Oman is, by far, the most charming and welcoming country in the Middle East, but we can’t forget that it is also one of the most conservative. This means that traveling to Oman as a woman will always be different than as a man and, for this reason, I decided to contact Katie Silcox, an expert female traveler who has traveled around Oman extensively.
According to Katie, Oman is a safe place for a solo female traveler, but it won’t be always easy to navigate.
In today’s guest post, she will walk us through all her tips and advice on visiting Oman as a woman.
After receiving so many emails from really kick-ass female travelers who want to wander around some of the most off the beaten track countries in the world, I decided to open a Solo Female Traveling section on my blog, to help women get to know the reality of traveling solo in these countries. Don’t hesitate to contact me if you think you have a nice experience to tell!
First things first – Oman is safe for solo female travelers.
I’ve visited a fair amount of countries and continents as a solo female, within the Middle East, as well as within Europe, Africa, and Asia.
I can honestly say that Oman is where I’ve felt safest.
The reason for this is a combination of things which we’ll explore throughout this article including the country’s attitude towards women, the friendly-nature of locals, and the safety of the country overall.
If you’re are considering traveling to Oman as a solo female traveler, you should absolutely go ahead.
It’s one of the safest places to do so.
Oman is a safe country overall, including for solo women travelers
If you’re well-traveled in the Middle East, you’ll no doubt know that the reality of safety issues in many countries located there – or certainly specific regions of many countries – is not what’s portrayed in the western media.
If you’re new to travel in the Middle East and don’t yet know what’s what, that’s ok too. Indeed, if this is the case then Oman would be a great starting point as a solo female traveler in the Middle East.
In fact, in a 2018 report from the World Economic Forum, Oman is listed as the 4th safest country in the world. This safety rating is in part because of the country’s little-to-no crime rate, but also due to Oman’s overall stability as a county, thanks in part to the importance it places on cultural and religious tolerance, and on education.
For more information about safety, read this comprehensive analysis: Is Oman safe?
Attitudes to women in Oman
The Omani people generally have a lot of respect for one another, and towards tourists.
No, it doesn’t matter if you’re female – please forget all misconceptions about attitudes towards women in a Muslim country. The Omani population respect each other, and this includes women.
With regards to tourism, Oman does however, see a relatively small amount so there may be some curiosity towards you – particularly in more remote areas. But unlike other countries I’ve been to, this curiosity didn’t equal hassle.
Standing out as a tourist didn’t mean I was seen as an easy target for scams, it didn’t mean I was regarded in a negative manner, and it certainly didn’t mean I was cat-called.
In fact, quite the opposite – for most of my time spend in Oman, across Muscat, Salalah, Jebal Akhdar and Wahiba Sands, I was treated just like any other local – often without any outward recognition of my being a tourist at all.
On the odd occasion when I was treated differently, it was with incredibly positive intentions.
For all the practical information, including all my personal tips, cultural facts and top experiences, don’t forget to check my ultimate guide to Oman
The people in Oman are friendly and will want to help you
Those positive intentions?
I’m talking about my interactions with locals and how they simply wanted to help me and make sure I was ok in their country.
On my first trip to Oman as a solo woman; I clearly remember keeping my head down as much as possible and trying not to engage in any interactions with males on the street.
Then one day, as I was parking up a car, I noticed a man outside the window trying to help by giving guidance. Naively I ran through my head what his possible intentions might be, and what he might want from me after I left the safety of my car.
Did he want money?
Would he try to take my phone number?
Ask me to go and see his shop?
Try to take me for coffee?
I braced myself and stepped out of the car – he smiled kindly, nodded his head, and walked away. That was it; he just wanted to help.
It was at this point I both let my guard down, and started to see what the country really was rather than through the sometimes guarded lens of a solo female traveler.
What to wear in Oman as a woman
As with many Muslim countries, you should consider what you wear in Oman.
The country is tolerant, but abiding by local norms is both respectful and will help ensure you stay safe, avoiding any chance of unwanted attention from locals and/or authorities.
Situated in the Arabian Gulf, the weather in Oman can get very hot, which can make it difficult for a traveler who is not used to walking around in such climates.
In most areas, I’d advise wearing linen trousers and a loose-fitting top that covers your shoulders.
If you’re visiting mosques, you’ll also need to cover your hair.
All of this said, there are caveats – Oman boasts many luxury hotels and private beaches and if you’re visiting one of these the rules are entirely relaxed; swimsuits at the pool or beach are ok, and almost anything goes within the hotels themselves.
Best places to stay in Oman as a solo female
Speaking of hotels, let’s discuss where to stay when traveling to Oman as a woman.
This is where things get slightly trickier.
As a solo female traveler, there is no problem at all staying in a room alone, but Oman is not easy for the budget traveler. Oman doesn’t have the concept of hostels, and many of its hotels tend to be on the pricier side [read: 5 star].
If you’re willing to splash out for a 5 star hotel there are plenty of options. Otherwise, you’ll find some decent mid-range hotels in Oman’s capital city, Muscat, but will probably struggle outside of it.
Airbnb options are available and – remember we talked about how safe Oman is as a country – there is no need to worry about staying alone in a rented room or house. A few small and charming guesthouses are also scattered throughout the country.
Lastly, many visitors to Oman also opt to pack a tent into the boot of their vehicle and to camp up under the stars at night. While it’s legal to wild camp in Oman, it’s not something I have ever tried a solo female traveler. If you’re considering it, keep in mind that Oman is safe vs your comfort levels, for a balanced view.
Getting around Oman as a solo female traveler
In order to effectively move around Oman, you’re going to need to hire a car, and we suggest a 4×4.
Public transport is not effective in Oman, particularly outside of Muscat.
Women are absolutely OK to drive solo in Oman, and there are plenty of places to hire a car in Oman, including at the airport. In Oman, they drive on the right-hand side of the road, and many of the key connection roads across the country are very decently paved.
However, a 4×4 is your best car hire option as the off-road terrain can be more difficult to handle, particularly in the desert and the mountain areas. It should be obvious, but Oman has a zero tolerance on alcohol when driving – just don’t do it.
Exploring the culture
Oman has a rich and beautiful culture, and I guarantee that taking the time to get to know some of the locals will leave you with very fond memories.
As a solo female traveler in Oman, I appreciate that striking up conversations with locals is not always easy and can sometimes seem intimidating. I know I often ask myself the usual questions, particularly when starting a conversation with a man.
Will he get the wrong impression?
What if he tries to get me alone?
What if he follows me?
Of course, I cannot vouch for every person in Oman, but I have felt safer here than in most countries; it’s more than likely you’ll simply have an interesting conversation and learn some new things.
As with all solo travel, stay aware of your surrounding and read the signs you’re being given; if you feel like someone is getting the wrong impression, or if you’re not comfortable for any reason – walk away.
In rural areas, many locals don’t speak much English, so try learning a few words in Arabic before you travel. A simple hello, (marhaba), how are you (kefak/ek) and thank you (shokran) will most definitely be appreciated!
The advantage of being a solo female in Oman vs being a man
Traveling in Oman as a solo woman can actually come with advantages.
By the very nature of your gender, the chances are you’ll get to see a side of the country that male tourists can’t.
Omani’s are very welcoming, so if you’re lucky you’ll be invited to the home of an Omani family in order to dine with family or friends. If you’re male this will mean that you get to dine on some delicious cuisine and experience the culture of food and hospitality in Oman, but you’ll be expected to stay in the guest room.
If you’re female, the chances are you’ll get to experience much more – you may get a chance to explore more than just the guest room and gain an insight into the day-to-day life at an Omani’s home.
Outside of the guest room, females will take off the abaya as they prepare dishes for dinner or tend to their children. A female visitor is far more likely to be invited to experience all of this – and if you are, be sure to watch carefully and pick up some delicious Middle Eastern cooking tips too!
More useful information for the solo female traveler that goes to Oman and the region
Here you can find all my articles and guides to Oman
Traveling to Saudi Arabia? Here you can find all my articles and guides to Saudi Arabia
Are you traveling to Dubai and have little money? Read how to travel in Dubai on a budget
Iran is so close to Oman, are you going there? Remember to check then my tips for visiting Iran
And here all my content to the Middle East
Katie Silcox is a regular solo traveler and has explored Oman solo many times, as well as parts of the Middle East, Europe, Asia and Africa. Katie is from the UK but has lived and worked in India, Dubai, Sri Lanka and now Greece. She is a photo editor and travel journalist who has worked with companies including Lonely Planet and Condé Nast Traveller over the last 10 years, as well as co-founding travel website Contemporary Class Magazine. You can follow her on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.