This again is a warning tip.
If you have to change money, the best place is in the Muttrah souq.
You have quit a few money changers who will give you a far better rate than hotels and banks. Just start bargain with a smile on your face and you will have a lot of fun with them.
This isn't a a danger tip but a warning tip. Taxi's are about the only transportation possibility in the major cities of Oman.
Take a driver who speaks some English and agree to a price before setting off. Ask him if he has enough fuel to reach the destination you asked for, because sometimes they will stop at a tankstation and ask you 1 or 2 Omani real to pay some fuel, and this on top of the agreed price!!
There are no trains in the Sultanate.
Please dress appropriately
Oman is an islamic country and therefore you should dress appropriately when going around Muscat. As a rule, clothings should not be too revealing e.g. mini skirts for ladies, shorts for men. Tourist women do not need to wear head scarfs except when visiting the Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque.
There are 28 species of snakes and 9 of these are sea snakes... one day we were sitting in the room watching a documentary about sea snakes in Oman (in arabic, so we missed the point) and decided there was nothing to worry... sea snakes, after all, would not be a common sight, considering we were just planning on wading through the waters and not really doing any swimming. With this truth we headed to the beach for a walk... 10 minutes along the beach, what do we find if not a sea snake? Damn... Ok, it looked dead enough (or was he just pretending?) but it still made us wary about going into the sea. If it was poisonuos, we still don't know.. Maybe we simply just don't want to know.
No photographs of embassies & restricted places
There is strictly no photographs of embassies & restricted places of Muscat such as military installations. This is important or else the guards could take your camera and remove your films. However, you can drive pass the embassies, which are arranged in a row at the Al Khuwair area of Muscat. However, you can take photographs outside the entrance of the Al Alam Palace (office of Sultan Qaboos).
Muscat, HSBC ATM
Beware the HSBC ATM on Muttrah's Corniche. It took my Visa, but it neither dispensed the money, nor gave the receipt. I tried to straighten things up with HSBC (ME) people in the main office in Ruwi (wasted 1/2 a day on it). They solemnly swore that they would check and the money would be credited back to my account. When I returned home 2 mths afterwards I've learned that they didn't and it wasn't and so $A700 went south. I'm trying to recover it through my bank disputed transactions facility, but with small to middling hope of success. The folks in the shop behind the ATM told me that this happened more than once.
A late update to my HSBC Muttrah ATM saga. I've applied thru my bank to have the money refunded and the answer just came through that HSBC ME won't cough up as their records show no inconsistency in balance, thus adding insult to injury. Heavens know what sort of a racket they're up to, pox on them. I'm 200 OMR = $A650 out of pocket, without a hope for redress. HSBC Middle East sucks big way!!!!
Although Oman is a very peaceful and safe country to visit, it is after all in the Middle East. Islam is by far the most prevalent religion, and Western people should take notice of this before going there. Everyone, but in particoular the women, is prohobited showing their knees, and the leg should be covered all up just to be safe. They won't chop your head off, but it's fair to respect their culture. If you`re just being polite and understandful there shouldn't be any problems!
- Religious Travel
- Business Travel
- Family Travel
For all those of you who intend to drive in Muscat.
Roads and traffic signs: Most roads are in excellent conditions, as well as traffic signs.
Drivers: Omanis are very nice and friendly people I have to admit and endorse, unfortunatley when it comes to driving they act as if they are playing a Nintendo or Playstation game.
They overspeed especially on curves, and they want to overtake the vehicule preceeding them by any manner thus causing confusion to the driver in the car in front.
They tend to stick to one's car's end and keep honking and flashing.
Advice: If you are not a skilful driver with a good level of control, just let them pass, clear the road for them.
Everyday I see accidents all over Muscat due to such foolish attitude.
Ask permission before taking photos of people
You should ask permission before taking direct photos of people in Muscat, especially the women due to thier religion. Normally the men will allow you to take their photographs but the women will not allow in most cases.
Take care if you have to answer on your "naturel call".
-The toilets in the souq are not as clean as in a hotel.
- If you have to, it's very hard to find your way back to the centre or exit of the souq.
La Terrazza Restaurant
If you are expecting an Italian restaurant from the name (we were and still were when we sat down in the "Venezia area" of the restaurant) think again. This is a Lebanese restaurant with a poor choice of menu (can't vouch for the quality as we didn't stay to eat) that can't match the Automatic Restaurant.
Oman FM can cause (mental) health problems.
I'm not sure if it's possible for screaming insanity to be brought on by listening to the radio, but Oman FM could quite possibly send a sane person completely doolally. They have a playlist of approximately 30 songs which they repeat OVER and OVER again each day. Most of the presenters make hospital radio seem professional. I'm far too English and polite to name names, but there is one woman on there who can't utter a sentence or play a song without inviting the listener to guess what its going to be. "What have we got for you next" she regularly rasps. Her other favourite phrase is "oh yes", which she used four times in the space of 90 seconds (Oh yes, I counted. I KNEW it was affecting my sanity)
Oh yes, she is the worst thing on the airwaves.
There is no alternative English langauge station, so its Digital radio (my personal choice, hooray for Virgin Radio), or silence, or suffer the consequences.
Muscat, one of the safest capitals in the world
Omanis are some of the friendliest people around and their capital, Muscat, has an amazingly safe feel to it. This is probably due to the fact that most people on the street will greet you with a smile and hello, even at night.
Arabian Leopards around my tent.
Whilst travelling in Muscat, i camped on a beach near Yiti, and woke to find very large tracks coming out of the mountains, around my tent, and back to the mountains. There were 2 sets of tracks, one larger than the other.
I took some photos of the prints and sent them to a wildlife website in the region and they replied saying they were Arabian Leopards, probably a mother with a youngster. I slept with my tent open and was not woken by them. They are very likely harmless unless threatened, and are sadly very endangered. The cats are known to live South of Muscat where I travelled.
- Hiking and Walking
Nothing to drink at Al Qurm Beach
Muscat is very hot and you must bring water on the beach or stay close to a place where you can buy something to drink.
I like to explore new places and especially walking along the beaches. The taxi dropped me off at Sheraton Al Qurm beach (GPS 23° 37' 1.4600" N 58° 27' 44.2400" E). I took off my shoes and layed down on my towel. The beach was deserted except from some Pakistani workers, so I was bored after a while and started to walk. It was 47°C this day and I thought it would be nice to stop for a drink another place. I walked and walked, but there were no places to buy something. I passed the Grand Hyatt Hotel, jumped over a small fence. The outdoor restaurant was closed.
I thought about going back, but I wanted to see the whole beach, so my pride kept me proceed the walking. After a while I started to get really thirsty, but I didn't see anything else than diplomatic residences and private houses with high fences. I tried to find a way out from the beach, but I was trapped behind the fences and bush forest. I am afraid to walk in the bush forest because of snakes, so I walked until I came to the private property at the Water Desalination Plant (GPS 23° 36' 22.5500" N 58° 25' 29.9900" E).
It was now more than 3 hours since I came to the beach, and at least I found a way out of the beach. But it was nothing there. The nearby History Museum was closed. I was about to faint and had a terrible headache when I was standing near the Al Wazarat roundabout to get a taxi. I could see stars and had dual sights. The logical way of thinking was gone and I was weak to stop a car in the street by force, but held out my arm.... A taxi came and stopped. He already had a passenger and was driving in the other direction. But remarkable it was OK for them to drive me back to the nearest taxi stop. The driver gave me his bottle of water.
- Arts and Culture