Oman is one of the most enchanting and welcoming countries in the Middle East. Although it has only opened up to tourism relatively recently, the Sultanate has much to offer visitors - from the spectacular Al-Hajar Mountains and the charming capital, Muscat, in the north of the country, to the lush southern region around Salalah. [See Oman itinerary ideas]
Turreted forts and watchtowers form striking landmarks up and down the Gulf of Oman and Arabian Sea coastlines. More than 500 forts were built to protect the country from invaders, but nowadays the country is peaceful and accessible. The distinctive Omani curved daggers called khanjars worn on the belts of men in traditional dishdashas are purely decorative these days.
Oman retains a distinctly Arabian feel, in contrast to the modern metropolises in other parts of the region. Instead of glass and concrete, you'll find traditional whitewashed buildings and the beautiful domes and minarets of mosques - the result of the Sultan's strictly enforced ban on high-rise structures. Labyrinth souks are also waiting to be explored, colourful market places where exotic spices and local handicrafts are bought and sold.
Some of the region's best luxury hotels fringe the rugged Oman coastline. They've been built with their environment firmly in mind, as the sandy bays and warm waters are home to abundant bird and marine life. Oman has some of the most important sea turtle nesting beaches in the world.
Inland, rare Arabian Oryx roam the shifting sands of the Empty Quarter. This divine desert landscape is home to the Bedouin and extends into neighbouring Saudi Arabia. Its sands and people inspired the travels and writings of explorer Wilfred Thesiger and continue to inspire those who venture into Oman's interior on guided desert tours.
When to go
Oman is a year-round destination, but bear in mind you're heading to a desert region. Summers are very hot and humid, with temperatures during the day reaching 38°C and only dropping at night to just below 30°C. Spring and autumn are also hot, with daytime temperatures from 29 to 35°C, dropping at night to around 21°C. Winters are cooler and less humid, with typical day and night temperatures of 24°C and 16°C respectively.
Capital - Muscat
Size - 309,500 sq km
Language - Arabic (English widely spoken)
Population - 2.9 million (2012)
Religion - 75% Islam (Ibadi 50%, Sunni 25%), minority Shi'ite Islam, Hindu, Buddhist, Sikh, Christian and others
Currency - 1 rial = 1,000 baiza
Time zone - GMT + 4 hours
Flight time - London Heathrow to Muscat direct from 7 hours 15 mins
Ramadan is a rewarding time to visit as your get a flavour of local festivities and traditions - but expect the odd practical inconvenience due to businesses being open for short hours or not at all, and the requirement not to eat or drink (at least in pubic) during daylight hours. The daily breaking of the fast at dusk brings a round of feasting and socialising, which becomes particularly animated on Eid al-Fitr.
The main event on the cultural calendar is the Muscat Festival, which runs from late January to late February and includes a wide mix of traditional arts and crafts at the Oman Heritage and Culture Village in Qurum Park, concerts at the Qurum Park Amphitheatre and food and fashion shows.
The annual Khareef (monsoon) Festival at Salalah runs right through the monsoon season from 21 June to 21 September and features cultural and sporting events - and plentiful shopping promotions.
British citizens can get a visa on arrival at any land, sea or air entry port. A one-month combined tourist/business visa costs OMR20.
Please note that entry requirements and visa regulations can change often and at short notice. We can provide general information about the passport and visa requirements for your trip and this information may be included after the itinerary section of your quotation. Your specific passport and visa requirements and other immigration requirements are your responsibility and you should confirm these with the relevant Embassies and/or Consulates. Neither we nor the principal(s) or supplier(s) accept any responsibility if you cannot travel because you have not complied with any passport, visa or immigration requirements. Please call your WEXAS specialist if you wish to discuss entry requirements.
Passports must be valid for a minimum of 6 months from the date of entry.
The Omani rial (OMR) is made up of 1,000 baisa and is officially tied to the US dollar at OMR1 = US$2.58. Banknotes are issued in denominations of 100 baiza, ½, 1, 5, 10, 20 and 50 OMR, and at current rates the Omani 'fiver' is worth about £8. Coins are issued in 5, 10, 25, 50 and 100 baisa, ¼ and ½ OMR.
ATMs can be found almost everywhere in Muscat and other major towns, though some do not accept foreign cards. If you are caught short, money changers throughout the country will accept cash or travellers' cheques.
Cash and EFTPOS
Credit and debit cards are widely accepted at hotels, resorts and in shopping malls, but expect to pay cash in traditional shops, bus and train stations and smaller restaurants.
Oman can be fairly pricey as luxury pretty much comes as standard in the hospitality industry. Expect to pay up to OMR80 (£130) for a double room per night in a 4-star hotel. Dinner at a mid-range restaurant (without wine) will cost around OMR15 (£24) per person. Car rental costs from OMR30 to 70 (£48 to £113) per day for a 4x4.