Difference between revisions of "Muscat"
Revision as of 17:39, 8 April 2008
Muscat is the capital of Oman and the country's largest city.
The city referred to as "Muscat" is in fact three smaller towns which have grown together over time. They are:
This tripartite division will sometimes cause the visitor an inconvenience, as distances between sites (and accommodation) can be very long and involve trips on the ring road.
As an alternative to the main CBD area that is considered as these three areas there is plently of places to go and things to see along the main highway that heads North East out of these areas. This main road, The Sultan Qaboos Highway, goes past many areas on it's way out to the Airport and further still to Seeb, Sohar and eventually the northern most tip of Oman.
Heading along this road you pass the districts of Qurum, Madinat Al Sultan Qaboos, Al Khuwair, Bausher, Al-Hail and Seeb. Each one has a range of sights to see and places to stay.
There is also a very long beach road from Qurum to Seeb, some 50km. Situated along this are some of the large international hotel chains but more importantly you discover the true beauty of the Oman coast-line. Km's of beaches, fisherman with drag nets and open space to walk for hours.
International airlines also fly to Muscat International Airport - it is the ONLY airport despite being called Muscat it is some 40km out of the CBD, but still on the main route. BA, Swiss Air, KLM, Lufthansa, Royal Jordanian, and Emirates all fly frequent schedules from across the world. The number of airlines flying to Muscat increases each year, although the Omani sale of their part of Gulf Air has meant a temporary decrease in passengers to Muscat Intl. Airport.
Domestically, Oman Air also flies from Salalah to Muscat at least twice weekly.
There are daily bus services from Dubai and several Oman cities to Muscat, operated by the Oman National Transport Company. Also you can have Private luxuary coaches from the parking next to DNATA/CARAVAN-PONDAROSA Restaurant
You can reach Muscat by road from Dubai. The journey takes about 4 to 5h by crossing the border in Hatta.
Maxi taxis (vans, known throughout the expat community as baisa busses) ply the highway from Seeb to the corniche area. The charge is 100 baisa from corniche area to the church round about and another 100 baisa from the church round about to Wadi Adai.
On arrival at the airport, situated approximately 40km from the main Muscat CBD, you can get a baisa bus down the main highway in either direction.
The (mostly orange and white) taxis are a bit pricier, and they hang around the hotels where they get juicy fares from unwary travellers. They will charge 8 Rials for an airport trip if you don't haggle, but you should be able to barter for 5 Rials. They always say they will give you "good price" but its best to figure out what you want to spend then agree before you get in.
The Maxi Taxis ply the main routes through town, and they go where they want so you might have to find one going your direction, once you are on one, they will make sure you get there. THe place to wait for them is on the on-ramps of most of the main highway junctions, you'll usually see a few people waiting around for one. A journey within the Muscat area should not cost more than 300 Baisa each, but if you look like an experienced traveller and hand them 200 baisa then you can usually get away with that.
There are many rent-a-car services available in the city. An international driving license is required for renting out a car. Most of the Car Rentals have offices at the airport arrivals terminal.
Visit the Oman Dive Centre at Bandar Jissah.
The Al Fair chain of supermarkets sells just about everything you want (including lots of English products for a fraction of the price you can get at home) Many of them are on the Main Sultan Quaboos highway making them an easy place to spot.(CP)
Food is cheap in Muscat and for about a Rial you'll get a meal for two persons.
Budget Every road, street corner or little collection houses, huts or businesses has a 'Coffee-Shop' Basic but worth a go.
Splurge There is a Starbucks loc on the beach road that goes between the Crown Plaza Hotel and the Intercontinental Hotel. It is so close that if you cross the road, you are on the beach. The larger drinks are about RO 2-2.2, but the view through the glass wall of the waves coming into the beach is excellent. While there, you should visit my friend Ervina Anggen. She is quite nice and fun to be around.
Muscat offers a considerable range of luxury hotels, among them are:
An opulent building built in what is almost a parody of Arabian palace styles.
Global calling card 'Global One' does not work in Muscat. Though the global one website lists the rates for calls from Oman there are no numbers listed along side. The nearest 'Global One' help line is located in Dubai.
Pre-paid telephone cards called Jibreen Cards are available at most stores. It's available in denominations of 5 Rials and 1.5 Rials. A 5 Rial card gets you 11 minutes of talk time.
The Hayak card is the pre-paid card for cellular phones.
It is advisable to drink bottled water while in Muscat. Tanuf, Arwa, Salsabeel, and Aquafina are the most recognisable brands of mineral water and is available in most convenience shops. "Masafi" and "Darbat" are also brands at reasonable rates - RO 1 for 12*1.5 lts. Tap water is okay for brushing your teeth and boiling pasta, but stick to the bottled water for your daily intake.
ATM's are very common now, especially in the Embassy district and near most shopping malls, larger hotels, petrol stations, and supermarkets. Also, every little neighborhood has a several bank branches.
Bank Muscat is by far the largest bank in Oman and one of the largest in Gulf. It has over 230 ATMs all around Muscat.
The cheapest car hire is about 11 OMR (14 GBP) for a day which will get you an economy car with manual transmission and sometimes no A/C. To get yourself properly equipped, you should hire a 4WD which will be around 30 OMR (38 GBP). Make sure that you will get a proper induction on driving in Oman.
All the major car rental companies are represented at the airport and throughout Muscat Capital Area (Avis, Budget, EuropCar, National and Thrifty). Like in most GCC countries, it will help to shop around to get the best deal.
Contact Meridian Shipping Co LLC at 24792237, 24700612, 24700672 (mobile 99229507) for containerised shipping services to and from Oman.
There are some very good gymnasiums in the 4 to 5 star hotels and some privately run gyms in other places like Millennium Gym, Horizon Gym etc. You may pay money for that extra with the number of days you stay in Muscat.
If you are in a 4 star hotel, they will charge a lot for laundry. If you take a short walk to any of the numerous Indian run laundry stores, your money will go a lot farther. Keep in mind that if you drop off your clothes on a Monday, they typically won't be ready until Wednesday.
There are numerous Indian run tailors. You may pay RO 5 to have 2 Italian suits tailored for sleeve length, pants length, and waist. There is a Raymond store in Ruwi that will make custom suits in the RO 50-60 range. In fact they have excellent fabrics from pure wool to wool blended with exotic fibers like Cashmere, Mohair or Angora and linen. Even Super 230s crafted out of 11.8 micron wool are found there. Ask them for their catalogue - you will find the latest Italian designs and styles in there and a really good suit can be really light on the pocket.
Oman-UAE Exchange Centres- LuLu Hyperarkets, Ghala and Ruwi Global Money Exchange - Ruwi travelex - Seeb International Airport Purshottam Kanji - Ruwi
A number of many Indian and Gulf newspapers are also available.
Numerous pharmacies found in every neighbourhood. Limited stock, but professional pharmacists willing to give advice and help with any minor ailing.
Post & Telegraphs