For a lot of people, Oman is an exotic destination off the beaten track that would usually get missed out of travel plans. For this reason, people are incredibly surprised when they find out that Oman is a country that has received tourists for decades.
Oman hasn’t always been the type of country that has been filled with backpackers and casual travellers but Western group tours weren’t an infrequent thing to see. Both Muscat and Salalah have always been filled with cruise ships from all over the world. However, Oman was an exclusive country with an expensive and small tourism infrastructure. This means safety and security have always been paramount for the Omani tourist industry.
Due to the growth of its neighbouring country Dubai, it is becoming a popular destination for both expats who wish to get away from the intense lifestyle of Dubai, and westerners who wish to explore a traditional and very welcoming Arab country to both men and women.
However, there’s a few things you do have to consider when travelling to Oman, one of these being your safety. Whilst Oman is a very safe country, their culture and way of living is different compared to modern western cultures. In this blog, we will guide you through what to do and not to do and what to keep an eye out for.
IS IT SAFE FOR WESTENERS?
Unfortunately, the majority of concerns about visiting Oman refer to reigns of terror and terrorism, however, they cannot be further away from the truth. Oman is listed as O in the Global Terrorism Index, compiled by the Institute of Economics and Peace. This means that the risk of terrorism is non-existent and is the only country in the Middle East to rank as such.
Oman is a great country, filled with strong relationships across a wide number of countries. Despite Oman being Saudi Arabia’s and UAE’s neighbour, they have a good relationship with Iran, and never wanted to participate in the Yemeni war.
WHAT IS THE CRIME RATE?
Crime is rare in Oman, especially crimes of a violent nature, but why is that? Well, poverty is one of the main factors when it comes to crime, and since Omanis are quite wealthy and the poorer people get a lot of benefits, like free housing, crime rates are generally low. Another deterrent for crime is that sentencing in Oman is so severe that opportunists don’t even risk it.
In a cultural aspect of thinking, a thief is such an embarrassment and shame that if an Omani did ever steal something or commit a crime they would lose all friends, their job, and everyone in their town would shun them.
According to the World Economic Forum, Oman is the 4th safest country in the world. We would still, however, consider getting travel insurance… you could be trekking a lot, driving along crazy roads, and you could even be camping.
SOLO FEMALE TRAVELERS
According to women that have travelled to Oman, it is one of the safest countries to travel to in the Middle East. Oman is safe compared to other Islamic countries and popular tourist destinations in the Arabian Peninsula like Jordan and Egypt.
Omani people are highly conservative, so they will generally treat you more respectfully because all Omani women are treated like royalty. Women are also allowed inside houses, whereas men usually can’t go past the guest room.
Whilst Oman residents are pretty relaxed when it comes to women visiting the country, they do expect you to respect the culture. Try to dress conservatively, but note that law doesn’t dictate what you can and cannot wear – it’s just about adapting to their customs.
These include things like expressions of anger. This should be completely avoided and you shouldn’t raise your voice. Under Omani rule, innocent hand gestures are potentially illegal if they are considered offensive.
IS IT SAFE FOR FAMILIES?
Oman is a family-friendly destination, making it a safe country to visit with your children. Family is one of the main reason of existence for Omanis, and they tend to have a number of children, so families will always be treated kindly and with respect.
We have a full blog on travelling to Oman with children if you are looking for more information.
IS IT SAFE FOR THE MEMBERS OF THE LGBT COMMUNITY?
In Oman, homosexuality is illegal and a punishable crime. However, this doesn’t prevent LGBT members from visiting the country, unfortunately, you will have to be careful not to reveal your sexuality. Public signs of affection between people of the same sex are forbidden, so being discreet will avoid any issues.
While this is the case, Omani authorities rarely enforce any anti-gay laws unless there are circumstances that draw police attention such as rape, violence, under-age abuse, drugs or gross violation of Muslim social norms.
Oman does have an underground gay scene. It is widely seen as more tolerant than many of its neighbours as long as activities remain discreet.
We advise that you air on the side of caution but do not let these laws deter you from visiting. Being gay in Oman or an LGBT traveller is very safe as of all the Gulf States, Oman is the most tolerant to the LGBT community.
The roads in Oman can be dangerous, especially when you are accustomed to better road infrastructures. In rural Oman, most of the roads are empty so it will take a little getting used too.
There are other forms of transport in Oman, a very popular mode is by camel. Sadly, they are the cause of many accidents and in some cases, fatal ones – especially at night when road visibility isn’t at it’s best.
You should also be careful if you are looking to hitchhike in Oman, make sure the people you choose are the right people and don’t look too shady, and check behaviour patterns.
FOOD AND WATER
There should never be a problem with food and water in Oman. The majority of places are relatively hygienic, especially those where you see Omanis eating. Be more vigilant when ordering in the cheaper restaurants, especially if you are ordering meat and fish.
Keep an eye out for something called Falaj, which are water channels from 500 AD, these are used mainly to supply water to land or crops, but the water from these is usually good for drinking as well.
POLICE IN OMAN
The police in Oman are always respectful, helpful and kind. The Yemeni border has been sensitive in recent years, but they are well accustomed to dealing with tourists and will advise you of any laws and regulations when crossing.
MORE INFO ON OMAN SAFETY
Overall, it is incredibly safe in Oman and any traveller should consider it as a destination if they want to visit middle eastern countries. If you are in need of more information or have a few questions about the blog, you can read more of the topics we have written, take a look at our FAQ’s, or contact us via our contact form.