From a health perspective, Oman is a relatively safe country to visit. Vaccinations might be required only for longer-term visitors or those staying in rural areas. There are pharmacies, clinics and good private medical facilities throughout the country. The heat of the country does mean that it is important to drink plenty of water.
Check the Foreign Commonwealth and Development Office travel advice, including the country-specific pages, to get the latest information on travel restrictions, testing and quarantine requirements during the pandemic. Do this on a regular basis as changes can occur where there are rapid increases in case numbers.
There is no risk of yellow fever in Oman. Under International Health Regulations, a yellow fever vaccination certificate is required for travellers over nine months of age arriving from countries with risk of yellow fever transmission such as parts of Sub Saharan Africa and South America. It is also required for travellers having transited for more than 12 hours through an airport of a country with risk of yellow fever transmission.
A valid certificate is active ten days after vaccination and lasts for life. Since 11 July 2016, all countries have to accept that any certificate, no matter how long ago the vaccine was given, must be accepted. If the vaccine is contraindicated then ask your doctor or travel clinic for an exemption certificate and wherever possible obtain a letter from the Oman embassy in your starting country accepting this.
Generally, however, it would be wise to be up to date with childhood vaccines for tetanus, diphtheria, polio, and measles, mumps and rubella. Long-term visitors and expatriate residents are usually advised to have hepatitis A and a course of hepatitis B injections. Rabies is a risk in Oman and has been found in domestic animals. A course of pre-exposure rabies vaccine is also advised for long- term visitors who will be in rural areas as it simplifies any post-exposure treatment if needed. It is best to check with your local clinic several weeks before departure regarding any vaccinations required.
A full list of current travel clinic websites worldwide is available on istm.org. For other journey preparation information, consult Travel Health Pro (UK) or CDC (USA). Information about various medications may be found on Net Doctor. All advice found online should be used in conjunction with expert advice received prior to or during travel.
There is an extensive public health service, which is free to Omanis. Foreigners, however, are expected to pay to use these services. Private medical facilities are excellent, with many well-equipped clinics and hospitals. Cosmetic surgery is widely available, as is laser eye surgery. Travel insurance is advised as medical treatment can be costly for foreigners. Those with specific medical conditions should wear medical alert tags and carry a list of medications related to their condition.
In an emergency, call 9999. There are a number of hospitals with emergency rooms in the Capital Area. The main government hospitals are Al-Nahda in Ruwi, Khoula in Al Wuttayah and The Royal Hospital in Bawshar; the largest private hospital is Muscat Private Hospital Bawshar.
The crime rate in Oman is low and the streets of the Capital Area and other parts of Oman should be safe even for lone travellers, of any gender, after dark. Violent crime is rare, especially against strangers. Non-violent robberies of property are, in general, opportunistic. Usual personal security measures should be taken, including for passport, credit cards and items such as phones and cameras.
Oman is one of the easiest Arab countries for foreign women to travel in without hassle, if their dress and demeanour are appropriate. There is little risk for women in using taxis, buses or hiring a car. In the Capital Area, despite the fact that in Omani culture the hotel bars and private clubs are a male domain, you will find that, broadly, Omanis are chatty, relaxed and helpful. A lone female traveller who acts within local social norms is unlikely to have the difficulty associated with some other regional countries.
The important thing is to wear unprovocative, loose-fitting clothing and to conduct yourself with politeness and friendliness, while making sure that a respectful distance is maintained from men, as proximity might be misunderstood. In general, shaking hands or making physical contact with members of the opposite sex is not polite behaviour and can be misinterpreted. It is the woman’s choice whether to shake a man’s hand and it will not be considered rude if a handshake is not given.
As in many Muslim countries, homosexuality is illegal in Oman. Partners travelling together should be discreet and especially careful not to make overt physical contact with each other. Sharing a twin-bedded room is not unusual between members of the same sex, having the practical benefit of saving money; but if caught engaged in homosexual practices, the penalties include up to three years’ imprisonment.
LGBTQ+ issues are not a polite or normal topic for discussion in social situations with Omanis whether in person or in the media, where the government upholds the attitude of not offending social norms.