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Moving to Oman

An increasingly attractive option for expats, Oman is a culturally rich and environmentally diverse Gulf state that lies on the southeastern shores of the Arabian Peninsula and showcases 1,060 miles (1,700km) of sunny shoreline. Its coastal geography affords relaxing boat trips, fresh air and seafood while the expansive desert dunes may take one's breath away. Hearing about a move to Oman may come with many questions, but expats are guaranteed a financially and culturally rewarding experience.

The country is a gentle introduction to the Middle East as it is among the safest, most stable countries in the Gulf region with high-quality healthcare facilities. Expats make up a large proportion of Oman’s population, and Omanis are known to be warm and welcoming to all.

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. That said, expats thinking of moving to Oman may be concerned about Omanisation and strict work visa laws to reduce the reliance on foreign labour. But fear not – for now, job opportunities for skilled expats still abound and should be taken advantage of while the going is good.

Those reluctant to make the move can draw encouragement from the promise of high salaries and low taxes. Together with the affordable cost of living and Omani employers' penchant for providing attractive expat salary packages, it makes financial sense for expats to seek employment in Oman.

The heat is a major element to consider, but luckily Omani accommodation affords a cool and comfortable refuge from the sun and air-conditioning is abundant. Some may be discouraged by the heat and the idea of relocating to the desert – perhaps picturing a barren, desolate and depressing landscape – but the same people are often pleasantly surprised by Oman's interesting topography. Expats can enjoy views of beautiful desert riverbeds (wadis), lush coconut and banana plantations, iconic white sand dunes, terraced rose plantations and frankincense trees and austere rocky outcrops.

Beyond exploring the country's fascinating landscape, there is plenty more for expats to see and do in Oman. A shopper's paradise, the capital city of Muscat has many open-air markets full of wonderful things to buy and offer interesting cultural interactions. 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 try their hand at sand-skiing.

Despite the obvious economic benefits and the array of unique sights and attractions, expats relocating to the Sultanate of Oman will likely enjoy the openness and tolerance of its society and the determinedly friendly nature of its people. Knowing this is comforting to women and to expat families with children who hope to smoothly settle into a new school.

Oman is one of the most progressive countries in the Gulf and women play a more active and visible role in society. Female expats report feeling comfortable and respected in their vocational pursuits. Still, there may be some culture shock as it is a staunchly Islamic state and expats should adapt their behaviour to ensure that they remain in the good graces of Omani society.

We advise expats to have an open mind, see challenges not as hardships, but as opportunities to learn about a culture different to their own and to develop their cultural sensitivity and interpersonal skills. Go with the flow and expats will soon learn that the lifestyle is relaxed and easy-going.


Fast facts

Population: About 5.1 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 and English

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: Not necessarily expected, but it is appreciated to add a 10 percent service charge in restaurants if not given and to round up taxi fare.

Time: GMT +4

Electricity: 240 V, 50 Hz. British-style three-point bladed plugs ('type G' plugs)

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 a vehicle. Cars drive on the right side of the road.

Weather in Oman

Oman generally has high temperatures and humidity 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 puts expats at risk of heatstroke and exhaustion, so sensible health and safety 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, but expats should keep this element in mind when negotiating an employment contract.

 

Embassy contacts for Oman


Omani embassies

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 12 362 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

 

2020

2021

Ascension of the Prophet

22 March

11 March

Eid al-Fitr

24–26 May

13–16 May

Renaissance Day

23 July

25 July

Arafat Day

30 July

19 July

Eid al-Adha

31 July – 4 August

20–23 July

Islamic New Year

20 August

10 August

Prophet Mohammed’s Birthday

29 October

19 October

National Day

18–19 November

18–19 November

*Islamic holidays are subject to change based on sightings of the moon. If a public holiday falls on a Saturday or Sunday, the following Monday becomes a holiday. 

Pros and Cons of Moving to Oman

Oman is widely considered the friendliest Gulf state to live and work in for expats but, as with any destination, life in Oman has its ups and downs.

Expats should consider both the pros and cons of living in Oman before deciding if this is the place for them. Below we've listed some of those, to assist expats in their decision.


Accommodation in Oman

With the help of the employing company, real-estate agents or a relocation company, finding accommodation to suit all needs isn't too hard, but there are significant things to note.

+ PRO: Accommodation is easily arranged

If arriving in Oman on a full employment package, accommodation is usually included. Some companies provide a cash allowance to spend on rent, and often let the expat choose a property and even liaise directly with the landlord. As Muscat is a small city, finding a home beyond the city centre is also possible – it's possible to drive from one side to the other in 40 minutes. 

- CON: Rent is usually paid annually

Although foreigners have recently been given the legal right to purchase property on certain developments in Oman, renting is often the only option – and it's paid in lump sums, annually or quarterly. Tenants must come up with a sizeable sum of money to cover the rent for a whole year if the employing company doesn't provide an allowance.


Lifestyle in Oman

The type of lifestyle an expat can expect depends on where they live, but there's always something to do.

+ PRO: Activities cater to the diverse population

Oman has a noticeable expat population consisting of mainly British, American, Canadian, Australian, New Zealand and South African citizens. It's easy to make friends with expats and locals through social clubs and organisations. As Oman caters for many different tastes and styles, there's something for everyone to enjoy, from bars and malls to the beaches, the desert and hiking in the mountains.

- CON: It's hot and can be hard to get around

The heat during Oman's summer is oppressive, particularly on the coast where humidity reaches high levels. Muscat is not a particularly pedestrian-friendly city and the only feasible way to travel is by car or public transport. It's best to travel by car where the air-conditioning can be controlled!


Safety in Oman

Oman offers a welcoming and safe environment to its locals and expats. There may be road and weather hazards, and in case of emergency, dial 9999 for medical assistance.

+ PRO: Little crime

Oman is a safe country with a low crime rate, so it's a particularly good environment to raise young children. Expats, whether families or single women, need not be overly concerned about personal safety in the Sultanate.

- CON: Traffic accidents are common

Reckless driving is common and there is a high accident rate on public roads. When driving in Oman, it's critical to be vigilant of these risks and follow the rules of the road.


Working and doing business in Oman

'Omanisation' aims to encourage more local employment and to discourage foreign workers, yet the main reason people move to Oman is still for work.

+ PRO: Networking is easy

Although 'Omanisation' has closed off certain industry sectors to expat job seekers, it's relatively easy to find a job in sectors such as oil, medicine and education. Because Muscat is a small city, networking is easy and everyone seems to know everyone. Getting cosy with the corporate in-crowd will certainly have its benefits.

- CON: Work permits have strict regulations

Expats must be sponsored by an employer to work in Oman, which can leave people feeling tied to their employers. To change jobs, employees need a No Objection Certificate (NOC) which their employer may not provide, so it's useful to stay on their good side. Fortunately, changes due in 2021 will ease regulations and expats won't need the NOC, provided they meet certain conditions. 

- CON: Business culture is hierarchical

Although it's an up-and-coming city with a large expat population, Muscat is still an Arab city in a Muslim country. This affects every aspect of daily life, including doing business. Final decisions often rest with Omanis in top positions, who may have a different cultural approach to business matters. It's great to make a concerted effort to understand the culture and respect the customs of the Omanis.


Culture shock in Oman

Although Oman has a large number of expats, it can be quite a culture shock for first-time visitors to the Middle East, particularly if moving to a small, rural town. It can take some time to adjust to Omani culture and a bit of patience is required.

+ PRO: Easy to find domestic help

It isn't hard to find cheap manual and domestic labour in Oman such as someone to clean a house, carry bags in the supermarket or wash clothes. It's great to have a helping hand around the house, though this may take some getting used to.

- CON: A conservative state

Although Oman is one of the more liberal countries in the Gulf, it's still a Muslim country and one should respect and follow its customs and cultural practices. Displaying affection in public is not illegal, but it is frowned upon, and expats should familiarise themselves on alcohol and drinking norms. Westerners should also attempt to dress appropriately and respectfully.


Cost of living in Oman

One thing expats must get used to is the cost of living in Oman with a different currency.

+ PRO: Driving is cheap

Compared to the West, fuel and cars are affordable in Oman and, in the long run, purchasing a vehicle can be more economical than using taxis. Owning a car is also a good idea if expats want to visit rural areas or go camping.

- CON: A Western lifestyle is expensive

The cost of living in Oman varies, depending on whether one is in the bigger cities or the smaller rural towns. As a rule, it is higher in Muscat than neighbouring regions, but salaries are adjusted to account for this. Eating Asian and Omani food can be inexpensive, but watch out for the price of alcohol and Western clothing brands.


Education and schools in Oman

While public schools seem limited to Omani children, several international schools cater to expat children.

+ PRO: Good international schools

The standard of education in Oman is generally quite high, and private schools tend to have excellent facilities with many extra-curricular activities. International schools will often employ teachers trained in the language of, and who have teaching experience from, the country relevant to the curriculum. There are also many nursery schools to choose from.

- CON: Education is expensive

The fees at some private schools are undoubtedly costly. It's a good idea to check out a range of schools before deciding where to send a child.


Healthcare in Oman

Oman has some excellent medical facilities and expats should be clued up on how to access them.

+ PRO: Good private healthcare

The general standard of healthcare in Oman is high, both in the public and the private sectors. As in most countries, private healthcare is seen as preferable (with English-speaking staff, better facilities and shorter waiting lists). This is good news for expats, who aren't able to use public healthcare facilities unless it is an emergency.

- CON: Private health insurance is costly

Expats are largely limited to private healthcare, so it's vital to take private medical insurance or negotiate it as part of an employment package. Check that it covers everything necessary, including dental, mental health as well as general medical costs and emergencies.

Safety in Oman

Oman is one of the most stable countries in the Middle East and was led by the Arab region's longest-serving leader, Sultan Qaboos bin Said al-Said from 1970 till his death in 2020. Expats will be happy to know that the firm legal system and friendly people make for a safe environment to live and work in. There are still safety factors to consider, including road safety and weather-related hazards.


Crime in Oman

Crime rates in Oman are low. Crimes that do occur are largely petty 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).

The number of reported burglaries in Muscat is low and decrease if basic residential security measures are in place and normal caution is exercised.

Though women may experience some elements of culture shock in Oman, reports of sexual assault are minimal – though expats should still be vigilant of personal safety.

Terrorism

Though terrorist attacks may be unlikely, the risk of terrorism shouldn't be dismissed completely. Risks are higher in areas with western interests and large and public places such as hotels, shopping malls and beaches.


Political unrest in Oman

While Oman is one of the safest countries, occasional unannounced protests have been known to flare up to voice disillusionment with issues such as unemployment, low salaries and the high cost of living. Expats should steer well clear of them and follow the warnings of Omani authorities.


Road safety in Oman

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

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 all advice from authorities. Caution is advised in wadis (dry river beds) and near the coastline during tropical storms due to the threat of 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 the business culture. 

Almost half of the country's population is comprised of expat workers, mainly from Bangladesh, India, Morocco, Jordan, Pakistan and the Philippines. The Omani workforce is not only accustomed to the presence of foreigners, but also sensitive to their needs and appreciative of their talents.

That said, with Omanisation, it's not always easy to enter the job market.


Job market in Oman

Expat jobs in Oman are becoming increasingly limited. This is due to the government's policy of Omanisation, which aims to employ more Omani nationals than foreigners in the local workforce. Omani authorities must be convinced that a local worker could not adequately fill the position concerned before issuing an 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.

Still, the job market for certain sectors remains relatively healthy and there are Oman Free Zones, which offer lower Omanisation quotas. Expats can find jobs in the industrial sector as well as hospitality, retail and contracting sectors. Some expat jobs are available in banking, finance and marketing, while healthcare specialists, teachers, project managers and IT specialists have also been in demand.


Finding a job in Oman

Since it is illegal to work in Oman on a visitor’s visa, expats must have a firm job offer before arriving in the country. 

There are many job portals and online platforms to use when looking for work in Oman, including Naukrigulf, GulfTalent, Bayt and Indeed. Recruitment agents and relocation firms are more expensive alternatives, but can provide personalised assistance.

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. We recommend employees read their contracts carefully as some expat contracts have been terminated early due to Omanisation, and renewals are not necessarily a given.

Omani employers are accustomed to providing attractive expat salary packages, often including transport, accommodation, flights home, medical insurance and schooling stipends. If not, we recommend expats negotiate this.

Changing jobs

One of the sharpest double-edged swords for foreigners working in Oman is the issue of finding and changing jobs. There is a downside to this setup of attractive employment packages: since the hiring company invests significant time, effort and money to get an expat to Oman, changing jobs has proven almost impossible. 

Expats who leave a position have had to leave Oman for two years before returning to take up another position. Alternatively, employers may sign a clearance letter or No Objection Certificate (NOC) to allow the change of jobs. Unfortunately, many employers refuse to sign the NOC. 

The good news: in 2021, strict regulations on NOCs will no longer apply, which will make changing jobs much easier. As laws are subject to change, it's important to follow up with employers and embassies for the most up-to-date advice.


Work culture in Oman

New arrivals 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. Still, while Oman is more progressive than its neighbouring countries, prejudiced and antiquated attitudes to women may be felt.

We recommend getting familiar with Arabic business culture, which differs from Western norms in certain respects. The Omani workforce upholds a strong work ethic and values loyalty, honesty, humility and the ability to foster personal relationships between co-workers. Most importantly, expats must remain respectful of the tenets of Islam, which play a significant role in the day-to-day life of Omani colleagues.

Omani work weeks are typically between 40 and 48 hours, depending on the industry. In general, businesses open around 8.30am or 9am and close at 5.30pm or 6pm. Note that weekends in Oman are over Fridays and Saturdays.

Doing Business in Oman

When moving to Oman and joining a company that operates with a different culture, it can take time to adjust, particularly for women and those vocal about religious and moral views that do not conform with the Arabic world. Many expats say that life in this country is simple and easy, but this should not be taken for granted in the workplace.

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 68th out of 190 countries in the World Bank's Ease of Doing Business rankings for 2020; faring well for factors such as paying taxes (11th) and starting a business (32nd). It's important to note that some aspects of doing business are more complicated, such as getting credit which ranks 144th.

The Sultanate has made progress in registering property and is working towards better protecting minority investors while improving infrastructure to trade across borders.

It is highly likely that expats working in Oman will primarily deal with other expats in a familiar and Westernised business context, but with a distinct Arabic business flavour. New arrivals should not assume they understand how business is done in the Sultanate; it's wise to read up on some fast facts and the local work culture prior to conducting any business. 


Fast facts

Business language

The official languages of Oman are Arabic and English. English is commonly used in business settings.

Business hours

Depends on the type of organisation and business culture. Many Omani businesses are open from 8am to 12pm and then 3pm to 6pm, Sunday through Thursday. Banks are generally open from 8am till 2pm and governmental authorities also close early. 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 its 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 part, 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's better discussed privately.

Meetings

Meetings may last a while with small talk, 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 can be interpreted as aggression and should 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 moment 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. Expats concerned about this will be glad to know that the general attitude towards foreigners is one of respectful curiosity but, in turn, it is essential to behave 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 easy to come by and, although the process of securing employment visas requires a lot of paperwork, most of this is undertaken by the expat's Omani employer.

Online applications are available from the official Royal Oman Police website. We recommend that those looking to apply for visas for Oman investigate the latest information and specifics on requirements and supplementary documents. Applications for visas will normally be typed in English for non-Arab nationals and in Arabic for Arab nationals.

Whether just visiting or moving to Oman, be sure to know the type of visa needed as there are various options for tourists, those buying property, students, employees and family dependants. 


Tourist visas for Oman

Nationals of countries on a designated list can obtain single-entry tourist visas or multiple-entry business visas for Oman. This includes nationals from New Zealand, South Korea, the USA, Canada, Australia and Japan, among others.

Tourist visas must usually be applied for before leaving Oman and the duration is normally 10 days, 30 days or three months. Passports must be valid for at least six months when arriving in Oman.

There are options for tourist visas with and without a sponsor. If a visitor knows a local Omani and is sponsored for their visit, proof of this must be given.


Visas for buying property in Oman

New housing developments and accommodation pop up frequently in Oman and foreign citizens can buy property under certain conditions. Foreign nationals looking to buy and invest in housing units in designated tourist complexes can enter on specific Off-the-Plan Owner Visas. These visas are limited to stays of 21 days and supporting documents are needed including contracts of purchasing the property and a letter from the building’s developer stamped by the Ministry of Tourism. 

Once expats have bought a property in Oman, they must apply for a resident Property Owner Visa. They must include a copy of their title deed and the building’s floor plan. These visas last two years and are renewable.


Student visas for Oman

Non-Omani citizens accepted to study in Oman can apply for a multi-entry student visa. Student visas are valid for three months to two years and can be renewed according to the duration of the course being studied. 

Students must provide a letter from the training or educational institution where they have been accepted to study.


Work 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 – so it is 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 applying falls largely on the shoulders of their Omani employers. 

Omanisation – essentially widening the local workforce – means strict expat quotas across economic sectors, and authorities must be convinced certain positions cannot be adequately filled by an Omani citizen. Employers must be aware of the required regulations and apply for a labour permit from the Ministry of Manpower.

Since employers invest so much in helping the prospective employee obtain the employment visa, it is difficult to change jobs while in Oman. Expats need their employer to agree and sign a No Objection Certificate (NOC), or need to leave the country for at least two years and start the employment visa application all over again. Imminent plans to scrap the NOC have been a relief for expat employees.

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

Temporary work visas

Expats who plan to stay in Oman for a short term can also apply for a temporary work visa, valid for four, six or nine months. Applicants for work visas must not be younger than 21 years of age. 

Temporary work visas also allow multiple entries, which is useful for business people and employees who go on frequent business trips abroad.


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 must 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.

Bear in mind that family joining visas require the expat residing in Oman to be in a senior job position according to GCC standards and earning no less than OMR 600 a month.

Citizens from certain countries may need to provide a medical certificate along with their application.

*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 neighbouring countries and income is generally tax-free. Prices are highest in the capital city and according to the 2020 Mercer Cost of Living Survey, Muscat ranks 96th out of 209 cities, making it more expensive than Toronto but cheaper than Rome and Madrid.

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. But, some things are too good to be true: as comprehensive as these contracts seem, there are always unforeseen costs. Watch out for the added cost of visas and related health checks. School fees are also a big add-on cost. But the real financial issue when working in Oman is the relative job insecurity, rather than the pay package or the cost of living.


Cost of accommodation in Oman

Expats will be happy to find that accommodation costs are much more affordable than many expat destinations, with lower rent and utility expenses. New homes are constantly popping up so it is easy to find a place that fits any budget, mood and style. That said, costs do vary with size, facilities and area. Many rentals come unfurnished, so shipping and buying furniture are additional costs, and utilities, such as water, gas and electricity, are generally excluded in the quoted rental price.

New arrivals must note that some tenants may ask for advanced lump sums, paying rent for the year in advance, or every six months or four months. Rent can be paid monthly too, it is important to understand the lease contract.


Cost of transport in Oman

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 transport – though, buses do make a cheaper alternative. Taxis are also good value – there is a metered fare to gauge the price and passengers can often negotiate this if they are not satisfied with the amount.


Cost of food and entertainment in Oman

European expats will find the cost of food and drink in Oman cheaper, while others 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 and there are strict laws and lifestyle customs to abide by. Alcohol can only be bought and consumed in establishments and restaurants that have a proper license to sell it, and if rules are not followed, expats can face hefty fines.

Entertainment

Eating out can be costly, and if wanting a drink, expats must frequent expensive Western-style hotels. If a person doesn't mind foregoing the booze, there is a wide array 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 cinema tickets are relatively cheap and the Royal Opera House, a must-see- has internationally competitive prices.


Cost of healthcare in Oman

Citizens of Oman and other member countries of the Cooperation Council for the Arab States of the Gulf can access public healthcare for free. Other expats get a subsidised rate with public healthcare but tend to opt for private options. Health insurance is a must when moving to Oman and most companies offer it to the family as part of the employment package. Be sure to check the terms and conditions of the insurance to ensure it covers dentistry and mental health too.


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. While there are public schools, expats generally opt for international and private schooling, which is costly and many schools demand that fees are paid before the first day of the term.


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 June 2020)

Accommodation (monthly rent)

One-bedroom apartment in the city centre

OMR 200 - 280

Three-bedroom apartment in the city centre

OMR 350 - 500

One-bedroom apartment outside the city centre

OMR 120 - 200

Three-bedroom apartment outside the city centre

OMR 250 - 320

Shopping

Milk (1 litre)

OMR 0.65

Dozen eggs

OMR 1.00

Loaf of white bread

OMR 0.50

Rice (1kg)

OMR 0.85

Pack of chicken breasts (1kg)

OMR 2.20

Bottle of local beer

OMR 2

Pack of cigarettes

OMR 2.40

Eating out

Big Mac Meal

OMR 2.50

Cappuccino

OMR 1.80

Three-course meal for two at mid-range restaurant

OMR 15

Utilities

Mobile call rate (minute-to-minute)

OMR 0.05

Internet (uncapped - average per month)

OMR 30

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

OMR 23

Transport

City centre bus fare

OMR 0.50

Taxi (rate per km)

OMR 0.20

Petrol (per litre)

OMR 0.22

Culture Shock in Oman

The frustrations of culture shock in Oman may initially overshadow the many advantages of relocating there, but expats will soon find that the high quality of life eases the adaptation process. As a safe and family-oriented country, one will often hear expats rave about the many benefits of raising children in Oman.

There are both pros and cons to living in Oman and getting over any culture shock may take longer for some than for others.

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, it’s increasingly common to hear of popular American and European shops and restaurants being opened. Still, it is important for expats to familiarise themselves with aspects of the Muslim culture and Omani laws, 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 mindful 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. 

We recommend expats take note of how to dress in business settings too, which is generally conservative and formal.


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, while many eateries also 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 129ºF (54°C), and lows that still hover above 100°F (38°C). It's also very humid. 

The heat makes it almost impossible to go outside, and expats must adjust their lifestyle accordingly. Thankfully, the winter from October to March is pleasant, ushering in cooler temperatures. 


Driving 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 seat belts. 

Roundabouts are common in Oman but may be a bit flustering 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 altogether 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 runs 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. Despite some improvements, few things are done quickly and, unfortunately, being forced to wait patiently to sort out logistics can prolong the settling-in period for an expat. 


Gender 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 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.

While Oman is more progressive in terms of gender equality compared to other countries in the Gulf region, women may hit some roadblocks when settling in. Women – and men – who are used to a different way of dressing, speaking and going out and drinking may find conforming a bit difficult.


Alcohol in Oman

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

Alcohol can be bought in selected restaurants and hotels, or a liquor license may be obtained through the local authority. 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

Oman has seen growth in residential development, especially around large cities, 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

Expats mainly find accommodation in Oman in the form of apartments and 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 negligent landlords.

New arrivals will be glad to know that many apartment blocks and compounds include gyms, a swimming pool and laundry facilities. Those in villas can also expect a garden and can easily find domestic help. The main thing to look out for is air-conditioning – this is a life-saver in the arid heat.

Whichever area one chooses to live in a major city, restaurants and shops won’t be far off, as well as schools and other amenities to suit all needs and lifestyles, such as tennis courts and golf courses.

Furnished vs unfurnished

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


Finding accommodation in Oman

Much to their relief, many expats working in Oman find that their employers provide accommodation or include a housing allowance as part of the employment package for their foreign workers. We recommend that expats factor this into their contract negotiations. 

For those seeking accommodation without their employer’s assistance, there are several online property portals to choose from, such as Just Property, OLX and OpenSooq.

A safer option is to use the services of a relocation company and real estate agent such as Savills Oman, who will be able to speak the language and understand the local nuances of the Oman property market.


Renting accommodation in Oman

Most expats rent accommodation in Oman as they plan to stay short term. While rental fees in many countries are paid monthly, in the Sultanate of Oman, advance lump sums are expected.

Leases

Both short and long-term leases are available. Long-term leases are those due to extend over seven years, while short-term leases are variable. Rental agreements generally last one year, but this is negotiable. 

Expats unsure of the length of their stay need to understand the notice period for their contract, which is generally only allowed three months before the final termination date on the lease.

Registering leases

It is essential to register all leases with the municipality or Ministry of Housing. When going through an estate agent, they arrange this matter. There is a fee for this which depends on the type of lease. Details of the tenant including their residency and work permits may be needed, otherwise, the expat’s employing company will organise this. 

Registering leases in Oman ensures that tenants and landlords have their rights firmly agreed, and if both parties wish to renew their contract, this can be done online.

Deposits

A deposit is generally one to two months' rent. While the landlord could be responsible for major repairs, the tenant is liable for any damage done and this may come out of the deposit.

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 upfront.

Utilities

Utilities such as water, gas and electricity are generally excluded from the quoted rental price. We urge that expats read the rental agreement carefully as this will outline what costs the tenant and landlord is responsible.

Healthcare in Oman

Thanks to government investment in the national health service over the past few decades, Oman boasts high-quality healthcare, with the largest and best facilities located in Muscat. 

Most of Oman’s medical doctors and staff are expats themselves but, 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, adding to the cost of living, 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 member countries of the Cooperation Council for the Arab States of the Gulf (still colloquially referred to as the Gulf Cooperation Council or GCC) receive free medical treatment in public hospitals in Oman. Employers must pay a contribution to social security for Omani employees and this goes towards public facilities.

Expats are expected to pay, though rates may be subsidised. Occasionally, expats are only permitted to use public hospitals in the case of an emergency or where diagnosis or treatment of their ailment is not immediately available in the private sector. 

Foreign nationals working in the government sector and their dependants 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 several 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 the region.

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


Health insurance in Oman

Companies in Oman are not obliged to provide health insurance to their expat employees, though many do. If this is not negotiable as part of an employment package, we recommend expats working in Oman get private medical insurance. Medical expenses can prove costly and those who don’t possess a comprehensive insurance plan or the means to settle any medical fees may be prevented from leaving Oman until all their bills are paid.

When finding a most suitable insurance plan, check that it covers an array of healthcare needs, including mental health, dentistry and emergency care.


Pharmacies and medicines in Oman

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

Painkillers and cough medicines are usually available in supermarkets, while for prescription medicines, expats should visit a pharmacy and keep the receipts for any prescriptions if intending to claim back from their medical aids.


Health hazards in Oman

Due to the extreme weather temperatures in Oman, heatstroke, exhaustion, sunburn and dehydration are common medical ailments affecting expats. New arrivals should be warned that the heat may be unlike anything they have experienced before and should always keep well hydrated.

It's important to note the safety hazards in dry river beds (wadis) and along the coastline during tropical storms due to the risk of floods and drowning.


Emergency services in Oman

In case of an emergency, dial 9999 for medical assistance and to call an ambulance. Although most emergency personnel can speak English, it’s wise to learn a few key phrases in Arabic.  

It’s not uncommon for Omanis and expats to use their vehicles or a taxi to get to a hospital in an emergency, but trained healthcare professionals in ambulances can provide speedy and appropriate assistance.

Education and Schools in Oman

Finding the right school in Oman may be tricky and many parents opt for private schools. The standard of public education in Oman has improved with increased government spending and continuous reforms, but are more suited to Omani nationals. 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.

Basic education is separated into two levels. The first cycle covers grades one to four, with co-educational options, then cycle two of grades five to ten, which are single-sex, with boys and girls attending separate schools.

Following these cycles, post-basic or secondary school covers grades 11 to 12. At the secondary level, students can develop both a core specialisation in an area of study, such as science, and have some electives for subjects of interest. Alternatively, vocational training programmes are available.

Government schools largely cater to Omani nationals: classes are taught in Arabic and follow an Islamic curriculum. While public schooling can be compared along with international benchmarks, non-Muslim expats may have difficulty enrolling their children in local schools in Oman.


Private schools in Oman

Private-sector education remains relatively small, both in terms of schools and students, with most Omanis attending public schools, but are preferred by expats. Private schools have flexibility when selecting their curriculum and resources, but they must be approved by the Ministry of Education. 

Some private bilingual schools offer both Arabic and English, but these expats generally opt for private international schools.


International schools in Oman

There are several international schools in Oman which cater to a variety of nationalities and languages, including students from France, India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, the USA and the UK.

Unlike government schools in Oman, most international schools are co-educational. Most of these are based in the capital, Muscat and 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 before the first day of term, and some schools even expect a deposit and 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.


Nurseries in Oman

Expats can find a range of daycare centres in large cities such as Muscat. Some are attached to larger international schools, others follow various styles and languages, including Montessori-based nurseries.

Deciding on a suitable nursery may also depend on how far expats must travel between the kindergarten, schools, work, home and other amenities.


Special needs education in Oman

Oman is working towards improving special needs education. While integration is limited in formal schools, there are increasing numbers of inclusive programmes that incorporate services to support teachers and students. Some institutions remain separate, with specific special education needs schools for those with physical disabilities, blindness, deafness and intellectual disabilities.

Private international schools offer a greater level of support, with inclusive programmes catering for a variety of needs, including students with Autism Spectrum Disorder, learning disabilities, behavioural and communication disorders, and Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder. These services are comprehensive, aiming to provide full support to their learners while raising awareness in the community and offering assistance for teachers and parents.

It’s important to check with each school the level of support they can provide.


Homeschooling in Oman

Where formal schooling fails to meet certain standards or the tuition fees are too high, many families opt for homeschooling. This gives families an alternative, finding their curriculum and teaching style, often giving real-world lessons while equipping their children with skills and knowledge for growth and development. 

The official rules, legalities and regulations around homeschooling are complicated, and expats should contact their embassy for more on how to go about it. Expats can find additional support and information through social media such as Facebook groups, which also allow a networking potential to meet people and make friends.


Tutors in Oman

Like with homeschooling, the legalities of private tutoring in Oman are complicated as teachers in formal schools are not allowed to take up extra private classes. Still, tutors can be found through online platforms such as University Tutor.

Adults hoping to learn Arabic, for instance, will find it is easy finding a tutor and there is a wealth of e-learning opportunities with tutors all over the world.

International Schools in Oman

With a diverse expat community, there are many international schools in Oman. Expats will find that most of these are based in the capital, Muscat, and follow the British, American or International Baccalaureate curriculum, along with the Omani national curriculum.

International schools are a great way for expat children to settle into their new home with a familiar education system and many offer bilingual learning opportunities. A high price tag comes with these schools, so parents must budget wisely.

Below is a list of recommended international schools in Oman.


International schools in Muscat

ABA (formerly The American-British Academy)

Gender: Co-educational
Curriculum: International Baccalaureate 
Ages: 3 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: English National Curriculum, GCSE and A-Levels
Ages: 3 to 18
Websitewww.britishschoolmuscat.com

Knowledge Gate International School

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

Muscat International School

Gender: Co-educational
Curriculum: Omani, English National Curriculum, Cambridge IGCSE and A-Levels
Ages: 3 to 18
Websitewww.mis.edu.om

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. There is a large expat community welcomed by the local Omanis. Many foreign residents report that, despite strict regulations, the Omani lifestyle is laid-back and relaxed.


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. 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 holidays can’t be officially 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 – following Oman's labour law. Some private-sector companies also reduce working hours during Ramadan for both Muslims and expats.


Shopping and entertainment in Oman

Muscat is the most developed and Westernised city in Oman with lots of shopping malls, restaurants, bars, sports clubs and entertainment venues. It’s not difficult to meet and make friends provided the many social clubs and organisations.

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

Women moving to Oman who may be concerned about the culture can connect with groups such as the American Women’s Association, Women’s Guild Oman and others via Facebook groups. Making connections and joining social events for entertainment can ease the culture shock.


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 usually 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 an array of global franchises, particularly in the capital city, but also increasingly in smaller towns.


Sports and outdoor activities in Oman

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 such as camping, swimming and dune riding. 

Outdoor activities are difficult and unpleasant in the heat of summer and the Sultanate is known for its expansive desert. That said, cooler seasons make for the perfect time to explore more of the country and find some lush, green environments with stunning waterfalls in Salalah as well as a piece of coastal paradise.


Arts and culture in Oman

Oman is hardly just a barren, arid landscape. Arabic history and religion can be seen, heard and felt throughout the Sultanate. Centuries-old forts and castles can be visited as well as the many mosques with their unique architecture, particularly the Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque. Alongside the many museums, we recommend the opulent Royal Opera

House in Muscat. There is much to see and do in Oman, and the more expats explore and get to know the local culture, the better they’ll settle in.

Transport and Driving in Oman

Much to the dismay of many new arrivals, Oman does not have a comprehensive public transport network. But where public means of getting around is lacking, Oman’s good network of paved roads make up for it, with a duel-carriageway connecting Muscat to most major cities and towns, making driving relatively easy.

Most expats living in the country usually choose to own a car or have one provided for them, along with a driver, by their company.


Public transport in Oman

While public transport in Oman is not extensive, the state-owned National Transport Company and MWASALAT have been working in recent years to develop more transport services in Sohar and Salalah. 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. It's important to check the official website for MWASALAT for the most up to date schedules and information.

Buses

Expats can enjoy an air-conditioned and safe long-distance journey across expansive deserts by bus in Oman with private companies such as the Gulf Transport Company or public services such as MWASALAT. Daily departures allow travel between Muscat and several towns and cities, including Nizwa and Salalah, as well as services to Abu Dhabi and Dubai. 

MWASALAT city buses can be found in Muscat, these are red and serve major roadways in the city, while microbuses, locally known as baisa buses, are one of the cheaper alternatives. Baisa buses don’t clearly indicate their route so it’s worth asking the drivers, and learning a few words in Arabic can help with this.


Taxis in Oman

Taxis are one of the most common ways to get around in Oman for expats who do not have their own car. Both public and private taxi services are available, such as Marhaba taxis, other orange and white taxis and MWASALAT taxis. All offer reasonable fairs and Oman has recently introduced meters into taxis to ensure a reasonable rate. 

Expats can download the Mwasalat taxi app to readily order their ride. It may be possible to find a shared taxi with multiple passengers splitting a bill.


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. 

While many roads are well maintained, expats should note that driving outside of main cities and off road may require a four-wheel-drive vehicle.

Expats are likely to be able to use their foreign driving license, though it is useful to get an International Driving Permit, which can be obtained in one’s home country.

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. 

That said, drivers in Oman are known for reckless and speedy driving, which may come as a shock to expats. It’s important to always follow the rules of the road, be aware of safety hazards and drive defensively.

Renting a car

A car may be provided as part of an employment package and, if not, expats can always rent a car out of their own pocket – at a decent price. Both local and international car rental firms operate in Oman and offer insurance. While the legal driving age in Oman is 18, drivers under 21 are unlikely to be able to rent a car.


Air travel in Oman

Oman’s main international airport is Muscat International Airport. New arrivals in Oman worried about how to get from the airport to their destination can easily take a taxi or bus or organise hotel pick-ups.

Oman Air, the national carrier, and SalamAir, a low-cost, domestic airline, offer flights between Muscat International and the country’s other main airports in Salalah, Sohar and Duqm. Other airlines that fly in and out of Oman include Gulf Air, Emirates, Etihad and British Airways.


Sea travel in Oman

Expats can find high-speed ferry services in Oman for passengers, vehicles and cargo connecting with ports in Khasab, Lima, Shinas, Shannah, Masirah and Dibba. Locals and expats can also go take a boat trip or water taxi, but travelling by sea is more for leisure than practicality.


Cycling in Oman

If expats think they will be able to ride a bike in Oman, they may find it a challenge. The extreme heat means that few people go outside, even to walk, and the risk of reckless driving makes cycling dangerous. Still, bicycles can be rented in large cities such as Muscat, while certain times of the year offer cooler and more moderate temperatures.


Walking in Oman

New arrivals to Oman will find that it's mostly safe to walk around in. While major cities are not walkable, certain areas with historic palaces and forts are nice to stroll around, and many regions offer hiking opportunities. The main thing to be careful of is the heat and the sun, which often renders walking unpleasant.

Articles about Oman

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 or baiza. Below are frequently used banknotes and coins:

  • Notes: 100 baisa, OMR 1/2, 1, 5, 10, 20 and 50

  • Coins: 5, 10, 25, and 50 baisa

Oman has a strong and relatively stable currency, and getting used to it may take time for some expatriates. New arrivals can usually get rials from their banks in their home country and, provided their banks allow international use, cash can be withdrawn from ATMs and exchanged at the airport and foreign exchange bureaux. We do recommend expats check related bank charges and exchange rates when exchanging money for the rial.


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 a host of foreign banks with branches – many of these offer multilingual services, such as HSBC Oman.

Alternatively, expats staying short term can open an international, multi-currency account through their 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 praise the convenience and simplicity of having their finances centralised in this way.

Opening hours for banks in Oman are 8am to 2pm from Sunday through Thursday, and are either shut on Fridays and Saturdays or open only in the morning. During Ramadan, banks usually open an hour later in the mornings (at 9am).

Opening a bank account

Not all new arrivals will need to open a bank account, but those who choose to do so will find it fairly straightforward. The required documents vary between banks and bank account types, but normally foreign citizens need to show their proof of residence and their valid passport. 

There have been strict rules on foreigners working in the Sultanate, and while tax forms relieve expats of paperwork, the infamous No Objection Certificate (NOC) has been a frustrating formality with firm regulations following. Employers provide a NOC which states monthly salaries and may be needed when opening a bank account in the country. Changes to NOC regulations have been relaxed recently so it is best to check necessary arrangements with the bank and employer.

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.

ATMs and credit cards

The Sultanate has been known to be cash-intensive, with taxis only allowing cash transactions and a general aversion and distrust of credit cards but, like other countries, it is evolving and adapting. To stay competitive, banking has made online purchases and transactions much easier and expats should be able to use their bank cards throughout the country.

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. Visa and Mastercard credit cards are widely accepted; 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 moving to Oman is that there is no personal or income tax levied against monthly salaries. There are not endless amounts of paperwork and tax forms to be completed, and no returns to file with the Ministry of Finance.

Businesses are subject to income tax and must make social security contributions. This won't affect expats as the law pertains to Omani employees employed permanently in the private sector. Omani employers must make social security contributions for their local employees which covers old age, disability, death and occupational injuries.

Another attractive incentive for expats is that they are entitled to receive gratuity or end-of-service benefits, including receiving 15 days' worth of their basic salary for the first two years of continuous service and 30 days worth for each year that follows.

Don't get too carried away though, foreigners may be subject to withholding tax. This applies to expats who do not carry activities in Oman through a Permanent Establishment (PE), but receive income and is charged at a rate of 10 percent. To understand the implications of this it may be necessary to contact a tax specialist.

New arrivals are strongly advised to research whether a double taxation agreement exists between Oman and their country of origin. If no such agreement exists, they may have to pay tax in their country of origin on the money they earn in Oman.

*Tax regulations are subject to change at short notice and expats are advised to seek the assistance and advice of a professional tax consultant.

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.


Kenyan by nationality, Caroline moved to Oman in 2016 to work in the hospitality sector. She lives in Salalah and loves the friendly people, how similar the culture is to Kenyan culture and the cool autumn khareef season. Read our expat interview with Caroline.

Caroline

Anika is a South African expat living in Muscat with her husband. She works as a teacher and is enjoying her new life in Oman. Read about her expat experience in Oman.

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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 lovely picture of Muscat that might have you searching 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

OB is a British expat living in Muscat, Oman. She left the UK looking for an ounce of excitement. Despite some culture shock, she found the people to be loving and friendly. Read more in our expat interview with OB to find out some personal insights about Muscat.

OB