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Moving to Oman

Expats moving to Oman should prepare themselves for a financially and culturally rewarding experience. Oman has emerged as a major economic player in the Gulf region, and is a prime example of what can be achieved when petrodollars are wisely invested in a country's infrastructure.

The country is a gentle introduction to the Middle East as it is among the safest, most stable countries in the Gulf region, and an example to and envy of many of its neighbours.

More than a quarter of Oman's population are expats, and although the government plans to reduce this reliance on foreign labour through stricter work visa laws, for now, job opportunities for skilled expats still abound and should be taken advantage of while the going is good.

Expats who are a little reluctant to make the move can draw encouragement from the number of expats living in Oman, as well as the promise of high salaries and low taxes. Together with a reasonable cost of living and Omani employers' penchant for providing attractive expat salary packages, it makes financial sense for skilled expats to seek employment in Oman.

Even those expats discouraged by the idea of relocating to the desert for a year – perhaps picturing a barren, desolate and depressing landscape – will be surprised by Oman's interesting geography. The small state on the southeastern shores of the Arabian Peninsula showcases 1,060 miles (1,700km) of sunny coastline, as well as beautiful desert riverbeds (wadis), lush coconut and banana plantations, iconic white sand dunes, terraced rose plantations and frankincense trees, as well as austere rocky outcrops.

Beyond exploring the country's fascinating landscape, there is plenty more for expats to see and do in Oman. This is a priority for the government, as it seeks to diversify its economy through tourism.

Oman is a shopper's paradise, and the capital of Muscat's many open-air markets are full of wonderful things to buy and offer interesting cultural interactions, giving visitors a taste of the sights, sounds and smells of the Middle East. Alternatively, Muscat's Corniche is a popular hangout for foreigners and locals alike, especially at dusk, and the adventurous can head into Oman's interior to visit ancient castles and forts, or to try their hand at sand-skiing.

Despite the obvious economic benefits and the range of interesting sights and attractions, expats relocating to Oman will likely enjoy the openness and tolerance of its society and the determinedly friendly nature of its people. With such a large expat population, Omani locals are accustomed to foreigners and treat them not with suspicion or hostility, but with curiosity and a willingness to engage across significant cultural differences.

In Oman, women play a far more active and visible role in society than in many other Middle Eastern countries. Female expats report feeling comfortable in Oman and respected in their vocational pursuits.

However, even though Oman is one of the most progressive countries in the Gulf, it is a staunchly Islamic state, and expats will have to adapt their behaviour to ensure that they remain in the good graces of Omani society. Expats are encouraged to view this not as a hardship, but as an opportunity to learn about a culture different to their own, and to develop their cultural sensitivity and interpersonal skills.

Essential Info for Oman

Population: About 4.8 million

Capital city: Muscat 

Neighbouring countries: Oman is situated at the mouth of the Persian Gulf, and is bordered by the United Arab Emirates to the northwest, Saudi Arabia to the west, and Yemen to the southwest.

Geography: Oman sits at the confluence of the Persian Gulf and the Arabian Sea. Much of the country is covered by sandy desert, which makes up over 80 percent of the landmass. In the north, a narrow and fertile coastal plain fronts the Gulf of Oman and from there the land rises into the rugged Hajar Mountains. 

Political system: Unitary parliamentary absolute monarchy

Main languages: Arabic is the official language, but English is also widely spoken in business circles.

Major religions: Islam

Money: The Omani Rial (OMR) is the official currency. It is divided into 1,000 baisa. Oman has an established banking system with both local and international banks offering services for expats. It is easy and straightforward for expats to open a bank account.

Tipping: In restaurants, 10 to 15 percent where a service charge has not been added. Round up taxi fare by a couple of OMR.

Time: GMT +4

Electricity: 240 V, 50 Hz. British-style three-point bladed plugs ('type G' plugs) and round two-pin plugs are used.

International dialling code: +968

Internet domain: .om

Emergency numbers: 9999 

Transport and driving: Oman doesn't have an extensive public transport system and most expats choose to own their own vehicle. Cars drive on the right side of the road.

Weather in Oman

The weather in Oman sees temperatures and humidity generally high throughout the country all year round. May to September are the hottest months, with temperatures easily reaching up to 129ºF (54°C). The cooler months of November to March see temperatures averaging higher than 68ºF (20°C). The heat leaves expats at risk of heat stroke and exhaustion and sensible precautions are advised. 

The south coast experiences its rainy season between June and September, and in the Jabal Akhdar and lowlands of the north, rain can fall at any time of the year. 

Oman is occasionally affected by tropical cyclones. These storm systems, which originate over the Arabian Sea, typically dump high amounts of rain on the country, which can result in severe flash flooding.

Weather in Oman is often unaccounted for as a hardship factor, and expats should keep this element in mind when negotiating an employment contract.

Embassy contacts for Oman


Omani embassies abroad

  • Embassy of the Sultanate of Oman, Washington DC, United States: +1 202 387 1980

  • Embassy of the Sultanate of Oman, London, United Kingdom: +44 20 7225 0001

  • Embassy of the Sultanate of Oman, Tokyo, Japan: +81 3 5468 1088

  • Embassy of the Sultanate of Oman, Pretoria, South Africa: +27 12 632 8301

  • Consulate of the Sultanate of Oman, Auckland, New Zealand: +64 9 522 4426


Foreign embassies in Oman

  • United States Embassy, Muscat: +968 246 43400

  • British Embassy, Muscat: +968 246 09000

  • South African Embassy, Muscat: +968 246 47300

  • Irish Honorary Consulate, Muscat: +968 247 01282

Public Holidays in Oman

 

2019

2020

Ascension of the Prophet

3 April

22 March

Eid al-Fitr

5 June

25 May

Renaissance Day

23 July

23 July

Eid al-Adha

12 August

1 August

Islamic New Year

1 September

20 August

Prophet Mohammed’s Birthday

10 November

29 October

National Day

18 November

18 November

*New Year's Day is not an official public holiday in Oman, but most people get the day off of work. If a public holiday falls on a Saturday or Sunday, the following Monday becomes a holiday. Islamic holidays are subject to change based on sightings of the moon.

Safety in Oman

Oman is one of the most stable countries in the Middle East and has been led by the widely popular Sultan Qaboos bin Said al-Said since 1970. The elected legislature, the Majlis Al Shura, remains subordinate to the Sultan who wields extraordinary executive power. However, the legislative body has been granted additional powers in recent years in line with a goal to reform the current political system.


Crime in Oman

Crime rates in Oman are low. Crimes that do occur are largely petty in nature and include opportunistic theft and bag snatching. The possibility of expats being targeted increases if they're negligent with valuables (i.e. leave them unattended in public areas).

Expats have reported burglaries in Muscat, but the number of incidents is low and decreases further if basic residential security measures are in place.


Road safety in Oman

Driving in Oman can be dangerous. The traffic accident rate is high compared to the population, and thousands of people are killed or injured annually. The cause of accidents is mostly poor driving, speeding and disregard for basic traffic laws, including among public transport drivers. The road network is well-maintained and well-lit in major cities and along major highways.

The standards of roads and lighting in secondary towns and roads are poor and drivers considering travelling in these areas should rather do so during the day. Travel at night in rural areas is made more dangerous by wandering livestock.

Expats driving in Oman should note that in light of the high number of accidents, traffic laws are strictly enforced and stiff penalties are in place for speeding, driving through red traffic lights and other offences. Penalties can include mandatory jail sentences and heavy fines.


Weather hazards in Oman

Oman is occasionally affected by tropical storms or cyclones. The storm systems typically dump high amounts of rain on the country, which result in severe flash flooding. Approaching storms are usually well publicised and expats should heed any and all advice from authorities. Caution is advised in wadis (dry river beds) and near the coastline during tropical storms due to the threat of flash flooding and coastal storm surges.

Working in Oman

Expats planning on working in Oman will find that the country's recent history of dependence on skilled foreign labour has paved the way for a smooth transition into business culture. Over a quarter of the country's population is comprised of expat workers, and the Omani workforce is not only accustomed to the presence of foreigners but also sensitive to their needs and supportive of their talents.


Job market in Oman

Although expat jobs in Oman are not as widely available as they were five or 10 years ago, the job market for skilled foreign workers is still healthy.

Thanks to the government's policy of Omanisation, which aims to see fewer expats within the local workforce, Omani authorities need to be convinced that a local worker could not adequately fill the position concerned before issuing an expat employment visa.

Although this can negatively affect mid-level or younger employees, those with particularly impressive qualifications or years of experience of working at the top level in their chosen fields should not struggle to find an attractive job in Oman.

The most common jobs for expats in Oman are in the oil, gas, petroleum, teaching, medical and construction industries. Engineers, IT specialists, project managers, teachers and language instructors are in particularly high demand.


Finding a job and changing jobs in Oman

One of the sharpest double-edged swords for expats working in Oman is the issue of finding and changing jobs.

Since it is illegal to work in Oman on a visitor’s visa, expats must have a firm job offer before even arriving in the country. Expats will be hired on a fixed-term contract basis, and their Omani hiring company will even appoint a 'sponsor' to help organise an employment visa. Omani employers are accustomed to providing attractive expat salary packages, often including transport, accommodation and schooling stipends.

However, the downside to this setup is that since the hiring company must invest a significant amount of time, effort and money to get an expat to Oman, changing jobs once in the country is extremely difficult. Expats who leave a position often have to leave Oman for two years before returning to take on another position. 

There is one way around this problem. Expats can get a clearance letter or No Objection Certificate (NOC) from their Omani employer, but this can be difficult and they may still need to leave the country. 


Work culture in Oman

Expats in Oman are unlikely to find the work culture especially alienating or challenging. Oman's reliance on foreign labour over the past few decades has meant that expat workers are now an established feature of the country's professional milieu. However, in recent years, through its policy of Omanisation, the government has introduced stricter immigration rules to lower the percentage of foreign workers it allows into the country.

Those relocating to Oman to work in the business sector should familiarise themselves with Arabic business culture, which differs from Western business culture in certain respects. Expats will discover that the Omani workforce upholds a strong work ethic and values loyalty, honesty, humility and the ability to foster personal relationships between co-workers.

Expats will be expected to work hard in Oman, and to remain at all times respectful of the tenets of Islam, which play a significant role in the day-to-day life of Omani colleagues.

Attitudes toward women in Oman are generally far more progressive than in any of its neighbouring countries. However, although women do comprise a significant portion of the Omani workforce, it is not impossible that female expats will encounter a few individuals who retain antiquated and prejudiced beliefs.

The working week in Oman will typically be between 40 and 48 hours, depending on the industry. In general, the working day starts at around 8.30am or 9am, and finishes at 5.30pm or 6pm. Note that weekends in Oman are on Fridays and Saturdays.

Doing Business in Oman

Oman is a relatively easy place in which to do business, as seen in the country's favourable ranking in international business surveys. Most notably, Oman was ranked 71st out of 190 countries in the World Bank's Ease of Doing Business rankings for 2018; faring well for factors such as paying taxes (11th) and starting a business (31st).

It is highly likely that expats doing business in Oman will primarily deal with other expats in a familiar and Westernised business context, but with a distinct Arabic business flavour.


Fast facts

Business language

The official language of Oman is Arabic, but English is widely spoken.

Hours of business

Generally from 8am to 1pm and then 3.30pm to 6.30pm, from Sunday to Thursday. The weekends fall on Fridays and Saturdays.

Business dress

Smart and conservative, especially for women.

Greeting

Handshakes are the accepted greeting between men – shake the hand of the most senior person present first. Be sure to maintain strong eye contact, and use Arabic titles where appropriate to indicate respect for associates.

Gifts

If invited to an Omani colleague's home, take along a gift. Do not give alcohol or anything made of pigskin as a gift.

Gender equality

While Oman remains an Islamic nation, it is one of the most progressive of the Gulf countries when it comes to attitudes toward women in the workplace. Authorities are trying to limit the number of roles given to expat women and work visas for women can be hard to obtain. Those who do get a job in Oman should find themselves respected and valued.


Business culture in Oman

It is important to understand that Oman, though more liberal than its neighbours, remains an Islamic country. Foreigners should always remain sensitive and respectful of the large influence that these religious beliefs have on ordinary social life. Expats should never denigrate the faith of Islam or their chief prophet, Mohammed.

Relationships

The business culture of Oman could be termed typically Arabic in that a great emphasis is placed on personal relationships between business associates. Omani businessmen will always choose to work with people they are familiar with and who they feel they can trust. Expats should remain patient during initial meetings with new Omani business partners – a great deal of time will be devoted to getting to know each other before any actual business is discussed. Getting impatient is ill-advised: long-term, personal business relationships in Oman are worth the investment of time and energy. 

Hierarchy

The management style that predominates in Oman is hierarchical, though perhaps slightly less top-down than in some neighbouring countries. For the most, decisions are made at the top level and clear, direct instructions are given to staff to follow. 

Communication

Business etiquette in Oman reflects a close relationship between personal and professional life. Expats should be prepared to engage in long, personal discussions with new associates, as new business partners will be far more interested in the person they are looking to befriend than in their corporate expertise or qualifications. Expats should make sure they can deliver everything they promise – verbal commitments are treated very solemnly in Arabic business culture.

In Oman it is considered rude to cause another person public shame or humiliation. If expats have an issue to raise with a colleague, or even just a suggestion to make for better business practice, it should always be discussed privately.

Meetings

Meetings will most likely be long and subject to numerous personal digressions and perhaps even unexpected visitors. Punctuality is expected, but expats shouldn't expect Arabic partners to follow suit. If there is an agenda it should be typed out in English and Arabic and forwarded to the concerned parties at least two days before the meeting is due to take place.

Expats should dress conservatively for business meetings and remain patient, even if the meeting's agenda becomes abandoned. Hard-sell tactics will be interpreted as aggression, and should thus be avoided. Expats should always bear in mind the intimate relationship between people's professional and private lives which characterises the Omani business world.

Business cards

It is common to exchange business cards when meeting new associates for the first time. Details are printed in Arabic on one side and cards are always presented with two hands. Expats should spend a little time regarding someone else's card before putting it away. 

Attitude to foreigners

Oman is one of the most open-minded and tolerant nations in the Gulf region, and the general attitude towards foreigners is one of respectful curiosity. However, to earn this treatment, it is essential to behave at all times with respect for Islamic culture and traditions.


Dos and don'ts of doing business in Oman

  • Do look to establish personal and heartfelt relationships with Omani business associates

  • Do learn some basic Arabic, even just a few words and phrases, as it will go a long way towards dealing with business associates

  • Do remain respectful and observant of Islamic culture and traditions

  • Don't forget that in Oman, the line between professional and private life often blurs. Expect family-related interruptions during business meetings.

  • Don't embarrass, undermine or humiliate anyone during business meetings. While in the Western world this might further one's reputation, in the Arab world it will ruin any chance of forging good business relationships.

Visas for Oman

Expats will be relieved to know that the process of securing a visa for Oman is relatively hassle-free. Tourist visas for Oman are especially easy to come by, and although the process of securing employment visas for expats requires a lot of paperwork, most of this is undertaken by the expat's Omani employer.


Tourist visas for Oman

Nationals of countries on a designated list are able to obtain single-entry tourist visas or multiple-entry business visas for Oman. 

Nationals of these countries are generally able to get a single- or multiple-entry visa for Oman by merely presenting their passport and filling in an application form at their point of entry. A passport valid for use within six months from the date of the visa's issuance is required, and it is a good idea to also show proof a return ticket, to show intention to leave Oman within a reasonable time frame.


Employment visas for Oman

Expats looking to live and work in Oman will require an employment visa, which can only be obtained in partnership with a sponsoring Omani employer. Thus, it’s necessary to have a job before applying for this visa.

Although the application process for this visa demands a significant amount of paperwork, the good news for expats is that the administrative burden of application falls largely on the shoulders of their Omani employers.

Due to the fact that a prospective employer invests so much in helping the prospective employee obtain the employment visa, it is very difficult to change jobs while in Oman. In order to do this, expats will need a No Objection Certificate (NOC) from their employer; or else will need to leave the country for a period of at least two years and start the employment visa application all over again.

Employment visas are valid for two years, and allow for multiple entries.

As part of its programme of Omanisation, Omani authorities are becoming increasingly strict about the employment of foreign nationals, who require significant skills and employment experience to be assured of being granted an employment visa. In some cases, the authorities will need to be convinced that a position could not adequately be filled by an Omani citizen. If a visa application is denied, applicants are not entitled to an explanation from the consular authorities.


Family joining and family residence visas for Oman

Family joining and family residence visas are granted to the spouses of holders of Omani employment visas as well as to their children, provided they are younger than 21 years old. These visas are valid for two years and allow for multiple entries.

Family joining visas are applied for when families are travelling to Oman to join their spouse who is already working there, while family residence visas may be applied for while both parties are still in their home country.

The process is much the same: expats will require a sponsor to act on their behalf, and will need to supply certified copies of marriage certificates to prove their status as a 'family unit'. The family joining visas are generally easier to procure, as the spouse who is already in Oman (on an employment visa, and possessing a resident card) can easily prove their legal right to reside in the country.

*Visa regulations are subject to change at short notice and expats should contact their respective embassy or consulate for the latest details.

Cost of Living in Oman

Expats will find the cost of living in Oman more reasonable than that of many of the neighbouring Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries, and income is generally tax-free. Prices are highest in Muscat, but although costs can be lower outside of the city, choice is also more limited. According to the 2017 Mercer Cost of Living Survey, Muscat ranks 117th out of 209 cities.

Expat packages in Oman for highly skilled Western workers still seem to be generous and tend to offer good salaries, accommodation, a car, bonuses, flights home and medical insurance. However, as comprehensive as these contracts seem, there are always unforeseen costs. Watch out for the added cost of work visas and related health checks – for a family of four this can be fairly high. School fees are also a big add-on cost. But the real financial issue in Oman is the relative job insecurity, rather than the pay package or the cost of living.

Contrary to many of its nearby oil-rich counterparts, Oman does not draw on expats from abroad to comprise its primary workforce. Instead, it looks to locals to occupy most middle management positions, some senior management positions and even many low-paying jobs: fishermen, taxi drivers, shopkeepers, bank clerks. Expats tend to work in senior positions as directors or in sectors where there are skill shortages, such as in the healthcare and education fields.  

Even then, though, most contracts are for three years, and if an Omani can fill a post, the contract can be terminated. Expats also tend to encounter considerable uncertainty towards the end of a contract. The government’s pointed Omanisation programme, which aims to educate and train local people for the senior positions that are traditionally held by expats, has put the authorities under increased pressure to speed up the process of filling the posts with Omanis. Thus, contract renewal is not a given, and a major cost of living in Oman is the fact that an expat might be out of a job in a short amount of time.

There are also a number of low-income, low-productivity expat jobs – maids, gardeners, builders – typically filled by Asian labourers.


Cost of accommodation in Oman

The market has eased considerably since its peak, and now accommodation prices are coming down – like elsewhere in the Middle East. There are a lot of new homes being built, and expats will be able to find a place that fits their budget, mood and style.  

Costs vary according to size, facilities and area. Utilities, such as water, gas and electricity, are generally excluded in the quoted rental price. Accommodation is normally unfurnished.

Rent in Oman is paid annually in advance, rather than monthly. This is a huge lump sum; although, expats can normally get a loan from their employer. Do note, if one leaves before the year is out, the money is not refundable.


Cost of transport in Oman

Cars

The cost of using a car in Oman is much cheaper than in Europe. As a result, virtually every expat drives and few use public transportation. It’s also possible to hire a car with a driver in Oman.  

Taxis 

Taxis are also good value; unfortunately, though, they rarely have a meter. Drivers sometimes quote close to the real price, but more often the prices can be incredibly far-fetched.

Buses

For those who want to make every penny count, those who don’t have a car or those who want to experience local atmosphere, there are ‘baisa’ buses operating throughout Muscat. This mode of transit is largely used by the lowest paid workers.

Similarly, coaches can be a good way of travelling long distance, such as journeys to Sohar, Dubai and Abu Dhabi. 


Cost of food and drink in Oman

European expats will find the cost of food and drink in Oman cheaper, while Americans may find it more expensive. Regardless, though, if one is willing to consume local products, it will be possible to save money.

Alcohol

Buying alcohol in Oman can be complicated and costly. As it’s a Muslim country, licences are required to buy booze from an off-licence shop, and the price of this piece of paperwork is set according to how much one intends to buy each month. Furthermore, one's employer has to provide permission, and the quantity of alcohol one is allowed to purchase is related to a person's salary. 

Entertainment

Eating out can be costly, and if wanting a drink, one is forced to frequent expensive Western-style hotels. Luckily, there are a number of discount arrangements which means expats rarely pay full price. If a person doesn't mind foregoing the booze, there is a wide range of independent ‘dry’ establishments, where the food is excellent and reasonably priced. 

Sadly, tourist activities are highly overpriced. On the flip side, though, beach activities cost next to nothing. There is snorkelling, sunset cruises or dolphin sightings available to expats. The boats are usually well maintained and the crew knowledgeable.

Other entertainment is not costly. Cinema tickets are relatively cheap. Beaches and parks are free. The Royal Opera House is a must-see, and the price and performances are internationally competitive.


Cost of healthcare in Oman

Most companies offer health insurance to the family as part of the employment package. However, there are often exclusions, such as mental health and dentistry, and some insurance policies do not provide coverage for the health centres expats prefer, such as Muscat Private Hospital and Medident. This means most people end up paying some health costs irrespective of insurance. These can add up quickly.  


Cost of schooling in Oman

The cost of schooling is a huge expense if the company does not pay – especially if an expat has several children. There is no free education for expats in Oman, and most schools demand that fees are paid prior to the first day of the term. Some institutions require expats pay a refundable deposit. 


Cost of living in Oman chart

(Note that prices may vary depending on location and service provider and the table below is based on average prices for Muscat in October 2018)

Accommodation (monthly rent)

Unfurnished two-bedroom villa

OMR 800

Unfurnished two-bedroom apartment

OMR 550

Groceries

Milk (1 litre)

OMR 0.65

Dozen eggs

OMR 1.00

Loaf of white bread

OMR 0.45

Rice (1kg)

OMR 0.75

Pack of chicken breasts (1kg)

OMR 2.30

Pack of cigarettes

OMR 1.20

Eating out

Big Mac Meal

OMR 2.50

Cappuccino

OMR 1.85

Three-course meal for two at mid-range restaurant

OMR 20

Utilities

Mobile call rate (minute-to-minute)

OMR 0.10

Internet (uncapped - average per month)

OMR 29

Utilities (gas, electricity, water - average per month)

OMR 22

Transport

City centre bus fare

OMR 0.30

Taxi (rate per km)

OMR 0.20

Petrol (per litre)

OMR 0.20

Culture Shock in Oman

The frustrations of culture shock in Oman may initially overshadow the many advantages of calling the country home, but expats will soon find the high quality of life makes adaptation easier.  As an incredibly safe and family-oriented country, one will also often hear expats rave about the many benefits of raising children in Oman. 

Oman is an Islamic country, but is more liberal than the surrounding countries in the Gulf. While upholding Islamic principles, Omanis embrace bits of Western culture more and more every day. For example, in the capital city of Muscat, it’s common to hear of popular American and European shops and restaurants being opened. However, it is still important for expats to familiarise themselves with aspects of the Muslim culture and act appropriately. 


Dress in Oman

Expats will find many Omanis are laid-back and open-minded, but it is still a good idea to be cautious of dress and conduct. Non-Muslim women don't need to wear a headscarf unless they visit the Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque, in which case they are also required to wear long-sleeved shirts and pants or an ankle-length skirt. In general, it's best to avoid wearing clothing that is too clingy or shows off too much skin to avoid unwanted stares from men. 


Ramadan in Oman

Showing sensitivity during holidays such as Ramadan is very important. During this time, expats in Oman should be extra cautious when picking out outfits. Eating, drinking, chewing gum and smoking are not allowed in public throughout this period. During the month of Ramadan, most restaurants are closed during the day but open again in the evening. Many restaurants cover their windows out of respect.


Weather in Oman

Depending on the time of year in Oman, the weather can be a primary source of culture shock for new arrivals. Summer begins mid-April and continues through part of October, with highs of around 115°F (46°C), and lows that still hover above 100°F (38°C). It's also very humid. 

Thankfully, the winter from October to March is pleasant, ushering in temperatures that range from 65°F to 80°F (18°C to 25°C). Rainfall is not common but typically occurs during January. 


Driving and orientation in Oman

As in many other Middle Eastern countries, driving in Oman can seem intimidating. It is normal to see people running across the freeway, taxis slowing down unexpectedly to pick up passengers, vehicles crammed to the max and children without seatbelts. 

Roundabouts are common in Oman, but may be a bit of a fluster at first. When approaching the roundabout, it is important to stay in the inside lane if not taking the first exit. 

The Sultan Qaboos Highway is the main road that runs through Muscat. It is easy to navigate Muscat, but finding specific businesses and homes can be difficult as most establishments do not have a physical address. Landmarks are an essential part in giving directions. 

It is also a good idea to read online forums for directions if planning to venture outside of Muscat. Local maps are often not updated properly. 


Customer service in Oman

Customer service can seem non-existent in Oman. It can be difficult to find employees that are helpful and knowledgeable. This can be an adjustment for Westerners who are used to a different standard of service. When great customer service is found, it is not forgotten within the expat community. 

Something else which often infuriates new arrivals is that life in Oman unravels at a much slower pace than back home. Whether trying to set up the internet and phone service or open a bank account, expats will need to come to terms with the fact that it’s going to take time. Nothing is done quickly and, unfortunately, being forced to wait patiently to sort out logistics can prolong the adjustment period for an expat. 


Men and women in Oman

Oman is a safe country for single women, but it is still a good idea to be cautious when out alone. It is very common for local men to stare. Though an annoyance for most expat women, it is not threatening, and it’s something most expats eventually adapt to. 

When men greet each other, they generally shake hands and sometimes kiss on the cheek. Only shake a local women’s hand if she extends hers first. If invited into a local family’s home, try to avoid admiring an item excessively. The host may feel obligated to hand it over as a gift.


Alcohol in Oman

As a Muslim nation, the number of places in Oman in which expats can purchase and consume alcohol is limited. 

Alcohol can be bought in selected restaurants and hotels, or a liquor license may be obtained through the local authority with the employer's approval. This allows expats to purchase alcohol at designated liquor stores in Oman.

It is also important to mention that the legal alcohol limit is close to zero. Drinking and driving is considered taboo in Oman. 

Accommodation in Oman

There has been a growth in residential development in recent years and expats looking for accommodation in Oman will have a variety of options to choose from. 

Most expats in Oman live in the capital city, Muscat, and the towns that encompass the capital region, including Ruwi, Muttrah and Qurum.


Types of accommodation in Oman

Most expat accommodation in Oman is in the form of apartments, standalone villas or townhouses, often within a secure housing compound. Most homes are new and well maintained, although there have been complaints of poor construction standards and neglectful landlords.

Accommodation for expats in Oman is mostly unfurnished, although furnished options are also available. Costs vary according to the size, facilities and area of a property. 

Facilities in apartment blocks often include gyms, swimming pools and a laundry, while villas normally have maids' quarters and a garden, too. Expat housing compounds usually also offer amenities such as restaurants, shops, swimming pools, tennis courts, and even golf courses.


Finding accommodation in Oman

Employers in Oman often provide accommodation for their expat employees or include a housing allowance as part of the employment package for their foreign workers. Expats should factor this into their contract negotiations. 

For those seeking accommodation without their employer’s assistance, there are a number of online property portals to choose from. A safer option is to use the services of a real estate agent, who will be able to speak the language and understand the local nuances of the Oman property market.


Renting property in Oman

Most expats rent accommodation in Oman. Rental agreements are generally for one year, and the lease is negotiable. If a company is paying for the accommodation, the deposit is sometimes waived as the rent for the entire lease period will usually be paid up front.

Utilities such as water, gas and electricity are generally excluded from the quoted rental price. It’s important to read the rental agreement carefully as this will outline what maintenance and utilities the tenant is responsible for and what charges the landlord is responsible for.

Healthcare in Oman

The standard of healthcare in Oman is high thanks to government investment in the national health service over the past few decades. Both public and private medical facilities provide a good standard of care, with the largest and best facilities located in Muscat. 

Most of Oman’s medical doctors and staff are expats themselves. However, with the government’s policy of Omanisation, this is slowly changing, and Omani nationals are being encouraged into the medical field.

Medical treatment in Oman can be expensive and facilities may expect payment upfront. Expats should ensure that they have comprehensive private medical insurance to cover any healthcare issues during their stay in Oman.


Public healthcare in Oman

Omani nationals and those from other Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries receive free medical treatment in public hospitals in Oman. Expats are expected to pay, and are generally only permitted to use public hospitals in the case of an emergency, or where diagnosis or treatment of their ailment is not available in the private sector.

Expats working in the government sector and their dependents may also receive free medical care in public hospitals. The most respected public hospitals in Oman include the Royal Hospital of Oman and the Sultan Qaboos University Hospital, both in Muscat. 


Private healthcare in Oman

Expats generally use private healthcare facilities in Oman. There are a number of excellent private hospitals in Oman, with many of them being compared to five-star hotels in terms of services and facilities. The costs are comparable to this as well. Muscat Private Hospital is the largest private hospital in the city and is staffed by Western and Asian trained physicians. Starcare Hospital and Atlas Hospital are two other popular private hospitals in Muscat.

There are also private medical facilities in Oman which specialise in homoeopathy, Chinese and traditional Hindu Ayurvedic medicine.


Pharmacies and medicines in Oman

Pharmacies are widely available in Oman. Many are open 24 hours a day, and hospitals also have pharmacies operating around the clock. Many Western medicines are available in Oman.

Painkillers and cough medicines are usually available in supermarkets. Expats must keep the receipts for any prescription medicines if intending to claim back from their medical aids.


Health insurance in Oman

Companies in Oman are not obliged to provide health insurance to their expat employees, though some do. Expats should, therefore, ensure that they have private medical insurance as medical expenses can prove costly. Those who don’t possess a comprehensive medical insurance plan or the means to settle any medical charges may be prevented from leaving Oman until all their bills are paid.


Health hazards in Oman

Heat stroke and exhaustion, sunburn and dehydration – all related to the extreme temperatures in Oman – are common medical ailments affecting expats. Expats should always keep well hydrated.


Emergency services in Oman

The ambulance service in Oman is relatively new, so the fleet of trained staff and vehicles is small. It’s not uncommon for Omanis and expats to use their own vehicles or a taxi to get to a hospital in an emergency. Although most emergency personnel can speak English, it’s wise to learn a few key phrases in Arabic.   

Education and Schools in Oman

The standard of education and schools in Oman has improved in recent years as a result of increased spending by the government. But due to the language barrier and cultural challenges, expat parents generally choose to send their children to private international schools in Oman or send them to boarding school in their home country.


Public schools in Oman

There are many public schools in Oman, and education in these schools is free of charge until the end of secondary education. Omani government schools are single-sex, with boys and girls attending separate schools.

Government schools largely cater for Omani nationals. Classes are taught in Arabic and follow an Islamic curriculum. Non-Muslim expats, therefore, may have difficulty enrolling their children in local schools in Oman.


International schools in Oman

There are a number of international private schools in Oman which cater for a variety of nationalities. Unlike government schools in Oman, most international schools are co-educational. Most of these are based in the capital, Muscat.

International schools in Oman generally offer a high standard of education and modern facilities. As such, many wealthy Omani nationals also enrol their children here.

The cost of tuition at international schools is high and expats should ensure that they make provision for this in their contract negotiations when moving to Oman with children. Most schools demand that fees are paid upfront prior to the first day of term, and some schools even expect a non-refundable deposit and the provision of administration fees.

Due to the large expat community in Oman, demand for places at international schools is high and space limited. Expat parents need to consider their options carefully and plan well ahead of time.

International Schools in Oman

With a diverse expatriate community, there are many international schools in Oman. Expats will find that most of these are based in the capital, Muscat, and the majority of these schools offer the British or American curriculum, with many also offering the International Baccalaureate programme.

Below is a list of recommended international schools.


International schools in Muscat

ABA (formerly The American-British Academy)

Gender: Co-educational
Curriculum: International Baccalaureate 
Ages: 5 to 18
Website: www.abaoman.org

Al Batinah International School

Gender: Co-educational
Curriculum: International Baccalaureate
Ages: 3 to 18
Websitewww.abisoman.com

The American International School of Muscat

Gender: Co-educational
Curriculum: American
Ages: 3 to 18
Websitewww.taism.com

British School Muscat

Gender: Co-educational
Curriculum: Cambridge IGCSE and A-Levels
Ages: 3 to 18
Websitewww.britishschoolmuscat.com

Knowledge Gate International School

Gender: Co-educational
Curriculum: Cambridge IGCSE and A Levels, Omani National Curriculum 
Ages: 3 to 19
Websitewww.kgis-edu.com

Muscat International School

Gender: Co-educational
Curriculum: Cambridge IGCSE and A-Levels, Omani National Curriculum 
Ages: 3 to 18
Websitewww.misoman.org

Lifestyle in Oman

Situated in the southeastern quarter of the Arabian Peninsula, Oman is widely considered to be the friendliest Gulf state to live and work in. As such, the expat population comprises almost a third of Oman's total population.

Muscat is the most developed and Westernised city in Oman with lots of shopping malls, restaurants, bars, sports clubs and entertainment venues. There is a particularly large expat population in the city and many expats run social clubs or organisations for their compatriots.

Towns in the rural areas are less cosmopolitan, and shopping, cuisine and entertainment experiences are likely to be less Westernised. However, even small towns often have large expat groups and expat social events.

Outside the main towns and cities, Oman's diverse range of geographical features, including rugged mountain ranges, unspoilt wadis and desert sands, also allow expats to enjoy a range of adventure activities like camping, swimming and dune riding.


Work-life balance in Oman

Working life in the Gulf is known for a peculiar phenomenon known as the split shift. Many businesses in Oman prefer to start work early, break for a long, three-hour lunch, and then return to work for a late afternoon session. Split shift timings are usually 8am to 1pm and 4pm to 7pm. Not all organisations follow this system, however. Government institutions will usually work from 7am to 2pm, and private companies with a Western ethos will usually work a full shift from 7am till 4pm.

The official weekend in Oman is Friday and Saturday. Public holidays are determined by the government, and most are religious holidays determined by the Hijri calendar and the moon. The holiday can’t be declared until the new moon has been spotted by the Moon Sighting Committee.

During Ramadan, all Muslims and people working in government organisations have reduced working hours – six hours instead of eight – in accordance with Oman's labour law. Some private-sector companies also reduce working hours during Ramadan for both Muslims and expats.


Nightlife in Oman

Muscat offers the best opportunities for nightlife in Oman, but expats may find their choice of nightspots is still somewhat limited. For one thing, this means the few places one can go to are invariably quite busy, even on weekdays. Many nightclubs are linked to hotels and cater to a range of eclectic musical and cultural tastes.


Restaurants in Oman

Smaller towns in Oman are often extremely limited when it comes to the choice of restaurants on offer; expats will probably have a choice of Asian or Turkish cuisine. But for those who enjoy a diverse range of dining options, one can get just about any cultural food experience in Muscat.

Expats craving something familiar will find a number of global franchises, particularly in the capital city, but also increasingly in smaller towns.

Transport and Driving in Oman

Oman does not have a comprehensive public transport network and most expats living in the country often choose to own a car or have one provided to them, along with a driver, by their company.

Oman has a good network of paved roads and a duel-carriageway connecting Muscat to most major cities and towns, making driving relatively easy.


Public transport in Oman

Public transport in Oman is not extensive, although the state-owned National Transport Company has been working in recent years to develop more transport services. There is a relatively good bus system in Muscat and between towns and cities across the country, but there is no rail or subway network in Oman.

Buses

There are several long-distance bus services across Oman, with daily departures between Muscat and a number of towns and cities, including Zizwa and Salalah, as well as services to Abu Dhabi and Dubai.

The main buses in Muscat are the Baisa buses. These are red in colour and serve all major roadways in the city. Baisa buses are relatively inexpensive and operate by dropping off and picking up passengers at any location.

There is also a network of public buses in Muscat, which are red and green. These are limited to major roadways and operate along specific routes. 


Taxis in Oman

Licenced taxis, which are painted orange and white, operate throughout Muscat. Although fares are generally good, taxis in Oman don’t operate with a meter so expats should negotiate a fare before embarking on a journey.


Driving in Oman

Due to affordable petrol prices and low taxes on imports, expats will find that owning a car in the Sultanate is relatively cheap. It’s also possible to rent a car with a driver. Most expats in Oman own or rent a car and rarely use public transport. 

Traffic drives on the right. Expats driving in Oman should note that traffic laws are strictly enforced. There is a zero-tolerance policy for driving under the influence of alcohol, on-the-spot fines apply for talking on a cell phone while driving, and speeding cameras are common.


Air travel in Oman

Oman’s main international airport is Muscat International Airport, which is located about 20 miles (30km) from Muscat. Taxis and buses are available from the airport. Oman Air is the national carrier and offers flights between Muscat International and the country’s other main airport at Salalah. Other airlines that fly in and out of Oman include Gulf Air, Emirates, Etihad and British Airways. 

Banking, Money and Taxes in Oman

A major attraction for expats living and working in Oman is the tax-free income, and foreigners will be happy to hear that opening and running a bank account is easy and efficient.  


Money in Oman

The currency used in Oman is the Rial (OMR), which is divided into 1,000 baisa.

  • Notes: 100 baisa, 1 OMR, 5 OMR, 10 OMR, 20 OMR, 50 OMR

  • Coins: 5 baisa, 10 baisa, 15 baisa, 20 baisa

Oman is primarily a cash-based society, with a general distrust for cheques and an aversion to using credit cards for anything but very large purchases.


Banking in Oman

Along with the Central Bank of Oman, trustworthy local banks include Bank Dhofar, Bank Muscat, National Bank of Oman and Oman Arab Bank. There are also a host of foreign banks with branches in Oman. Many of these offer multilingual services, and expats are advised to look to one of these institutions when opening an account.

Another option is for expats to open an international (multi-currency) account for use in Oman through a bank in their country of origin. International accounts can be opened before leaving home and will provide access to a wide range of international banking services, such as high-interest savings options and online money transfer services. Many expats report that they prefer the convenience and security of having their finances centralised in this way.

Opening hours for banks in Oman are 8am to 12pm and 2.30pm to 6pm from Sunday to Thursday, and from 8am to 11.30am on Fridays. During Ramadan, banks usually open an hour later in the mornings (at 9am).

Opening a bank account

Opening a bank account in Oman is a straightforward exercise for expats, provided they are eligible to do so. An applicant must be in possession of a residence visa and a clearance letter or No Objection Certificate (NOC) from their employer. The NOC must state the expat's monthly salary, as this will indicate to the bank the figure that will regularly be paid into an Omani account. Note that it is sometimes easier to open a bank account in Oman with an employer's bank, as any problems with the payment of salaries can be sorted out with maximum efficiency.

In addition to copies of a residency visa and a No Objection Certificate from the employer to open a bank account in Oman, expats must appear in person at the bank in possession of a number of documents, such as their passport and proof of address.

ATMs and credit cards

ATMs are widespread, and most of them will accept international cards. Omani bank cards can be used at any ATM, but withdrawals may be subject to fees if using a machine operated by a different bank. Drawing cash using a credit card will also incur a fee.

Visa and MasterCard credit cards are accepted everywhere; American Express and Diners Club less so.

Overdraft facilities are available in Oman, but a general distrust of foreign account holders prevails, so expats may be called in to explain large discrepancies. Do not bounce a cheque in Oman, even if it is an honest mistake, it could lead to dire consequences.


Taxes in Oman

One of the great incentives for expats moving to Oman is that there is no personal or income tax levied against monthly salaries. There are no tax forms to be completed, and no returns to file with the Ministry of Finance. The only possible deduction from an Omani salary will be a 6.5 percent contribution to a social security fund for welfare benefits and old age pensions, but some employers waive this obligation too.

Expats are strongly advised to research whether a double taxation avoidance agreement (DTAA) exists between Oman and their country of origin. If no such agreement exists, they will have to pay tax in their country of origin on the money they earn in Oman.

Expat Experiences in Oman

When considering a move to a new city, there is nothing more useful than hearing real life stories and experiences from other expats who have lived there. We'd love to hear about your expat experiences. Please contact us if you live or have lived in Oman and would like to share your story.


Heather is a Scottish expat living in Oman with her husband and German Shepard, Penny. They made the big move to Oman when her husband was offered a permanent position there. It didn’t take much persuasion before Heather agreed to the move. Read about her expat experience in Oman.

Heather Duncan - A Scottish expat living in Oman

John is an Australian who moved to Oman with his wife to pursue a job with an oil company. While he finds the lifestyle quite different from home, he has approached life in Oman with a sense of humour and made the most of it. Read about his expat experience in Oman.

Jenny, a British expat living in Oman, paints a picture of Muscat lovely enough to leave you looking for flights and scouring the job ads. She sheds some light on this Middle Eastern Los Angeles and answers questions about multiple aspects of life in Oman