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Virtually unknown to all but intrepid travelers until quite recently, Oman is starting to open up to tourism. And what a gift that is to the travel world: the country is a delight for the senses.
All mosques, souks, and small towns, Oman is the Arab world without the opulence of the rest of the region, offering a glimpse of Bedouin hospitality and tradition with a fierce sense of national pride.
Believe us: you won’t want to keep your discovery to yourself. If you’d like to share your Oman experiences in real time, here’s all you need to know about buying a local SIM card and staying connected during your stay.
State-owned Omantel is the country’s largest cell company, with the most extensive coverage. It’s also the best option for tourists coming for short trips, since it offers a reasonably-priced tourist package that fits most requirements.
If Oman is your first stop in a trip around the region, Qatar-based operator Ooredoo is also worth looking into. It has better roaming deals with providers in neighboring countries than Omantel.
Omantel, Ooredoo, and reseller Renna all have 24-hour booths in the arrivals hall at Muscat’s international airport, making it easy to buy a SIM card even before you’ve really set foot in the country.
To sign up, you’ll need your passport and a method of payment. I wasn’t asked for a local address, though have heard that it’s sometimes required. If so, your hotel details should work just fine.
The staff member spoke perfect English and took care of everything, entering my information and taking a photo of my passport on a tablet. I paid cash, though international credit cards are also accepted.
I signed up for the Tourist Pack, which offered 2GB of data, 50 domestic minutes and texts, plus free WhatsApp usage. Valid for 10 days, the pack cost OMR 5 ($13).
That was enough data for my five days in the country, but if you need more, there are several options to add it via “My Way” prepaid packs. Details as follows:
- 1GB of data costs OMR 7 (~$18)
- 2GB of data costs OMR 10 ($26)
- 4GB of data costs OMR 15 ($39)
Oman ain’t cheap, although at least each My Way data pack also includes an equal amount of bonus data for social media apps. They’re all valid for 30 days.
If you’re traveling elsewhere in the region — say you’re heading to neighboring UAE for a few days — and don’t want to keep buying local SIMs in each country, it’s best to buy a roaming package (“Jawazak”) while still in Oman.
These passes start at OMR 3 for 400MB, valid for a day in Gulf Cooperation Countries (GCC), or OMR 6 for 200MB valid for a day worldwide. You can also sign up for a roaming package while abroad by calling a special number, but you’ll need a minimum of OMR 2 in your account to do it.
Ooredoo has better-value roaming packages, offering a one-day pass for OMR 4 that gives 1GB of data in the GCC, and a 1GB, one-week worldwide pass for OMR 15.
Topping up can be done online on the company website or app, and international credit cards are accepted.
If you’d rather use cash, you can do so at an official store, of which there are several in Muscat and elsewhere.
Coverage and Data Speeds
Even though the Internet is somewhat censored in Oman, it doesn’t seem to affect the data speeds. 4G/LTE download speeds were up over 60Mbps around the country, from Muscat to Sohar, with upload speeds around half of that.
Note that Skype and Whatsapp calling services are blocked and officially illegal. As with most such censorship, using a VPN will circumvent it, but you do so very much at your own risk.
Images via Robert Haandrikman (feature photo).