Oman is widely considered the friendliest Gulf state to live and work in for expats but, as with any destination, life in Oman has its ups and downs.

Expats should consider both the pros and cons of living in Oman before deciding if this is the place for them. Below we've listed some of those, to assist expats in their decision.

Accommodation in Oman

With the help of the employing company, real-estate agents or a relocation company, finding accommodation to suit all needs isn't too hard, but there are significant things to note.

Oman Skyline by Muhammad Shoaib

+ PRO: Accommodation is easily arranged

If arriving in Oman on a full employment package, accommodation is usually included. Some companies provide a cash allowance to spend on rent and often let the expat choose a property and even liaise directly with the landlord. As Muscat is a small city, finding a home beyond the city centre is also possible – expats can drive from one side to the other in 40 minutes. 

- CON: Rent is usually paid annually

Although foreigners have recently been given the legal right to purchase property in certain developments in Oman, renting is frequently the only option – and it's paid in lump sums, annually or quarterly. Tenants must come up with a sizeable sum of money to cover the rent for a whole year if the employing company doesn't provide an allowance.

Lifestyle in Oman

The type of lifestyle an expat can expect depends on where they live, but there's always something to do.

+ PRO: Activities cater to the diverse population

Oman has a noticeable expat population consisting of mainly British, American, Canadian, Australian, New Zealand and South African citizens. It's easy to make friends with expats and locals through social clubs and organisations. As Oman caters for various tastes and styles, there's something for everyone to enjoy, from bars and malls to the beaches, the desert and hiking in the mountains.

- CON: It's hot and can be hard to get around

The heat during Oman's summer is oppressive, particularly on the coast, where humidity reaches high levels. Muscat is not a particularly pedestrian-friendly city, and the only feasible way to travel is by car or public transport. It's best to travel by car, where the air-conditioning can be controlled!

Safety in Oman

Oman offers a welcoming and safe environment to its locals and expats. That said, there may be road and weather hazards, and in case of emergency, dial 9999 for medical assistance.

+ PRO: Little crime

Oman is a safe country with a low crime rate, so it's a particularly good environment to raise young children. Expats, whether families or single women, need not be overly concerned about personal safety in the Sultanate.

- CON: Traffic accidents are common

Reckless driving is common and there is a high accident rate on public roads. When driving in Oman, it's critical to be vigilant of these risks and follow the rules of the road.

Working and doing business in Oman

'Omanisation' aims to encourage more local employment and discourage foreign workers, yet work is still the main reason people move to Oman.

+ PRO: Networking is easy

Although 'Omanisation' has closed off certain industry sectors to expat jobseekers, it's relatively easy to find a job in sectors such as oil, medicine and education. As Muscat is a small city, networking is easy and everyone seems to know everyone. Getting cosy with the corporate in-crowd will certainly have its benefits.

- CON: Work permits have strict regulations

Expats must be sponsored by an employer to work in Oman, which can leave people feeling tied to their employers. To change jobs, employees may need a No Objection Certificate (NOC) which their employer may refuse to provide, so it's useful to stay on their good side. Fortunately, regulations have eased and, provided expats meet certain conditions, they won't need the NOC. 

- CON: Business culture is hierarchical

Although it's an up-and-coming city with a large expat population, Muscat is still an Arab city in a Muslim country. This affects every aspect of daily life, including doing business. Final decisions often rest with Omanis in top positions, who may have a different cultural approach to business matters. Expats should make a concerted effort to understand the culture and respect the customs of the Omanis.

Culture shock in Oman

Although Oman is home to many expats, it can be quite a culture shock for first-time visitors to the Middle East, particularly if moving to a small, rural town. It can take some time to adjust to Omani culture and a bit of patience is required.

+ PRO: Easy to find domestic help

It isn't hard to find cheap manual and domestic labour in Oman, such as someone to clean a house, carry bags in the supermarket or wash clothes. It's great to have a helping hand around the house, though this may take some getting used to.

- CON: A conservative state

Although Oman is one of the more liberal countries in the Gulf, it's still a Muslim country and one should respect and follow its customs and cultural practices. Displaying affection in public is not illegal, but it is frowned upon, and expats should familiarise themselves with alcohol and drinking norms. Westerners should also attempt to dress appropriately and respectfully.

Cost of living in Oman

One thing expats must get used to is the cost of living in Oman with a different currency.

Cost of living stock image

+ PRO: Driving is cheap

Compared to the West, fuel and cars are affordable in Oman and, in the long run, purchasing a vehicle can be more economical than using taxis. Owning a car is also a good idea if expats want to visit rural areas or go camping.

- CON: A Western lifestyle is expensive

The cost of living in Oman varies, depending on whether one is in the bigger cities or the smaller rural towns. As a rule, it is higher in Muscat than in neighbouring regions, but salaries are adjusted to account for this. Eating Asian and Omani food can be inexpensive, but watch out for the price of alcohol, pork, energy drinks and Western clothing brands.

Education and schools in Oman

While public schools seem limited to Omani children, several international schools cater to expat children.

+ PRO: Good international schools

The standard of education in Oman is generally quite high, and private schools tend to have excellent facilities with many extracurricular activities. International schools will often employ teachers trained in the language of, and who have teaching experience from, the country relevant to the curriculum. There are also many nursery schools to choose from.

- CON: Education is expensive

The fees at some private schools are extraordinarily costly. It's a good idea to check out a range of schools before deciding where to send a child.

Healthcare in Oman

Oman has some exceptional medical facilities, and expats should clue themselves up on how to access them.

+ PRO: Good private healthcare

The general standard of healthcare in Oman is high, both in the public and the private sectors. As in most countries, private healthcare is seen as preferable (with English-speaking staff, better facilities and shorter waiting lists). This is good news for expats, who can't use public healthcare facilities in Oman unless it is an emergency.

- CON: Private health insurance is costly

Expats are largely limited to private healthcare, so it's vital to take private medical insurance or negotiate it as part of an employment package. Check that it covers everything necessary, including dental and mental health, as well as general medical costs and emergencies.

Expat Health Insurance

Cigna Health Insurance

Cigna Global Health Insurance.

Moving your family abroad can be intimidating, but learning about medical options such as family health insurance early on can help you settle successfully.

  • Comprehensive Family coverage, wherever you go
  • Paediatric coverage for well-child visits & immunizations
  • Access to dental and orthodontic care
  • 24/7 multilingual Customer Service

Get a quote from Cigna Global (10% off family health plans in June)

Moving Internationally?

Sirelo logo

International Movers. Get Quotes. Compare Prices.

Sirelo has a network of more than 500 international removal companies that can move your furniture and possessions to your new home. By filling in a form, you’ll get up to 5 quotes from recommended movers. This service is free of charge and will help you select an international moving company that suits your needs and budget.

Get your free no-obligation quotes from select removal companies now!