As in many parts of the world, regular personal contact and familiarity with business partners are key to doing business in Oman. Spending a portion of any professional meeting socializing and getting to know counterparts is common business practice. Some appointments may not be scheduled until visitors have already arrived in Oman. Politeness is highly valued; foreign businesspeople should avoid blunt statements and employ constructive, balanced forms of communication. Devout Muslims pray five times every day; visitors should be sensitive to hosts who break off a discussion for prayer. With the many Omani executives educated in the UK or the United States, there is little other than the national dress worn by Omanis that a visiting businessperson might find different from home. English is widely spoken in commercial circles, though less so outside the capital.
Local hosts will probably offer – and guests should accept – coffee, tea, or soft drinks (except during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, when it would be impolite to eat or drink in an Omani’s presence). It is customary for Omani hosts to serve a guest one cup of Arabic coffee and a teaspoon-sized portion of halwa, a gelatinous sweet. If the host provides a spoon, the guest should use it to scoop a small portion from the bowl or platter to eat. If a guest wants a second scoop, it is acceptable to use the same spoon to take another portion. If spoons are not provided, the guest should use the thumb and two forefingers of the right hand to scoop a piece of halwa from the bowl or platter. A server may then bring water and a towel hand washing. This may be followed by an offer of rosewater which is poured onto the open palm for the guest to rub into their hands. Arabic coffee is poured into a small cup and offered to the guest for immediate consumption. The server will stand by to pour a second cup. If the guest does not wish for his cup to be refilled, s/he should shake the empty cup to indicate s/he is finished.
On formal occasions, frankincense may also be brought into the room and held in front of the guest for a few seconds to allow the guest to wave some of the smoky vapors onto themselves. After each guest has had the opportunity, the frankincense will be taken out of the room.
While alcohol is legal in Oman, it may only be served in some hotels and private homes.
The holy month of Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar, during which Muslims observe a fast by abstaining from eating and drinking between dawn and dusk. The Sultanate of Oman has formulated regulations for Ramadan regarding working hours, operations of certain businesses, and acceptable public behavior.
Ramadan working hours:
- Royal Decree 113/2011, amended Article 68 of the Labor Law (promulgated by Royal Decree 35/2003), reduced the maximum working hours during Ramadan to not more than six hours a day or 30 hours a week for all Muslim workers.
- The Minister of the Diwan of Royal Court and Chairman of the Civil Service Council reduced official working hours at ministries, public authorities, and other departments of the state’s administrative apparatus to 5 hours per day, i.e., from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., during Ramadan.
- The working hours in the private sector during Ramadan are reduced to six hours per day and 30 hours per week, according to a ministerial decision issued by the Ministry of Labor.
- According to the Central Bank of Oman, official working hours for all licensed banks in the Sultanate of Oman during Ramadan are from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Guidelines for Non-Muslims during the holy month of Ramadan:
- Muslims in Oman consider drinking and eating in public during the holy month of Ramadan as discourteous. All restaurants and cafes, except those in some hotels, are closed during the day and open only after sunset. Non-Muslims should refrain from smoking, eating, or drinking water and other beverages in public places, including automobiles, during the hours between dusk and dawn.
- It is advisable for non-Muslim employees to eat food and drink water or other beverages discreetly, at their desks, out of sight of Muslim employees or in a separate designated room or at their homes. Non-Muslim hosts should not provide food or drink during meetings or require Muslim employees to attend business lunches during Ramadan.
- Employers should ensure that business meetings and training sessions for Muslim employees are shortened or postponed until after Ramadan.
- Companies operating during non-conventional working hours, such as shift working, should make provision for suitable breaks for Muslim employees to enable them to take their meal at the time of Suhoor (before sunrise) and Iftar (after sunset).
Effective May 23, 2022, Oman announced the lifting of all COVID-19 entry restrictions and travel rules. See U.S. Embassy Muscat website for more details.
The link to all travel advisories is:
For the most recent travel advisory on Oman, visit the following link:
A valid passport and visa are required for entry into Oman. U.S. citizens are encouraged to apply for tourist visas via the Royal Oman Police E-Visa website. Other categories of short-term visit/business/work contract visas are available, but these must be arranged in advance through an Omani sponsor. The list of visa types and a schedule of fees are available on the Royal Oman Police website. For more details, visit https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/international-travel/International-Travel-Country-Information-Pages/Oman.html
Please note that the U.S. Embassy in Muscat does not arrange visas for visiting businesspeople.
Self-sponsorship through an investor visa is available and provides for two years of residency. The Foreign Capital Investment Law (FCIL) allows 100 percent foreign ownership in most sectors and removed an earlier minimum capital requirement.
For further information on obtaining a visa to visit Oman, visit the Royal Oman Police website, or contact the Embassy of Oman in Washington D.C. at (202) 387-1980 for the most current business visa information.
U.S. companies that require travel of foreign businesspersons to the United States are advised that security evaluations are handled via an interagency process. Visa applicants should go to the State Department Visa Website.
The Omani rial is fully convertible and is pegged to the U.S dollar (1 OMR = USD 2.60).
Oman operates a relatively modern and efficient telephone system. (See Chapter 4 for more detail.) Mobile (GSM) phones are widely used; roaming arrangements cover the GCC, the U.S., the UK, and European countries. The networks for GSMs are operated by the telecommunications providers in Oman, Ooredoo and Omantel, although other competitors, Friendi, Renna, Mazoon Mobile, Samatel, and Injaz Mobile have entered the market. Omantel, Ooredoo, and AWASR also provide broadband Internet services. Vodafone Oman launched its services in February 2022.
Western visitors rarely use the local, non-air-conditioned bus or collective taxi system in Muscat, which is not recommended for unaccompanied women. Outside the capital area, public transport is rarely found off main highways. Taxis are ubiquitous throughout urban areas. If the taxi does not have an electronic meter, passengers should negotiate the fare before entering the taxi and ask a trusted local regarding pricing for the distance travelled. Taxi hailing apps such as OTaxi and the state owned Mwasalat are popular. Mwasalat has a fleet of buses in the Muscat city area and services other main cities. Many international rental car companies operate in Oman, and their counters can be found upon arrival at the international airports.
The official language of Oman is Arabic. English is widely spoken as the language of business and higher education, though less so outside Muscat; Swahili, Farsi, Urdu, Baluchi, Hindi, and various languages of South Asia are common.
Sanitary standards for food and water are generally quite good, particularly at major hotels. The Omani government inspects restaurants to maintain hygienic standards. The use of bottled water is recommended. Health care in Oman is adequate and there are several Western or Western-educated health care providers in the Muscat area.
Local Time, Business Hours, and Holidays
Local Time: Oman is four hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time and eight hours ahead of Eastern Daylight Time (EDT). Oman does not observe daylight savings time, and during winter months, it is nine hours ahead of Eastern Standard Time (EST).
Business Hours: Weekdays are Sunday through Thursday. Government offices are open from 7:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Larger businesses operate from 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Some smaller companies open at 7:30 a.m., close for the afternoon at 1:00 p.m. and reopen at 4:00 p.m., closing for the day at 6:00 p.m. During the holy month of Ramadan, government offices and most businesses have shortened hours.
Temporary Entry of Materials or Personal Belongings
The FTA provides for the temporary admission of goods under Chapter 2, Market Access. Duty-free treatment shall be granted for temporary admission of the following list of goods:
- professional equipment, including equipment for the press or television, software, and broadcasting and cinematographic equipment, necessary for carrying out the business activity, trade, or profession of a person who qualifies for temporary entry pursuant to the laws of the importing party;
- goods intended for display or demonstration;
- commercial samples and advertising films and recordings; or
- goods imported for sports purposes.
In the case of auto re-exports, a company or individual may have the duties refunded if the vehicles are re-exported within six months.