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What were you doing in Oman?
Much like my stint in India, this was a company-sponsored trip. I was there for only two weeks, so I only had one weekend to explore the country the best that I can.
Do you need a visa to travel to Oman?
Yes. I was granted the Express Visa, which is a single-entry visa good for three weeks in Oman, and must be used within one month from the date of issuance. My application was handled by my company, but apparently you can apply online as well.
Are there non-stop flights to Oman?
The nearest destination offered by my go-to airlines Cebu Pacific Air is Dubai, which is an hour away (by air) from Oman. Oman's flagship carrier, Oman Air, offers non-stop flights from Manila to its capital, Muscat (WY 844), and vice-versa (WY 843). Travel time is 8 hours and 15 minutes.
Where exactly is Oman?
The Sultanate of Oman is located at the southeastern coast of the Arabian Peninsula. It is south of UAE, east of Saudi Arabia, north-east of Yemen [Source: Wiki, Google Maps].
What can you tell me about this country, in a nutshell?
Short facts about Oman, which I think will interest the Filipino reader [Source: Wiki]:
- Arabic is the official language of Oman; Islam--its official religion
- Sultanate is the form of government in Oman, which is a unitary state with a parliamentary system, and an absolute form of monarchy (wherein the Sultan is the monarch)
- Muscat is the capital of Oman. It is a coastal city in northern Oman, nestled between the gulf of Oman and the Al Hajar Mountain Range (which extends up to UAE)
- Supposedly, the climate differs between the north (i.e. Muscat) and the south (i.e. Salalah). Muscat climate is more on the dry, desert side, while Salalah climate is more on the wet, subtropical side. I've only been in Muscat, and the hottest temperature I've experienced is around 40 degrees Celsius at noontime
- Omani currency is the Rial (OMR). As of writing, 1 OMR = 125.97 PHP
- Oman uses the Gulf Time Zone, which is UTC +04:00. It is 4 hours behind the Philippine Time Zone (UTC +08:00)
How to Get Around
Admittedly, public transportation in Muscat isn't tourist-friendly. There are no trains or subways within the city, and buses are quite rare. The main form of public transportation is the taxi, which offers three types of travel: 1) Metered (which is only available at the airport), 2) Fixed-price (where the taxi driver determines the price to pay by the kilometer), and 3) Point-to-point (which is usually done along highways).
- Most taxi drivers can understand and speak English, and are open to haggling rates. If they are in a good mood, you can request for a rate that is 1 to 2 OMR cheaper than the asking price.
- Some taxis give receipts, should you need one for expense reimbursements
- If you liked the service given to you, best to ask for the driver's number. He can be your designated taxi for the rest of the stay, or in cases where he isn't available, he can find other taxi drivers for you
Where to Stay
A quick search of Airbnb shows that there are available accommodations in Muscat, but for the purposes of my trip, stayed at City Seasons Hotel. A Superior Room costs 40 OMR a night, inclusive of 5% Municipality Fee, 4% Tourism Tax, and 8% Service Charge. This rate also includes a breakfast buffet, served between 7AM and 10AM.
|Image taken from Agoda.com|
TRAVEL TIP:I find that City Seasons Hotel is a good location for foreign travelers, for the following reasons:
- Adjacent to a supermarket (i.e. K. M. Hypermarket), which has its own foreign exchange currency kiosk
- 15-minute walk to an HSBC ATM, which accepts foreign bank cards
- Near familiar restaurants and fastfood chains such as T.G.I. Fridays, KFC, McDonalds, and Subway
- Accessible to taxis having drivers with good English-speaking skills
Restaurants to Try Out
Most of my time in Oman was spent working with colleagues from India, which restricted my food experience. Some of them were strictly vegetarian, and would only prefer to eat at Indian restaurants. For this reason, most of the restaurants I will feature are of the sub-continental category.
Turkish Diwan was the first restaurant I've tried, after arriving at Muscat. This is also perhaps the only Middle Eastern restaurant I've tried during my whole stay.
I was lucky enough to try a Filipino restaurant near the hotel, during my first week in Oman. That time, I still had Filipino colleagues with me, syempre kailangan sulitin ang pagkakataon!
|Palayok serves Filipino cuisine [image source]|
Begum's is the nearest Indian restaurant from the hotel; this is where we would eat most often. They serve good curry, bread, and biryani.
|Begum's serves sub-continental food, specializing in Indian cuisine [image source]|
Biriyani King is the nearest restaurant from the office we were going to, thus our default location for lunch.
|Biryani King serves sub-continental cuisine, specializing in Hyderabadi cuisine [image source]|
Karachi Darbar is also walking distance from the hotel, and my Indian colleagues' an alternative choice to Begum's. They serve smaller portions of food (which makes it less expensive), and they serve good bread.
|Karachi Darbar serves sub-continental food, specializing in Pakistani cuisine [image source]|
BONUS: Omani Coffee
Omani coffee is best shared with a group as the method of serving is a social experience in itself. The coffee grounds are mixed with spices (cardamom and cloves, according to the Internet) and are served in a shot glass type of cup.
Client offered me Omani coffee. Sa shot glass nilagay, naku matapang ito! Fun fact, tagay ang style nila when sharing coffee. A water bowl is included in the coffee set where they rinse the cup before serving the next person. Bawal kasi ang alcohol kaya sa kape na lang daw sila maglalasing hahaha. #travel #muscat #oman
- When eating at proper restaurants, be ready to shell out 5 OMR for a meal: 1-2 OMR for the starch (i.e. rice/ bread), 2-3 OMR for the protein (i,e, ulam), and 1-2 OMR for the drinks. The cost may seem high, but in fairness they do serve large portions of meals good enough for 2 medium-sized Filipinos.
- Restaurants do not serve pork and alcohol, as part of Islamic practice
Alas! I've written yet another lengthy entry. See you in the next post for a narrative of sightseeing spots I was able to visit.