The country of Oman, located on the Arabian Peninsula, has many hidden gems to offer the travelers who venture there. Only a few hundred thousand people visit each year, but those who do are blown away by the hospitality and vibrant culture there is to see.
But while this storied destination is rich in culture and history, is Oman safe to visit? Here’s our take.
Is Oman Safe to Visit in 2024?
Yes. Oman is a very safe place to visit and one of the safest in the Middle East. The crime rate is very low, and the culture is welcoming to tourists.
However, laws here tend to be strict, so be sure to follow them, as punishments are severe in this traditional country. For an insight into how safe Oman can be, all you need to do is look at different travel advisories.
Most countries are relaxed about their advisories, just telling travelers to exercise increased caution.
The most common problems countries warn about in their travel advisories for Oman are:
- Civil unrest
- Armed conflict
- Petty theft
- Sexual assault
However, many of these problems are not inherent to Oman. Although Oman is a very safe country, it has the misfortune of being located in a dangerous neighborhood.
It borders Yemen, where there has been an ongoing civil war for nearly a decade that is escalating in violence. Despite the best effort of Omani authorities, violence sometimes spills over at the border, affecting the safety of people within Oman.
The Middle East is often a source of diplomatic tension, with competition for power between local rivals such as Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (both neighbors of Oman) as well as foreign powers such as the United States.
Oman has managed to avoid much of the unrest in the Middle East for the past few decades by maintaining a steady neutrality, but regional developments sometimes affect the security situation in the country and can cause demonstrations that turn violent.
Monitor the news closely before and during your trip. The regional perception often affects the perception of Oman as well. For example, some countries, such as the United States, list terrorism as a reason why you should be careful when visiting.
However, terrorism is extremely rare in Oman, and the official UK travel advisory that states terrorism can’t be ruled out in Oman also can’t muster a single recent example of a terrorist attack.
Here, the regional perception of the Middle East as a terrorist hotbed affects the perception of Oman more than the reality of any terrorist activity.
The most important thing to be mindful of when you visit is following local laws. Oman is a country under a strict monarchy that follows Islamic law.
Actions that may be minor in your home country are strictly punished in Oman. Read up on local laws carefully and make sure that you don’t accidentally wind up on the wrong side of Omani authorities.
Crime in Oman
Whenever you travel, you probably spend a lot of time worrying about crime. After all, everyone’s heard horror stories about travelers going abroad, then losing their wallets, or meeting with a far worse fate, such as being the victim of a violent crime.
The risk of being the victim of a crime is always in the back of a traveler’s mind. However, that is one risk you don’t have to worry about much in Oman.
The crime rate in this country is famously low. Both violent and property crimes are very rare. The violent crime rate in Oman is very, very low. According to official World Bank statistics, there were no homicides in the entire year of 2020.
In other years, the homicide rate hovers between 0 and 1 incident per 100,000 people, usually on the low end of the scale. For example, in 2018, the homicide rate was 0.27 incidents per 100,000 people.
The property crime rate is also very low, making the overall crime rate very low. In fact, according to the Global Crime Index, Oman has the fifth lowest crime rate in the world, ranking at 19.7% on the site’s crime index.
The picture for crime in Oman is getting even more optimistic (for civilians, not for criminals). According to Oman’s official crime statistics, the crime rate dropped by 14% over the past four years.
The most common crimes were financially related, making up 32.2% of all crimes. There are a few reasons why people think Oman has such a low crime rate.
The country’s social profile helps. Oman is a moderately wealthy country thanks to its oil reserves, and that wealth is fairly evenly distributed among its citizens, creating an economically homogenous population.
Oman also has a very strict criminal code, which acts as a deterrent against potential law violations. While crime certainly does happen in Oman, it does not happen often enough for visitors to be on high alert.
In short, you can enjoy your trip to Oman with peace of mind that you’re unlikely to fall victim of a crime.
As with anywhere else in the world, petty theft can happen in Oman. It is very rare, so much so that Omanis often leave their valuables and expensive clothing unattended in public, but it is still worth taking precautions against.
The Canadian government warns that although crime is rare, robberies do occur sometimes, so it is better to be safe than sorry. Most forms of theft are petty and nonviolent, such as pickpocketing or vehicle theft.
Usually, thieves just take advantage of the locals’ very lax attitude towards security. Even though locals often leave valuables unattended, you don’t want to follow their lead since thieves often target tourists for their crimes.
Make sure that you take your purse, wallet, and other valuables with you wherever you go. Lock your hotel room or rental car, and try not to leave valuables unattended and out in the open.
Pickpocketing is rare in Oman, but it does happen sometimes. Pickpockets often target tourists in crowded locations popular with tourists, such as souks or other attractions.
You don’t have to be on your guard constantly the way you do in many other Middle Eastern (or European) cities, but a basic awareness of your surroundings goes a long way to helping you stay safe.
Make sure your valuables are in a secure pocket or bag, and that will probably be enough to deter a pickpocket.
Violent crime is rare in Oman, but it does happen. Unfortunately, one of the violent crimes some tourists are most likely to encounter is sexual assault.
While the rates are low, female travelers to Oman have been victims of sexual assault and rape in the past, according to the official warning from the United Kingdom.
he risk increases when women travel at night, so try to stick to your accommodation after dark, especially if you are traveling alone. Victims of sexual assault are often retraumatized by the very conservative Omani legal system.
The Australian government warns that travelers have been detained in the past when trying to report sexual assault. The burden of proof is on the victim to prove that sex wasn’t consensual instead of on the perpetrator, and victims are often charged with extramarital sex, which is illegal in Oman.
Since the Omani system is so hostile towards victims of sexual assault, the actual rate of this crime may be much higher than the reported statistics.
If you are a woman traveling in Oman, take some precautions to avoid a situation such as this one. Make sure that you choose a secure accommodation and are careful about trusting new acquaintances.
Assaults often happen to travelers camping in the desert and other remote areas, so be careful if you go camping. Stay at a designated campsite or go with a large group instead of alone or with a few friends.
Avoiding Bad Areas
Most of Oman is safe, but there are a few areas where you should be careful. This is not to say that you shouldn’t avoid visiting the (as with some dangerous areas in other countries) but rather exercise caution.
Be careful when camping in the desert, which is a popular activity among travelers, as it is truly remote.
You don’t want to be stranded away from medical help with no way of getting assistance if something happens, and also keep in mind that law enforcement often can’t help you there.
Be careful in crowded areas such as the Muttrah Souk, as those are the few places where pickpocketing can happen. Do not travel near the Yemen border, as the fighting from Yemen sometimes spills over into Oman.
Things to Consider
Here are a few additional safety tips to keep in mind when traveling to Oman:
- Homosexuality is illegal in Oman and sometimes punishable by death. LGBT travelers should either be careful about public affection in Oman or forego traveling if they do not feel comfortable with the risk.
- There are rules for heterosexual conduct as well. Extramarital sex is illegal in Oman, and while your accommodations and authorities cannot ask you for your marital status, you shouldn’t advertise the fact that you are not married. Avoid public displays of affection, as those are heavily frowned upon.
- Drivers often drive fast in Oman, especially outside of Muscat, so be careful when crossing the street.
- Oman has strict laws and social norms around polite behavior. Do not insult the royal family of Oman or the religion of Islam, and refrain from behavior such as cursing or rude gestures in public.
Frequently Asked Questions
Here are some common questions you might also want to ask about visiting Oman:
Is Oman safe for ladies?
Oman is mostly safe for women, and the (reported) rate of gender-based violence and sexual street harassment is very low. Many female travelers feel much safer here than in other neighboring countries. However, social norms for women are strict and affect the legal system’s response to crimes such as sexual assault.
Is it risky to travel to Oman?
Although Oman is located in a rough neighborhood of the world, so to speak, it is not risky to travel here at all. The risks of problems from crime to armed conflict are very low.
Can you drink alcohol in Oman?
You can drink alcohol in Oman, but it is very strictly regulated. Foreigners can drink alcohol only in the few places that are allowed to sell it, such as hotels, but it is illegal to drink in public or to be drunk in public.
Is Oman cheap or expensive?
Oman is an expensive country to visit. Hotels are usually pricey, and getting around the country is expensive since there is little public transportation, so visitors often have to hire drivers or rent their own cars.
Should I wear a hijab in Oman?
You don’t have to wear a hijab in Oman unless you are visiting a mosque. Just make sure to dress modestly by covering shoulders, legs, and cleavage.
So, Is Oman Safe to Visit?
Oman is a very safe place to visit, one of the safest destinations in the Middle East. Just make sure that you follow the strict local laws to ensure a good time. So what are you waiting for — book your trip today!