HFP in Oman: coming up on HFP this week …

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Two weeks ago, I was lucky enough to spend a couple of days in Oman.

This was done in conjunction with Oman Air (who provided me with a complimentary flight) and the Al Bustan Palace hotel, which is managed by Marriott’s Ritz-Carlton brand and which provided me with a free room and breakfast.  As it was Ramadan, I pretty much had the aircraft and hotel to myself as you will see!  Head for Points paid all of its other costs and we were not paid for these articles.

I will be looking at Oman Air and the Al Bustan Palace over the next week or so.

It is rare for me to accept an offer like this – I delegate 75% of the airline-arranged long-haul flight reviews on HFP to my colleagues.  There is an increasing buzz about Oman, however, and I had never been before so I thought it was worth the trip.

I thought I would use this first article to set the scene a little as many people may not be as familiar with Oman as they are with, say, Dubai.

Where is Oman?

Oman is situated on the eastern portion of the Arabian peninsula, with the United Arab Emirates to the north, Yemen to the south and Saudi Arabia on its inland border. It is a country larger than the UK but with a population of just 4 million: much of the country is rugged wilderness, inhospitable due to the dry conditions.

For clarity, it is not part of the UAE.  Oman has its own currency and you need a visa to go there – luckily these can be obtained online for £10 with no need to send your passport away or visit an embassy.

oman map

Oman, unlike many of its Middle Eastern neighbours, generally keeps a low public profile.  Whilst it has significant oil resources like its neighbours, it seems to avoid the ‘brashness’ of the UAE or Qatar.

oman stock photo city on hill

For tourists, what sets Oman apart is its varied landscape.  It has a long coastline, which borders the Arabian Sea and Gulf of Oman, and the capital Muscat is an ancient port.  (It is an ancient port with a brand new super swanky international airport, as you will discover.)

oman stock photo muscat mosque

Inland, vast gravel desert plains fill the central parts whilst two mountain ranges track the northern and south-eastern coasts.

oman stock photo coast

How to get to Oman from the UK

There are various ways of getting to Muscat from the UK.

Oman Air flies double daily from London Heathrow – you may remember that Oman Air paid a record price of $75m a few years ago to obtain a second pair of landing and take-off slots.  It operates out of Terminal 4.  It has an impressive Business and First Class as you will see.

British Airways also flies several times a week, although the route is currently suspended for the Summer 2019 season.  This is due to ongoing Rolls Royce engine problems on the Boeing 787-9 fleet which has left BA short of aircraft.  It returns in late October.

Oman Air also flies direct from Manchester Airport.

Other airlines such as Gulf Air,  Emirates, Turkish and Qatar Airways offer connecting flights from various UK airports.  Oman is not involved in the UAE blockade of Qatar so you can use Avios to get to Oman on Qatar Airways, with an aircraft change in Doha.

oman stock photo landscape

Where can you stay in Oman?

A range of high-end hotels cover both the coastal and mountainous parts of Oman. Shangri La (a ‘three hotels in one’ development) and Ritz Carlton (via the recently refurbished Al Bustan Palace, where I stayed) both have extensive beach-side resorts near Muscat.  Other luxury properties in the area include The Chedi (a GHM hotel) and an InterContinental.

oman stock photo mountains

For something totally different, most experts recommend one of the luxury mountain resorts.  These include Alila Jabar Akhdar and Anantara Al Jabal Al Akhdar Resort, nestled in a craggy  landscape of the Al Hajar mountains, whilst the Desert Nights Camp is the only luxury desert camp.  Unfortunately my stay was too short to check out any of these resorts, but they come recommended – especially in Summer as the temperature is noticeably lower.

Having been, I think if I returned with my family I would do a ‘two centre’ holiday split between one of the mountain resorts and one of the beach resorts.

oman stock photo desert

We don’t ‘do’ travelogues on HFP – there are literally hundreds of people who can do it better than us.   However, I hope this gave you a bit of background to the country and I look forward to telling you a bit more about Oman Air and the Al Bustan Palace over the next week or so, starting on Wednesday.

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Comments

  1. Brian says:

    ‘For clarity, (Oman) is not part of the UAE.’ Love it!

    • Andrew (@andrewseftel) says:

      In fairness, it can get confusing. Look up Nahwa on a map!

    • Crafty says:

      Bit like saying “For clarity, the UK is not part of Ireland.”

      • No, it’s a bit like saying to someone who lives in Oman and is planning to travel to the UK without knowing much about it ‘Ireland is not part of the UK’ (which I had to explain to my 8-year old last week)

        • “Northern Ireland is on the island of Ireland, but is a constituent country of the United Kingdom, not the Republic of Ireland, which is itself an independent country on the island of Ireland.” I can see why people would be confused 😂

  2. Nigel the pensioner says:

    Its great to see you out of Dubai!! I hope your family will get to see the less brash side if the Middle East too ….. Abu Dhabi, Manama and of course Muscat and environs. Oman is very beautiful and you are lucky to arrive when the AB Palace is open; the last two times we tried to book it, it was shut for refurb! It is a lovely hotel though, we’ve looked around it, although it is isolated in its own bay.
    Our next trip will be to the desert.
    Please try the other destinations above too. You wont go near Dubai again once you have!

  3. Colin Shepherd says:

    Went to Oman in February with BA stayed at the Chedi, the mountain top Anatara Al Jabel and the desert camp Desert nights. All first class hotels with exceptional service levels. The Omani’s are a lovely gentle Arab nation and a ruler that has transformed the country since 1970.

  4. Carolina says:

    I would highly recommend Oman, but avoid the hot months. Best time to go is from Nov-March.
    If anyone is interested, I have more information and contacts over there and happy to share.

  5. Jake M says:

    Stayed in Oman for a week recently (Shangri la) The hotel is great and fantastic for families.

    Landscapes are stunning and the people were lovely.

    Would highly recommend and, if you can deal with the heat, an all year round destination

  6. Simon D says:

    It’s a fascinating country; I really enjoyed working there about 10 years ago. It’s also worth visiting Salalah during the Khareef season.

    • Xavier says:

      ITS WORTH VISITING SALALAH outside the khareef season too! Its just kinda weird that there is nobody else in the enormous mosque, shopping centre, etc., until teatime

  7. Chris says:

    My wife and travelled to Oman in 2015 it was a beautiful country and we stayed at the chedi and Alilia in the mountains, the alilia had not long opened and both were among the best hotels we have stayed in amazing people and staff. Much less brash than Dubai. I would recommend them to anyone looking for a different version of the Middle East.

  8. Interested says:

    Sounds very interesting. All those in the comments who have actually been seem to have really enjoyed it. It was a place I’ve toyed with the idea of going to so I’ll read the rest of your write up with interest.

    • JamesLHR says:

      That was why Rob was so keen to visit Oman when the opportunity arose.

      It is a fascinating place far removed from the Middle East that everyone is common with nowadays.

  9. Trestets says:

    This is such a coincidence! Mrs T and I have been wanting to go for a while now, we were thinking a week in November but flights are a bit expensive at the moment (here’s to hoping one of those “£200 off £600 Amex Plat” offers comes soon!), so just kind of waiting in the sidelines for now.

    Three silly questions I’m sure you enlightened travel folk here can help with:

    1) Say I wanted to reduce cost of the accommodation with points, does anyone have any good recommendations? I have status with Marriott, Shangri-La (through Plat) and Hilton, plus some Amex and Bonvoy (which I know can convert easily) points. Guessing a week’s trip, Muscat/Beach + desert + mountains?

    2) Any recommendations on a good travel guide book / blog / website? As a reference wherever we go we usually get the Lonely Planet and it’s served us well in many occasions – Oman doesn’t seem to have one though…

    3) Rob mentions using QR with a stopover in Doha – I don’t mind travelling economy, and would look into this as an option, but on the BA website I only seem to get direct BA flights which is avios + a ridiculous amount of cash considering flights are +£400 – any ideas?

    Thanks!!

    • Callum says:

      I don’t know if it’s the best source but Oman does have a lonely planet (it’s the Arabian Peninsula or something similar).

    • Andrew (@andrewseftel) says:

      1. Not too many – The Hyatt and Shangri-la properties are supposed to be good but relatively hard to get points in those schemes. We stayed at the Hormuz Grand for a couple nights on Radisson points, which was perfectly acceptable. That itinerary sounds about right, you could probably skip the beach unless you’re desperate though.

      2. Try https://www.zigzagonearth.com/travel-destinations/destination-guide-oman/

    • JamesLHR says:

      3) Oman Air are bookable through Amex/Etihad Guest if you have enough.

    • TGLoyalty says:

      I really enjoyed a week at Al Bustan Palace. Great hotel and it’s not too far from the city and sights but a hire car or taxi would be required.

      Taxis are not cheap but paying via points saved me a fortune on room rates there’s also a free bus to the mosque in the mornings and soul in the evening that can save you some taxi costs.

      There’s a W right in the city now and I think a JW opening soon aswell.

    • Down the Back says:

      Hi Trestets,

      Mrs DtB and I stayed for a week at the CP on points and it was nice, lounge was really good for b/fast, snacks, afternoon tea etc and then a couple of drinks before going out at night. Taxis are very cheap but the only places serving alcohol are inside hotels. All restaurants we ate at in town were dry. There is a Hilton which was extremely good value on points but it is way in the south and you would need to fly from Muscat.

      Cheers

      DtB

    • it’s been several years since my husband and I were in Muscat, but we stayed at the Crown Plaza. Obviously not as lux as the Intercontinental, but it was good — the only place I’ve ever been where they come around with face cloths with ice chips by the pool. The Hyatt, however, was more centrally located.

      • TGLoyalty says:

        Believe it’s been refurbished and seems to have good reviews now. Also hear the CO is worth a visit just for the sunset view.

    • Sandra says:

      The Crowne Plaza in Qurum is good and has its own private beach (quite steep steps down) as is the Intercontinental and both are well located. The Al Bustan and the Shangri-La are both a long way out of Muscat and you either need a hire car or pay for taxis to get anywhere as, apart from the hotels, there’s not much else there. The Shangri-La is 3 separate buildings and one is adult only. Oman is a Muslim country and alcohol is only available in hotels. Out of Muscat there are few hotels and they are not great quality although there is the new one that opened recently in the mountains – I can’t remember the name but Rob will probably review it. There are a couple of hotels in Sur which is about 100 miles up the coast from Muscat and you can visit the Dhow yard there. Other than an overnight stop though there’s not much else to stay for. Neither of the hotels are up market and cater for mostly Indian tourists, expats working there and a few European tourists travelling through mainly on small tours. Slightly further up the coast again is the turtle beach which is a sanctuary. If you are interested you can visit and stay in the area but accommodation is very basic. The desert village is inland and, depending on the season, you can stay overnight in Bedouin tents. Oman is only just beginning to realise the potential of tourism and is still relatively unspoilt. The big hotels like the Intercontinental, Shangri-La etc can book you on day trips/dhow cruises etc and near to the Shangri-La there is also a dive centre where you can learn to dive/book on a diving trip if you are already qualified. Taxis were beginning to be more regulated (especially from the airport) when we left a couple of years ago but before you get in one agree the fare or ask the hotel concierge roughly what the fare should be to wherever you want to go but still agree it with the driver before leaving. If you hire a car you need to be a confident driver and totally vigilant because the locals are not always up to our standards and once out of the city there could be anything on the roads from people to camels and donkeys – in more rural areas you will no doubt at some point see a small pick up truck with a camel folded and tied onto the back of it being transported home!

  10. barnaby100 says:

    Love Oman- stayed a couple of years ago at the Al Bustan and it was really grim. I believe that they have done it up but it really needed it. The Chedi is amazing.

  11. Moutassim says:

    If you’re interested in an adventure in Oman then check out Rove. You may screen their website at http://www.rove.om or their Instagram page @rove.om

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