August 6, 2004
COUNTRY DESCRIPTION: The Sultanate of Oman has a long and proud heritage, and is a country of great natural beauty on the southeast corner of the Arabian Peninsula. With a population of 2.33 million, it is a country that has seen rapid economic and social development in the past three decades. 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, increasingly, natural gas. Excellent tourist facilities are available in the Capital area of Muscat, as well as in Salalah, Sohar, and Nizwa and are increasingly found elsewhere in the country. Travelers may wish to visit the Directorate General of Tourism's website at http://www.omantourism.gov.om for more information.
ENTRY/EXIT REQUIREMENTS: A valid passport and visa are required for entry into Oman. Omani embassies and consulates issue two-year, multiple-entry tourist and/or business visas to qualified U.S. citizens. Optionally, 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 are required. The fee is Rial Omani 6.000 (approximately USD 16.00). This visa can only be extended for an extra 30 days. A completed extension application form and a fee of Rial Omani 6.000 (USD 16.00) should be submitted to the Directorate General of Passports and Residence, or to its branches at regional Royal Oman 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 N.W., Washington, D.C. 20008, telephone (202) 387-1980/2. Evidence of yellow fever immunization is required if the traveler enters from an infected area.
In an effort to prevent international child abduction, many governments have initiated procedures at border points. These often include requiring documentary evidence of the relationship and permission for the child's travel from the parent(s) or legal guardian if not present. Having such documentation on hand, even if not required, may facilitate entry/departure.
DUAL NATIONALITY: The Omani Government does not recognize dual nationality. Omani authorities can confiscate the U.S. passports of U.S./Omani dual nationals. Should this occur, it should be reported to the U.S. Embassy in Muscat. For additional information, see the Consular Affairs home page on the Internet at http://travel.state.gov/travel/dualnationality.html for our Dual Nationality flyer.
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 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 Internet web site at http://travel.state.gov where the current Worldwide Caution Public Announcement, Middle East and North Africa Public Announcement, and other Travel Warnings and Public Announcements can be found.
Up-to-date information on security can also be obtained by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll free in the United States, or, for callers outside the United States and Canada, a regular toll line at 1-317-472-2328. These numbers are available from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays).
CRIME: Although the incidence of crime is low in Oman, travelers to Oman should take normal precautions. Travelers 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 the best crime prevention. While violent crime is relatively rare in Oman, it does occur.
The loss or theft of a U.S. passport abroad should be reported immediately to 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, to contact family members or friends and to explain the process for transferring funds. 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.
U.S. citizens may refer to the Department of State's pamphlets A Safe Trip Abroad and Tips for Travelers to the Middle East and North Africa for ways to promote a trouble-free journey. The pamphlets are available by mail from the Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, D.C. 20402, via the Internet at http://www.gpoaccess.gov/index.html, or via the Bureau of Consular Affairs home page at http://travel.state.gov/travel/abroad_pub_safetrip.html.
MEDICAL FACILITIES: There are a number of medical facilities utilized by Westerners in Oman. Many (but by no means all) Western pharmaceuticals can be found in Oman. Local medical treatment varies from quite good to inadequate, depending in large part on location. While hospital emergency treatment is available, ambulance service has only begun in certain urban locations in Oman (see Traffic Safety and Road Conditions section below). Doctors and hospitals often expect cash payment for health services.
MEDICAL INSURANCE: U.S. medical insurance plans seldom cover health costs incurred outside the United States unless supplemental coverage is purchased. The Department of State strongly urges Americans to consult with their medical insurance company prior to traveling abroad to confirm whether their policies apply overseas and whether insurance companies will cover emergency expenses including medical evacuation. Further, U.S. Medicare and Medicaid programs are inapplicable outside the United States. Many travel agents and private companies offer insurance plans that will cover health care expenses incurred overseas including medical evacuations.
When choosing health insurance, Americans should consider that many foreign doctors and hospitals require payment in cash prior to providing service and that a medical evacuation to the U.S. may cost well in excess of $50,000. Uninsured travelers who require medical care overseas often face extreme difficulties. When consulting with your insurer prior to your trip, ascertain whether payment will be made to the overseas healthcare provider or if you will be reimbursed later for expenses you incur. Some insurance policies also include coverage for psychiatric treatment and for disposition of remains in the event of death.
Useful information on medical emergencies abroad, including overseas insurance programs, is provided in the Department of State's Bureau of Consular Affairs brochure Medical Information for Americans Traveling Abroad, available via the Bureau of Consular Affairs home page or autofax: (202) 647-3000.
OTHER HEALTH INFORMATION: 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); fax 1-888-CDC-FAXX (1-888-232-3299), or via CDC's Internet site at http://www.cdc.gov/travel. For information about outbreaks of infectious diseases abroad consult the World Health Organization's website at http://www.who.int/en. Further health information for travelers is available at http://www.who.int/ith.
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.
Safety of Public Transportation: Good
Urban Road Conditions/Maintenance: Good
Rural Road Conditions/Maintenance: Poor
Availability of Roadside/Ambulance Assistance: Poor
(Ambulance service has only begun in certain urban locations in Oman. A modern ambulance service using U.S. equipment and staff trained in the U.S. was instituted in 2004 and is eventually expected to provide coverage for motor accident victims throughout the entire Sultanate. That service is assessed as very good.)
Road conditions, lighting, and traffic safety in cities and on major highways are good. Travel between cities, especially at night, may be dangerous due to poor or no lighting, wandering livestock, and speeding drivers.
Local Traffic Laws: Traffic laws in Oman are strictly enforced. Seat belt use is required, and the use of cellular telephones while driving and driving while under the influence of alcohol are prohibited. There are stringent penalties for violation of these laws, particularly for driving under the influence of alcohol. In the event of a traffic violation and fine, drivers should pay the fine as directed and should not attempt to pay the fine or negotiate payment at the time of the traffic stop. In the event of an accident, the driver should not move the vehicle from the location of the accident until police grant permission; moving a vehicle is equivalent to an admission of guilt. The Royal Oman Police may be contacted at telephone 968-560-099.
Driving: 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.
Insurance: 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.
Local Traffic Customs: 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 light is prohibited.
For additional general information about road safety, including links to foreign government sites, see the Department of State, Bureau of Consular Affairs home page road safety overseas feature at http://travel.state.gov/travel/abroad_roadsafety.html. For specific information concerning Omani driving permits, vehicle inspection, road tax and mandatory insurance, please contact the Omani Office of Tourism of the Ministry of Commerce and Industry via the Internet at http://www.omanet.com.
AVIATION SAFETY OVERSIGHT: The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has assessed the Government of Oman's civil aviation authority as category 1 -- in compliance with international aviation safety. For further information, travelers may contact the Department of Transportation within the United States at telephone 1-800-322-7873, or visit the FAA's Internet website at http://www.faa.gov/avr/iasa/index.cfm.
The U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) separately assesses some foreign air carriers for suitability as official providers of air services. As a result of the August 23, 2000 crash of a Gulf Air flight in the Persian Gulf, DOD has recommended that military commands use air carriers other than Gulf Air for DOD official travel. For information regarding the DOD policy on specific carriers, travelers may contact DOD at telephone (618) 229-4801
CUSTOMS REGULATIONS: Travelers entering Oman may not carry with them, or bring into the country in accompanied baggage, firearms, ammunition, or pornography; all are subject to seizure. Unaccompanied baggage and shipments of household goods are also subject to inspection. Books, videotapes, and audiotapes may be reviewed prior to being released to the owner. A copy of the packing list is required to clear effects through customs. Travelers carrying prescription drugs should be in possession of the original prescription and a letter from their doctor detailing the use of the medicine. It is advisable to contact the Embassy of the Sultanate of Oman in Washington for specific information regarding customs requirements. A maximum of one bottle of liquor is permitted per non-Muslim adult.
Pets (dogs and cats) entering Oman require an import permit from the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, Department of Animal Health, before shipment. Application forms may be obtained from the Ministry by one's sponsor and must be submitted with a copy of the pet's rabies vaccination record and a veterinary health certificate. Vaccination certificates must be dated between one month and six months prior to arrival in Oman. Dogs and cats must be at least four months old to be allowed into Oman. Further, a second veterinary health certificate dated no more than one week prior to arrival of the pet into Oman is required. The original rabies vaccination record and the veterinary health certificate must accompany the pet. Pets may be subjected to a six-month quarantine, if veterinary authorities are not satisfied with the health condition of the pet and/or certifications. Pets must be manifested as cargo on an airway bill when transported by air. Note: For importation of other pets (birds, fish, reptiles, etc.), please contact the Directorate of Animal Health at telephone: 968-696-300, ext. 1510/1513 or by fax at 968-694-465/696-271 for current information.
In many countries around the world, counterfeit and pirated goods are widely available. Transactions involving such products are illegal and bringing them back to the United States may result in forfeitures and/or fines. A current list of those countries with serious problems in this regard can be found at http://www.ustr.gov/reports/2003/special301.htm.
CRIMINAL PENALTIES: While in a foreign country, U.S. citizens are subject to that country's laws and regulations, which can 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 are strict, and convicted offenders can expect jail sentences and heavy fines. Death sentences are possible for violators of Oman's drug laws. Visitors are additionally cautioned that it is illegal to use aggressive, obscene or abusive language or gestures in public. In accordance with Omani law, penalties for these offenses can range from deportation or fines to imprisonment. Civil charges may also be filed.
Under the PROTECT Act of April 2003, it is a crime, prosecutable in the United States, for a U.S. citizen or permanent resident alien, to engage in illicit sexual conduct in a foreign country with a person under the age of 18, whether or not the U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident alien intended to engage in such illicit sexual conduct prior to going abroad. For purposes of the PROTECT Act, illicit sexual conduct includes any commercial sex act in a foreign country with a person under the age of 18. The law defines a commercial sex act as any sex act, on account of which anything of value is given to or received by a person under the age of 18.
Under the Protection of Children from Sexual Predators Act of 1998, it is a crime to use the mail or any facility of interstate or foreign commerce, including the Internet, to transmit information about a minor under the age of 16 for criminal sexual purposes that include, among other things, the production of child pornography. This same law makes it a crime to use any facility of interstate or foreign commerce, including the Internet, to transport obscene materials to minors under the age of 16.
SPECIAL CIRCUMSTANCES: Omani employers often ask that expatriate employees deposit their passports with the company as a condition of employment. Although customary, this practice is not required by Omani law. The U.S. Embassy in Muscat advises Americans to exercise caution on the issue of permitting an employer to withhold 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 the 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.
CHILDREN'S ISSUES: For information on international adoption of children and international parental child abduction, please refer to our Internet site at http://travel.state.gov/family/index.html or telephone Overseas Citizens Services at 1-888-407-4747. This number is available from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays). Callers who are unable to use toll-free numbers, such as those calling from overseas, may obtain information and assistance during these hours by calling 1-317-472-2328.
REGISTRATION/EMBASSY LOCATION: Americans living or traveling in Oman are encouraged to register with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate through the State Department's travel registration website, https://travelregistration.state.gov, and to obtain updated information on travel and security within Oman. Americans without Internet access may register directly with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. By registering, you'll make it easier for the Embassy or Consulate to contact you in case of emergency. The workweek in Oman is Saturday through Wednesday. The U.S. Embassy in Oman is located on Jameat A'Duwal Al Arabiya Street, Al Khuwair Area (Shatti al-Qurum), in the capital city of Muscat. The mailing address is P.O. Box 202, Medinat Al Sultan Qaboos 115, Sultanate of Oman, telephone (968) 698-989, fax: (968) 699-189. The Embassy's e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org, and its website is http://www.usa.gov.om.