Muscat, Oman Report of what it's like to live there - 12/09/18
Personal Experiences from Muscat, Oman
1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?
No. I have also lived in Europe and South-Asia
2. What is your home city/country? How long is the trip to post from there, with what connections? How easy/difficult is it to travel to this city/country?
Washington, DC, which is about a 20-hour trip with one layover
3. How long have you lived here?
4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?
Housing, Groceries & Food:
1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?
We live in a large townhouse with 4 bedrooms and 4.5 bathrooms, plus a maid's quarters. We live in the Madinat al Sultan Qaboos neighborhood, and it's only about 8 minutes to the embassy. Generally commute times from all housing to the embassy are 15 minutes, maximum, even at "rush-hour." Most people are very happy with their housing and have far more house than they need.
2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?
Almost all groceries and household supplies can be obtained easily in Muscat, but they might be really expensive. Lots of folks complain about the cost of groceries, and, yes, if you insist on regularly eating things like strawberries, pork bacon, asparagus, and salmon, you will be spending a lot of money. If you don't buy a lot of imported groceries, you will not need to spend a lot of money.
3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?
I have a monthly Amazon subscribe and save with things like laundry detergent pods, ziploc bags, kids snacks, sunscreen, and shampoo.
4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?
Turkish, Indian and Lebanese food are all readily available. There are two good Japanese restaurants in town, one good steak place, and some good Omani restaurants. You do not come to Oman for the restaurant scene. It's neither exciting nor inspired.
5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?
Lots of ants, and sometimes cockroaches.
1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?
APO or pouch. I've never used the local postal facilities
2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?
Household help is relatively affordable compared to the US and many people employ a full-time housekeeper or nanny. Most folks pay their household help between $450-$550 per month, plus overtime and a food or housing allowance. There are also other costs such as health insurance, tickets back home, visa sponsoring, and other things to consider. Almost everyone's household help lives with them, which, to me, seems crazy, but it's very convenient.
3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?
There's a small-but-good embassy at the gym. A popular option is to become a member of one of the hotels, and then you can use the gym and other facilities. It's expensive, but worth it if you actually use the gym, pool, etc.
4. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?
Yes, yes, yes, yes, and yes.
5. What English-language religious services are available locally?
6. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?
7. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?
Yes. There are stairs everywhere and the sidewalks are not great.
1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?
I only have experience with taxis, and they are generally safe although you need to bargain on the price. There are some good ride-hailing apps like Marhaba and Mwasalat.
2. What kind of car do you recommend bringing to post, given the terrain, availability of parts, burglary/carjacking risks, etc.? What kind of car do you advise not to bring?
This depends on how much adventuring you plan to do. If you don't plan on exploring (or doing anything truly fun), a sedan is fine. But if you want to explore all the amazing places Oman has to offer, bring a 4x4. Just don't try to import a vehicle with tinted windows! In an ideal world, we would have brought a Nissan Xterra or 4-door Jeep Wrangler to Oman.
Phone & Internet:
1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?
Yes, but it's not always fast and can take a very long time to get installed. This a major pain for a lot of new arrivals, and you should work with your sponsor to do everything possible before you arrive to try to make it as painless as possible.
2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?
Bring an unlocked phone and buy a SIM. It's very easy and inexpensive.
1. Are qualified veterinarians and/or good kennel services available? Do animals need to be quarantined upon entry to the country? Are there other considerations regarding pets that are particular to this country?
There are a number of good vets and we really like Jebel K9 for kenneling our dog. No need for quarantine. Oman, sadly, isn't awesome for dogs. There's not a lot of green space and lots of beaches don't allow dogs. It gets really hot in the summer and your dog will be miserable outside, no matter what time of day you go outside.
Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:
1. What types of jobs do most expatriate spouses/partners have? Locally based or telecommuting? Full-time or part-time? Can you comment on local salary scales?
There is no bilateral work agreement for embassy spouses, so if you want to work you either need to work at the embassy or telecommute. It's also possible to substitute teach at the American school.
2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?
Volunteering is not really a thing here. I think there might be an animal shelter, but that would take some research.
3. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?
At work men usually wear slacks, a dress shirt and tie, and women wear slacks or a skirt and a nice top. Women don't wear revealing or tight clothes to work, usually, and Omani men and women wear a dishdasha or abaya, respectively.
Health & Safety:
1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.
Honestly, no, not really. Oman is the safest place I've ever lived, which seems crazy (to me) considering.
2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?
No particular health concerns, other than regular stuff. Medical care is alright, not great, and anything serious gets medevacked.
3. What is the air quality like at post (good/moderate/bad)? Are there seasonal air quality issues? Does the air quality have an impact on health?
In the winter it can get dusty, but it has never impacted my health or that of my child.
4. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?
Summer is VERY hot, and the winter is lovely. It hardly ever rains, but when it does there is tons of flooding.
Schools & Children:
1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?
We don't have school-aged children, but everyone that I know that goes to TAISM seems very happy.
2. Are preschools available? Day care? Are these expensive? What has been your experience with them, if any? Do the schools provide before- and/or after-school care?
Preschools and day care are available and they aren't too expensive. Our kid goes to a Montessori preschool in our neighborhood and we've been extremely happy. It's only half-day but he's loves it and he's learning Arabic. There are a number of other daycares and preschools in Muscat, although I don't know of any places that will take children under the age of one that aren't walking yet.
1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?
The Western expat community here is fairly large. Between all the oil companies, international schools, and diplomatic missions, there are a lot of expats. Morale is generally very high and most people love it here.
2. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?
To socialize, most people will meet at restaurants or at hotel bars with their friends. There are movies shown in English, and operas or ballets at the Opera House. There isn't a huge night-life scene and a lot of socialization is done at home. People often go camping on weekends or go hiking or to the beach, or something like that.
3. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?
I think Muscat is a great post for everyone. Our family has been very happy here, and most singles and couples also really like Oman. If you enjoy doing things outside (camping, hiking, snorkeling/scuba diving, going to the beach, exploring, etc) youâ€™ll have a great time. If you enjoy going to museums, a bustling restaurant scene, and a good nightlife scene, and you donâ€™t really like outdoor activities, you might be a little bored.
4. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?
I'm going to go with "no." This is the Middle East.
5. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?
Less than you would expect in this region. Omanis are known for being egalitarian and polite, which is very accurate.
6. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?
Too many to name... scuba diving, going to the beach every weekend, wadi hikes, hiking around the beehive tombs, Jebel Al Akhdar, Salalah during the khareef, experiencing Omani hospitality, Salmah plateau, the Sugar Dunes, hiking in the mountains, snorkeling, Daymaniyat Islands, Wahiba Sands, etc.
7. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?
Once you arrive, buy the book "Oman Off Road" and just start working your way through the routes. There are so many incredible things to do and see in Oman.
8. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?
There are lots of interesting things to buy here, but other than khanjars and frankincense none of it actually comes from Oman. You can get clothing made easily, and some people have bought coffee tables made out of antique wooden doors. And there are lots of neat things from Turkey, India, Pakistan, and other countries in the region that you can buy.
9. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?
There are so many cool things to do, not to mention tons of beautiful deserted beaches, within a 90 minute drive of Muscat.
Words of Wisdom:
1. What do you wish you had known about this particular city/country before moving there?
That we should have imported a 4x4.
2. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?
Yes, a thousand times over. We have absolutely loved our tour here and we wish we could stay longer.
3. If you move here, you can leave behind your:
Stereotypes of the Middle East, sedan, and umbrella.
4. But don't forget your:
Sunscreen, Chacos, snorkeling equipment, GoPro camera, camping gear.
5. Do you have any other comments?
Oman is an incredible place and I would stay here longer if I could in a heartbeat!