Our first visit to Oman this January, was completely unexpected. Our aim was to fly back to South-East Asia from Spain, but this required a stop in Muscat (the capital of Oman). When we saw we had the possibility of extending our layover for 8 days, we had to go for it. Suddenly we had just a couple of weeks to figure out how to travel through a country that is not often talked about as a common destination. We had heard it was beautiful from a friend, but everything else was unknown.
In case you’re in a similar situation, here is a comprehensive guide of everything we think you need to know to prepare for your own adventure in this amazing country, including all the budget and conscious tips that we learnt along the way:
Oman is known for its stunning nature; rocky mountains, refreshing wadis, unspoilt coastlines and diverse desert landscapes, all packed together into one small country. On top of that, its cultural heritage doesn’t disappoint either. Unlike its more flashy neighbours to the north, Oman retains a deep sense of pride of its history and traditions. From crumbling ruined villages to fully restored forts and castles, there is a lot to see.
Oman will welcome you with open arms, surprise you at every turn, and shatter any misconceptions you may have of the Middle East. From the gorgeous landscapes, to its rich culture, and friendly people, it has plenty to offer. Needless to say, we were hooked from the get go!
Oman has only been open to tourism since the 1980s, and in many ways it shows. This may account for the limited accommodation options and accessibility issues, amongst other things. In any case, it also means that Oman is the perfect place to explore for those who don’t enjoy mass tourism.
Even when visiting in “high season”, and mostly following the same route everyone seems to do, we still had the sights mostly to ourselves (if you’ve seen our IG stories, you know there was hardly anyone else there). The tourists we came across were mostly elderly Europeans (specially French and German), traveling in small groups, or as part of organised tours. Everyone mainly seemed to go to the very famous spots, and at a very high pace.
It is very easy to deviate from the “beaten path”. The variety of gorgeous landscapes, and multitude of historical castles, forts and ruined villages, makes it possible to create a completely unique itinerary every single day. Just like that, you’ll feel a sense of discovery that is very hard to find nowadays. We certainly can’t wait to go back to see other parts of the country!
But the situation may soon be very different. With the 2040 tourism strategy, Oman expects to more than triple the number of international travellers entering the country in the coming years. Tourism is seen as an opportunity to steer towards a more sustainable non-oil dependent economy.
Luckily, the aim is (or seems to be) to make Oman a sustainable tourism destination; one where tourism benefits the host community, plus promotes and respects local culture and heritage, all whilst taking into account the country’s resources and environment. Whether this commitment is taken seriously, and it permeates into the design, execution and implementation of all tourism initiatives, remains to be seen. We certainly hope so!
When to visit?
The north of Oman, like the rest of the countries in the Persian gulf, has dry desert climate with constant warm weather. There is little rainfall, and temperatures in summer easily reach the 40°C (104°F). Salalah in the south of Oman has a more tropical climate with rainfall between June and September, and a much milder climate, between 20°C (68°F) and 30°C (86°F).
When we were there (end of January), the weather was fantastic. It may have still been quite hot in the middle of the day in the sun, but it was relatively easy to find refuge under the shade of an oasis, or the cool rooms of a fortress to visit. Similarly, there were a couple of nights that were chilly sleeping in the tent, but nothing some layers could not remedy. In general, it was lovely.
Oman defies all misconceptions of danger associated to the middle east. It is one of the safest and most stable countries in the region, and locals generally will go out of their way to help. We didn’t feel at risk or even uncomfortable at any point. And it was good to know that if we ever got car issues, or something of the sort, plenty of people would stop to led a hand (we saw it over and over).
It is also generally a comfortable country to travel in, thus being a suitable destination for first time travellers to the Middle East. The good infrastructure makes driving around easy, and there is a wide array of modern day luxuries to suit everyone.
Nonetheless, it is always good to practice precaution, be conscious of your surroundings, follow your gut, and make sure to have a good insurance. As they say, better safe than sorry!
Oman is notorious for being expensive. It was only after booking our flight tickets that we found out that Oman has the third highest currency value in the world (whatever that means), and is strongly focusing on becoming a luxury destination. This certainly scared us, and a quick look at hotel prices and transportation options, cemented the fear. But it turned out not to be as bad as we expected.
We spent a total of 512,13€ for 8 days, excluding flights, which is an average of 64€ a day for both of us (32€ each). This is definitely way above our usual travel costs, but was still doable for a limited amount of time.
Our biggest expense was definitely transportation, costing us a total of 335€. We rented a car for the totality of our stay (something necessary and that we will talk about below), and this price includes both the car and the money we spent on gas (petrol is very cheap in Oman).
Having a car was a luxury, but it also allowed us to bring our accommodation costs down to 0. Food and entertainment (visits to heritage sights etc.) expenses were quite reasonable, costing us 83€ and 44€ respectively. We also spent 23€ on getting a local SIM card, which enable us to use Google Maps as navigation all over the country.
We could have saved a bit more on the car, by getting a better deal, and skipped on a couple of the more expensive attractions, which would amount to 100€ less perhaps. But apart from that, we think this is as cheap as it can get. Below, we will specify in more detail the costs for each category.
The most limiting factor of traveling through Oman is perhaps the lack of public transportation. This means that if you wish to see what the country has to offer on your own (aka not being part of a guided tour), or even move comfortably around Muscat, you have to rent a car. Either that, or hire very expensive taxis/drivers to take you around.
Seeing as we couldn’t find any viable alternatives, we chose to rent a car for the totality of our stay. This would normally not be an option for us, because of how expensive and non environmentally-friendly it is, but we’re very glad we made an exception. Having our own car gave us the freedom to set our own route and schedule, wild camp (more on that below), and truly discover all of Oman’s beauty.
Should you also want to rent a car, we would recommend the following:
- Rent a saloon car. Despite many blogs stating a 4×4 is necessary, we had no issues doing everything we wished to with our Toyota Corolla. Renting a 4WD is MUCH more expensive, and often uses much more fuel. Oman is investing heavily in its infrastructure and almost all routes between the main tourist sites are tarmac roads. A 4×4 is only necessary if you want to go off roading, and for some mountain roads. If you have plenty of time, money to spare, and feel confident in your driving abilities, go for it. In our case, not only did we NOT want to risk getting stuck in the desert sands (we’re definitely not experienced with this type of driving), but also, we found that 4WD was not necessary to experience Oman’s beauty.
- Make sure you have an international driving license. Many rental companies insist on you having one, and it will make things easier should you run into any troubles. We would also recommend having an international travel insurance that covers you when driving abroad just in case.
- Compare the quotes of multiple rental companies as the prices may differ considerably for given dates. If wanting to hire local companies, you’ll have to negotiate prices via email or phone. We rented our car from a local company, MARK tours, and although the price wasn’t the cheapest we saw (it cost us 124 RO/282€ in total), the service was lovely. Our contact person was really helpful, and it was nice to hand in the keys without feeling they would try screw us over, like car rentals are infamous for.
- Make sure that the main driver renting the car has a credit card on his/her name. Most car rental companies only allow you to rent a car with a credit card in the name of the main driver. Ale has a credit card, but doesn’t have a driving license and Warner has a driving license, but no credit card. This meant that we were excluded from renting a car from most international rental companies. We eventually found MARK tours, who were willing to be more flexible. But this meant that our options were limited. It also gave us a panic attack when we thought we wouldn’t be able to rent a car at all, just one week prior to arriving.
- If possible, rent a car with unlimited mileage. Most rental companies rent the cars with a limited mileage of around 200km per day. We had one with these conditions, since it was our only possibility, and we made it within the limit, but barely. It was annoying having to take the total mileage into account when planning our itinerary. It also would have been impossible for us to roam further (there are some seriously stunning places to visit outside the common touristy circle around Muscat), even if having had the time.
- There is no need to pay for an additional navigation system. It may be because Ale is an exceptional navigator (HAHA), but we had no issues finding our way by downloading Offline Google Maps and MapsMe. We were also recommended by a local to use Waze, another navigation app. To make sure we always had data in case of need, we bought a local SIM card at the airport with 10GB. This was also handy to research and improvise our routes and destinations.
If you don’t want to rent a car yourself, there is the possibility of hiring a taxi/driver, but they are notorious for being extremely expensive. Tours seem to be geared for groups, and also come with a hefty price tag. And public transportation, is limited, both in frequency and destination options (mainly available between large towns).
However, should you want to explore your options, check Mwasalat for bus routes and timetables. We were also recommended Otaxi for getting taxis with reasonable fixed rates in Oman (but don’t know if it works all over the country).
There is of course the option of traveling around the country by bicycle. In fact, we saw a fair few cyclist braving the arid landscape! Although it’s certainly more environmentally friendly, we would personally not choose to do this. Not only does it require more time and resources (the gear required does not appear out of thin air after all), but the high temperatures and fast driving pace of the highways (there are not many road alternatives), make it seem like a tough and maybe even dangerous option. But if you want to try it out, check out more expert opinions here and here.
A basic no frills double room in Muscat will cost you a minimum of 25€ (if you’re lucky) and upwards. Accommodation at the main tourist attractions in the rest of the country just seem to get even more expensive. And the option for dorm style hostel rooms is hard to come by. In conclusion, accommodation in Oman can be quite expensive, specially if you’re looking for a bit more of comfort.
One look at the prices of hotels recommended by other travellers, and we knew we had to find an alternative. Luckily, wild camping is permitted everywhere in Oman (except for the beaches next to the turtle reserve and in private properties), and a popular activity even amongst Omanis themselves.
We wild camped for six nights and, although not always particularly comfortable, it was a wonderful experience. And the two nights we spend in Muscat, we Couchsurfed with a lovely Indian family. That means that our total cost for accommodation in Oman was of 0€. How great is that?!
If you’re also on a tight budget, or simply love camping, having the option to pitch up a tent anywhere in the country, is seriously amazing. When choosing your locations wisely, you can camp in very diverse natural environments and have an unforgettable experience.
We weren’t really bothered and still ended up sleeping right next to the sea, on top of the mountains, and in the desert. Also because we weren’t really trying, one night we simply parked in suburban neighbourhood and slept in the car (equally unforgettable), and another night next to a less transited road.
We would recommend bringing camping equipment from home if possible. Cooking gear is unnecessary bulk, as the temperatures don’t normally require a warm meal, and it is easy to find cheap small eateries and supermarkets almost everywhere. Sleeping bags (specially for camping in the mountains) and matts however, are important in our experience.
Oman Air allowed us to carry two checked in baggage pieces for free. Because of that, we were able to bring a tent Ale’s mom no longer needed, for no extra charge. We also took with us some basic sleeping bags, which came in handy for the nightly temperature drop. We did not however have an inflatable mattress, or sleeping mats, and let me tell ya, our bodies ached after a night on the hard rocky floor.
If you can’t bring your own gear, we saw that there are people on online groups (couchsurfing, facebook etc.) that are willing to lend you theirs. Or you can try renting it.
As a last resort, the bigger supermarkets, like Carrefour, sell camping equipment (tents, mats etc.). However, make sure when opting for this that you find a second life for the equipment after using it. Omani’s love to camp, so we’re sure there are people that will happily take over your stuff. Or you can hand it over to other travellers. Whatever you do, please don’t opt for a single use, throw away, kind of approach to your camping equipment in Oman.
To be completely honest, on our third night we figured that the chairs of our car were more comfy than the hard floor of our tent. Thus, we spend the latter four nights in the car. This meant we drew less attention in inhabited areas, but more in the common camping ones, even having police wake us up one night at the beach to check what was going on. But don’t worry, Omani police are very friendly and won’t cause you any problems, if you’re not doing anything wrong.
Of course, when you camp for multiple days in a row, you soon start craving a proper shower. You could stay at a hotel or Airbnb once every couple of days. But if you are as
cheap determined as us, and don’t want to spend the extra money on accommodation, we recommend going to the super clean toilets of the bigger shopping malls and supermarkets (the Carrefour of Sur even had a full fledged shower room in the ladies side). Another option is to swim in the wadis that are spread all over the country, but make sure to only use biodegradable soap when washing yourself there!
A long time ago, the staple food consisted mainly of dates, Khubz Ragag (bread) and camel milk. But due to Oman’s history of trade, nowadays its cuisine is influenced by many different cultures from all over the world. However, don’t get too excited just yet, Traditional Omani dishes are rarely found on restaurant menus, and are not all that easy to find outside peoples homes. And Oman is definitely not a foodies destination, specially if you don’t eat meat.
In Muscat and other big cities you can find plenty of variety, all the big international fast-food chains you can think of, and even a couple of specialised vegan menus. But be prepared to pay a hefty amount for these eating out options. Trust us, we decided to treat ourselves to a lovely vegan meal on our last day there, and the 29€ price tag is still haunting us!
The most accessible and affordable option is to eat in the small eateries that can be found anywhere inhabited. Although slightly shabby looking, and not particularly impressive, these cafés are surprisingly cheap, and we actually always enjoyed the simple meals served.
The menu may not reflect it, but you can normally find a couple of vegetarian options (that can be made vegan) if you manage to communicate correctly. The food normally consists of Indian food, with dhal, vegetable curries and rotis, or Turkish varieties of hummus, falafel and salad. That, or veggies burgers. We got a lot of veggie burgers. Weird, huh?!
Veganism/vegetarianism is not common at all in Oman, so you will find yourself a bit limited and frustrated at times when eating out. Prepare yourself to have and extended non-understandable conversation about what to eat (most establishments are run by immigrants that don’t speak Arabic, so looking up the sentences didn’t really work for us). But with a little bit of patience, flexibility, kindness, and some expert pictionary skills, you are bound to find something suitable.
We made sure to always carry some nutritious snacks and fruit with us in case we got hungry. Big supermarket chains like Carrefour or Lulu Hypermarket, sell almost anything you can think of, seriously, and often have a small bulk section where you can buy dried fruits, nuts and dates! They also carry fruits and vegetables from all over the world (origin labeled). We took our own cotton bags to get raisins and peanuts, and made sure to only buy produce grown and sourced locally or in neighbouring countries.
You can also find smaller supermarkets and shops in every town or village you pass, normally labelled “sell food stuff” (still makes us smile). And when driving, you can occasionally come across fruit and vegetable stands at the side of the road. We always prefer to buy food in these type of establishments because you directly contribute to the local economy.
In case you’re vegan/vegetarian like us, but still want to try eat something typically Omani, try the following:
- Khubz Ragag: this is a paper thin an often flaky omani bread made with wheat, water and salt. Vegans will have to enjoy it plain, as it is normally accompanied by different combinations of cheese, mayonnaise, honey or eggs.
- Halwa: this is the most authentic Omani dessert, and is traditionally made with semolina and sugar cooked into a thick sticky paste, and then seasoned with rosewater, saffron, and nuts. Different varieties exist, but they are all extremely sweet. If you are vegan make sure that the particular one you want to try doesn’t include ghee (butter).
- Dates: there is nothing more local and customary than dates. Omanis will often offer them to you with coffee. The traditional way of eating them is to take them with your right hand (your left hand should not touch food), smush them to manually get rid of the pit, and then proceed to nom. Sometimes different sauces, like tahini, are available to dip the date into for added flavour.
One of the things that really made us happy in this country, was the wide availability of filtered drinking water. Trying to avoid plastic usage means that you can often find us purifying tap water whilst traveling. But in Oman, this is not necessary at all. Every mosque, public toilet and touristic sight, has water filtering machines where you can refill your water bottles. The taste of the water varied, but was safe to drink (no upset tummies for us).
When water gets boring, all local eateries offer a variety of freshly made juices that are fairly cheap (around 1,5 euro). Just remember to request for “no straw”.
Coffee and tea are also widely available, though not prepared in the way you’re probably used to. Tea (black) is usually strong, sweet, milky (they use powdered milk so its not suitable for vegans) and often with cardamom. Traditional coffee (gahwa), on the other hand, is served black, sugarless and flavoured with spices. It is served in small cups (without handles) and is a very important part of local culture.
We experienced Omani hospitality on multiple occasions, and were offered coffee and dates even at the entrance of most tourist sights. If it is offered to you (not in a touristic setting), it is polite to accept at least one cup. To indicate you no longer want more you should shake the cup from side to side, and then give it back to the person that served you (do not just leave it on the table). This shows respect and gratitude.
Cultural awareness and mannerisms
Oman is a country that proudly stands out for its strong cultural heritage, as well as its rapid progress. Although highly influenced by western standards, and more liberal than neighbouring countries, tradition is still alive and well here. Anyone visiting should be mindful and respectful of the many do’s and don’ts that visiting a conservative muslim country implies.
Here are the main things you should consider:
The majority of Omanis practice a branch of Islam called Ibadi, and the country is governed and run according to the sharia law. Being the only muslim country with an Ibadi majority explains the countries historic isolation from the Arab world, and has heavily influenced the nations culture.
Although Islam is the official religion of Oman, freedom of religion is respected, and discrimination based on religion is prohibited by law.
We found that many Omanis are open minded towards other practices and often curiously ask what your religion is. However, the concept of atheism or agnosticism is not widely understood. It is mostly easier to say you are Christian or from a known religion.
Their faith is taken quite seriously, so travelers should, of course, be respectful and never insult Islam. Entering most mosques as a non-Muslim is not allowed unless you get direct permission to do so. For those mosques that can be visited by tourists, like the famous Al Qaboos Grand Mosque in Muscat, you’ll notice that the hours are limited (normally from 8-11am everyday except Friday) to guarantee you don’t disturb the prayers. It is also necessary to be fully covered (till your ankles and wrists) in loose fitting clothing, and women should also cover their hair.
In Oman both women and men, dress very modestly, even more so when you go more inland. Most men wear an ankle length gown called a dishdasha, and women a long black dress called an abaya, with some, especially in more conservative areas, also wearing a niqab or burkha.
Although conservative wear is encouraged (virtually any guide to Oman will tell you this, and there are also public notice boards at the entrances of villages and monuments asking you to cover you shoulders and legs), Omanis do not impose. It’s perhaps because of this, that we saw plenty of tourists walking around in short, tight-fitting clothes. And in popular swimming spots, most women wore bikinis, even with locals present. This does not however mean that it is okay. In fact, it is considered extremely disrespectful.
Please be considerate and dress accordingly. The general rule of thumb is simple: BOTH men and women should cover their neckline, arms (past the elbows) and legs (past the knees at least). The clothes should be loose fitting (more comfortable in the heat anyway), and shouldn’t be see-through.
As a woman, it is advisable to carry a scarf with you in case you’re visiting a mosque or more conservative area. Wearing swimsuits is acceptable within resorts, but outside these, women should cover further when in the presence of locals. And with your footwear remember, always take your shoes off before entering someone’s home or mosques!
We personally chose to be fully covered (to our ankles and wrists) at all times. Ale wore a scarf even when simply wandering through markets, or visiting touristy sights, like the castles and forts.
For swimming, Ale wore a bathing suit with shorts and a t-shirt on top in the touristy wadis that could potentially have locals visiting. The only moment we didn’t adhere to our strict clothing rules, was when completely alone.
Doing so showed that we care. We also thus avoided any negative attention. This, not only made us feel more comfortable, but also allowed us to have a more fun and novel experience, as we were truly trying to integrate into the local culture. We have found that, because we try to respect local norms and traditions, locals usually welcome us warmly and respond well to our presence. And we are convinced the first impressions our clothing gives off, has an important role to play in that.
Alcohol & drugs
Alcohol is not publicly available in Oman. Although it is sold and served (except in the holy month of Ramadan when no alcohol is available at all) in designated cafes, hotels and licensed liquor shops, it is an offence to be drunk or consume alcohol in public. Also, the legal age for drinking is 21, and apparently alcohol is very expensive (we don’t drink so we have no idea).
There is also a zero tolerance policy for all drugs, with severe penalties for possession and trafficking that can amount to the death penalty.
Privacy and photography
Like in many Arab countries, Omani people are not particularly fond of having their photographs taken. Make sure to always ask before snapping away. Don’t be disappointed if most people say no. Also, be extremely cautious when it comes to photographing governmental/military buildings and airports, as this can often lead to trouble.
Visiting traditional parts of towns or villages is viewed as entering the private space of the people who live there. Walk in, rather than drive through, and be careful to not be too intrusive (don’t shout etc.).
Same sex relations, opposite sex relations and PDA
When in Oman be cautious of how you interact with the opposite sex. Being a very segregated society, even the most innocent of gestures (like smiling) can be misinterpreted and frowned upon. Never shake hands with someone of the opposite sex, unless they initiate it. It is safest to salute with a respectful nod, or salaam (Muslim custom of bending forward at the waist and putting your hand vertically up to your forehead).
If you are traveling as a couple, it is very important that you avoid physical contact (including kissing, touching or holding hands) in public or in the presence of others. Public displays of affection are an offense here, and you will never see local couples be intimate with each other.
Same sex relations are not permitted before marriage, but it is an offence for police to inquire about your marital status, and as a foreigner you are unlikely to held up to this standard. We did however refer to each other as married whenever asked by locals, just in case.
Homosexuality is illegal in Oman and harshly punishable by law. As anywhere, an underground movement exists in the capital, but information is limited for obvious reasons.
General courtesy and respect
Being respectful is an integral part of Omani culture, and a principle which the vast majority of the population stands by. Thus, interactions with locals tend to be pleasant, kind and courteous. As a visitor it is extremely important to take special care with the way one acts and speaks, not only because it can drastically influence how locals perceive and treat you, but also because it gives you a beautiful insight into the country you are privileged enough to explore.
Omanis, albeit reserved at times (specially women), are very friendly and welcoming. Take advantage of this and learn a few words in Arabic to break the ice. Here, like in other Muslim countries, it is common curtesy to greet each other with “As-Salaam-Aleikum”, to which you respond “Wa-Aleikum-Salaam”. It essentially means ‘peace be with you’ and is often accompanied by a slight head nod.
You would then proceed to enquire about the well-being/health of the other person, their family, the place they are from, and current news. This is done even with total strangers as it is considered rude to immediately start talking ‘business’. Of course, foreigners are not expected to follow this tradition.
Hospitality is big in Oman and you are likely to be invited to have some dates and coffee (or other refreshments) at some point. It is considered rude to decline, unless it is in a touristy setting, so keep this in mind before hastily declining. Try to be flexible with your schedule and enjoy the kind gesture. If you are lucky enough to be invited to someone’s home, it is common courtesy to take a small gift, like some dates or chocolates.
Remember to only use your right hand whilst eating. The left hand is considered dirty as it is used for toilet stuff (this is the case in many countries around the world).
It is considered rude to make big gestures with your arms and hands, or to speak/laugh loudly in public. Cursing is also considered extremely disrespectful. And insulting, even if through hand gestures or on social media, can even become a legal issue. Omani people are calm and humble, but do not appreciate teasing, or anything that can be perceived as criticism, whether personal, national, cultural or of the region. So be careful with what you say, how you fraise it, and leave the rude/bad words at home!
On a similar note, avoid discussing the political, religious or social climate of Oman. Oman is an absolute monarchy, with Sultan Qaboos bin Said al Said ruling since 1970. During this time the country has experienced rapid development and prosperity, and thus he is highly respected. Furthermore, there is a strong form of governmental control, with media being censored and monitored. So stay away from sensitive topics, specially in public and online.
I can not speak as to solo female travel in Oman, as Warner and I were traveling together, but here, here and here are some articles of women that have. We also came across a couple of women driving solo. The general experience seems to be really positive, with female travelers expressing how safe they felt when going around the country.
Women traveling through Oman rarely experience any sort of harassment or hassle. Omani men tend to be extremely polite, to the point where they may completely ignore you. Whilst you may consider it rude/sexist to not be given a handshake, or addressed directly whilst in a conversation (both these things happened to us constantly with Warner being the cornerstone of all relations with locals), in Oman, it is a sign of respect. In fact, I (Ale) would feel safe as long as the men directing themselves to me are courteous in the way they approach me and keep their distance. Being called sister or madam is a good sign; anything less formal immediately sets of my alarm bells.
As a solo female traveler you may find yourself alone most of the time. With not that many fellow tourists to be found, and most of them traveling in groups, it is more difficult to start up conversations. Local men will mostly not direct themselves to you, and the women will probably observe you from afar. I did notice that in the moments Warner was not around, local women would acknowledge me more, but not to the point of starting a conversation. We did however hear from a female traveler that was approached by a woman, and invited into a home because she was on her own.
Most places, including restaurants and public transportation, tend to have a ‘women only’ section or a separate ‘women/family’ area. Although generally a very safe country for women, it is smart to practice due diligence and act according to local standards whenever possible.
Animal rights and environmental protection
Oman’s natural beauty is truly stunning and unique. As visitors that get the privilege to explore its varied wadis, mountains, desert and coastal areas, we should be specially careful to protect the environment (and critters living within).
Whilst traveling, it is easy to get caught up in ones comfort and forget the country’s resources. It is important to remember that Oman is a mostly desert country, so be careful with your water usage! Also, as everywhere else, waste is a huge and ever-growing issue, and recycling remains a grey area. Do your part to reduce the use of plastic, and make sure to leave no trace when visiting natural sights. In fact, pick up some of the trash you come across if possible. Also, please make sure to use chemical-free sunscreen. We are all responsible for our planet!
It is also extremely important to question any activity that involves animals as to prevent promoting their exploitation, or even the destruction of whole ecosystems.
The Ras Al Jinz Turtle Reserve in Oman is hailed for its preservation efforts of the green turtle, and a very popular tourist destination. But as with any attraction that involves wildlife, we made sure to dig a bit deeper before deciding whether to visit. Though most people seem pleased with the experience, a few of the reviews were enough to really worry us, with accounts of the visiting groups being too large and disruptive, and guides showcasing extremely unethical practices. What made it for us was their advertisement, which we saw on our flight to Oman. It shows a little girl picking up a turtle (of a different species), and stroking it before putting it back on the beach. This is an absolute no-no and honestly makes us seriously question the knowledge and intentions of the reserve.
If you decide you want to see turtles anyway, please make sure to go with an experienced wildlife guide, do not carry a flashlight or use your flash to take photographs, be quiet, and stay at least 10-15m away. Oh, and NO touching!
Trying not to be disruptive in any way should also apply to any other wildlife activity, including diving, and wale/dolphin watching. Partaking in any of these activities should be done in an ethical manner. Unacceptable behavior should be called out to create more positive precedents as an example for the future.
We believe animals should be treated ethically and humanely irrespective of being wild or domesticated. It is therefore that we would strongly discourage camel riding into the desert. We have made this mistake in the past and now regret it. You can always walk into the sand dunes yourself, and in Oman, it is fairly easy to come across camels walking freely, so you will for sure see these wonderful animals anyway. There is really no excuse.
We would also never go to the goat/cattle markets. Whilst we respect that they are part of the local culture, we personally don’t have to support the deplorable treatment of these animals. And it would be specially sad that these practices are fomented because they become a tourist attraction.
We hope this comprehensive insight on how to consciously travel in Oman on a budget helps you when organizing your own adventure. Keep an eye out for our itinerary in case you’d like for more concrete ideas of where to go and what to do.