What makes Oman a unique country to travel to?
The Sultanate of Oman, a land of great natural beauty on the southeast corner of the Arabian Peninsula, has a long and proud heritage. Oman has seen rapid economic and social development in the past four decades. A monarchy governed by Sultan Qaboos bin Said, the country has a bicameral representative body (the lower house of which is directly elected), which provides the government with advice and is empowered to draft and review legislation. While Oman is traditionally Islamic and Islam is the state religion, Omanis have for centuries lived with people of other faiths. Non-Muslims are free to worship at churches and temples built on land donated by the Sultan. The economy is largely dependent on the production and export of oil and natural gas, but is becoming increasingly diversified. Excellent tourist facilities are available in the major cities of Muscat, Salalah, Sohar, and Nizwa, and can increasingly be found elsewhere in the country.
The incidence of street crime is low in Oman; violent crime is rare by U.S. standards, but can occur. Crimes of opportunity remain the most likely to affect visitors. Visitors to Oman should, therefore, take normal precautions, such as avoiding travel in deserted or unfamiliar areas and after dark. Visitors should also protect personal property from theft. In particular, valuables and currency should not be left unsecured in hotel rooms. Common sense and caution are always the best methods for crime prevention.
Do not buy counterfeit and pirated goods, even if they are widely available. Not only are bootlegs illegal in the United States, if you purchase them you may also be breaking local law.
While you are traveling in Oman, you are subject to its laws even if you are a U.S. citizen. Foreign laws and legal systems can be vastly different than our own. In some places you may be taken in for questioning if you don’t have your passport with you. In some places, it is illegal to take pictures of certain buildings. In some places, driving under the influence could land you immediately in jail. These criminal penalties will vary from country to country. There are also some things that might be legal in the country you visit, but still illegal in the United States. You can be prosecuted under U.S. law if you buy pirated goods. Engaging in sexual conduct with children or using or disseminating child pornography in a foreign country is a crime prosecutable in the United States. If you break local laws in Oman, your U.S. passport won’t help you avoid arrest or prosecution. It’s very important to know what’s legal and what’s not wherever you go.
Persons violating Oman's laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested, or imprisoned. Penalties for possessing, using, or trafficking in illegal drugs in Oman are severe, and convicted offenders can expect long jail sentences and heavy fines. Oman prohibits pornographic materials and firearms. Local law limits each traveler to two bottles of alcohol. Items subject to confiscation at the airport due to content considered culturally inappropriate include, but are not limited to, compact discs, digital video discs, and video and audiocassettes. Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender travelers should review the LGBT Travel Information page.
While some countries will automatically notify the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate if a U.S. citizen is detained or arrested, that might not always be the case. To ensure that the United States is aware of your circumstances, request that Omani police and prison officials notify the U.S. Embassy as soon as you are arrested or detained.
Medical Facilities and Health Information
There are a number of modern medical facilities in Oman. Local medical treatment varies from quite good to inadequate, depending in large part on location. Many Western pharmaceuticals can be found in Oman. Hospital emergency treatment is available. Doctors and hospitals often expect cash payment for health services.
Safety and Security
There have been no instances in which U.S. citizens or facilities in Oman have been subject to terrorist attacks; however, the Department of State remains concerned about the possibility of terrorist attacks against U.S. citizens and interests throughout the region. U.S. citizens in Oman are urged to maintain a high level of security awareness. The State Department suggests that all U.S. citizens in Oman maintain an unpredictable schedule and vary travel routes and times whenever possible. U.S. citizens are also urged to treat mail or packages from unfamiliar sources with suspicion. Unusual mail or packages should be left unopened and reported to local authorities. U.S. citizens with security concerns are encouraged to contact local authorities and the Consular Section of the U.S. Embassy in Muscat.
Spontaneous and/or planned public demonstrations take place throughout the country from time to time in response to world events or local developments. Even demonstrations intended to be peaceful can escalate into violence. U.S. citizens should remain attuned to readily available English and/or Arabic-language media outlets and avoid public demonstrations.
The United States Maritime Administration (MARAD) has advised that elevated regional tensions have increased the risk of maritime attacks being conducted by extremists to vessels operating in the Gulf of Oman, North Arabian Sea, Gulf of Aden, and the Bab el Mandeb regions.
MARAD recommends vessels at anchor, operating in restricted maneuvering environments, or at slow speeds should be especially vigilant, and report suspicious activity. U.S. flag vessels that observe suspicious activity in the area are advised to report such suspicious activity or any hostile or potentially hostile action to COMUSNAVCENT battlewatch captain at phone number 011-973-1785-3879. All suspicious activities and events should also be reported to the U.S. Coast Guard National Response Center at the following toll-free telephone: 1-800-424-8802, direct telephone 202-267-2675, or TDD 202-267-4477.
Traffic Safety and Road Conditions
Road conditions, lighting, and traffic safety in cities and on major highways are good. The condition of rural roads varies from good to poor. Travel between cities, especially at night, may be dangerous due to poor or no lighting, wandering livestock, and speeding drivers. The safety of public transportation is generally good. Taxis, mini vans, and small buses may swerve to the side of the road to pick up passengers with little notice or regard for other vehicles.
Local Laws and Practices: Traffic laws in Oman are strictly enforced and the consequences for violating them may be severe by U.S. standards. For example, running a red light results in a mandatory, non-bailable detention period of 48 hours, followed by confiscation of one's driver's license, vehicle registration, and car registration plate until the Omani judicial process is concluded, which may take as long as several months. Other common traffic violations that carry strict penalties, up to and including jail sentences, fines, and/or deportation, include: driving without a license, driving under the influence of alcohol, failure to wear a seat belt, talking on cellular telephones (other than using hands-free technology) while driving, speeding excessively, overtaking another vehicle, screeching a car's tires or failing to keep one's car clean. In the event of a traffic violation and fine, drivers should cooperate with police officers and should not attempt to pay or negotiate payment at the time of the traffic stop.
U.S. citizens considering driving in Oman are advised to familiarize themselves with the Royal Oman Police (ROP)'s procedures for road and traffic accidents (RTA) to reduce traffic jams, which are available on the ROP web site under “Minor Road Traffic Accidents.” Note: Minor RTA are accidents causing minor damage to one or more vehicles that do not result in injuries, deaths, or material damage to public/private properties. Parties involved in such accidents should immediately move their vehicles to the side of the road.
U.S. citizens involved in accidents outside the Muscat area are advised not to move their vehicles from the accident location until the ROP gives them permission; moving a vehicle may be interpreted as an admission of guilt.
The use of European-style traffic circles is prevalent in Oman. However, unlike European traffic practice, the driver on the inside lane always has priority. A driver flashing his/her high beams is generally asking for a chance to pass. Turning right on a red traffic signal is prohibited.
Visitors should not drive without a valid license. Short-term visitors in possession of a valid U.S. driver's license may drive rental vehicles, but residents must have an Omani driver's license. To obtain an Omani license, a U.S. citizen must have a U.S. license that has been valid for at least one year or must take a driving test. Visitors hiring rental cars should insure the vehicles adequately against death, injury and loss or damage. Residents may insure their vehicles outside the Sultanate; however, third party liability insurance must be purchased locally.
Emergency Services: A modern ambulance service using U.S. equipment and staff trained in the United States was instituted in 2004 and has been assessed as very good. It serves most of the country. For all traffic-related emergencies, the Royal Oman Police can be contacted by dialing "9999."