If you visit Oman during a cruise, you usually only have one day in Muscat, the country’s capital. Find out everything you need to know for your short visit to this traditional city on the Gulf of Oman.
Entry to Oman
A passport valid for at least 6 months is sufficient for entry into Oman. Thus, there is no need to apply for a visa.
Weather and climate
The main travel season for Oman is from October to March. During this time, temperatures are between a pleasant 25 and 30 degrees and there is almost no rain. In the also very dry low season from April to September it gets unbearably hot with up to 40 degrees. Therefore, no cruises to the Orient are offered during this period.
Money and currency
In Oman you pay with the Omani Rial. 1 Rial corresponds to approx. $2,47. You can either exchange cash in bureaux de change or withdraw Omani Rial free of charge with a credit card, unless you want to pay directly with the credit card. Visa and Mastercard are the most widely accepted credit cards in the country. I can particularly recommend the free Visa credit card from DKB. For new and active customers, withdrawing abroad is either completely free or you only pay a small fee.
Language, religion and dress code
The national language in Oman is Arabic. Islam is the state religion. Therefore, tourists should dress appropriately out of respect for the culture. You don’t have to cover yourself, but you should preferably keep your knees and shoulders covered as both a woman and a man. Compared to Dubai, Oman is also more conservative. You can find a detailed article on appropriate dress selection here.
Furthermore, you should know that public displays of intimacy are not appreciated. So it’s better to hold back on wild smooching if you want to avoid unwelcome glances.
Muscat cruise port
In Muscat, cruise ships dock at Port Sultan Qaboos. The port is not particularly magnificent, but functional.
The city center of Muscat is just over 2 km from the port. However, you are not allowed to move freely on the port area. Therefore, free shuttle buses take passengers to the nearby port exit. From there you can walk to the city center or stroll along the harbor promenade.
Transportation in Muscat
At the port exit, countless cabs are waiting to take the cruisers to the place of their choice. The cab price is negotiable in Muscat. On site there are signs with guide prices for orientation. So one hour costs about $25. This is especially interesting if you want to take a tour of Muscat. Conveniently, the cab drivers know the tourist highlights of the city and take the vacationers there without complications.
In Muscat there are also regular buses. In front of the port terminal, line 04 departs every 25 minutes to take you to Al Alam Palace in the old city. The fare of 0.3 rial, or a good 70 cents, is paid directly to the bus driver in local currency.
Alternatively, you can take a guided half-day sightseeing tour of Muscat’s main attractions. The tour includes several stops and there is also an audio guide on board, so you can learn about the history of Oman during the trip. From $39 per person, there is already the 4-hour tour.
1 day in Muscat: plan your trip
Muscat has fewer attractions to offer than, for example, Dubai or Abu Dhabi. Instead, the city is more traditional and thus offers a more authentic insight into the culture of the Orient. Instead of skyscrapers, Arab-style buildings dominate the cityscape. Find out now which sights await you and how you can plan your day trip.
#1 Excursion in Muscat: Great Sultan Qabus Mosque, Mutrah Souk & Old Citya
Great Sultan Qabus Mosque
Start your shore excursion in Muscat early in the morning. Take a cab at the port exit and be taken to the Great Sultan Qabus Mosque, located 23 kilometers west of the port. The ride there takes about 20-30 minutes and should cost $10-15.
The Sultan Qabus Mosque is the third largest mosque in the world and can accommodate 20,000 worshippers. The center of the mosque is the magnificent main prayer hall with ornate decorations. The mosque can be visited by non-Muslims from Sunday to Thursday between 8:30 and 11 am. Admission is free, but you should pay attention to appropriate clothing. This means that legs, arms and hair must be covered. However, body-covering abayas can be rented on site.
Royal Opera House Muscat
After visiting the Sultan Qabus Mosque, you can make a detour to the Royal Opera House on your way back to the city center. This is about 11 minutes drive from the mosque and 12 km from the port.
The Royal Opera House knows how to impress with its architecture, as only the finest materials were used in its construction. Inside, visitors can expect magnificent gold decorations as well as one of the largest organs in the world. However, the opera house can be visited only in the course of a guided tour. These take place Saturday through Thursday between 8:30 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. Adults pay an entrance fee of 3 Omani Rial, which is about $7.
Here, the strict dress code should also be followed. Casual street clothes, such as jeans and athletic shoes, are not appreciated.
At lunchtime we head back towards the harbor and thus to the city center of Muscat. Within walking distance of the port is the traditional Mutrah Souk, an Arabic market that is a popular stop for tourists. There you can find oriental delicacies for lunch snacks, spices and fragrances, handmade ceramics and colorful fabrics and clothing. Trading is an essential part of the experience here – as it is in every souk.
Mutrah Corniche and Al Riyam Park
Opposite the Mutrah Souk runs the Mutrah Corniche, a picturesque promenade that runs along the beachfront. If you follow the Corniche to the east, you will reach Al Riyam Park, which is hard to miss thanks to the Riyam Monument – a large incense burner. The park offers a pretty garden to linger in and an amusement park for children.
Old City and the Al-Alam Palace
If you follow the waterfront to the east, you will reach the old town of Muscat. For the approx. 3 km long distance you can also take a cab for about $5.
Arriving in the historic district of Maskats, you will find the pretty Al-Alam Palace, or Sultan’s Palace. This is located in the government district, which is characterized by a magnificent boulevard. Unfortunately, both the palace and all other buildings can be visited by tourists only from the outside.
Framing the Al-Alam Palace are two historic fortresses. Al Jalali Fort and Al Mirani Fort are among the most important historical sights in Muscat. The two fortresses are located directly on the sea and tower above the old town. They were built in the 16th century and used to watch over the harbor. Nowadays, the fortresses are opened only on official occasions.
After visiting the beautiful old town of Muscat, you can take a cab back to the cruise port 5 km away and recover from the extensive sightseeing tour.
Don’t feel like visiting the numerous sights in Muscat and want a little more action? Then maybe the other excursion options are more of your preference.
#2 Excursion in Muscat: Desert Safari into the backcountry
During an excursion into the backcountry you can discover the extraordinary landscape of Oman. For example, a desert safari by jeep, which also includes hikes in dried-up river courses, the so-called wadis. The oases in the middle of the barren mountain landscape impress with their deep blue pools and clear waterfalls.
#3 Excursion in Muscat: snorkeling tour and dolphin watching
If you prefer to be in the water, you can also take a trip to the underwater world off the coast of Oman. There you can not only examine rare coral reefs, but also with a little luck meet large turtles and dolphins. Depending on the time available, a half-day or full-day tour is possible.
Planning and booking of shore excursions
In general, it is recommended to book excursions in advance. In this way, you do not lose time on site and do not have to worry that individual excursions are fully booked.
If you book excursions with the shipping company, they cost on average $60-$110 per person, depending on how long they last. A half-day tour costs on average $53 per person. Only after you book your cruise will you get insight into all excursion offerings and pricing. If you are undecided beforehand, you can also book the excursions later on board. However, it is not uncommon for the most popular excursions to be sold out by then.
It’s just as easy to organize your shore excursions through Get Your Guide. There you will find a variety of exciting activities and excursions. Whether it’s a city tour, desert safari or snorkeling tour – on Get Your Guide you have a wide choice. In addition, such “self-organized” trips are often much cheaper. Pick-up from the cruise port is also easily available for most excursions.
Since you won’t be able to visit all of Muscat’s highlights in one day, consider in advance which sights or excursions interest you the most. Should it be a tour through the city or rather a trip into nature? No matter what you choose, you’re sure to have an exciting day in the capital of Oman.
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