There are hotels in all major cities and towns in Oman, although outside Muscat standards are middling and you’re not exactly spoilt for choice. Prices, too, tend to be rather expensive for what you get.
There are relatively few tourist hotels aimed specifically at foreign visitors. Far and away the best selection is in Muscat, which boasts some of the most memorable hotels in the region. Outside the capital, however, there’s very little to get excited about beyond a scattering of generally fairly humdrum resort hotels.
Most smaller towns boast a simple one- or two-star local hotel (usually in the range 12–20 OR/£20–33/US$30–50) aimed at Omani travellers. These are usually functional and somewhat basic places – most are passably comfortable and generally clean, though in the worst places you may have to put up with rock-hard mattresses, dodgy electrics and the occasional cockroach.
Camping is another possibility, and pitching a tent in a remote mountain wadi or on an unspoilt beach can be a memorable experience. There are no restrictions on wild camping in Oman, assuming the area you pitch your tent in is clearly uninhabited and uncultivated. If you want to camp anywhere close to a village or other signs of human habitation, you should ask permission first. A more upmarket alternative is to spend a night or two in one of the country’s various desert camps, mainly found in the Wahiba Sands.
You won’t find a room anywhere in the country for less than 12 OR (£20/$30), although in many places you’ll pay 20 OR (£33/$50) for even the cheapest room. Rooms in the country’s mid-range resorts generally go for around 40–60 OR (£65–100/$100–150), while rates at the top hotels in Muscat start from around 150 OR (£250/$400) or significantly more in some places. Always check whether local taxes (usually 17 percent) are included in the price or will be added on. Cheaper places tend to quote a “nett price” (as it’s described locally, meaning inclusive of all taxes); more upmarket places often quote prices before tax.
Local hotels tend to maintain the same prices throughout the year. Rates at more upmarket tourist-oriented places are usually quite flexible and tend to change according to demand, usually most expensive during the winter months, and falling by as much as thirty percent during summer. Most mid- and top-range places have some sort of published rack rate, though in practice prices are usually significantly cheaper except during the very busiest times of year (around Christmas and New Year, for example). It’s always worth checking out prices online, either on the hotel’s own website or on booking websites such as Expedia – these can sometimes be significantly cheaper than simply arriving at the hotel without a booking.
Rooms and facilities
All hotel rooms in Oman boast the two essentials of modern Gulf living: air conditioning and a TV. Most places also give you a fridge, while hot water should also come as standard, although it doesn’t always work reliably in the cheapest places (in budget places you’ll usually have to turn the water heater on at least ten minutes before you hope to shower).
Some budget hotels also boast a simple in-house restaurant (and if there isn’t one in house, there are likely to be other options close by). If you want a bar, licensed restaurant or swimming pool, however, you’ll have to head somewhere a bit more upmarket.
One peculiarity of accommodation in Oman is that many mid-range hotels double as local nightspots and drinking venues. Numerous hotels boast in-house live-music bars – essentially places where young, heavily made-up ladies dressed in (by Omani standards) relatively revealing clothing stand up on stage in front of a largely male audience and pout, simper and attempt to sing (and possibly dance as well). These venues usually host either Arabic or Indian performers; it’s not uncommon for a single hotel to have two or three such venues, usually tucked away somewhere discreet, like the basement, and often reachable only from an entrance outside the hotel itself. Rooms in most hotels are reasonably well insulated from the massive amounts of noise generated in these places, although it’s still worth trying to get a room as far away as possible to avoid being kept awake half the night.
Also popular with local Omanis (despite traditional Muslim strictures against the drinking of alcohol) are the so-called sports bars to be found in various hotels. These range from fairly civilized pub-style bars with TVs showing football through to raucous backrooms stuffed with pool tables and usually selling the cheapest beer in town – a good place to hang out with the locals, although they’re unlikely to make much sense after a couple of pints.