Oman may not seem like the most likely place to be jetting off to, but for those in the know, this hidden gem of a country is well worth a visit! It boasts some serious natural beauty. With majestic mountains, desert oases (known locally as wadi), and several varieties of palm trees which produce the country’s world-renowned dates!
This is the oldest independent state in the Arab world, so you can only imagine how rich and diverse the culture and history is. Since this part of the globe isn’t as well-traveled as say Asia or South America, it’s natural to have some questions surrounding safety, which is why we’re here to answer: Is Oman safe?
Yep, we’ll be unpacking this question with some in-the-know info about the nation that spans the Arabian Sea and the Indian Ocean, looking at everything from safety at night to the safety of solo female travelers. We’ll also offer some worthwhile safety trips and take a look at some more specific things like the safety of the tap water. Let’s begin…
Is Oman safe? A quick look
The Global Finance’s list of the safest countries in the world (based on the risk of crime, terrorism, war, and natural disasters) places Oman as the 25th safest country in the world. For reference, the United Kingdom came in at 38th, and the US was ranked at 71st. So, the short and long of it is that this is a pretty safe part of the globe.
The last serious incident concerning a non-Omani national was in 2004 when a British man living in Oman was shot in his car. The motivation for the attack is thought to have been a personal vendetta against his place of work, the Muscat Private Hospital.
One reason that Oman has such low crime rates is the strictness of the local government and the severe punishment for crimes. An important thing for travelers to know is that homosexuality is illegal in Oman, so LGBTQ+ visitors should be wary.
Unfortunately, since Oman is located in the Middle East, a large concern for visitors is the threat of terrorism. According to the Global Terrorism Index, Oman has a score of 0 (on a scale of 0 – 10, where 0 means no impact and 10 is the highest impact). That being said, you should still remain vigilant since political upheavals aren’t uncommon in these parts.
Is Oman safe to visit?
Oman is actually a very safe place to visit, but you should be sensible and take the appropriate precautions (as you would anywhere). It is extremely rare for serious crimes to be committed, and even more rare for them to involve tourists. We recommend steering clear of any large gatherings or demonstrations to avoid any possible trouble.
The local people are extremely welcoming towards tourists and have a reputation for being extremely friendly. The risk of petty crimes, such as pickpocketing is low, but you should still be mindful of your things as it does happen on occasion. It is better to leave important documentation, jewelry, and flashy gadgets locked in your hotel, and to be vigilant in crowded areas like markets.
Scams aren’t common in Oman, but the ones to watch out for are pretty standard globally. Not all taxis are metered, so you will have to negotiate a price before you set off. You may also find yourself being given overinflated prices in the local markets, so checking the rough price of goods before you head out for a day of shopping could be useful!
Weather-wise, Oman lies on the Arabian Sea, an area that is prone to tropical storms and cyclones. The cyclone season in this region typically occurs between May and June, and then again in October and November. The last serious tropical cyclone was in 2021 when cyclone Shaheen hit parts of Oman and Iran, killing 13 people. Tropical storms of this magnitude are rare, but if you are visiting Oman during the cyclone season, you should keep an extra eye on the news and weather forecast.
The country, especially the south around the monsoon town of Salalah, is also prone to heavy rains in winter and flash floods do occur. If you’re planning to do any off-road travel or want to visit a mystical wadi, check the local weather forecast first to make sure there’s no chance of heavy precipitation.
We really recommend avoiding spending any time in the Gulf of Aden, no matter what type of vessel you are on. Piracy in that area is a threat, and many areas on the gulf are restricted. In 2021, a piracy attack near the Omani coast left two crew members (British and Romanian) dead.
Is Oman safe at night?
Oman is safe at night as long as you’re taking the usual precautions. Numbeo.com rates the safety of walking alone during the night as high, scoring 78.35 out of 100. This is based on survey perception data gathered from 145 people. However, there have been reports of campers being assaulted in isolated areas after sundown.
Tourists, women especially, should avoid walking alone at night and opt for a taxi to take them to their destination. Other precautions to take (alone or in a group) is to avoid dark, unlit, and uncrowded areas.
Oman isn’t exactly well-known for its hopping nightlife, and when it comes to alcohol in Oman, it can get quite complicated…The consumption of alcohol is legal for anyone aged 21 or over, with many restaurants, bars, and nightclubs serving alcohol… However, public intoxication is illegal, and getting caught could lead to a night in a jail cell or worse.
It is also illegal to transport alcohol (aside from bringing it from the store to your hotel). You are also only permitted to buy alcohol from licensed sellers. (We don’t wanna worry you out with the strict alcohol laws, but if you don’t plan on limiting your intake to just a couple of drinks, we recommend partying it up in the privacy of your hotel room and calling it a night. Oh, and if you’re bringing alcohol to your hotel room from a store, always carry a receipt with you in case you’re stopped.)
Is Oman safe for solo female travelers?
You’ll be happy to hear that Oman is known for being one of the safest places to visit in the Middle East for solo female travelers! The crime rate is extremely low and women walking alone on the streets during the day are rarely harassed or bothered. Nevertheless, women should avoid walking alone at night and exercise the normal caution required when traveling solo.
Even though taxis are safe, we advise against taking them to isolated areas at night. If you’re a bit nervous about taxis in general, a good alternative here is to use the Mwasalat Taxi App, which is Oman’s answer to Uber.
Oman is Muslim and highly conservative – one of the most conservative destinations in the Middle East, in fact – so we would advise you to dress more conservatively, similarly to the local women. While you will not need to cover your hair, your shoulders, cleavage, arms, and legs all the way to the knees should never be in full view.
In Muscat, where there is a large western population, women may dress more liberally, however, being more conservative will keep you from standing out. Some restaurants and public transport may be segregated by gender, and it’s not too common for men and women to mix in a social setting.
If you’re racking your brain thinking about what to wear, we find that scarves are a great option for covering up your shoulders, and they save you from having to buy a load of new tops! You can check out our top-rated travel scarves here.
Is public transport safe in Oman?
Public transport in Oman is mainly about the buses. They are safe, and, for the most part, clean and comfortable with air conditioning. Mwasalat is the main public transport company in Oman, with numerous routes within Muscat as well as intercity buses that go to other towns and destinations.
The buses can be a little difficult to navigate, especially if you’re trying to go from one end of Muscat to the other! They also run on limited schedules. That being said, they are affordable and are your only option public-transport-wise.
Is tap water safe to drink in Oman?
According to officials, tap water in Oman is safe to drink. Most locals, however, tend to drink bottled water. If you’re worried or unsure, we recommend you stick to bottled water, avoid ice cubes in drinks, and be cautious of uncooked food that may have been washed in tap water such as salads.
Tap Safe – an online stats collator that uses data from the WHO and the CDC – rates the quality of the H2O here as generally high. The main issue is accessibility. Oman is mainly desert. That means there’s very rarely any rainfall outside of the storm season and water can be a prized resource. For that reason, we’d say it’s always a good idea to try to limit what you use.
Top 7 safety tips for traveling in Oman
Here are the top seven safety tips for Oman, which include some ideas about how to stay protected after dark and what to do in the face of changing weather conditions…
- Avoid walking alone at night – Although Oman is safe at night, you should always exercise caution and avoid unlit and uncrowded streets and alleys. This is especially true for solo female travelers.
- Keep your valuables close or locked away – Petty theft and pickpocketing aren’t huge problems in Oman, but they do happen. Always keep your passport, jewelry, and expensive belongings locked in your hotel safe, and keep a firm hold of your bag in crowded, public spaces.
- Check the weather forecast ahead of trips – Oman is prone to cyclones and heavy bouts of rain that can cause flash floods. If you’re traveling through rural areas, near dry riverbeds, or into wadis, double-check the weather forecast to make sure there won’t be any downpours.
- Research and abide by local laws and customs – The consequences for breaking the law in Oman can be severe (including the death penalty!), and the country is highly conservative. Homosexuality is illegal, cross-dressing is illegal, swearing and rude gestures are extremely offensive, as are public displays of affection. The photography of certain government buildings and military sites is strictly prohibited and will get you into trouble. During Ramadan, even non-Muslims are expected to avoid eating, drinking, playing loud music, dancing, and smoking in public during daylight. Those caught doing so will be punished under the law. It is also against the law for unmarried couples to share a hotel room.
- Stay away from drugs and public intoxication – There is zero-tolerance for drugs and no differentiation is made between “soft” and “hard” drugs when it comes to punishment. Public intoxication is illegal and you could find yourself in jail if caught.
- Be extra careful while driving – Driving in Oman can be hazardous, although the number of traffic accidents has declined significantly over the past five years. Be wary at night as other drivers may not have their headlights on and look out for camels that may just walk out into the road. If off-roading, always ride in convoy in case of accidents or vehicle breakdowns.
- Do not travel in the Gulf of Aden – The Gulf of Aden is a highly dangerous strip of ocean notorious for piracy. Several areas are highly restricted and being caught there could have some serious consequences.
So, Is Oman safe?
To recap, Oman is an relatively safe place to visit for both men and women! It has low levels of crime and serious crimes rarely involve tourists. As always, you should take the usual precautions while traveling, taking extra care at night and in remote areas.
Although Oman has strict rules and extremely harsh punishments for certain crimes, as long as you abide by their laws and customs, you shouldn’t find yourself in any hot water. The country has some seriously stunning landscapes that you must see, however, if traveling by car, check the weather forecast as extreme rains are known to cause flash floods.
Many travelers have fallen in love with Oman over the years, and there’s no reason why you shouldn’t either!