LANGUAGE: 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. It is recommended to send any official government correspondence in Arabic.
ETIQUETTE: Omanis are renowned for being friendly and accepting of Western culture, but it is recommended that visitors be respectful of local customs, values and religion. 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.
CURRENCY: Oman’s currency is the Omani rial (OR) and is pegged to the US dollar at OR1:$2.60. One rial comprises 1000 baisa, also written baiza. Banknotes are issued in denominations of 100 baisa, a half-rial (the equivalent of 500 baisa), one-, five-, 10-, 20-, and 50-rial notes. ATMs are widely available across Oman and credit cards are commonly accepted.
TRANSPORT: Taxis are available on the main highway and in popular tourist areas, as well as through taxi apps such as Marhaba, Otaxi, Mwasalat and Careem. Airport taxi prices are set and vary depending on the destination, but city taxis are not metered and a price should be agreed upon beforehand. Buses are relatively new to Muscat; bus terminals are easy to spot around town, and it is possible to take the bus to the city centre from the airport. Car hire is also available at the airport or through car rental offices in Oman’s larger cities.
COMMUNICATIONS: 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. A third mobile operator, Vodafone, is set to begin operations in 2020. Mobile virtual network operator licences have been awarded to other mobile resellers, including FRiENDi, Renna Mobile and TeO. All operators offer SIM cards that are activated within minutes of purchase. Public Wi-Fi networks can be easily accessed in coffee shops. Pre-paid mobile internet is also available, providing immediate web access using 3G and 4G networks.
ELECTRICITY: Oman’s electrical outlets are 220-240 V, 50 Hz. UK-style three-pronged plugs are used in a number of facilities; however, the European two-pronged type of plugs are also widely used.
VISA: Nationals of 69 countries, including Australia, Canada, EU member states, the UK and the US, can easily obtain a wide range of visa options online. In addition, visa rules for nationals from India, China, Russia and Iran have been eased. Visa options range from single entry for 10 days, to multiple entries over 365 days, and the costs range from OR5 ($13) to OR50 ($130).
WORKING HOURS: 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.
DRESS: A variety of dress styles can be found in Oman.
Men commonly 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 also as formal headwear). Meanwhile, women’s dress differs depending on the region, but generally consists of a long dress and a headscarf. Modesty is recommended for visitors in order to respect local customs. Business suits or the equivalent are the norm for visiting Western businesspeople. Women should cover their legs well below the knees in all public places.