When wadi bashing in Wihibah Sands, it is vital to have a guide with demonstrable desert driving experience © Oman Ministry of Tourism
With Dr Felicity Nicholson
From a health perspective, Oman is a relatively safe country to visit. Vaccinations are usually 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.
There is no risk of yellow fever in Oman. However, the only compulsory vaccine for visitors is the yellow fever vaccine if you have been in an area where yellow fever is endemic, such as sub-Saharan Africa or South America, in the last six days. A valid certificate is then required, which 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 to accept this.
Generally, however, it would be wise to be up to date with childhood vaccines for tetanus, diphtheria, polio, and measles, mumps and rubella. Hepatitis A would also be recommended. Long-term visitors and expatriate residents are usually advised to have a hepatitis B injection. A course of pre-exposure rabies vaccine is also advised for long-term visitors who will be in rural areas. It is best to check with your local clinic several weeks before departure.
Travel clinics and health information
A full list of current travel clinic websites worldwide is available on www.istm.org. For other journey preparation information, consult www.nathnac.org. Information about various medications may be found on www.netdoctor.co.uk/travel.
The crime rate in Oman is low and the streets of the Capital Area are safe even for lone travellers after dark.
Travellers with a disability
Oman is a relatively safe travel destination and the crime rate is low. However, it is worthwhile remembering that, as a disabled person, you are more vulnerable. Stay aware of who is around you and where your bags are, especially during car transfers and similar. These activities often draw a crowd, and the confusion creates easy pickings for an opportunist thief.
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 the hotel bars and private clubs are a male domain (in Omani culture), you will find that, broadly, Omanis are chatty, relaxed and helpful. For a lone female traveller, Omani men (and for that matter Omani women, who are increasingly to be found independently in public places) can make excellent, respectful and supportive company. The important thing is to wear unprovocative loose-fitting clothing and to conduct yourself with politeness and friendliness, but making sure that a respectful distance is maintained. In general, shaking hands or making physical contact with members of the opposite sex is not polite behaviour and will probably be misinterpreted.
Gay and lesbian travellers
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. If caught engaged in homosexual practices, especially with a local Omani, the penalties for non-Omanis range from deportation to imprisonment. It is not a polite or normal topic for discussion in any social situation with Omanis.
Travelling with children
Like all Arabs, Omanis love children and, as a result, hotels and restaurants welcome them warmly, though high chairs are a rarity. Children love the desert, the mountains and the beaches, and their greatest danger will be sunburn, so take care to protect them properly. There is a growing number of fast-food outlets, and many restaurants offer child menus or child discounts. Supermarkets and chemists sell nappies, as well as baby food in jars and packets.