs depending on the region, but generally consists of a long dress and a headscarf. Modesty is recommended for visitors in respect of local customs. Business suits or the equivalent are the norm for visiting Western businessmen and women.