Oman is one of our favourite countries and provides a safe experience of Arab culture. Travellers who have visited the UAE previously, may be surprised by the lack of high-rise shiny buildings in Muscat, but Sultan Qaboos' plan is for slow steady development. Whilst it is rare, on visiting the UAE, to meet Emiratis, the Omani people work in normal jobs, so it is likely that your taxi driver will be a local. Although it can be alienating to be surrounded by people in traditional dress, there is no need to feel intimidated. Oman is a relatively relaxed and liberal country and the people are the friendliest and warmest we have experienced.
Oman offers an interesting mix of history, culture and natural beauty. Those who love the Great Outdoors will have plenty to do - from hiking the mountains of Jabal Akhdar to scuba diving off the Musandam Peninsula . Muttrah Souk in old Muscat provides an outlet for shopping addicts, with saffron, silk scarves and incense making ideal mementos or gifts. The beautiful Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque is a peaceful retreat with some of the friendliest people we have ever met - visit to view the architecture or learn more about Islam. If you love animals, Oman offers many opportunities for dolphin watching or seeing nesting turtles - even the Shangri-La has a protected turtle beach. In fact, an estimated 20,000 turtles nest in Oman each year, including the Green, Loggerhead, Hawksbill and Olive Ridley breeds. Leatherback turtles also swim in these waters, but don't nest.
The climate of Oman is very different from the UAE, despite being only 40 minutes flight from Dubai. Although the temperatures are similar, the Sultanate has a much higher average rainfall and cloudy days are more common.
In the summer months (June to September) temperatures on the coast are high (over 40 C). However, this is an ideal time to visit the mountains as it is 10-15 C cooler (although be careful of sunburn in the thin air). At the change of the seasons, humidity increases to an uncomfortable level, when the pull of the mountains becomes even stronger.
The winter months offer comfortable temperatures but an increased chance of rain and clouds. With the lowest daily average temperature of 20 C in January combined with 7 rainy days this month, we would recommend visiting Oman between April and October if you are seeking some time in the sun. Note that in winter, night-time temperatures in the mountains can drop below zero.
The currency of Oman is the Rial, with 1 OMR being worth approximately 2.6 US dollars, 1.6 GBP or just over 2 Euros. Accommodation is much more expensive than may be expected, partly due to the relatively high demand and low number of rooms available; in general, a 5* hotel should be available for around 150 OMR/night in high season (the Intercontinental is cheaper but gets poor reviews) dropping to around 100 OMR in the hot summer months.
For GCC citizens, a 5 OMR visa on arrival covers trips of up to 28 days. Tourists who are citizens of countries in group A (including most of Europe, the USA, Australia) are eligible for a 10-day visa on arrival, also costing 5 OMR. However, if you already hold a visa for Dubai or Qatar, the visa fee is waived. For citizens of other countries, a visa must be arranged in advance through the Embassy.