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Travel Security Advice for Oman

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oman_mapOman_Overview


 

COUNTRY DESCRIPTION:  

The Sultanate of Oman, a land of great natural beauty on the southeast corner of the Arabian Peninsula, has a long and proud heritage.   Oman has seen rapid economic and social development in the past three decades.  The Government of Oman estimated its population at 2,340,815 in its 2003 census, but the current number is likely to be significantly higher due to an influx of expatriate workers in numerous sectors of the economy.  The CIA World Factbook estimates Oman’s population to be 3,311,640 in its latest on-line update as of December 18, 2008.  A monarchy governed by Sultan Qaboos bin Said, the country does not have political parties or a legislature, although a bicameral representative body (the lower house of which is directly elected) provides the government with advice and reviews draft legislation.  While Oman is traditionally Islamic and Islam is the state religion, Omanis have for centuries lived with people of other faiths.  Non-Muslims are free to worship at churches and temples built on land donated by the Sultan.  The economy is largely dependent on the production and export of oil and natural gas, but is becoming increasingly diversified.  Excellent tourist facilities are available in the major cities of Muscat, Salalah, Sohar, and Nizwa and can increasingly be found elsewhere in the country.  Travelers may wish to visit the Sultanate’s tourism web site at http://www.omantourism.gov.om/ for more information.  Travelers may also wish to read the Department of State Background Notes on Oman for additional information.



ENTRY/EXIT REQUIREMENTS: 

A valid passport and visa are required for entry into Oman.  Omani embassies and consulates issue multiple-entry tourist and/or business visas valid for up to two years.  Omani immigration officials at the port of entry determine the length of stay in Oman, which varies according to the purpose of travel.  Alternatively, U.S. citizens may obtain a 30-day visa by presenting their U.S. passports on arrival at all Oman land, sea, and air entry points.  Note: The validity period of the applicant's passport should not be less than six months.  Adequate funds and proof of an onward/return ticket, though not required, are strongly recommended.  The fee is Rials Omani 6.00 (approximately USD 16.00).  This visa can be extended for an extra 30 days only; a completed extension application form and the fee of Rials Omani 6.00 (USD 16.00) should be submitted to the Directorate General of Passports and Residence or to its branches at regional Royal Omani Police offices.  Other categories of short-term visit/business/work contract visas are available, but these must be arranged in advance through an Omani sponsor.  To obtain a visa or for details on entry and travel requirements, please contact the Embassy of the Sultanate of Oman, 2535 Belmont Road NW, Washington, DC  20008, telephone (202) 387-1980/2.  Evidence of yellow fever immunization is required if the traveler enters from an infected area.  Visit the Embassy of Oman web site  for the most current visa information.

Information about
dual nationality or the prevention of international child abduction can be found on our web site.  For further information about customs regulations, please read our Customs Information sheet.

Forbidden items:  The Sultanate prohibits pornographic materials and firearms from entering Oman.  Local law limits each traveler to two bottles of alcohol.  Items subject to confiscation at the airport due to content considered culturally inappropriate include, but are not limited to, compact discs, digital video discs, and video and audiocassettes.  Please refer to our
Customs Information to learn more about customs regulations.



SAFETY AND SECURITY:   

There have been no instances in which U.S. citizens or facilities in Oman have been subject to terrorist attacks.  However, the Department of State remains concerned about the possibility of terrorist attacks against United States citizens and interests throughout the region.  American citizens in Oman are urged to maintain a high level of security awareness.  The State Department suggests that all Americans in Oman maintain an unpredictable schedule and vary travel routes and times whenever possible.  Americans are also urged to treat mail or packages from unfamiliar sources with suspicion.  Unusual mail or packages should be left unopened and reported to local authorities.  U.S. citizens with security concerns are encouraged to contact local authorities and the Consular Section of the U.S. Embassy in Muscat.

For the latest security information, Americans traveling abroad should regularly monitor the Department’s web site, where the current
Worldwide Caution, Travel Warnings and Travel Alerts can be found.

Up-to-date information on safety and security can also be obtained by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll-free in the U.S.and Canada or, for callers outside the U.S. and Canada, a regular toll line at 1-202-501-4444.  These numbers are available from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays).

The Department of State urges American citizens to take responsibility for their own personal security while traveling overseas.  For general information about appropriate measures travelers can take to protect themselves in an overseas environment, see the Department of State’s information on
A Safe Trip Abroad.



CRIME: 

The incidence of street crime is low in Oman; violent crime is rare by U.S. standards, but can occur.  Crimes of opportunity remain the most likely to affect visitors.  Visitors to Oman should, therefore, take normal precautions, such as avoiding travel in deserted or unfamiliar areas and after dark.  Visitors should also protect personal property from theft.  In particular, valuables and currency should not be left unsecured in hotel rooms.  Common sense and caution are always the best methods for crime prevention.



INFORMATION FOR VICTIMS OF CRIME: 

The loss or theft abroad of a U.S. passport should be reported immediately to the local police and the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate.  If you are the victim of a crime while overseas, in addition to reporting to local police, please contact the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate for assistance.  The Embassy/Consulate staff can, for example, assist you to find appropriate medical care, contact family members or friends, and explain how funds could be transferred.  Although the investigation and prosecution of the crime is solely the responsibility of local authorities, consular officers can help you to understand the local criminal justice process and to find an attorney if needed.  

The local equivalent to the “911” emergency line in Oman is:  9999
See our information on
Victims of Crime.



SPECIAL CIRCUMSTANCES:

By Omani custom and law, expressing frustration either verbally or through otherwise innocuous hand gestures is considered insulting and abusive.  Any individual, regardless of citizenship and residency status, may file a personal defamation charge, and accusation of wrongdoing is sufficient to initiate a legal process.  While not commonplace, the incidence of American citizens charged with personal defamation has been on the rise in recent months.  These cases are normally resolved by a formal apology and a payment of damage to the aggrieved party, but one American citizen’s case went to trial in 2008.  Omani law typically does not permit a foreigner accused of a crime, including defamation, to depart the country while legal proceedings are ongoing.  Confrontations leading to defamation charges occur mostly on Oman’s roads, and visitors should exercise caution when dealing with difficult drivers. 

Omani employers often ask that expatriate employees deposit their passports with the company as a condition of employment.  While to an extent still customary, this practice is contrary to Omani law.  The U.S. Embassy in Muscat advises Americans to exercise caution on the issue of permitting an employer to hold their passports, since this can operate as a restraint on travel and could give undue leverage to the employer in a dispute.  U.S. passports are the property of the U.S. government.

Islamic ideals provide the conservative foundation of Oman's customs, laws, and practices.  Foreign visitors are expected to be sensitive to Islamic culture and not dress in a revealing or provocative style, including the wearing of sleeveless shirts and blouses, halter-tops and shorts.  Athletic clothing is worn in public only when the wearer is obviously engaged in athletic activity.  Western bathing attire, however, is the norm at hotel pools and beaches. 



CRIMINAL PENALTIES: 

While in a foreign country, a U.S. citizen is subject to that country's laws and regulations, which sometimes differ significantly from those in the United States and may not afford the protections available to the individual under U.S. law.  Penalties for breaking the law can be more severe than in the United States for similar offenses.  Persons violating Omani laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested, or imprisoned.  Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking in illegal drugs in Oman are severe, and convicted offenders can expect long jail sentences and heavy fines.  Engaging in sexual conduct with children or using or disseminating child pornography in a foreign country is a crime, prosecutable in the United States.  Please see our information on Criminal Penalties.



MEDICAL FACILITIES AND HEALTH INFORMATION: 

There are a number of modern medical facilities in Oman.  Local medical treatment varies from quite good to inadequate, depending in large part on location.  Many Western pharmaceuticals can be found in Oman.  Hospital emergency treatment is available.  Doctors and hospitals often expect cash payment for health services.

Information on vaccinations and other health precautions, such as safe food and water precautions and insect bite protection, may be obtained from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s hotline for international travelers at 1-877-FYI-TRIP (1-877-394-8747) or the CDC’s web site.  For information about outbreaks of infectious diseases abroad consult the World Health Organization (WHO).  Further health information for travelers  is available from the WHO.

Some HIV/AIDS entry restrictions exist for visitors to and foreign residents of Oman.  Oman requires persons seeking work or residence visas to take an HIV/AIDS test after arriving in the country; U.S. HIV/AIDS tests are not accepted.  Please verify this information with the Embassy of Oman at (202) 387-1980/2 before you travel. 



MEDICAL INSURANCE: 

The Department of State strongly urges Americans to consult with their medical insurance company prior to traveling abroad to confirm whether their policy applies overseas and whether it will cover emergency expenses such as a medical evacuation. 

Please see our information on medical insurance overseas.
 


TRAFFIC SAFETY AND ROAD CONDITIONS: 

While in a foreign country, U.S. citizens may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States.  The information below concerning Oman is provided for general reference only, and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance.

Road Conditions and Hazards: Road conditions, lighting, and traffic safety in cities and on major highways are good.  The condition of rural roads varies from good to poor.  Travel between cities, especially at night, may be dangerous due to poor or no lighting, wandering livestock, and speeding drivers.  The safety of public transportation is generally good.  Taxis, minivans, and small buses may swerve to the side of the road to pick up passengers with little notice or regard for other vehicles.

Local Laws and Practices:  Traffic laws in Oman are strictly enforced and the consequences for violating them may be severe by U.S. standards.  For example, running a red light results in a mandatory, non-bailable detention period of 48 hours, followed by confiscation of one’s driver’s license, vehicle registration, and car registration plate until the Omani judicial process is concluded, which may take as long as several months.  Other common traffic violations that carry strict penalties, up to and including jail sentences, fines, and/or deportation, include: driving without a license, driving under the influence of alcohol, failure to wear a seat belt, talking on cellular telephones while driving (other than using hands-free technology), speeding excessively, overtaking another vehicle, screeching a car’s tires or failing to keep one’s car clean.  In the event of a traffic violation and fine, drivers should cooperate with police officers and should not attempt to pay or negotiate payment at the time of the traffic stop.

Effective June 1, 2007, the Royal Oman Police (ROP) introduced new procedures for minor Road Traffic Accidents (RTA) to reduce traffic jams.  According to the ROP, the new procedure is currently in force in the Governorate of Muscat area and will eventually be implemented in the other governorates and regions of the Sultanate.  American citizens considering driving in Oman are advised to familiarize themselves with the new procedures available on the ROP web site under “Minor Road Traffic Accidents.”   Note:  Minor RTA are accidents that cause minor damage to one or more vehicles but do not result in injuries, deaths, or material damage to public/private properties.  Parties involved in such accidents should immediately move their vehicles to the side of the road.

American citizens involved in accidents outside of the Muscat area are advised not to move their vehicles from the accident location until the ROP gives them permission; moving a vehicle may be interpreted as an admission of guilt.


The use of European-style traffic circles is prevalent in Oman.  However, unlike European traffic practice, the driver on the inside lane always has priority.  A driver flashing his/her high beams is generally asking for a chance to pass.  Turning right on a red traffic signal is prohibited.

Visitors should not drive without a valid license.  Short-term visitors in possession of a valid U.S. driver's license may drive rental vehicles, but residents must have an Omani driver's license.  To obtain an Omani license, a U.S. citizen must have a U.S. license that has been valid for at least one year or must take a driving test.  Visitors hiring rental cars should insure the vehicles adequately against death, injury and loss or damage.  Residents may insure their vehicles outside the Sultanate; however, third party liability insurance must be purchased locally.


Emergency Services:  A modern ambulance service using American equipment and staff trained in the U.S. was instituted in 2004 and has been assessed as very good.  The service currently serves only certain urban locations in Oman, including the capital area, but is eventually expected to provide coverage for motor vehicle accident victims throughout the entire Sultanate.  For all traffic-related emergencies, the Royal Omani Police can be contacted by dialing "9999."

Please refer to our Road Safety page for more information.  Visit the web site of Oman’s national tourist office  for further information.



AVIATION SAFETY OVERSIGHT: 

The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has assessed the Government of Oman’s Civil Aviation Authority as being in compliance with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) aviation safety standards for oversight of Oman’s air carrier operations.  For more information, travelers may visit the FAA’s web at http://www.faa.gov/about/initiatives/iasa .



CHILDREN'S ISSUES: 

For information see our Office of Children’s Issues web pages on intercountry adoption and international parental child abduction



REGISTRATION / EMBASSY LOCATION:

Americans living or traveling in Oman are encouraged to register with the U.S. Embassy in Muscat through the State Department’s travel registration web site and to obtain updated information on travel and security within Oman.  Americans without Internet access may register directly with the U.S. Embassy in Muscat.  By registering, American citizens make it easier for the Embassy to contact them in case of emergency. 

The U.S. Embassy is located on Jamiat A’Duwal Al Arabiya Street, Al Khuwair Area (Shatti Al-Qurum), in the capital city of Muscat.  The mailing address is: PO Box 202, Medinat Al Sultan Qaboos 115, Sultanate of Oman, telephone: (968) 24-643-400, fax: (968) 24-643-535.  The Embassy’s Consular e-mail address is This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it American Citizens Services are available on a walk-in basis from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. every Saturday, Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday.  The U.S. Embassy is closed on Omani and American holidays.  In the event of an emergency outside of normal office hours, American citizens may call the number above for assistance.

This replaces the Country Specific Information for Oman dated December 3, 2007 to update the sections on Country Description, Entry/Exit Requirements, Safety and Security, Information for Victims of Crime, Special Circumstances, Medical Facilities and Health Information, Traffic Safety and Road Conditions, and Registration/Embassy Location.

 


 

The UK Foreign & Commonwealth Office also has information regrding travel to Oman HERE....

Looking for an Embassy ?, You can also check out our World Wide Embassies Listings Section HERE (For US Citizens) or HERE (For UK Citizens)...........

Regards

The SW Team......

 

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