When I told my friends about my newest travel plans before easter and they heard I was heading to Oman, quite often I heard one or two of the following questions: Where the heck is that (right next to UAE/Dubai), Why on earth would you go there? (Well, mostly because I can and I want to, and I’ve never been there) and Is is safe to go there? (Yes, more than safe).
At first I was a bit surprised by the common worry of our safety, as I had always seen Oman in an extremely positive light when it comes to safety, but then I realized their worry, after all, Oman is a country that has Yemen as its neighbor and Pakistan just across the gulf, and it is a muslim country on the arabian peninsula – an area that has not been shown in a positive light in the media recently. So no wonder people were worried if they did not know anything about Oman.
But, what might come as a surprise for those not knowing anything about this beautiful country is that Oman has actually been ranked as the world’s ninth safest country among the 141 countries listed in the 2015 Travel and Tourism Competitiveness report, leaving countries like Switzerland and Norway behind.
Even if Oman is a muslim country, it is very liberal and foreigners are greeted with open arms and friendly smiles. Omanis are a peace-loving nation proud of their culture and country and they are happy to welcome people from all over the world. Even if the neighbouring countries are very strict about a number of muslim traditions, Oman is rather relaxed. All you need to do is show some respect by dressing appropriately, especially women should have their shoulders and knees covered.
Oman is a prosperous country and the street crime is almost nonexistent, just like in the neighboring country UAE. Unlike in, say, Egypt, here I felt extremely comfortable walking on the streets. In Egypt the attention from local men often made me feel irritated within minutes after leaving hotel properties, but here, if any attention was paid by the locals, it was only warm and friendly smiles. Even at night I did not feel unsafe, although normal precautions are recommended also here if walking alone.
Is it safe to travel there? Well, is it safe to travel anywhere? Living in Finland, the number one country in the above mentioned ranking, I honestly would not feel comfortable saying to everyone that even Finland is a safe country as after the refugee crisis, the atmosphere towards some nationalities has turned rather hostile in some areas, even if no major issues have occurred (yet). Honestly, I guess it always depends on who is asking and who is asked. It goes without saying that some places are more safe than others but safety is something we all experience differently. Also, the world changes. I’m sure it would have not crossed many people’s mind to worry about my safety when i visited Paris and Brussels last year, this year, things are different.
Things change so it is always a good idea to check the prevailing recommendations by the government when traveling and take normal precautions even in the safest of countries. There is no unambiguous answer to wether a place is safe or not, but when it comes to Oman, I’d say it is much safer to travel there than in many, many other countries in the world.