With its rich history, stunning landscapes, and unique culture, Muscat is a must-visit destination for anyone traveling to the Arabian Peninsula. But before you pack your bags and head to this fascinating city, you should know a few things to make your visit easy and stress-free. From the best time to visit and how to get around to safety and budget, this article will provide you with all the essential information you need to know before visiting Muscat, Oman.
So with no further ado, here’s what you need to know before visiting Muscat:
Visa for Oman
Citizens of GCC countries (the Kingdom of Bahrain, the State of Kuwait, the State of Qatar, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates) do not require visas to enter Oman. Nationals of many countries around the world (including the majority of European countries) can get a 14-day free entry visa upon arrival in Oman at the airport or at the borders.
Please check with your local embassy or online to make sure whether you need a visa before your arrival. I usually do a quick Google search and then verify the information on local authorities’ websites.
Getting to Muscat, Oman
There are direct flights to Muscat from all major airports in the Middle East, Europe, and South Asia. You could also look into the alternative of flying into Dubai or Abu Dhabi and then getting a quick 45-minute flight to Muscat.
Outside Muscat International Airport
There is also a direct bus available between Muscat and Dubai, which on average, takes about 6 hours. Many people choose to also visit Muscat by driving from the UAE.
Getting around Muscat, Oman
To get around Muscat, visitors rely on taxis, rental cars, and public transportation.
Getting around Muscat by public transportation:
Muscat does not have a good public transportation system; they only have buses, and those buses don’t cover the entire Muscat – no wonder all local people have cars. The public buses are operated by Mwasalat (they also offer connections to other Oman cities) and have stops at major locations along the main Sultan Qaboos Highway and several other vital locations. The price for a ticket depends on the distance and you pay directly to the driver. Still, bus tickets are quite cheap. Bus routes and timetables can be found on the Mwasalat website. Timetables are also available at bus stops, but note that they are not always on time.
There are several public buses that run from and to the airport.
Getting around Muscat by taxi:
The best way to get around Muscat by taxi is by downloading one of the taxi apps; I recommend OTaxi. OTaxi offers different vehicles depending on your budget. We always took the economy. One thing to note that we noticed was that when we were ordering a taxi from our hotel, there was always only a luxury option available; however, we started to choose the location on the map instead (not set as a hotel) and we were able then to choose a car as per our budget. I still found the taxis in Oman to be reasonably priced.
Renting a car in Muscat, Oman
Since Oman doesn’t have the best public transportation system, renting a car in Muscat is usually one of the most convenient ways to get around the city and travel around the country. Visitors to Oman can rent a car and drive with a valid international driving license or a license from their home country, as long as it is written in English and includes a picture.
There are several car rental companies in Muscat, both international and local. We didn’t rent a car, so I can not give a first-hand recommendation, but if there is a company that you’ve been happy with in the past, then maybe go with it.
In Oman, cars drive on the right side of the road. It’s important to be familiar with the traffic rules and regulations, as they may differ from those in your home country. Gas is relatively inexpensive in Oman, and there are many petrol stations throughout the city and country.
Is Muscat a walkable city?
No. Muscat is quite spread out and different places of interest are too far away from one another. However, there are certain areas of the city that you could explore on foot. Muttrah Corniche and Old Muscat are more pedestrian-friendly and offer a pleasant walking experience. Additionally, there are some parks and nature reserves in the city that are suitable for walking and hiking.
Is Muscat worth visiting?
Yes, Muscat is definitely worth visiting! I find the city to be absolutely fascinating. Muscat is home to many sites that provide a glimpse into Oman’s rich history and culture. The city is also surrounded by stunning natural beauty, from the rugged mountains to the sparkling Arabian Sea. One can enjoy scenic drives, hiking trails, and beaches. People are also friendly and the cuisine is mouth-watering.
How many days to spend in Muscat?
I recommend spending at least 2-3 days in Muscat to explore the city’s main attractions. However, there are really plenty of things to do and see in Muscat that you could spend longer than that and still find new places to explore every day. We stayed a total of 7 days and still couldn’t cover everything I had in mind. For inspiration, I made this list of my favorite things to do in Muscat.
But yes, in my opinion, a minimum of 2-3 days for Muscat and adding more time if you plan to take day trips to explore other parts of the country, like taking a day trip to historic Nizwa.
What is the best time to visit Muscat?
The best time to visit Muscat is the winter season when the temperatures are pleasant, in the low twenties. The winter months that are great for visiting Muscat fall between the months of November and March. I visited Muscat at the end of January and the weather was perfect for sightseeing and hiking.
Another thing you must consider when planning to visit Muscat is the holy month of Ramadan. As a Muslim country, Oman observes Ramadan. The time of Ramadan changes from one year to the next, so check the calendar beforehand. If you only plan to explore natural attractions, you could visit during Ramadan. If you want to visit different museums, rely on public transportation, dine out for breakfast and lunch, etc., you should avoid visiting Muscat during the month of Ramadan.
Where to stay in Muscat
Muscat is a very spread-out city, and picking the right accommodation location is crucial. The most popular areas to stay at in Muscat are:
- Muttrah: Located along the coast of the Gulf of Oman, the historic district of Muttrah is known for its bustling souq (marketplace), where you can find a wide variety of goods, including textiles, spices, jewelry, and traditional Omani handicrafts. Muttrah is home to several historical landmarks, including the Muttrah Fort and the Sultan’s Palace, which are worth visiting for those interested in Oman’s rich cultural heritage. Additionally, the Muttrah Corniche, a waterfront promenade, is a popular attraction in the area, offering beautiful sea views and a pleasant pedestrian walk.
- Ruwi: Situated in the heart of the city, Ruwi is known as one of the busiest areas in Muscat. Ruwi is home to diverse businesses, including banks, shopping centers, cheaper hotels, and a wide range of budget-friendly Indian and Pakistani restaurants. It is also a transportation hub, with the Ruwi Bus Station and the Ruwi Taxi Stand located in the area.
- Al Khuwair: This is considered one of Muscat’s most modern and vibrant areas. Al Khuwair is also home to various businesses, including hotels, shopping centers, restaurants, and cafes, making it a popular destination for locals and tourists alike. The most notable landmark in Al Khuwair is the Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque. Al Khuwair is neighboring Qurum, which is next on the list.
- Qurum: A coastal neighborhood popular among ex-pats for its beautiful beaches and upscale residential areas. One of the main highlights of Qurum is its stunning coastline, which is lined with white sandy beaches and crystal-clear waters. The Qurum Beach is a popular spot for swimming, sunbathing, and watersports. In addition to the beach, Qurum is also home to the Royal Opera House – a world-class performing arts venue hosting various cultural events throughout the year.
*As places of interest and attractions are also spread out, regardless of where you choose to stay, you might be close to some but will still be away from others.
Accommodation in Muscat
There are no hostels in Muscat. You could book your stay at a hotel, guest house, or Airbnb. There is also a big and active Couchsurfing community.
Safety in Muscat, Oman
Being neighboured by Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, it is normal for people to worry whether it is safe to visit Muscat and Oman in general. But seriously, Oman is one of the safest countries in the world. Street crime practically doesn’t exist and any other type of crime is basically unheard of. There are no pickpocketers or scammers roaming the streets looking for tourist victims.
Solo female travel in Muscat
I visited Muscat with my boyfriend, so I didn’t have a full solo female travel experience in Oman. However, there were a few times when I went out alone (even during the night to buy myself some late-night snacks), and not even once I felt unsafe on my own. As a Western woman, you might get some stares occasionally, but rest assured that you’re safe and nothing will happen to you.
Muscat for couples
I think that many people still think that everywhere in the Arab world, public displays of affection, such as hugging, kissing, or holding hands, are not accepted. And while for some countries that is true, it is not, particularly the case for Oman. You can walk around Muscat holding hands; no one will see this as offensive. Modern local couples also hold hands and occasionally give each other a hug or a kiss.
How to dress in Muscat?
Oman is one of the more tolerant Muslim countries in the region, but it is still conservative. And while women are not expected to cover their hair, they should still dress modestly in public areas, especially at religious sites. Avoid wearing shorts, tank tops, or revealing clothing.
Visiting the Royal Opera House in Muscat
If you decide to buy a ticket and watch an opera or another cultural show at the Royal Opera House of Oman, you should pack suitable clothing. The Royal Opera House follows a strict formal dress code – no jeans, shirts, or tennis shoes are allowed. Men must wear a suit or a jacket with a tie or the traditional dishdasha (a long robe), while women are recommended to wear a dress or a skirt suit (nothing that reveals the shoulders and knees). Women could also wear an abaya.
However, it is always best to check with the specific event or performance you will be attending, as some may have a slightly different dress code.
Language in Muscat
The official language of Oman is Arabic; however, English is widely spoken as well. Almost all signs on the road, restaurant menus, and generally anything publicly written is available in both Arabic and English. Many of those who work in the service industry – hotels, restaurants, etc. – are foreigners who primarily communicate in English. Most locals also have good English, so you won’t have any problems getting around and communicating with people.
Of course, it’s always a good idea to learn a couple of words and phrases in the local language.
Money in Muscat
The local currency is the Omani Rial (OMR). 1 Omani Rial is equivalent to about 2.3 EUR / 2.6 USD. 1 Omani Rial can be divided into 1000 Baisa.
You can exchange your money in the money exchange shops around Muscat – all major currencies are accepted. Note that the course is different for new and old dollar bills.
ATMs are also widely available and you can pay almost everywhere by card (Visa, MasterCard, American Express). However, some small shops, for example, only take cash, so make sure to have some change.
How much does it cost to visit Muscat?
The cost of visiting Muscat can vary depending on several factors, such as your travel style, accommodation choices, and what you choose to do, where to eat, and how to get around. Here are some estimated costs to give you an idea:
- Flights: The cost of flights to Muscat can vary depending on your location, time of year, and airline. On average, a round-trip ticket from Europe to Muscat will cost between 350 to 500 EUR. For example, I flew to Muscat from Colombo, Sri Lanka, for 200 EUR and then flew from Muscat back home through Abu Dhabi for around 100 EUR.
- Accommodation: The cost of accommodation in Muscat can range from budget-friendly to luxury. On average, the cost for a mid-range hotel can start from 50 EUR per night for a double room.
- Food and drinks: Omani cuisine is relatively affordable, and visitors can enjoy delicious local meals for as little as 4-10 EUR per meal. Street food starts from 1.50-2 EUR. Dining in a mid-range restaurant can cost around 30-50 EUR for two people.
- Transportation: As I mentioned above, taxis are a popular and convenient way to get around Muscat, and fares can range from 5 to 20 EUR depending on the distance. For example, the cost of our trip from the hotel where we stayed in Ruwi to the airport was 15 EUR. The average price for a bus ticket is around 1 EUR.
- Activities: Visiting Muscat’s historic sites, such as the Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque, is generally free. However, some other sites have a small fee. Activities like desert safaris or dolphin-watching tours can cost between 50 to 100 EUR per person.
We watched a show at the Royal Opera House (outside) for about 8 EUR per person.
Staying connected in Muscat
I always buy and recommend that others buy a local SIM card when traveling. In Oman, SIM cards are easy to get and reasonably priced. You can get your SIM card directly at the airport (multiple SIM operators to choose from). I’ve heard that Omantel provides the best coverage. We got Ooredoo and we’re satisfied with it. We paid around 12 EUR per SIM card for a 7-day package.
Electricity in Muscat
The electricity voltage in Oman is 220 volts. Oman uses Type G British standard electricity socket outlets. Depending on where you are traveling from and your electronic devices, you might need a converter and/or an adapter to use electricity sockets in Oman.
And that’s all folks. I hope that this article gave you a good overview of what you need to know before visiting Muscat so you can prepare well for your trip. If you have any additional questions or comments, please let me know in the comment section below, and don’t hesitate to contact me.
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